Server Issues Being Resolved

>> Friday, June 18, 2010

We have taken steps to resolve our server issues at Accordingly, we will no longer be posting new content here.


Traffic Accidents and Human Security

>> Wednesday, June 09, 2010

As part of my research project on what does and doesn't count as a "human security" problem in the minds of practitioners, I've collected quite a few ideas about "neglected" human security issues that should get more attention.

Among there are traffic accidents - something we tend to tolerate as a fact of modern life but which kill far more people daily than terrorism, war, or crime and are in fact the number of health risk for individuals age 1-34: - one death every 13 minutes on average (as many dead per month as died on 9/11) with young children twice as likely as adults to be victims.

So I'm happy to call readers' attention to the NYTimes' latest "Room for Debate." There is a lot of interesting commentary, and in particular I am now aware of Tom Vanderbilt's blog, which is worth a look.


Kausmentum Fail...

This is sad:

There is sad news though: birther queen Orly Taitz was viciously trounced in her effort to become California Secretary of State, losing the Republican nomination 3-1 in favor of former NFL player Damon Dunn. (I know.) And yet? Orly Taitz got 368,316 votes in that race. In the Senate race for the Democrat nomination, against Barbara Boxer, Slate blogger Mickey Kaus received just 93,599.

This tragic result could deprive us of the ridiculously entertaining spectacle of the Kaus Senate “campaign”, UNLESS some enterprising Californians come together to form California for Kaus. It’s not surprising that Mickey’s “in your face” ideas would find little fertile ground among the radical leftists and illegal immigrants who constitute 94.7% of California Democratic Party primary voters, but it would be a disaster of epic proportions if Mickey let this minor setback prevent him from continuing to bring his message to the people….


More on Unruly Clients

>> Tuesday, June 08, 2010

North Korea probably didn’t need this:

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that a North Korean border guard shot dead three Chinese nationals and wounded one last week in an incident in northeast China, prompting the Chinese government to file a formal complaint.

The shootings took place last Friday at the China-North Korea border by the Chinese city of Dandong, in Liaoning Province, said Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing. The four shot Chinese were residents of Dandong and were believed by the guard to be engaged in illegal trade across the border, Mr. Qin added, according to a report by the Chinese-language edition of Global Times, an official newspaper…

It was unclear how the shooting incident would affect relations between North Korea and China, which is North Korea’s closest ally in the region. China has been the host of the six-party talks, a series of negotiations among the United States, North Korea, Russia and several Asian nations aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear program. Last month, Kim Jong-il, the reclusive North Korean leader, made his first visit to China in four years, crossing the border by train and stopping first in the port city of Dalian, then continuing on to Beijing.

The actions of North Korean leaders have been made more opaque and unpredictable in recent months by what analysts believe is Mr. Kim’s effort to engineer a transfer of power to his third son, Kim Jong-un, 27.

Even if they were smugglers, shooting Chinese nationals as they cross the border is probably not a good way to endear oneself to Beijing. North Korea’s survival depends on Beijing’s tolerance…


The Legacy of War

This is one reason why Europeans understand war differently than Americans:

An Allied bomb left over from World War II has exploded in Germany, killing three military engineers who were trying to defuse it. The blast occurred in the central city of Goettingen on Tuesday after construction workers building a sports stadium discovered it in a densely populated area.

Bomb disposal experts were called to the scene to defuse the 500 kilogramme device, which police said was likely to be British. But it exploded before they could neutralise the device. Another six members of the bomb disposal team were injured in the blast, but all were expected to survive.

The legacy of war remains written into the landscape of Europe in a way that’s not really understandable to Americans. This legacy doesn’t provide a full explanation for why Americans and Europeans tend to view military adventurism differently, but there’s no doubt that it’s a factor.


2 Years For 20,000 Lives, 26 Years Later


This makes me want to take a second look at Polly Higgins' idea of prosecuting catastrophic corporate negligence at the International Criminal Court.


The Plot Thickens.

>> Monday, June 07, 2010

The US intelligence analyst who leaked the footage that resulted in Wikileaks' infamous "Collateral Murder" video has been outed by a hacker to whom he boasted of his actions online, and arrested by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. Wired has the story:

Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing “almost criminal political back dealings.”

“Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning wrote.

Manning’s arrest comes as Wikileaks has ratcheted up pressure against various governments over the years with embarrassing documents acquired through a global whistleblower network that is seemingly impervious to threats from adversaries. Its operations are hosted on servers in several countries, and it uses high-level encryption for its document submission process, providing secure anonymity for its sources and a safe haven from legal repercussions for itself. Since its launch in 2006, it has never outed a source through its own actions, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Manning came to the attention of the FBI and Army investigators after he contacted former hacker Adrian Lamo late last month over instant messenger and e-mail... From the chat logs provided by Lamo, and examined by, it appears Manning sensed a kindred spirit in the ex-hacker. He discussed personal issues that got him into trouble with his superiors and left him socially isolated, and said he had been demoted and was headed for an early discharge from the Army.

When Manning told Lamo that he leaked a quarter-million classified embassy cables, Lamo contacted the Army, and then met with Army CID investigators and the FBI at a Starbucks near his house in Carmichael, California, where he passed the agents a copy of the chat logs. At their second meeting with Lamo on May 27, FBI agents from the Oakland Field Office told the hacker that Manning had been arrested the day before in Iraq by Army CID investigators.

Lamo has contributed funds to Wikileaks in the past, and says he agonized over the decision to expose Manning — he says he’s frequently contacted by hackers who want to talk about their adventures, and he’s never considered reporting anyone before. The supposed diplomatic cable leak, however, made him believe Manning’s actions were genuinely dangerous to U.S. national security.

More thoughts on this as things develop. Interested in readers' gut reactions.


Kausmentum Part XVII

>> Sunday, June 06, 2010

It’s hard for me to view the Kaus Senate bid with anything but amusement, but he’s obviously trying very hard to irritate as many people as he can…


Jim Crow Lives in the Jury Box

>> Friday, June 04, 2010

It's dismaying. While it doesn't seem to get discussed much, the dissent in Miller-El is part of the context that makes Parents Involved so infuriating. Invoking glib tautologies in defense of a "color-blind constitution" becomes pretty hard to sustain when you're unable to find any racial discrimination in a case in which prosecutors systematically excluded black jurors for transparently pretextual reasons. But that's modern conservatism: Brown v. Board has been reinterpreted on the one hand to constitutionally legitimate school systems that are segregated and unequal, while on the other it can prevent school boards from trying to integrate their schools.

In related news, former Time Blog of the Year calls the 14th Amendment "an anachronism."


Friday Geek Blogging.

>> Thursday, June 03, 2010

The next Olympic Sport? Seriously.


Visualizing Privacy

These visualizations are credited to Matt McKeon. If you go to his website, you can track the gradual shift in FB's privacy settings by year. These graphs are only updated through April (so far).

Of course FB has supposedly just made changes: if you're on FB, you may have clicked on the "Improved Privacy Controls" box in the last day or two to "read more." I gave it a click but as far as I can tell this is mostly greenwash. Presumably the information should make it easier to figure out how to change all your settings to where you want them to be, instead of where FB defaults them.

But let's not overstate the importance of the new changes: CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems not to get that a big piece of the issue is the default settings themselves. In fact, at the All Things Digital confab yesterday he clammed up when asked to explain his views on privacy:

According to multiple reports from bloggers, journalists and Twitterers, Facebook's CEO sidestepped questions about facebook privacy rather than giving the audience real, thoughtful answers.

"My God, Zuckerberg is literally dissolving in a lake of his own sweat," live-blogged John Paczkowski on the All Things Digital Web site. "He is visibly flushed, and you can see the beads of sweat rolling down his face. Could this be his Nixon moment?"

Dan Gillmor at Salon thinks the Nixon analogy is misplaced:

The Nixon comparison is, of course, a big stretch -- and it distracts from the much more serious issues.

For one thing, Zuckerberg's panic attack -- which is the most charitable explanation I can come up with -- raised more than a few questions about his fitness as CEO of one of the biggest companies on the Web and, increasingly, one of the most important companies on the planet.

