Friday, December 31

Google's 2004

Reading the Zeitgeist (and the International and the Flash summary (again, no Flash warning on account of good flash))

Major impression: A lot of women use Google (duh). The evidence: the most popular images are often men and the most popular Froogle queries were: 1. bikini 2. mini skirt 3. prom dresses 4. lingerie 5. little black dress 6. poncho 7. t-shirt 8. sports bra 9. red dress 10. low-rise jeans. (Insert homosexual and transvestite jokes qualification jokes here.)

Thursday, December 30

To coin a phrase

I have been laboring under the increasingly heavy burden that I didn't really know what this phrase means. Does it mean 'to use a phrase everyone knows' or 'to make a new phrase'? Google time.

Well, are you descriptive or prescriptive, because people use it both ways, contributing to my confusion. Indeed, you can make an argument for both usages from the words themselves. Here's OUP on different usages. (scroll down) says it's 'make a new phrase'.

Similar argument on Take our word for it (scroll down).

That seems to be the consensus, which brings me to say 'Why bother using it?'. How often do I 'coin a phrase' as opposed to 'use a hackneyed, over-exercised phrase'? :-)

But there you have it.

Death to the press?

Macon's got an interesting post on the death of the press. It links to a Flash movie (no flash warning here. This is what Flash is for.) fictionally from the future. Google, TiVo, and Amazon merge to form EPIC, a personally tailored information service that puts media out of business (or thereabouts). My comments:

1. Dystopias are unlikely and serve the purpose of warning.
2. Could news become so individual that it ceased being news?
3. I hope news factories do get cannibalized to some degree.
4. EPIC isn't that different, in philosophy, from what current media tries to do: producing products to sell to a market.
5. Does the press really safeguard truth for the masses? Won't there always be people we can trust to tell us the truth, whether they draw a paycheck from the Times or GoogleAds?

Then, from the comments at Kith and Kin:
1. I agree this is unlikely.
2. I think Macon's likely right that EPIC would get subverted, if it needed to be. As distributed as the world is these days, aren't we free from the possibility of Big Brother? But what if Big Brother becomes our own disconnectedness and lack of authorities at all? Hmm...

Lots of links

First, to put you on notice: I'm thinking of scaling back my weblog reading and writing to take another crack at my autobiography. The fact that Tom's going to be gearing down to write his new book, hence posting less, should be a good coincidence.

The NitPicker's Guide to LotR (this guy's hard core, even moreso than me)

Hack to speed up Firefox for broadband. I've only got DSL lite, but I think I notice a difference. The process was interesting, though. My first experience with configuring Firefox that way.

A new, cool search tool for It tells me only one person has bookmarked me via :-(

I'm not interested in RSS updates on my UPS package, but you might be (Christine would be, if she used RSS).

Interesting post on interacting with the web these days. It's more like Push (in some ways). It's stripped down.
in a subscription age, where publishers don't have to entice you back each day with a flood of new content, quality trumps quantity
(Though this would only apply to subscribers and not actual visitors.)

John Hardy has a good, South Pacific, virtually eyewitness take on the tsunami. I'm glad he and his family are OK.

Lots of links

First, to put you on notice: I'm thinking of scaling back my weblog reading and writing to take another crack at my autobiography. The fact that Tom's going to be gearing down to write his new book, hence posting less, should be a good coincidence.

The NitPicker's Guide to LotR (this guy's hard core, even moreso than me)

Hack to speed up Firefox for broadband. I've only got DSL lite, but I think I notice a difference. The process was interesting, though. My first experience with configuring Firefox that way.

A new, cool search tool for It tells me only one person has bookmarked me via :-(

I'm not interested in RSS updates on my UPS package, but you might be (Christine would be, if she used RSS).

Interesting post on interacting with the web these days. It's more like Push (in some ways). It's stripped down.
in a subscription age, where publishers don't have to entice you back each day with a flood of new content, quality trumps quantity
(Though this would only apply to subscribers and not actual visitors.)

John Hardy has a good, South Pacific, virtually eyewitness take on the tsunami. I'm glad he and his family are OK.

Wednesday, December 29


Tom thinks his next book, 'A Future Worth Creating', will be shorter than 'The Pentagon's New Map'. His editor thinks it'll be 100k words.

I predict it'll be as long or longer than PNM. Tom has a lot to say.

Question: would it be worthwhile to explore some, in this book or another (or some other forum) what the things are that could derail this vision? If Great Power War isn't a danger anymore, what is?


The Bad News: We returned Monday to loose front and back doorknobs. Our surmisal: someone tried to get in.

The Good News: They didn't. They didn't try that hard. They didn't break anything. We're grateful.

Tuesday, December 28

Catching up with Tom

Looks like Tom's going to be leaving the Naval War College and striking out on his own. Godspeed...

Tom reports that the Pentagon didn't have a written plan for reconstruction and occupation in Iraq. He says Tommy Franks should give back his Medal of Freedom.

Officially, America doesn't give a lot of Official Foreign Aid. But, as Tom points out, by the time you add up our military actions, legal immigrants who send PILES of money back home, Foreign Direct Investment, private charitable giving (including religious), and indictments of human rights violations in places like Sudan; we start to look pretty good.

Critt, Tom's webmaster, put together a generally categorized index of some of Tom's posts.

Here's one of the reasons I like Tom's work: there's hope in it for poor people. The good news is the number of people living on a dollar a day has dropped from 40% of the world's population to 20%.
Steffen: The top third of humanity has unquestionably gotten much richer in the last decade, but there's also a billion people on the bottom who seem to be going backwards. And those people -- the part of the developing world that's no longer developing -- seems to map pretty exactly to your Gap.

Barnett: The Gap is the bottom third. One of my main points is that the middle third has joined the Core. The lives of the middle third have improved. There's been a reduction of about 400 million in the number of people in absolute poverty over the last 20 years. The number of people living on a dollar a day went from 40% of the world's population to about 20%.

There is still, though, about a third at the bottom who are shut out of the benefits of globalization. About half of them are kind of getting by in a subsistence way, but the other half, about one billion, are not only not getting by, they're falling off the edge of the planet.
The quote's from this interview.

Another good comment therefrom:
The UN rules, in retrospect, look odd. To pretend that a Sudan, for instance, which is doing what it's doing within its borders should have its sovereignty treated with the same respect as a France or Japan is ludicrous.
I hadn't thought of it that way before.

What the UN's good for and what it's not:

So while in the popular imagination, the UN is the forum for addressing international crises, the reality is that the UN is largely impotent, except for its internal technical rule-making, which functions quite nicely, frankly. The UN has become primarily a bitch-session, where the developing countries can complain about their lot and the direction of the advanced world. I think that's fine in many ways; it's good that the Gap has a venue and forum to complain in the direction of the Core. In fact, increasingly what you see is one position held by what I call the "old Core" -- the U.S., the E.U., Japan -- another position held by the Gap, and what I call the "new Core" -- the Brazil, India, China and South Africa -- acting as a sort of go-between. This is an arrangement which serves us well in terms of trade and economic and technical arguments.

But in terms of security, in the realm of violent situations, it's not realistic to pretend that 1) all countries are equal -- 'cause they're not: we have huge military capabilities and almost nobody else really does -- or 2) that every state has good intentions or treats its own people well. There are terrible things happening in certain parts of the world, and I think it's unrealistic to pretend that the U.N. is going to be able to stop these things.
Tom's proposed A-Z process for politically bankrupt states (He says we have such a process for economically bankrupt states)(compiled by me from memory):

1. Grand Jury: UN and UNSC. Indicts the state.
2. Executive: G20. Agrees that US military should take down and commits own troops to follow-on nation building/peacekeeping (System Administration Force, in Tom's parlance).
3. Leviathan force: US Military takes down regime.
4. System Administration force: G20 troops anchored by US Marines, along with various necessary agencies and contractors follows in immediately behind Leviathan to rebuild.
5. International Reconstruction Fund: This money is pledged in advance by G20. You get to vote how it's used based on how much you put it. Modeled on International Monetary Fund.
6. International Criminal Court: The Hague tries bad guys who are taken captive.

On the environment:
Look. I put protecting the environment where I put democracy: everybody wants them, and it's clear that they are both goals we're ultimately aiming for here. But first you need development and stability and some basic rules. First things first.
My point is that we got to exploit our natural resources for a long time before we ever started worrying about anybody else saving theirs. This is my concern with ANWR. It's paternalistic of us to tell them they can't use theirs. Like Tom says, the best way to get poor countries to be good stewards is to help them improve their standard of living.

If Tom became the Secretary of Defense:

One. I would advocate a massive redistribution of resources towards that System Administrator function. I'd accelerate that dramatically. In terms of acquisitions for my war-fighting force, I'd keep buying high technology, but I'd buy in much smaller numbers, and take the freed-up resources and plunge them into building the new force.

