just smoke the janjaweed, mon

Can anyone explain to me why the heck we haven't just gone in bombed the crap out of the janjaweed militias in Darfur yet?

It's a simple question. Why are we discussing potential airstrikes on Iran but none on the murdering children-mutilating rapist thug scum?

Related: What the United States can do to end the crisis in Sudan (audio from NPR.org)

Know Hope

Michael Totten, having spent several months traveling in Arab countries, arrived in Israel. While there he met Lisa Goldman, a journalist for the Guardian. I was especially struck by her comments thus:

Sometimes the Middle East feels like it’s drowning in bigotry, hate, and stupidity. But hate is not the only human emotion in that part of the world, even between Arabs and Jews.

Lisa is a liberal. Not the Bush-hating idiot variety, but the kind of brave person who continues to believe in the world no matter what kind of hell it throws at her. She spends a lot of time in the West Bank and Gaza even though the people who live in those places just replaced Yasser Arafat’s Fatah regime with Hamas.

“I have Palestinian friends who say things I don’t like at all,” she said. “They say they want to destroy Israel, that it has no right to exist.”

“How can you be friends with people like that?” I said.

“Because I know the difference between rhetoric and reality,” she said.

“Threats from the West Bank aren’t just rhetoric,” I said. “How many suicide bombings did you say you’ve seen?”

“These people will never hurt me,” she said. “They are my friends. They love me. And when I say love, I do not mean that lightly.”

I thought about that, and I thought about why someone might want to reach out and forge such seemingly-impossible friendships with people who declare themselves enemies. There’s a lot more behind it than a yearning for peace and the standard liberal can’t-we-all-just-get-along point of view. It strikes me, partly, as an emotional survival technique. I, for one, would not be able to tolerate living in Israel if I did not have Palestinian friends who could balance out the restless hate from some of the others. (I'd also like to have them as friends for the usual reasons, of course.)

“How can they be friends with you?” I said.

“That’s the real question, isn’t it?” she said.

As Lisa points out, propaganda requires dehumanization. But meeting another human being face to face makes people real. Part of the solution to the problem of hatred is fewer barriers to these basic human interactions, not more. Ultimately, Lisa and others like her are true heroes of a kind.

But what struck me even more was this basic expression of optimism in the form of recurring grafitti throughout Tel Aviv: Know Hope. There's a whole set on Flickr of these, and Michael has some good ones in his post as well. As he comments,

One of the most common spray-painted slogans in Tel Aviv says Know Hope. I don’t know who wrote it or why. Does it even matter? Israel is a stressful angst-inducing place. Not compared with Baghdad, for sure, but definitely compared with Egypt, Lebanon, and Northern Iraq. I felt better every time I saw it painted on walls. Know Hope. Those two simple words are so much more poignant in a place like Israel where the current (relative) lack of violence is almost certainly only a lull. Actual peace is well on the other side of the horizon.

Hope is precious and hard in Israel now. Hamas is taking over the reins of power in Palestine. The old Fatah regime was hideously corrupt and destructive. Some Palestinians, I am sure, voted for Hamas as a protest against Arafatism. Even so, terrorists officially rule the West Bank and Gaza with the consent of the governed.

And yet - and yet - the Israelis voted in a center-left government as a response. For a while there Israel wanted a man in power who was just a big fist. Until the second intifada broke out, Ariel Sharon - the Butcher of Beirut - was considered marginal and extreme by Israelis as well as by almost everyone else in the world. Yet they swung hard to the right and picked him to lead.

I wouldn’t say Israel has since swung hard to the left. But the Labor Party did receive one and a half times as many votes as Likud in the general election last month. Wielding a big fist no longer seems necessary whether it actually was in the first place or not. The intifada is more or less over. Brutal Israeli crackdowns in the territories are likewise more or less over. That may not be enough to feel hope, but it’s something.

Seeing Israel and Palestine for myself as they really are makes me slightly more hopeful than I was before I got there. The standard narrative of the conflict is a cartoon. Upon closer inspection, it’s a lot more complicated. And it’s a lot more interesting, too.

