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Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Atlantic Online | July/August 2009 | Get Smarter | Jamais Cascio

The Atlantic Online | July/August 2009 | Get Smarter | Jamais Cascio

Most people don’t realize that this process is already under way. In fact, it’s happening all around us, across the full spectrum of how we understand intelligence. It’s visible in the hive mind of the Internet, in the powerful tools for simulation and visualization that are jump-starting new scientific disciplines, and in the development of drugs that some people (myself included) have discovered let them study harder, focus better, and stay awake longer with full clarity. So far, these augmentations have largely been outside of our bodies, but they’re very much part of who we are today: they’re physically separate from us, but we and they are becoming cognitively inseparable. And advances over the next few decades, driven by breakthroughs in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, will make today’s technologies seem primitive. The nascent jargon of the field describes this as “ intelligence augmentation.” I prefer to think of it as “You+.”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Honduras' non-coup - Los Angeles Times

The Kid had avoided commentary on the Honduran situation because, U.S. media being as useless as it is, has not been able to tell him straight out whether the removal of the former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was done in accordance with the Honduran constitution. Well, after digging around and trying to translate the Honduran constitution through google translate, he is ready to make his pronouncement:

The removal of Zelaya was not a coup, military or other wise.

The article below actually has a really good summary:

Honduras' non-coup - Los Angeles Times

As noted, Article 239 states clearly that one who behaves as Zelaya did in attempting to change presidential succession ceases immediately to be president. If there were any doubt on that score, the Congress removed it by convening immediately after Zelaya's arrest, condemning his illegal conduct and overwhelmingly voting (122 to 6) to remove him from office. The Congress is led by Zelaya's own Liberal Party (although it is true that Zelaya and his party have grown apart as he has moved left). Because Zelaya's vice president had earlier quit to run in the November elections, the next person in the line of succession was Micheletti, the Liberal leader of Congress. He was named to complete the remaining months of Zelaya's term.

It cannot be right to call this a "coup." Micheletti was lawfully made president by the country's elected Congress. The president is a civilian. The Honduran Congress and courts continue to function as before. The armed forces are under civilian control. The elections scheduled for November are still scheduled for November. Indeed, after reviewing the Constitution and consulting with the Supreme Court, the Congress and the electoral tribunal, respected Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga recently stated that the only possible conclusion is that Zelaya had lawfully been ousted under Article 239 before he was arrested, and that democracy in Honduras continues fully to operate in accordance with law. All Honduran bishops joined Rodriguez in this pronouncement.
That Zelaya was attempting to subvert the Honduran constitution is not even in dispute. The only real question is whether or not the Honduran Supreme Court acted appropriately in issuing an arrest warrant for him. Or if the Honduran Congress had to remove him first.

First off, this was not a military coup. The military detained and exiled Zelaya, but did so under an order form the Supreme Court and under its consitutional charge in article 272. There was no attempt by the military to act indpendently, or to try an seize power. Power was transferred to the civilian next in line of constitutional succession. Therefore, this was not in any way a military coup.

So therefore was it a civilian coup d'etat?

No. It was not. The thing The Kid had to puzzle through was whether or not the right to remove the President lay with the Honduran Supreme Court, or exclusively the Honduran Congress. The answer lies in article 239 to the constitution which forbids the President from seeking to extend his one, 4 year term. The constitution is so strict on this point, that it forbids the President to even propose the idea. If the President even suggests the idea of extending his term he "ceases his duty immediately forthwith." In effect, Zelaya removed himself, when he attempted to push through a referendum on extending his term. Therefore, it was entirely appropriate for the Supreme Court to write an arrest order, due to the fact that he was likely guilty of treason (as defined in article 4 of the constitution) and acted illegally in attempting the referendum, ignoring the mandate of Congress and firing the Chief of Staff of the Army.

All of this is probably moot in any case, as the Honduran Congress officially removed him from power by a vote of 122 to 6 the day after his arrest anyway. thus making it in no way a coup...

Well Of Course No One Cares About Muslims in China

Well of course no one cares about the plight of Muslims in China. Least of all, other Muslim countries. The reason for this is obvious - Muslims are not being oppressed by either the United States or Israel. Therefore, no one really cares. To put it in a more general sense, people only care about the violent repression of Muslims, or any pre-modern people, when the "oppressing" is done by moderns. In other words, it's the fault line between the modern and the pre-modern that matters, not the actual acts themselves.

Pre-modern on pre-modern violence is not worth a blip on the global radar. After all, what can you expect from such people? But if a modern society combats the actions of a pre-modern one, it's wall to wall coverage and denunciations at the UN.

Pajamas Media » China Silences the Muslim World

And, of course, Beijing employs brute force. The latest official death toll from this week’s disturbances is 184, but that number appears to undercount the dead. Observers say that this is the most deadly series of riots in China since the Tiananmen massacre twenty years ago, but that assessment is questionable. Ethnic fighting flared in Yining, the capital of the short-lived East Turkestan Republic, in early 1997. The unrest is thought to have led to at least several hundred deaths, and subsequent executions added to the toll.

