January 3, 2012 - December 27, 2011
Friday, December 10, 2010
Is it just me, or
does he have that sweaty Nixon look? But forget that...
Policy is one thing. Personality is another.
Obama may realize intellectually that he has to make a Clintonian move
toward the center if he's going to have a chance at reelection. But he
can't change how he reacts emotionally to the kind of pushback Clinton
how to absorb and turn to his own advantage.
The recent press conference in which he announced the Tax Compromise is
indicative. Remember his reputation for being cool and above it all,
even to a fault? There was nothing cool about his performance at the
press conference. The even modulation of his delivery shouldn't fool
anyone. He was hot under the collar. Having made the deal in the first
place, he found himself unable to resist the temptation to
counterattack. He attacked Republicans for having wrong-headed ideas
about the economy and the disposition of the American people. He
attacked his own base for not understanding that he'd made the deal at all only because he had a gun to his head. And he attacked
the American people -- via his over-long series of kindergarten-simple
sentences about "doing what's right," as if none of us has ever had to
make a choice between imperfect alternatives. He didn't seem
presidential. He seemed put-upon. And petulant.
He's had two years of being the placid gray eminence whose entitlement
it is to step forward and explain why everyone but him is wrong or
stupid or both. The impact of the November election is that he lost
that entitlement. He's been hauled out of the imperial box into the
arena, where it looks very much as if he can't take a punch without
losing his temper.
There's the difference between policy and personality. He initiated and agreed to the compromise, a policy decision that was prudent and necessary.
And then he couldn't stop himself from insisting on having the last
word, and damn the political cost. That's the passive-aggressive
template: 'I'm reasonable, I'm listening, I'm cooperative, I accept the terms of our
agreement -- and now I'm going to make you pay
.' In political terms it's a
recipe for escalating distrust, partisan warfare, and eventual defeat.
Importantly, the lame duck session of congress is the easy part. He's
managed to tick off everybody, including his own vassals, while he
still has an overwhelming majority in both houses of congress. It will
only get worse when the new congress convenes. If he thinks he's taken
a right-cross or two since November, it's nothing compared to the body blows and uppercuts
he can expect over the next two years. If he continues to emit steam
from his ears after evey forced compromise, either vetoing or
gracelessly condemning the ignorance and corrupt motives of the
won't be able to take credit for anything that finally emerges from
the process. He'll just be the pouty
obstructionist, and whether subsequent economic news is good or bad,
his long cultivated celebrity will be inverted into the image of a
spoiled, bitchy starlet.
We don't elect people like that president of the United States.
Triangulation is the word on every beltway insider's lips right now,
the most common word in all the headlines about the Tax-Cut Compromise
and the coming Republican-dominated house. But triangulation is not a
push-button panacea for chastened presidents. It's a kind of political
chess whose first requirement is a cool head and patient maneuvering.
Clinton was never smarter than Gingrich. He was simply a better chess
player on the four-dimensional board where knights and bishops and
rooks are real people with brains, voices, ears, and individual motives
of their own. The president who can play that game to win is the real
gray eminence. He sits on his
King square with half his pieces lost, aware that he can move only one
careful step in any direction, cannot fancy himself as the pulverizing,
board-covering queen taken down in the last gambit, and yet quietly
orchestrates all the moves of all the other players. Until he wins.
Never a chess player myself, I was nevertheless curious about how
Napoleon Bonaparte approached the game. I eventually found the answer
in a memoir of one of his intimates: He cheated. When his opponent
wasn't looking, Bonaparte sneaked pieces off the board. How Clinton
I'm thinking Paris Hilton is no Clinton. Upending the board and huffing
away doesn't quite cut it. And it doesn't look to me as if Obama can
quite cut it, either.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
For a Change:
Some Good News
What Q's been up to lately in the
THE END OF THE
. This post is really only a pointer to an article
everyone should read every word of. I guarantee you it's the best news
you've heard since the November election. It's about the sabotage that
has seriously damaged and delayed the Iranian nuclear program. Without
dropping a bunker-busting bomb or firing a single shot. A few short
In the 20th century, this would have
been a job for James Bond.
The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy
headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are
secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that
weapon harmless and escape undetected.
But in the 21st century, Bond doesn't get the call. Instead, the job is
handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a
jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only
crippled Iran's nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of
computer security around the globe...
The construction of the worm was so
advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I
battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first
to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first
“weaponized” computer virus.
At Natanz, for almost 17 months,
Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific
component -- the frequency converters made by the German equipment
manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning
centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of
the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a
quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the
same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered
at the centrifuges' control panel.
At Bushehr, meanwhile, a second secret set of codes, which Langner
called “digital warheads,” targeted the Russian-built power plant's
massive steam turbine.
The nuclear facility in Iran runs an
“air gap” security system, meaning it has no connections to the Web,
making it secure from outside penetration. Stuxnet was designed and
sent into the area around Iran's Natanz nuclear power plant -- just how
may never be known -- to infect a number of computers on the assumption
that someone working in the plant would take work home on a flash
drive, acquire the worm and then bring it back to the plant.
Masking itself from the plant's
security and other systems, the worm then ordered the centrifuges to
rotate extremely fast, and then to slow down precipitously. This
damaged the converter, the centrifuges and the bearings, and it
corrupted the uranium in the tubes. It also left Iranian nuclear
engineers wondering what was wrong, as computer checks showed no
malfunctions in the operating system.
