Thursday, June 30, 2005
Gun of the Quarter
The Gun of the Quarter is the Mauser C96 also known as the Broomhandle Mauser, one of the most recognizable guns of the 20th Century. Three guys, the Federle brothers, who worked for the Mauser works in Oberndorf am Nekar, Germany, developed it in 1894 (and had to sign it over to the Mauser Brothers to whom they were idea slaves, I guess). It was patented in 1895 and went into production in 1896 (hence the 96 in its name) It is a handsome gun and between 1896 and 1936, when they developed the .357 magnum, it was the most powerful handgun made in the world. It shot the 7.63 x 25 mm round (also known as the 30 Mauser) made especially for the the Borchard gun but used more in the more popular Broomhandle Mauser. It used a necked down casing. Let me explain. With just a straight, hollow cylinder of powder, all the expanding gas goes out the front at a uniform rate. Creating a neck, that is, closing down the front of the shell to a smaller diameter than the rest of the shell casing, has the same effect on the burning powder gases as putting your thumb over the end of the water hose has on the water coming out the hose. Venturi effect causes the gas to really shoot out and of course the bullet seated in the neck goes down the barrel of the gun at a right good clip. I know what you're thinking. What about our beloved .45 automatic? Wasn't it more powerful? Read 'em and weep, boys, everyone's idea of a powerful hand gun round falls short. Here are the numbers
7.63 x 25 mm-- Velocity 1410 ft/sec. Energy 375 ft/lbs.
45 Automatic -- Velocity 900 ft/sec Energy 360 ft/lbs.
What a handsome and powerful gun!
Here's the Achilles heel of the gun--reloading. Rather than have a removable clip, the magazine (the area into which a clip, if you have one, fits) was fixed and you had to use stripper clips to force 10 rounds down into the spring loaded box magazine in front of the trigger. It's hard. Really hard. They don't want to go. This gun is the one used by the minor bad guy played by Don Stroud in the Clint Eastwood movie Joe Kidd . When he loaded it on screen, he cheated a little, putting 5 rounds each on two stripper clip (much more manageable) and did it in two steps. Woosie! Real men can load their Broomhandle Mausers in one deft motion.
Winston Churchill had this gun at the last great cavalry charge of the British at the Battle of Omdurman (1898) against Muslim extremists (Dervishers) in the Sudan (go figure) and he said he used it to good effect. Because the bullet went so fast, the manufacturers got a little cocky and put a adjustable rear sight on the gun that went out to 1000 yards. Yeah, right. Might have been a little hopeful there. Here's a detail of the rear site.
You'd think because the barrel is so long and heavy and the magazine is in front of the trigger rather than in the handle, that the C96 would be front heavy. It just looks like it should be front heavy. But it has a sweet balance-- bring it up to your eyes to aim and it seems to float there level and steady. It's mechanism for self-loading is straight blowback (Scroll way down for an explanation of that).
They made other versions. There is one that shoots the 9mm (Parabellum) round (the same round for the Luger and all modern 9mm guns). To mark the difference between that pistol and the one that shot the 30 Mauser, they cut a big 9 in the wooden handle and painted or stained red inside the incised lines. This became known as the red 9 and it was very popular with the Bolsheviks during the 1917 revolution. They used red 9s to slaughter the Tzar and his family (Anastasia screamed in vain). There was a short barrel version made to conform with the requirements of the Versailles treaty (which took on and conquered for all time the seemingly overwhelming problem of long barreled handguns). This was the Bolo Mauser, made in the early 20s and sold primarily to Russia where it was popular among the Bolsheviks (again) hence the nickname, Bolo. The Russians put the Bolo to some pretty nasty work during the Civil War between the Reds and Whites. It was also copied in China. In a weird movie called The General Died at Dawn a whole troop commit murder suicide with C96s (probably in .45 caliber) pointed at each others heads. That general had certainly learned how to control his troops. The final version solved the reloading problem with a box clip removable from the bottom of the magazine, and it was fully automatic, but it was not a success because the kick of the first two or three rounds made the fourth and fifth invariably go over the head of the target. It was the Mauser 712 or Schnellfeuerpistole (Fast fire pistol).
If you take your Broomhandle Mauser to a gun range today, even the old hands will come out of the back to take a look, and the young shooters will ask you if they can shoot it, and all the women there will ask if they can caress it (OK, I made that last one up). The most famous use in a movie for the Broomhandle, however, is not as a gun at all but as a blaster, whatever that is? Good to see the century old C96 is alive and kicking in a galaxy far, far away.
Harrison Ford on the Ice Planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back with a C96 with dodads on it.
Thought of the Day
G. K. Chesterton
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Thought of the Day
Drudge had it on his news site that Time is considering outing Cooper's sources. See it here. Here then is my question. If Cooper promised to protect his source and is willing, if not exactly eager, to go to jail for the limited period one can do for contempt (after 18 months the incarceration turns from coercive into punitive and has to end), where does Time get off revealing the source? It doesn't matter to the source who names him, Cooper or Cooper's boss, and the damage to the 'profession' of journalism is done, because everyone will be all that more hesitant to give information off the record in the future.
I think that unless there is a shield law (and there isn't here) journalists are no different from any other citizen who must obey a Court order or pay the price, but I also see the journalists' view that their word to the source is a sort of sacred bond for the good of all their brother and sister journalist. Of course, why everyone is so eager to publish information from a source who dares not speak his or her name is a different question. The journalists certainly don't have to promise to protect the source's identity. Still, if we take them at their word, that they can't afford to burn sources, we return to the first question. What is Time thinking? I haven't admired the people who run Time or their product in a long time. Apparently, it's no time to start now.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Short TV Blog
Six Feet Under had some unpleasant non-surprises. Brenda and Nate are way too unhappy too soon. It's not a good sign when the happy couple is saying F---off to each other. There's something creepy about the surrogate (I see nothing but misery in that direction). Rico gets back with his wife for a night. Billy absolutely freaks out off his meds (at least he didn't try to cut out Brenda's baby or something). Claire becomes more and more a slut (that one I couldn't figure out or foresee--I'm stretching to remember what's in her past that would account for that--nothing so far). George's daughter and Nate were heading towards a kiss until the bird (a Steller's Jay?) came back. I could see that interrupted kiss coming a mile off, as I bet most of the avid fans could too. I think the show has lost a step metaphorically, but it is still one of the best shows out there.
