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Archive for January, 2006

Friday, January 27th, 2006


Nasty, Brutish and Short. This is almost drive-by linking :o)

Matt at Conjectures & Refutations on “ The Neuroscience of Cognitive Biases“. Matt also has had an article published in the online journal The New Libertarian. Congrats !

Penraker rakes the shills at the NYT for push-polling the NSA wiretap story and engaging in blatant factual misdirection and omission. Having looked at the wording of the questions on the survey he’s quite correct.

The NYT has lost its vaunted credibility status not through virtue of being partisan – they have always been the official newspaper of the power structure of the elite liberal establishment – but by being dishonest, arrogant and just plain sloppy.

Thursday, January 26th, 2006


Curtis takes on many, many threads and weaves a tapestry….

I would like to comment on this as well as Dan’s series ( which has another part coming) but I must hold off a bit. First, I’m buried today at my real place of work and secondly, my critique of 4GW isn’t going to write itself unless I ruthlessly clear my desk and actually do it ! ( Anyone else have this problem ??) .

Lastly, I wish to congratulate Whirledview’s authors Patricia, Cheryl and Patricia on their nomination for the Koufax award in the category of ” Deserving Wider Recognition”. Amen to that !

I encourage all Zenpundit readers to give Whirledview your vote !


Very nice 4GW ” Soft Power” post on Jihadi videos at Beacon

Thursday, January 26th, 2006


Not quite two weeks ago I requested some advice on books to give a good grounding on Iran, its society and politics. Raf, a compatriot of Collounsbury and a contributor to the MENA group blog ‘Aqoul was gracious enough to put together a short bibliography for Zenpundit readers that includes a nice mix of Westerners and native speakers. I’ll be picking up a few of these myself in the near future.

Without further ado – Raf’s Recommendations:

1. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution by Nikki Keddie

This one was Raf’s “absolute must read first” selection.

2. The Mantle of the Prophet by Roy Mottahedeh

Focus on Shiite Islam

3. In the Rose Garden of theMartyrs : A Memoir of Iran Christopher de Bellaigue

4. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir inBooks by Azar Nafisi

Already a best-seller and known to a general audience.

5. We Are Iran : The Persian Blogs by Nasrin Alavi

Once again, thank you Raf ! Please be sure to visit him at ‘Aqoul or his home blog, raf* bey…the levantese

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006


Ayn Rand, the novelist-philosopher had a deft explanation for why wealthy people who, presumably, would be against governmental intrusion into the economy and civil society out of self-interest, often were at the forefront of promoting such schemes. They wanted, Rand wrote, ” …an Aristocracy of Pull” where the well-born and the politically connected parvenu alike could make common cause to institutionalize their comparative advantages. The Supreme Court, reflecting the attitudes our elite law schools, has been increasingly friendly to oligarchical policies , as exemplified by the Kelo and McConnell cases, that cement insider positions and hedge against the rest of us. The issue is not Left or Right but In or Out – and most of us by definition are ” Out” in terms of power.

And the Beltway political class aims to keep it that way. This trend is being driven by liberal Democrats in Congress and through various foundations and activist groups but they are being helped in no small measure by Republicans like John McCain and wealthy, GOP-supporting, corporations.

Bruce Kesler, who is dedicated to citizen activism, free speech and the spread of democracy, has pointed attention to this OpinionJournal piece “ Shut-Up They Explained” by Brian C. Anderson that delves into the attempt to silence and regulate the blogosphere and citizen political activism in time for the next election cycle – if not 2006, then certainly by 2008, ratcheting back internet-based free speech by the unwashed by increments until elections become the scripted shadowbox domain of the insiders once again:

“Campaign-finance reform has a squeaky-clean image, but the dirty truth is that this speech-throttling legislation is partly the result of a hoax perpetrated by a handful of liberal foundations, led by the venerable Pew Charitable Trusts. New York Post reporter Ryan Sager exposed the scam when he got hold of a 2004 videotape of former Pew official Sean Treglia telling a roomful of journalists and professors how Pew and other foundations spent years bankrolling various experts, ostensibly independent nonprofits (including the Center for Public Integrity and Democracy 21), and media outlets (NPR got $1.2 million for “news coverage of financial influence in political decision-making”)–all aimed at fooling Washington into thinking that Americans were clamoring for reform, when in truth there was little public pressure to “clean up the system.” “The target group for all this activity was 535 people in Washington,” said Mr. Treglia matter-of-factly, referring to Congress. “The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot–that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform.

