Today's YouTube Search: "tahrir Jazeera"


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This blog has MOVED to

That's right -- this content and more recent updates can now be found at my own blog site,
It's plain-old WordPress, so don't worry about coding horrors.

See you there!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why I Support The Egyptian Protesters

I am a Tea-Party conservative, and I support the Egyptian protesters.

First, I refer you to my motto: Freedom is wasted on him who will not make others free.  Everything else is details, which begin here:

  • I feel that for the United States to not support the protesters is morally repugnant and strategically counterproductive.
  • I feel that President Mubarak should step down, that an experienced interim, caretaker successor should succeed him, and that neither man should stand in the regularly scheduled election next September.
  • I feel that this will create an opportunity for (not guarantee) a real democratic structure to emerge and solidify over time.
  • I feel that the immediate threat to Egyptian liberty is their current government which the United States seems to support but I do not, and the next threat to Egyptian liberty will be internal extremists, which the United States opposes and so do I.
  • I feel that the worst possible consequence of a successful revolution is an extremist-led Egypt which will simply continue the subjugation of the citizenry, with the added evil of starting a regional war.
  • I feel that the worst possible outcome of a failed revolution is a wave of murder and torture sweeping Egypt at the hands of government-backed thugs.
  • In either case, if the United States does not support the protesters at this time, in this place, then all of our words about freedom and democracy will fall on deaf ears for a generation at least.  We will lose any moral leverage we might have on the streets where things are outside of the control of any government, and in coffee shops where meetings are held, and decisions made by those without marble columns and granite walls.  Where it counts.
  • I feel that United States support for the protesters will be welcomed in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria.  It will be reported favorably by Al-Jazeera (in any language) before it will by CNN (in any language).  It will not only provide a moral and practical boost to the protesters who seek freedom; US support for the protesters will help inoculate the eventual democracy from domination by extremists.
I do not begrudge the United States our previous support of Hosni Mubarak.  This was in the interest of peace, and dates back to the monumental Camp David Accords negotiated with Anwar el-Sadat.  Things have changed, however, and the policy has, in the space of a weekend, gone from merely outdated and distasteful to dangerous and obsolete.  The world is changing, and if we show adaptability while living up to our core values, we will be in a better position to deal with whatever negative consequences may accompany the good.

If, on the other hand, we demonstrate a dogmatic stiffness which causes us to betray our own stated principles, we will be in a very sorry position indeed, and even our victories will taste like defeats as we struggle to salvage credibility.

President Obama, say the 'D-Word' - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

President Obama, say the 'D-Word' - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

This is the conclusion of an article by Mark Levine, Professor of History at UC Irvine. The point he makes is the point I have been making all across Twitter (!/afghanmoon), which is that America is failing its first test of Global Counterinsurgency, handed to us at a cost of zero.

If we cannot bring ourselves to take the plunge and support the citizens in Cairo and Alexandria struggling to shake off their dictator, then nowehere in the world for a quarter century will our words of "freedom" or "democracy" be believed.

We are losing the Long War right now in Egypt, not Afghanistan, not Iraq.

A gift that won't be offered again
The most depressing and even frightening part of the tepid US response to the protests across the region is the lack of appreciation of what kind of gift the US, and West more broadly, are being handed by these movements. Their very existence is bringing unprecedented levels of hope and productive activism to a region and as such constitutes a direct rebuttal to the power and prestige of al-Qaeda.
Instead of embracing the push for real democratic change, however, surface reforms that would preserve the system intact are all that's recommended. Instead of declaring loud and clear a support for a real democracy agenda, the president speaks only of "disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies" and "tak[ing] the fight to al-Qaeda and their allies", as he declared in his State of the Union address.
Obama doesn't seem to understand that the US doesn't need to "take the fight" to al-Qaeda, or even fire a single shot, to score its greatest victory in the "war on terror". Supporting real democratisation will do more to downgrade al-Qaeda's capabilities than any number of military attacks. He had better gain this understanding quickly because in the next hours or days the Egypt's revolution will likely face its moment of truth. And right behind Egypt are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and who knows what other countries, all looking to free themselves of governments that the US and its European allies have uncritically supported for decades.
If president Obama has the courage to support genuine democracy, even at the expense of immediate American policy interests, he could well go down in history as one of the heroes of the Middle East's Jasmine winter. If he chooses platitudes and the status quo, the harm to America's standing in the region will likely take decades to repair.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Statistics Bureau Home Page

Statistics Bureau Home Page

A test post of sorts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blog to be Resumed. Film at Eleven.

