All posts by danz_admin

Comments Closed – Pending a WP Move

We’re (far too slowly) moving the site and comments to a new instance of WP so it’ll be stable and available. That work will be happening over the next week or so, and to that end, I’m closing comments so that we don’t lose any in the move…

Ping Joe or myself if you have questions or want to post something.

Open Thread To Discuss Winds

Here’s an open thread to discuss ideas for rebooting Winds; my own thoughts had been more forum-esque, but the ideas below are all interesting.

I’ve been horribly remiss in not reaching out harder to Joe K, the owner of our little home, and will work on that after the election.

If you live in CD-36, please vote(for Bowen…)!!!

Whither Winds

amateur

am·a·teur

[am-uh-choor, -cher, -ter, am-uh-tur]

noun

1. a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. Compare professional.

I’ve always considered my blogging habit to be a hobby, rather than work. While it has opened professional doors to me and taught me things that I use in my work, I’ve never made any significant fraction of my income from blogging, nor have I ever set out a career path for myself that blogging regularly about politics or world affairs was ever a meaningful part of. It’s always been fun; I work ideas out in public, people correct them, I meet interesting people in the discussions – how can this be bad?

But for the last few months, it’s been a struggle rather than a joy. I’ve tried hard to power through and rediscover the pleasure but with no success.

It’s just not there. And worse, as my activity ramped down, traffic on the site ramped down and the interaction that really drove me to write started to slowly become thinner and thinner – which was no one’s fault but my own.

You folks – who are reading this now – are a core group who I enjoy debating, learning from, and too often – lecturing at. I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.

But I don’t want a job in a think tank writing the occasional paper and responding to the news – maybe when I retire, I’ll try and start one. I’m not running for office, there’s really nothing I want from you all except the pleasure of dialog.

And to get that, it needs to be a pleasure and I need to be a participant. And, bluntly, I’ve been an increasingly bad one for the last few months.

Facebook and Twitter have some of the blame here; I fire off quick thoughts on both and that serves as an outlet (not as satisfactory, to be sure, but better than nothing.

But I’m just bored and unmotivated. And since I’ve always been an amateur at this, the difference between a professional – who delivers when bored and unmotivated – and an amateur – who doesn’t – is pretty significant.

So here’s my plan. I won’t be writing here for a while, if ever. I will move this site to WordPress, so that the archive can be preserved and maintained and others who have author raights may decide to pick up their participation. I will also relaunch the old content from my Armed Liberal site so it’s available as well.

And then I’m going to take a break from all this and think about what interests me and where I might fit. I’d love to hear from you what you think I ought to do – suggestions here are most welcome!

For now, some of it will be on Twitter, and I encourage you to follow me at @marcdanziger.

In the interim, some of it may be on other sites – I’m looking around for someplace where I can do the occasional piece and the guys at Blackfive have more than graciously offered to let me post there. I feel kind of weird about it – first, I’m not and have never been a soldier, and I don’t want to be perceived as something I’m not. It’s also a different audience, although one I respect as well. I’m looking at other sites, and welcome suggestions as to who might appreciate an occasional piece from me.

I’m not done thinking or talking about these issues. We face immense problems – and opportunities – and out political class is as feckless as they have ever been. Radical Islam still battles for dominance within the Muslim world, and the outcome of that fight will matter a great deal to me and to all of us. Middle and working class people here in America have no party that truly supports them – and they should. But I’m not sure where or in what format I can best participate in a dialog about these things. Maybe I’ll re-engage here or on a solo site. We’ll see.

There will always be commentators worth mocking (hi, Matt Yglesias!) and worth following (hello Leah Farrall). So I’m sure that at some point something will happen.

But this chapter is, as others have said about other events this week, closing. I can’t wait to see what the new chapter will bring.

