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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Last Time I saw Paris, Her Heat was Warm and Gay ...

"... a sexy high-priestess of personality":


Who's your Gingerbread Man?

And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.– William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

It's that time of year when our thoughts naturally shift to Nuremberg, the city became somehow synonymous with all things Gingerbread, by chaos or by design or by the design of chaos. Especially those wonderful gingerbread houses:

And let's not forget the Prune People!

(The neocon is the cute, shrivelly guy on the top right ...)

There are histories of Gingerbread (Lebkuchen) on the internet, here and here.
Regional variations sprouted with the influx of more and more immigrants. Pennsylvania particularly, was greatly influenced by German cooking and many traditional German gingerbreads reappeared in this area, especially at Christmas time. "Hard gingerbreads" were shaped into little pudgy men until the introduction of the cookie cutter. This occurred as a direct influence of Queen Victoria and her German husband, Albert, who began the tradition in England. Pennsylvania Dutch tinsmiths are famous to this day for their innovative and creative shapes.

The Christmas Market, Nuremberg:

(photos courtesy of The Nuremberg Christmas Market)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus

Fishing? Something tells me that Andrew has never baited a hook his entire life, but is, rather, off somewhere making a list of how to stir up trouble in 2007, the good kind, that is.

Meanwhile, he leaves Us with a triumvirate of pretenders, some tried and some reportedly true. I don't know what one calls a bunch of Brits - a hoard, a bevvy, a pride, an ostentation, a Nelson's pocketful (did Nelson have pockets?), or a grandstand of socially overdeveloped, keen observers and takers. Perhaps just AS's term, hijackers?

So, reader(s) here will want to ask the important question:

Blogospherical Inversion - 2006 Remix
Les Penseurs?Les Poseurs?
Clive, Alex, and Daniel - Which one is which?

Clive - good fellow got off to a bad start by apologizing. The books-on-wheels series is great. Good grief, though, he must conscientiously read everything around, leading to a bewildering array of links, from Deborah Lipstadt to Tim Worstall (it's good to know about him, if one didn't, but do I really care about his misdirected sense that he is somehow "free to choose" post-Friedman). Sometimes this leads him astray. Afterall, the 1918 epidemic was just on my mind, too. Anti-Americanism was a good theme to introduce. All told with this list of wonderful links, often carefully introduced, but sometimes dumped, so far, neither penseur ni poseur, but ... voyeur?

Daniel - a view of his Windows and a list of things I like about America, to start? Poseur alert. That awkward piece about trust the truth that seems to ignore why Mr. Irving started to lie in the first place. Jumping into the middle of the "debate" on veiling (almost as carelessly as Andrew did himself?), as if this fundamentalist assault hadn't existed for decades and whether it amounts to more for jihadis than "free choice". No go, so far.

Alex - ah, Alex! Started a post with "Clive raises some excellent and important questions." Is that really a lead? Makes a good argument about McCain, but not in AS's quite often elegant prose. Did he miss the part where McCain probably got offers of help from Bush, last time Bush & Cheney were up on the Hill? So far, no opinion on insufficient data.


Fun for the Holidays: Social Conscience Video Nominee, 2006

Nickelback - If everybody cared.

Stills only variation:

Superman variation:

Iraq version:

Anime version (Naruto):

Animation version (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children):

The Original:

Seven pages of variations (aka "AMV"'s) on YouTube!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Understanding Iranian Politics

Any questions?

(calligraphy painting by Mohammed Ehsaei)


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ceding the Morman market ... and others


Fun for the Holidays: The Remarkable Year in Review


So many off to the warmer regions, here is a song for the sunshine, in which rugger Brodie Holland shows ... his scrum-my tummy?:

no-sullylink, he is sunny-side up somewhere, undoubtedly; but hat-tip to h-mojo.

Silly, Silly Gays

SNL funny man, Will Forte:


Saturday, December 16, 2006

The World in Safe Hands, a Leader and his Litter?