It may look like a never-ending and unresolvable death struggle with Arabs and Palestinians on one side, Israelis and Jews on the other. But people like Lisa and her Palestinian friends can’t be crudely reduced to that level. And we’re talking here about Palestinians who say they do want to destroy Israel, not just the liberals and the moderates who say they don't.


David Ben-Gurion

They don't make leaders in that mold anymore. I came across this amazing quote of his just now:

'I don't understand your optimism. Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment there is no chance. So it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out... I'll be seventy years old soon... if you asked me whether I shall die and be buried in a Jewish State I would tell you Yes; in ten years, fifteen years, I believe there will still be a Jewish State. But ask me whether my son Amos, who will be fifty at the end of this year, has a chance of dying and being buried in a Jewish State, and I would answer: fifty-fifty'. In conversation with Nahum Goldmann, in 1956; as quoted in The Jewish Paradox: A personal memoir (1978) by Nahum Goldmann

Quite a lot to unpack from that! There's genuine leadership for you. Accept your responsibilities, be unabashedly partisan in defense of your interests. That's your responsibility as a leader!

But the quote also demonstrates that Ben-Gurion was not a romanticist and he recognized that there was adequate justification for the existence of a Jewish homeland without denying the legitimacy of the grievances of those who were displaced to give it room to be birthed.

At some point in Israel's future, that moral balance must be redressed - but not now, while survival is at stake. I signed the Euston Manifesto below, but I qualify the two-state solution praised therein with the caveat that 1. the two-state solution is a temporary solution, and 2. if 50 years after a two-state solution is achieved, there is not a federalist solution, then the region will again be home to a cycle of violence for another thousand years. And in fact a successful andvibrant - and above all, free - Israel is a crucial component of a peaceful Middle East for the decades and centuries ahead. So work towards two states for now - but remember that all walls must eventually fall.

Jewishness, Democracy, and Greater Israel - pick any two.


The man is playing theater. And he is depressingly smarter about it than we are. I can't believe how many pundits seem to hang on his every word, when the guy clearly is pulling things our of his arse left and right - solely to make a mockery of our justice system.

Dahlia Lithwick had some great analysis on him a while back, and it all holds true today. I doubt that this guy had anything to do with the terror plots at all - if he has any connection, is is to play a "media martyr" role. The propaganda value of his trial is immense.

We need to stop taking him seriously, and bar all media from covering the trial. He MUST still be tried under our court of laws - otherwise his critique that we have no justice will be made true. Try him, silently and quickly, and get it over with. IMHO the judge needs to be replaced as well for being too encouraging.


The Euston Manifesto

This is what I've been waiting for, for a long time.

Founded by Norm Geras and Nick Cohen, it is a new democratic progressive alliance - committed to intellectual freedom, human rights, and progressive principles. It is pro-freedom and pro-labor, pro-liberty and pro-human rights. It is the synthesis of being liberal and being libertarian.

It is the new American majority - it is Purple Politics. It is universal in a way that being just a Democrat or just a Republican can not be. It is a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Here is the formal announcement:

Today, 13Apr06, we — bloggers, academics, campaigners, writers, scientists, journalists, citizens — launch the Euston Manifesto. With this document we hope to publicly assert our progressive, democratic, egalitarian, internationalist principles in the face of recent attacks upon them from the Right and, to our dismay, the Left.

Many of us are of the Left, but we come from across the range of political positions. We are not founding a political party. There were differences amongst us over Western military intervention in Iraq. Our declaration is not definitive, final, or perfect; it is, we hope, the beginning of a renewed debate, grounded in a common set of progressive values.

Sign me up. And you should sign up, too.


going broadband with EVDO

Now this is something to look forward to - EVDO-based routers:

Sprint and Linksys announced last week that the cellular service providers will be selling the EV-DO capable Linksys Wireless G Router for Mobile Broadband (WRT54G3G-NA) which will allow Sprint's Power Vision EV-DO cellular wireless internet access cards to operate with the router where Sprint cellular service is available.