The President's Speech
I can't imagine that happening to Clinton for real.
I also read on Hugh Hewitt's site the letter MoveOn.org wants its lefty hords to send in to news-papers across the nation. What a contrast. The gist of the MoveOn complaint that is that things are getting worse there and the President has no plan for Iraq. Let's take those in order.
Because the terrorists have no agenda other than to kill people somewhat randomly, they are tough to stop; so the actual fighting against suicide car bombers is pretty much a lopsided draw (they're getting the worst of it). Worse? I guess there is none so blind as he who will not see. But the political solution is advancing as the constitution is being drafted, the Sunnis are wanting in on the political process, and the Iraqi citizens are getting sick to death of foreign terrorists killing there friends and family. Meanwhile, that small percentage (of almost any population) who have the ability and desire to be good, effective soldiers are getting the skills to do the hard things it takes to win against terrorists. Worse? All I see is slow (agonizingly slow, I'll grant you) steady progress. We are training our replacements. When they stand up, we'll stand down. Great line.
Doesn't have a plan (as if a plan is all that helpful in war)? All I see is that President Bush has the same plan regarding Iraq and the broader Global War against Islamofacism as President Roosevelt had regarding Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. We will do what it takes to win. Now if we could only get the less than loyal opposition on board with that plan. Right now, I can't see that happening. It's also tough for them to sell to the public that they support and love our troops when the #2 in the Senate is comparing the troops unfavorably to Nazis, et al., and only one Democrat (and a back bencher at that) criticizes him.
Light Posting Excuse (redux)
Thought of the Day
Harry S Truman
Monday, June 27, 2005
Light Posting Excuse
Thought of the Day
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Thought of the Day
Stephen Jay Gould
I can't tell you how much I admired Stephen Jay Gould for his intellect and good humor. He died of brain cancer a few years ago. I believe he will be remembered for a tweaking/perfecting of Darwin's differential reproduction (as an explanation of the origin of the species), which has come to be known as punctuated equilibrium. Gould thought that sometimes evolution progressed at a frenetic pace only to then have the changes last for millions of years of very little change. He's probably right.
But I wanted to type about the pedestals. At the beginning of the Renaissance, the learned men of Western Europe were sure of three things: 1) The centrality of the World in an ordered Universe; 2) That humans were the crown of creation; and, 3) That humans were unique in the animal world for their ability to think and act logically according to their rational thoughts.
Copernicus knocks us off the first pedestal. The Earth is not the center of the Universe; it's not even the center of the solar system--all the planets revolve around the sun (and it only gets worse from there--we learn that the sun is just one of billions of stars in our local galaxy and that there are perhaps a billion, billion galaxies each with a billion stars in an ever expanding space so vast it is beyond our ability to comprehend its magnitude). We are just a small planet going around a normal, somewhat aged, star in the unfashionable western edge of one arm of a totally standard galaxy, one of billions and billions (Do that in your best Carl Sagan voice). But hey, at least we're still higher rational life forms.
Darwin knocked us off the crown of creation pedestal. It turns out that species adapt to their changing environment (if they are able) through happy transcription errors and spontaneous mutation of the DNA; and it is all random and without purpose, (other than the one rule of life--have children which have children), so there is no directed movement towards higher and better function and we are no more evolved or better than an amoeba. Well, the learned men think after about 1860, we may live on a flyspeck in an ocean of stars and we may just be the result of a chain of changes dictated by chance, but we have a brain and at least we are rational thinkers.
Then Freud shows us that we are hardly rational--people have no freakin' idea why they do half the stuff they do--and we learn later that we are unconscious pawns to a complex set of brain chemicals over which we have little control and no defenses. Rational thinkers? The modern neurobiologist snorts in derision. Pull the other one.
And the result of being knocked off of all three pedestals is 20th Century mankind.
The Girl in the Cafe
I'm a big fan of Love Actually and Bill Nighy is a big part of that film. So he started off with a lot of capital in his good-will bank from me. And he remained great. He tells of the recurring dream he has where he's asked to join the Rolling Stones (he defers) and then his next social triumphs are accompanied by a power chord on the sound track and his jumping to a modified Townsend leap. Otherwise he acts a repressed, anal civil servant with a heart of gold as if he actually knew what it was like. The girl, Kelly Macdonald, who has OK good looks, has the extreme advantage (to me at least) of having a Scottish accent you can actually understand. Few accents are sexier. But she becomes a bit tedious. And I think she does so because she has to keep mouthing the political message of the film, its raison de etra (I thought was going to be a romance, but it was political propaganda instead--not lying or bad propaganda, but propaganda none the less). Here's the message--we must help the desperately poor (mainly in Africa) with aid, debt forgiveness and trade or we are responsible for their deaths (one every three seconds--the movie ends with snaps of the fingers every three seconds, an echo of the statistic).
What liberal, do-gooder bull s--t is this? The first two "solutions" the movie supports are throw money at the problem (because debts that are forgiven are not gone, merely transferred to the taxpayers of the forgiving nation). We in America, having funded a multi-billion War on Poverty that made things a lot worse, know that throwing money at a problem is no solution at all. How does it help one poor person in Malawi, for example, for the leaders of that country to have huge Swiss bank accounts? (I know that's a 'racist', slanderous charge and probably not deserved by the good leaders of Malawi, which country I chose at random, but it is a continuing problem everywhere that much too much of the aid gets skimmed off by local politicians and until that problem is at least lessoned, you're just fooling yourself to say that giving more money to Zimbabwe, for example, will actually help any of the desperate poor there.
Now about trade. If we in some way have trade barriers between us and poor nations, let's take them down. I and most real conservatives are staunch free-traders. No one has explained to me what trade barriers there are between us and Cameroon, for example, but perhaps I'm just not listening. I do recall an effort by our current administration to take away most if not all trade barriers between us and Central America. The legislation is called CAFTA, and it probably won't pass because of the Democrat's opposition. Check out this story from Detroit in early June. So don't be giving me, a Republican, this guilt trip about causing death by opposing free trade; it's neither me nor my party doing that (a little fact completely left out of the film).
The romance part of the story and the ending (which perhaps too subtlely hints at the outcome of the mythical G-8 meeting) get a thumbs up from me but what a mere surface inspection of a problem that goes to the bone of human existence. At the web-site for the movie, they quote Nelson Mandella, who says poverty is a man made problem not people's natural state. How wrong he is. Poverty is the default position, the natural state of man, and hard work in a just society is the only thing that creates wealth. Because not everyone works hard, or if they do, are not always allowed to keep the benefits of their labor, (and because some people who make money are very unwise spenders) the poor you will always have with us, or so I've heard.