The Tower Comission Report

Bought the American Dream - on credit:

Empowered only ... "Beautiful People":

Dr. James Dobson was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the National Advisory Commission to the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1982-84. From 1984-87 he was regularly invited to the White House to consult with President Reagan and his staff on family matters. He served as co-chairman of the Citizens Advisory Panel for Tax Reform, in consultation with President Reagan, and served as a member and later chairman of the United States Army's Family Initiative, 1986-88. Dobson served on Attorney General Edwin Meese's Commission on Pornography, 1985-86. - FRC

Most of his conservative biographers espouse a Manichaean worldview in which Reagan's constancy in the face of liberal evils is the key to his greatness. But to sustain such an argument requires more than simply touting (and often exaggerating) his achievements, considerable though some of them were. The effort to gild Reagan's legacy also seems to demand that any accomplishment that didn't explicitly advance conservative goals be ex-punged from his record. And so they have been. - Joshua Green

"My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns." -- James G. Watt, The Washington Post, May 24, 1981, Reagan appointed Secretary of the Interior, famous for other remarks, as well (see link for ""I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans." -- James G. Watt, 1982")

Courtesy, wags from Spitting Image:


Friday, December 15, 2006

Oh no, you didn't ...

Putting "New Jersey" in a piece just called "The Christmas Tree" was naughty, not nice...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

All smoke, no firecracker

BecauseAS hands out Malkin awards and because "Malkin" is a person who's views I don't know (or care to know, most likely, based upon the awards - besides I found out her publisher is Regnery, which says it all in a word, yes?), I came across this headline in a December 11th piece on her blog:

"Please have your bosses read this Dean Barnett [gulp!?] Sunni-Shia Cheat Sheet over the holidays in order to avoid another Jeff Stein gotcha moment."

It's not really important to KNOW anything about the Sunnia-Shia divide, etc., it's just important to avoid a "gotcha moment".

Is this an iceberg tip floating by on the Halperin-Harris identified "freak show"?

Anybody else notice that sensible folks, like AS even, end up spending 80% of the time having to deal with the freak show and have only 20% of the time left-over to debate other sensible folks? Those percentages have to be switched - the sensationalist 'culture warriors' are getting out of hand, no?


Christianists and Islamists - a pair made in Heaven?

Andrew writes:
I realize, after reading countless emails on the matter, that the real source of offense is my equating Islam and Christianity as interchangeable religious beliefs, for the purposes of politics. I see them as potentially equally threatening to freedom.
While that may be true, one has also to be aware that there are quite a few who would use the presence of Christianism - broadly put, i.e. as its adherents, its milieu, its legislative agenda, its influence on the polity - as a means to stall external pressure for various countries to work diligently to mitigate the Islamist advance, at least insofar as it relates to militant Islam, violent overthrow, etc.

Therefore, one has to cage one's critique, it seems to me, in terms that face both the enemy in front of us and the one behind us. This requires nuance, perhaps.

There is no freedom I would not grant a Christianist or Islamist in the exercize of his religious faith; but there are plenty of freedoms that he would seek to deny me in the simple living of my life.
I think we would part ways on that. I believe in time and place restrictions on religious exercise, but not "bans" or abject injunctions, precisely because the jihadis seek to discredit secularism by its handling of such nettlesome issues (i.e. the approach is generally to provoke a response that can be characterized as an "insult to Islam", "repression of faith", etc.). It is only in this way that the pluralistic, liberal state shows both consideration for the individual and also for the broader truths of how people come together in one polity, through civil society.

In other words, I think there is a strong case to be made that, on some things usually not of the State's choosing but of the radical choosing, a secular State winds up having to show a primacy of a kind (usually in a circumscribing of a religious expression), but it has to be handled in a way to re-enforce the importance of plural values without being abject effrontery or condescension.


Jesu...er.. the prospects of Presidency changed my heart.

Good grief. It's good that AS chronicals all this stuff.

It becomes clear that seeking to win the GOP nomination is like ... well, I don't know, but this list of recently purified political postures reads like the tale of the annunciation of Mitt Romney.


