The Heart Sutra

In order to give a gift, we must be empty. How can we take a form to give if we are not already empty. In order to receive a gift, we must too be empty. For how can we accept something if we are already filled?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Osama Bin-Laden Killed by US Special Forces

Image courtesy of New York Times.

I’m a little too stunned at the moment to think coherently. But this is huge news. I woke up at about 3 a.m. and checked my computer to find tons of emails from news sources, hundreds of tweets, and dozens of facebook posts confirming that Osama Bin-Laden had been killed by US Special Forces in Pakistan.

As an American, I’m ecstatic. This is a major victory for the US. Not it terms of operation security or reducing the threat of terrorism, but in building moral, hope, and in sending terrorist organizations around the world a clear message: no matter how well hidden you think you are, we can find you, we can kill you.

I want to congratulate the Special Force which carried out the mission which extreme professionalism, precision, and determination. We as Americans are indebted to you for doing the job so many of us are unwilling to undertake, and I’d also like to thank the intelligence agents who so tirelessly worked over the past decade to piece together the fragments which ultimately led to tonight. We most likely won’t ever know your names or be able to personally thank you, but, thank you.

Edit: Reading through Mike Allen’s morning blast email (Politico Playbook) provided some great detail of how the raid on the Bin-Laden complex occured.

EXCLUSIVE – THE TICK-TOCK: INSIDE THE SITUATION ROOM – Obama rejected original plan for bombing; wanted proof – Navy SEALS held two rehearsals last month, with war cabinet monitoring from White House – Raid planned for Saturday but pushed off a day because of weather – Chopper stalled as it hovered over the compound – Forces blew it up and left in a reinforcement craft — How the fiery raid went down, as told to Playbook by senior administration officials: The compound — about an acre, with a three-story house – is in Abbottabad, a suburb of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Officials were very suspicious of the 12- to 18-foot-high walls, and seven-foot wall on the upper balcony. Residents burned their trash, and there was no telephone or Internet connection to the compound, valued at $1 million. But officials never had anything directly proving that Osama bin Laden was living there. The U.S. had discovered the compound by following a personal courier for bin Laden. Officials didn’t learn his name until 2007, then it took two years to find him and track him back to this compound, which was discovered in August 2010. “It was a “Holy cow!” moment,” an official said.

The original plan for the raid was to bomb the house, but President Obama ultimately decided against that. “The helicopter raid was riskier. It was more daring,” an official said. “But he wanted proof. He didn’t want to just leave a pile of rubble.” Officials also knew there were 22 people living there, and Obama wanted to be sure not to kill all the civilians. So he ordered officials to come up with an air-assault plan. The forces held rehearsals of the raid on April 7 and April 13, with officials monitoring the action from Washington.

As the actual raid approached, daily meetings were held of the national security principals, chaired by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and their deputies, chaired by John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism adviser. At an April 19 meeting in the Situation Room, the president approved the assault, in principle, as the course of action. He ordered the force to fly to the region to conduct it. On April 28, just after his East Room announcement that CIA Director Leon Panetta would be succeeding Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, the president held another meeting in the Situation Room, and went through everyone’s final recommendations. He didn’t announce his decision at that time, but kept his counsel overnight.

At 8:20 a.m. Friday, the president informed National Security Adviser Tom Donilon that he was authorizing the operation. Donilon signed a written authorization to CIA Director Leon Panetta, who commanded the strike team. The raid was scheduled for Saturday, but weather pushed it to yesterday. The Navy SEALs arrived at the compound at 3:30 p.m. ET yesterday and were gone by 4:15 p.m. Obama monitored the operation all day from the Situation Room, surrounded by Donilon, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and others. Panetta was at CIA headquarters, where he had turned his conference room into a command center that gave him constant contact with the tactical leaders of the strike team.

The helicopter carrying the assault force appeared to stall as it hovered over the compound, producing heart-stopping moments for the officials back in Washington. Aides thought fearfully of “Black Hawk Down” and “Desert One,” the failed Iranian hostage rescue mission. The pilot put the bird down gently in the compound, but couldn’t get it going again. The assault force disembarked. “They went ahead and raided the compound, even though they didn’t know if they would have a ride home,” an official said. The special forces put some bombs on the helicopter and blew it up. Bin Laden resisted the assault force, and was shot in the face during a firefight. With the team still in the compound, the commander on the ground told another commander that they had found Osama bin Laden. Applause erupted in Washington. Reinforcements came and picked up the SEALs, who had scavenged every shred and pixel of possible intelligence material from the house. U.S. forces took photographs of the body, and officials used facial-recognition technology to compare them with known pictures of bin Laden. It was him.