Thought of the Day
Sir Winston Churchill
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Carl Rove's Speech
June 22, 2005 Karl Rove, Deputy White House Chief of Staff
Remarks to the New York Conservative Party
Thank you very much, Michael, for your kind introduction, and for all you have done over the years to advance the conservative cause in this great state and throughout our land. You are a forceful and articulate champion of conservatism, and all of us are grateful for your energy and commitment to a great cause.
I honored to receive the Charles Edison Memorial Award, particularly in light of your previous honorees, including Representative Jack Kemp, Senator Zell Miller, and above all, President Ronald Wilson Reagan. That is better company than I deserve to be in, but I'll take what I can get.
It's a pleasure to be among so many friends and fellow conservatives , and it's a privilege to speak to the Conservative Party of New York. You provide much of the energy and activism and hard work that has brought us to a moment when conservatism is the dominant political creed in America, and when we are making progress on so many important issues.
Think for a moment how much has been achieved by conservatives in the last 40 years. The conservative movement has gone from a small, principled opposition to a broad, inclusive movement that is self-assured, optimistic, forward-leaning, and dominant.
Four decades ago conservatism was relegated to the political wilderness, and today conservatism is the guiding philosophy in the White House, the Senate, the House, and in governorships and state legislatures throughout America.
More importantly, we have seen the great rise of a great cause. Conservatives have achieved a tremendous amount in the past decades, but there is more, much more, that remains to be done. This afternoon I will devote my remarks to the President's victory in November; the ideas that will continue to work in our favor; and the state of contemporary liberalism.
The political realignment in America is moving ahead; here are some of the reasons I believe this is happening.
To you, the Presidential election probably seems like it took place a long time ago; I know that's certainly how it seems to me. But it was a key election in the history of our country, and there are important things we can learn from it.
Recall that in 2004, we faced a united opposition which outspent our side by over $40 million in a time of controversial war and a recovering, but not recovered economy.
The 2004 election was a steep political mountain to climb, but the President scaled it, and he did so with energy, passion, decency, and an unwavering commitment to principle. What is significant about November's victory is not simply that the President won, but how he won.
In the 2004 election, President Bush placed all his chips on the table. There was no trimming on issues, no 'campaign conversion,' no backing away from Social Security and tax code reform. The President persistently made the case for an 'ownership society'; championed a culture of life; defended the institution of marriage; stood with the people of Iraq in their passage to liberty; remained committed to spreading democracy in the Middle East; and continued to aggressively wage and win the war on global terrorism.
President Bush showed himself as he is. He wanted a referendum on what he has accomplished, and most importantly, on what he hopes to achieve.
The victory itself was significant. President Bush received more votes than any other candidate in American history. He's the first President since 1988 to win a majority of the popular vote. He increased his popular vote total by 11.6 million votes since 2000, more than four-and-a-half times President Clinton's increase from 1992 to 1996. President Bush improved his percentage in all but three states. He improved his vote in 87 percent of all counties and carried more than 80 percent of the counties, and he won in 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties and George W. Bush is also the first President since FDR to be re-elected while his party gained seats in the House and Senate, and the first Republican President since 1924 to get re-elected while re-electing Republican House and Senate majorities. And he won with a higher percentage than any Democratic Presidential candidate has received since 1964.
President Bush achieved what almost none of his critics thought he would.
Once again, they misunderestimated what you and he could do.
And now, moving forward, here's why we will defy expectations again. It's because of the ideas we hold.
A quarter-century ago, a Senator from this state, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, wrote this: "of a sudden, the GOP has become a party of ideas." It was true then; and it remains true today. We are the party of ideas, and as Richard Weaver wrote, "ideas have consequences." With that in mind, here are some of the ideas I believe will lead to the further realignment of American politics.
We are seizing the Mantle of Idealism. As all of you know, President Bush is making a powerful case for spreading human liberty and defending human dignity. This was once largely the preserve of liberalism, but Ronald Reagan changed all that. It was President Reagan, you'll recall, who said the policy of the United States was not simply to contain Soviet Communism, but to transcend it. And we would, he argued, was because of the power of liberty.
President Bush has built on those beliefs, and he is committed to something no past President has ever attempted: spreading liberty to the broader Middle East. President Bush's eventual goal is the triumph of freedom and the end of tyranny in our world. This vision, which will require the concentrated work of generations, is consistent with the deep idealism of the American people, and it is an idealism whose importance is being confirmed by history and events.
During the last four decades we have witnessed the most spectacular growth of liberty in history. More nations are free today than ever before. Consider that in a four month period, from the end of 2004 to early 2005, we saw elections take place in Afghanistan, the Ukraine, among the Palestinians, and in Iraq. In the span of 113 days, more than 100 million people, living on two continents, have cast free votes in nations that had never known democracy. More than half of these voters are people of the Muslim faith who live in the broader Middle East. And since those elections we have seen what scholars refer to as 'The Arab Spring' in Lebanon and Egypt and elsewhere. We are seeing unprecedented progress when it comes to spreading liberty in the Middle East.
This confidence in the power of liberty is anchored in the words of the Declaration of Independence; the arguments of President Lincoln; and the policies of President Reagan and President Bush. In his second Inaugural Address, President Bush stated it well:
"Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it."
Second, our movement's growth has made us Agents of Reform. Edmund Burke, one of the most important figures in the history of conservatism, was known as an advocate of reform. He understood the essence of conservatism is applying timeless principles to changing circumstances, which is one of the keys to political success.
President Bush has pointed out that many of our most fundamental systems, the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, legal systems, public education, worker training among them, were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow. He is committed to reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. As the President has said, to give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools. We will build an ownership society by expanding the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance, and preparing Americans for the challenges of life in a free society. We are putting government on the side of reform and progress, modernization and greater freedom, more personal choice and greater prosperity. The great goal of modern-day conservatism is to make our society more prosperous and more just.
Third, we are defending Time-Honored Values. Conservatives have long known that political liberty depends on a healthy social and moral order. And so the President is committed to strengthening society's key institutions, families, schools, communities, and protecting those mediating structures so important to our freedom, like our churches, neighborhood and private groups - the institutions that inculcate virtues, shape character, and provide the young with moral education.