You would see, very quickly, a four-star military police general in my Pentagon. You would see position and authority accrue to people that had been considered lesser includeds: I would have four-star military medical generals and four-star military supply generals, not just the war-fighting guys running everything.

Two. I would redesign the unified command plan, which was really built for another era. Having European Command have its Area of Responsibility extend all the way down to Sub-Saharan Africa is really kind of a mis-match. I would create an African Command, and an East Asian Command and a West Asian Command. In East Asia, once we get rid of Kim Jung Il, I'm looking at a relatively peaceful region, and I'm building a NATO there. That's a place we can draw resources from.

I'd put those resources into Africa. I think Africa needs a lot of dedicated attention. To the extent that we drive that fight against terrorism out of the Middle East it's going to head south, especially to the Horn of Africa. People ask me "How do we know we've won in the Middle East?" And I say, "When all our troops are on peacekeeping missions in Central Africa."

Three. I'd abolish service identities once you reach flag rank, meaning once you became an admiral or a general (and I suppose you'd have to come up with a single term, which will really piss of the Navy, because I'm sure you'd end up with general), you'd serve the Pentagon as a whole. That'd solve one of the biggest problems, because now, once you become a one-star general, the way to become a two-star general is to protect you service's force structure in budgetary battles, to make sure that no matter what else happens, you've got twelve carriers or three armored divisions or whatever. These idiotic budgetary battles go one forever and ever and lead to all sorts of overlaps and inefficiencies and acquisition scandals.

If instead, the incentives for becoming a two- or three- or four-star would be how gloriously "purple" you were -- which is the color they associate with "jointness" -- how seamlessly you could cooperate. That would also, I think help people to be more interagency, more international, to adapt to unexpected situations.
Sounds good to me...

Saturday, December 18

Interview on Intel

Slate's got an interview with Bob Inman (I got this from kottke) - '[formerly] director of the National Security Agency, vice director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, director of Naval Intelligence, and deputy director of Central Intelligence Agency...In the 1990s, he was asked by Bill Clinton to run the CIA as director and also offered the job of secretary of defense. He declined both offers to enter the private sector.' His views:

Reasons for 9/11: intel budget cuts and the wall between the FBI and CIA.

We need spearation between intelligence collectors and intelligence analysts. The analysts, in the current set-up, can't resist the temptation to try to make the collectors look good.

There's a lot of ugly politics in intel and defense, including leaks.

Intel would get back notes on info they sent up that said 'Why don't you withdraw that? It's potentially politically embarrassing.'

Rumor: 'Rumsfeld, as chief of staff, had persuaded President Ford to appoint George H.W. Bush as director of Central Intelligence, assuming that that got rid of a potential competitor for the presidency...He was looking forward. You know, Ford was going to run in '76, so Rumsfeld had his eye on '80.'

Bill Casey was slimy, including having held Oliver North's strings.

'Rumsfeld didn't get the job in Defense through personal loyalty to Bush; he got it because Cheney was his sponsor.'

'If Rumsfeld were to be there for the next four years there will be a lot of my military colleagues who will be very unenthusiastic about it.'

'[Wolfowitz and the neocons] don't want to take the blame. … [T]hey were willing to take credit for things earlier; they don't want to take blame.'

Stale links

They've been sitting on my machine for days waiting to get logged. But you might not have seen them.

President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology.

Rajat Paharia talks about the proliferation of things to pay attention to, especially digital acquisition of music and photos. It can certainly be a problem.

Jason posts on the value of Iowa farmland. What this means for me is: When I win the lottery and reconstitute the farm I grew up on (mostly owned by my Grampa Jim), I'll have to pay >3000$/acre. For 500 acres, that's 1.5 million $.

Jason also comments on the Oxford comma, which he calls the serial comma. Good name.

Google's future

Tech Review's article on Google's business future is fascinating. It's long, but worth it (to me). The author obviously doesn't buy into the business argument for more open source approaches. He insists on the necessity of proprietary standards. I'd like to see someone review this article from another side.

A few quotes and comments:
Show me everything about the Chinese economy that has appeared in the last month in my e-mail attachments, Word documents, bookmarked websites, corporate portal, voice mail, or Bloomberg subscription.
This is the Holy Grail of search. May it come soon.
Nor does it control the architectures of the newer computing platforms, whose markets are growing much faster than the PC’s.
In all of Microsoft’s successful battles, it has used the same strategies. It undercuts its competitors in pricing, unifies previously separate markets, provides open but proprietary APIs, and bundles new functions into platforms it already dominates. Once it has acquired control over an industry standard, it invades neighboring markets.
And don't forget 'Lets its product stagnate into crap.

Barnett thoughts

I didn't know the Kyoto treaty went easy on China and India:
Conversely, when the Old Core is tasked by the Gap to clean up its pollution like CO2, and the world comes up with a Kyoto Treaty that places all the onus on the Old Core (plus Russia) but ignores surging New Core powers like India and China, that's patently unfair.
It's fair from a certain perspective, since the Old Core has had many years to pollute without getting limited. I don't know what's best here.

[N]ukes are for having in a mutually-assured destruction balance, not for using.

Our battlefield medicine is amazing.
In both Vietnam and Desert Storm, 24% of those wounded ended up dying. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Afghanistan operation, that percentage drops to 10%. That is not just impressive, that's amazing.
Saving the lives of American soldiers who go into combat is worth almost any price tag. But there's one costly consequence:
[W]e now have to plus up extensively our commitment to dealing with the psychological late effects that emerge from combat duty. The Army says it's seeing a traumatization rate of roughly one out of every six soldiers, and experts say the ultimate rate may be one in three, or roughly what we saw in Vietnam.

This is the reality of modern warfare (much like modern police work): you are more likely to be psychologically damaged than killed or maimed, but the responsibility of the government remains the same.
Guard enlistment is way down, not least of all because of the employment ramifications, for employees and employers:
Essentially, you hire a Guard or Reservist and it's much like hiring a woman of child-bearing age: you the employer must expect that soldier will be gone one out of every five years of employment. So what are you, the employer, likely to do? Put that person on the military equivalent of the mommy track?
In America it's the economy, stupid. We need those big tax cuts. We want to defend our country. We want to wage a Global War on Terror. But those Guardsmen and women don't get paid very much, usually nowhere near replacement income. There's no guarantee they'll have a job when they come back. They might be traumatized. They tend to be older and have families to support.

Why in the world would anyone sign up for the Guard or the Reserves these days? If we want this component to work, we will have to change its structure.

Good news from Mexico. They're successfully getting folks (personas) into home ownership.

More on health care

President Bush said yesterday he is "passionate" about protecting the business community from "frivolous lawsuits" (source).

*cheap shot*: I wish he were passionate about protecting patients from malpractice and a potential loss of physicians.*end cheap shot*

I'm sure he thinks this is the way to fix it, but it's not that simple.

Christine reminded me of a conversation we had with my physician brother and his physician wife where the main point was: you can weather one (rightful or wrongful) guilty malpractice ruling, but after that you're in big trouble in the next one or the one after that. That's important to know in this debate. It softens my position (a little) on the money physicians make.

They also pointed out that Obstetricians and Neurosurgeons are the most susceptible to malpractice (which I knew once, but had forgotten), so this is where we're seeing shortages in certain areas.

Then, I got some good input from Paul. He's a lawyer, and a friend, and more conservative than me. I always value his opinion. First, I'm reprinting his comment from below:

When I was in law school, there was a Friday afternoon social event each week called "Wine Mess". Mainly there was beer. Not only did law students attend, but other graduate students, including medical students. As I was conversing with a new medical student at one of these events, I asked him why he chose to go to medical school. "The money", he said. Maybe he was exceptional or maybe he was baiting me.

I think the problem is not only the greed of some people in the medical profession (I'm simly astonished that they are no better than the rest of us!), but also the way we pay for them. Or the way we don't pay for them. The insurance companies pay for them. While we climb all over the latest iPod clones to find the best value, we spend a lot less time choosing a doctor, and I would say that we do so because we are not paying for the doctor. If his fees were coming directly out of our pockets, I think we would do a better job of applying discipline to the medical arts by making choices based on the price/value equation.

On the other hand, even with the system we have, we do really well in this country, provided we have the means to pay the premiums and oft-times when we don't. I have had wonderful doctors all of my life. I really don't mind the nice cars they drive, particularly if they can heal my wife, my children, and me. And they have.

I think its a fortunate thing that we have plaintiff's malpractice lawyers. Otherwise, the medical services delivery system would be completely unaccountable to the consumer. I don't think the malpractice lawyers are the problem. But I'm prejudiced, of course. I guess we shall see, now that the ability of the lawyer's to get paid in malpractice cases is being severely restricted in state after state.