Source: Allen, Mike. Playbook.

Posted in Global Security, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Post-ISA Round Up

View of downtown Montreal.

Image via Wikipedia

It may be a few weeks late, but I’m glad to report that the International Studies Association conference in Montreal was a success. I presented on two separate panels – Getting to Grips with Global Governance, and Global Media, Open Media. Each panel offered a range of unique perspectives on global governance issues and some interesting points of discussion for future consideration. I was also able to attend several other panels, some of which were interesting, some of which I could not understand.

Poutine (French fried potatoes with cheese cur...

Image via Wikipedia

For my first night in Montreal, I decided to leave the hotel and try and experience some of the Québécois culture. The hotel doorman directed me to Dunn’s a Montreal landmark which serves up smoked meat and poutine. I sat down, ordered a ‘smoked meat’ reuben (I later found out it was smoked meat beef brisket since the menu was pretty non-descriptive of what type of meat it was) and poutine (my new favorite heart attack food. French fries topped with chunked cheese and gravy), as well as a Canadian Red ale. From there, I met with some former Professors of mine at an alehouse named Brutopia. The brew house offers local beers and a variety of imports. We ended up listening to acoustic covers of Bob Dylan, CCR, and Cake and spending some time getting to know a few of the Crescent St (the English-friendly bar district) frequenters.

Several rounds and several bars later, I made it back to the hotel. And in one piece.

The next day was spent preparing my presentations, reviewing final details, and hammering out what and how I wanted to present the information the papers we submitted were covering.

Day Three: Wake up at 6 am. Review notes, find breakfast, and run over to the panel room. The first panel was ‘Getting to Grips with Internet Governance‘. The theme of the papers presented revolved around the lack of a coherent governance structure for the internet as a whole. As second presented, I got to ease into the flow of the panel, letting the lead presenter set the tone and time. The papers ranged in topic from a review of the UN forum of internet governance to information excess and multi-stakeholder models for governance. The paper I presented, co-authored by one of my colleagues Michael Geary, focused on technical issues the internet presents as it is today, and what governments and the private sector can do about it. We emphasized that the current state of the internet should be unacceptable, especially when we consider the vast amount of extremely sensitive and valuable information which exists online. We offered descriptions of a number of ongoing efforts to correct the intrinsic security problems the internet faces and highlighted the fact that; while they are all helpful in their own way, the organizations managing each project do not tend to work together. The end point of our presentation emphasized the need for global cooperation and coordination if there was going to be any positive movement in the field of cyber security.

I’m rather proud to note that my presentation received a round of applause – one of the only ones of the panel – and that our work attracted the attention of several organizations who had representatives in the room.

The second panel of the day was ‘Open Media, Global Media’ and the papers presented focused on a wide array of global media issues. Censorship in China, media policy in India, censorship attempts by governments worldwide, and our paper, the use of social media in grassroots movements. We looked at the failed pro-democracy protests in Iran, beginning in 2009, and the successful revolution in Egypt, in 2011. Our work sought to define the role of social media in these protests, as well as explain why some protests failed and others were met with success. Our work showed that social media would not make or break a revolution, demonstration, or protest, but would provide a much needed and easily accessible tool for organization and dissemination of information, even circumventing the wishes of some government to curtail information.

While admittedly not quite as strong as my first presentation, the information was nonetheless well received by both the panel and the crowd, and several follow up requests for information have been sent my way.

Day four was devoted to attending other panels. I sat in on two different panels – the first one presented several takes on interventionism. Among the presentations were African Union interaction with European security organizations, a paper on African states using proxies to fight each other which seemed to contradict the first paper, an overview of nation building as practiced by the west, and a look at an almost chaotic theory of nation building which attempted to account for the diverse forces at work within a given state.