That is why President Bush supports welfare reform that strengthens family and requires work. That is why he has supported adoption and responsible fatherhood initiatives. That is why he is building a culture of life and upholding the dignity of the human person, and seeks a world in which every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. And that is why he has provided unprecedented support for religious charities that provide a safety net of mercy and compassion.
It is why President Bush supports the protection of traditional marriage against activist judges; why he signed legislation that insists on testing, high standards, and accountability in our schools; and why he he has fostered a culture of service and citizenship.
President Bush supports these things because he believes they will lead to a society that is more compassionate and decent, stronger and better. We are attempting to spread liberty abroad, and we must show that we are worthy of liberty at home.
Let me now say a few words about the state of liberalism. Perhaps the place to begin is with this stinging indictment:
"Liberalism is at greater risk now than at any time in recent American history. The risk is of political marginality, even irrelevance. Liberalism risks getting defined, as conservatism once was, entirely in negative terms."
These are not the words of William F. Buckley, Jr. or Sean Hannity; they are the words of Paul Starr, co-editor of The American Prospect, a leading liberal publication.
There is much merit in what Mr. Starr writes, though he and I fundamentally disagree as to why liberalism is edging toward irrelevance. I believe the reason can be seen when comparing conservatism with liberalism.
Conservatives believe in lower taxes; liberals believe in higher taxes. We want few regulations; they want more. Conservatives measure the effectiveness of government programs by results; liberals measure the effectiveness of government programs by inputs. We believe in curbing the size of government; they believe in expanding the size of government. Conservatives believe in making America a less litigious society; liberals believe in making America a more litigious society. We believe in accountability and parental choice in education; they don't. Conservatives believe in advancing what Pope John Paul II called a 'culture of life'; liberals believe there is an absolute unlimited right to abortion.
But perhaps the most important difference between conservatives and liberals can be found in the area of national security. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to submit a petition. I am not joking. Submitting a petition is precisely what Moveon.org did. It was a petition imploring the powers that be to "use moderation and restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks against the United States."
I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt as I watched the Twin Towers crumble to the earth; a side of the Pentagon destroyed; and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble.
Moderation and restraint is not what I felt, and moderation and restraint is not what was called for. It was a moment to summon our national will, and to brandish steel.
MoveOn.Org, Michael Moore and Howard Dean may not have agreed with this, but the American people did.
Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said: we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said: we must understand our enemies. Conservatives see the United States as a great nation engaged in a noble cause; liberals see the United States and they see Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia.
Has there been a more revealing moment this year than when Democratic Senator Richard Durbin, speaking on the Senate floor, compared what Americans had done to prisoners in our control at Guantanamo Bay with what was done by Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, three of the most brutal and malevolent figures in the 20th century?
Let me put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts to the region the words of Senator Durbin, certainly putting America's men and women in uniform in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.
Let me end where I began. Forty years ago, Lyndon Baines Johnson, a proud liberal, won the Presidency in a landslide. His party held 68 Senate seats; 295 House seats; and 33 governorships.
In 2004 George W. Bush, a proud conservative, won the Presidency for the second time, receiving the most votes in American history. His party has now won seven of the last 10 Presidential elections. Republicans hold 55 Senate seats; 232 House seats; and 28 governorships.
These facts underscore how much progress has been made in four decades. It has been a remarkable rise. But it is also a cautionary tale of what happens to a dominant party, in this case, the Democrat Party, when its thinking becomes ossified; when its energy begins to drain; when an entitlement mentality takes over; and when political power becomes an end in itself rather than a means to achieve the common good. We need to learn from our successes, and from the failures of the other side and ourselves. As the governing movement in America, conservatives cannot grow tired or timid. We have been given the opportunity to govern; now we have to show we deserve the trust of our fellow citizens.
At one time the conservative movement was largely a reactionary political party, and there was a sense of pessimism even among many of its ardent champions. You'll recall that Whittaker Chambers, who gave up his affiliation with Communism to join the West in its struggle for freedom, said he believed he was joining the losing side.
For decades, liberals were setting the agenda, the pace of change, and the visionary goals. Conservatives were simply reacting to them. But times change, often for the better, and this President and today's conservative movement are shaping history, not trying to stop it. Together we are articulating a compelling vision of a better world, and I am grateful to all of you who are making that better world a reality.
Thank you very much for your attention, for your support of this President, and above all, for your devotion to this country.
Quite a Head of Hair above that Brain
"(noun) The infliction of excruciating pain...for the purpose of forcing an accused or suspected person to confess, or an unwilling witness to give evidence or information (first use was in 1551)
"(verb) To inflict severe pain or suffering upon...(first use 1588)
Now lets look at one of my loyal reader's list of Amnesty International's list of tortures in the modern Gulag, including Guantanamo Bay:
Barbed wire, forced to walk barefoot on
"Burking" hand over detainee's mouth/nose to prevent breathing
Cell extraction, brutal/punitive use of
Chemical/pepper spray, misuse of
Claustrophobia-inducing techniques, e.g. tied headfirst in sleeping bag, shut in lockers
Dogs used to threaten and intimidate
Dousing in cold water
Electric shocks, threats of electric shocks
Exposure to weather and temperature extremes, especially via air-conditioning
Flags, wrapped in Israeli or US flags during or prior to interrogation
Food and water deprivation
Forced shaving, i.e. of head, body or facial hair
Forcible injections, including with unidentified substances
Ground, forced to lie on bare ground while agents stand on back or back of legs
Hostage-taking, i.e. individuals detained to force surrender of relatives
Humiliation, eg. forced crawling, forced to make animal noises, being urinated upon.
