Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, August 15, 2011 8:50 pm

And you thought we were finally rid of Harry Potter

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:50 pm
Tags: ,

Think again, Muggle:


At last, the long war against Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters has been brought to a responsible end. A short time ago, just a small band of brave witches and wizards at Hogwarts School stood between the dark forces and their ascension to power. Now their evil leader is dead, his armies are scattered, and the wizarding world can begin to recover from the terror they inflicted.

At such a moment of deliverance, it is natural to feel elation and closure — to allow ourselves the brief comfort of imagining that the drama, so meticulously documented by J.K. Rowling, is over. But if history teaches us anything (consider the bitter legacy still lingering from the 17th-century Goblin Wars or the recent experience of American Muggles in Iraq and Afghanistan), it is that the defeat of Voldemort by Harry Potter may have been the easy part. Indeed, one might even say it was child’s play. The hard work of postwar stabilization still lies ahead.

Former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre and retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan have described four pillars of post-conflict reconstruction: security, governance and participation, urgent social and economic needs, and justice and reconciliation. Of these pillars, the magical world can currently afford to feel complacent about only one — social and economic needs. After all, with the proper application of scouring, mending, and engorgement charms, much of the physical damage wrought by the war can be repaired, and food can be multiplied to meet the needs of the population.* But with respect to the other imperatives, critical challenges remain.

*I’m not actually certain this last assertion is consistent with the canon — Lex.

(h/t: Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice)

Sunday, May 1, 2011 10:34 pm

Osama bin Laden: Rest in pieces

Filed under: That's gonna leave a mark — Lex @ 10:34 pm
Tags: ,

UPDATE/DISCLAIMER (ADDED 5/2): Pretty much all of what follows is contingent on the facts in the case being as the administration reported them last night, both in the president’s speech and in administration officials’ background briefings to reporters. At this point I have no reason to doubt them, but I would be insane to assume unquestioningly that what has been reported is true and accurate in all respects, given the hash the government has made of accounts of such incidents as the Jessica Lynch case, the killing of Pat Tillman and so on. Just sayin’.

As I begin this post, President Obama hasn’t actually showed up to confirm it, but apparently, at long last, we found Osama bin Laden, killed him and positively identified the body through DNA matching.

Thoughts on the fly, hastened by some Dos Equis amber in lieu of champagne:

  • Bin Laden said he ordered attacks against the U.S. because of the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Whether you take that statement at face value or not, the fact remains that long before he died, he already had what he had wanted.
  • The news is being announced eight years to the day (if the president actually appears before midnight ET) after George W. Bush announced “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.
  • Speaking of Iraq, it bears repeating: Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nothing.
  • The price on bin Laden’s head was $25 million. What’ve we spent to kill him? A trillion dollars, about 4,500 U.S. service members dead and 40,000 wounded, many maimed for life; God alone knows how many hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan; and enormous, and probably permanent, damage to the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. The current president of the United States has ordered extrajudicial assassinations of U.S. citizens. The immediate past president lied us into a war of aggression, ordered torture and other crimes against humanity and ordered serial felony violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Neither man will be investigated, let alone serve a day in prison. And all of the criminal violations of law they have committed are now no longer crimes, merely standard operating procedure.
  • Spare a thought, if you will, for the families of those killed on 9/11: the people on the four airplane flights; the people in the Twin Towers; the people in the Pentagon.
  • We, as a country, soiled our drawers on 9/11. It took us most of a decade to even begin to clean ourselves up, and that job is far from finished and never will be. Our ancestors are probably deeply ashamed of us, and well they should be.
  • After 9/11, many, many Americans, most but not all Republican, treated any criticism, even any questioning, of the Bush administration’s behavior as treasonous. Go to hell, every damned one of you.
  • Politically, this is great news for Obama’s re-election effort … for a while. Keep in mind, Obamanauts, that about this time 20 years ago, Bush 41’s approval rating was roughly 90%.
  • So, um, in a mansion outside Islamabad, huh? LOOOOO-SEEEEE, somebody’s got some ‘SPLAININ’ to do.
  • Bless MS/NBC for reminding us that we had Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, and we let him get away.

