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Monday, February 28, 2011

Minarchsim And What It Means To You, Part I

To the extent that I am a pragmatic Libertarian, I follow the minarchism school of thought. A hardline Libertarian could best be described as an anarchist, folks like Ted Kacyn, Kaczi, Kazcynski, the Una-Bomber, who don't believe in any state or property rights for any person. In the real world, this is an outdated Enlightment dream that is both pretty much unsafe and unrealistic.

A minarchistic approach could be paralleled to your pet dog. Yup, you don't need to go to school for years to learn philosophy, rhetoric, political science or even history (although we'd all be better off if you did). All you have to do is think about Fido.

Dogs have all the tools necessary for survival without being some guy's best friend. Back in the day, dogs were running around doing their thing, killing other feral beasts and living the good life. They had packs and all for protection, but quite frankly if you (in your Fido form) acted up, you were either sent away to the proverbial farm or eaten.

Then dogs found out that humans had a pretty good thing going. They had fire, nice cooked food with all of the gristle and bone bits removed for ease of digestion. Plus humans could protect them from, well, other dog packs, and probably sabre-toothed tigers. Humans also liked the way dogs protected them by being aware of the sounds and smells of approaching predators with their super-smell and super-hear senses, plus they now had someone to blame their farts on around the campfire. So they gave them more food and other things dogs like.

Well the rest is history.

Now my two idiot dogs just lay around the house. In fact, one of them, by my calculation, sleeps 22 hours a day. They get exercise when I tell them to walk or fetch or whatever I am in the mood for at the time. They eat when it is convenient for me (or my significant other who actually feeds them most of the time, unless she tells our kid to do it). But in order for them to eat, one of us has to be home and we actually have to have dog food around somewhere. Then they get to go relieve themselves at my whim, or at least when the scratching on the back door has annoyed me enough to get up and put them out. And God forbid the idiot dog next door starts barking and all of my dogs' natural instincts tell them to go kill the little pain in the ass. They can't, because as much as I want them to do it I have to live within the rules of the land where that kind of thing is frowned upon. Plus the people I live with (all female) would be awfully pissed.

Simply put, my two dogs, and your dogs too, have given up all, I mean all, no seriously ALL of their freedoms for two squares, a doggie bed and a nice yard to crap in. They think they're happy but have you ever watched a dog dream and wonder what he was dreaming about? Probably freedom.

People are the same way. Every time we ask someone to take care of us in some way, we give up a little freedom. Think about your kids. If you are doing your job as a parent, your middle schooler has like, omg, no freedom at all even if Jeremy and his friends are going to the mall Friday night to terrorize the old people. You could make junior stay home, and in fact, I wish you would. But I digress.

The question is how much freedom do we give away? Personally I'm okay with drunk driving laws if it means I can have a reasonable expectation of making it home alive from my favorite watering hole. Minarchism. I am not okay with some faceless beauracrat who has no idea what makes me tick, telling me what light bulbs to screw into my reading lamp. Especially if the light bulb the pointy-headed government dude wants me to use contains mercury which will poison all those fish I want to catch after I get a permit to catch them.

Not all laws are bad, but in this day and age, most of them are at the very least redundant, and it seems that anymore the new ones all have political agendas attached to them. Not all government is bad, but most of it is bloated and corrupt and filled with people who are as incompetent as the guy in the cubicle next to you who spends all day searching eBay for hand-painted miniature wooden shoes from Holland.

I for one would rather use my God-given talents and intellect to fully explore the whole point of this being alive thing. And every time one of the myriad governments in charge of me "protects" me, those talents and my intellect die a little.

That is the tragedy of choice.

Newslinks: February 28

Lots of things happening on the ground, but not reporting any news from my sources because of the following Tweet:
Warning: #Gaddafi' today arresting anyone in Tripoli who appeared in Youtube videos, went on news media, or tweeted. Extreme caution please.
Sources on ground report that the airstrike reported by CNN earlier did not strike its intended target. Reports have the pilots of the two jets missing the target and then landing in Benghazi to defect.

CNN: Libyan military jet has just bombed and destroyed an arms depot in town of Ajdabiya, 150km west of Benghazi.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tripoli Update

The latest news from the contact in side tripoli we have been following:

"First, there were widely reported attempts by #Gaddafi at negotiations. I think Saif mentioned it. Here are some details. He (Gaddafi) sent an envoy to Misurata, but was rebuffed very harshly. City's elders & notables said things are way past negotiations. He tried to buy Azzintan (tribe/town), offering billions of dollars. Also rebuffed very harshly.