After editing and editing the Cee-Lo Green piece, Blogger got all froggy on me and I have been unable to fix it since A) it exceeded my ability and B) I stopped trying.
Well, let's get back to business shall we? Changes are coming. I may even move into my own domain, which has languished for years. Anyway--short post coming up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo Defibrillator

Alan, the protagonist for my novel A Rain of Dust, is modeled on Arkady Renko from Martin Cruz Smith's awesome Gorky Park books. I was stuck hard on the writing, until I let Alan call Major Pribluda, one of the characters from Gorky Park for a bracing picker-upper. It worked--there's a sprint in this phone call which eluded me in RL, and I went on to add another thousand words in the hour after I wrote this:

He looked at the progress bar in its agonizing crawl across the screen, and realized that all this database work was just slowing dow the novel. Fuck this too.
On the drive back north he used the hands-free for his cell phone.
"Misha, pick up the phone if you're in. I need a favor."
Nothing. He tried again.
"Major, are you there?"
"No, but I fucking well should be. THis is ALan, from Rain of Dust. I'm stuck hard."
Pribluda was amazed. "And you want my help?"
"I need to know how a proper protagonist would handle this. I have found some people who are faking things in a government database, but I don't know why."
"This is your idea of a problem?"
"The integrity of the data in the database is my concern. I validate things in it, and I found something very strange. No sooner did I reach out to try to validate the existence of one of the supposed persons recorded in the system than I got thrashed to within an inch of my life. It was awful--I didn't lay a finger on whoever did it."
"You almost get killed and you have no clue who almost killed you. Are you sure this isn't Renko?"
"Why are you asking all the questions? You're not very helpful."
"Look. Nobody cares about what is or is not recoerded s some databse. What yo need to do is continually interact with other characters. Even in GOrky Park when Ranko muct look at beetles cleaning th skull of the Asanova woman, most of his own observatins were shown to us through dialogue, then merely confimed, or characterized, if you will, by ARkady's runing thoughts.
If you just sit n front of a computer all daym then what do you ecpst people to0 thkin about your job, or the story you are in,m for that mater?
Nobody wants to read page after page of you doiung something that even if I did understand it would bore me to tears, and guess what--I don;t understand it.
I am not saying that there';s no hoope for the story, but you are going to have to work much, much harder at getting some readerr interest going. Look at how quickly thiwe dialogue is going. If you cannot sustain writing like this,m then you yourself are probably not too excited about it.
Christ, you can add the puncttuation later. If wevwen you canot figure out what you wrote (assuming the tyops are not too terribly bad), then guess what, it needs to bere-written.
You are just going to ahev to let go and lt it go. There will be plenty of opotrtunities to ediut, and rewrite later.
Your problem is not that your problem is unintersting, although that may eventually become th case. The problem is that it is not interesting YET becayse of the glacial pace you are taking. You are too worried about leaving smething for the finale, but at the expense of dragging the first two nparts out., Guess wehat, nobody is going to mae it that far, because this book will wind up across more rooms than in them, if you know what I mean.
SO get the fuck to work, and quickly. Get on the goddamned plane to Japan. He;;, even SMith took a break from the Renko books, and did December 6th. The problem with that, of course, was that to Smith, every protagonist is Renko."
'Yeah, well, the battery's dying on this phone, sun's going down, got a plane to catch. Thank you."
"Now I know it's not Renko. Just the same. Don't call again."
Alan clapped the hne shut and hauled the car off the interstate down a short steep ramp with a light at the bottom. Well, he was just going to have to honor that red light in passing, as he cornered right around a bewildered-looking family of four.
He still wasn;t sure of the tickets claimed by the Atanasio group were real, but he had an address, some phone numbers, and a company name in Tokyo. Everything he needed, he could buy along the way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Welcome to Kabul

Below, I quote at length a passage from an outstanding chapter by Lester W. Grau, author of "The Bear Went Over the Mountain". If you want to know what's wrong with Afghanistan, it's not the poppies, It's not the AMericans, and it's not Islam. It's the Soviets.