11:35: Here we go …

… images of 9/11. Like we needed reminding.

11:37: (My predecessors didn’t make bin Laden top priority), so I told Leon Panetta that now bin Laden was.

11:39: Last August? Last August we found him?

11:40: “Bin Laden was not a Muslim. He was a mass murderer of Muslims.” Nice.

11:42: “We will be true to the values who make us who we are.” Oh, so we get the Bill of Rights back? The rule of law? Cool!

11:43: “Let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.” And let the historians among us leave no doubt as to who exploited and squandered it.

11:44: And he walks off like Gary Cooper.

Continuing random thoughts:

  • NBC now saying bin Laden was shot at least once in the head. Good. No zombie bin Laden.
  • NBC treating Joint Special Operations Command as if it’s newly discovered. New Yorker has reported on it for a long time.
  • Memo to liberals: It’s OK to cheer the death of a mass murderer. It really is. You won’t go to hell for it or anything.
  • This news is a hanging curve ball to page-1 designers at U.S. newspapers tonight. If y’all’s lede headlines aren’t in type at least 216 points high (that’s 3 inches for you civilians), y’all suck.
  • Terrorism ain’t going away. Al-Qaeda ain’t going away. But when, not if, the next attack comes, let us not soil our drawers, OK?
  • Come down to it, this deal wasn’t much heavier than half the raids you see on “The Chicago Code.” Good thing we spent all those lives and all that money to set it up right.
  • For a decade, we have not just used but abused our military and their families. Time to make it right, and if it takes a 90% marginal rate on top earners to pay for it, I’ll vote for that and give money to opponents of anyone who won’t.
  • Before the 2008 election, Obama said he would send U.S. forces into Pakistan if need be to capture or kill bin Laden. The GOP acted like he’d threatened to torch the Constitution. The GOP now hopes you will forget this.
  • Wouldn’t you love to have been listening in when Obama called George W. Bush to tell him about it?
  • Apparently, about the same time Obama delivered a very nice standup comedy routine to the White House Correspondents’ dinner last night, he also was ordering bin Laden to be killed. As the relative of several former Army snipers, I salute his coolness and focus.
  • It figures, doesn’t it, that a man who would order the murders of civilians would use a woman as a shield in a firefight (or one of his supporters would). But that’s what happened.
  • Someone, some individual U.S. service member, pulled the trigger on the round that sent bin Laden to hell. But, much as I would like to buy that individual a beer, it’s best for him that we never know his name while he lives. We owe him at least that much.
  • Holy crap. This guy inadvertently live-Tweeted the raid.

Well, it’s damn near 2 a.m. and I’ve got to work tomorrow. So I’m going to bed. ‘Night all. Those of you partying in D.C. and New York, be safe. Those of you mourning again in those same locales, I hope you take some measure of comfort from this event.

UPDATE, 8 a.m. 5/2: My daughter had been aware of bin Laden’s death for no more than 90 seconds when she asked, “Does this mean we can bring the troops home?” Much as I might like to think so, the answer to that question is probably somewhat complicated, BUT: The burden of proof needs to be placed heavily on anyone arguing to the contrary — full employment for swindling defense contractors is not a good argument, by the way — and I love how fast her mind went there.

One other thing: I don’t know whether it was news, speculation or just Internet noise, but someone was suggesting last night that our intel source for this raid was Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. Anything’s possible, I suppose, but it’s worth remembering that the compound where bin Laden was found is only about five years old, and we’ve had KSH in what is supposedly very secure custody since 2003.

Friday, March 19, 2010 12:58 am

Could Airborne bears kill Osama bin Laden?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 12:58 am
Tags: , ,

Maybe. But maybe only if he’s dumb enough to feed them rotisserie chicken.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 7:57 pm

Celebration, and a note of caution

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

This is outstanding news, probably the best news on the antiterrorism front since 9/11:

The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.

The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.

It was unclear whether he was talking, but the officials said his capture had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials. Most immediately, they hope he will provide the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who is the group’s spiritual leader.

A couple of thoughts:

First, fine, fine work by our intelligence services.

Second, Dick Cheney needs to shut up about how Obama is handling al-Qaeda and the Taliban, inasmuch as this is a bigger catch than anything Cheney’s crew managed.

Third, I think both the Times and the “officials” mentioned in the last graf have to know that if Baradar could lead us to Mullah Omar, he’d have done so by now. Although the exact circumstances under which we caught Baradar are unclear, Omar probably got word of Baradar’s disappearance, if not capture, within hours and hit the road immediately. That’s no one’s fault and certainly not a criticism. It’s just reality.

Fourth, this guy might or might not be a treasure trove, but irrespective of how much he knows, he has to be treated carefully so that, if push comes to shove, anything he gives us can be used in court.

Here’s hoping he gives us a lot.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 11:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/29

Gettin’ back at ’em: Wall Street’s 10 Greatest Lies of 2009 and 10 Ways to Screw Over the Corporate Jackals Who’ve Been Screwing You. For informational purposes only; no endorsement implied. IANAL. Void where prohibited. Etc.

Waykewl pitchers: Time’s “The Year in Pictures 2009,” National Geographic’s “Top Ten Space Pictures of 2009.”

Denzel in the house: Denzel Washington came to the Davidson-Penn game last night to watch his son’s team lose to the Wildcats. (Malcolm Washington converted a 3-point play for the Quakers’ final points of the game.)

Connecting the dots: Fecund Stench does an excellent, if scary, job of it.

I’m sure the Right-Wing Noise Machine will apologize to the Dixie Chicks right after it excoriates Ted Nugent.

Following in the footsteps of the other death merchants: Like the tobacco industry before them, the health-care industry, not satisfied to mess things up at the national level, is now also messing things up at the state level.

Attention, deficit hawks: Despite what you may have learned in Right-Wing Math Class, a $900 billion health-care program that’s paid for is NOT as big a problem as a $9 trillion unfunded liability.

Chase and Citibank are dropping out of the FDIC 4K program. Uh, what does that mean, you ask? Basically, they’ve found a way to do more gambling with your money.

Two Panthers are going to the Pro Bowl, RB DeAngelo Williams and DE Julius Peppers. RB Jonathan Stewart’s final stats may outshine Williams’s. Peppers, on the other hand, is tied for 305th in the league in tackles through Week 16, with 39; ranks tenth overall, and sixth among defensive ends (fifth among DEs in the NFC), in sacks; tied for 177th in passes defended (eighth among DEs), with five. In his defense, he is tied for third in the league with five forced fumbles and is among only four DEs in the league who have returned an interception for a touchdown.

Carbon gap: All the blather about a carbon/environment/clean-energy bill is overshadowing an ominous fact: China is going to eat our lunch in this arena … if we let it.

Quote of the day, from Bruce Schneier: “Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” So let’s 1) stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on equipment and people that don’t do what they’re supposed to do and 2) stop making flying commercial any more of a miserable experience than it absolutely has to be. Thank you.

Another quote of the day, from Osama bin Laden, which we really ought to look at again before rushing off to start new wars in Yemen and Somalia: “All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”

John Dugan owes us trillions, and if he can’t pay, I say we have the Mafia (who pay sales taxes, if nothing else) break his legs.

Pat Buchanan: Still crazy.

Speaking of crazy: It’s time to stop giving Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., air time. He handles it worse than I handled Jell-O shots, which is pretty bad.

I wouldn’t call it a “fix,” but it’d definitely be an improvement: NYU online-journalism guru Jay Rosen suggests the Sunday talk shows start fact-checking their guests. Unlike Jay, however, I wouldn’t wait ’til Wednesday to post the corrections. That ought to be happening in real time, online and with live screen crawls.