…Campaign-finance reform now has the blogosphere in its crosshairs. When the Federal Election Commission wrote specific rules in 2002 to implement McCain-Feingold, it voted 4-2 to exempt the Web. After all, observed the majority of three Republicans and one Democrat (the agency divides its seats evenly between the two parties), Congress didn’t list the Internet among the “public communications”–everything from television to roadside billboards–that the FEC should regulate. Further, “the Internet is virtually a limitless resource, where the speech of one person does not interfere with the speech of anyone else,” reasoned Republican commissioner Michael Toner. “Whereas campaign finance regulation is meant to ensure that money in politics does not corrupt candidates or officeholders, or create the appearance thereof, such rationales cannot plausibly be applied to the Internet, where on-line activists can communicate about politics with millions of people at little or no cost.

But when the chief House architects of campaign-finance reform, joined bySens. McCain and Russ Feingold, sued–claiming that the Internet was one big “loophole” that allowed big money to keep on corrupting–a federal judge agreed, ordering the FEC to clamp down on Web politics. Then-commissioner Bradley Smith and the two other Republicans on the FEC couldn’t persuade their Democratic colleagues to vote to appeal.”

Read the whole thing.

Drafts that have emerged of proposed Federal regs for blogs [ Ed. note: ” The Congress Shall Make No Law…] appear to be vague, highly arbitrary, convoluted and expensive to contest if a blogger is accused of expressing a political opinion -err…I mean wrongdoing. Initiating a complaint against a blogger, however groundless, would be simple and free. It would also attempt to give the discredited and widely distrusted mainstream media special legal prerogatives that do not exist in the Constitution. Or, as Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote:

“The Court has not yet squarely resolved whether the Press Clause confers upon the ‘institutional press’ any freedom from government restraint not enjoyed by all others.”

In my preemptive campaign of civil disobedience I hearby declare ” Zenpundit” to officially be a newsmagazine and a journal of scholarly opinion. And as such, I shall report on the news and run op-eds all the way to election day.


This post was helpfully picked up by Topix.net. Thanks, guys !

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006


From Dr. Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, former head of the CIA Bin Laden Task Force writing in On Point:

“And there is much to be said for killing foreigners — even in large numbers — who are willing to host, hide, feed, fund, and pray for America’s enemies…

In a rational, historically aware country, U.S. leaders would have told Americans that the attack on Zawahiri was facilitated by U.S. intelligence officers and Special Forces who risked their lives to gather intelligence that seemed to fix Zawahiri in a specific place at a specific time. Because Washington’s most important duty is to protect Americans, they would have said, we acted on the best information available and, so to speak, let ‘er rip. Unfortunately, we missed Zawahiri, but we killed four of his fighters and will keep trying to get him and bin Laden. As for the dead Pakistanis, they are foreigners not Americans and we have no responsibility to protect them. And, in any event, they were about to serve up sautéed goat steaks and curry to one of America’s most dangerous enemies. The lesson all Pakistanis should take from the incident is that we are not concerned with the lives of Zawahiri’s abettors, that they were lucky the village was not hit by B-52s, and that next time they may not be so fortunate.

Such a public articulation would have been neither callus nor irresponsible; it just would have been true. We are engaged in war against Islamic militants who fight as insurgents. These men wear no uniforms, and live — and hide — among a population in eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan that overwhelmingly supports them because the insurgents are their coreligionists and because they are attacking the United States. The current problem for America is not last week’s near-miss on Zawahiri, but that there have been so few attacks on Zawahiri and bin Laden. Frankly, from an intelligence perspective, the more violence, the better chance to collect quality intelligence. Frequent, deadly bombings — even if not always totally effective — make the enemy nervous, force him to move about, and stimulate chattiness as he communicates electronically about his location and status. Our ability to collect intelligence pin-pointing the enemy increases exponentially when he is talking and moving. Thus, even a near-miss is a valuable stimulus to collection.”

Read the whole thing.

One of the underutilized aspects of 4GW theory on moral conflict and violence is that while de-escalation is the preferred tactic of the State to accrue moral capital in the war with an insurgency, an abrupt use of extreme violence can also have a positive moral effect if the duration is very short with a particular lesson in mind rather than generalized mayhem. Wiliam Lind referred to the apocalyptic butchery unleashed by Hafez al-Assad against the Muslim Brotherhood at Hama for challenging the power of the Syrian Baath dictatorship as an example.

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