I'm not doing very well in anwering your question. Its not an easy one. I don't think Canada has the answer, as we have discussed before.

Also, if we had to pay for the services ourselves, I think we would take better care of ourselves. I like the HSA [Health Savings Account] idea, as you probably infer.

Thanks for asking my opinion.

Interesting point about the market effects of how we pay for health care (that's one reason why Paul's opinion is so valuable). In addition, Paul is a cancer survivor, so he knows intimately about receiving care.

If Paul says we need plantiff malpractice lawyers, since he's an above-board lawyer-type, then I'm sure he's right. Besides, that capitalism, too, right?

Then Paul posts a story that illustrates one of the problems with socialized medicine.

So, where does that leave us?

Paul's tack (I think) would be to re-marketize the whole thing:
1. Pay less for insurance, and then mostly for catastrophic-type stuff
2. Save more for health care (eg, in HSAs) and pay for health care out of pocket.
3. Reduce the role of the middle-man, ie insurance agents, companies, and HMOs. Put the market to work on these guys.
4. Let juries of peers regulate as needed.
5. Physicians need to police themselves better. I think Paul would agree with this.

I another solution would be to regulate more - go more socialist.

Then there's the Bush/AMA solution: legislate against patients and lawyers interfering with business. Back to the 1890s. *end snark*

Calling John Hardy: I'd be interested in your input from an Australian perspective. What's health care like down there? How does it work?

Wednesday, December 15

Barnett Today

One of the reasons I like Tom's ideas is they give hope within the context of a robust theory that accounts well for many factors. That's what Ignatius concluded in his Post column. And that was one of the take-aways for me from the email Tom posted from a student at Columbia who's advocating for ROTC in a very liberal environment.

A post addressing the condition of women and children in the gap
And if the Core as a whole has to lower its standard of living a bit to make this inclusion happen, tell me what's so wrong about that? Is America's survival based on how much stuff we can buy while kids live in misery throughout much of the Gap?
You'd think America's survival is based on numbers on the Street.

Also, Tom got interviewed briefly on BBC4 yesterday. That's pretty cool.

My ongoing mission...

You know, to understand stuff better (and, arguably, on the dark side, to be more right).

So here's The State's overview of the 'capping medical liability' debate. My thoughts:

One of the major problems here is premium increases, right? Could there be other reasons for this? Could the insurance companies be gouging us? I assume they're still making good money. My agent has a nice car.
According to federal figures, South Carolina is the second-highest paying state for obstetrician-gynecologists, and such physicians are the highest-paid in the state. Their average annual wage was $207,870 in 2003.

Subtracting a typical price for obstetrician insurance, as cited by a state Legislative Audit Council report, many of the physicians made more than $170,000 before taxes and expenses, or about five times what the average South Carolinian was paid to work.
So how is insurance costing physicians too much? Did they leave something out?
plaintiffs’ lawyers say physicians do not sanction their own often enough
This seems to be something the doctors should do immediately.

There's no doubt that malpractice suits are too prevalent and often frivolous. However, we need some protection, too.

In one of the sidebars, a bereft mother says:
In my opinion, the patient safety situation has gotten worse since (Lewis) died. There is a very great pressure to cut costs and do things more cheaply. ... There’s pressure to hire people with less and less training. They’re pushing more and more patients through (hospitals) more rapidly.
These are market pressures. So how does the market correct them?

I don't have a lot of conclusions here. I don't pretend to know the answers. From what I do know, I think insurance companies and doctors are making plenty of money. Patients need to be more reasonable about their health care expectations (you can't usually get better, Cadillac care for less money) and should curtail malpractice suits to some degree. Some lawyers are guilty of greed and pushing patients to sue and to sue for more money (to increase the result of their percentage). I wonder what will give...

Help me understand this better (I'm looking at you, especially, Paul, Esquire.)

Two thoughts

I use that extra comma, but never knew it had a name (I did know it tended to be more common among Brits). Turns out, it's called the Oxford comma. There are a lot more articles about it on Google. I've been thinking of switching my usage to using it only when it disambiguates something.

My old friend, Terry, wrote from out of the blue Monday and recommended The Mountain Goats (a band) to me. I downloaded some mp3s to tryout, but haven't...err...tried them yet. They do have a song called Color In Your Cheeks (Iowa City Trance Remix) , so that has to be a good thing.

Tuesday, December 14

Links from today

McCain Has 'No Confidence' in Rumsfeld. This is too far to go, according to Tom, although he agrees with McCain that we didn't and don't have enough troops over there.

Tom got reviewed in the Post (Some registration required.)

How to build a better web browser. I love reading this kind of thing, but it's a little weird, I know.

I won the prize over on Finches' Wings

Automated Suggested Google Alphabet

Worked two jobs at UPS in the last 24 hours. I'm off to the first one again soon (11pm-2am). It's interesting so far. I'm only seasonal help at this point. Also had another job lead today, something turn back up that we thought was dead and gone. So we're feeling a little more chipper around here today.

Caveat Lector: The books and the Google

Dorothea quotes some guy (re: Google's digitization program):
Didn’t we [librarians] collectively think we’d be leading the way into our rightful future as the guardians and disseminators of digital text?
My point: Google has the dough. They've got this huge market cap and all kinds of capital, and they can afford to do this. If they use it for search and selling and we get some reasonable benefits from it, I say bully.

Sunday, December 12

Plastic surgery sucks

(Get it?)

I was stunned today by an ad for plastic surgery in the Sports section for gift certificates for plastic surgery saying '(Good news, your wife did not pay for this ad.)'. The firm (nudge, nudge), is Carolina Cosmetics, if you want to know who to blame. Nothing says love like a gift certificate chin liposuction.

I also recently saw an ad for plastic surgery (may have been the same company) where the pitch was to old people to help you renew the passion in your relationship. Ugh.

One of my all-time, most-hated ads is one I saw in Charlotte for plastic surgery that said 'Confidence is no coincidence.'

What I don't mean to imply here is that I'm not tempted by cheap beauty like most of us are. However, I do try to resist it sometimes.

Introducing the twins to Star Wars

(Or, Jaq, you're either going to be so happy, or so disgusted that their education hasn't begun before now ;-)

So many of these things happen by accident. I won't go into anatomy lessons with Wil.

We had a White Elephant gift exchange and Wil ahd a chance to pick AT-AT Legos, which he thought were pretty cool. So I said 'Would you like to watch the movie your vehicle is in?'. He said yes. So we started with 'Empire...' and watched through it in about two sittings. Then 'A New Hope' in about three. Now we're two into 'Return...' with one more sitting to go.

He loves it, though he really hurt his had playing 'life savers' with Corbin today (before that he called them 'laser swords').

They can't resist saying 'Dark Vader', either. (Elizabeth watches some, but isn't as into it).

A couple of my impressions on rewatching 'Star Wars':

1. ANH and ESB aren't bad. There's almost nothing I would change in them (you know, apart from bad acting and bad dialogue ;-)
2. Princess Leia was the first great love of my life. Three of the subsequent great loves have been brunettes as well. Two had brown eyes. Coincidence? I think not...
3. I REALLY object to the resurrection of the Death Star in RotJ. The Tatooine/Jabba stuff is very serviceable. Dagobah: fine. Infiltration of the forest moon and Luke and Vader's connection: no problem. The Emperor's presence and the big gamble on both sides (way bigger on the Rebellion's): I like it. But not another Death Star!


Anyone want to tape the visit for me? I don't have cable.

SciFi's doing Earthsea. I'm watching through the trailers. Thoughts:

1. Magic seems more common in the film-version. One of the things I like about Tolkien and LeGuin is that magic is somewhat subtle. They don't have to give you the level of the spell, the incantation, the THAC0, etc. ;-)
2. Bobby Drake is Ged? Iceman is Ged? Not in my mind. But we'll see...
3. Looks like there might be some of that funky-quick camera-work. Not my preference...
4. Hmm... Kristin Kreuk's delivery... 'So this is our desitny?' Hmm...
5. I enjoyed the LeGuin interview. I'd never 'seen' her talk before.

At any rate, I'm hopeful it will do some justice to LeGuin's masterpiece.

Note: I went to the website after I got an email from Amazon. They're promoting the movie (with the understanding that it will sell books). Smart.

Update: I'm sorry to report Ms LeGuin isn't hopeful. I side with her, of course.

Saturday, December 11

Catching up

John links the world's oldest board game. This is a must-see. The picture of the dice alone is worth checking it out. Click! (you know, in a tab that loads in the background so you can read it after 'interact' ;-)

Tom fantasizes about what Rumsfeld should have said.

