Comparing Ron Paul and Louis Farrakhan

Ta-Nehisi Coates offers up some beautiful prose comparing Ron Paul and and Louis Farrakhan:

As surely as Ron Paul speaks to a real issue–the state’s broad use of violence and surveillance–which the America’s political leadership has failed to address, Farrakhan spoke to something real, something unsullied, which black America’s political leadership failed to address, Both Paul and Farrakhan, in their glamour, inspired the young, the disaffected, the disillusioned.

To those who dimly perceived something wrong, something that could not be put on a placard, or could not move the party machine, men such as this become something more than political operators, they become symbols. Substantive charges against them, no matter the reasons, are dismissed. The movement they represent means more. But as sure as the followers of Farrakhan deserved more than UFOs, anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, those of us who oppose the drug-war, who oppose the Patriot Act deserve better than Ron Paul.

 The full piece is well worth a read.

New Employer

AT&T logo

On July 11, 2011 I started work for AT&T as part of the Leadership Development Program (LDP).  It’s a two year rotational program targeted at post-MBA students, designed to train general managers with broad exposure to the business.  The 2.5 year rotation is structured as follows:

  • A 12 month rotation as a front-line manager, supervising unionized employees.
  • A six month rotation as an individual contributor.
  • Performance depending, a promotion to second level manager supervising other front-line managers.

The new yellowpages.comMy first rotation is in the Advertising Solutions division, much of which is legacy Yellow Pages.  Obviously common sense limits the amount of commentary I can make about my current employer, but as you can imagine it is certainly a challenging business environment.  And yes, AT&T does still make a significant amount of money on that old yellow phone book.

What I can say is that it has been an interesting experience thus far and is a good opportunity to further reflect on what I’m looking for.  This last year has been a year, not simply of infrequent blog posts, but of major life changes — rivaling or perhaps even greater than the day in 2001 when I abandoned civilian life, moved 3000 miles away from home, and found myself with a shaved head wearing a blue uniform.

Police Action versus Military Action

This quote from Eric Holder regarding the Bin Laden raid drives me up the wall:

Seeking to quell any legal questions about the raid, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “It was justified as an act of national self-defense,” citing Bin Laden’s role as the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

No, no, no.  Whether or not that statement is true, it is not the proper legal defense for the raid in Pakistan.  What people constantly fail to grasp is that police action conducted in your home country on your own citizens, and military action conducted in the context of war, have completely different legal underpinnings.  Now likely Mr. Holder knows this (or I sure hope so), and is simply playing to the public ignorance, but his insistence of doing so simply reinforces this misunderstanding.

When the police bust into your home — hopefully with a valid arrest warrant — they are supposed to give you an opportunity to surrender.  In fact, they are only allowed to use force in the event they feel their lives or the lives of other are actively in danger or threatened with GBH – great bodily harm. War, however, is different.  In war, one of the stated purposes is to kill as many of the other guy as possible.  Thus, any member in the warmed service of an opposing beligerant party is a valid target so long as s/he is not actively in the process of surrendering.  You can drop a bomb on an enemy barracks without first sending out nice little leaflets asking politely for their surrender.  An American solder somehow stumbling across an unarmed Nazi S.S. officer sipping coffee in a Paris cafe could shoot the man in the head without warning.  And yes, we can roll into Bin Laden’s compound and take the bastard out.

Traffic in Vietnam

Traffic in Vietnam is quite the experience – being dropped into Hanoi after being accustomed to the civilization and order of American streets (I know, I can’t believe it either that I’m referring to the streets of San Francisco as “civilized”) is bit like being tossed into a whirlwind.  Imagine your normal two lane road, except perhaps a little narrower so that there’s no room for parking on either side.  Replace the cars that you would see heading down the street with motorbikes three across.  Except, of course, motorbikes and motorcycles don’t ride down the road in easy formations; they dodge, weave, and cut into any gap in search of the fastest possible route.  Now add back in a few cars for good measure – perhaps at the rate of one or two on a block at any given moment.  Of course, not everyone in Vietnam can afford a motorbike or car, and so the streets also see the frequent presence of Vietnamese on bicycles — most likely carrying heavy loads destined for sale.

In fact, packing as much as possible on your motorbike appears to be the Vietnamese national sport.  It’s not unusual at all to see a motorbike zipping down the road carrying a package equaling the weight of the bike and driver combined, with a bulk exceeding what would fit in the trunk of even my Cadillac.  In Hanoi, with a market environment consisting mostly of small businesses, and crowded streets making large trucks difficult, these motorbikes serve as the delivery pipelines for an incredible variety of goods.  On the way from the airport to our hotel I saw everything from an industrial quantity of toilet paper to steel girders three times the length of the vehicle, all being transported by motorbike.

Finally, there are pedestrians.  Sidewalks in Vietnam are reserved for scooter parking and vendors selling their wares.  Vietnamese consider it undignified to grab your roadside snack and continue strolling down the street, so even the humblest of food carts will have a small set of plastic stools and tables.  And so, pedestrians like this tourist, are forced out into the street with the scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, cars, and buses.

Some People

From and NYT article discussing a Libyan no-fly zone:

Even so, the opening mission of imposing a no-fly zone would almost certainly include missile attacks on air defense sites of a sovereign nation, which some would indeed regard as an act of war.

Some?  Some would regard this as an act of war?  I’m pretty sure that if another nation launched missile attacks on American air defense sites more than just “some” of us would consider it an act of war.  That’s not to say a no fly zone isn’t the answer, but let’s agree to call a spade a spade.

Executive Branch Power Play

Details here, in a discussion on whether the executive branch is required to automatically defend all laws passed by congress, or only the ones the President agrees with:

Instead of requiring DOJ to defend the constitutionality of all federal statutes if it has a reasonable basis to do so, the new approach invests within DOJ a power to conduct an independent constitutional review of the issues, to decide the main issues in the case — in this case, the degree of scrutiny for gay rights issues — and then, upon deciding the main issue, to decide if there is a reasonable basis for arguing the other side. If you take that view, the Executive Branch essentially has the power to decide what legislation it will defend based on whatever views of the Constitution are popular or associated with that Administration. It changes the role of the Executive branch in defending litigation from the traditional dutiful servant of Congress to major institutional player with a great deal of discretion.

Here are the potential consequences:

If Congress passes legislation on a largely party-line vote, the losing side just has to fashion some constitutional theories for why the legislation is unconstitutional and then wait for its side to win the Presidency. As soon as its side wins the Presidency, activists on its side can file constitutional challenges based on the theories; the Executive branch can adopt the theories and conclude that, based on the theories, the legislation is unconstitutional; and then the challenges to the legislation will go undefended.

On WikiLeaks

The Taliban has announced that they will be scouring the documents released by wikileaks so that they can identify Afghans who have aided or provided information to the United States.  Obviously, the ramifications for these brave individuals is quite severe.

Their plight has attracted the attention of Amnesty International:

A group of human-rights organizations is pressing WikiLeaks to do a better job of redacting names from thousands of war documents it is publishing, joining the list of critics that claim the Web site’s actions could jeopardize the safety of Afghans who aided the U.S. military.

“We have seen the negative, sometimes deadly ramifications for those Afghans identified as working for or sympathizing with international forces,” the human-rights groups wrote in their letter, according to a person familiar with it. “We strongly urge your volunteers and staff to analyze all documents to ensure that those containing identifying information are taken down or redacted.”

In his response to the letter signed by the human-rights organizations, Mr. Assange asked what the groups were doing to analyze the documents already published, and asked whether Amnesty in particular would provide staff to help redact the names of Afghan civilians, according to people familiar with the letter.

An Amnesty official replied to say that while the group has limited resources, it wouldn’t rule out the idea of helping, according to people familiar with the reply. The official suggested that Mr. Assange and the human-rights groups hold a conference call to discuss the matter.

Mr. Assange then replied: “I’m very busy and have no time to deal with people who prefer to do nothing but cover their asses. If Amnesty does nothing I shall issue a press release highlighting its refusal,” according to people familiar with the exchange.

The prospect that these people might be tortured or killed has apparently attracted little sympathy from the good Mr. Assange:

He expressed some ambivalence about the need to protect Afghans who have helped the U.S. military. “We are not obligated to protect other people’s sources,” including sources of “spy organizations or militaries,” unless it is from “unjust retribution,” he said, adding that the Afghan public “should know about” people who have engaged in “genuinely traitorous” acts.

Today’s Angry Rant

Part One

Dear Unwashed Hippie Mob waiting for an unknown concert outside the Greek Amphitheater,

As you wander in your stupefied haze in search of tickets, please refrain from spilling into the street or I will run you over with my gas-guzzling V8 while sitting in my seats made from the skins of slaughtered cattle.

Part Two

To UC Berkeley, purveyor of the EIGHTY FIVE DOLLAR parking ticket:

Save yourself the phone call — I just mailed my last and only alumni donation to your Parking and Transportation division’s citation payment office.

Part Three

Dear people who refuse to use a turn signal:

Please — for the love of unwrecked cars and safe, sane streets — move your hand the two inches it take to use your blinker and let us know what you’re doing.


Yours in sanity,