Welcome to Kabul
Kabul is an ancient city that Alexander the Great passed through in 330 B.C. while enroute to India.[8] The largest city in Afghanistan, it had a population of 435,202 in 1969.[9] Three major mountains push through the city in various directions, and the Kabul river cuts the city in half. Like other Central Asian cities, Kabul’s center is composed of ancient adobe buildings set in a rabbit-warren of narrow streets and narrower passages. This tight, teeming bazaar is divided into separate sections where large groups of specialists live in an Eastern version of the medieval guild. Leather workers, jewelers, brass workers, and carpet merchants all have their own time-honored section of the bazaar for production and sales. Individual artisans and factories also produce items for sale in the town bazaars and for export. In 1979, the government officials normally lived in the “new city” where the ministries, foreign embassies, hotels, restaurants and cafes are located. The “new city” is generally north and southwest of the center. The “microrayon” is a region in the northeast of the city consisting of Soviet-style prefabricated buildings that were produced in a Soviet-constructed factory. At the time of the invasion, these multi-storied concrete buildings pierced the skyline, and new restaurants, stores, supermarkets and garages catered to the foreign colony and the growing Afghan middle class. The city was electrified, although power was unstable and problematic. Running water was not potable, although the Japanese were constructing such a system for Kabul. Modern plumbing was confined to the new sections of the city.[10] By regional standards, Kabul was a liberal and open city where women in cosmopolitan mini-skirts contrasted with those completely covered and veiled, and discotheques blared Western and Eastern music into the early hours.

On the eve of the Soviet invasion, it was winter in Afghanistan, and the snow was belt-deep in parts of the capital. Far to the north, at 0700 on 25 December 1979, two Soviet pontoon bridge regiments began guiding their floating bridges into position on the Amu Darya River in the vicinity of Termez, a Soviet city on the Afghan border. Meanwhile, the 40th Army commander, General Lieutenant Yuri Vladimirovich Tukharinov, met with the Chief of Operations of the DRA General Staff, General Baba Jan, in Kunduz, Afghanistan to coordinate actions in the deployment area.

By noon, the Soviet forces had received their orders signed by the Soviet Minister of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union Dmitri Fedorovich Ustinov. These orders directed that the 40th Army and Soviet Air Force planes would begin crossing the borders of the DRA at 1500 (Moscow time) on 25 December. The Soviet forces began their incursion precisely at the established time. The scouts and air-assault battalion of Captain L. V. Khabarov were the first to cross. They were tasked with seizing the Salang pass, a crucial choke point on the road to Kabul (twelve Soviet scouts would die in ambush at the pass). The remainder of the 108th Motorized Rifle Division followed the troops across the pontoon bridges.

Simultaneously, Soviet Military Transport Aviation aircraft crossed the border carrying elements of the 103rd Airborne Division (commanded by General Major I. F. Ryabchenko) and the 345th Separate Parachute Regiment to airfields in the capital and nearby Bagram. It took a total of 343 flights and 47 hours to transport the paratroopers and their vehicles and gear. The first aircraft touched down at 1615 on 25 December and the last touched down at 1430 on the 27th. General Colonel I. D. Gaydaenko directed the military air transport operation. The effort did not occur without casualties. At 1933 on the 25th, an IL-76 piloted by Captain V.V. Golovchin crashed into a mountain and burned during its approach landing. All thirty-seven paratroopers and seven crew members were killed.

On the 25th, the chief Soviet advisers to the Afghan military met in Kabul. They were ordered to prevent any Afghan units, which were opposed to the Soviet presence, from approaching Kabul. Those military advisers and technicians who worked with the DRA air defense forces were directed to prevent actions against the air movement of the paratroopers by taking control of all the air defense systems and their ammunition storage bunkers. The advisers temporarily disabled some air defense systems by removing the sights or physically locking them. Consequently, the Soviet air armada flew into Afghanistan unopposed.[11]

Read the whole thing at