And Tom on the dollar:

But with the dollar held by so many all over the world, that decline in dollar value better be both gradual and seen as a temporary shift, because each time it happens, the euro seems to get a bit bigger on global markets, signaling the rise of an inevitable financial near-peer in Europe to go along with the manufacturing near-peer in China and the R&D near-peer in Japan. Eventually, all those economic near-peers will alter political relationships the world over, and those altered political ties will impact America's security relationships with the world, meaning the transactions implied by our exporting of security will become far more transparent, and thus will be far more scrutinized, debated, and challenged—far more so that they are even today.

This is why America's retreat to "homeland defense" sends all the wrong signals at this point in history. It says we're scared, that we're in it for ourselves, and that we less and less equate international stability with American security.

Wednesday, December 8

The links

Congrats to Matt on the coming baby girl.

Subscriptions have actually worked for Salon. Who knew?

Interesting list: Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

Wired had an article about better road design. Short story: take away signs, move pedestrians in closer, make it somewhat confusing.

Looks like we got ourselves a little controversy here: Black Coaching Group: Stay Away From South Carolina

Monday, December 6

Fitter, happier, more productive...

Actually just the latter ;-)

Worked hard today. Now I'm crushing through some web-stuff pretty good. A few notes:

Erik Benson has an interesting morale sparkline (graphing caffeine, alcohol, sleep, and morale). If any of us were open enough, it'd be interesting to at least also see 'sex' on that list. Exercise and diet would be good as well. Productivity... Lots of things you could graph. Anyway, it's interesting...

Here's exactly what I want: tags for my weblog...except this plugin's for WordPress. Drat.

Tom Today:

I supported energy independence in my presidential platform, but maybe I was wrong.
Thomas Friedman is now pushing almost non-stop for America to "go to the moon" on some new energy form that will allow us to disengage politically and militarily from the Middle East, so convinced is he that this will foster positive economic change. You might ask if this is not basically bin Laden's desire set in motion, but no bother, if Bush does this, according to Friedman, he can "be both Nixon to China and J.F.K. to the moon—in one move."

same idea, different post:
That's why everyone says the best thing that could happen right now is for the dollar to slide slowly, while the U.S. reins in its spending ways.

Is this likely if the U.S. has no friends or serious allies in a Global War on Terrorism that's costing billions upon billions?

(BTW, if you don't understand how the US and SinoJapanese economies are linked, you might want to check out the groovy graphic in the last-mentioned post.

Tom's com. on Hillary: I'd rate him in a range between open and supportive...

Sunday, December 5

Tom on clandestine connectivity

First, a brief note: You'll probably be hearing less from me about Tom Barnett in the future because I have volunteered to help him out with proofreading. It's a different kind of reading, and I have other things in mind, so I probably won't digest his stuff as much. I'm excited about being involved in a small way with his work. Since I'll be posting less, you should just read his weblog if you want more of him (obviously).

On to today's post. Cell phones are banned by the government of North Korea.
Who's stirring up this trouble? The Chinese, who are installing relay stations along the border, which in turn seems to be fueling a mini-boom in illicit cell phones in the Hermit Kingdom.

What drives this infrastructural development? Whenever cross-border trade begins with either China or the South, North Korean officials and merchants ask their counterparts for cell phones. Gotta like that.

Subversive capitalism from the Chinese: there are so many nice things about that...

Catching up

More from kottke on Sony's action against him.

An interview with the guy (whether you love it and want to read more, or don't understand and want to learn more).

Stats from Brad: Real estate is a good investment.

Thursday, December 2

The rest

Matthew's got a funny picture of himself holding the Squirelly in camoflage.

I keep seeing David Brooks' name in conjunction with smart comments. Brad is touting him as someone who gets Evanglelicalism, though he describes himself as Jewish, because he writes that John Stott would be a better spokesman for us than Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Speak the truth! Heck, Billy Graham would be a better spokesman.

But wait, you say, Stott and Graham wouldn't go on CNN and talk about 'the' Evangelical view on politics.

That's precisely my point. Evangelicals should be socially active. But we're not a block. Some of us come down in different places.

Estoy famoso!

Debil Estar from Pescozada stopped by and left a comment (gracias por los comentarios.) on that post! Cool.

Following that up, I found some more streams and mp3s to download on their site. No permalink since it's Flash. Click on PU-LUM (whatever that means).

So I checked Google. I'm the seventh result for Pescozada, and the first in English. Aww yeah.

This tells me The World needs to work on their Google Page Rank, but there you have it.

Tom Today

The Bush Mandate
preemption is in, multilateralism is in, but the UN is—in many ways—out, unless it changes its own rule set rather dramatically. That's why I don't think we're done creating the new institutions needed for this new era in security, which is why I continue to push hard for the SysAdmin force and the larger A-to-Z rule set on processing politically-bankrupt states (UN as "grand jury," G-20 as executive, US Leviathan force followed by Core-enabled Sys Admin force, then an IMF-like entity for reconstruction and the International Criminal Court to end the process).
The reality of the coming "national" elections in Iraq
Great op-ed by Krauthammer reminds us of how we need to remain realistic about what a “national” election in Iraq will really accomplish, and what it will really signal:
In 1864, 11 of the 36 states did not participate in the presidential election. Was Lincoln’s election therefore illegitimate?

In 1868, three years after the security situation had, shall we say, stabilized, three states (not insignificant ones: Texas, Virginia and Mississippi) did not participate in the election. Was Grant’s election illegitimate?

There has been much talk that if the Iraqi election is held and some Sunni Arab provinces (perhaps three of the 18) do not participate, the election will be illegitimate. Nonsense. The election should be held. It should be open to everyone. If Iraq’s Sunni Arabs—barely 20 percent of the population—decide they cannot abide giving up their 80 years of minority rule, ending with 30 years of Saddam Hussein’s atrocious tyranny, then tough luck. They forfeit their chance to shape and participate in the new Iraq...
Krauthammer’s point is that American troops are dying—in effect—to prevent the Sunnis from trying to reestablish, through civil war, their minority rule. In the end, as he puts it, “This is the Shiites’ and Kurds’ fight.” Which gets me to the logic that drives my upcoming Esquire piece: we need to find—or create through some radical diplomacy—some local ownership for this fight. The partners are rather obvious, as are the logical asking prices. The question is, who will have the courage to forge the deals?
Prediction: no change in the UN
Yes, what Kofi Annan’s commission is proposing is good stuff, and it moves the UNSC much closer to the sort of executive function required to bolster and populate an A-to-Z global rule set on processing politically-bankrupt states. The problem is, it can’t really be pulled off without amending the UN charter, and that’s a UN General Assembly process. And that’s where my friends’ pessimism kicks in.

Expanding the UNSC to include New Core powers really only makes sense if you’re trying to get a critical mass of large states to come together in institutional agreement on security issues that will inevitably involve rogue Gap states. I know I’m using my particular lexicon here, but believe me, everyone at the UN will be thinking the same thing, so no illusions about what Annan is trying to achieve.

And so you can count on most Gap states rejecting this idea. And since there’s roughly 100 or them, you can kiss good-bye your two-thirds majority of 191 member states required to amend the Charter.

Unless you tell one really good story about why such a move makes sense. Right now the story Annan basically tells is, “Look what happened with Iraq, for crying out loud!” And that’s not much of an incentive, frankly.

The real story truly appeals only to Core states: Don’t you want a transparency process by which the Mugabes, Saddams, and Kim Jong Ils of the world can be gotten rid of in a standard, mutually-agreed-upon way?

Why? The unspoken caveat of such a system, frankly, is that it can never be used against fellow Core states. That’s the realistic approach to getting India, China, Russia et. al on board for things like Sudan.

And that sort of logic will never survive a UN General Assembly debate—no matter how much it makes sense.
The China Price
Economists who went on and on about globalization always being good for America seem somewhat flabbergasted to admit now that—geez!—it’s actually going to make things awfully hard and competitive for the U.S., meaning it will force dramatic internal changes (all desired and needed) upon us or we’ll suffer in the end. So globalization has gone from being a big win for an America that didn’t have to change itself much at all to one in which it’s—at best—a tough victory for an America only if its willing to revamp things like how it thinks about debt (both personal and public) and how it educates its people throughout their lives (and not just at the beginning).

Economic competition within the United States, the world’s oldest and most successful economic and political multinational union, has always been fierce. By replicating that source code across the Core as a whole in this era of globalization, we’ve enlarged the playing field dramatically, pulling in all sorts of previously “frontier” areas full of people who are desperate for better lives and willing to work their asses off to achieve it. Trying to deny their entry is a lose-lose and we all know it, but clearly we’ll have to adjust not just our economic and political rule sets to accommodate that new competition, but those of the Core as well.

