Monday, December 30, 2013

Kenneth C. Edelin, Doctor In Abortion Case, Dies at 74

The defense called the photo inflammatory and objected repeatedly to the prosecution’s use of “fetus” and “baby” as interchangeable terms. 

But of course this is how much of the media refers to fetuses and embryos now.

More from the New York Times.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Visit From St. Nicholas - Updated

Both Russia and Canada have now claimed the North Pole.

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and at the North Pole
Ded Moroz worked to make the toys whole.
As the Russian sub traced the Arctic shelf,
Putin demanded the pole for himself.
And then, to cement the deal,
Ded must move to Santa’s weal.

GLONASS would track him, as NORAD does Santa,
And rule the Internet from Moscow to Atlanta.
As Santa arrived with his list of naughty and nice
He saw Ded and the Snow Maiden – was this the price?

“We preferred Velicky Ustyud,” Ded responded,
“As Sochi’s mascot I was defunded.”
Santa said “You’re welcome here, but the elves –
Yours and mine – are bumping into themselves.
Our schedules are different – we can share
And on our special nights be in the air!”

Elves Ivan and Charlie drew up the plan
And the rest agreed, even Hassan from Iran.
They rearranged workbenches and set up an inventory
Ensuring no child would have a sob story.

Documents and thumb drives went into the storeroom,
Still classified, not for Russian eyes, lest NSA lower the boom.

The night before Christmas, Santa was ready
As Ded’s elves were working steady.
Santa shook Ded’s hand and mounted his sleigh:
“Have some hot chocolate ready for me on the way.”

A vodka toast fueled Santa’s takeoff –
Ded followed NORAD’s tweets, behind him, a cough.
It was Vlad Putin, Ed Snowden beside him.
Headed toward the the storeroom the classified resided in.

“You’ve come to help our elves,” Ded greeted,
“Working harder than usual, help badly needed.”
A cold stare from Vlad – does he have any other?
Ded: “We can’t disappoint the children or their mothers.”
Ed Snowden said nothing and looked at his feet.
Vlad jerked Ed’s arm, still eyes didn’t meet.

Ed sat with the elves who were working on iPads
Programming them to connect to other doodads.
Ded looked Vlad in the eye, and Vlad got to work.
“But you’ve got to go before my partner gets back.”

The sub was not far – by the reindeer stable.
Vlad took out his smartphone and sent a cable.
A tiny smile tried to turn up his mouth,
But it took the hint and headed south.

As did Putin and Ed, after they put in their time,
Giving Ded a few quiet moments, sublime.
The chocolate was hot, but Santa wasn’t burned.
And then on to Ded’s obligation returned.

The sequence the same, the actors exchanged
On New Year’s Day, not too strange.
This time the sub discharged Keith Alexander
Who toward the terminal tried to meander.

The elves bedded down, no work for a year,
So Santa proposed some toasts of good cheer.
The terminal forgotten, Keith staggered back.

When Ded arrived, Santa gave him a hug.
“This time-sharing thing is a feature, not a bug!”
“You’re right – I’m not going back to Velicky Ustyud.”
That should work out until global warming or oil
Interrupts their work or tension comes to a boil.
A toast to our gift-givers and Merry Christmas/С Рождеством to all!

Graphics: Дед Мороз and Santa.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bits and Pieces - November 10, 2013

I will be writing up my thoughts on this week's negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran over at Nuclear Diner. But first I want to clear some of the tabs I've been collecting.

The official statment from the negotiations. Next meeting coming up soon, a good sign.

November 22 will be the fiftieth anniversary of John Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. Articles are starting to ramp up. Lee Harvey Oswald's widow still lives in Texas. Here's her history.

The United States is made up of 11 nations. This Tufts Alumni Magazine article is better than The Atlantic's ripoff.

What Mass Killers Want—And How to Stop Them. This sounds about right to me. But will the media ever figure it out? Looking forward to the WSJ's bloodthirsty coverage of the next one. :(

Haven't seen much coverage of this or the Snowden revelations about which country is cyberattacking Finland. But I can guess. Hint: they're right next door.

The Hacker News does a poor job of re-reporting Eugene Kaspersky's claim that a "Russian nuclear plant" was infected with Stuxnet. The Hacker News story features a photo of a civilian nuclear power plant, but, if Stuxnet "infected the internal network of a Russian nuclear plant, exactly in the same way as it compromised the control system in Iranian nuclear facilities in Natanz," one might wonder if the "nuclear plant" involved was one of Russia's centrifuge enrichment plants. That is what is implied by that quote, but it's clear that neither reporter has any idea whether this is the case.

A good explanation of why allies watch (yeah, spy on) each other.

In case you're wondering about the report that Pakistan might share its nukes with Saudi Arabia, A. Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, says that no other nation funded Pakistan's program.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Your Feminist Readings For Today

These are all very good.

Feminists are not responsible for educating men.

Robot Hugs: But Men. A graphic version of the previous link.

Why do women try to get ahead by pulling men down?

Over the past week or so, I have had an amazing number of conversations with men that follow the sequence laid out in the first two links. Some of them inspired by the first.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On Macho In Foreign Relations

This will be a very quick post; I hope to flesh out these ideas in more detail later.

I see a lot of strutting and puffing that President Obama has "lost" to President Putin. That perhaps makes sense to those who are fully preoccupied with winning and losing in their own lives, but it makes much less sense in diplomacy.

An ideal diplomatic solution serves the needs of all parties. That's usually not possible, and yes, nations jockey to get the best for themselves. But "winning" and "losing", short of unconditional surrender, are a great oversimplification that blinds those obsessed with it to large areas of strategy.

I also see that the strutting and puffing is coming from men. I can't think of a single woman I would put in this category - possibly Susan Rice and Samantha Power, judging from their tweet streams before the Lavrov-Kerry framework came out, but they have been silent on the subject since.

The age of that kind of diplomacy is over, guys. President Obama said it well this morning in his interview with George Stephanopolous: he wants to get the substance of policy right, not the style. So he is not strutting and puffing. Let Vladimir Putin do that.