"There were reports earlier that "Gaddafi doesn't control even a drop of oil right now". But then reports that a Khamis brigade attacked and re-took Ras Lanuf, which is essentially an oil facility. There were calls to the tribes on either side of the #Libya/Tunisia border to attack and secure the border area to allow flow of aid.

"Chants today in (city of)Misurata were "Aljazeera Aljazeera, today's will be the seasons finale!" Misurata actually said they will arrest any envoy from #Gaddafi who would dare talk about negotiations.

Courtesy of Iyad El-Baghdadi via his contact in Tripoli. Messages sent via text.

Overnight Reports From Tripoli via Twitter

My contact in Doha has a contact in Tripoli who is surreptitiously able to get text messages out to him. Here is his report from the early morning hours:

"First, they confirmed that Gaddafi troops don't hold territory, but rather move out to kill and then go back to Bab al Azizia. They described the Gaddafi troops in #Tripoli as being "directed" rather than "autonomous", suggesting a centralize command. This means all talk about Gaddafi losing control over #Tripoli are inaccurate; he's still able to control it without holding it. However, my sources did confirm that there is no regime securit.y personnel on the ground at all in most of #Tripoli.

"Also confirmed that AK-47's are being distributed to Gaddafi supporters with directions to shoot unarmed civilians if they protest. Confirmed that citizens in #Tripoli are totally unarmed. They have no means to defend themselves. Confirmed that in #Tripoli's outer suburbs, people are armed but not by the army; they took weapons from camps they overran. Confirmed that many people in #Tripoli are still able to get satellite TV and even Aljazeera sometimes, they keep finding ways. Also said that protesters are carrying bodies of the fallen with them, afraid Gaddafi's men will snatch the bodies in "clean-ups".

"My source said that it's widely believed that without being armed, they can't do a lot.Said: "We need to be armed. We are up against well trained units & mercenaries.

"The most beautiful answer was when I asked about people's morale in Tripoli after all those killings and all that blood... "The violence has made us more determined to get rid of him. If he stays he'll hunt us down house by house. There's no going back."

Courtesy Iyad El Baghdadi.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reports From Tripoli via Twitter

Video Gaddafi's forces removing body from the street in Tripoli.

These Tweets via Iyad El-Baghdadi in Doha are approximately 5 hours old as of 10:30 PM EST. They are streamed from a contact in Tripoli. The contact has remained anonymous for his own personal safety.

"Yesterday after Friday prayers, protesters marched out of Tajoura towards its round about, and into Arradh, into Al-Hani. The protesters were attacked in Al-Hani, before they go on to Souq al Juma. These are in fact the same protesters who were widely reported to be heading towards the Green Square yesterday. Now the crack down on them which happened at Al-Hani was not by mercenaries alone, this is significant. Units from the Khamis brigade (#Gaddafi's son), who are highly trained & armed, were waiting at Al-Hani cross roads.

"Khamis brigade opened fire from anti-aircraft guns. Eyewitness estimates 15-20 killed a least. Eyewitness says 15-20 are only the deaths that were around him; given the size of the protest the numbers killed may be far more. After the protesters dispersed, the Khamis brigade carried out a street-by-street search, shooting anyone else spotted in the area. Shooting went on for an hour and a half. Dead bodies were picked up. At the time of sending the report, my contact says there were clean ups going on, removing any signs of deaths on the street."

NOTE: Reading through the rest of the report it becomes apparent that peaceful resolution in Libya is not possible without one side being destroyed. Fears are starting to percolate throughout the region that this is exactly the type of scenario Al Qaeda was conceived in and that Al Qaeda will thrive in Libya if given the chance. Libyan citizens have announced that they do not wish for outside military intervention, so events are going to unfold regardless of sanctions or UN resolutions.

The Week In Review: 2-22-10

Next week I have interviews coming with some very interesting people who live and work in the Middle East. I'm looking forward to carrying on the conversation with people who can bring a whole new perspective to things for me.

1. First of all the teachers in Wisconsin who stayed at work and continued to teach the children of Wisconsin without agenda or proselytizing should be lauded and held up as examples of what is right about education in this country. Those teachers were in the majority, and I'm sure some of them decided to do the right thing in spite of pressure - both peer and institutional. And to all of the teachers who are feeling a bit like pariahs in their own country right now - it's not you the people are against, it's the leadership that doesn't have the best interests of you, the kids you teach and the rest of us who foot the bill in mind that we have the problem with.