This is why I say that America’s number one strategic relationship for the next twenty years or more will be China—and to a lesser extent India. Adjusting the Core’s rule sets to accommodate those two states’ integration into the global economy is the most important foreign policy and—frankly—national security task that we face right now and for the foreseeable future.
In the very obvious way, it only makes sense to think strategically about the world's two most populous nations, both of which are having rising economic and political impact.
Yes, I want to transform the Middle East, but that’s a secondary goal to securing both China and India as long-term strategic partners—economic partners, political partners, security partners.
This is amazing to me. Not that I disagree. It's just that we've been focused on peace in the Middle East for so long. And that's where the oil is! But Tom's saying China and India are more important. He's right, of course.
China’s rise is very similar to that of America’s at the beginning of the 20th century. That’s why a Wal-Mart will let its workers there remain in unions even though it doesn’t here at home. I know that flabbergasts some people: “But China’s communist for crying out loud!” No, it isn’t. It’s very capitalist while still have a significant state sector. In the capitalist portions of its economy, it very much resembles the rough-and-tumble labor world of the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century, and that’s why it still makes sense for unions to exist. I mean, don’t you want those unions to force Wal-Mart (and every other manufacturer there) to pay their labor better there so the goods they produce/sell cost more and thus reduce China’s “price” over time? Of course you do.

China’s “price” will grow less competitive the more it integrates with the global economy. It happens to everyone. So, in reality, China’s rise is less a threat the more it unfolds, so long as we don’t fix to make them our enemy for lack of imagination. China will dominate Asia, and that domination will lead to the rise of an EU-like entity there in which China will be the obvious center of gravity. We want that to happen, because it secures China in the Core and makes Asia a peaceful, prosperous place.

But for that to happen, there will have to be a NATO-like entity there to mitigate and ultimately eradicate lingering security issues, and getting that process to unfold and to include a U.S. as a founding member is another key task of U.S. foreign policy over the next two decades.

But as you know, alliances rise either out of shared fears or a common victory. There doesn’t seem to be enough shared fear right now, so where do you think we might achieve a common security victory in Asia right now?

Tuesday, November 30

Other stuff

I'm about to the point where I think the 'Title' field isn't really helping me.

kottke, the Ken Jennings weblogger, got a cease-and-desist from Sony. Anil went off. Sony TV is stupid. If anything, kottke added to their Cult of Ken. Heck, he almost created it.

I just finally read 'Moneyball' and LOVED IT! I wish I could be Billy Bean, or Bill James, or Michael Lewis. I LOVE idea-revolutionaries, Tom Barnett, for example.

Free trade?

Macon posted a quote from David Brooks that I agreed with.
I hate to be the bearer of good news, because only pessimists are regarded as intellectually serious, but we're in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history. Last week, the World Bank released a report showing that global growth "accelerated sharply" this year to a rate of about 4 percent. Best of all, the poorer nations are leading the way.

What explains all this good news? The short answer is this thing we call globalization. Over the past decades, many nations have undertaken structural reforms to lower trade barriers, shore up property rights and free economic activity. International trade is surging. The poor nations that opened themselves up to trade, investment and those evil multinational corporations saw the sharpest poverty declines. Write this on your forehead: Free trade reduces world suffering.
Then Eric posted on his weblog about his comment on Macon's post:
Free trade is good, but it still has a long way to go. The most important factor in making free trade work is keeping the playing field even in terms of regulations. The U.S., with a federal minimum wage, cannot morally have its workers sit idle while jobs go to a third world country without a minimum wage. Either the minimum wage needs to be abolished (not something I would condone), or trade barriers need to be in place to disallow certain trade with countries that don't have a minium wage. This is one example. Another is child labor. Let me reiterate that I support free trade, but it must be conducted in a manner of fairness.
I respectfully disagree with Eric. My comment:
Eric, i used to think this way about free trade, but i have begun to question my assumptions. Barnett would say that every industrializing country goes through these kinds of stresses: too-low wages, child labor, environmental damage. the examples can be multiplied.

is it possible for this stage to be skipped? i don't know. it can certainly be ameliorated. but i think we need to be careful about being paternalistic and saying 'you can't exploit your environment/resources/labor/people the way we did ours to pull ourselves up to this position.' this is the thing that makes me open to drilling in ANWR: the people who live there want to make money off of it.

free trade cannot be kept even. i don't even think this is a desirable goal anymore. tax breaks for companies who keep (some) jobs here might be a good fix. transitioning our industries, services, and workforce to something less outsourceable is another one. what do you think?

Right: What do you think?

Monday, November 29


Signs over on Kith and Kin that Macon has accepted Barnett into his heart. As I said in the comments, I am so happy.

Question for Tom: What do you think of tax cuts as an economic growth engine?

Gnarly economics in the Journal
  • The Bush Administration is supply-side rather than fiscally conservative.
  • The dollar as de facto global reserve currency and America's independent monetary policy.
As long as cooler heads prevail, the Chinese economic miracle will continue peacefully, no matter how many subs they have.

Energy drives every(developed)one's foreign policy, especially the US and China.

Ahh, the lovely anachronism of it all: Castro's socialist economic policies. Fidel may want to serve the little people, but he sure doesn't.

Energy drives redux: India and Pakistan look at a pipeline to Iran.

It's nice that the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, aka ASEAN, had eponymized my name. But seriously, the post's about an Asian EU.

Re: Sudan
To me, it's situations like this that speak to the compelling need for the Core as a whole to be able to put forth a SysAdmin force that would enable a regional entity like the AU to do more than just run around snapping photos and taking notes while the killing continues unabated. Everyone in the Core wants this situation to settle, but we don't have a transparent, non-zero-sum process for making it happen, and that process can't come into being until the military resources are pooled and coherently arranged in a larger whole, and that international military capability won't come about until the Pentagon shows it's serious of fielding its own version of a Sys Admin force.

Then Tom gets into some interesting number crunching about the size of a global force and what the US's active and reserve component would be and how we're already heading toward that in some ways.

The world votes on our elections in buying our debt.
American can afford its current Leviathan force, but it cannot afford to self-finance the bulk of the follow-on SysAdmin work that will ensue from efforts like our recent takedown in Iraq. The coming renegotiation of that security burden is inevitable, otherwise you’ll see American withdraw dramatically from the world militarily.

Admitting that strategic reality is the first step toward making the deals we’ll need to make if we’re going to get truly serious about waging a Global War on Terrorism that will clearly last decades.

There is no alternative.
Powell can’t leave fast enough, as far as I’m concerned. At least Rice will know Moscow from her elbow.
Europe, like the US, is facing some tough decisions on 'social security'. They already missed the baby boat. Their choices now are change their policy or let in more immigrants.

Asia's developing economy is facing really bad pollution.

Another assertion of the role of values in the election (though a little broader than you might think). What do you say, Macon?

Special Ops
Frustrated with the Global War on Terrorism and our inability to track down and kill certain terrorist leaders hiding away in certain ungoverned territories or states, the Pentagon is rewriting the rule set on clandestine ops by Special Forces. Frankly, this is a very good thing. We want these guys to have the loosest possible rule sets, with the world as their playground. That sort of direct action belongs with the Pentagon in a GWOT, not the CIA. We’re not hunting spies in this war, but actual combatants.

Kerry was right: this is a police action . . . inside the Core. But Bush was also right: this is a war inside the Gap.
The way forward in Palestine

A word of thanks to our military personnel.

An article Tom contributed to about the future of naval procurement, including unmanned vehicles.

Random thought: I wonder what Tom thinks of the Osprey...

From the break

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. We did. We spent a couple of days in Hendersonville with Christine's folks: good food, lots of football on tv, laying low, had the fire on some. Wil and I came back early friday night because I had a (low-key) meeting and then we had basketball practice saturday morning and the girls didn't want to come back early.

I've seen a number of 'thankful' threads in the past couple days. It's harder for me to be thankful this Thanksgiving as I've had to take a >75% pay cut in my job and am looking for something to make up the difference. I know this is lack of perspective. When asked on thursday what I was thankful for, I said 'my family', for which I am very thankful. I'm glad the twins are doing well in kindergarten.

I'm glad, of course, that we have a home and we have clothes and food and two cars that (mostly) work. My extended family is great and I have some good friends (though too few here in Columbia).

I've been (finally) ripping my CD collection to our hard drive. I'm having fun with that. I'm thankful for music: REM and the Smiths and the Flaming Lips (most recently ripped).

Christine deserves special mention as incredibly patient with me. I keep telling her she should trade up. Remember the joke about getting a second wife? What we really need in our marriage is a second husband, one with a little more earning power.

Here's a conversation Wil and I had friday night. We were playing the Lord of the Roings Board Game and it was really late. I said 'Are you getting sleepy?' Wil said, 'Yeah, and i'm tired of getting beaten by Sauron!' This was the second time we'd lost the game (which is played cooperatively) in about a week.

I got to go to the Panthers game on sunday and the tickets we had were for the Club Level, which was pretty swanky. The Panthers scored the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left. That was exciting. And I got to spend the day with my little brother, Cory. It was great. I'm thankful for it.