A foreign policy in which the American President calls all the shots and dictates to lesser countries (all of them, according to the strutters and puffers) is, at most, a feature of the fifties, even more a feature of the strutters and puffers' dreams. That's how a manly man would act.

George Bush put on that facade, and it got us Iraq. President Obama has learned from that, and he's been responding to opportunity, as a good strategist should. We don't know how this will turn out; Russia and Syria may not be playing in good faith.

It's white guys who want the strutting and puffing. My experience is that women often have to take what others may see as humiliation and make the best of it. Fortunately, I had mentors who showed me how to turn that into a strength. I suspect that Barack Obama has experienced that sort of thing and is using his experience. I think he's doing the right thing.

And oh yes, strutters and puffers: exactly how would you have handled the past few weeks and not gone to war? Or do you think another war would be a good thing?

Monday, September 02, 2013

A Strike Against Syria?

President Obama says he believes there should be a strike on the Syrian regime’s military assets in retaliation for the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians in Ghouta. He has asked Congress to vote on it.

In internal US considerations, the Congressional vote is the big news. Presidents have not always felt they needed the approval of Congress for military operations. Congress is constitutionally charged with the power to make war, but Bill Clinton felt that a one-off cruise missile strike against a suspected al-Qaeda target in Sudan didn’t rise to the level of war. Nor did Jimmy Carter ask Congress to approve an incursion into Iran to rescue the hostages from the US embassy in 1980.

More egregiously, Lyndon Johnson cited an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to immediately raise troop levels in Vietnam and then to get a resolution limiting Congress’s power to intervene in war plans. After the 9/11 attack on the United States, George W. Bush got an authorization for the use of military force from Congress to invade Iraq on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons in particular. Both the Gulf of Tonkin incident and Iraqi nuclear weapons later turned out to be lies.

President Obama inherited the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the intent of winding them down, and he has been doing that. However, at the same time, he has been ramping up the use of drones to target people believed to be associated with terrorist organizations. That use has raised questions about the executive branch of government’s role in war. The American people are tired of wars and wary of excessive executive privilege.

So it makes sense that Obama, a constitutional law scholar, would have second thoughts about his advisors’ urgent program of a quick strike on Syria to enforce international law against the use of chemical weapons. The vote in the UK Parliament against participating in a strike undoubtedly also played a part. We shall now see whether Congress is capable of meeting the challenge.

The reasons Secretary of State John Kerry gave for a potential attack are maintaining the norms and treaties against chemical weapons use both in Syria and in other nations that may be looking on, the security of our allies in the area (Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon), the security of the United States, and some words that may be alternatives to the shorthand “US credibility.”

The first three are real concerns: it is important to maintain treaties and norms, and the security of nations is indeed threatened both by Syria’s chemical weapons and by the civil war there. The credibility argument is often advanced as a reason for military action, hardly ever for diplomacy.

Norms and Dangers
Although those arguments are real, they raise many questions. Amateur and professional lawyers are hard at work distilling points from the 1925 Geneva Protocol (“Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare”) and the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Syria is a signatory to the first, not to the second. A great deal of water has gone under the bridge since 1925. It is not clear that either prohibits the use of chemical weapons within a country. And enforcement would be through the United Nations, not by a single country or group of countries that decide on their own. That’s my simple non-lawyer summary. Arguments are in progress on each of those points.

The presence of chemical weapons in a country racked by civil war is indeed dangerous to the surrounding countries. Some of the many factions fighting the Syrian government are also opposed to governments in surrounding countries, Europe, and the US. If they obtain chemical weapons, they may use them elsewhere. The war itself is likely to increase the numbers of jihadis who may learn skills that will help them to strike elsewhere, but this is not the primary focus of the US argument.

Responsibility to Protect
Underlying these arguments for some of Obama’s advisors is the responsibility to protect (R2P), a United Nations initiative in response to genocidal atrocities in the Balkans, Rwanda, and elsewhere. It is not formalized in treaties. Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor; Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, are all strong advocates of R2P. The first two directly advise Obama.

R2P says that states may intervene in another state if that state is mistreating or looks like it may mistreat its people. This seems like a good idea, but the implementation is daunting. The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was in response to states intervening in other states on behalf of co-religionists. It ended a long string of wars in Europe. We are now living in a world in which Westphalian sovereignty is the norm, so it is easy to ignore its benefits. The criteria for intervention must be drawn very clearly and narrowly, and that has not yet been done. Additionally, it must require UN approval. R2P as it currently exists would rely on the subjective judgment of states or a lengthy discussion within the UN. Consider the possibility of Russia bringing up human rights violations against minority voters in the US. Charli Carpenter works through the issues.

The two advisors who favor R2P have been very vocal in supporting an attack on Syria. Anne-Marie Slaughter has been more restrained recently on the subject.

Balancing the Concerns
For both the arguments of chemical weapons norms and R2P, I believe the proponents have not been realistic in their balancing of civilian deaths against their greater goals. As we read the news, our focus constantly shifts: photos of injured civilians give way to discussions of maintaining international treaties. The first is more freighted with emotion, but deaths and injuries will be real, and limiting civilian deaths is one of those abstract/not-abstract goods that international norms and treaties address. We need to look at the whole picture.

Attacks, no matter how closely targeted, will result in civilian deaths. Assad is reported to be moving his equipment closer to civilian areas and prisoners to military sites. Some missiles may be poorly targeted or go off course. Does the good of rebuking Assad for his use of chemical weapons balance those deaths? I don’t know the answer to that. My sense is that a limited cruise-missile attack, targeted as tightly as possible, may be justified. Whether it is wise is another question.

Shall We Consider Diplomacy?
As Obama said on August 31, the attack is not time-limited. It would be wise to open up as much diplomacy as possible while Congress is making its way back into session. Iran, in particular, has shown some interesting possibilities recently.

The new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) has been tweeting his disapproval of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, although he has not indicate which side he believes used them. Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani may have blamed the regime, although that statement has now been removed. Reuters seems to think it was real, and an audio recording apparently has him saying it – this story is developing as I write. The Supreme Leader continues with tweets warning against foreign intervention.