Immersion in water to induce perception of drowning
Induced perception of suffocation or asphyxiation
Loud music, noise, yelling
Photography and videoing as humiliation
Physical assault, eg punching, kicking, beatings with hands, hose, batons, guns, etc
Physical exercise to the point of exhaustion, e.g. "ups and downs", carrying rocks
Piling, i.e. detainee is sat on or jumped on by one or more people ("dog/pig pile")
Prolonged interrogations, eg. 20 hours
Racial and religious taunts, humiliation
Relatives, denial of access to, excessive censorship of communications with
Religious intolerance, eg disrespect for Koran, religious rituals
Shackles and handcuffs, excessive and cruel use of. Includes "short shackling"
Solitary confinement for prolonged periods, eg. months or more than a year
Stress positions, eg prolonged forced kneeling and standing
Stripping, nudity, excessive or humiliating use of
Strip searches, excessive or humiliating use of
Suspension, with use of handcuffs/shackles
Threat of rape
Threats of reprisals against relatives
Threat of transfer to third country to inspire fear of torture or death
Threat of transfer to Guantanamo
Threats of torture or ill-treatment
Twenty-four hour bright lighting
Withdrawal of "comfort items", including religious items
Withholding of information, e.g. not telling detainee where he is
Withholding of medication
Withholding of toilet facilities, leading to defecation and urination in clothing
To which I replied:
I couldn't figure out from the Amnesty International report (which I merely skimmed I admit) what were merely complaints unsubstantiated and probably lies and what was AI puffery and what was a serious charge. That was a fatal problem with the report. I do know that blindfolding, hooding, threats to return them home, use of flags, turning up and/or off the air conditioning, humilitation, Koran abuse, loud music (even Aguilera and rap), taking them out of their cell, incommunicado detention, too little light, photography, censorship of letters and limited letters, sleep deprivation, secret detention and transfer, taunting, shackles and handcuffs, strobe light abuse (I can't believe I just typed that), threats, too much light, withdrawal of the comfey chair, I mean, comfort items, not telling them where they are, limiting bathroom breaks and keeping them until the war ends are not torture, are not violations of international law and are just really silly complaints for illegal combatants who should be executed it there was justice in the World. Even if you took the assault and sexual assault and burns seriously, which I do not, there are only about 100,000 metaphorical miles more to go to get to the first step of the Nazis against the Jews in Birkenau.
To this I add:
Of the list only--
walking on barbed wire
chemical spray abuse
various forms of painful shackling--
could be considered torture in the OED sense. And they didn't say they tied the guy down and put pepper spray or mace into his eyes to torture him, they were just a little too free with the spray for AI's tastes. I also chalk up the walking on barbed wire to a mistake, not intentional. I don't believe we sexually assault our prisoners. I also don't believe we burn them with cigarettes (you can't smoke in federal facilities). So the list is reduced to:
What a pitiful attempt at real torture. These are mere stretching exercises for Gestapo and SD torturers. Indeed, the Soviet torturers would have been insulted to have been accused of using only these. They were pros.
I have a book on real torture, which I won't reproduce here, and if you read it and knew other history and the cruelty ingenious men have devised to hurt other men over the centuries, you would probably be thinking, like I am, what amazing wusses these lefty guys are to equate most of the list to torture. Taking away comfort items as torture. Can it get any more silly? What's next? Harsh language? He looked at me mean? He's being mean? These are the complaints of school children. The left should be ashamed of the damage they are doing to the discourse on a serious problem (but conspicuously absent in the English speaking world) with this dilution of the meaning of the term torture
David Bowie Aladdin Sane
Madeleine Peyroux Don't Wait Too Long
Rolling Stones She Said Yea
Shawn Colvin Polaroids
Antonio Carlos Jobim Aguas de Marco
Joni Mitchell California
Led Zeppelin What Is and What Should Never Be
Annie Lennox Little Bird
John Hiatt Riding With the King
Sheena Easton Strut
Del Amitri Driving With the Brakes On
Dan Hicks I Asked my Doctor
You know a lot of people think about a cassette tape the way I think about Edison's wax cylinders, hopelessly outmoded, and I do admit that the CD is a better medium. You can go right to the track you want and get instant replay without rewind. But I find old habits are hard to break and I've been making tapes since I was 15. My son and daughters (2/3 of whom are returning from New York tonight, wahoo!) extol the Ipod, but even they can't tell me how to dump a song once it's in there. You have it for life, I guess, like herpes or a good set of luggage.
Finished the other side. I have to admit that I'm a little bit handicapped by my son
U2 Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Shawn Colvin The Facts About Jimmy
Ray Charles Unchain my Heart
Madeleine Peyroux Lonesome Road
Randy Newman Rednecks
Joni Mitchell Hejira
Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama Church House Steps
Bonnie Raitt/Delbert McClinton Good Man, Good Woman
David Bowie Jean Genie
Jeff Beck Rollin' and Tumblin'
Don Henley All She Wants to Do is Dance
Dan Hicks I Asked my Doctor
Thought of the Day
Friday, June 24, 2005
Friday Movie Review
The setting is vintage Miyazaki, which is to say a strange mix. It would appear to be Europe some time between the Franco-Prussian War and WWI, but there are these strange insect like flying machines, oh yeah, and witches and wizards too. Howl is a wizard who lives in a castle that walks around on four chicken legs and is a mess. There is, like in Spirited Away of 2001, a young girl who is the victim of a spell who needs rescuing (but who has to rescue herself--again classic Miyazaki).That's enough about the plot. Go see it--it's beautiful.
And there are about a dozen more, some better, some worse all available on DVD. Here's the list in order of the intensity of my enjoyment of them.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind ('84)
Castle Cagliosto ('79)
Princess Mononoke ('97)
Porco Rosso (''92)
Spirited Away ('01)
Howl's Moving Castle ('04)
My Neighbor Totoro ('88)
Kiki's Delivery Service ('98)
Pom Poko ('94)
The one with John Denver's Country road whose name I don't know (as close to bad as Miyazaki gets)
There are also a few which I can't rate because I haven't seen them
Only Yesterday ('91)
Grave of the Fireflies ('88) (People who have seen this say it's the reason Miyazaki is so staunchly anti-war as you can clearly see in Howl's Moving Castle.
You'll recognize the English speaking voices in this--Billy Crystal is a no brainer, more difficult are Lauren Bacall, Blyth Danner and Christian Bale. You care about what happens to these ink and color entities, you laugh, and it is a joy to behold. What the heck else do you want from a movie? It's 119 minutes long but didn't seem it. No sex or nudity. Violence is almost too stylized to exist. Lots of gross fluid use (but less than in Princess Mononoke). Roger Bob says check it out.
Thought of the Day
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Modified Fisking of the Kelo Case
I have taken what I believe are the essential quotes from the case (in medium blue) and interspersed them with my comments (in black) on them. I'll start with the majority opinion (by Justice Stevens) and then go with the dissents by O'Connor and Thomas (who, despite Harry Reid's apparently uninformed opinion of him, has written a well reasoned dissent, not embarrassing at all). Here we go:
We granted certiorari to determine whether a city's decision to take property
for the purpose of economic development satisfies the "public use"
requirement of the Fifth Amendment.