2. Speaking of teachers, here's a little something to think about. Teachers in Wisconsin are compelled by their current contract to purchase health insurance from their union. This "right" was won for them in the last CBA. But, if teachers in Wisconsin were allowed to purchase their health insurance from the State, like the rest of the public employees in Wisconsin can, savings to the taxpayers would have been $65,000,000. If the union leadership was really concerned about "the children" they'd demand that $65,000,000 went to "the children" instead of some health insurance provider.

3. There are at least 2,000 fatalities in the anti-Gaddafi uprising in Egypt and I wouldn't be surprised if the fatality numbers wind up in the vicinity of 10,000 by the time this is all done. Yet, the big story in the US media is that the price of gas is rising. I am offended by this. By our own choices we've allowed ourselves to become dependent on the political vagaries of the world. To me, concerning ourselves with fuel prices over the suffering of people who are not free flies in the face of the very founding of this country and is an insult to the blood sacrifice of Americans over the last 250 years.

4. I am a big fan of Michelle Malkin. I don't agree with her 100% of the time but then again I don't agree with myself 100% of the time either. From what I see, no other journalist / pundit get as abused by her opposition as she does. The misogynistic and racist abuse she receives on a daily basis is horrendous. Where is the new tone?

5. How about that Charlie Sheen? He actually exhorted his fans to march in the street to protest the semi-cancellation of his horrible TV show. He said he has "poetry in his fingertips." Cocaine does this to you kids.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Did Sean Hannity Get It Wrong On Purpose?

On Tuesday I heard talk show host Sean Hannity say "eighty-five per cent of all Egyptian people want Sharia Law." Based on my knowledge I found this to be a bit on the bold side, to say the least. So I did a little research.

The only factual basis for this claim came from a 2008 Gallup survey from the Muslim West Facts Project. This poll was taken among Iranian, Turkish and Egyptian citizens in face-to-face interviews. Although the numbers varied slightly, approximately 900 people in each country were interviewed. There was no male/female breakdown as such.

What I found is that the question asked was this: "Should Sharia Law be a source for legislation?" The results were then broken down into questions like:
Does Sharia provide justice for women?
Does Sharia limit the powers of rulers?
Does Sharia protect the rights of minorities?
Within these questions, the percentages were sometimes overwhelmingly high in favor of association with Sharia, (e.g. 97% of Egyptian respondents said Sharia provides justice for women). However, if you read the preamble to the report, you would be hard-pressed to make the over-arching statement "85% of Egyptians favor Sharia Law" unless you had an ulterior motive and confidence your audience wouldn't question your facts.
Gallup asked respondents who had an opinion about the role of Sharia as a source of legislation(those for whom Sharia should be the only source, one of the sources, or not a source) whether they associate certain attributes with Sharia compliance.Ninety percent of Iranians, 91% of Egyptian and 74% of Turks expressed an opinion about the role of Sharia law.
For the full report click here.

Conversely a Pew Research Center poll conducted in 2010 came up with the following results:

59%: democracy is preferable to any other form of government
22%: a non-democratic system is preferable in certain situations
95%: it's good that Islam plays a large role in politics
85%: Islam's influence on politics is good
80%: suicide bombings are never or rarely justified
70%: concerned or very concerned about Islamist extremism in the world
61%: concerned or very concerned about Islamist extremism in Egypt
54%: men and women should be segregated in the workplace
82%: adulterers should be stoned
84%: apostates from Islam should be executed
77%: thieves should be flogged or have their hands cut off

The simple fact of the matter is, Egyptian culture never was, is not now, and will never be a mirror of American culture, so to make judgements and pronouncements based on a narrow cultural view is irresponsible. Broad sweeping generalizations, like Mr. Hannity's, are troubling and dangerous. With a little effort, you can come to the conclusion that the actual facts are just as jarring as the headline butchering of the facts the Right and Left professional propagandists force-feed us.

And in the end, it's the actual facts that will shape history.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What The Hell Am I Entitled To Exactly, Anyway?