Speaking of fixes, if we want to fix the terrorism problem, we have to start with the engineers. They’re dangerous, I tell you. Including my brother.

Mashup du jour: This is genius.

Attention, police: You can’t Taser people just because they don’t do what you want them to do anymore. Not that all that many of you were doing that to begin with, just as almost none of you hit people over the head with your batons just for the hell of it. But those few of you who have been doing this are now on legal notice that you need to stop.

Elections have consequences, and the biggest consequence of the 2008 election so far is that the people who worked hardest to elect Barack Obama president have been serially and collectively screwed.

Reasons to freak out: Number of Americans who’ve died this year for lack of health insurance: about 45,000. Number who’ve died from salmonella: about 600. Number who’ve died from terrorism, including all those at Fort Hood: 16. Let’s keep this in mind before we soil ourselves, shall we?

Parker Griffith didn’t just take a congressional seat with him, he also took some of the Alabama Democratic Party’s voter-registration data. His primary is June 1, so get your popcorn early.

And I’ll bet you thought the story of Orly Taitz and the birthers couldn’t get any weirder: BZZZT! Wrong!

OK, maybe the world really WILL end in 2012, because it sure can’t keep going like this: DougJ at Balloon Juice for the win: “Let’s be frank: at this point, there is no real difference between Michelle Malkin and the Washington Post editorial page, none between Marc Ambinder and Matt Drudge, none between the Republican Congressional delegation and RedState. We have Jim DeMint holding up the confirmation of the head of the TSA while simultaneously acting as the point man for Republican criticism of the TSA … and he’s getting a lot of traction in the very liberal media. Maybe there is no value in saying this over and over again, but our public dialog really, really sucks.”

And, finally, just because it’s cool and you deserve a reward for reading this far:

Sunday, November 29, 2009 9:36 pm

Odds and ends for 11/29

  • Policy misprescription: Switzerland has voted to ban construction of minarets. No good can come of this. In terms of confusing symptom with illness, it’s sort of like a doctor voting to ban coughing. And the Swiss are going to catch it both from the civil-libertarian community and from Muslims and their friends. There’s a real and growing problem here, but this ain’t the way you fix it.
  • I’ve got your stigma right here, pal: The National Review’s John J. Miller may be the world’s stupidest person with a keyboard.
  • Kinda hard to blame the guy who wasn’t in the room: I’m eagerly awaiting an explanation of how Dubai’s economic problems are the liberals’ fault.
  • Born in the ’50s: Somebody’s got a blacklist.
  • Economics 101: Some deficits are worse than others.
  • Memo to Obama: Keep on screwing your base over and see how you like Congressional Republicans with subpoena power.
  • Screwing the pooch: Gen. Tommy Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld let Osama bin Laden get away at Tora Bora in 2001, a Senate report says. I think this is news only insofar as Franks has been claiming he didn’t even know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora, but facts matter.
  • Not that it will make a lot of difference to the fact-averse, but MIT economists say Obama’s health-care plan actually will save money. Memo to Mitch McConnell: Bite me.
  • Memo to pundits: Having a clear position on issues does not automatically equate to having a beneficial position on those issues. WashPost’s David Broder and now Newsweek’s Jon Meacham somehow achieved their exalted status without having learned this.
  • Shocker: Lobbyists are lobbying to be able to keep on lobbying.
  • Shorter Devin’s Advocate: The movie version of Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn” must be directed by David Cronenburg. (I heartily concur.) (NSFW) (h/t: Mel)

Thursday, January 15, 2009 5:44 pm

He doesn’t know what?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 5:44 pm

President Bush says he doesn’t know whether we’ve ever gotten close to capturing Osama bin Laden.

If true, that’s astonishing. It represents either a huge failing of our intelligence apparatus or willful ignorance on his part. (If it is in fact true, my bet would be on the former.)

It’s also possible that he did know but felt, out of national-security concerns, that he couldn’t truthfully say. But if that was the case, he could have said that.

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