EV-DO, or Evolution Data Only/Optimized, is a 3G cellular data technology part of the CDMA2000 wireless standard which allows subscribers to take their own internet hot spot wherever they go as long as they are within range of a cellular network and at broadband speeds comparable to 1.5Mb/sec speeds.

According to PCMagazine, Sprint will begin shipping the Linksys EV-DO capable routers during the second half of this year to accompany their mobile broadband service, however, the cellular provider currently offers EV-DO access cards for notebooks and tiered data plans between $39.99-$79.99/month depending on required usage. Verizon Wireless charges approximately $45 for existing data services that can burst around 1.5Mb/s in some cities right now.

This is welcome news because it will unify cell phone service, wireless internet connectivity on the road, and at home. With a EVDO router at home and an EVVDO card in my laptop, the coverage will be seamless. Assuming Sprint bundles it all together and I might even save money - and the best part is that there are no wires to run in the house. This will break the cable/DSL monopolies.


Michael Yon: back to war

Michael Yon is headed back to war - this time without the protection of the military. He has posted a travelouge while enroute via Bangkok and Dubai.

You may be surprised to learn that he does consider Iraq to be in a civil war. But to argue that the civil war was a result of the the American war is, in his view, an "illegal joining". Be sure to read his piece in full and reflect on the subtle, yet important shades he draws as he nears the battlefield once again.

back to boot camp

I have to kind of agree with this general observation:

Rather than enticing existing Windows XP users to switch, Boot Camp will be primarily attractive to current OS X users that are lusting after certain Windows XP applications, such as games. This makes sense -- they're already accustomed to performing most tasks on OS X, and only need to switch over to Windows when they feel the urge to game.

Ultimately, with Boot Camp, Apple is only helping Microsoft sell more copies of Windows XP. How sweet of them.

I am a unique case in that I eventually want to buy a Mac Mini anyway, so Boot Camp just sweetens the deal. But I am atypical - I intend to wait for the Merom-based Minis and make it a silent-PC workstation for my scientific apps. And as a unix development machine. I might do some media streaming, but that would be secondary.

For most PC users, I don't think that the presence of boot camp will sell more high end machines, though it might definitely help lean some people inclined towards the lower end for experimentation. If anything, boot camp kind of erodes the Apple Brand, by conceding that all OS X users arent fully served by their OS. This undermines the (quite valid) argument that you can switch to a Mac world and be fully independent.

Look, for years Mac aficionados have argued that everyone shoudl switch to Mac and abandon Windows. Why now are those same partisans arguing that software that lets you run Windows instead of Mac OSX - on your Mac! - is going to facilitate that switch?

It all strikes me as a bit schizoid. But that's life in the Intel-Mac era, I guess.

UPDATE: I predict that in five years Apple will get the true Zen and abandon PC hardware entirely, and become a software and media company. They'll still make iPods as loss leaders to get you hooked on their apps. They'll buy Yahoo and go full-on folksonomy for personal search, web search, and tie it all into content and ads. The majority of their revenue will be selling music tracks and video tracks (including the complete Disney and Pixar archives) via the iTMS, which will be completely hardware-independent (iPod, personal PC, in-dash on your car via 802.11n) and their largest single expense will be annual licensing fees to Apple Ltd (ie, the Beatles) whose trademark infringement fees they will just have absorb as an operating cost. McCartney will sit next to Jobs on the board.

mark my words!



I've started a little blog devoted to anime, science fiction, fantasy fiction, and other geek cultural pursuits. It's at www.Haibane.info. Do stop by if that's your thing.

bloody well done

Ali Eteraz is getting noticed by the right people. Well done, bhai.

To be honest after four years of blogging I am beginning to feel weary and frustrated (as my last post no doubt indicated). I am sincerely glad to see fresh voices like Ali enter the debate and continue.

And yet, I still see the canards of "silent muslims" and refuseniks heralded as moderates. Have any of our efforts truly borne any fruit? It's hard to fathom sometimes why we muslims, especially in America, continue to make any effort at all.




I think I'm done with the term "moderate muslim". I'm a muslim American. Most muslims are muslim americans. Let Manji claim the "moderate" ground.