So it seems that everybody is complaining lately because nobody is getting what they're entitled to. I'm speaking mostly about labor unions, and more particularly about government and public sector labor unions. But as I think deeper, I could also be talking about teenagers, ex-spouses, that lady that cut in front of me this morning at Dunkin' Donuts, and for that matter, everybody else. So I did some reading in an attempt to figure just what the hell I am entitled to exactly. There were no websites or books enumerating what I was entitled to, but I did come across the Constitution of United States of America, which was nice enough to list my rights for me. So here's what I was able to figure out I am entitled to, and this goes for the rest of you too (even Democrats).

I am entitled to:
a government that does not force a religious practice on me.
assemble peacefully and petition the government about my grievances.
keep and bear arms.
not have soldiers stay in my home unless I want them to.
not be searched unreasonably or to have my things seized by the government without a warrant.
not be tried for a capital crime without an indictment.
not be put in jeopardy of my life or limbs twice for the same crime.
be free to not testify against myself.
not be deprived of my life or arms or legs or property without due process.
keep my property unless the government wants it for the public good, and at that point they have to pay me fair market value for it.
to have a speedy trial in front of my peers when I commit a crime.
to confront my accusers.
to have a jury trial if I get sued for more than $20.
to not be cruelly or unusually punished.
to live in a state that takes care of the rest of the rights the Constitution doesn't list.

Among other things, I was broken hearted to find that it doesn't say anything about me being entitled to healthcare, or a job, or a flatscreen TV, or a raise, or anything. In fact, pretty much the Constitution is telling me "look, I'll make sure the government leaves you alone, now you go out and be free and make yourself a nice little life."

Sorry kids, I was hoping to list all of the things we as Americans are entitled to. I guess you'll all have to be happy with being free enough to follow your own human potential.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We'd All Like To Be Immune To Bad Times

There's a pizza parlor in Madison Wisconsin that is receiving phone orders to help feed the demonstrators in the Wisconsin Sate House. These calls are coming from China, Europe and most interestingly, Egypt. The protesters in Wisconsin are delighting in comparing their struggles with those of their "brethren" in the Middle East. This is demagoguery at its most disgusting and ignorant. And frankly, I am ashamed at employees of the governments our tax dollars support portraying my country in this light in order to bolster their own selfish agendas.

When these public sector employees compare themselves to people who have no freedoms, no futures, and until recently no ability to fight for themselves, as in Egypt, they destroy any chance for support from the people in this country who ultimately pay their salaries - private sector employees. And when you ask the protesters in Wisconsin how to pay for what they want, their answer is invariably "raise taxes." So I have to live within reduced means to foot the bill for your false notion that you deserve whatever you want? This is why you are going to be surprised at how little support you get going forward.

Teachers seem to be the most offended by the perception their unions have cultivated among the general public. Yet, it seems teachers support those same unions without fail. So what am I to think? It's the union leaders who refuse discussions on merit pay and who refuse to allow their members to contribute to their own retirement and healthcare funds. In the case of police and fire unions, it is union leaders who expect their members to be able to retire at age 45 with full pension benefits for the rest of their lives. That's nice and all, but I'm getting tired of footing the bill while my family has to live within an ever shrinking budget. These same unions all play the guilt card to garner support for their outlandish contract demands at times when the general public is losing ground at a rapid pace. If I am not for teachers, firefighters and police getting whatever they want, well then I must hate children and I must be all for people's houses burning down and teenagers running red lights at will. We all know this is ridiculous, yet time and time again, the unions win and the public loses.

I have not had a raise in three years. I have an okay healthcare plan that I pay for, a crappy retirement plan that I pay for, two weeks vacation and a kid in college. Sorry if my heart doesn't bleed for you when you complain about having to contribute to your own well-being. Enjoy the career you picked, but understand, you do not deserve to live a life insulated from the ebb and flow of the economy.

Things in this country will not improve until union leaders and their members realize that we're all in this together, and that without a solid private sector to foot the bill, there won't be any jobs, or healthcare, or retirements, or jobs, for anyone.

Newslinks: February 22

Gaddafi is continually speaking of the law and promises that revolutionaries will be given the death sentence. He is calling on those who love him to put down the protesters, and he is warning of impending civil war. It is obvious that Gaddafi is preparing to massacre those who are against him. He rationalizes his actions by saying "Yeltsin attacked parliament, China had Tianemen Square." "No one denounces the brutal actions of the US, Israel, Yeltsin and China. Why start with us now?"