Drug Industry Redux

The drug companies are not perfect, but they have done more to advance the well-being of human beings than any other industry in the past decade or so. I am one of milions alive because of them;

More than anyone else? I'm not so sure about that. How much of the research did the drug industry actually do themselves for new drugs, and how much was done in academia?

As for being alive, I think a harsh critic might simply add that you are not alive because of the drug industry, but because (today) you can afford the drugs they sell - that might be a bit misdirected, but perhaps its at the core of the demonization.

One also has to give some credit to those who fought against the 'imperfections' in the drug industry, as well. It's not like the industry - any industry - has its own spurs (God knows, "the maketplace" is not always the positive force that it is made out to be...).


David Duke goes to Tehran for "Free Speech"

This is another in the series of examples of how people aren't aware of jihadi tactics.

Here, "free speech" is used to lampoon the West's belief in its own values.


How many political prisoners are held by Tehran, these days? I think Ahmedi-Nezhad just shuttered the last reform newspaper recently (and no, it wasn't Jewish "controlled"!). Isn't sitting on a Qu'ran a form of free speech, as well? Is flushing a Qu'ran a protected form of protest? How about cartoons of the prophet Mohamed?

I mean the absurd juxtaposition of a "free speech" meme coming from a Tehran conference is so stunningly large that David Duke appears to miss the forest for the trees!

Yet, Duke finds merit in this platform, despite his revival as a book writer, a PhD, which, given his newest affiliations, are just new clothing?


Dear Santa, $10 Million is NOT enough!

It's bonus time on Wall Street, when everyone finds out just how big their 'package' is ...


Saturday, December 9, 2006

Ah, Bonhoeffer

ah, coming round to some of the big medicine!

More later, time permitting.


Friday, December 8, 2006

Say Hello or Say Goodbye

Readers comments on leaving:

Not every Democracy has to go through a civil war to create a civil society. The current situation was forced upon the Iraqis by small groups of 'spoilers', tapping into old (ancient even) rivalries and more recent injustices done under Saddam. The majority of Iraqis do not want to fight a civil war, which was not the case in America before its civil war.

"More troops" is not the simplest options, it's the focal point or starting off point so that other options can get started or completed. There is always a catch-22 with that, but that's the reckoning. It's not a panacea, it's a greater dose of medicine in the hopes to clear the arteries, temporarily, while the Iraqi corpus comes to terms, nationally or municipally.

500,000 is not needed (in the near term, at least - it might be needed in a regional war, however, right?). This estimate included portions of the South and the North, which do not require troops. No one knows the right amount - it has to be a bottom up estimate, an aggregation. One cannot just make a W.A.G.

Dec. 7:

Elsewhere in Iraq yesterday, Iraqi police forces with coalition advisors conducted a raid in Abdan, near Tal Afar. They captured an insurgent associated with al Qaeda in Iraq and detained seven suspects during the operation. Military officials said they believe the captured insurgent has supplied weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq and provided enemy fighters a safe house for carrying out attacks against Iraqi security forces in the Tal Afar area.

In another raid yesterday in Bayji, Iraqi soldiers with coalition advisors captured an insurgent sniper believed to be responsible for direct and indirect attacks targeting coalition forces, including improvised-explosive-device and car-bomb attacks in the area, military officials said. The insurgent sniper is associated with other insurgent cells within Iraq. Iraqi forces also detained an additional suspect during the raid.

A day earlier, special Iraqi army forces with coalition advisors captured six suspected insurgents during a raid in Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad.

Military officials believe the insurgents are responsible for kidnappings, murders and improvised-explosive-device attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces, military officials said. Iraqi forces detained nine additional suspects during the raid.

In the three raids this week, no Iraqi or coalition forces or Iraqi civilians were killed and only minimal damage was done to the objectives, military officials said.


Sorry, AS, I think that Kagen is wrong

AS laments:

But do we have enough troops to do this [embed and train]? And why was this not done years ago? Oh, forget that last question, but rephrase it: given the level of talent in the White House, what are the chances of getting it right this time?<

First, here is what went wrong. Read testimony of the guy in charge of training the ISF.


