Thursday, April 19, 2007

Say Hello to Friday Lunch Club

Friday Lunch Club has an ambitious plan.

Striking a balance, maintaining a wealthy blog, keeping one's sources anonymous while prodding the readers' interest is a blogger necessary baptism. Posting here will be episodic at first, hoping to graduate to a regular blurb soon after. Don't give up on me too early in the game, and remember, dead blogs don't deserve an epitaph!

Unlike Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, I don't do 'Say Hello' posts each time I add to my blog roll. I think Friday Lunch club deserves one though, it's the most underrated new blog I've seen so far. As far as I can tell they haven't developed any ananymous sources yet. They do a great job in posting from and linking to English language media from elsewhere in the world that most American bloggers may not be regularly monitoring, including the Lebanese Daily Star and AsiaTimes. When they link to American sources, these are often academic sources such as Syriacomment and the American Prospect, or and the Small Wars Journal, rather then the few large media sources that almost everyone quotes from and blogs about.

I was a little put off by yet another poll about the Isreal lobby - until I saw the post about the Saudi lobby.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Turkish rhetoric with Iraqi Kurds heats up

Via Friday Lunch Club, the Belgravia Dispatch is monitoring the chance of Turkey sending troops into the Kurdish area of Iraq.

They quote several sources, including the London Financial Times:

Turkey's top general called yesterday for military intervention in northern Iraq in comments that will increase regional tensions - already high after a series of verbal exchanges between Turkish and Kurdish leaders.

Turkey is accusing the Iraqi Kurds of sheltering Turkish (Kurdish) rebels - and building up troops on the border.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

An anonymous commenter pointed out

An anonymous commenter pointed out that my post before last about this wasn't complete.

From Foreign Policy magazine, an interview with Nibras Kazimi:

My mother’s family is Kurdish, and they’re Talibanis. My mother’s village was targeted during the Anfal. They dug up the cemeteries, and my grandfather’s grave was dug up. They were stamping out traces of people. It was vindictive, and it wasn’t unique to my mother’s village. It happened across many of the villages that were affected by the Anfal campaign. And through marriage, we had relatives who were directly affected by the chemical bombings at Halabja. On my father’s side, the ones that had registered as Persian nationals rather than as Ottoman nationals were deported to Iran. Some of the young men were seized, and they spent years in prison, some of them executed. You know, the usual Iraq story. My father’s people were Shiite Arabs from Kazimiya, a formerly independent town that has become a northern suburb of Baghdad. It’s actually where Saddam was executed, in the military intelligence complex.

So both sides of his family experienced terrible atrocities from Saddam and his allies. His father's family was indeed Sunni - but Sunni Kurds. Few of us have ever demonstrated the sort of forgiveness that would enable us to criticize him. At the same time, the people who have been put in charge of American forces after hard experience both say we cannot win this war by force alone. If they are wrong, someone should come up with a better plan than that of Petraeus and Gates. If they are right, we need to remember that Nibras Kazimi isn't an ally of those with a realistic plan for victory. This civil war will not lead to an extinction of all violent Sunni's, but of a generation brought up to believe that suicide bombing is heroic. At best the infighting gives us a little time. I don't know if Al Qaeda can change course again or not, but even if not history has many examples of civil wars breeding more and more violence and hatred, rather than leading to the death of the violent and peace.

I'd like to buy a clue

Pat Sajak has an opinion about global warming - sort of.

I mean what are they doing personally. If I'm driving an SUV or living in a big house, they can accuse me of callous disregard for the problem, but at least the callousness is based on my non-belief. What about them? Why are they still driving that big car or living in that big house?

Needless to say, he doesn't go on to express respect for those who drive Corolla's or Prius's.

In fact, why are they driving at all? Why haven't they moved into a minimalist home within walking distance of their office? Talk about callous!

Imagine being absolutely certain we are the verge of a man-made catastrophe and not doing everything within your power to help reverse it. Anyone who truly believes it and still uses anything more than the lowest-wattage single bulb or drives one mile more than absolutely necessary is nothing short of a monster! A skeptic's actions can be blamed on ignorance; a believer's can only be chalked up to a shocking disregard for his children's futures.

