July 31, 2010
July 30, 2010
*tumbleweed blows by*
July 28, 2010
One of the memes of those who advocate a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan is that historically the Afghans have never been conquered; that Afghanistan is “the graveyard of empires”. I have argued against this view in the comments sections of other blogs as well as here, most recently last year when Ralph Peters once again called for us to withdraw. Once again I must be a trend setter because now almost a year later Foreign Policy magazine has published an article entitled, “Bury the Graveyard” which advances the idea that the graveyard of empires meme is hurting our progress in Afghanistan:
The Victorian British and the Soviet Union, the story goes, were part of a long historical continuum of arrogant conquerors that met their match in the country's xenophobic, fanatical, trigger-happy tribesmen. Given a record like that, it's obvious that the effort by the United States and its NATO allies to stabilize the shaky government in Kabul is doomed to fail.
Look, failure is always a possible outcome, especially judging by the way things have been going lately. But if the United States and its allies end up messing up their part of the equation, blame it on their bad policy decisions. Don't blame it on a super simplified version of Afghanistan's history -- especially if you prefer to overlook the details.
One of those myths, for example, is that Afghanistan is inherently unconquerable thanks to the fierceness of its inhabitants and the formidable nature of its terrain. But this isn't at all borne out by the history. "Until 1840 Afghanistan was better known as a 'highway of conquest' rather than the 'graveyard of empires,'" Barfield points out. "For 2,500 years it was always part of somebody's empire, beginning with the Persian Empire in the fifth century B.C."
Unfortunately, popular views of the place today are shaped by the past 30 years of seemingly unceasing warfare rather than substantive knowledge of the country's history.
So, what does this mean as far as the current war in Afghanistan go? Well in practical terms probably not much. The COIN strategy that GEN Petraeus is likely to pursue is inherently based on the idea that a stable government (or more accurately a stable enough government) can be established. All that an acceptance of this view of history can really accomplish in the current fight is to foster an acceptance, among the political class, that it actually can be won, and I stick by that assertion. From the article:
I made my first visit to Afghanistan that same year (ed. 2001). The Afghans I met were neither xenophobic nor bellicose. What they wanted most of all was peace, and they didn't trust their own leaders to bring it. "We're sick of fighting. We hate war. We want to have a free election," one grizzled -- and illiterate -- warrior told me. "And let's have the United Nations come in and make sure it's fair, so the warlords don't interfere." I heard similar views from many Afghans.
Really the fight is ours to lose, but given the attitudes currently in existence in D.C. I think that we are well on our way to that outcome.
July 27, 2010
We forget, we all forget, how huge and amazing and miraculous the world is. I am grateful for my life, I truly am.
July 26, 2010
Now some words of wisdom from Lionel Hutz (Your case won in 30 minutes or your pizza is free)
So would someone with some legal background care to weigh in on this?
(And yes, I'm aware I've sold my soul for a shiny gadget. Feel free to give me hell for it.)
July 25, 2010
Someone died skiing.
Yep, it's July.
And yet, only two hours from where he died, it was hot enough today to take the kiddos swimming.
July 24, 2010
And as long as I'm here, I'm going to offer a few tips for Rocky Mountain National Park tourons, all stemming from our visit yesterday.
July 22, 2010
Today on Neil Cavuto(this is the best transcript I can find so far. Stossel starts at 00:22:0
No one else has picked up on this; I’m surprised because normally John Stossel's word is treated like Holy Writ, but if this is actually his position I expect him to be relegated to the idiot file soon. Immigration reform is currently one of those areas where there is no middle ground.
(Note: This was a three minute interview on Cavuto's show this afternoon. Stossel has a special on immigration tonight that should provide more context to his remarks, but they seem pretty unequivocal)
As I have said a number of times at my blog and over at Ace's when I have open blogged, I basically agree with what Stossel is saying. My basic premise is that illegal immigration is an economic problem and my solution to it would focus on handling it through the market. That said I always have qualms about guest worker programs, which Stossel advocates, in every country that I am aware of that has a guest worker program the guest workers evolve into a permanent underclass. I would much rather allow workers to qualify for permanent residence / citizenship, after X years and costing X dollars (to cover some costs of schooling etc. for dependents).
I know these ideas won't be popular but I still think it's the best way to proceed.
July 20, 2010
1) Super secret project 1.
2) The political season is about to really kick into high gear and I'm saving some of my facecocks and mojo for that.
