Recommended Reading (2010-11-14)

A member of the New York Institute of Technology R.O.T.C. pauses during the New York City Veterans Day Parade on November 11th, 2010.

This tool is just awesome. Using a combination of immediate troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan (to 30,000 by 2013), drawdowns in Asia and Europe, reduced spending on nuclear weapons, returning most taxes to Clinton-era levels, increasing Medicare and retirement ages to 68, and the elimination of farm subsidies, I managed to balance the budget not just by 2030, but by 2013, with a healthy surplus of $200 billion. And we get to keep the Navy and the Air Force (via Lawyers, Guns & Money).

– Starbuck explains the little differences in transitioning from the UH-60 Black Hawk to the LUH-72A Lakota (the Eurocopter).

– Transport for London rolls out a life-size mockup of the new bus replacements. They look gorgeous, much more like the old Routemasters. Hop-on/hop-off. A window for the stairs. And the No. 23 was my bus in London.

– Philip Kennicott examines options for securing the Washington Monument (via Schneier).

– Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien and Salvador Dali were both “anarcho-monarchists.” Perhaps that is the ideal form of government:

Tragically—tragically—we can remove one politician only by replacing him or her with another. And then, of course, our choices are excruciatingly circumscribed, since the whole process is dominated by two large and self-interested political conglomerates that are far better at gaining power than at exercising it wisely…

Yet our system obliges us to elevate to office precisely those persons who have the ego-besotted effrontery to ask us to do so; it is rather like being compelled to cede the steering wheel to the drunkard in the back seat loudly proclaiming that he knows how to get us there in half the time.

– Military history is not dead yet. In fact, it’s getting better.

– Purdue University offers an earth-smashing simulator. It’s not as detailed as I’d like – way lacking in the visual devastation effects department – but reveals interesting results nonetheless (via Discoblog).

And from the past week at Automatic Ballpoint:

Before France entered into its own relation spéciale, Britain and America used to play nice with each other’s atomic weapons. President Obama drops a bombshell of his own on his passage to India.

People are living beneath Las Vegas. The TSA has ruined all air travel. How can one remain optimistic in the face of so much bullshit?

We remember what was fought for. And we’re sorry it turned out to be for this.

Recommended Reading (2010-11-07)

Motorists pass a replica of the Eiffel Tower, on a dusty afternoon, Oct. 21, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but here goes…

An examination of (yet another) dark side to social networking. Seriously, the scariest thing about this loss of privacy is that we’re not losing it, we’re giving it up voluntarily. I’m certainly as guilty as anyone. But is this a Daemon-style false dichotomy – hippie commune or on the grid – or is there a third way?

– The largest collection of scale model terrain belonged to the Sun King himself. Originally used for military purposes, Jeffrey Murray explores what they can tell us today about medieval cities.

– A new project called “FutureStates” asks for – and offers – predictions from luminaries and random users for the next 200 years.

– There are so many compelling reasons to ban the conversion of missile silos for the purposes of missile defense. Here are most of them.

– Grey goo ahead of its time? The singularity at play? Either way, financial bots are responsible for a whole lot of the shit we’ve found ourselves in lately. Financial bots and terrible, terrible people.

– Luc Sante shares my disease: too many books, too little space, too little time.

And from the past week at Automatic Ballpoint:

Britain and France sign an epic defense treaty. Virginia Postrel combined with the 2010 election sets me off on one of my better rants. And North Korea attempts to hurl its technology forward to the 1990s…and beyond?

Blogroll Update

As usual, far too many new links for anyone to handle. Ah, those Red Sox ones… just in time for the long postseason.






East Asia








Red Sox

It’s Alive!

At long last, a group project I’ve been trying to get off the ground with some friends has come to fruition. I proudly present for you: The Smolerian.

Named after a mutual professor of whom we’re all very fond, The Smolerian should present an interesting mix of what you’ve come to expect here along with even more obscure and cutting-edge discoveries and topics. Politics, warfare, science, technology: nothing is off limits. Some contributors there are those responsible for turning me on my current interests – and by extension, this blog – so you just know they’ll be on top of their game.

Plus we’ll have more room for debates and fighting, so we can get pretty far out over there. I hope you’ll join us.

New Links

I keep adding more and more sites, further setting me back in my quest to actually get this master’s degree. But you should definitely read them guilt-free.







Recommended Reading (2010-08-01)

The tomb of Sultan Mohammed Telai, which was destroyed during the Afghan civil war in 1990's is lit by setting sun on Friday, July 23, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

– Nate Silver gives us a ground-eye view of the area where the Cordoba House Islamic center is to be built in Lower Manhattan, and convinces me pretty thoroughly that it should be built there.