Highlights from Gaddafi's speech:
"Small group of youth given hallucination pills are attacking police stations."
"170 US planes have been firing on Libya."
"I am much higher than all the other leaders in the world."
He gave his speech standing in front of buildings that were bombed in the 1986 US attacks. He has preserved them as a memorial to his ability to defy the US.

Aljazeera confirms mercenary pilots targeted airstrips, and army camps and depots in the eastern part of the country. Presumably to prevent the armed forces from acting against the regime.

Families of slain protesters in Libya aren't being allowed to retrieve bodies of loved ones unless they sign a waiver acknowledging the deceased died during surgery. Unconfirmed.

Confirmed reports now coming in from eastern Libyan that the Gaddafi regime is using paid mercenaries to fire upon LIbyan citizens. Unconfirmed sources yesterday claimed there were posters and pamphlets circulating in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countires promising $2,000 (US) for mercenaries to fight in Libya.

Press release from Libya Outreach Group calling for UN action against Gaddafi. Click for link.

Breaking: the four Americans held hostage by Somali pirates have been reported killed after negotiations with US naval forces broke down.

Incredible video of government response after youth in Tripoli attempted to burn a picture of Gaddafi. Click the link.

Click to see pictures of youth imprisoned in Bahrain for "protest issues."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feds Contracting to Develop Fake Social Media Personas

The Federal government has entered into several contracts with companies to develop software that will control fake social media identities. These fake persona will be used to show consensus on various controversial measures backed by the government. This is according to several news sources, but was broken by freelance journalist Sean Kerrigan last week. Click to read his story in this.

The manipulation of social media by a centralized government should send chills through freedom loving people. The ability for a centralized government to manipulate public opinion to push it's own agenda without fear of neutral vetting is incredibly dangerous and goes way beyond dirty street politics.

Click to view the government bid request for this software.

Newlinks: February 21

Libyan Ambassador to the US refuses to resign, claiming his work is for the people of Libya. This is a bold move for a foreign diplomat who is in a country his government has little to no relationship with.

Reports are now confirmed by Aljazeera that Libyan fighter jets are bombong and strafing Libya's third largest city Misurata.

Report from Tripoli, Libya - "As a group of protesters and the police faced off, 10 or so Toyota pickup trucks carrying more than 20 men — many of them apparently from other African countries in mismatched fatigues — arrived at the scene and started firing at protesters with small semiautomatic weapons. 'It was an obscene amount of gunfire,' the witness reportedly said. 'They were strafing these people. People were running in every direction.'” - Global Post Dispatch (click to read entire story).

3PM EST, 10PM Local Time: Reports are that the Libyan military has been ordered to begin bombing Tripoli and Benghazi around midnight. These reports are bolstered by earlier reports that the two Libyan fighter pilots who defected to Malta have disclosed their orders to Maltese authorities.

Click for the only real-time reporting I have found from Libya. WARNING: Some content very graphic.

List of Libyan diplomats who have resigned as a result of the Gaddafi regime's bloody response to protesters: UN, UK, Indonesia, Sweden, India, Poland, China. All land lines and Internet cut in Libya, but diplomatic resignations speak volumes about was is happening there.

Libyan envoy to India has confirmed that Libyan air force was ordered to put down the protesters by firing live ammunition and bombing.

Malta has confirmed that the two Libyan fighter jets were piloted by Libyan officers who refused to follow orders to shoot to kill Libyan protesters. Both are now seeking asylum. Libyan regime has begun to circulate rumors that the Italian air force is actually firing on protesters, not Libya. NOTE: Italy was colonial power in Libya.

Receiving unconfirmed information that Libyan Air Force fighter jets and helicopters are firing on protesters in Tripoli and Benghazi. This may also be a possible explanation for the unplanned arrival of two Libyan fighter jets in Malta a few hours ago. It may be possible, although still completely unconfirmed that the pilots were defecting in order to avoid firing on citizens.

Live updates on Libya from Aljazeera.Two fighter jets and two civilian helicopters have just landed on the island of Malta. None of the passengers were carrying passports. Could be the beginning of a mass exodus or a planned airlift.

"We are not Egypt, we are not Tunisia, we have weapons and we will use them...Rivers of blood will run through Libya." His words reported here and the words I heard his translator use are slightly different. The translator's words were decidedly more ominous. - Link from Herald Sun, Australia.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Inconsistency Is The Road To Hell

Democracy is a buzzword that people with grievances like to throw around when it benefits their side of an argument. It's also apparent that many of us think democracy is good for people we understand and have a connection to, but all of those other people? Well, they really should have a government that keeps them from changing things and making things uncomfortable. It saddens me to say that I see this most strikingly among those who claim to be "conservative" (whatever that is anymore) or those who claim to be Libertarian. It goes against the principles of Libertarian thought to defend democracy for some and deny it for others.

The problem with democracy is, it's uncomfortable. It's either too tight, or too loose, or made of a material we can't stand having right next to our skin. It's like that vice we all have that we know we can handle, but hell, that other guy over there? He can't. I mean after all, what the hell does he know anyway?

Egypt was tough for some because of Iran, and if not Iran, well then the Muslim Brotherhood, well, if not the MB then Israel. Actually, there are some who don't really know why they didn't want the people of Egypt to be free from a despot who relied on torture (the city of Cairo has at least one "torture rehabilitation facility"), they just knew it was best if everything stayed status quo.

Then there's Bahrain. Well, we think about Bahrain but then we don't even really know where it is. Vaguely, it's over there somewhere in that place that people danced in the streets after 9/11 or something, but we're not really sure. Hell, there were people in our own country who were happy after 9/11 and if the truth insults you then so be it. Yemen? That's where Al Qaeda is and they're bad, and it's just so damned far away. Libya? Muammar Gaddafi. Enough said. And all of this unrest is going to raise oil prices and cause world instability.

The problem is, the world isn't stable. When people are not free and are forced to live in fear, there is instability. When the American people take the side of a dictator who uses force against his own people, the American people choose against democracy. Maybe when people are allowed to govern themselves things will get worse, but just maybe things will get better. It did for us, and we must never forget that.

But surely, things for American will only get worse when we are perceived as selfish perpetrators of regimes that make our lives comfortable at the expense of the lives of others.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Newslinks: February 18

Reported in the NY Post today: Mob in Tahrir Square last week was shouting "JEW! JEW! JEW!" just before they began the horrific assault on CBR reporter Lara Logan.

Violence is erupting across the Middle East today at a frighening pace.

CNN, via source on the ground in Libya, (CNN has no bureau in Libya): At least 20 killed, 200 injured in Benghazi.

Angryarabiya, via Twitter from Manama, Bahrain: "Ppl are saying the gov is killing us to end the uprising fast so they can start the formula one in march #F1 #bh"

"Dr Ghassan 'Nmbr of casualties, uncountable, can't cope, staff running around, as if we are in a war, chaos. We call for Intl help'" #Bahrain - Habib Haddad, blogger, via Twitter.

Photo of female Egyptian military police officer. The West needs to see this.

Aljazeera English live stream. We need to get as much information from as many sources as possible at times like these.

TWIR: The Week In Review Returns.

The long time staple of The Smirking Moose and the original The Blog, The Week In Review, has returned, and we should all be thanking our lucky start for that. All of this serious and history altering revolution stuff can get a bit heavy after a while, so it's good to have something on a Friday morning to lighten things up a bit. For the uninitiated amongst you, this is how this works: I think of five things that happened during the week and I review them.

1. A popular tweet among the Twitterati in the Middle-East yesterday: "Is Wisconsin the next Egypt?" I would like to thank the teacher's union in Wisconsin for initiating this world-wide perception of a common-sense approach to problems they themselves have helped create.

2. Reporter in Madison yesterday: "Why are you here." Seventeen-year-old male goofball and future doofus: "I'm here to get that dude to stop what he is doing." The dude in question? Governor Parker of Wisconsin. His teachers called in sick after urging their students to hit the streets in protest of things they don't understand and that will very soon ruin their ability to live fruitful lives.

3. People stop me in the street now that I am blogging again and ask, "Why are you so vehemently against the teachers?" I'm not against the teachers at all, remember I had a crush on Mrs. Bobick in the 3rd grade. I am against leadership without checks and balances. I fear power in the hands of pretty much everyone. Teacher unions are extremely powerful, therefore they are dangerous, therefore I am against them. I'm just being consistent kids.

4. Did you know that last year there were like 7.4 million private sector union members in this country and 7.8 million members of government employee unions? Bet you didn't and I hope you are as disturbed and frightened by this number as I am.

5. I saw The King's Speech last week. Tremendous movie. I went in the afternoon on a Sunday so by like thirty years I was mostly the youngest person there. There was one middle-aged guy with multiple earrings, a hair-weave and waxed eyebrows sitting not too far from me who was texting like a 15-year-old girl. The sound of people rattling their popcorn boxes didn't bother me, but the sound of this dope's cell phone vibrating every five seconds did.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Newslinks: February 17

I just viewed a close-up picture of a young girl who was hit with a shotgun blast in Pearl Sq in Manama, Bahrain. Apparently shot by police, but no confirmation yet. She was maybe 5 or 6 years old. Details as I get them.

Reports from Libya state that Gaddafi is basically paying people to protest in support of his regime by giving them cars. These cars are also unregistered (no license plates) so the operators cannot be identified.

Unconfirmed reports from Libya state that the government has opened the jails and even armed some prisoners. Unconfirmed.

Bahrain: Five dead, scores injured, including a "young girl." Riot police targeting doctors, medics and ambulance personnel trying to aid victims. State TV reporting that police are being savagely attacked by the protesters.

Libya: Unconfirmed via social network sites: violence in Libya is escalating as protesters and police clash. Fourteen dead, unknown injuries. Fourteen writers, activists and bloggers detained. Anti-Gaddafi website hacked and blocked by ISP. Government sending messages via SMS threatening use of live ammunition on protesters.

Yemen: Very little reported, confirmed, news. Sana's AP bureau reporting police and pro-government supporters using batons and daggers on protesters in city center.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Newslinks: February 16

Unconfirmed post via Twitter from Manama, Bahrain, is that police moved in on the square the protesters were sleeping after 3 AM. At least one dead, several injured, scores injured. No media coverage.

Unconfirmed reports have at least two dead, at least 40 injured in Yemeni protests. In Bahrain at least one is dead and Special Forces troops are said to be on the way to the capitol to help quell the "riots."

Link: Iranian plan to sail warship through Suez Canal angers Israel - BBC.

Sunnis Vs. Shiites - A Brief History

As the unrest in the Middle East continues, a lot of focus on the street is on the divisions between Sunni and Shiite followers of Islam. Here is a brief description of the differences and history of the two branches.

Sunni is the largest and more orthodox branch of Islam. Sunni's believe that the only rightful heirs to leadership are the heirs of the first four caliphates ("dominion of a successor") - Mohammed's successors. Approximately 80% of Muslims are Sunni. Shiites believe only heirs of the fourth caliphate, Ali, are legitimate leaders.

Shiites believe the Mahdi, the rightfully guided ruler whose role is to bring a just caliphate to Earth has already emerged in history, while Sunnis believe he is yet to come. Shiites believe the Ayatollah Khomeini is the Mahdi and are most commonly found in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.

The loss of the caliphates after WWI devastated the Sunni branch of Islam, and caliphates modeled on Western principles in Egypt and India were rejected wholesale. Osama Bin Laden is a Sunni, and the Muslim Brotherhood stemmed from the unrest and upheaval caused by the loss of caliphates in the 1920s.

Sunni/Shiite discord is recent, only dating back to the 1960s and largely stems from Western backing of Shiite leaders who were brought to power during this time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Newslinks: February 15

Click to read a very interesting blog post from a blogger in Bahrain.

Messages from Iran via Twitter within the last hour:
BREAKING: The Tehran University is crowded and the guards are rapidly moving toward the univeristy - via GirlFreedom, unknown user in Iran.
Iran confirms arrest of 1500 protesters - via PersianYouth, unknown user in Iran.
Jewish group urges Europe to support Iran protests - via IranAngel, unknown user in Iran.
IRNA (Official Iranian State Media) via Reuters: Iranian government calling for execution of all opposition leaders.
"(Opposition leaders) Mehdi Karroubi and Mirhossein Mousavi are corrupts on earth and should be tried," the official IRNA news agency quoted lawmakers as saying in a statement.The loose term "Corrupt on Earth," a charge which has been leveled at political dissidents in the past, carries the death penalty in the Islamic Iran.
Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center & Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, via Twitter:
Bahrain protesters move to take over central square in the capital; set up tents

Yemen Protests Enter 5th Day: Protests now starting to take a decided anti-American turn.

Click links highlighted in red.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Video of pro-Islamic Republic protester getting beat in Teheran.

Teheran: Raw video of anti-government protesters beating a pro-government supporter.

Important to read to English language posts in the comments section to get a feel for the sentiment of the people in the street.

People in the streets are shouting "Iranian Republic, Not Islamic Republic."

Newslinks: February 14

Newslinks posts will be updated as needed:

Frightening video of Bahrain police firing rubber bullets on a peaceful protest in the capitol.

EnoughGaddafi, via Twitter from Tripoli, 1330 EST:
#Gaddafi promising VIOLENT, LETHAL suppression of #Feb17, world media take note... Gaddafi brutality notorious, massacred 1200 prisnrs of conscience n 3 min n 1996 at Abu Saleem Prison http://tiny.cc/4lsqp ... Libya is media vaccum, 1of worst press freedm violators (160 of 178) who is watching? can our eyes protect protesters on #Feb17 #Libya

Libya's Gaddafi scared of possible revolution tries new tact to deflect anger - Reuters Africa.

k irany (psuedonym used for protection), Iranian blogger, via Twitter, 11:15AM EST:
@CNN we in #IRAN need news coverage,to continue our protest. #neda #25bahman

Possible new video from street protests in Teheran. There are pictures and some video circulating, even on the major news outlets, originally shot during the 2009 revolution and re-captioned with today's date.

Iran: Anti-government protesters clash with government security forces.

Clashes in Yemen mirroring Egyptian revolution. Yemen is very likely the best place for Islamist extremists to gain a foothold if there is a power vacuum because of the deep presence of Al Qaeda. The current government is US backed and very unpopular.

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro hails 'Egyptian Revolution': Cuban dissidents have also allied themselves with Egypt's young protesters, saying they too should try to use social media more to organize protests against the government. On the day of Mubarak's fall, prominent Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez announced via Twitter, "Right now I feel like I am in Cairo. I shout and celebrate just like them," she wrote. "I call all my friends to tell them: there is one less dictator."

Imran Khan, Al Jazeera correspondent, 6 PM local time:
Thousands of protesters now marching in Tehran. Police has responded with tear gas. Police are attacking with batons

Egypt, Tunis and Algeria

"Ok, first of all, the Muslim Brotherhood has maybe 4 million people including supporters, families & sympathizers. Not a threat. Secondly, The MB were already burned in the last election. Had Mubarak not fixed it, they would've lost many seats anyway." Mahmoud Salem, via Twitter, 3:30 PM local time, Monday.

Police and other government employees are protesting in the streets of Cairo today.

Meanwhile, in Tunisia problems are persisting. "We are afraid. The revolution in January has changed nothing, absolutely nothing. We want to find a job in Europe. We are asking the Italian people for help," one man told news channel SkyTG24. As of this morning over 4,000 refugees have flooded the Italian island of Lampedusa seeking asylum. The Italian government has issued an appeal to the EU for assistance.

I am currently searching for legitimate news from the streets of Sa'aan in Yemen where protests are underway.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Brief History Of Time

Well, I'm back blogging again. Why? Because apparently I can't keep quiet. So let me retrace things a bit to refresh everyone's memory, or to indoctrinate the new amongst you...

Back in 2002 when I was writing for a living I started blogging as a way to sell my writing and stuff. It actually worked pretty well. I owned a domain name that was my actual name but somebody bought it when I let it lapse in 2007 and they wanted $1500 to buy it back. I started this blog in 2007 because I am too cheap to pay that much money for my own name, which frankly isn't my real name anyway. In early 2008 I stopped this blog because I got a job with a major-giant corporation doing high-visibility HR stuff, and well, I figured my opinions wouldn't jibe with the corporate mind-set. I was right. I also learned that the culture within the division of this major-giant corporation was dysfunctional, racist, sexist, abusive to young people, and didn't pay very well.

So then in 2008 I started a blog called the Smirking Moose, if I say so myself, it was freaking brilliant. But it was a lot of work. My readership was down because I was too lazy to promote, and well, frankly it paid less (alot less) than the gig with the major-giant corporation with the name that sort of sounds like Kodiak but with less letters.

Then Egypt happened. All of my traveling experience and years hacking around the early part of the digital media world came crashing down in this one little revolution. I started posting (some say obsessively) about it on Facebook. But Facebook is really just a place to hook up with people who mostly ignored you in high school and for posting things like "I'm having a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and I can't decide if I should have a pickle. Your thoughts?" So the Egypt stuff was a little heavy for Facebook. I keep typing 'Facebook' because if it appears enough here, I might hit high on a Google search if someone might be Googling 'Facebook.'

My blog posts are usually way shorter than this because my attention span is somewhat less that your's is, but I needed to get this all out in the open. Now back to our coverage of the Egyptian thing...