3) I got married to my lovely wife Rachel on July 5th which means that I've been involved in supporting her plan it for several months.
At any rate, it was suggested that I share our registry with the general community in case anyone felt like being generous so, I will do so.
The Mr. and Mrs. Moron Pundit Registry.
Thanks in advance, Morons.
Also, my absence has nothing to do with a sudden and overwhelming addiction to Dresden Files books.
July 19, 2010
Yes, I have a reason for inflicting this on all three of our readers. The Tottenham Spurs (not that any of you classless soccer-hating fucks have any reason to know who they are) have banned the vuvuzela.
I wasn't going to post on this, but his response to Starbucks is too awesome to not put up.
Sarah K. has an entire collection of the videos of the future Mr. H (I am allowed to have two Mr. H's if one of them is Isaiah Mustafa, aren't I?). If you drop in for a visit over there, watch your language - she is a lady and doesn't cotton to the fuckity-fuck language we use in our house.
And just in case you're one of the three people on the planet who's never seen the original commercial...
One of our commenters posted the original commercial on her site not too long ago, and for the life of me I can't remember who it was. So speak up so I can give you some linkylove!
Update: I have to post one more video, proving Mr. Mustafa's superawesomeexcellence. How can you fail to fall for a man who understands baconlove?
July 18, 2010
Anyway, heading to the bathroom to take a leak, been driving for a few hours and had to seriously friggin' go, and there's two guys sitting eating lunch. One's got a paper open and, poking the paper with his finger and ranting to the other guy, "Look at these fuckin' idiots running our country, and don't even get me started on that fuckin' (says loudly) N*GGER in the White House!" No, I didn't light into him for his racist douchebaggery, I had other, more important things to do, like take a piss. Here's the thing, though, this guy sounded EXACTLY like Nick the shopkeeper in Falling Down.
It took everything, and I mean everything I had not to stop, lean over the table, point to my head and evoke Nick's "Think about it!" verbal tic.
If you're unfamiliar with Falling Down, it's worth renting or sitting and watching if it's on TV, here are the relevant scenes, if you need a refresher,
July 17, 2010
Watch it on Academic Earth
Most of the readers here will probably disagree with the narrative / ideology of the speaker but the talk itself is interesting, especially since it was given contemporaneously, Jan 2009 I think (actually Nov 200 . (Be warned, the facial tic is disturbing)
Causes according to Dr. Blinder:
Risky lending - based on abnormally low default rates over the past 5 to 6 years (from 2003 to 2009). This was backed up by mathematical models that didn't look back far enough also.
Housing bubble - Irresponsible mortgage lending and irresponsible taking of mortgages by consumers. Refinancing ponzi scheme, liar loans, no-doc loans, ninja loans (no income no job or assets). Brokers made risky loans because they would only hold the loans for a short time and then they would be passed on so any defaults would be someonelse's problem. Blinder believes that mortgages should be federally regulated, he also believes there should be a suitability standard, and that brokers should have to hold some percentage of loans they originate to maturity.
Regulatory failure - specifically failure to rein in subprime lending.
Mortgage backed securities - as noted above the mortgages were bad so the securities were bad. When the defaults started the banks held huge amounts of debt. This was caused by bad risk management practices including poor diversification of capital classes (up to 80% in mortgage backed securities).
Rating agencies - didn't do their due diligence. Conflicts of interest exist because the agencies are paid by the bond issuer. He also advocates a bit of Caveat Emptor in that the lage firms should do some of their own investigation and rating.
Derivatives based on mortgage backed securities - unregulated and excessively leveraged. Very short term financing which led to a lack of liquidity when defaults started. (AIG) An attempt was made to regulate these derivatives and it failed. I personally don't know if this would have made a difference but maybe enforcing some liquidity requirements and limiting leverage would have.
George Bush - Of course it had to be George Bush's fault. My memory of events is different that Dr. Blinder's but I am not the one giving the lecture.
The Lehman Brothers failure - destroyed confidence in the financial system.
During the question and answer session it becomes very clear that Blinder was not a fan of TARP or the auto industry bailout. He also disputes the idea that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had a large role to play in the sub-prime crisis. I can’t find anything to dispute him but I specifically remember in 2008 / 2009 large numbers of Fannie / Freddie mortgages being defaulted on and it being pointed out that they held huge numbers of subprime mortgages.
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