– Putting people to work (and providing some education for the kids) through historically accurate castle-building techniques? Sounds like a winner to me.

– A couple of civil liberties and human rights groups have teamed up to bring you a free point-and-click adventure game – The Curfew – set in a dystopian Britain circa 2027 (via io9).

– An old gem unearthed: a Harper’s Magazine article from 1941 simply titled “Who Goes Nazi?” And it really does make for a delightful game at parties (H/T to the Hybrid Diplomat).

It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times–in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.

– If you missed it last month, the New York Times took a look at the innate ability to wage war – in chimpanzees.

– Illicit virtual underground economies in “Dark Gold: Statistical Properties of Clandestine Networks in Massively Multiplayer Online Games” (PDF).

And from the past week at Automatic Ballpoint:

Putin issued a warning to all would-be spies and traitors. I finally get around to reviewing Freedom™. And Richard Perle continues to maintain the self-delusion that he is still relevant.

A general note: this blog will essentially go dark for the month of August so that I might really, really get around to writing that whole dissertation thing. I’ve been told it’s awfully important.

Recommended Reading (2010-07-25)

Lightning streams across the sky towards downtown Chicago, on Wednesday, June 23, 2010.

– The Boston Globe presents a “radical, new idea for foreign aid” – just handing out cash.

– In honor of the proposed two-cent price hike,Tom Scocca proposes that we make the phrase on the USPS “Forever Stamp” our new national motto.  As I’ve seen expressed everywhere (but just cannot find the source for), the fact that you can still drop a piece of mail into a blue box on a random street corner and have it delivered within three days to the other side of the country – for only 44 cents – never ceases to amaze.

– Conor Friersdorf on “The Two Party System at Work“:

Phase One

Liberals: X is a problem, and the government should do Y1 about it.

Conservatives: Stop!

Voters: Yeah, X is a problem, but conservatives make good points about how Y1 isn’t the answer.

Phase Two

Liberals: X is an even bigger problem than before, and the government should do Y2 about it.

Conservatives: Opposition to Y1 was a winning issue for us five years ago. It’s probably smart to oppose Y2.

Voters: Overall we’re still with you, conservatives, but by a lesser margin, because this does sort of seem like a problem, yeah?

And so on.

Foreign Policy bemoans the death of the Republican foreign policy establishment. It’s all left to the crazies now when even the “serious” candidates like Mitt Romney have to turn to the Heritage Foundation to write their op-eds for them.

– A whole mess of luminaries (David Axe, zenpundit, ComingAnarchy’s Younghusband, and many more) have come out with The Handbook of 5GW. Sadly, it’s Kindle-only for the time being, but the print version will drop some time in the fall. At which point I look forward to reading it on paper.

And from the past two weeks on Automatic Ballpoint:

I explained where I’ve been hiding all this time and got pretty confused about Afghanistan. America really loves to test nukes (though the rest of the world’s no slouch). But other than nukes, we don’t build much else these days. Though we could if we had the will to do so.

Also, sex with robots.

Recommended Reading (4th of July Edition)

Air Force One over Mount Rushmore.

First of all, a belated happy birthday to you, America. You may be starting to show your age, but I hear they’ve got a wonderful cream for that nowadays.

This will be my 201st post at Automatic Ballpoint. Clearly my posting schedule hasn’t changed much – it took four months to write the first hundred posts and almost exactly four more for the next hundred – but the traffic to the site has increased massively. 14,000+ visits! The most-viewed article is my one on Operation Tannenbaum (though sadly, fewer than half of its readers go one to part II). April was by far the busiest month, with an average of 125 hits a day. That’s gone down in May and June, but hopefully I’ll get that back up with more frequent posting (more better).

But regardless, thanks so much for reading; I will try to keep you all entertained.

– BLDGBLOG examines one design for a ‘floating city‘ built on the flooded ruins of London.

– Supposedly the Rugyong in Pyongyang will finally be finished this time. And they mean it. No foolin’. They’re not yanking our chains this time. /sarcasm

– David Axe takes a look at the new Oshkosh M-ATV:

The M-ATV embodies the military’s thinking on a wide range of life-or-death issues. It’s a direct reflection of the American way of war.

Plus, it looks mean as hell.

– Dutch police in Amsterdam now have to deploy ‘decoy Jews.’ You know things are getting bad when… (via Harry’s Place).

– Secure Nation’s Rick Miller examines all the possible historical analogies for Obama-McChrystal, and what it means to invoke a particular one.

And from the past two weeks at Automatic Ballpoint:

The Russkies come back. McChrystal gets sacked. A Tim Horton’s gets whacked. Who are the Bloc that is Black? And a look at why we need to return beneath the waves.

I bid farewell to London and decide to reexamine my carry-on luggage. I also discover way too many new sites to read for my own good.