Yet the death of hundreds, and probably thousands, of Uighurs and the systematic destruction of their culture has been met with an eerie silence from Muslim nations. Nations that expressed incandescent rage at the United States due to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have, up until now, said nothing about Xinjiang. Why?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Pajamas Media » In Washington, Conservatives Are Never Really ‘In Power’

Kid Various is of the opinion we need more politicization of the bureaucracy. The president should be making at least 30,000 appointments. Any position that has significant policy making power should be appointed. Europeans look at our system as inherently corrupt because we make our very top positions political appointments rather than have something like the British "permanent undersecretary."

But they ignore the fact that their systems are just as politicized - it's simply that the people at large have absolutely no ability to hold their bureaucracies accountable.

The genius of Andrew Jackson was that he realized that he was the only official elected by all the people, therefore he had not only the right - but the duty - to fashion the federal bureaucracy as he saw fit in order to implement the policies that the people had elected him to pursue. He came in and fired 10% of the federal workforce (which is where The Kid gets the 30,000 figure) and replaced them with his own hand picked people. (Lord how The Kid wishes he could do that!)

The President is elected by the people of the United States to pursue certain policies. Unless he has the power not only to make decisions, but to ensure those decisions are implemented, the people are being cheated.

Any position within the federal bureaucracy that influences policy decisions should have an indirect tie back to the popular will through the President.

Pajamas Media » In Washington, Conservatives Are Never Really ‘In Power’

First, most people do not understand the sheer magnitude of the executive branch. There are almost 3 million federal employees, 99 percent of whom are career civil servants over whom the president has virtually no authority. Seventeen states have fewer citizens than the federal government has bureaucrats. There are only a few thousand positions within the federal government that are subject to “noncompetitive appointment,” i.e., positions that the president can fill through political patronage. Among these are 1,137 positions that can be filled by presidential appointment with Senate confirmation; 320 positions subject to presidential appointment without confirmation; and 701 positions in the Senior Executive Service (the top level of managers within the federal ranks) that can be filled by non-career appointments.

As these numbers illustrate, it is the career civil servants who pull the millions of levers of power, not the few political appointees at the top of every agency. It is very difficult for the appointees to even keep track of the policies being implemented by the career staff, much less change them.

This would not be a problem if the career ranks were really filled with nonpartisan individuals (as the New York Times unwaveringly claims) who impartially carried out the policies of the president. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. From the State Department, to the Central Intelligence Agency, to the Department of Justice, and every agency in between, career employees are overwhelmingly partisan liberals, just like in the media and academic worlds. As Richard Perle has eloquently said, when George Bush tried to pull the levers of government, he never realized that they were disconnected from the machinery and the exertion was largely futile. The bureaucracies of these agencies have their own policies and they largely ignored President Bush’s directives and his political appointees, a problem President Obama will not have.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tribalism is the real enemy in Iraq

For someone not a specialist in this area, Pressfield is remarkably perceptive. In this short piece from 2006, he lays out just exactly what we are up against in the Long War. It's not "terror", it's not "islam." The Long War is a struggle between The Enlightenment and its discontents. And until we a) realize that, b) allow ourselves to admit that, we are going to be handicapped in prosecution of the War.

Tribalism is the real enemy in Iraq

The tribe must have a chief. It demands a leader. With a top dog, every underdog knows his place. He feels secure. He can provide security for this family. The tribe needs a Tony Soprano. It needs a Godfather.

The United States blew it in Iraq the first week after occupying Baghdad. Capt. Nate Fick of the Recon Marines tells the story of that brief interlude when U.S. forces were still respected, just before the looting started. Fick went in that interval to the local headman in his area of responsibility in Baghdad; he asked what he needed. The chief replied, "Clean water, electricity and as many statues of George W. Bush as you can give us."

...When we Americans declared in essence to the Iraqis, "Here, folks, you're free now; set up your own government," they looked at us as if we were crazy. The tribal mind doesn't want freedom; it wants security. Order. It wants a new boss. The Iraqis lost all respect for us then. They saw us as naive, as fools. They saw that we could be beaten.

...The tribe is the most primitive form of social organization. In the conditions under which the tribe evolved, survival was everything. Cohesion meant the difference between starving and eating. The tribe enforces conformity by every means possible -- wives, mothers and daughters add the whip hand to keep the warriors in line. Freedom is a luxury the tribe can't afford. The tribesman's priority is respect within the tribe, to belong, to be judged a man.

You can't sell freedom to tribesmen any more than you can sell democracy. He doesn't want it. It violates his code. It threatens everything he stands for.

"As many statues of George W. Bush as you can give us." That totally illustrates the point. Mr. Democracy always says that evrything in Iraq is so personalized. It's always "Bush this or Bush that" or "Obama this or Obama that." They have no concept of impersonal institutions. Everything revolves around the realtions of power amongst individuals within the tribal matrix. Not only do we not understand this, we do not allow ourselves to understand it. We do not allow ourselves to believe that these people think completely different from us - for that would be "othering" them. We have to get off that train.

Missing Our Moment in Iran by Victor Davis Hanson on National Review Online

VDH on how we currently seem to have no problem giving comfort to cruel men...

Missing Our Moment in Iran by Victor Davis Hanson on National Review Online