Iran is Syria’s patron. But Iranians also carry the memory of Saddam Hussein’s use of nerve agents against them in the 1980s. They have proposed a peace conference for Syria, and Rouhani seems open to working with the US. A week or so ago, Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman spent two days in Iran, talking with high officials including the foreign minister. Feltman was previously in the US State Department and would be an excellent conduit for messages from the US government.

Trying to split the Iranian government on this issue would be a bad idea, but there may be ways in which Iran and the US could work together to move the factions in Syria toward an accommodation.
Reaching out to Russia might also be a good idea, although relations are very stressed. In any case, such diplomacy would be very quiet at this point, so we wouldn’t be hearing about it. The G20 meeting comes later this week, which will provide opportunities for talks. They won’t be between the leaders; the most productive talks will be at lower levels. Both Obama and Rouhani will address the United Nations General Assembly a week or so later.

Aid to the refugees and the countries receiving them would also be a positive step.

Finally, we come to the “confidence in America” argument. I hope to write more about this later. I think that this argument is losing its effectiveness with the American people, and some of our allies (UK, for one) don’t give it a lot of credence. Perhaps Assad does. It’s a slippery argument, with a lot of the speaker’s subjectivity thrown in. When Israel says that US credibility will be damaged if it doesn’t attack Syria now, we may take that as self-interested. On the other hand, Assad’s future actions may depend on how dangerous to his cause he perceives the US to be.

Syria constitutes a terrible decision for both Obama and Congress. It’s a dangerous situation for the region and beyond as well as a humanitarian catastrophe. Whether outside forces can do much to change that is doubtful.

As events have been developing, I have been collecting some of the better links here. Many are still worth reading.

Photo from Andrew Sullivan.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seamus Heaney, 1939 - 2013

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

A very good obituary at the New York Times.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Bombing To Bring About Peace

I've posted it before, but it seems relevant now.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Hacktivist as Self-Actualizing Citizen

One of the things Edward Snowden said in the first video interview the Guardian published was that he wanted the discussion to be about the NSA materials he intended to release, not about him.

But of course that’s not possible. In order to have an intelligent discussion about the NSA, we need to know how materials fit into the larger scheme of what the NSA is doing and how Snowden selected them. Since he chose Bart Gellman, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras as his media contacts, we also need to know how they and others at the newspapers involved choose from Snowden’s material and why they present it as they do. It might also be useful to know what Wikileaks has to gain from their involvement.

The magician says, “Watch my right hand closely,” so that we won’t see what he’s doing with his left. The material that is left out may be as important as what is revealed.

Edward Snowden is thirty years old, a self-taught hacker who has worked for the US intelligence services, sometimes through contractors. His adult life (let’s say from the age of eighteen) has seen two presidents, Bush II and Obama, with memories of Clinton and possibly Bush I. He would have learned about the Cold War through reading. The economy has been pretty good most of his adult life, until 2008, but his jobs in the intelligence services seem to have smoothed that out for him.

Like many other young men involved with computers, Snowden professes some degree of libertarianism. It may be inferred from his hacking of the NSA and sharing the documents that he shares some of the thinking of the hacktivist movement. He hasn’t said much and is saying a great deal less since he’s left the Sheremetyevo transit zone, so we don’t know what he believes. Ethan Zuckerman has written quite a bit about how young men like Snowden are interacting with the political world.*

We can start here:

Hackers engage in instrumental activism, seeking change by challenging unjust laws. They engage in voice-based activism, articulating their frustration and dissent from systems they either cannot or are not willing to exit…In addition to traditional channels for civic engagement, they can engage by creating code, giving them a more varied repertoire of civic techniques than non-coders have.

How do they know when laws are unjust? And how do they propose to use that code?

Zuckerman quickly trashes the idea of voting by informed citizens, with the help of Michael Schudson.

We may be experiencing a shift in citizenship where the idea of the informed citizen no longer applies well to the contemporary political climate. The entrenched gridlock of Congress, the power of incumbency and the geographic polarization of the US make it difficult to argue that making an informed decision about voting for one’s representative in Congress is the most effective way to have a voice in political dialogs.

There is, however, a difference between having a voice in political dialogs (which? With whom?) and voting for Congressional representatives. Both are important and intertwined, but having a voice has always contained far more than the act of voting.

After a description of what political activists have always done, brought up to date (but “outside traditional political channels”), Zuckerman dubs them “self-actualizing citizens,” referencing a definition:

  • Diminished sense of government obligation—higher sense of individual purpose
  • Voting is less meaningful than other, more personally defined acts such as consumerism, community volunteering, or transnational activism
  • Mistrust of media and politicians is reinforced by negative mass media environment.
  • Favors loose networks of community action—often established or sustained through friendships and peer relations and thin social ties maintained by interactive information technologies
And code is the hacker’s path to self-actualization.

At the end of the essay, Zuckerman begins to see possible problems with his model:

But can democracy work if all citizens are effective at promoting and campaigning for their own issues? Have we seen evidence of a society with high, effective engagement and with the other characteristics we expect of a democracy? Should a group like Center for Civic Media be working on thinking through models of effective citizenship or considering the larger question of what a large group of effective, engaged citizens could mean for contemporary visions of democracy?

Is democracy even possible in a world where every citizen pursues his own idea of the perfect society, attacking others (perhaps only with code) at will, making himself judge, jury, and executioner? Isn’t this Hobbes’s all against all?

Government is about people in groups. Politics is about people in groups. Individual people have different ideas about the best way to live. But they must work together to assure clean water, build roads, provide schooling for their children, make available medical care and opportunities to participate in commerce, and other benefits believed necessary for modern life. So they have to find ways to work through or ignore those differences. That is the job of politics. Zuckerman has mistaken the beginning – forming one’s views – for the end of changing society. “[D]igital natives largely do not participate in civic affairs out of a sense of duty or obligation but a sense of personal fulfillment.”