I know I've mentioned this site before, but I went back and added a bunch of the recommendations from The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities page including Spybot, NaviScope, and Star Downloader (Amazing!). Lupas Rename 2000 could be used to sort your unruly mp3s or pix (though I don't happen to need it right now).

Wednesday, November 24


I was listening to 'The World' the other day and they had a piece on Salvadoran hip hop group Pescozada. I really liked the clips they played, so I looked them up.

Here's the original 'World' piece from last year. There are 3 mp3s to download and clips of every track on the new album to stream. I like them all so far. If you're intrugued at all, you should check them out.

(Warning: In case you're not too savvy about most of this new-fangled hip hop music, there's some bad language.)

Barnett at Langley

(I write 'Langley' cuz I'm all down with Intel lingo! ;-)

And in this post he talks about something I've been waiting to read from him recently: his take on Intelligence reform. Quick version: it's not that bad.
If we would only dial down the classification requirements, this network would work just fine. But because we stovepipe the information in this manner, the networks aren't allowed to function anywhere near peak capacity.

But instead of just dialing down the secrecy, we propose centralization, which by and large negates most of the best attributes of having that distributed network of agencies who all collect, process, and analyze a bit differently from one another. In short, we're more likely to get group think with a National Intelligence Director than without one. But until we rethink the ultra-secrecy of most of these information flows, no amount of deck-chair rearranging will do the trick.

The Pentagon isn't going to give up its control over the overhead assets (where the real money is) to a NID, and frankly, it should logically seek to pull CIA's covert stuff over into its bailiwick, because the overhead stuff defines the information superiority for the Leviathan warfighter, and the CIA muscle logically belongs there as well. This fight over the intell reform bill stems fundamentally from the lack of understanding regarding the natural bifurcation of the intelligence community in response to the natural post-cold-war bifurcation of the US military. In short, certain assets logically migrate to the Leviathan, whereas most of what Congress really wants to see centralized (if they thought about it for a minute) under a NID is far more logically associated with the SysAdmin force...

It was interesting to talk with my hosts after the brief, because the same reform-minded elements who invited me today invite me everywhere else I go in the national security community. As with all cannibalizing agents, they tend to think horizontally and plan adaptively. Never ones to wait on the perfect plan, they more interested in moving ahead and letting the chips fall where they may. But alas, that is always the problem for such reformers: the heavies on top want to see everything clearly before committing, less they lose budgetary control of the process. So again, the enemies of performance tend to be centralization and greed, whereas the proponents of reform tend to favor networking and sharing without reference to cost capture.

Guess which side is better suited to fighting a transnational insurgency of terrorists?
Growing rubber in China
In our tradition, we rely on our land to feed us," said Li [Ziqie, 25], who was a boy when the first meeting about the rubber project was held here. "We were really suspicious at first. My father wanted us to use just a small portion of our land for a pilot project. Some people said, 'Why plant rubber? You cannot eat the trees.' But eventually, he agreed to devote 30 mu. We were really nervous. If we couldn't grow enough food, then what?"

The Li family reached into meager savings and sank nearly $80 into the project. They planted 800 trees.

By 1996 the Li family was generating income in the range of $800 per year, and some families now earn upwards of $4,000/yr, which is a huge income in China.

Here's the real change: now Li's father no longer plants rice, instead buying that in the village. That's connectivity. That's mutually-assured dependence. That's the creation of real wealth where none previously could be generated...

The downside of all that consumer demand, however, is the requirement for far more energy than the country can generate on its own, which is why China, like India, is scouring the planet for oil, often going where Old Core companies fear to tread (like shaky Ecuador) or simply cannot because of political restrictions (Iran).

The other downside to this process of expansive growth is that—traditionally—what goes up must eventually come down somewhat, which is why you're seeing Wall Street beginning to discount, largely through derivatives at this point, the inevitably recession that must someday afflict China.

Here's hoping that, when that fall inevitably occurs, our security relationship with China is one helluva lot more secure than it is today. To me, that would be the U.S. government discounting that danger politically, reflecting what I hope would be our leadership's ability to start seeing China within the context of everything else so that it understands why any military conflict with China would invariably affect that everything else.

More on immigrants running for President

One of the reasons why I support letting non-native born Americans run for president is that this country is essentially mongrel in character and will only grow more so in coming decades. We've never had a higher percentage of foreign-born citizens than we do right now, and that's primarily a result of the huge influx of immigrants (unprecedented in sheer numbers) across the 1990s, the first decade of nearly-global globalization (with the Core expanding to include two-thirds of humanity).

For the U.S. to remain open to this historic process, I favor the quickest and simplest routes for immigrants to become citizens, and for foreign-born citizens, after living in the U.S. for a quarter-century or more, to be granted the right to run for national office (we have only two—president and vice-president)...

I don't doubt a Tony Blair would clean up here in any presidential run...

One of the great efficiencies of our system is that, if you're secretly Bill Gates, or Steven Spielberg, or Michael Jordan, this is the place to come and find full outlet for that talent. There is no economic system in the world that rewards talent like ours, which is why the U.S. has so long been such an incredible magnet for talents professionals from all over the world.

That magnetic attraction will naturally diminish as other rising poles of the Functioning Core (like China, India, etc.) grow their own forms of magnetism, but it can also be artificially depressed by our own policies toward guest workers, student visas, and immigration in general.

I am scared, as is my former fellow grad student Fareed Zakaria, by the heavy drop in foreign students studying in the U.S. since 9/11, because this is the first downward movement in that trend in more than three decades. Undergrads from China have dropped 20 percent in 2004 (45 percent in grad students), and the similar numbers for India are 9 percent (undergrads) and 28 percent (grads).

This is a great post on these issues. Instead of excerpting the whole thing, just go read it if you're interested.

Why Puerto Rico is more disconnected than connected
What has pushed this up-tick since 9/11 is the U.S.'s crackdown on traditional smuggling routes through Mexico and Central America, which means Puerto Rico has become more Gap-like as a result of America's attempt to firewall itself off from bad things vectoring into the continental U.S. So thanks to the System Perturbation of 9/11, Puerto Rico is more negatively connected to the United States.
Yes, but where would Tom like to see this one go? On the one hand, he argues for keeping drugs, terrorism, and disease from coming in from the Gap. On the other hand, he wants more connectivity. How does that work in the case of PR?


Deficit Hasn't Tamed Appetite for Pork. No surprise, and all the Congess-members seem guilty. We have representatives so they'll make responsible decisions, not pander to constituents. Aack!

Deadly Tomatoes Strike Texas, La., Miss. (That's how I read the headline at first, anyway. Is it ok to laugh about that misreading when the article reports that someone died? I think so...)

Archaeology Filter: Archaeologists Discover Bronze Age Site [in Northern Scotland].

Typography Filter: kottke on Futura. Maybe I'll use it more.

That reminds me to comment on the big trend toward bending lower-case 'l's. Not sure if I like it yet, though I think it is more readable.

Froogle has added wish lists. Mine. This is cool because you can put anything in it that Froogle can find. Much broader than Amazon.

A thread on downloading broadcast shows via BitTorrent (instead of recording them yourself). So far it's not stealing because their broadcast for free anyway. Ok. So I downloaded everything, set everything up, went to TVTorrents, and...

couldn't find anything on the first page I wanted to watch. How's that for funny? Well, it's all set-up now in case I see something advertised while I'm watching football that I'd like to see later. *shakes head*

Note: I've been a lot happier since I've started closing Bloglines during the day. I don't constantly have new posts I feel I have to read. They wait pretty patiently until I get to them.


This is no news flash. Just a brief post to say I've been listening to 'The Essentail Bob Dylan' last night and today and I'm really enjoying it. Everybody knows he's really talented, right? Some people have a problem with his voice (like Getty Lee, et al.). It works for me. I probably come to Dylan mostly through Bill Mallonee, which is weird, but, again, it works. Cool stuff.

Tuesday, November 23

Go Hawks!

Man it's a good week for Hawkeye fans! The football team won and is headed to the Capitol One Bowl, jumped 5 spots in the AP poll to 12th (highest in the Big Ten) and locked up their coach's contract through 2012. The unranked basketball team has defeated two ranked opponents and plays tomorrow for the Maui Classic title. Go to this page and scroll to the bottom to download the mp3 of the Iowa Fight Song to celebrate!

On the Gamecock side, Spurrier is coming. As much as I don't like him, I wish him well. Heck, I hope he even brings a national championship to SC (after Ferentz gets one for Iowa! :-)

A few links

From the Economist, via kottke:
In America, self-styled progressives look ever more the party of the past, and confessed conservatives are the ones focusing on the future...Most of Mr Kerry's base was in stagnant America. Democratic strongholds such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Mr Kerry's Boston have been losing people and jobs. Mr Bush's America, for the most part, is booming.
From Jason (Streed), via kottke: the Telegraph's list of best covers and Jason's commentary. I commented over there.