I take it he doesn't apply this to people like W who've grudgingly acknowledged there's a problem - only to liberals.

Nobody knows the time frame for certain - or the scale. Rebuilding more urban areas so people can comfotably live without cars is a great idea. Meanwhile, even Sajak only says 'the direct link between man and the warming is much more tenuous'. Why doesn't Sajak do a little bit to avert potential catastrophe - as when you buy insurance for a car accident or house fire you don't think is likely?

Nibras Kazimi of Talisman Gate is a Shia partisan - though he may call himself secular.

Notes on Counterinsurgency and De-Ba'athification

Talisman Gate’s Counterinsurgency Recommendations: Al-Hayat reports today that Iraqi officials are planning to wall-in certain Baghdad neighborhoods within concrete barriers as part of the new security plan. An unidentified source at the Ministry of Interior told Al-Hayat that the neighborhoods that are to be walled-in are four predominately Sunni ones (Dora, ‘Amiriya, Al-‘Adel, and ‘Adhamiya), another predominately Shi’a one (Sadr City) and one mixed (Hai al-‘Amil).

This sound a lot like one of the counterinsurgency plans I was advocating four months ago: Go Smart (December 1, 2006). But I would have also added other Sunni neighborhoods and satellite towns such as Hai al-Jami’a, Khadra’, Yarmouk, Ghazalia, Jihad, Mushahdeh, Khan Dhari, Mahmoudiya, Yusufiya, and ‘Arab Jbour.

It doesn’t make sense to close-off Shi’a areas since the biggest danger from these neighborhoods would be death squads aimed at Sunnis; if the Sunni neighborhoods are already secure then there’s no need to close off Sadr City, which would have serious economic ramifications on Baghdad’s economy and services by bottlenecking the movement and circulation of the capital's workforce.

What about death squads aimed at Sunnis in non Sunni (mixed) areas? Or how about demonstrations like the very recent one sponsored by Al Sadr?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Iraqi Parliment bombing roundup

This roundup on the Iraqi Parliment bombing comes with a hat tip to Avedon Carol of The Sideshow who showed us how roundups are done, and Technorati which made it possible. This is my first roundup, pardon the plaster please. I'm sure the majority of blogging on this subject hasn't been finished yet, and better and more thorough roundups will follow. The early bird may get the worm, but the early worm gets eaten. I've used Technorati to make sure I catch posts by new blogs I haven't seen yet - but some of the big blogs have probably posted things that Technorati hasn't spidered yet.

Time Bandit thinks we have a civil war because we went in without a plan. Connecticut Bob looks cynically at Joe Lieberman's talk of improving circumstances in Iraq. America's North Shore Journal just links to CNN, and cautions us to take early reports with a grain of salt. Brain, Symbol, Experience has a vivid picture of a major bridge bombed at the same time. The Democratic Daily says ironically that the surge is working, and asks if McCain wants to go for another walk. The San Francisco Journal fears a downward spiral. Thoughts of an Average Woman has some sarcastic thoughts about people who've been telling us how things are getting better. Open Diary reminds us this is supposed to be the most heavily guarded part of Bagdad.

I suspect my Technorati search for 'Iraqi Parliment' didn't catch everything. The first few links all referred to the recent bombing, then they were about the oil law and other events involving the Iraqi Parliment.

Crowdsourcing Deluxe - real services for play money

It's illegal to print money - even if you don't disguise it as government currency. That's why casino's can't accept each others chips - before you know it they would be competing with the Federal Reserve.

How about Blogshares? On one level it's a casual web browser game. You can buy and sell shares of blogs as if they were companies. The number of links from other blogs and recent blogshare buying and selling both figure into the price. One way to make an (imaginary) profit is to figure out which blogs will be growing in the near future - before other players do. It's a casual web browser game though, and you can make a profit easier than that. Buy a big block of almost any blog 'stock', then make smaller purchases over time. Then sell it all. Unless you pick a blog with a high P.E. (basically an overpriced blog, since there's no real earnings, just a measure of the number of links) you'll make a profit, since it goes up each time you buy. After you sell it all as a block, better pick a different blog stock - it didn't go all the way down.