I'm also wondering whether I should continue to make the connection in my mind between being an American and being "Western" - perhaps we should recognize that America is not Western. After all, democracy is not Western. Democracy precedes the West, as does capitalism. And America, synthesis of democracy and capitalism, is tapping into an older current than "the West".

I dunno. I'm tired of these foolish labels. Lets just be descriptive - "muslim american" - rather than symbolic ("western") or relative ("moderate").

"unnecessary at this time"

February, 2006:

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 17 -- President Bush on Friday called for doubling the number of international troops in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan and a bigger role for NATO in the peacekeeping effort.

Bush has concluded that peace talks will not halt the violence that has left tens of thousands dead and more than 2 million homeless in Darfur and that a more muscular military response is required, administration officials said.

April, 2006:

The Bush administration has settled on the idea of sending up to several hundred NATO advisers to help bolster African Union peacekeeping troops in their efforts to shield villagers in Sudan's Darfur region from fighting between government-backed Arab militias and rebel groups, administration officials said.

The move would include some U.S. troops and mark a significant expansion of U.S. and allied involvement in the conflict. So far, NATO's role has been limited to airlifting African Union forces to the region and providing a few military specialists to help the peacekeeping contingent.

The proposal, which still faces uncertain approval within NATO because of concerns that it could be a distraction from operations in Afghanistan, falls well short of more aggressive measures that some have advocated, such as sending ground combat troops or providing air patrols to protect peacekeepers and prevent the bombing of villages. These options have been ruled out as unnecessary at this time, an administration official said.

In general, U.S. officials said, their aim has been to address shortcomings in the African Union force without upstaging that force and stirring resentment in a region highly sensitive to the presence of Western troops.


Bombing in Najaf

via WaPo

NAJAF, Iraq, April 6 -- Bombs packed inside a minibus exploded Thursday outside one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam, shattering ancient tombs and enveloping pilgrims in balls of flame.

The attack near the Imam Ali shrine here in the southern city of Najaf killed at least 13 people, police said. Striking at the heart of territory dominated by Iraq's Shiite religious parties, it also risked a new cycle of Sunni-Shiite violence.

you know, ever since March 2003, it has always felt like March 2003.


Fukuyama vs Krauthammer

I have to differ and say that I think that Fukuyama has it right - there is a need to separate the concept of fighting terrorism and the concept of promoting democracy. Wilsonianism never concerned itself with the former; neo-conservatism merged the two. What is needed is neo-wilsonianism, combining the idealism of the Carter era (tie foreign policy to human rights), the multi-pole approach to superpower influence advocated by Gary Hart, and a good dose of cowboy Jacksonianism.

Greg Djierjian writes an exhaustive defense of Fukuyama from Krauthammer's critique. The major excerpt:

Fukuyama is right. The time has come to, at least to some extent, decouple the war against terrorism from our forward democratization strategy. This doesn't mean that neo-Wilsonian instincts must be wholly shunted aside. Democracy exportation is part and parcel of a good deal of America's foreign policy history, and a strain of American exceptionalism that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But the democratization strategy has to be better understood as a very long generational effort, undertaken soberly and methodically with allies, and not over the barrel of a gun, or via short-term, hastily organized attempts at rather clumsily stoking revolutions via a few dollars disbursed hither dither and the like. The situation in the Middle East is very delicate at the present hour, and Islamists in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and points beyond are in the ascendancy, at least at the present time. Therefore order and stability, at least in the short term, need to trump fanciful talk of moving the entire broader Middle East region into post-Enlightenment democratic governance modalities. The Islamic world is not yet necessarily ready for a steady diet of Jefferson and Montesquieu, yes, even if we open up consulates in remote parts of Indonesia or near the corniche in Alexandria in some essay at 'transformational' diplomacy. This does not mean, as the easy straw man argument goes, that Arabs are not constitutionally capable of democracy, much like some said Confucians in Asia weren't after WWII. But the teeming Cairene masses, say, are likelier to gravitate towards the Muslim Brotherhood than Ayman Nour, alas, at least at this juncture. Let's be cognizant of such nettlesome realities, yes?