From Defective Yeti: Fun with pictures: Cheesasaurus Rex is a reknowned deficit hawk.

From Wartburg:
We had a decent basketball team when I was there twelve years ago (though not a tournament team), and that was it. Very impressive.

Hail to the...who exactly?

William Safire recommends (via Barnett)that we should change our laws so that foreign-born citizens can run for President.

It'd be crazy if we saw someone immigrate to the US to run for President, someone recognizable like Desmond Tutu or Kofi Annan (not that they would be electable. It's just an example, people.) How about Ricky Martin? ;-)

Unleash the xenophobes.

NEVER volunteer to coach 5 and 6 year old basketball! Here's a picture of me coaching (read: taking a beating). I'll be the first to admit I'm not a great coach. After a fun soccer season I volunteered to coach basketball. SUCKER! It's so technical and the kids don't have much attention span. Then I've got their parents telling me what to do. I'm about at the point of offering some of them the job. Have they tried to teach 5s and 6s to play basketball lately! Anyway, Wil's on the left in this picture and, happily, by happenstance, Wil is 2 and I am 22. At least I got a shirt out of it. Posted by Hello

Monday, November 22


Two links I really liked from over there this morning:

Atlantis has been found. (the Yahoo link)

Space elevator simulation picture

Humble request for a Google bomb

I'm not even on the radar for the Google search Thomas Barnett weblog. You know this is unjust. If you're not opposed to such things and if you're not annoyed by all my Barnett posts, would you please link me with 'Thomas Barnett' or 'Thomas Barnett weblog'? Thank you.

Barnett today

Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and...Giambastiani?

Everybody's a Colin Powell fan, right. Well, here's an idea: Maybe he's not all that great. He hasn't had a great turn as Secretary of State. The Powell Doctrine, which Barnett maligns all the time, has shown itself to be bankrupt. What do you think?

Rice is a Bush loyalist, but hasn't done a good job as National Security adviser.

Rumsfeld: 'one of our greatest Secretaries of War ever' (just not good at Peace/Occupation)

Giambastiani: Barnett hopes he'll be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Korea and Iran
Instead of asking which one is easier to stop, shouldn't we simple deal with the situation that's far worse? There is no deal to be made with North Korea, because that regime has nothing to offer. With Iran, there are clear things that country could offer in terms of better regional behavior that would be worth a lot to us right now, trapped as we are in Iraq. With Kim, it's just a nutcase with nukes, so disconnected from the global economy that the only way he makes money to prop up his regime is through criminal activity.
China is working with investments to secure energy

Hmm. Is Brazil close enough to Pacific to make it into the Pacific NATO?

Genocide in the Gap

Genocide in Sudan. We haven't done enough. China is culpable, too.

Sarcastic reponse re: France and Cote d'Ivoire

Barnett recounts his take on Iraq and the Global War On Terrorism
• To start that process after all our years of diddling on the margin, perturbing that system as a whole makes sense.

• The best target for such an effort following 9/11 was Iraq, because Saddam had checked so many boxes and everyone in the system wanted him gone, even if we didn't have a transparent, A-to-Z Core rule set for dispatching such rogues and rehabbing their systems.

• Once you decide to go in, make if fast and furious with the transformed Leviathan force (check!) but then overwhelm the country with a committed, massive peacekeeping Sys Admin force that segues quickly into round-the-dial reconstruction efforts that emphasizes small-and-beautiful efforts that keep hands busy, put money in pockets, put food in bellies, and give people back their dignity (completely unchecked that box)

• Understanding nation-building is hard, the larger reason for going into Iraq (once Saddam is removed) is not Iraq, but the rest of the region. Expect a strong anti-American reaction as the force for change, but then watch for that change and take advantage of it as it emerges in Syria, Israel-Palestine, Iran, etc. Make the deals, create the local ownership, be generous with the quid pro quos, etc.

• To the extent that you can't resolve Iraq as a whole, I advocate resolving what you can. The Kurdish north isn't the problem, and the Shiite south can be dealt with, leaving the Sunni center triangle as the odd man out.

• There is no reason for the Kurds and Shiites to be held back by the Sunnis, given all the nasty history between them. Iraq is an unreal country with no real basis in history. It was created by the Brits to cover their tracks. We are no more held to that past in Iraq than we were in Yugoslavia, so we need to make do with those who want to get things done, growing the Core and transforming the region where possible, instead of waiting for perfect answers.

• If it seems like we're making this up as we go along, guess what? That's how it always has been in foreign policy and national security: exploiting victories as they present themselves, likewise adapting to failures as they present themselves.
The EU and Turkey

But here's the rule-set reset demanded by Europe: stop treating your state as an ethnic identity marker and start treating it as a geographic administrative concept—meaning the definition of being a Turk needs to expand to basically anyone who lives in Turkey, speaks Turkish, and wants the same rights as anyone of Turkish ethnic descent. In short, the EU is demanding Turkey genericize the concept of being Turkish if it wants to join the EU, because the EU lets in modern states, not immature ethnic nations. If the EU approached it any other way, the dream of a United States of Europe (gee, what a familiar ring) never really takes off, because the USE can only be the USE if its united around the concept of states united, not ethnic ghettos stitched together.

When you get a mature USE, it will most definitely look like a USA, all "profound" economic lifestyle differences aside. You'll see ethnic blending and appropriation that's not seen as stealing, but the highest form of flattery.

Sunday, November 21

Notes from sunday

1. I don't really feel like commenting on this, but I will post it. It will be ammo for some of you. You can draw your own conclusions (which you would have done anyhow, right? :-)

Third of Americans Say Evidence Has Supported Darwin's Evolution Theory

2. Doesn't look like it makes a big difference whether you shut your computer off or not.

3. The app I've been looking for all my life, and it's just a website (ie, it's easy - it's not as complicated as an app): paper cd case

Saturday, November 20

Barnett digest

More on the Pentagon's next Internet

Fallujah and Its Aftermath Are No Tipping Point and Don't Break the Insurgent's Back

The primacy of energy

Barnett writes about The World Energy Outlook for 2004.
If you read only one government report every year, this is the one to read. It's that good and that important. Read it and the world's events will become a whole lot clearer to you. Plus, you'll never swallow Michael Moore's comically myopic bullshit ever again.
Must be a midwestern thing. Tom mispronounces 'nuclear', as do I (sometimes), along with The Chief Mispronouncer.

The road ahead for the CIA: Into the Gap

Europe's own SysAdmin force: A Proposal


Matt had the linky goodness the other day, complete with downloads.
  1. Is the guitar riff from 'Smells like teen spirit' really a tweaked version of 'More than a feeling'? I find it hard to believe. Pop is a pretty simple medium. Riffs get repeated inadvertantly, subconciously or totally unconciously. The post contains an mp3 of the riffs juztaposed. What do you think? (I'd especially like to hear from my readers who are musicians...)
  2. Matt got sound-bit on Marketplace.
  3. The Top 40 Bands In America Today survey. This post has numerous downloads, too. Top one I can claim some familiarity with: Springsteen at number 11. I've heard of Wilco at number 2, and that I should check 'em out, but I haven't yet.

It looks like Steve Spurrier really is coming to SC. I have mixed emotions. I want SC to win, and he can probably get that done. But I don't like Spurrier.

John Hardy has two posts referring to the work at Topper that I posted on recently.

Bush twins try to get a table at a NYC restaurant, maitre 'd tells them the restaurant is full for the next four years Bush twins try to get a table at a NYC restaurant, maitre 'd tells them the restaurant is full for the next four years. (on Gawker via kottke)

Also via kottke: Bill Gates gets 4 million emails a day, most of which are spam.
Ballmer said Microsoft has special technology that just filters spam intended for Gates. In addition, several Microsoft employees are dedicated to ensuring that nothing unwanted gets into his inbox.

Friday, November 19

Typical Barnett

If you haven't taken the plunge yet on Barnett, he describes the article contained in this post as 'a better job than anybody to date capturing the sense of what it's like to be briefed by me.'

The author of the article writes:

"The problems with Barnett's view are both political and technical. Rebuilding countries expends the patience of democracies, particularly when the commitment is long and the friendly casualties accrue."

This is also the problem with our current operation in Iraq. It's a major reason why the way the Bush Administration led us into Iraq is a problem. When you go in based on an arguable mistake, democracies lose their will to fight even faster. I'm worried about whether or not we can muster the ongoing political will to stay the course in Iraq. I often argue for multinational peacekeepers in Iraq, and one of the things I think that would do is bolster domestic morale (others are shouldering the burden, too), as well as shore up the international opinion which, when negative, can suck political will at home (especially from those with affinities in the international community).