This seems to be consistent with Snowden’s approach. Snowden tells us that NSA actions were unacceptable to him, without making clear his criteria for acceptability. That is to be enough and self-evident from the documents. Obviously we will all agree with him.

The material that has been released so far provides no clearer indication of the criteria being used. Some of the material may support his stated concern, that NSA is collecting too much data on American citizens. Much of the material, however, simply shows that the NSA has been listening in on other countries. That is what the signals intelligence agencies of all countries do. The United Nations has always been a particular target. Snowden’s flight to China and Russia, and his release of material appearing to ingratiate him with those governments suggest that he is quite willing to do whatever is necessary to assure his own well-being.

Julian Assange, one of Snowden’s protectors, has enunciated opposition to all secrecy by governments. The broad scope of Snowden’s revelations suggests that he agrees. In Assange, we again see expediency: he is quite willing to use secrecy and power for his own purposes, most recently occasioning a split in Australia’s Wikileaks party by his tactics. This may be very self-actualizing for Assange is doing what he thinks is right, but it undermines the ability to work in politics.

Within the hacktivist world, brother hackers have been turning on each other as their activities come under the scrutiny of the government. It turns out that we have a structure of laws, and that the government feels that it has a monopoly on enforcing them, however self-actualizing it may be for hackers to attack those they feel are evil. In the real world, that is called vigilantism. Over time, humans have found that laws developed by those chosen by that obsolete and unimportant process called voting work better.

But why should it be just young male hacktivists and code? Why not use the laws to put liens against those you perceive as your enemies, namely that government and its law enforcement personnel? Enough to drive them into bankruptcy and destroy that hated government? That’s how the sovereign citizens’ movement is actualizing itself. They want an end to government, and they are taking action. The means is different from what the hacktivists use, but the process is very similar, as the end is likely to be.

When voting becomes unimportant, a voted-in government becomes subject to the manipulations of those who want power. In America today, that would be a variety of commercial interests – the banks, the fossil fuel producers, the large corporations. And they will exercise it to the detriment of the self-actualizing citizens, working up their code. The greatest power individuals with keyboards, even working together, have is negative: stealing and exposing secrets, disrupting communications and commerce. Explain to me how to produce a digital March on Washington.

I think there’s value in testing one’s perceptions of good and evil in discussion with other citizens and coming up with solutions everyone can live with. I prefer the imperfect democracy we’ve got now to individuals making their own decisions and imposing them on the rest of us.

Some of the revelations are of concern and need to be investigated further. But I’d like to know why some were chosen and what we’re not hearing.

*Yes, I am writing about young men. Women libertarians and hacktivists exist, but the face of those two movements is almost exclusively young and male. I may write more about this in a future post.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bits and Pieces - July 30, 2013

What people do in the mirror: everyday portraits by Heikki Leis.

Constructing the World’s Largest Self-Anchored Suspension Bridge. That's the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Could new states emerge in Central Asia? Reverberations from the Soviet Union.

What went wrong with arms control? And, I would add, what should be its objectives in the post-Soviet world?

The new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has been involved in the nuclear negotiations. It looks like he may take a more reasonable approach than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did. Here are three articles expanding on that.

A Directive for Maintaining Positive Atmosphere in Iran-US Relations. This is on a site that represents official Iranian opinion. It's also worth reading to learn how Iranians may view the United States.

Iran’s next foreign minister seen as an olive branch

Velayati on Negotiations

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bits and Pieces and a Few Words About Edward Snowden - July 12, 2013

Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia. This was pretty much predictable, whatever you may believe about his motives. Without a passport, he couldn't travel, and the Latin American countries that offered him asylum weren't willing to send a special envoy for him.

I notice a real split between those of us who have some experience with intelligence-related matters and those who don't. It's very, very hard for me and others to believe that the FSB and others of Russia's secret services are benevolent enough to allow this poor seeker after truth to while away his hours quietly in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport.

Snowden disappears for two weeks or so - not seen in the airport, and even Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald said at times that they were out of touch with him. Then he surfaces to a gathering of "human rights organizations" (which up until now have been harassed by the Russian government) and begs for asylum in a statement that contains many of the earmarks of Russian propaganda. Not to mention that some of those helping out have close connections to the Russian government.

Was he forced into this by the US narrowing his options by revoking his passport? (BTW, not having a passport doesn't make you stateless or not a citizen.) By poor judgment on his and Wikileaks's part? Or was something like this planned all along? Stay tuned.

In other news,

Everyone calm down, there is no “bee-pocalypse”

Looks like this should be a good series on working people in America.

Preliminary findings on the missile defense failure is that the final stage of the interceptor failed to separate. That's pretty bad - didn't even get close to destroying the target.

This is an impressive way to see the effects of a nuclear blast. Wellerstein gave me an advance look at it.

Why studying calculus is important- even if you don’t use it

Monday, July 08, 2013

Bits and Pieces - July 8, 2013

Over the weekend, I saw a couple of good posts from the past.

2008: Traffic jams and what you can do to help eliminate them

May 2011: Peer Review & Changing a Lightbulb: a Historian's View

About the past, but a new book and post: Photos of the Middle East from 1862

And up to date: Nine easy steps to your own audience-flattering ted talk.

The headline on this one isn't quite right: Oregon students will pay for their education, but at a rate they can manage. It's an improvement, but not the commitment to education for all that America has had in the past.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bill Keller: Sentence First, Strategy Afterwards!

Bill Keller of the New York Times, who advocated the 2003 attack on Iraq and now tells us that Syria is not like Iraq but we should intervene anyway, today crows about how happy Obama's latest announcement has made the Syrian rebels while holding tightly to his credentials as a hard-bitten reporter:
When I set out to meet with Syrian rebel operatives in the wake of Obama’s halfhearted shift, I expected a reaction of rolled eyes, too-little-too-late and thanks-for-nothing. 
What caught my eye was the teaser on the Times's Opinion page:

It reminded me of the trial in Alice in Wonderland:
`No, no!' said the Queen. `Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'
And now we return you to The Travels of Edward Snowden.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bits and Pieces - June 20, 2013

The solstice is near! I seldom keep track of the silly "Solstice is at 09:23:32 today" announcements, just enjoy the long days and hate to see them start to decrease.