Kagen is probably wrong on two counts. One, the military have already decided for on-the-job training to facilitate "acceleration", despite the MIT training courses they have set up.

The ISG or B-H Report mentions continuing on with embeds until 1Q2008 (see R42). So far as I can tell, this is what the military's pros have been suggesting for a while now and implementing.


The hard questions about how recruiting is going for ISF (Army and police), by province, aren't asked of the podium too often without a "classified" *cough*.

However, the tea leaves that I've read through suggest that the problem isn't with numbers, but with quality (although, again, that is an overall assessment - numbers do appear to be a problem in some places). That is a good thing - time improves quality, but time will not improve numbers ...


Apologies accepted

I set up a bunch of posts to self-publish while I went to the shrink and had lunch. Typepad malfunctioned, hence the gap and now the glut. No idea when future publishing will work again - so I'm glued to the laptop.

Oh, please, apologies accepted!

The World is in a mess and anyone tapped into it has got to take a break, if they can, to re-rejuvenate. On top of that, you've invited a lot of tension/conflict into your life with that Conservative Soul Train, so ... take some naps too!


Thursday, December 7, 2006

Denied a Father, but oh, what a Sugar Daddy

This kid has a grandfather whose net worth is probably in excess of $100 million.

Somehow, I think he or she will not be disadvantaged by mommy and mommy ...


Cunning Linguists

Part A:
1) There is no shortage of individuals who want to become linguists.

Part B:

Linguists are better paid (we got an extra $100+ a month per language for being linguists). We had far better living conditions, and were generally treated as mini-officers in many circles, as most of us were highly skilled, educated, and generally quite intelligent.

Humm... those seem in contradiction economically. If there were no shortage, then there would not be "better" anything, most likely. As I was pointing out, those with real Arabic skills are in hot demand, right now. What's more, home-grown is, for the reasons I cited, not nearly the same as those who are in country who have brought with them cultural understandings that go along with any language.

Besides, it's not clear that DIA training is going to help the FBI (let alone with the apparent Islam-deficit on display with don't-know answers to the question, "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'a?")


First Impressions

I'm always surprised when some Conservatives are so down on diplomacy. Perhaps it is reflective of some people's personal ethics or something. Who knows.

In any case, it appears that, unless one has "leverage" or there is some way to force someone else to do something, that *all* diplomacy is either appeasement (failure to apply what "force" or threat one can) or an afterthought, a nice-to-have. It's astonishing, really, such views.

I'm not sure on what basis Andrew draws the conclusion that we are absolutely leaving soon. The report says (my summary here), (a) absolutely no open-ended commitments (b) quid pro quo for ongoing US "support". There are some other indications, like training objectives out to 1Q2008, which is what is reasonable - I don't believe the six month 'accelerated' timeframes much.


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

FBI: still smug, after all these years?

I suspect the overall situation is worse than Andrew lets on.

If you look though this bit on how terrorists use the internet, you gain an appreciation of how much "free" information isn't being aptly culled.

Other items of note (process/institutional-design related):

  • It's hard for Arabic (and other language) speakers to get clearances, even second generation - their 'backgrounds' cannot be verified.
  • People with knowledge of the regions can often easily tell from dialect and accent who is from where, something that no amount of book learning will create.
  • We have no idea how much information that is freely available we are missing (although there are statistical exercises that could estimate that)

Other, threat-related

  • The Internet provides for recruiting. Videos have gotten increasingly sophisticated.
  • The notion that al-qa'ida use of the internet is primitive is possibly to ignore a gathering threat
  • Virtual community provided, in some instance, directly to terrorists and sympathizers
  • A large number of voyeurs on various websites
  • Calls for logistical support provided by decentralized network of experts
  • The idea that to openly oppose jihad is to oppose Islam is possibly deeply rooted - it's not just intimidation, it's cultural milieu, it's acceptable mores.

An US Gov't interrogator once told the author that there are "32 ways to spell Qa'daffi". "Not in Arabic", she thought to herself ...