Would the political willpower to invade Iraq have materialized with an explanation like Barnett might offer? Off the top of my head: That Saddam's a bad guy and the region's unstable. We need to make it more secure. So we're going to take him down and rebuild Iraq. I don't know. Can't tell. What do you think?

Thursday, November 18

Barnett Today

Changes in Washington?
Bush knows what he wants on his watch: a transformed Middle East. My question is (and it’s the basic query that animates my upcoming Esquire piece): what is he willing to pay for that goal? Cause just putting forth a clear and consistent message front to all the allies who distrust us and dislike us probably won't be enough of a stylistic change, and we won't be moving off that dime in Iraq fast enough over the next four years without some allied help to do anything more than flap our gums on Iran and North Korea. So if Bush is serious about transforming the Middle East, he'll need to start considering which deals he can stomach and which ones he cannot, cause he sure as hell isn't going to be able to unilateral his way through the entire cast of the Axis of Evil by the end of his second term...

Oh, and who does virtually all of Washington blame for the botched occupation? That would be the National Security Council for its gross inability to manage the interagency planning process. Good thing we swapped out that job.
Tom continues to advocate partitioning of Iraq
I was asked by Alex Steffens of WorldChanging about the future of Iraq. I replied that it was probably as bright as Yugoslavia's future. He got my point. There isn't any Yugoslavia any more, and there probably shouldn't be an Iraq anymore.

To me, that's not lowering our goals in Iraq, but rewarding those portions of Iraq that are ready to embrace the future. Noah Feldman may disagree, but I think the whole point of the elections should be to benefit those parts of Iraq that have embraced the notion of federalism, while punishing those that do not. Remember our Civil War. Well, that's how it worked then too, until the South gave up...

That's not betraying the Iraqi people, because there are no Iraqi people—just three tribes living in the Yugoslavia of the Middle East.
Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Tehran
Iran's a big player in both (see the U.S. News cover-story this week on Iran's "connections" to the insurgency in Iraq), plus there's a decent case to be made that Iran is the country behind much of Hezbollah's and Hamas' struggle against Israel.

I'm with Brent Scowcroft on this one: we need dialogue with Tehran that's about more than enriched uranium.
Is Iran playing games? (I'm excerpting this whole short post.)
How good is this deal between the EU and Iran? Probably as solid as the paper it's printed on. Iran has played word games before, and will do so as long as it can, because the more it delays, the more time it has to develop the bomb. Plus the deal seems to have pissed off plenty of Iran's political hard-liners in its parliament.

But the worse reality is that Iran is probably pulling the old Saddam trick: agree to suspension on facility A, only to proceed with facility B ("Oh, you didn't say anything about facility B!"). This is going to go on and on until Iran announces suddenly one day that it has the bomb.

And you know what? There wont' be much we can do about it, especially as Tehran cleverly draws China more and more to its side. China needs Iranian oil and gas, and we need China economically. It's that simple and that complex.

Washington needs to get real ASAP on Iran. Calling them names is one thing, dealing with the reality of their power in the region that we now find ourselves deeply embedded within militarily is another.

Get used to Iran having the bomb.
Here's hoping Kim Jung Il has left the building

I find that 'Dear Leader' stuff unbelievably cloying.

What are the dividends of the oil boom?

Not very much. E.g:
Russia, at least, is credited with stashing away some of its windfall and paying down its external debt, to the delight of the IMF. By while Putin's balancing the books nicely, he's not pushing ahead on structural reforms in the banking sector, liberalizing the energy sector (where monopolies persist) or cutting back on state meddling in the private sector.
As China goes...
Maybe now people will stop describing globalization as an American-led multinational corporation plot to rule the world and start understanding the process as being so much bigger than just the U.S. economy. Increasingly, the purveyor of both pain and delight will be China.
Learning lessons
[T]here needs to be a new nexus between the military and relief organizations if we're really going to secure lasting victories in this global war on terrorism. Also makes you realize that, in the end, the military only starts the show and cannot possibly end it on its own.

Another lesson we need to take away from Iraq is to keep our initial goals simple and direct. You want to win "hearts and minds?" Well, focus on "stomachs and pockets" first, according to Peter Khalil, an Australian who spent 9 months at Paul Bremer's side in the Green Zone...

So we're all learning some new/old lessons on how to rehab a political bankrupt state (I say "old," because we learned most of these same lessons in Somalia and Haiti in the early/mid 1990s and then chose to forget them immediately—at least inside the Pentagon).

Probably the strangest news I've come across regarding charity work since 9/11 is that Muslims in America, wary of giving to overseas groups for fear of supporting terrorism, are now redirecting much of that money to Muslim charities that deal with issues right in their own neighborhoods and cities. They feel the same old religious obligation; they just chose now to do it closer to home.

That is a very good trend in terms of Muslims in America connecting to the country in which they now live, and yet, we need to make sure that good Islamic charities around the world don't go starving as a result. That outcome would do nothing positive for us in this Global War on Terrorism.
The role of RIF in privacy
This whole smart dust thing is going to be the technology that allows America to remain an open society while remaining a safe society. You want to track visitors to the U.S.? Here is your method that's at once somewhat annoying and a bit frightening. But you know what, it'll be a good thing. We need ways to allow maximum connectivity with the outside world while not feeling totally vulnerable to all sorts of things we can't track, trace, follow, or prevent.

As with all technologies that enable freedom and convenience, a loss of privacy seems inevitable. But that's not necessarily true. It just means we need new rule sets to deal with this additional form of connectivity/transparency.
Maybe it won't be as bad as I fear. I still think we need to keep an eye on it re: consumer and civil rights.

The Pentagon's working on a Global Information Grid. Sounds like a hardened, proprietary, intra-Internet.

Russia's progress
Putin is preaching a new sort of quid pro quo. In the last decades of socialism in the Soviet Union, it was said among the masses that "we pretend to work and the state pretends to pay us." I like to describe late Brezhnevism as "the state pretends to rule over us and we pretend to obey."

Well, Putin's proposing something better, something along the lines of "you pay taxes and the state will respect your property rights." Sounds pretty good, huh? Not exactly the return of authoritarianism.

This is my notion on Russia's "progress": so long as Putin doesn't reinstitute vertical control over the economy, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will improve over time. His recent reinstitution of vertical control over the political system tells us little of Russia's potential future evolutions, other than Moscow believes in a Go Slow approach on politics, much like Beijing does.

This is not a bad thing. In fact, it's probably a very good thing. As Putin declares, "Fear in unproductive." To which I add, business likes transparency and certainty.
In China and Russia (and even in the old USSR), it looks to me like you don't have to open up your political system at first. In fact, that can even be harmful. If you open up your ecomonic system (e.g. glasnost and perestroika, Foreign Direct Investment will follow. A closed (read: stable) political system can actually look good to investors, as long as you're open on the economics. If you turn out not to be, they'll take their investment back out. We saw this in the 90s in Russia: FDI fluctuated depending on the local security. It was too insecure for a while. That's why businesses and economic determinists like Barnett like Putin.

Globalization is not Americanization, and in ten years you won't be able to make that mistake any longer. This post focuses on how we see this in movies.
Our cultural content dominated Globalization II (1945-1980) because we were number 1 without a doubt in the scrawny West that existed through that time period. Our cultural content still seems dominant through Globalization III (1980-2001), because the biggest players were still getting their acts together in terms of internal integration (Europe) and joining the global economy (e.g., China, India).

But in Globalization IV (2001 and counting), we will witness the rise of numerous key cultural content pillars, such as the European lifestyle (or dream, as Jeremy Rifkin calls it), Japanese cool (check out what your kids all seem naturally drawn to, and you'll find it's overwhelmingly Japanese in origin), and Chinese hipness (isn't China becoming the center of damn near everything on the go-go?).
Barnett helps me think about other factors relative to the military, especially economics. Case in point:
Is there a growing threat? I think there is a Japan and a China that are both committed to having a bigger military role in both the region and the world at large—ones befitting their mature (Japan) and emerging (China) economic clout. I think both militaries, having nothing better to do, tend to get overly excited about one another out of boredom. Other than the threat which is Taiwan's bid for independence, these two states basically have nothing to fight over, unless you're stupid enough to believe one side's navy is going to be able to enforce some claim over undersea oil reserves believed to lie between the two states. Why the two countries would bother fighting over these reserves instead of simply exploiting them jointly, is apparently beyond the military strategists on both sides (clear proof that military strategists the world over tend to plan for war solely in the context of war instead of taking into account the context of everything else—here, the growing economic integration of the two states)...

Where is this going? Absolutely nowhere, but it does warm the hearts of national insecurity experts within the naval community, who delight in recounting each and every tail, reminding us all unceasingly, that if we'd just give them the chance, we could find ourselves involved in some really cool wars in Asia.