The second panel was on the economics of conflict management. At first I thought I would learn a great deal by attending the discussion, but I quickly found out that my limited training in economics was no match for doctoral students and professors in the field. Most of the presentations were way over my head, but I did manage to walk away with a vague notion of how trade triads can affect international conflict, so I’ll count it as a win.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any further panels as my flight home was calling my name. I arrived back in Washington D.C. later that night tired, elated, a bit smarter, and with a few more contacts in the professional field.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Internet’s April Fools List

I can’t claim any credit for this, many different people compiled the list of April Fools jokes they found on the internet, but here it is – a list of the websites and the pranks they ran

1. Gmail Motion Beta, uses Gmail via gestures.

2. Adblock for Chrome, at least, had an “update” for a distributable set of “glasses” that block ads in Magazines and Newspapers.

3. Images uploaded to IMGur now have a “Catify” option (Working), that randomly adds cats to your uploaded image.

4. YouTube has a “1911” option, which mutes the video’s normal audio, replaces it with a rag-time piano track, and makes the video appear in sepia-tone with streaks and grains.

5. The MineCraft website is now featuring a “Mincraft Store” where “Loot” items can be purchased (Make sure and click Checkout after selecting your items!).

6. Woot’s “Bag-o-Crap” today requires a quirky and fun flash game to even earn the right to buy one. See the following thread in progress: Link

7. Blizzard launches motion-sensitive controlling device for consoles, also, back to consoles with Blizzard games!

8. Hulu goes oldskool with their website.

9. Razer launches “The Talon”, a new gaming peripheral.

10. Nvidia goes back to their 3Dfx roots.

11. Kongregate is offering a “Trade-In” option for Kreds in exchange for your un-used Flash games.

12. Another from Blizzard, this time for a Horadrapp app for your iPhone, allowing you to mix and match your existing iPhone apps.

13. The Star Wars: The Old Republic features an “update” section featuring a new “Wookification” of the game.

14. Another Blizzard one, for the World of Warcraft website, featuring a new in-game pet to help you with dungeons.

15. Atlassian, the makers of “Angry Birds” is now offering the “Angry Nerds” app.

16. Google is now hiring for the position of Auto-Completer in the Mountain View, CA area.

17. Reddit is now making use of the “Mold” feature, which reduces how many comments you can view, and the more mold you accumulate from other people, the fewer you can view. Also, you’re not allowed to use the letter “e” in comments.

18. Groupon has submitted a patent on April Fools.

19. Google is promoting their “Comic Sans for Everyone” campaign in light of resent research showing that people read the shit out of Comic Sans.

20. Toshiba has launched the Spectacle, a new 3D monocle that provides an intense 3D experience without the need for a 3D television and funny glasses.

21. Feefighters raises $41 million and buys out the Foofighters, merger ensues.

22. TechCrunch reports on Google’s production of a nuclear facility.

23. Google Chrome has added an Extension that adds sound effects to various components of Chrome (Warning: It’s super fucking obnoxious after 5 seconds).

24. Google Wave notifications for Google Wave.

25. Kodak is offering a new app to remove people from photos.

26. All kinds of crazy shit on ThinkGeek, like canned Unicorn meat or plush bacon.

27. Escapist Magazine has a news story regarding PopCap game titled “New Bejeweled”

28. Google Translate for animals.

29. CollegeHumor has an Admin link on the front page.

30. WedRoulette, need I say more?

31. Flickr introduces the FlickrPad.

32. Dr. Pepper trolled Chatroullete. Wonder how many dicks they had to next…

33. Toshiba offers inflatable laptop.

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I’ve been up to for the past 3 months.

It has been a while since I’ve posted here, but it was not out of neglect. I have been working on two different research papers for the past several months, one on cyber security and one on state’s rights, individual rights, and open media. Since those two papers are finally finished and submitted for the International Studies Association conference in Montreal (March 16-19), I can post them here and turn my attention back to blogging regularly about politics, international relations, and cultural events in and around Washington D.C.

Update: I have removed access to the documents for professional considerations.

Posted in Policy Analysis, Politics, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jon Stewart on the Arizona Shootings

This was the speech from tonight, 01/10/2011, from Jon Stewart, to open the Daily Show. It is extremely important.

Click here for video of the speech


(thanks to gawker for providing the video)

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gabrielle Giffords Shot at Political Event

Gabrielle Giffords - 2009

Image via Wikipedia

Here are the news feeds for Gabrielle Giffords. Thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family as Arizona once again takes national headlines in a terrible way.





Huffington Post



Reports are still conflicting as to her status, but I hope she pulls through.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Culture Hopping: DC Style

Time for a little break from populism and policy, two of my friends are in the district today (visiting from Arizona, which officially has more snow than Washington) and are doing the machine gun version of sightseeing. I get to tag along for the ride. Photos and views from the outside to be added later today!