So long, and thanks to everyone who had read me here, agreed with me or better still, argued with me. You’re all my teachers, and I’ve learned a lot.
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If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention (Again)

The regulators are letting the bad guys off the hook – again. From the Post:

Three federal agencies announced agreements with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers Wednesday that aim to stem shoddy foreclosure practices. But the plans do not immediately impose financial penalties on the companies or force them to reduce the mortgage debt for troubled borrowers.

The deals require the mortgage servicers to identify and compensate borrowers who suffered financial harm, but the details have not yet been decided. The companies must also provide a single point of contact for struggling borrowers, many of whom complain of getting the runaround when they try to get help. Servicers also would not be able to foreclose on borrowers after granting them a loan modification.

Look, it’s simple. When the regulators work for the regulated – or at least plan to do so in their next career cycle – public choice theory makes it unlikely that those of us on the outside are going to get much out of the arrangement.

And the facts seem to be bearing that out.

(and yes, I know about the states AG actions – but unless someone shows me different, keeping this pendant until those were settled would give another lever to move things with).
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Will Facebook and Groupon Rescue California?

Here’s an interesting (and hopeful) article from Chris Nolan (the smart tech finance writer, not the director). In it, she suggests that the coming wave of IPOS for social companies headquartered in California may be just the ticket to dig us out of the fiscal hole we’re in.

California Governor Jerry Brown is going to have a very successful third term since he’ll probably be able to solve – or claim he’s solved – the state’s budget mess next year. Brown – the Steve Jobs of politics – is going to be the beneficiary of what can only be called pent-up demand in both the venture capital business and the stock market. In other words, people who need to sell their stock to earn their keep (venture capitalists, angel investors) have plenty of customers (wanna-be shareholders). And the stock market’s increasingly looking healthy enough to support large-scale stock offerings.

Basically, one or more of Big Social (Facebook, Groupon, Zynga, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) may go public in the coming year. When they do, the knock-on effect on the regional economy is going to be significant…and that is going to lead to a surge in tax collections.

Now on one hand, that’s worth breathing a sigh of relief.

On the other, it’s worrisome, because it will – again – delay actually sorting out our fiscal house of cards. I don’t want my kids dealing with this; I want us to deal with it now.

…we’ll see.
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A Soldier Speaks Out On The Shutdown – ‘Leaders Eat Last.’

From one of my military correstpondents on the Federal shutdown and the military:

I’ve been trying to get my head around the idea that those of us in the military might not get paid next week. I don’t really care about myself, in as much as I’m a single soldier without dependents. I can eat in the DFAC, put my bills (and some beer) on a credit card, throw a temper tantrum and get on with my life. But I am lucky to be slightly above living paycheck to paycheck. I’m a moderately responsible E5 with a girlfriend who likes nice restaurants.

Privates and their new families, on the other hand, are often barely above water. Too much of the time, issues that you deal with as a leader in the military revolve around family issues or privates and their money. These are not people who can afford two weeks without pay. In the area just off post, there are a lot of people who make a living off families not being able to pay the bills, and they charge rates that would make the Mob blush.

That isn’t even getting into the soldiers who are deployed.

Ever had to try and resolve a bank overdraft charge on a satellite phone on a combat outpost with about a half day time difference? It’s not easy, and again, single soldiers aren’t the ones I’m worried about. A late truck payment sucks, but it isn’t the end of the world (whether they will get reimbursed for late fees by their employer or bank is another issue for another day).

Young families, already under strain from young children and spouses far away and in harm’s way, don’t need an excuse to break. They also, just like the rest of the military, often have trouble making ends meet (we actually typically counsel young soldiers to not give the spouse access to their bank account, if they want to save any money while deployed). There is a lot of financial irresponsibility in young families, to be sure, but they certainly don’t need any help screwing up from the federal government.

Contrast that with politicians. I can’t believe they are getting paid. When a Congressman makes $174,000/year I doubt many politicians really live paycheck to paycheck, and most of them probably don’t even have kids they support any more, judging by the gray hair all over CSPAN. This is our civilian ‘leadership?’

In the military, at chow time, there is one simple rule. Leaders eat last. Its simple, it makes sense, and it helps reinforce the basic truth of leadership in the military: you are there to help your subordinates complete the mission.

Colonels don’t win battles, privates humping machine guns do. There are a lot of perks to leadership in the military, including better pay and an easier life. But when it comes to doing the job, all anyone is doing is helping the lower enlisted point their guns in the correct direction and pull the trigger. They are carrying the weight, they are bounding under fire, they are walking through the low density minefields that our combat zones have become, or doing whatever it is the rest of the Army does to keep our vehicles and weapons up. On our COP, this rule was strictly enforced. We might have been a ‘dynamic’ group, and bent the rules as much as we could, but I still got my ass chewed any time I grabbed a plate before my guys, even if they didn’t want one. In situations like ours, where there sometimes wasn’t enough hot food to go around, that rule is especially inviolate.

Above the platoon level, it becomes even more clear. Officers in TOCs can wait until the guys covered with blood, dirt, and grease get theirs. The Marine Corps FOB I was on briefly in Helmand took it to a whole higher level, not even allowing real food in the FOB because the guys in the combat outposts to the south couldn’t have any. This is a basic principle of leadership, reinforcing humility at higher levels of command while making sure the guys that actually need it have enough food.

Leaders eat last. Its that simple. Our national politicians need to get the message. They aren’t the purpose of government, they are there to help make it work.
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Operation Homefront is assisting soldiers and their families, and accepts donations at http://www.operationhomefront.net/donate.aspx – not a bad place to drop a $20.00.
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Michael Totten’s ‘The Road To Fatima Gate’

Michael Totten is a friend – which makes writing reviews of his work hard. Reading this, you might wonder whether I’m writing to boost a friend…or saying what I honestly think.

I get that, and to be honest when I got my copy of his new book, ‘The Road to Fatima Gate‘, I started reading it as a friend, expecting to enjoy reading about the adventures and thoughts we’d already discussed and to be impressed most of all by what he’d done.

That lasted about ten pages.

What Michael has done is to bring his readers with him – concretely, not in abstract – as he tries to explore from the position of a non-Orientalist westerner the culture and human flavor of parts of the Middle East. And that’s an incredible gift he’s offering you.

To be blunt, I don’t trust anyone who writes about the Middle East today. There are so many partisan and cultural interests clamoring for primacy that I can’t with any confidence separate out the honest perspectives from the spin. My answer to that is to want to go and see myself, to sit in restaurants, walk streets, talk to people at random they way I typically do when I travel. Because for me those small experiences begin to aggregate into impressions that tell me something I trust.

Michael did that, and he writes about it in a way that makes me feel I’m walking at his shoulder, seeing and hearing everything he did. It’s really that good. I consider myself a pretty good writer but reading Michael makes me want to go back and redo everything I’ve ever written for the public. What he accomplishes is transparency and particularity, and most of all personalization. Michael understands that history is made of people, and that to understand history – or society – you need to understand and try and relate to the people who make it happen. Here he’s talking about Hezbollah’s press aide:

More interesting than anything Afif actually said were his facial expressions. I wished Dan had brought a video camera instead of a still camera so he could capture them.

“You must know.” I said, “that Americans are sick to death of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Is there any chance we’ll see peace in this region any time soon?”

Afif didn’t need Abdullah to translate the word “peace.” He knew what it meant in English just as almost every Westerner in the Middle east knew how to say it in Arabic. And when he heard me say “peace,” when he was relaxed and not thinking about the fact that I was carefully watching his face, he twisted his flat expression into a grimace. The moment was fleeting, and he composed himself almost instantly, but it’s impossible for even the most accomplished poker players and liars to control all involuntary facial muscles that reveal their inner thoughts and emotions.

Michael has a perspective (one that I share) – he thinks Hezbollah is bad and peace is good. But overriding that perspective in his writing is simply treating the people he meets as people first, and not as ideological avatars.

If you’re at all interested in the Middle east – and you should be – this is a great book that will help you understand the people and forces that are shaping it today.
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