News Brief, Eany Meany Edition

Cross-posted at The Conjecturer.


  • Is al-Hurra, the Arabic-language Voice of America satellite channel, nothing more than an al-Jazeera clone? Hardly. One of the reasons Voice of America is as respected as it is was its willingness to broadcast news damaging to the U.S. (same with the “Radio Free” stations). It was this self-criticism that generated sympathy in the Soviet Union: surely it was telling the truth if it would criticize its own government! This adherence to the truth, even unpleasant or embarrassing truth, is what will gain us friends and sympathy. More than anything else, people everywhere appreciate honesty.
  • I found this defense of the FCS system limp. The problem isn’t with “modernizing” the Army, the problem is how that is being done: many FCS unit requirements are already hopelessly outdated, or unworkable, or unnecessary, or wholly reliant on undesigned and basically impossible vehicles. This is a program worth saving?
  • On the other hand, here’s something that kind of blows my mind a bit: about three minutes into this video, you can see what looks like a U.S. special forces guy wearing what looks like adaptive camouflage scurry across the field of view and jump onto the tank. Meaning, he has armor that changes color according to his surroundings, making it damned hard to spot him. If that is the case and the video is not doctored, that’s way cool.
  • The Estonian cyberwar was not a coordinated attack, but a globally distributed attempt to deny access, and not destroy data. Still, this has big time implications for the future of information infrastructure, calling into doubt statements about resilience and protection. Placed into the context of the ongoing war between hackers and the MPAA over HD-DVD encryption, it bodes poorly for government to survive a bout of mass unpopularity among computer-savvy opponents.
  • Google Maps shows how our National Guard has been depleted by the Iraq War.

Around the World

  • Who’d'a thunkit that I’d be getting all into the complexities of counternarcotics? Also, I caught another blogger blatantly ripping off my stuff at, which I guess is flattering but also annoying. Oh well. Meanwhile, SecDef Gates shows again why we should not be ignoring Afghanistan, as there remains a very real chance of success (though his optimism is a bit off kilter, given the recent wave of anger over civilian deaths and the collapse of a few development projects).
  • US troops barely have control of less than half of Baghdad.
  • The Birthmark criticizes American Empire (I suppose he’s no fan of neo-colonialism and forgot to mention Russia’s own neo-imperialism in its Near Abroad). In light of Putin threatening to turn his missiles back to Europe, I don’t think we can be singled out for criticism, though we deserve plenty.
  • A US warship shelled Puntland for several hours this weekend, indicating that it wasn’t a fast-move high-priority target, but rather support for an already ongoing operation. Puntland has traditionally been seen as a relatively stable (if still unbelievably poor) area; whether the artillery support was for US or Ethiopian troops isn’t at all clear yet (I doubt we’d shell like that in support of the regional government, which isn’t even recognized internationally as it has claimed independence from Somalia). I also see some disturbing shades of Beirut in 1983—our involvement in the civil war then was limited to mostly shelling from the sea, yet still resulted in the catastrophic attack on the Marine barracks in retaliation. I hope we don’t see (or rather, that we can actually manage) the blowback from this op. For further context, here is a fascinating comparison of Puntland to Northern Iraq.
  • Know what was missing from the Israeli Palesine conflict? A flood of Palestinians into Jerusalem before the wall goes up. That’s just rad.
  • The Taliban’s first best friend, power-monger Benazir Bhutto, thinks she can wrest some of Musharraf’s power away from him to form her own circle of government in Islamabad. She has good bad company in Nawaz Sharif, as they both proved to be feckless leaders. What Pakistan needs is an open and free election, not backroom power sharing deals.
  • More drinking the Chavez kool-aid by an AP reporter. Wonder why their coverage is so biased?
  • But I don’t get why all the neocons are hating on The Economist and accusing it of Bush Derangement Syndrome (as if opposition to a politician were evidence of psychosis). So they didn’t cover local elections with enough depth. And they’re not sufficiently enthusiastic about Bush, after endorsing him in 2004. And? I don’t get it. There’s no “case” against them, in the same way there can be a case against the professionalism of the BBC or Fox News.

Back at Home

  • Good news to take from the “Muslim Americans” Pew survey, from Irshad Manji. She brings it down to a fundamental American comfort with assimilating other cultures… Something I worry may be changed for the next generation by the horrid immigration debates.
  • The Washingtonienne, my favorite semen-fueled media whore, giver of brilliant one-liners (”A man who tries to !* you in the a$$ when you are sober does not love you”), has declared bankruptcy. How she burned through a $300k advance and Playboy “handling fee” in under three years, I don’t know, but she did live in Manhattan for a time.
  • Dave Kopel rightly defends Boulder High school and notes something I have wondered about for a long time—the almost or actual criminal invasions of privacy and property Bill O’Reilly’s producers subject their victims to.
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