In case you missed it, Cap'n Crunch may have violated the Stolen Valor Act. Another scandal!

150 Years of Misunderstanding the Civil War. Nothing noble about it.

I started out very skeptical of Twitter, but have come around to finding it very helpful in thinking things out. Perhaps that's because, like Thomas Beller, I don't know what I think until I say it.

Russian Space Center in Kazakhstan Counts Down Its Days of Glory. I haven't been to Baikonur, but some of this is familiar from my other travels. Although I can't say the markets I've been in have been plagued by flies - instead very clean and pleasant. And the dried fruits and nuts in Central Asian markets are to die for, not to mention the melons!

Another leaker! In the Manhattan Project.

“We have socialised the risk of innovation but privatised the rewards.” Why not, along with so much else?

William Perry: My Personal Journey at the Nuclear Brink.

Something new for knitters.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Isn't It Time To Change How We Do Primaries? Or Isn't It Time For The Republicans Who Have Some Sense To Stand Up To Their Base?

The reality of the House is that sometimes a majority of House Republicans want a bill to pass even if they don't want to vote for it.

Thanks to Ezra Klein for clearing this up.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bits and Pieces - June 13, 2013

Godwin's Law or not - the idea that few pregnancies result from rape really does come from the Nazis. And Emily Bazelon raises a good question in that article: why do those male Republican legislators feel it so necessary to keep repeating that?

If you're going to Europe, bring lots of cash. Your credit card probably won't work. Kevin Drum seems to be the only financial columnist that finds this stupid and backward on the part of the US banking industry.

What did Thomas Kuhn really mean by "scientific paradigms"?

Is Edward Snowden trying to make a case for sanctuary in China, or is he trying to sow further distrust between China and the US?

I've been writing about the Snowden affair over at Nuclear Diner. I've contemplated what makes a whistleblower, what Snowden has told us so far (not much), and constructed a timeline for his life and recent actions, which I'm updating as more information comes out.

Snowden's interview with the South China News.

If journalists covered the US the way US journalists cover the world.

Academic freedom and indentured students.

Why right-wing wannabe terrorists use ricin.

Still More Questions Than Answers on Nerve Gas in Syria. One of the better articles on the subject. But it's not gas...

Friday, June 07, 2013

NSA, Reporters, Whistleblowers, and Classified Material

I was working on a much longer post having to do with the press, whistleblowers, and classified information when the business about the FBI’s and NSA’s data collection broke. So I will continue to work on that longer piece over the weekend.

Meanwhile, here is some other material.

Some background:

I am finding that on this issue, I have a large area of agreement with Joshua Foust, which is not always the case. You can follow him on Twitter @joshuafoust.
We Are To Blame

Stephen Walt has some wise things to say here and here.

I’m thinking that the press is overdoing their insistence on their “right” to access classified information. Information isn’t newsworthy just because it’s classified, and some of what reporters are saying sounds like they want easy disclosures rather than working on hard stories. Whistleblowers are not unambiguously figures of virtue. Some do it for motives like office politics or fame. But does a disclosure that helps the public make those motives purer? And yes, far too much material is classified.

Now to flesh that out.

Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Woman's Place in Iran and Protests in Turkey

Saeed Jalili sounded like Stokely Carmichael the other day:
Based on the interpretations of the supreme leader, the presence of women in society must be combatant and revolutionary in the various fields, and the most important act of cultural resistance for a woman takes place at the home.
Carmichael was a bit cruder on women's place in revolution:
The only place for women in the movement is prone.
And here are a great many photos from the protests in Istanbul.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bits and Pieces - May 29, 2013

I know, I know, not much posting lately. I've been traveling. Here's a photo of an elephant seal near Cambria, California, to prove it.

I've known a few charming men in my life, but not a lot. Maybe two, in fact. This article considers what charm consists of in men and why men don't want to be charming. The world would be better if they were. And I'm thinking now that some men I know (the word "guys" doesn't fit there) indulge in some elements of charm, sometimes.

Conor Friedersdorf just says it right out: Establishing a no-fly zone in Syria would be an act of war. That phrase rolls so easily off the lips, no need to think about what is needed. If you're in the mood for thinking, though, consider that the no-fly zone was established in Iraq after a major war had destroyed Iraq's military. That's what it takes.

An Act of Congress has made it impossible to sell helium from the US's plentiful reserves once the cost of stockpiling helium is paid off. The act was part of the mid-nineties privatization. I'm wondering if this was just a dumb mistake or if it was another Republican sabotage. The latter doesn't make much sense, but that probably wouldn't be required.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bits and Pieces - April 17, 2013

This is pretty interesting.

Global Military Spending Falls For First Time Since 1998. Except in the United States. Check out this chart showing relative spending by country.

Every war must end.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Just Wondering...Polls on Spending Priorities

I suppose that the pollsters, wanting to think that they are doing something scientific, just want to measure what people think. But time and again, the results they give us are that Americans want to reduce foreign aid, believing that it is something like a quarter of the budget, whereas it is under one percent, reduce taxes, and increase spending on pretty much everything else.

Okay, so we know that.

How about asking questions that begin, "Given that the budget is finite," and go on to pose a choice: defense spending or education. Social Security or defense. Foreign aid or defense. (Sorry, I'm getting repetitive.) Housing aid or education. Scientific research or education. (That's starting to get harder.)

The objection will be, I suspect, that the pairing of the alternatives will influence the answers. Well, that might be interesting. If you set up the pairs correctly, you might get some priorities out of it. Or you might find that the American public prefers spending on education to spending on research to spending on defense to spending on education, a circular and again illogical set of preferences.

But wouldn't it be more helpful to see answers like that?

Inspired by this article.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Bits and Pieces - April 2, 2013

Nature's drone, pretty and deadly. Dragonflies. Not really drones, they know what they're doing. Some very nice videos.

When we loved Form 1040. When it was possible to fill it out without computer aid. Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.

Is this a pandemic being born? I've been wondering that about those dead pigs in China.