UPDATE: The Actual Day

We woke up quite early in order to catch the bus over to the metro station. Now, while I do praise the public transit system in the metro area, the bus by my house is a rush-hour only bus, so it makes the available schedule for getting into and out of DC and bit tight.

That being said, we made it through the surprisingly light traffic to the metro itself, and trundled to the Smithsonian stop by mid-morning. Our first stop was the National Archives, where the founding documents of America are held. Our brief wait outside had us listening to a liberal political science professor from Kansas and a conservative tourist from Oklahoma exchanging lively words as to the relative worth or lack thereof of Obama, government, and Katherine Sibelius. I followed what any DC local would do and did not get involved in political discussions. Those are for work, not tourism.

The Archives opened up at 10:00 am and we were able to go right up to the documents, read the history of the paper, the writers, the importance of events surrounding them and the context they were written in, and what the faded text actually

Where America's foundations lay


reads as. Going in the off season is much nicer than a summer visit, you actually have time to spend with the documents, taking in their full import, rather than shuffling past to let the next thousand people in. After visiting the documents, we went into the exhibits section and learned about the specialty cases which hold the documents, as well as what kind of records are kept in the building – everything from census data to genealogies to the report cards of past presidents.

We left the archives behind and crossed the street to the National Gallery of Art. A perennial favorite of mine. We walked through the American and French painters from the 19th century – wonderful exhibit; and my first real introduction to American art.

National Gallery of Art

Walking through the art is always a pleasant experience, and this time was no different. The landscapes and figures are painted in immaculate hues. Homer and Ryder, two well known painters, are part of the permanent collection, and are well worth checking out.

We had to cut our visit to the Art museum short in order to make it to the Capital building before lunch. As we walked towards the building, one of my friends commented ‘It’s so much bigger then it looks’. Followed up by ‘Why is it still so far away’, a theme which continued throughout the day. The sentiment, however amusing, is true. Any one of the museums or monuments can look like it is right across the street, and still be a half mile away. We eventually made it though, and took a few photos of the building. The Capital building is both extremely large and extremely impressive, but in order to get the proper tour which we were unable to do that day, you should schedule one with your House Representative of Senator’s office. We also watched the tour groups pretend they were holding the capital on their shoulders, looked for some protestors (there weren’t any; congress is still out of session), watched the Capital police and the secret service drive around and then soldiered on to lunch.

Lunch was at one of my favorite burger joints, Good Stuff Eatery, owned by Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame. They serve up burgers, fries, and milkshakes, and do all of the above extremely well. Lunch consisted of fried vidalia onion petals, hand cut fries, the blazin barn burger (pickled daikon, carrot, mint, cilantro, thai basil, spicy mustard) and spike’s sunnyside (farm fresh cheese, bacon, egg, brioche bun, special sauce).

From lunch we went back to the metro, took it from Capital South to the Smithsonian again, and walked to the Washington Memorial. The stop consisted of walking around the base of the memorial and then continuing on. Tickets are available to ride to the top, but are on a timed schedule, which we could not wait for. After the Washington Monument, we went to the World War II monument. It was the first time I had been to the WWII monument and I was impressed.


WWII Monument at Night

The monument is under repair currently, so the water was off, but the even the effect of an empty concrete bowl seems poignant to the memory of those who served.

We spent about twenty minutes reading the inscriptions in the stone before we walked down the reflecting pool and to the Lincoln memorial. The statue of Lincoln remains as impressive as ever and his speeches, carved into the marble walls, as timely and moving as their reputation deserves. We left the Lincoln memorial and walked the short distance over to the Vietnam memorial, both a saddening experience to see the names of the dead, and even more poignant since the man who helped make the memorial possible was recently found dead.


The Lincoln Memorial

From the Vietnam Memorial, we trekked up to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station and over to Arlington National Cemetery, our final stop along the monument and memorial trails for the day. At Arlington we made the two major stops everyone must when they visit. First stop was John F Kennedy’s grave, with its eternal flame and “ask not” speech engraved in front of a sweeping vista of Washington. The second was the tomb of the unknown soldier, where the changing of the guard can be witnessed – a symbolic show of respect to all of the unknown Americans who died overseas.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


Our whirlwind tour of the monuments concluded with the changing of the guard at 4 pm. After six hours of sightseeing and 7.2 miles of walking, it was time for some food, beer, and rest.