This is the essential question as Justice Stevens describes it.
Two polar propositions are perfectly clear. On the one hand, it has long
been accepted that the sovereign may not take the property of A
for the sole purpose of transferring it to another private party B,
even though A is paid just compensation. On the other hand,
it is equally clear that a State may transfer property from one
private party to another if future "use by the public" is the purpose
of the taking; the condemnation of land for a railroad with common-carrier
duties is a familiar example.
Although he says these extremes do not decide the case, the certainly set out the parameters of past decisions. You can do the latter but not the former.
The disposition of this case therefore turns on the question
whether the City's development plan serves a 'public
purpose'. Without exception, our cases have defined that
concept broadly, reflecting our longstanding policy of
deference to legislative judgments in this field.
See how 'public use' morphed into 'public purpose'. As Justice Stephen earlier described, some of the first "Taking Clause" cases involved the government condemning and taking private property and turning it over to the privately held railroads who would then carry any citizen as a passenger. Private use but for a public purpose--public transportation.
Promoting economic development is a
traditional and long accepted function of government.
There is, moreover, no principled way of distinguishing
economic development from the other public purposes that
we have recognized.
True, true. It is difficult to draw a meaningful line here so, as you'll see, the Court doesn't draw one. We can't get mad at Stevens for stating true history.
Just as we decline to second-guess the City's considered
judgments about the efficacy of its development plan, we
also decline to second-guess the City's determinations as
to what lands it needs to acquire in order to effectuate the
So the majority merely deferred to the City (which is deciding what the 'public purpose' is and which is picking the property which it intends to take from A and give to B). The 'public purpose' is whatever the City says it is and the City doesn't need to do anything more than say it--no support required. The rankest speculation is OK .Trust the government entity--they know best. I see I've gone from fisking to bitching.
Justice Stevens, writing for the majority (the usual suspects) saying the City wins and the homeowners lose. We all lose. Of course not everyone agrees with the majority. From the dissent of Justice Thomas
The most natural reading of the Clause is that it allows
the government to take property only if the government
owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the property,
as opposed to taking it for any public purpose or necessity
I guess this is what they mean by interpreting a law to ascertain the original intent of the framers--look at the words and use the definitions we always use. So the phrase 'public use' for Justice Thomas means that the public gets to use it. He finds 'public purpose' to provide no guidelines whatsoever, i.e., it means whatever the taking government entity says it is.
The disagreement among state courts, and state
legislatures. Attempts to circumvent public use limits on
their eminent domain power, cannot obscure that the
Public Use Clause is most naturally read to authorize
takings for public use only if the government or the public
actually uses the taken property.
Of course the governments want to be able to use eminent domain to maximize tax revenue; it beats upping the traffic ticket quotas. On the other hand, we homeowners don't want the sword of Damocles hanging over our head falling at random times on random neighborhoods as the spirits move the various executives. A man's home is his castle unless the tax basis for private castles has been superseded by that of a mall or even a strip mall or a strip joint, while you're at it.
Yet today the Court tells us that we are
not to 'second-guess the City's considered judgments'.
...When the issue is, instead, whether the government
may take the infinitely more intrusive step of
tearing down petitioners' homes. Something has gone
seriously awry with this Court's interpretation of the
Constitution. Though citizens are safe from the government
in their homes, the homes themselves are not.
Wow, what well turned phrases. (Harry Reid probably couldn't write that well if you put a gun to his head). Yea, while the left was bitching and moaning about the security of their check out records at the local branch library, the government was taking for itself the right to bulldoze your house on the merest hope that the fellow they sell the cleared lot to will build on it a more grandiose (and taxable) edifice. But at least they won't know what you're reading.
When we depart from the natural import of the term 'public use'
and substitute for the simple idea of a public possession
and occupation, that of public utility, public interest,
common benefit, general advantage or convenience . . . We
are afloat without any certain principle to guide us..
Once one permits takings for public purposes in addition to
public uses, no coherent principle limits what could constitute a valid
'public use' at least, none beyond JUSTICE O.CONNOR's
(entirely proper) appeal to the text of the Constitution itself.
I've omitted some cites to other cases here. Sounds like Justice Thomas is concerned that this lack of any real limit on 'public use' is opening up a whole box full of trouble. Here are some examples of what I, merest tyro regarding government, can envision and I'm not even going to talk about corruption ( like selling your scraped lot to developer friends of the mayor or city council member for a bribe when the developer has no real plan to develop but is merely speculating in property). In the places where the people have managed to limit the government's ability to raise property taxes (as in California and Colorado), the government can circumvent such limits by wiping out the, to them, unnaturally low property tax basis by wiping out modest castles and selling the lots to the developers of great big castles. The government can get rid of unpopular businesses (in some states it will be gun ranges, in others it will be strip joints) with a report of an expert saying a new business would be better. The churches in the blue counties will be particularly vulnerable, as churches pay no taxes whatsoever.
For all these reasons, I would revisit our Public Use
Clause cases and consider returning to the original meaning
of the Public Use Clause: that the government may
take property only if it actually uses or gives the public a
legal right to use the property.
This appeal to reason is almost heartbreaking; why even have a Constitution when half the times the Court is finding rights that aren't there and the other half it's ignoring the prohibitions that are right there in black and white. Maddening that this perfectly correct proposal is in the dissent. These guys are trying our patience and may one day find out that a huge Republican majority in the Senate can read that the Senate has the constitutional power to say what the Supreme Court can and cannot decide. Perhaps I'm dreaming.
Justice Thomas, dissenting (well done) What does Justice O'Connor have to say?
Where is the line between 'public' and 'private' property
use? We give considerable deference to legislatures'
determinations about what governmental activities will
advantage the public. But were the political branches the
sole arbiters of the public-private distinction, the Public
Use Clause would amount to little more than hortatory fluff.
You mean like the limitations of the Intrastate Commerce Clause?
An external, judicial check on how the public use
requirement is interpreted, however limited, is necessary
if this constraint on government power is to retain any
She like Justice Thomas, correctly sees that the decision as the deathknell of any such restraint.
Our cases have generally identified three categories of
takings that comply with the public use requirement,
though it is in the nature of things that the boundaries
between these categories are not always firm. Two are
relatively straightforward and uncontroversial. First, the
sovereign may transfer private property to public ownership
.Such as for a road, a hospital, or a military base.
I again left out citations. But this is straightforward. We all agree that the government can bulldoze our house if a hospital is going to be built even if the government gives what it says is fair market value, but isn't. There's a modified Heisenberg principal involved here. The involvement itself with the government affects the process of evaluating fair price. Once the government starts condemning, the fair price has already dropped. If it happens to us, we're victims; if it happens to others, well that's just the price of progress.
Second, the sovereign may transfer
private property to private parties, often common carriers,
who make the property available for the public.s use.
such as with a railroad, a public utility, or a stadium.
Perhaps these cases, whose citations I've omitted, were the thin end of the wedge (or first oily decline of the slippery slope) that were opposed unsuccessfully by dissents of years ago.
But 'public ownership' and 'use-by-the public'
are sometimes too constricting and impractical
ways to define the scope of the Public Use Clause. Thus
we have allowed that, in certain circumstances and to
meet certain exigencies, takings that serve a public purpose
also satisfy the Constitution even if the property is
destined for subsequent private use. See, e.g., Berman v.
Parker, 348 U. S. 26 (1954); Hawaii Housing Authority v.
Midkiff, 467 U. S. 229 (1984).
Berman and Midkiff do seem to lead in a straight, unopposable line to this decision.
In moving away from our decisions sanctioning the
condemnation of harmful property use, the Court today
significantly expands the meaning of public use. It holds
that the sovereign may take private property currently
put to ordinary private use, and give it over for new, ordinary
private use, so long as the new use is predicted to
generate some secondary benefit for the public, such as
increased tax revenue, more jobs, maybe even aesthetic
pleasure. But nearly any lawful use of real private property
can be said to generate some incidental benefit to the
public. Thus, if predicted (or even guaranteed) positive
side-effects are enough to render transfer from one private
party to another constitutional, then the words 'for public
use' do not realistically exclude any takings, and thus do
not exert any constraint on the eminent domain power.
Moving from case to case to case with minimal changes has progressed across a line and the clear meaning of the Constitution's 'for public use' now means nothing or anything depending on who's planning the property's new use.
It was possible after Berman and Midkiff to imagine
unconstitutional transfers from A to B. Those decisions
endorsed government intervention when private property
use had veered to such an extreme that the public was
suffering as a consequence. Today nearly all real property
is susceptible to condemnation on the Court's theory. In
the prescient words of a dissenter from the infamous
decision in Poletown, '[n]ow that we have authorized local
legislative bodies to decide that a different commercial or
industrial use of property will produce greater public
benefits than its present use, no homeowner's, merchant's
or manufacturer's property, however productive or valuable
to its owner, is immune from condemnation for the
benefit of other private interests that will put it to a
Remember the old dissents which, Cassandra-like, talked of bad things to come. Justice O'Connor remembers them.
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another
private party, but the fallout from this decision will
not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those
citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the
political process, including large corporations and development
firms. As for the victims, the government now has
license to transfer property from those with fewer resources
to those with more. The Founders cannot have
intended this perverse result.
But, even though it is easy to see that this step along the arc-line drawn by the past cases is a mis-step, here we are, having demolished the minimal protection 'for public use' once provided. And it will certainly harm the people Bill O'Reilly is looking out for.
Justice O'Connor (well done as well)
My heart's on the floor after reading this decision. If someone can see some good in it, please let me know.
Lisl Auman Update
Even the tales of "torture" being pawned off by the detainees on credulous American journalists are pretty lame.
The Washington Post reported that a detainee at Guantanamo says he was "threatened with sexual abuse." (Bonus "Not Torture" rule: If it is similar to the way interns were treated in the Clinton White House.)
"Sign or you will be tortured!"
"What's the torture?"
"We will merely threaten you with horrible things!"
"Shut up and do as we say, or we'll issue empty, laughable threats guaranteed to amuse you. This is your last warning."
Coulter has made sarcasm into an art form. Read the whole thing
Thought of the Day
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The Worst of both Worlds
Perhaps these thoughts are a little pedestrian.
Short TV Blog
I'll be there Tuesdays to follow the freak show.
Rock Concert (kinda)
Madeleine Peyroux is hard to classify. Her band--piano, bass and drums--were like the jazz trio in a bar at the Holiday Inn in a big city, but in a good way. But in front of them is a gawky, French looking girl on the edge of pretty, with a guitar with incredibly squeaky frets, and a good voice but weird phrasing and purposefully flat notes that Fiona Appel at her most experimental would never think of trying. A jazz voice made for blues (that's my classification). I liked her a lot. Jeffrey says her first song of the set, Don't wait too long, was getting a lot of radio play. Good for her. She's clearly an American, but she sang la vie en rose just like Edith Piaf. Check this girl out.
Thought of the Day
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Poem of the Month (slight return)
Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle
quam mihi, non si se Iuppiter ipse petat.
dicit: sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti,
in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua.
Gaius Valerius Catullus (84- 54 BC)
No one, my woman says to me, is there
with whom she'd rather be, than me,
not even if Jupiter himself should ask.
So she says, but what a woman says to her hot lover
should be written on the wind and running water.
This one does not need a lot of explanation. Clearly all was not well in the Catullus and Clodia/Lesbia relationship when this was written. I wonder it this one strikes a cord with guys who feel that they were deceived by women who merely cooled on them. Some people seem to think this is a misogynistic poem. I disagree. One of the great things about women is that they will go with their feelings (better than men seem to do) even if it causes them to seem flighty and inconstant. The fact is, as humans, our feelings do change over time and while men seem to resist or, at least, to mask it, women seem to notice better and to embrace the changes. I don't think noticing that difference between men and women is misogyny. Clearly Catullus is pissed off, though.
Thought of the Day
Thomas Paine, in The Rights of Man, 1792
Monday, June 20, 2005
Short TV Blog
I think the show has done a lot for the pro-life movement. Nate is surrounded by 6 or 7 children, one time, who turn out to be the ghosts of the aborted fetuses of the women he got pregnant. Claire has an abortion at Planned Parenthood and it is a nightmare of banal, industrial death. Later the dead wife played by Lili Taylor promises to take care of Claire's aborted child in the afterlife, if Claire will take care of the surviving Maya. I know it doesn't seem like it will help but we need Hollywood to help (and ever more detailed sonograms) if pro-life forces are going to get the decision back to the people. More on abortion later.
6 Feet Under is so dark lately that even the smallest kindness or triumph will stand out. Maybe that's what they wanted to do.