Michael Eisen and Richard van Noorden on the future of scholarly publishing.

Update: Today is International Autism Awareness Day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage in the Supreme Court

Today and tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

This Court is famously conservative. But the Court is not totally isolated from public opinion. Its decision could be on broad or narrow grounds; previous decisions have tended to be broader than expected.

The concern trolls are comparing this decision to Roe v. Wade, the abortion decision. Too broad a decision, they say, would result in a backlash. So they hope for an incremental decision of some kind, so as not to épater les bigots.

bmaz argues against the concern trolls. I'll agree with him, and add one more reason, although not the kind that usually sways the Supreme Court: the country needs a big decision of some kind, and this might as well be it; some clear statement that allowing people their own loves and domestic arrangements is the right thing. We've had a lot of incrementalism in such matters for what seems like a very long time. There is a time for incrementalism, and I've often argued for it. But too much feels like Sisyphus rolling the rock up the mountain, or being bitten to death by ducks.

Sarah Kliff presents a load of nice graphics that say that if the Supremes get it wrong this time, they'll simply be ignored. I'm pleased with New Mexico's unique color in that map of the United States; it's possible same-sex marriage has been legal here all along. The lawyers are working that out now.

So I'm feeling good about this. John Roberts has shown that he has enough respect for the Court and his position on it not to follow his personal reactionary instincts. And hey! there just might be a backlash if the Court does decide to go with those instincts. I'm willing to concern troll that side of things.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bits and Pieces - March 21, 2013

Once I started talking to the guards at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, I found that they are very interesting and committed people.

Wondering about the K's and W's of commercial radio stations in the US?

Photos of the 1970s in New York City.

But it's not the ancestor of today's birds.

What I Got Right And Wrong About The Iraq War

Ten years ago, I was not yet blogging. But I had an opinion about the accusations against Iraq. Bits and pieces of it might still be excavated from dead or dying discussion forums. I’ll expand here. I have to start by going back further than that.

The 1991 Iraq war had served up a big surprise for those of us following nuclear issues: Saddam Hussein’s electromagnetic separation project. Who’d have thought that would be the technology in today’s world? Which, of course, was a good reason for the Iraqis to go for it. After all, it helped enrich the uranium for the Little Boy bomb exploded over Hiroshima.

But after that program was dismantled and the equipment destroyed, the sanctions and overflights imposed on Iraq seemed to preclude a restart of any nuclear weapons projects. Biological and chemical agent programs might have continued at a low level, but the country was in dismal straits.

And then came the United Nations inspections. The request for volunteers went out to the national laboratories, and I thought about it for a while, but decided that my life was exciting enough.

A place like the Los Alamos National Laboratory has its own kind of grapevine. Some information filtered into the grapevine from the UN inspectors.The common wisdom, based on that and other information, was that Hussein might have some small and residual bio or chem weapon capability, but nuclear? No way.

So when the war drums began to beat after 9/11, I dismissed them. I looked at the supporting evidence.

The aluminum tubes seemed to me unlikely to be used for centrifuges, but I am not fully informed on centrifuge specs. Reports from sources I considered to be knowledgeable were that they were for rockets, and that sounded about right. I had met people from Oak Ridge who were experts in centrifuge design, and I knew that they contributed to intelligence assessments.

Then came Judy Miller and the New York Times: intelligence assessments say that the aluminum tubes are for centrifuges. I read the articles carefully, looking for mentions of assessments from the Department of Energy. I never saw them. But, I guessed, the multiagency assessments must have included them, and the Oak Ridge guys knew what they were doing. So maybe---???

Even if that maybe came down on the side of centrifuges, I thought, it would be some time before Iraq could have a nuclear weapon, so issuing ultimatums and pulling the inspectors out so that the US could bomb Iraq seemed unwarranted.

I was also dubious about the claim that once Saddam Hussein was gone, the people of Iraq would naturally form a democratic government with no problems. Some of what was said by people by Paul Wolfowitz used the Baltic States after the Soviet Union as an analogy. But I had spent some time learning how Estonia left the Soviet Union. I interviewed people who had participated in the process, including then-President Arnold Rüütel, in the hopes of writing a book.

[I never wrote the book; the story is well told by the film “The Singing Revolution,” and parts of it are treated in several book chapters, but I think a book is still needed.]

The transition depended upon an informed populace who had some experience of democratic rule. It ran over several years, from street protests allowed by perestroika to forming political parties that couldn’t call themselves that, to the Supreme Soviet’s declaring sovereignty (not independence!) and renaming itself the Parliament of Estonia and then to independence quickly declared as the coup unfolded against Gorbachev. As people participated in those actions, they learned more about governing. It wasn’t a matter of waking up one day and finding the government gone, much less was it done during a war.

I cringed every time the comparison was made. How could people so allegedly smart not be able to see the enormous historical differences?

Then there was Colin Powell’s presentation. I had some experience working with aerial photos when I managed environmental restorations. I thought the evidence was thin – closed trucks may be carrying anything – but, again, was not an expert in the area.

Perhaps there was something I was missing – something classified – that made the case more persuasive. So I wasn’t too vocal about my misgivings, although I would offer them up when given a chance. And I didn’t have a blog for a platform.

Some time after the war was started, several years, it became obvious why Miller and the New York Times didn’t mention the Oak Ridge or DOE intelligence assessments. They said that the tubes were unsuitable for centrifuges. In fact, that was in the original National Intelligence Estimate. The public didn’t know that until much later.

And we have seen that democracy is indeed not so easily achieved. There were, of course, no WMDs beyond a few buried chemical shells, rotting in the sand.

So I had been right. I have become more wary of what the government says, particularly in regard to matters that could lead to war. I look for confirmation outside the government.

I couldn’t have stopped the march to war all by myself, but if all those who felt as I did had spoken up, maybe it could have been slowed, might have been stopped. So now I am more vocal, particularly in areas that I know something about and that could lead to war. Or other damage to my country.