We took the metro up to the DuPont circle exit and walked over the Kramer’s Books and Afterward’s Cafe, a local favorite which serves excellent varieties of both books and beer. My favorite is the Banana Bread Beer, which tastes exactly as its name suggests. After a couple of beers and some rest, we got back on our weary feet and walked the short distance over to Brickskeller, a Washington DC icon. I was more than a little startled to find out that it had changed ownership and is now under the name ‘Bier Baron’. I am still unsure as to how I feel about this development, but the beer list appeared to be the same and it was dinner time. After settling into the name change, the experience was still great. The beer selection is wonderful – somewhere around 500 different options, and the food was better than before. I’ll continue to watch what comes from this change in ownership and hope that it will continue to interest me, because the environment (underground, brick walls) is what really appeals. From the Bier Baron we walked back towards DuPont and to my favorite bar so far, Darlington House.

Darlington House bar

The service is always friendly and the drinks are both well mixed and stiff (try a Manhattan). We spent about an hour there before calling it a night, around 9:30 pm, and walking back to the metro and home.

It was a long, packed, and fun day, and in my opinion, one of the best ways to do the most of DC possible in a day.




Posted in Art, Culture, Food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

American Populism: A Dead Idea, Part 2

Returning to the theme of Populism I wrote about several weeks ago, a second article in the Salon series (Where Are the Peasants With Pitchforks?) takes a look into how the different parties view the specter of American populism and its uses in national politics. Michael Lind, the author the article, argues that the seemingly reversed strategies of the two dominant parties make a rather lot of sense when the outward layer is pulled back and the traditional fears of both sides are revealed.

The Jacksonian Democrats of the 19th century, like the neo-Jacksonian Republicans of the 21st century, have believed, not without reason, that wealthy, educated Northeastern elites will always dominate a powerful federal government and sacrifice the interests of the Northern white working class and white Southerners and Westerners.

The strategy of today’s Democratic base is equally rational, given its core constituencies. The post-’60s coalition of minorities that forms the Democratic base naturally favors a strong federal government to protect the civil rights of its members from the bigotry of local racial and religious majorities.

The odd thing, at least initially, is that the Republicans are often seen as the party which favor the elite, the wealthy, and big pro-business anti-government policies which you think would be beneficial to the wealthy northeastern educated elites. The Democrats, which are seen as the party of the people, favor the policies which strengthen the central government, which can often be argued as antithetical to the interests of the common people.

The author makes the point that the seemingly paradoxical logic employed by the political parties actually makes strategic sense. I’m inclined to agree. The Republican party, especially during the last election, was making no attempt to mask it’s play to populism. Tea Party candidates, railing against the central government, played on the fears of the people. That the government would institute ‘death panels’ in health care, that the bailouts would be massive wastes of money, that Obama’s brand of government is socialism (read: communism, because apparently the candidates making this argument did not understand the distinction). The Republican brand of populism revolved around the invocation of fear at the local and state levels in order to repulse the federal incursions which the party at large was imagining.

The Democrats, for their piece, view themselves as the saviors of the people, often arguing against the influences of big business in favor of more regulation, and usually at the federal level. As the author notes, this stems from the traditionally urban-centric power bases of the Democratic party – Hispanics, Blacks, and Jews. In order to represent these votes, the democrats reformed policy at the federal level, the only way to force what they wanted through. However, the problems arose when the Democrats stopped turning to federal policy to prevent populism from becoming repressive, but continued to turn to federal policy to fix all of their problems. Ignoring the local and state levels for the high stakes federal arena has hurt the democratic populist movements, and left them arguing as populists, but politicking as the elite.

If the democrats want to take back the mantle of the party of the people they will need to abandon the use of federal regulations to solve all of their woes and also abandon their almost exclusive focus on urban centers of power. Instead, the will need to focus on winning back the state and local levels of government and infrastructure plans which fit to both urban transit needs and rural stretches of land. An approach such as this will help the democrats avoid the “dark side of populism” while reaching back out to the people.

The republicans, for their part, have been very good at hitting their targets and goals, especially in the last election. The party infrastructure showed how the dark side of populism – the use of fear to combat federal policy expansion – is extremely effective. In response to the title of the article – where are the peasants with pitchforks? The answer is they aren’t in the capital, they are everywhere else.



Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Holidays

To all those traveling, have a safe trip, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment