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And of course, once again everyone was extremely surprised...

May 16th, 2008 (03:25 pm)

Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn't ready for elections in January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and inefficiency-a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit. Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several from Fatah.

"Everyone was against the elections," Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush. "Bush decided, ‘I need an election. I want elections in the Palestinian Authority.' Everyone is following him in the American administration, and everyone is nagging Abbas, telling him, ‘The president wants elections.' Fine. For what purpose?"

The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council.

Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. "I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Condoleezza Rice told reporters. "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas's strong showing."

"Everyone blamed everyone else," says an official with the Department of Defense. "We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?' "

In public, Rice tried to look on the bright side of the Hamas victory. "Unpredictability," she said, is "the nature of big historic change." Even as she spoke, however, the Bush administration was rapidly revising its attitude toward Palestinian democracy.

Some analysts argued that Hamas had a substantial moderate wing that could be strengthened if America coaxed it into the peace process. Notable Israelis-such as Ephraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency-shared this view. But if America paused to consider giving Hamas the benefit of the doubt, the moment was "milliseconds long," says a senior State Department official. "The administration spoke with one voice: ‘We have to squeeze these guys.' With Hamas's election victory, the freedom agenda was dead."

Full story here

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Ralston cont.

May 16th, 2008 (03:01 pm)
Current Music: The Black Dahlia Murder - Of Darkness Spawned

I also liked this gem - after explaining how international arms trade is now a priority of most major industrialized countries:

All in all the building of weapons has become the most important source of make-work projects in the late twentieth century. Neoconservatives may condemn Franklin D. Roosevelt's WPA projects, but at least they kept the countryside clean and were reasonably cheap.

Followed a bit later by:

The new elites, whatever their particular training, share identical views on how things ought to be done. But their basic premise is wrong. It was not the building of weapons for World War II which ended the Great Depression. It was the need, after the war, to reconstruct a davastated Europe. So if we are really hoping to end our economic difficulties by military means, then we must get down to seriously blowing things up. The prolonged bombing of the Gulf War was a small start in that direction.

He is talking about the 1991 Gulf War here but don't you feel reminded of something?

I also have to admit that I am time and again astonished by the entertainers being so good of picking these developments up. I have never played Metal Gear Solid but the newest installment, number 4, depicts a world where the "war economy" has replaced the oil economy as the motor that keeps the capitalist system rolling. Should war ever stop, the system would crumble since the cycle of building weapons, building counters, firing and replacing them, and rebuilding the battle fields is the thing that fuels the virtual economic growth. This is a Japanese, using a game to depict a reality which we are on course for.

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And one more :)

May 16th, 2008 (08:58 am)

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May 15th, 2008 (04:08 pm)

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May 15th, 2008 (04:07 pm)

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Bush & Golf

May 15th, 2008 (02:27 pm)

I was wondering re: his statement - is he really that stupid? Or is he so cynical and self-centered that he believes his giving up golf is on the same level of sacrifice as that of service-people and their families? And shows solidarity?



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Voltaire's Bastards

May 14th, 2008 (04:46 pm)
Current Music: The Great Deceiver - A Life Transparent

Indeed, we haven't seen anything over the last twenty years which resembles the traditional profile of a depression. The reason is very simply. After the economic crisis of the 1930s, we created a multitude of control vales and safety nets in order to avoid any future general collapse - strict banking regulations, for example, social security programs and in some places national health care systems. These valves and nets have been remarkably successful, in spite of the strains and the mismanagement of the last two decades. However, because the rational system prevents anyone who accepts legal responsibility from taking enough distance to get a general view, many of our governments, desperate and misguided, have begun dismantling those valves and nets as a theoretical solution to the general crisis.
Worse still, tinkering with these instruments has become a substitute for addressing the problem itself. Thus financial deregulation is used growth through paper speculation. When this produces inflation, controls are applied to the real economy, producing unemployment. When this job problem becomes so bad that it must be attacked, the result is the lowering of employment standards. When this unstable job creation leads to new inflation, the result is high interest rates...

Saul's main claim in his book is that pure rationality, without balance provided by common sense and morality, just revolves around itself, without any real world feedback. And I have to admit I cannot think of a better example as the one he gives in the paragraphs above since this is - at least to me - the common sense reaction to the current capitalist economic system, where economic strength of corporations and even countries is based on purely virtual assets - without any recurrence to real world entities.

More after the breakCollapse )

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Vatican astronomer says it's okay to believe in extra-terrestrials

May 14th, 2008 (03:54 pm)
Current Mood: puzzled

For Christians it is also possible "to admit the existence of other worlds and other forms of life, even those more evolved than ours, without necessarily questioning faith in the Creation, in the incarnation (of God as man through Jesus) and redemption" of mankind, said Funes.

Full story here

Doesn't this somewhat contradict the entire "men in his image" thing?

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Only in America

May 14th, 2008 (02:27 pm)

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David Brooks

April 18th, 2008 (01:12 pm)

"He made a sweeping read-my-lips pledge never to raise taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year. That will make it impossible to address entitlement reform any time in an Obama presidency. It will also make it much harder to afford the vast array of middle-class tax breaks, health care reforms and energy policy Manhattan Projects that he promises to deliver."

