Saturday, July 16, 2011

On the one hand, analysts say, China’s military ambitions are understandable. The country’s global trade footprint and its reliance on foreign fuel and raw materials justify building a sophisticated and far-flung military force to secure its interests, just as the United States has done. As China expands into areas now dominated by the American military, they say, broad cooperation is crucial to avoid dangerous rivalries and potentially disastrous miscalculations. Some good might even come of this unlikely alliance.

But on the other hand, many American analysts view China’s military overhaul as the core of an effort to rein in American military power in the western Pacific. In this view, the antiship missile, aircraft carrier and much of the other sophisticated hardware China is developing are intended as a counterforce to the United States Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which has dominated Pacific waters for a half-century or more.

—Michael Wines, New York Times, 15 July 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hooray for Midwestern common sense! From a dispatch by Michael Powell and Monica Davey from Indianapolis, a man was quoted saying something quite telling in a blunt, clear-eyed way:

Tom Galovic, a barrel-chested former school principal and now chief financial officer for the Greater Clark County Schools near Louisville, shakes his head. He is a fan of Mr. [Governor Mitch] Daniels over all, he said. But he sees a self-fulfilling prophecy taking shape around public education — the same problem that many others see with Indiana’s intent focus on the cost side of fiscal restraint.

If you cut and cut,’ he said, ‘you erode the system to the point that it snaps.’”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

e.e. cummings in the news again, this time from the fine folks at Awl magazine.

Lexi Mainland (real name? guessing not, tentatively) is the chief micro-blogger for the Times. She refers concerned photo-takers to this page, which displays some alternatives to those TwitPic bastards. (Ironic: yes, Mr. Keller, this is aggregating. Odd that that sounds so similar to aggravating.)

The dinosaurs at Time hope to God (who is obviously Henry Luce) that you collegiate fools did not choose to major in an archaic field known as journalism, a word whose root denotes a daily record-keeping. Nowadays people keep tabs every minute: minutalism?

As a blogger, it behooves me to ask whether informing the world about anything involving your experience waiting for a plane or what you ate for lunch is useful at all. As a micro-blogger, saying so is predicated on the real possibility of being de-followed, or whatever the hell that is supposed to be termed.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Good job, guys. Now, how about declaring victory?

Friday, April 29, 2011

“The modern Arab Republic of Egypt identifies itself as an Arab nation, though its people are ‘Arabized’ rather than true Arabs. The distinction between Arab and Egyptian is well recognized among Egyptians and Arabs alike. Egypt perceives its role in the development of the Middle East as one of leadership [sic], peacemaker, and negotiator.”

— Susan L. Wilson, Culture Shock! Egypt: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Portland, 1998: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co.), p. 10

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

[e.e. cummings, 100 Selected Poems, p. 61, Grove Press, n.d.]

No. 49:

(of Ever-Ever Land i speak
sweet morons gather roun’
who does not dare to stand or sit
may take it lying down)

down with the human soul
and anything else uncanned
for everyone carries canopeners
in Ever-Ever Land

(for Ever-Ever Land is a place
that’s as simple as simple can be
and was built that way on purpose
by simple people like we)

down with hell and heaven
and all the religious fuss
infinity pleased our parents
one inch looks good to us

(and Ever-Ever Land is a place
that’s measured and safe and known
where it’s lucky to be unlucky
and the hitler lies down with the cohn)

down above all with love
and everything perverse
or which makes some feel more better
when all ought to feel less worse

(but only sameness is normal
in Ever-Ever Land
for a bad cigar is a woman
but a gland is only a gland)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The point of no return for a probable Israeli attack on Iran may have passed in 2005, when senior leaders decided that the idea was not worth it. Yet as Amir Oren reports in Haaretz, the successive missile defense system known as the Iron Dome appears to be resurrecting the go-bomb-Iran idea, as evidenced by the fact that any barrage of missiles in reprisal may be shot down by the new, and expensive, system. Oren points out that when former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak pressed GWB to green-light a strike on Iranian nuclear sites in January 2008, Dubya just refused, perhaps reinforcing the image of the United States as the bossman-called-partner. Bush commented that Barak in particular really freaked him out. Now there is a scary man, one who even frightened the former president. Chag sameach!