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Maximum Security

This looks like a standard operating procedure for maximum security. You know, guards just don't open the door and say, "Come out, come out, wherever you are!".

All the same, I've never seen goggles and earmuffs before.

Of course, although the procedures might be more-or-less standard, that doesn't say anything about whether the circumstances of this detention are justified, which is the main point, perhaps.


Nothing to Achieve --> Zero Troops

How much higher would make a difference? At this point, close to 50,000 to 100,000 extra troops to halt the centrifugal force of societal disintegration in Iraq. Does the Weekly Standard seriously believe that is either politically or militarily possible with the urgency necessary?

I'm not sure that anyone knows what the right amount is. The theoretically correct amount probably varies from time-to-time, which only makes calibration that much more difficult.

Because they are not politically possible doesn't change the analysis of whether they are needed or might be beneficial.

Two other observations. Does draw down or "re-deploy" mean forever? That seems like an odd prescription, since any breakdown in the situation is going to come up at the U.N. subsequently, and the US will be under pressure to 'do something'. In other words, thinking about the troops' impact on Baghdad now may ignore long-term needs that may still arise for another division or two or three.

Last, do they all have to be U.S. troops? I asked this a long time ago when Operation Lightning was launched ... how is it that so many can just stand aside so easily?

By the way, I'm not in any position to assess "denial", but Andrew should recognize that there will always be a faction that supports continuous military engagement. It's a strong element in Israeli politics, for instance, perhaps the most direct parallel. I can't see any reason it won't continue here too.


How many roads ...

Or maybe — gulp — he really does believe that Iraq is still fixable,

There is a lot that has been fixed, is getting fixed, and that could be fixed, still.

that Maliki will soon emerge as a unifying national leader,

When people tire of violence, they will want a national, unifying leader, if not before. When the government is able to defend itself on its own terms (i.e. have a more full command of Iraqi troops), that also may be a catalyst for change. One may not like that change or its modus, but ...

that American troops will manage to calm a civil war,

Sufficient American troops (and an empowered judiciary) certainly can forestall an escalating cycle of reprisal killings. Either those fighting will exhaust themselves in a struggle by eventually realizing that they cannot consolidate the small gains they make in 'reprisal', that they cannot gain anything long-term by excalting and getting their neighbors involved, or that they can reach some interim political compromise (and start to work together, despite rivalry and animosity).

that trained Iraqi troops will fight for a united democratic government rather than for sect or tribe or vengeance.

In some instances, they already are (the fifth division isn't the whole story). The question is whether so-much can be brought to scale and how quickly, given the other inter-dependent tasks to complete (and the failure to prioritize this task from the outset).


Monday, December 4, 2006

MarKos, Obama, Sully, and Libertarians

Who are we kidding ... this is the FUTURE OF THE LEFT :

edit: I have a new thought on this.
Perhaps it would be good for the New Left to engage the "Refreshed" Right, if only to drown out the 'debate' that is promulgated from both their flanks. I mean why do we have to submit the public discourse to the sensationalists, sometimes even self-admitted, and to the endless, cheap moralizers like O'Reilly?


Def Musical Soul

Def Leopard are like rock candy - cheap and loathsome in their own sweetness, but unable to be avoided.


Psssst... over here.

Just worth knowing the details of the vast chasm between the White House and reality. Now put yourself in the position of an American soldier ordered to do something he doesn't have the back-up for, in order to provide window-dressing for a re-election campaign. The troops are heroes not just for doing their work, but for doing it under one of the most clueless commanders-in-chief in recent history.

[Andrew, pssst, the military are complicit ...]


Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Minimum Wage

Honestly, if Conservatives had better ideas, they could have done something in the long time they have had both houses and the Executive.

In truth, Conservatives of late prefer earmarks to minimum wages ... (That's a bit of a cheap shot, given what has actually happened under "W", but I'll leave the wall for them to scale).