Here’s some ten-year commentary from others. The neocons are unrepentant, and I link only one summary of their comments because we’ve heard them before. Whatever went wrong wasn’t their fault.
Others who supported the war have been more forthcoming.

David Ignatius says he owes “readers an apology for being wrong on the overriding question of whether the war made sense” and calls the war “one of the biggest strategic errors in modern American history.”

But at the core of my support for the war was an analytical failure I think about often: Rather than looking at the war that was actually being sold, I’d invented my own Iraq war to support -- an Iraq war with different aims, promoted by different people, conceptualized in a different way and bearing little resemblance to the project proposed by the Bush administration.

Relevant documents, including the National Intelligence Estimate, from The National Security Archive.

The Lowy Institute Interpreter (I love the header photo!) has a symposium on many aspects of the war.

Numerous articles at Duck of Minerva.

Addendum (3/22/13): Short reactions from several people who were for or against the war. What I find shocking is that three of them refer to the large numbers of people (presumably the people they mostly talked to) who believed that Hussein did indeed have WMD (ill-defined, but apparently sometimes implying nuclear weapons).

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Looking back, it is hard to remember just how convinced many of us were that weapons of mass destruction would be found.

Leon Weiseltier: Those of us who supported the Iraq war ten years ago because we believed that Saddam Hussein—who had already used chemical weapons—possessed weapons of mass destruction must forever ponder the fact that he did not possess them. That we joined, or helped to establish, a near-universal consensus does not exonerate us from the unpleasant truth that President Bush took the United States into a major war on fraudulent grounds.

James P. Rubin: At the time no one really doubted the intelligence reports showing Iraq with substantial stocks of deadly viruses, germs and toxins (By contrast, the nuclear threat, “the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud,” was irresponsible scare-mongering by the Bush team).

Convinced. Consensus. No one really doubted. Wow.

These are policy people, who probably are unashamed of their lack of knowledge of scientific and technical aspects of those claims. But they might be expected to know that the Department of Energy analyzes quite a bit of intelligence from precisely those aspects. They might have wondered, as I did, what the DOE analysis said about the WMD claims.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bits and Pieces - March 16, 2013

So Richard Nixon talked the South Vietnamese into leaving the negotiations so he'd have an issue to work against Lyndon Johnson. And today we have the Republicans refusing to do their jobs in Congress because we have a black president.

And here's what we can be proud of as a result of all those taxes we don't have to pay.

The VIDA survey of the gender of authors of articles and reviewed books in literary magazines. Not pretty.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

It's The War On Terror, Stupid!

Rand Paul did a good thing last night by filibustering on the subject of killing Americans on American soil by drones. It may open up the discussion. Unfortunately…well, there are a number of unfortunate aspects.

Helmut and I have discussed writing a series on the issues raised by drones. Unfortunately, there are many ways to look at them, and the discussion is freqently muddled by conflation of those aspects.

There’s a creepy, science-fiction feeling about drones. Impersonal, death from the sky, or maybe only surveillance. If that comes out to “only” for you.

Drones are being used, covertly, to pursue US goals in Pakistan and other countries. The goals of the action are covert or poorly defined.

Drones are the newest weapon of war, one more step in the attempt to remove participants from danger while wreaking death on the other side.

Paul’s filibuster was aimed at a single, narrow question: can the President decide to kill Americans on American soil?  Unfortunately, Rand Paul is a racist who holds the adolescent-boy fantasy of Libertarianism, which puts him on the Other Side from the liberals who have mostly been the ones complaining about the uses of drones. Being against drones puts him on the Other Side from conservatives who are invested in the War on Terror. So he is being excoriated for all that today on my Twitter feed.

There have been a great many misuses of federal power in the name of the War on Terror, from humiliation by the TSA as a requirement for air travel through torture at black sites and the continuing detention of prisoners at Guantanamo to various aspects of drone warfare. It’s time to stop all this and start acting like the great nation we would like to think we are.

The question of whether Americans can be killed on American soil is part of that, a very small part, with the wrong slant: but what if they target meeee? Get beyond that, kids. There are more important issues here, like what kind of country you want to live in. Figure that out, and the meeee question goes away. Or becomes something you have agreed to live with, depending on your answer.

There are a ton of issues about drones that need to be considered, but until we decide we want to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we’re not going to get any useful answers.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Spring Is Coming

Robins don't leave the area in winter in New Mexico the way they do back East. They wander up and down the mountains. So mid-winter, we will get a flock of robins in the yard. Or whenever.

I particularly liked this group of four today: two males front and back, two females to the side. The females are particularly pale. I thought earlier that one of them was a Townsend's solitaire, which I was lucky enough to see at the birdbath yesterday.

The real sign of spring was the rock squirrel I saw today. They go into torpor over winter, don't quite hibernate. And they destroy anything containing chlorophyll and dig holes.

And daylight saving starts this weekend.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Op-Ed in Globe and Mail

Canada's international newspaper, The Globe and Mail, asked me to write an op-ed on Iran's nuclear program. Here it is.

And I should apologize to Phron's readership. I've been writing fairly regularly at Nuclear Diner, and other aspects of my life have been getting busier. But I have been neglecting this page. I was just about to write a post here when the e-mail from the Globe and Mail came.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bits and Pieces - February 11, 2013

What's wrong with evolutionary psychology.

Photos of snowy Moscow.

Dan Drezner is automating his blog posts about Iran. I've been thinking of doing this, too.

A US - Iran interactive time line from the New York Times.

If you really want to get down into the Iranian nuclear weeds, I'm working out carefully what we know about the Parchin facility now deadlocking the IAEA and Iran. There have been some ugly fights over what we know and what it implies. Here's the latest of three posts, with links back to the earlier ones. Four or five more posts to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Gun News Has Changed

Joe Nocera this morning gave us a roundup of last week's gun news. The news of various deaths and injuries by gun, that is.

When the NRA declared January 19 Gun Appreciation Day, most of the news was about the accidental shootings at gun shows across the nation.

This is really a turnaround in how gun news is covered and an example of the change that Barack Obama has brought to the nation as president. It's what I wrote about in my recent post: the national discussion, and particularly the media had to change before legislative changes could be made.