Estimates are that this went on for more than a year, leaving the
Iranian program in chaos. And as it did, the worm grew and adapted
throughout the system. As new worms entered the system, they would meet
and adapt and become increasingly sophisticated.
One additional impact that can be
attributed to the worm, according to David Albright of the Institute
for Science and International Studies, is that “the lives of the
scientists working in the facility have become a living hell because of
counter-intelligence agents brought into the plant” to battle the
breach. Ironically, even after its discovery, the worm has succeeded in
slowing down Iran's reputed effort to build an atomic weapon. And
Langer says that the efforts by the Iranians to cleanse Stuxnet from
their system “will probably take another year to complete,” and during
that time the plant will not be able to function anywhere normally.
So. Whodunnit? Find the best guess here
There was a whole
episode of Justified
about the hat.
As sometimes happens, I wrote a post that inadvertently brought
up a whole new, probably more interesting topic. In this case, it's
men's hats. I'm sympathetic but also cautious and skeptical. The hat
thing can be done, but it has to be absolutely right. There's no margin
for error. A few weeks ago I saw a man in the newest Jag convertible
sportscar wearing a beret. He simply glowed with the coolness he
thought he was exuding. He looked like a smacked ass. Kind of like that
self-important, self-proclaimed genius on Mythbusters:
A month or so ago, a family outing took us to the Cowtown rodeo (cool),
where my son-in-law got his first mass exposure to cowboy hats. He was
infatuated. He tried on several in the presence of his wife, who
shrugged and turned thumbs down every time. Subsequently, he bought one
somewhere else. I haven't seen it. It might be cool. It might not. I
can tell you the missus loves Raylan's hat (above), but she hasn't
exactly been agitating for me to get one like it. So there you go. I
admire the aspiration toward hattedness, but I'm also mindful that it's
incredibly risky. Which is also cool. Men are risk-takers or they're
not, you know, men.
There's no doubt that the best bet is the fedora, which is an excellent
way to bring out your inner Bogart. Yet it's also extremely
problematical. For example, who doesn't love this version?
It's handsome as hell, but it's also a beautiful copy of the model worn
by Indiana Jones. You see the problem. I'm truly sensitive to the fact
that (as one of our commenters pointed out) men may actually need
hats to protect their
progressively more, uh, unprotected scalps from the dangers of the sun.
I don't envy them the decisions they have to make. I'd like to be able
to offer positive guidance, but the best I can muster is a few clear
1. No berets. You'll just have to
imagine the boldface type and flashing colors behind that sentence.
2. Nothing short-brimmed like the old guys at Walmart and in creaky
Dodge Darts driving 40 in a 50 mph zone wear.
3. I hate the new floppy-brimmed camo hats troops wear in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Sorry. I understand the utility. But there's absolutely nothing cool about them.
4. I'm pretty thoroughly opposed to the old sports caps worn by
fanciers of 60s British roadsters.
5. Baseball caps should be worn by baseball players. Only baseball
catchers can wear them backwards, underneath their facemasks.
I guess everything else is okay. I mean, tophats are gorgeous and
ennobling, but where can you wear them? And Panamas make every man into
a possible spy until he leaves the tropics. It's complicated. Do what
seems right for you. As long as you bond
with the hat and your wife or girlfriend doesn't giggle when you put it
I know. Pretty lame, eh? I'm open to more sophisticated analysis if you
have it to offer.
Yup. I've got the trenchcoat. But not the hat. Maybe I should. Or not.
THE COWBOY HAT
I've seen them all my life, but here's the first real
disquisition I've seen on the subject. Courtesy of commenter Allen:
Hats should be both functional and
provide a sense of individuality to the wearer.
Never. It's an affectation unless you are serving in the military.
Speaking of which, when the US Army went to the black beret for
everyone it was an "everyone is special" moment common to kindergarten.
Damn it, I earned my black beret, lo, those many years ago.
Hats should also fit the local climate
and culture. A nice fedora in New York City doesn't wear the same in
a cowboy hat, as with how best to train a horse, is a much debated
subject with fierce adherents on all sides but some common principles.
need several; as with clothing, different occasions require different
hats. If you are into the western horse thing, you need a riding hat.
Never clean it unless you like to be seen as the ever constant
greenhorn. It should also have stampede strings where you are allowed
to flex your stylistic urges, mildly.
You should have both
a summer and winter cowboy hat for more formal occasions, like taking
your lady out on the town. I prefer a black one in the winter and a
white one in the summer. These hats must be kept scrupulously clean and
The hatband is where you are allowed to
yourself, but it should be something personal. For the black one I have
the skin from a Mojave Green rattlesnake that my lady killed when it
came too close to her children. For the white one a multi-color
horsehair braid that I was given by a member of the tribal council that
I have dealings with.
Finally, you need a cowboy hat for
outdoors work. Your riding hat will do nicely, but I prefer a light
straw cowboy hat with plenty of ventilation.
There is one last caveat. If your lady
sees you in any of these hats and frowns or laughs, never wear it again.
I think I covered the last point for all hats in all walks of life
above. But maybe it's even more serious in this instance. Thank you,
Allen. You're a hat man. I'm not. I bow to your superior experience and expertise.