This may sound easy, but it can be compulsive - and plenty of browser based games are no more complex than that and still get many players. Anyhow, there's much more to the game than that - if you want to be one of the top players. You can earn chips and karma by voting to characterize blogs by 'industry' - that is, political blog, science blog, business blog, craft blog, education blog ect. There is more than one level (liberal and conservative political blogs). You can earn sigma and chips by looking for inactive and deleted blogs. The end result is that if you want a list of active liberal (or conservative) blogs, blogshares is one of the best places to go. Unlike other blog directories, they don't rely on bloggers to register their own blogs - they use spiders, and players have incentives to find new blogs - and categorize old ones. Bloggers also have no incentive to delete their own inactive blog from a directory when they lose interest in it.

Blogshares cash (B$), chips, karma, and sigma all cost the game owners nothing. The game seems to be a labor of love, supported in part by donations. For a few dollars a month you get unlimited trading and other advantages. Oh yes, they also sell advertising for cash to google and others. Even if they need volunteers to keep going, there's potential here - getting people to do real work for imaginary money. This seems to go one better for the Mechanical Turk model of crowdsourcing.

The blog index without the game can be found at QuackTrack.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Adsense nonsense

I was hoping adsense was just showing me the public service ads because advertisers didn't want to pay to advertise to the owner of the page displaying them, but apparently not.

Light blogging ahead

My wife is getting ready for an operation - a minor one but she's very nervous. The weather is turning beautiful around here and getting out a bit might be good for both of us. Blogging may be light the next few days.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Milestones for bloggers

A link from one of the bigger bloggers in no substitute for creating something that will keep people coming back on their own, but it sure is encouraging. My link to a Welcome to Pottersville post quoted three short paragraphs, just enough to encourage people to click through - supposing I had any readers who hadn't read it. Fortunately jurassicpork is successful enough not to begrudge me the link from BuzzFlash, which I assume they gave to me because Welcome to Pottersville's whole point was to encourage new bloggers.

Thanks again to both of them!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Help for smaller bloggers like me

Vie Skippy The Bush Kangaroo, I found a great post on blogging from Welcome To Pottersville.

2) You ever heard of Buzzflash? Send them your best stuff, see if they bite. It took me about a year before I started getting linked regularly on Buzzflash (although 8 times out of 10 it's to a NY Times op-ed piece that I drag from behind the firewall) but more and more they link to me for my stuff. God only knows who goes to Buzzflash but the sheer number is staggering and you never know who it is. They have a separate site called (near the top of the .com index page, on the right) for the express purpose of whoring your own posts and sometimes, without having to email the Buzzflash editors directly, they'll pick up on something on the .net site and link to it.

3) Email journalists, let them know what you think about a story they’ve written (and actually read it: Writers hate it when you pretend to read something they’d slaved over just to suck up to them when you betray that you really didn’t. I get that all the time, or, even worse, when I get flamed for something that Frank Rich wrote) and make sure your URL is in the tagline of your email. Max Blumenthal linked to me on The Nation last month on his own. So serendipity and sheer, dumb luck also plays a part.

4) Without sucking up the A listers, as I've patently refused to do since I set up Pottersville late last June, continue whoring your blog in the comments section. If the webmasters get pissed off at you, tough shit. Whales collect barnacles. If they ban you, they ban you and you’re really no worse off since they were never paying any attention to you, anyway (Interesting fact: The more blogs from which I get banned, the higher my readership gets. I cannot understand it, myself but it’s a fact. Every month without exception that Pottersville’s been up has been better than the last in terms of hits, sessions, page views, etc). However, I wouldn’t recommend this tactic if you’re just starting out. It sucks to be banned, especially if you’re not given a reason as to why.

I'm what they call a late adapter. I'm just starting to use google feedreader.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I've been reading about Blogroll Amnesty day (If you're one of the few blog readers who hasn't heard about it, there are some links an my sidebar. I've been thinking about my own linking policy.

I'm going to try to build a sidebar of great blogs that might actually be useful to people looking for blogs they haven't subscribed to yet.

I will almost always do reciprocal links with active blogs. There would have to be something about a blog I very much disliked for me not to link to them after they linked to me. This is true even if I'm on a huge sidebar, provided it's on your front page.

I'll do linkers one better. I'll actually read your blog sometimes after linking, and I'll link to posts I find especially interesting, and move a blog out of the generic liberal and conservative category when I find something more notable about it. I don't read every blog every day, so you could always e-mail me a link to a specific post.

I hope someday I'll have enough traffic that I won't have time to add everyone who links to me to my sidebar. I'll put up a reciprocal linking widget then, but I'll try to look at as many of them as I can.

Friday, April 06, 2007

One inch forward, ten feet backward.

Bush has gone from distancing himself from measures of global warming to trying to make pacts with Brazil and China to share technology. As many pointed out gleefully when Gore tried it, such carbon offsets mean little with no cap and trade system in place - but he was no longer ignoring the problem.

The National Review Online was kind enough to print a transcript of a Fred Thompson radio broadcast, so we know what we'll get if the Republicans nominate and get him elected.

Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto.

He doesn't actually say none are cooling - or give a percentage. Never mind that. The best way to decide if solar radiation is causing warming is probably to observe the sun. Gristmill is an environmental site - but they include links to the original research.

This is a job for satellites. According to PMOD at the World Radiation Center there has been no increase in solar irradiance since at least 1978, when satellite observations began. This means that for the last thirty years, while the temperature has been rising fastest, the sun has not changed.

There has been work done reconstructing the solar irradiance record over the last century, before satellites were available. According to the Max Planck Institute, where this work is being done, there has been no increase in solar irradiance since around 1940. This reconstruction does show an increase in the first part of the 20th century, which coincides with the warming from around 1900 until the 1940s. It's not enough to explain all the warming from those years, but it is responsible for a large portion. See this chart of observed temperature, modeled temperature, and variations in the major forcings that contributed to 20th century climate.

Now let's ask - suppose we keep increasing our production of greenhouse gases - and the sun begins to warm again. Meanwhile, tell me if you find an alternative reading of these two sets of data from global warming 'skeptics', or if they merely repeat that the sun has warmed over much longer periods.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Sideshow links to the latest round of questions about who or what Petraeus met with. If it's really true that some Republicans voted for the surge but demand progress by August, it seems to me the worst of both worlds. Petraues has already said that the surge can only buy time for the Iraqi government to deal with the Sunni's. How long will it take them to get started - and how long before results begin to show?

There's a danger people who believe in the war will feel obligated to pretend every temporary dip in the violence is permanent progress, even if they know troops have been moved around, making things better in some areas but worse in others. Like the surge - Petraeus said it will only buy time, but so many Republicans seem to want to pretend it represents real progress ... setting Americans up for more disillusionment.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Powerful Shiite opposes return of Baath Party members
BAGHDAD: The most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq has rejected an American-backed proposal to allow thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to return to government service, an aide to the cleric said Monday.

The rejection appears certain to fuel further sectarian hostility between Sunni Arabs and Shiites, since many Sunnis say they were unfairly purged from the government in the clampdown on the Baath Party.

The Americans say a partial reversal of the strict "de-Baathfication" process is one of the most crucial steps the Iraqi government can take in wooing back disenfranchised Sunni Arabs and draining the Sunni-led insurgency of its fervor.

The latest proposal was announced by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani on March 26 at the strong urging of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the senior American envoy to Iraq, who left his job last week. American officials were instrumental in drafting the proposal.

But an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the revered, reclusive Shiite cleric, said Monday that there was a "general feeling of rejection" over the proposal.

There are many in the Iraqi government who don't seem to be working as hard as they can on uniting Iraq. I can't judge this proposal for myself, but if there's hope at all we should trust Petraeus and Gates. Our negotiators need to make it clear that if they want us to keep our troops in there they have to work towards peace.

Bush needs to say that while he can veto troop time limits for now, the Iraqi government needs to work harder. That's right, instead of calling his opponents unpatriotic, use them for leverage. And yes, at least some Democrats need to emphasize they'll be much less likely to support this sort of legislation in the future if genuine progress is made - before a president who might not veto it comes into office.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I sometimes suspect that people who talk about government programs harming the poor by creating dependency are actually indulging angst about their hard earned tax dollars and harming the world their children will grow up in, but NYC Mayor Bloomberg has provided strong evidence my suspicions don't apply to him.

NEW YORK — Good behavior at school, regular trips to the doctor and job training all have long-term rewards — but soon city officials will be offering some residents a more immediate payoff for such accomplishments: cash.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Via Delusions of Grandeur I've discovered a post on the blog Political Friends, which I quote in part:

Giving our enemies “aid and comfort” is treason. Democrats and Republicans in Congress need to realize that their words are being reported in the Middle East. Our enemies our praying to Allah for an end to the Iraqi War similar to the end of the Vietnam War. We didn’t loose in Vietnam, we beat ourselves.

OK, so let's make this a hypothetical question. Suppose that when the Soviet Union still existed and was fighting in Afghanistan, a Soviet citizen had made the argument that the war could not be won, and that the troops would have to be brought home. He might of course have died suddenly, but suppose he was given a show trial instead. Surely he would be accused of giving 'aid and comfort' to the enemy. It may even be that the enemies of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan would have trumpeted his words gleefully. The fact would have remained, from a military perspective the Soviet Union would have been better off following his advice. It may even be the Mujadeen would have been worse off, since the Afghans fell to fighting amoung themselves soon after the enemy left.

If you study the 'Lessons Learned' of Vietnam, a study done by our military after losing the war, you'll discover they don't blame it on Dan Rather or the media. One of the many differences between us and the defunct Soviet Union is that protesters could never have fought so openly against the war without being accused of treason. There are some who think the Soviet Union was stronger than us in that regard, but I say, 'Why do they always blame America first?'. We're still around.

As Andy D. points out in a later post, these messages have many recipients. It seems the government of Iraq is more willing to negotiate with the Sunni's now that they know we won't back them eternally without regard to what they do. For this reason among others, I hope we can do better than withdraw from Iraq - leaving a breeding ground of the most educated and technologically advanced potential nuke building terrorists in the world. But if the American people and their representatives are not prepared for an occupation of similar length to our troop presence in Japan and Germany, it is because George W. Bush continually told people things would be easier and quicker than they could reasonably have been expected to be.

Petraeus and Gates have both said that to succeed in Iraq will will have to negotiate with people we have reason not to like. Here it is the right that is in opposition. It seems there are indeed many terrorists who fear Bush more than the Democrats - but how far do we respect their judgement? Bush represents the sort of threat they can understand.

If Andy D. responds to this, I hope he'll do it in a new post, since the original one is now deep in his archives.

Americans with Neteller Accounts Circus - err, carnival.

Not too much news, I may make this monthly soon.

If you had serious Neteller money, unlike me, you might want to read this.

Neteller, the DOJ, and the IRS

After talking with the US Attourney's office, Neteller has decided they need help from Navigant consulting to give us our money back. Who is Navigant consulting? No relation to John Galt, clearly.

Samuel K. Skinner is on the board of directors.

Prior to joining Commonwealth Edison, he served as Chief of Staff to President George Bush. Prior to his White House service, Mr. Skinner served in the President’s cabinet for nearly three years as Secretary of Transportation and was credited with numerous successes, including the development of the President’s National Transportation Policy and the passage of landmark aviation and surface transportation legislation.

And, oh yes, he they did work for Unesco.

The seven consulting contracts with the Navigant Consulting between
June, 2005 and August 2006 for a handsome sum of 2,14 million Dollars
entered into without calling for tenders was in breach of the financial
regulations of the UNESCO. Peter Smith had insisted to go ahead with the
seventh contract with the same team, despite the UNESCO Committee of
Contracts, evaluated the proposals for the seventh contract as vague,
and in no way different from the mediocrity of the previous stage of the