The "he's young, give him a break" folks have half of that right. He's young, just 26 years old, and has the obvious smarts (and a solid senior team) to get his P.R. efforts in better shape. But give a break to someone who wields such influence? Not likely.

I agree with John Henry Clippinger, I think:

The issue is not with social media. Social media is great and here to stay. Moreover, when it goes mobile, it will only get more powerful and more useful. But it also could become easily Orwellian through the exploitation of personal information. It could become a means for total surveillance where the costs and impacts of today's breaches are a trifle by comparison. Think medical information, DNA, all financial and commercial transactions, what you do, where you are, and whom you talk to every minute of the day.

The problem is that information marketing companies should not be like some banks and the credit card companies that make money by tricking and trapping, obfuscation, and betting against their "customers" under the guise of acting in their interest. This is not to say that information marketing companies should not make money off of social media and customer data. They should. Indeed, by providing the proper safeguards, checks and balances, more money can be made off of sensitive data, because it will be trusted and more readily shared and relied upon.

What is needed is a kind of Glass Steagall Act for the collection, use, storage and sale of personal data, which prohibits those banks entrusted to safe guard commercial accounts from also trading in those accounts. Fortunately, the FTC, the White House, FCC, GSA, and DoD, and several credit service providers, telecom carriers, and others are showing more foresight in appreciating the importance of user control and the commercial value of trust and privacy than many financial service and social media companies. But even with their efforts, technology, the market and the money are moving faster than they are.


Serious Political Analysis

Think the BP's massive oil spill and the ensuing massive environmental and economic catastrophe represents a difficult problem? Obviously, you haven't yet heard the solution posed by Mark Penn, Union Buster(TM):

On the BP crisis, he needs to get away from the posturing politicians and the environmentalists and get together with scientists, generals and big-time business people who have experience solving big logistical problems. Now is the time to call in the big brains, lock them in a room, and deliver every possible resource to shut the oil flow down; think Manhattan Project meets Independence Day, with fewer aliens and more eggheads.

Strange that Obama, unlike his otherwise sharp Democratic primary opponent, doesn't think that analysis of this quality merits a 7 figure salary. Obviously, he doesn't know what he's doing...


Galarragas Wake

As commenters have pointed out, fairness demands that it be noted that Jim Joyce may have screwed up what would have been a profitable future career as a Republican elected official or BP executive by admitting his egregious error. And given this it would probably better to emulate Galarraga's remarkable class and grace under pressure.

But since I'm not as good a person as Galarraga, I should explain why I don't buy the argument that since it didn't cost the Tigers the game it wasn't that big a deal. I think this actually stands the truth on its head. While I'm free about criticizing inept umpiring, I try to never claim that umps cost the team a game, because it's almost always more complicated than that. Cuzzi's foul call in the ALDS last year was at least as bad as Joyce's, but it was a pretty minor factor in the Twins loss; Cuzzi didn't tell Joe Nathan to throw a cookie to Slappy Rodriguez, he wasn't hitting when the Twins went on to parlay the bases loaded with none out into zero runs, and given the same sequence of events the Twins would have been huge underdogs, tied against a better team on the road. Same thing with Denkinger; it was a bad call, if not quite was bad as Joyce/Cuzzi, but the Cardinals still had every chance to win after it, and Denkinger wasn't hitting or pitching when the Cardinals went on to be outscored 13-0. The endless whining by the Cardinals and their fans is not merely problematic but unseemly, excuse making by a team that lost and deserved to lose. And as much as it pains me to admit it, the same goes for the Seahawks' Super Bowl loss. If Holmgren spent less time complaining about the officiating and more time on his two minute drill they might have won.

What was unusual about the Joyce call was that it really was an if-not-then call in which the athletes in question were blameless. Which, combined with the fact that it wasn't close but was a call a major league umpire should never get wrong, makes it hard to forgive. And while a perfect game might be an "arbitrary" accomplishment, well, Dennis Martinez in 1991 and Pedro's 27 outs-with-no-support in San Diego in 1995 are two of my most ten most vividly remembered regular season games as a fan, and I don't think I'm unusual.


Goodbye, Kid

>> Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Ken Griffey Jr. has retired. It’s impossible to overstate Griffey’s importance to Seattle baseball, or the excitement in the Northwest over the idea of having a genuine Hall of Famer to watch. His years in Cincinnati were less distinguished, of course, and his coda in Seattle lasted just a touch too long. For my part, he reinvigorated my enthusiasm in baseball after a hiatus of six or so years following Donnie Moore’s failure in the 1986 ALCS.

Thank you, Ken. You were my all-time favorite baseball player. Enjoy your retirement.


Wanker of the Day

Jim Joyce. What a disgrace; as far as I'm concerned, in that context a firable offense. It's much worse than Denkinger, not only because it wasn't even that close but because that blown call left the Cardinals in a position to win. Joyce's incompetence robbed Gallaraga of history, although at least he'll always be remembered as having pitched a de facto perfect game.


Defending the Indefensible

This goes up on the office door.


World Cup Challenge

I have created an LGM World Cup Challenge group at ESPN:
Group Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon
Deadline is June 11.

Speaking of pointless competition, here are the current LGM Baseball Challenge Standings:

1 Feces Flingers, B. Drunk
0 0 0 0 0 2801 2801 98.4
2 free leonard, M. Ricci
0 0 0 0 0 2787 2787 98.2
3 kolmogorov-smirnov, W. Krummenacher
0 0 0 0 0 2738 2738 97.1
4 C. Quentin's Unicorn, A. Katz
0 0 0 0 0 2722 2722 96.7
5 HeadlessThompson Gunner, S. Hickey
0 0 0 0 0 2711 2711 96.4
6 Dwarf Mammoths, T. Mohr
0 0 0 0 0 2700 2700 96.1
7 Ambulance Chasers, J. Shurberg
0 0 0 0 0 2672 2672 95.3
8 Bangers and M*A*S*H, N. Beaudrot
0 0 0 0 0 2644 2644 94.3
9 Signal/Noise, B. Petti
0 0 0 0 0 2619 2619 93.3
10 Better Arms on Chairs, B. Mizelle
0 0 0 0 0 2610 2610 93.0


Pure, Distilled Essence of Hate

I'm sure most of you have heard that some variation of the argument that ending even state-sponsored bigotry against gays and lesbians is wrong because it would violate certain unspecified "religious rights." But when you do it with the stupidly as Tony Perkins does for CNN, you've provided a definitive example. The basic argument is that ending bigotry might create some discomfort for people who want to continue expressing bigotry, and the latter is much more important than the former. I especially enjoyed this bit:

As an ordained minister and a Marine Corps veteran, I was invited to speak at a prayer event at Andrews Air Force Base earlier this year. I had every intention of delivering a spiritual message, not a political one.

But the invitation was withdrawn after I criticized President Barack Obama’s call to open the military to homosexuality in his State of the Union address. The base chaplain told me they had received some complaints - about a dozen. I pointed out that orchestrating a handful of calls was a simple task for homosexual activist groups.

If I was blacklisted merely for supporting existing law, what will happen to those who oppose the new, politically correct law?

We cannot have freedom and equality, and must support qualified people being fired by the military during the war for irrelevant factors, because is might violate the inalienable right of hateful assholes to be invited to speak at prayer events. I'm convinced!


Nukes and Cold War Nostalgia

I have an article up at Right Web on nuclear policy and the institutional Right.

The vehement attacks against President Obama’s arms control initiatives reveal the extent to which the militarist extreme in the Republican Party’s foreign policy establishment has remained deeply entrenched despite the significant setbacks hawks have suffered since helping drive the country into war with Iraq. Using language that conjures images from the heyday of the Cold War, neoconservatives and other right-wing nationalists have endeavored to paint the administration as willing to sacrifice national security to achieve international acclaim. They have also drowned out more moderate voices in the Republican Party, whose realist views, although more in line with the policies pushed by the Obama administration, are failing to have an impact on conservative discourse.

Read the rest at Right Web.


The Yoda Doctrine and the War on Terror

>> Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The NYT picked up on my BHTV spot with Dan Drezner last weekend, where we discuss whether or not Obama should be assassinating Americans. But they only stuck a small clip of our discussion on that topic at their site, so I've clipped the entire piece for your perusal.

Note that a variety of technical snafus caused the BH folks to edit the video here and there making the context hard to infer at spots (watch out for the part at about 5 minutes in where my face and voice suddenly jump scarily forward at you!). In fact, it seems they edited out the part where I mention the Terrorist Expatriation Act currently being pushed through the Senate by Joe Lieberman, which would render it constitutional to strip Americans of their citizenship for "joining a foreign terrorist organization or engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States or its allies."

While human rights law would still arguably make it criminal to summarily execute non-citizens, the aim of this legislation is to at least render the constitutional questions moot (would it, actually? I defer to the lawyers who blog here and elsewhere...) until such time, at least, as the Supreme Court renders said law unconstitutional.

In that regard, it's worth noting the Court's (and the current nominee's) past history on precisely these issues, which has been helpfully summarized by Richard Epstein.


As the Crowe Flies

A good way to spend Memorial Day is watching a movie that reminds you both how ugly war is for those involved in the fighting, and also the reasons why some things are important enough to fight for. Robin Hood hasn't received good reviews for cinematography or narrative. It's true the film is wanting - everything from the American accents to the tired battle scenes to the deplorable way that Lady Marian conducts herself at the beachhead.

But I still liked it. It's always good to see a version of Robin Hood in which Richard the Lionheart is portrayed as the butcher he was instead of a just, noble king whose only failure is his absence. Also, I'm a sucker for political narratives that can't be easily stuffed into conventional boxes.

Readers' thoughts?


It's Not About the Drones.

Drones were back in the news this past week. First, the UN is poised to publicly criticize the US for allowing CIA operators to conduct lethal attacks with drones, in a report to be released later this week. Then, the US military released a report sharply criticizing operational failures that led to the deaths of 23 civilians in a convoy in February. And Newsweek has a big lead article about the extent to which drone strikes, regardless of their legality or side-effects, are fueling homegrown terror.

I would like to posit that to some extent, the issues at stake in all of these debates are much broader than the issue of drones and it may be problematic to focus on drones, as if altering our "drone policy" will resolve the broader issues. Drones themselves are simply remotely piloted aerial vehicles. They're not robots and they're not making decisions on their own, Star Wars-like. (Though they might in the near future which would raise entirely different ethical questions.) Except for the fact that the pilots are operating remotely from the safety of a military base (or CIA facility), these weapons are little different than other forms of air power. Of course, as Peter Singer has documented there are those who are troubled by the dislocation of the warrior from his targets, but this argument is as old as the long-bow and doesn't necessarily pose legal issues. It should also be pointed out that drones have many extremely useful non-lethal applications: reconnaissance that helps ground troops avoid civilians, for example. And drones are not simply being used to hunt terrorists in Pakistan. They have civilian and law enforcement uses as well: to monitor the drug trade in South America or population flows across borders. (Not that these surveillance functionalities don't also involve pressing trade-offs with respect to rights and civil liberties.)

Speaking just in terms of using drones as attack weapons here, I would argue the important issue here is not whether we use drones. The issues are a) whether it is right to use any weapon in such a manner as to risk more casualties among civilians than we are willing to accept among our own troops (as both manned and unmanned forms of aerial bombing do) b) whether we are willing to use any weapon to summarily execute individuals we have associated with criminal organizations whether or not they are engaged in what might be considered combat operations against us and c) whether it is either right or effective to outsource the deployment of lethal violence - by drones or by other means - from our military to our civilian agencies?


Anger. Anger. Anger.

Because we continue to have server issues at the new site, we have decided to re-open, and will be posting here until the situation is resolved.

Thank you again for your patience.


We Have Issues


A number of issues continue to afflict our transition. At this point, the RSS feed from the old site does not appear to be updating. The quickest fix is to subscribe to the new feed ( at the new site. However, I suggest that you remain subscribed to the old feed; at this point a transition back to Blogger remains a possibility.


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