Think back: No national paper would have run a column like Nocera's, and the coverage of Gun Appreciation Day would have struggled to link it to Martin Luther King and the inauguration. "In the best tradition of American independence..." Yeah, I can hear it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Barack Obama: Community Organizer

People joke about President Obama’s abilities at eleven-dimensional chess. I think that Obama has a long-term strategy, more understandable than eleven-dimensional chess. I also think that it’s quite different from much of what passes for strategy in political Washington.

Obama came into office in January 2009 with an enormous number of problems facing the country. He had been dealing with the financial crisis since his election. That crisis was, in a way, the culmination of the financialization of the American economy, which, along with tax and other policy, had hollowed out prospects for the middle class. The country was stuck in two wars that had very little to do with its national interests. Other aspects of the “War on Terror” that damage the perception of the US abroad and damage civil liberties at home persisted long after any utility had disappeared. North Korea had demonstrated nuclear weapons, and Iran was engaged in pursuit of technology that could make nuclear weapons possible for them.

Perhaps the most difficult problem Obama faced, though, was an apathetic electorate and media that depicted that president as the only political actor in the country. Democracy can’t work without the participation of the people.

Obama would have seen that apathy before, as a community organizer. Poor communities are often demoralized or do not know how to fight for what they need. The organizer’s job is to get citizens active in helping themselves. This involves many things: educating citizens on their rights and ways to go about changing their circumstances, which would include the political process; and encouraging the citizens to take action on their own behalf.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bits and Pieces - January 22, 2013

Jihadica continues its series. Primer on Jihadi Players in Algeria and Mali, Pt. 3: Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa
Update: Pt. 4 (Final): Ansar al-Din

Photos from immediately after World War II.

Another gun non-owner speaking out.

The many gun metaphors we use every day.

The war in Mali is unlikely to be about uranium resources.

Iran wants everything in exchange for nothing. And maybe won't join another round of talks. This truly is a baffling negotiating strategy, particularly since it is carried out in public. Speculation on its purpose ranges from delay to assure progress in Iran's nuclear program to bigtime cultural misunderstanding. I incline toward the latter. However, as I've said before, Iran might well look to their former neighbor, Saddam Hussein, to see what this kind of bluffing can lead to.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bits and Pieces - January 20, 2013

Remembering the struggle for racial equality. A selection of videos from the 1960s.

Primer on the jihadi players in Mali and Algeria. Part 1: AQIM. Part 2: Belmokhtar & Those Who Sign with Blood.

The battle against sexist sci-fi and fantasy book covers.

And my latest at Nuclear Diner: Keeping the plutonium from scavengers at Semipalatinsk. The Soviets left a fair bit of plutonium lying around their nuclear test site. The story of how Kazakhstan, Russia, and the United States worked together to secure it has only recently been declassified.

Friday, January 18, 2013

How I Learned to Shoot: A Response to Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall writes for his tribe of non-gun-owners, like me. He gives his story and another really terrible one.

Here’s mine. Our tribe comes in all flavors, all sorts of experiences with guns.

I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs of New York. We just didn’t think about guns. We also learned a defensive situational awareness when we went into the city. We didn’t think about that in that way either, just learned to watch what was going on around us, stay away from certain kinds of places, walk briskly, and evade footsteps that persisted too regularly behind us. That was when I was around twelve years old. It’s served me well in many cities around the world.

My assumption has always been that I didn’t need a gun. I’ve mostly lived in safe neighborhoods, and my imagination doesn’t incline me toward fear of things like home invasion.

I had a male friend at one point who grew up in the country, had been in the Army, and felt strongly that I needed to own a gun. He also thought I’d like guns once I got to know them, so one day he invited me to drive out to the quarry with him for some target practice.

Sure, I said, thinking that it would be good to have fired a gun even if I never intended to take on the responsibilities and dangers of owning one. Besides, it was a nice summer day, and I hadn’t been to that quarry before and would enjoy an afternoon with him.

He seemed to be applying adequate safety to handling the guns, which I appreciated. He put the target up on a tuff wall of the quarry. Off-target bullets would be stopped by the tuff.

I was familiar with target safety from having learned archery, which intrigued me as a summer camper and carried through when I became a counselor. Place the target so that no people will be between you and the target or behind it. It’s a good idea to have an arrow stop too.

He started me off with a .22, I think. It was some time ago, and I didn’t pay attention to that kind of detail. I held my arm out in the general direction of the target and missed the paper a couple of times. He explained to me that the little nub at the end of the barrel was for aiming. Ah, just like the tip of the arrow, but much closer, much easier to aim. I hit the target.

I needed to deal with squeezing the trigger and my muscular reaction to the shot. There was no need to correct for trajectory, usually a big part of setting one’s aim in archery. Muscle control was nothing new.

My camp was not particularly wealthy. We had three or four bows, all different, all longbows, not the mechanical monsters that people who now call themselves bowshooters use. I think that by the time I was archery counselor, we had acquired a fiberglass recurve bow that always looked shabby. The recurve intrigued me, but the bow I liked best to shoot was the biggest longbow. We said that the pull was forty-five pounds. I have no idea whether that was true.

How you place your feet, the patterns of tension and relaxation in your arms, your fingers on the bowstring keeping the arrow in place, not pinching, all affect aim. The arm that holds the bow is particularly difficult: you must rotate your elbow out to avoid hitting the inside of it with the string. It is not a natural position. I could usually find the red and the gold fairly quickly.

As I learned how to squeeze the trigger, my shots marched toward the center of the target. I was pleased and quite amazed at how easy it was.

My friend said sadly, “It took me weeks when I started in the Army to hit the paper.” I tried to wipe the excited smile off my face and gave him a turn. He had a bigger gun, a .44, I think, and he took a few good (and loud!) shots. I praised him. He let me try it. It took me a few shots to hit the paper again.
By then, the summer afternoon was feeling a little ragged. We decided to head back, maybe have a hamburger on the way.

It was fun, but not enough to change my mind.

Cross-posted at The Agonist.