Monday, April 11, 2011

On March 28, the Old Gray Lady began charging online users for its content. This supposedly radical idea (the WSJ was there years ago) has now yielded some, well, mixed results. From reporter Heather Dougherty at HitWise:

The effect of the pay wall has been somewhat stronger upon the total page views for the, with the same comparison of a 12 day period before the launch of the pay wall to the 12 days following the launch. For all 12 days, there was a decline in total page views which ranged between 11% and 30%.”

For a look at what I have been up to these past two months, check out my Wordpress page, The Euphemist. Truth be told, time has been scarce for Independentista lately. But now I have been into that Twitter stuff. My handle is @lexiconstable.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nate Silver, the number-crunching wunderkid, does the math for how much a blogger or freelancer is likely to make from any given post to Huffington, now an AOL property — which offers prospective writers the chance to churn out 5-10 articles every day for five dollars a pop.

Silver: “…you find that the average blog post — which we estimate generated a couple thousand page views — was worth about $13 in advertising revenue. The median blog post, with several hundred views, was worth only $3 or $4.”


Thursday, February 10, 2011

“All people yearn for ... the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed”
— President Obama in Cairo (2009)

A stark contrast from what is being disseminated from State and, of course, the White House. The transition does not appear to be meaningful... yadda yadda. Tomorrow brings the test of whether the revolution grinds to a halt due to a (possible) military takeover or is reinvigorated by the words of the obstinant autocrat, or both, or something we cannot predict.
Tahrir now appears to be almost liberated and 100s of thousands await Mubarak who is being famously late.

AJ is calling this a revolution. Questions of a military coup waiting in the wings are ubiquitous.

More as things develop. Suleiman is heir apparent but no one knows what will happen.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Tahrir Square in Cairo is sounding more like Tiananmen, as pro-Mubarak forces are trying to put down the popular revolt by force. There are now reports of serious casualties, according to people on the scene via Twitter feeds.

Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) and Noor Khan talk about what has been brewing in the streets up until it all erupted.

Meanwhile, Stephen Carter wonders aloud if GWB was right about his professed desire to expand democracy in the Arab world, and Anshel Pfeffer tells fellow Israelis to calm down about the alleged prospect of imminent Islamist rule.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

“Okay guys, synchronize your watches to zero hour and high-tail it outta here”

(Photo by Pete Souza/WH)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Danny Sullivan imagines what the Demand Media version of the NYT would look like. (Above: a possible future?)

North Africa has been convulsing for weeks. First, Tunis and now Cairo and Alexandria. For both a familiar script: massive street demonstrations by the young and jobless and desperate and angry, met up against by overwhelming state violence, tear gas, curfews. (Above: an Egyptian demonstrator kisses a riot policeman, now a widely-circulated photo.) The public service that Al Jazeera is providing really is incredible, as reflected in my feed from repostings by @lisang (Lisa Goldman) and @jeremyscahill (Jeremy Scahill). And of course @dailydish (the ever-present Andrew Sullivan).

To digest, the authorities in Cairo, who have been receiving American diplomatic and financial largess since the late 1970s, have now cut off internet access and closed the airport. Hosni Mubarak is trying to put out a fire that does not appear to be quenchable. Meanwhile in Israel, which has been used as another vital US client, there was a peaceful assembly of 20,000 citizens against its government for its perilous decisions but nothing at all like the sturm und drang surrounding it, particularly at its northern border where Hezbollah now holds the reins of power in Beirut.

No one has a crystal ball with which to divine how all of this turns out across the region, the implications for US policy, etc. But it is needless to say how momentous it all is, and that before we can figure out all of the details many things will be totally changed. If that is too general a statement it is of course intended to be, since events are moving too quickly.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The grisly incident this weekend in Tucson, Arizona has sparked a row about extremism in political discourse, particularly violent rhetoric. The following is clipped from an article written by me for The Wooster Voice in April 2009:

Laird Wilcox is a specialist in political extremism, drawing up some time ago a list of specific traits that extremists use. He identifies 21 of them in total; its versatility is very broad. I’d like to go through them point by point — which should help us in our everyday filtering of valuable information from the bullshit.

1. Character assassination. Extremists care not at all for the merits of the argument before them, and instead will savage the personality or “associations” of the one making the argument. This serves to throw red herrings in our path.

2. Name-calling and labeling. In a recent episode of “The O’Reilly Factor,” radio/TV personality Bill O’Reilly declared that once someone resorts to calling people names, they’ve “lost the argument.” QED.

3. Irresponsible sweeping generalizations. My favorite. Wilcox writes that extremists “tend to make sweeping claims or judgments on little or no evidence” — facts are for the weak, waffling types.

4. Inadequate proof for assertions. This is similar to generalization, but the difference is that, to extremists, standards of evidence are so weak that they collapse upon rational inspection.

For the sake of space, here are the rest: “advocacy of double standards”; “tendency to view their opponents and critics as essentially evil”; “Manichaean worldview”; “advocacy of some degree of censorship or repression of their opponents and/or critics”; a tendency to “identify themselves in terms of who their enemies are”; “argument by intimidation”; “use of slogans, buzzwords and thought-stopping cliches”; “assumption of moral superiority over others”; “doomsday thinking”; “belief that it’s okay to do bad things in the service of a ‘good’ cause”; “emphasis on emotional responses and … less importance attached to reasoning and logical analysis”; “hypersensitivity and vigilance”; “use of supernatural rationale for beliefs and actions”; “problems tolerating ambiguity and uncertainty”; “inclination toward ‘groupthink’”; “tendency to personalize hostility” and a belief that “the system is no good unless they win.”

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The would-be assassin of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a 22-year-old creep with a psychotic persona, did not appear fully-formed out of a vacuum. It appears overly-simplified, as well as convenient, to place blame for yesterday’s incident on the likes of Palin and Beck, but by now it is more than obvious that dangerous, apocalyptic rhetoric has serious consequences (cf the Pima county sheriff).

Above: from a time not too far from our own, courtesy the John Birch Society.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Protect the Bay

An estimated two million fish mysteriously died in the Chesapeake because of “cold weather,” according to anonymous officials informing the Baltimore Sun. This “joins a growing list of reports from around the globe of mysterious fish and bird deaths.”

The apocalyptic-minded may suspect something more sinister than a deep chill, though as of yet no evidence of some strange divine plan has emerged.

Monday, January 03, 2011

There appears to be little to add to the WikiLeaks saga, which already feels like a story from yesteryear. Yet several puzzle pieces lay on the table, unconnected to the bigger picture that has already been put forth: a humiliated State Department, enraged Pentagon, irritated Swedish prosecutors, and a tagged and house-bound cyberpunk whose organization has become an unstoppable force in our information age.

In my investigation of how a gallivanting, galvanizing hacker from Melbourne, who first made headlines in the Australian press in 1995 for breaking into a telecom’s mainframe, became public enemy no. 1 over the course of several months in the past year (from April onward), the unconnected pieces became more visible.

As follows: how did a relatively low-level military operative, Lt. Bradley Manning, get access to hundreds of thousands of confidential cables? And if the accusations are borne out, what were his motives? As for Mr. Assange, the “high-tech terrorist” in Vice President Biden’s now memorable turn of phrase, does he really believe that his legal troubles in Sweden, which led to an Interpol warrant for his arrest, were concoted in Langley by spooks out to get him?

The “state’s secrets” continue to be released in periodic batches to the press, of which the New York Times is demonstrating considerable discretion. One multi-gigabyte file alleged to be a smoking gun against Bank of America is on the horizon, reams of files said to echo the Enron paper trail that can be easily torrented. The list of targets — the military, our diplomatic apparatus, and now a major financial player — raises another question which, though it may play into the propaganda campaign against WikiLeaks, is worth asking: does Assange intend to bring down the United States?

That question implies that his organization, which appears rather anarchic, even has such a capability, given the fact nothing earth-shattering has come of the cables themselves, aside from understandably mortified embassies. But the “high-tech terrorist” meme may retain much power, the facts aside, many of which remain unclear. It is thus imperative to discover them: writing in a piece for CBS, tech writer Joshua Norman noted, as Scott Horton did in August, that US officials saw the whistle-blowing group, which includes Chinese dissidents in its roster, as a “national security threat” in 2008.

Among similar lines but within a broader frame, Francis Shor observed yesterday, “Given the battered economic and military standing of the United States over the past several years, the hysterical reaction of the American political class over the recent release of State Department cables by WikiLeaks is not surprising.”