By the way, Andrew is silent on the actual alternatives proposed in passing in the Mankiw piece. Can we infer from that just how high a priority, a "consideration", the working poor deserve on the scale of Dish tax-priorities?


big-R not small-c tax policy

Some readers have asked if I favor [a mortgage decution] abolition. I sure do. That's probably why I'm a blogger and not a politician.

I would hazard that is why you are a big-R Republican and not a small-c conservative.

Conservatism cannot change its spots. Andrew's efforts to reign in Christianism are worthy, but the overall context of suggesting that small-c conservatism is "re-freshed" enough to be re-embraced is succotash:

People made jokes recently about whether Truman was a doll on the cake and so on, but, whether he was or not, his eyesight was clear:

Harry Truman said this over 50 years ago and it is as relevant today as it was when he first said it.

* “Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke.

* They stand four-square for The American home but not for housing.

* They are strong for labor- but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.

* They favor minimum wage- the smaller the minimum wage the better.

* They endorse Educational opportunity for all but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.

* They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine- for people who can afford them.

* They consider electrical power a great blessing but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.

* They think American standard of living is a fine thing- so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.

* And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”

--President Harry S. Truman


A Warrior, Fast?

Kuo has a hard time selling just a half-measure fast.

Matthew, the lost verses:

"Verily, I say unto you, the legislature is like unto the Kingdom. Go forth and dominate it with a permanent majority."

Kuo is going to need bigger medicine ...


The Cultureless Culture Warrior Rides Again

I'm not a longtime FOX watcher, but how much do you need to see before you realize what it amounts to?

If you missed it, here's yet another view on how FOX gets the "News" out to the faithful: FOX NEWS INTERNAL MEMO: "Be On The Lookout For Any Statements From The Iraqi Insurgents...Thrilled At The Prospect Of A Dem Controlled Congress"

Sully on Tax Policy

I'm not sure what Andrew intends to cover under 'flat tax' (or which shelter's he's after, precisely). Does that mean one tax rate for everything, all types of income, no sales taxes or excise taxes? He may want to do some other checking. Right now, the marginal Federal tax rates are all within +/- 7% for those earning $28K to $312K, which probably covers 90% or more of all those paying income taxes. In other words, we have close to a de-facto flat tax ... and, yet, still ... Barney's points about the apparent inequities in burden sharing are current, i.e. related to recent tax and income experience under that regime.

O'Reilly's premise, of course, is ridiculous (alongside most of his attack-style, 'Answer this, yes-or-no'). I don't know at any time in history of America in which someone said that the purpose of the tax code was to re-distribute income.

There was a time when it was mostly the wealthy who paid for everything, and they were naturally inclined to pay for their security (not for policing, in general, but for their security, arguably). They didn't want to pay for a Congressional Chaplain. It was a long time coming, until they decided to pay for a standing army, to protect their property. Naturally, they resented paying for any social welfare programs, etc., etc.

Causes one to think

Still, it causes one to think, how would you respond to O'Reilly's attack question.

One short answer: I perfer not to tax jobs. I also prefer to tax dynasties.

A longer answer: We'd like to have a tax code that reflects a just and stable society, and not go back to the times when everything you can expect from life is driven by how much money your family may have collected ...

p.s. I'm glad to hear that the 'working poor' deserve some consideration ... The problem with small-c conservatives is that this too often comes up as an afterthought, not an aforethought.


Krauthammer's rant

I have to agree with Andrew on this one.

Krauthammer rants, "What in God’s name will a negotiation with Iran and Syria yield?" (It sounds like one of Lantos' floor speeches?).

This is why militarists in the guise of 'realists' should never be left in charge of policy, because they lack vision, tie themselves up in knots with "pure solutions".

If he seriously thinks that Iran and Syria yearn for a civil meltdown in Iraq, a potential near-by base for al-qa'ida and no way out of an engagement themselves, he's got some serious problems.

What if he's wrong and the Syrians or the Iranians make a "mistake", in his calculus, and co-operate on this or that security matter. Heck, we'd have never capitalized on their "errors", if we weren't talking to them, except at the end of a Woolsey gun.