So rather than speak of Krauthammerian democratic globalism as some universalist panacea, we have to instead focus like a laser on fighting the most ruthless of the global terrorists, marshalling efforts on coordinating and obtaining intelligence to find and kill them, drying up their financing, and ensuring they no longer have quasi-sanctuaries in places like southeastern Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, or portions of Iraq. Meantime, we need to continue to work to resolve the regional conflicts that contribute to a, yes, poisonous atmosphere in the region, foster economic development via increased trade ties and liberalization of economies (great job on Dubai!), and better employ 'soft power' through the region by better explicating the objectives of US foreign policy in the region to a very skeptical neighborhood. This is the kernel of our current struggle, not ensuring that everyone has the right to vote for Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas, at this very moment, in Lebanon and Egypt and Palestine.

The basic problem with Krauthammer's defense of the status quo is that it amounts to an empty statement rather than a game plan for victory. It is basically akin to saying, "Win!" - words are cheap, but hope is not a plan.

There are already many liberal advocates of what I have called neo-wilsonianism above. These include Greg, the team at American Footprints, and Abu Aardvark, to name but a few. I can't recommend these blogs highly enough for sustained discussion and serious analysis of the future of foreign policy. It looks to be at three years at a minimum before we ever see it put into practice, but this is going to be my single issue for '08.

UPDATE: see, this is exhibit A of the wrong approach:

While President Bush vows to transform Iraq into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, his administration has been scaling back funding for the main organizations trying to carry out his vision by building democratic institutions such as political parties and civil society groups....The shortfall threatens projects that teach Iraqis how to create and sustain political parties, think tanks, human rights groups, independent media outlets, trade unions and other elements of democratic society.

...."Money keeps getting transferred away to security training. Democracy's one of the things that's been transferred," said Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's project on democracy and the rule of law. "Without that, all the other stuff looks like just background work."

Yet that's what Krauthammer defends, and what Fukuyama critiques.


energy inputs

this is the kind of thing that physicists are always getting frustrated about:

CNW's findings indicate that a hybrid consumes more energy overall than a comparable conventionally powered model. It judged showed that the Honda Accord Hybrid rang up an Energy Costs Per Mile of $3.29, while a gas-powered Accord was significantly cheaper at $2.18/mile. The study concludes that the average of all 2005 U.S. market vehicles was $2.28/mile.

The reasoning goes that hybrids use up more energy to manufacture, as well as consume more resources in terms of the assembly (and eventual disposal) of things like batteries and motors. By CNW's reckoning, the intrinsically lower complexity of, say, a Hummer H3 ($1.949/mile) actually results in lower total energy usage than any hybrid currently on the market, and even a standard Honda Civic ($2.42).

While I am in no position to evaluate the methodology, I think that it is critical to assess overall net energy rather than simply energy at one stage in any supposed "green" initiative.

Many environmentalists seem to assume that hybrid vehicles magically appear - generated by fairy dust and Mother Gaia - and then at the end of their lifespan will simply be re-absorbed into the ecosystem.

I think that hybrid technology is important and that buying hybrids is a good idea because it will help reduce manufactring costs and increase economies of scale. After all, today's gasoline engine is orders of magnitude more efficient than the one in the Model T.

However, buying a hybrid is definitely a poor choice of you are out to save money. I'll leave the simple math as an excercise for the reader - just compare a 25 mpg vs a 50 mpg fuel economy, with the latter costing an additional $5000, and see how many years it takes to break even (with gasoline at $2.50 a gallon and driving 15,000 miles a year).

And as for the green aspects of hybrids, regardless of the specific numbers above, it is quite reasonable to assume that the overall energy cost of production is substantially higher than a conventional vehicle. Denying this fairly obvious fact is detrimental to credibility on green issues.

The irght long term solution for automobiles is to go fully electric. Hybrids provide an easy vector for improvement of battery technology with immediate fiscal incentive for the automakers to drop the big R&D bucks. But no one driving a hybrid has any real reason to feel particularly green.

I plan on considering a hybrid next, myself.

(via Brian)