How does not raising taxes for people with less than 200k per year and giving the middle-class tax breaks clash? If US-American middle class makes more than 200k per year, this is a fascinating definition of middle class.

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Not even once - Anti-Meth campaign

April 17th, 2008 (12:46 pm)

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The Meter is Running

April 12th, 2008 (11:41 am)
Current Mood: hung over

Sometimes I do wish I had a TV :)

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Advanced Mathematics

April 11th, 2008 (01:05 pm)

Current Mood: happy

2, 3, 3, 37 - the prime factorization of the Beast.

From a colleague's mood message...

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The origins of the 2008 Olympics logo...

April 11th, 2008 (12:25 pm)

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Data dimensions on Iraq conflict

April 2nd, 2008 (01:16 pm)
Current Music: Bishop Lamont & Black Milk - Everything

As some of you might recall, I'm doing research in machine learning & data mining. I was a bit puzzled about all these discussions on whether "the surge" actually led to a decline in violence or not. And I actually figured that it should be possible to model this entire thing. However, any model is only as good as the dimenions of the data included. So I was thinking on this and there are three obvious ones:

number of US troops on the ground
date (I would probably make this more fine-grained than months)
captures/killings/executions of big names (Saddam Hussein, his sons, Zawahiri, ...)

but this is certainly not enough (or at least I would be surprised if it was). So what could be added would be secondary inner-Iraqi effects, e.g.

offensives against certain areas (annotated with whether they are Shiite or Sunni), such as the current fighting in Basra or the Fallujah attack - my assumption would be that these also lead to diversionary attacks by the militias somewhere else
cease-fires declared by someone, like the Mehdi army's or the Sons of Iraq program (although I am not sure whether this should be considered a cease-fire)
elections - wonder whether those would have any effect :) (possibly their results as well)

Middle-Eastern/inner-Islam effects:

beginning & end of Ramadan
Sunni/Shiite religious celebrations - since it seems to me that both factions are trying to hit pilgrims
violence/conflicts/elections in Israel/Gaza, Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Syria, Pakistan (?)

US/European/UN effects:

visits of certain people such as senators/MPs, diplomats, members of cabinet, heads of state
discussions/reviews of laws/directives
oil prices (?)
turkish politics/kurdistan issue (?)

Let's not talk yet about exactly how I would put this all in a format that allows for an algorithm to process it :) (although some suggestions would be welcome). More important to me is whether some of you can think of dimensions I might have forgotten

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Future of Warfare?

April 2nd, 2008 (01:07 pm)
Current Music: Bishop Lamont & Black Milk - Bang That Shit Out

Read a little piece of cyber punk-inspired fiction on The Escapist today. In itself, it is not very remarkable but it got me thinking on whether this is really a viable view of future warfare. With UAVs being smaller and cheaper than manned planes, and the major armies working towards designing and deploying them, it seems kinda plausible that the technology hits grey/black markets at some point and UAVs of all kind could be acquired by PMCs, militias, or criminals - also since training pilots for these things would probably be a bit cheaper as well. So all these points raised in the story seem valid - I am just not in any position to judge whether they are.

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Christians United for Israel

March 28th, 2008 (01:24 pm)

Related: The Rapture Index on Rapture Ready


Adding this up - this is the pastor that supports McCain, whose endorsement McCain sought out, who seems to see eye-to-eye with Lieberman who might actually wind up as VP candidate, and those people support "the expansion of Israeli territory and unilateral military action against Iran". The U.S. got some scary politics happening, and unfortunately they won't be contained within its own borders.

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Blowing Up An Assumption - Robert A. Pape

March 28th, 2008 (12:48 pm)

To make sense of this apparent contradiction, one has to understand the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. Since Muslim terrorists professing religious motives have perpetrated many of the attacks, it might seem obvious that Islamic fundamentalism is the central cause, and thus the wholesale transformation of Muslim societies into secular democracies, even at the barrel of a gun, is the obvious solution. However, the presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading, and it may spur American policies that are likely to worsen the situation.


What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but is rarely the root cause.


At the moment, our best information indicates that the attackers in Iraq are Sunni Iraqis and foreign fighters, principally from Saudi Arabia. If so, this would mean that the two main sources of suicide terrorists in Iraq are from the Arab countries deemed most vulnerable to transformation by the presence of American combat troops. This is fully consistent with what we now know about the strategic logic of suicide terrorism.

Full text here

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What a smear!

March 28th, 2008 (12:41 pm)

For the first time, I have seen Osama bin Laden and General (David) Petraeus in agreement...

Courtesy of John McCain

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DailyKos: Iraq: In Fighting This Battle, Mr. Bush Lost the War

March 26th, 2008 (12:47 pm)

...on Terrorism or against the Extremists

"There are, however, essential principles common to every successful society, in every culture. Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military -- so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite. Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selecting applying -- selectively applying the law to punish political opponents. Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions -- for political parties and labor unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media. Successful societies guarantee religious liberty -- the right to serve and honor God without fear of persecution. Successful societies privatize their economies, and secure the rights of property. They prohibit and punish official corruption, and invest in the health and education of their people. They recognize the rights of women. And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people."

Vox Humana proceeds to check these criteria against the US and against the developments during the last 5 years. The verdict is predictable but unfortunately true.