Finally, it was good, in a way, to see some non-sexual mother abuse after all the tales of father (sexual) abuse of the women on Deadwood (Trixie and Alma). It puts the World back in balance, kinda.
What's the deal? I had trouble with the word caterpillar--when I was 5! Guanta-namo, rhymes with dynamo, as in dynamo-hum. Can they not hear themselves?
Even More on Dick Durbin
"Dick Durbin hasn't been misunderstood, as his Friday web statement claims. He isn't the victim of a right-wing media, as his Friday interview argues. Dick Durbin has been perfectly understood. All of his words have been read and listened to, in their original context and in his original delivery.
Durbin stands with the Michael Moore left, the Howard Dean attack-America-first caucus, and the international chorus that assigns the responsibility for the jihadists to American overreach in the world.
The election of 2004 might have been the occasion when the Democratic leadership took account of where American public opinion stands on this war. That leadership rejected the results of November because those results rejected them. In response they have upped the rhetoric, intent on a replay of the anti-war movement and rhetoric of the late '60s and early '70s, hopeful of converting Bush to Nixon, and of driving American power back to its own shores. The tactic of demonizing the American military worked then, so it is being replayed now. If this rhetoric is not checked, it is only a matter of time until we have a new John Kerry discussing the "Genghis Khan" tactics of the American military operating in the Middle East.
Durbin's slander was simply a rhetorical bridge too far, but for both the man and his party there are no regrets and no apology. Not one senior Democrat has condemned Durbin's statement. Not one Democratic senator has asked for a caucus meeting."
Read the whole thing. It's long, but well worth it. I have to get to work.
"It's for damn sure you won't sap the enemies will by telling him exactly how long to keep his head down. If we announce an exit date of six months or a year from now – or even in five years or a century – then we'll already have lost. An exit date is a signal of retreat. An exit date says, "We've given up. Just keep quiet until we're gone, and then the place will be all yours.""
As Pejman Yousefzadeh said about me one time, great minds think alike.
More Styen Brilliance
"Where the anti-Gitmo crowd went wrong was in expanding its objections from the legal status of the prisoners to the treatment they‚re receiving. By any comparison — ie, not just with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot — they’re getting better than they deserve. It’s the first gulag in history where the torture victims put on weight. Each prisoner released from Guantanamo receives a new copy of the Koran plus a free pair of blue jeans in his new size: the average detainee puts on 13 pounds during his stay, thanks to the “mustard-baked dill fish”, “baked Tandoori chicken breast” and other delicacies. These and other recipes from the gulag’s kitchen have now been collected by some Internet wags and published as The Gitmo Cookbook.
Judging from the way he’s dug himself in, Dick Durbin, the Number Two Democrat in the US Senate, genuinely believes Gitmo is analogous to Belsen, the gulags and the killing fields. But he crossed a line, from anti-Bush to anti-American, and most Americans have no interest in following him down that path.You can’t claim (as Democrats do, incessantly) to “support our troops” and then dump them in the same category as the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge. In the hermetically sealed echo chamber between the Dem leadership, the mainstream US media, Hollywood, Ivy League “intellectuals” and European sophisticates, the gulag cracks are utterly unexceptional. But, for a political party that keeps losing elections because it has less and less appeal outside a few coastal enclaves, Durbin’s remarks are devastating. The Democrats flopped in 2002 and 2004 because they were seen as incoherent on national security issues. Explicitly branding themselves as the “terrorists’ rights” party is unlikely to improve their chances for 2006."
The panel included the always sour Katrina van den Heuvel, whom I call van den Awful. She was true to form. We losing; we're torturing; we're awful. Must be tough living with that sort of world view. The glass isn't just half empty, it's half full of arsenic tainted water. She wasn't looking too good either. Lot of puffiness around her eyes. Maybe it's true that beauty originates within. George Will was good, as usual, with quotes from the mid-70s when the long term prediction of the weather by the expert climatologists was for another ice age--the exact opposite of what they say now. Van den Awful looked as if she'd been poleaxed. "Everyone agrees that there's global warming", she said. Yea, there probably is, about a degree in the past century and a half. Dennis Miller asks: Isn't that remarkably stable? We've been warmer during recorded history. My best scholarship in Grad School was to correlate the period of most vigorous Icelandic literature to the Little Optimum, the warm period between 950 and 1400. It was good for the Vikings but tough on the Anasazi in the four corners area. I presume the very gradual warming lately will have the same hit or miss effects in the future. Good for some, bad for others. But I see I'm digressing.
There were 35 American dead in Iraq last week. Too many.
I watch McLaughlin rerun on Sunday and again the woman on the panel was Ms. Sunshine. Eleanor Clift said, "we're losing in Iraq and there's no way we can win. Run for your lives-- the sky is falling" (I could be wrong about that last part). What is it with sour women and Sunday panels? I think we're winning in Iraq but I do agree that the price has been pretty high (still less than the Spanish-American War). My opinion is just as well informed and valid as Eleanor's but she has the half hour show on Fridays and I just have this little (not well read) blog. Not that I'm complaining.
Thought of the Day
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Apparently this was an old pun in the Mrak family, but I thought it was the height of cowboy humor. For a while I said, without explanation, 'My moosesteak' whenever I acknowledged error. But as I made fewer and fewer, I quit saying it. Now that I'm back to more normal levels of error, I think I might start saying it again, just as I now use Buggs Bunny's 'What a maroon!' when someone's being a moron, because character is the gradual accumulation of personal history into one's day to day action. I wouldn't mind becoming a character as I advance in age.
Fighting to Win
You would think that the answer would be obvious. It is for most right thinking Americans. The answer apparently is anything but clear to our less than loyal opposition on the left.
I was looking all over the net for a transcription of a question to Press Secretary Scott McClellan from last week (from a foreign journalist) that Hugh Hewitt played on the radio. I couldn't find it, so again I'll have to go on memory. The question was basically, why have we not lived up to the high ideals we had in WWII in our current fight against terrorism? She meant the so called torture we're supposed to be doing now and (by inference) didn't do in WWII. I'll get to that in a minute. But let me tweak the question a little by asking what high ideals? You mean like fighting to win?
The more I learn about the effort and sacrifice we made as a people to beat fascist, racist governments during WWII, the more impressed I am with my father's generation. The Germans were, individually, dedicated fighters, sometimes with weapons superior to ours. Some of the Japanese troops were superb, despite decidedly inferior weapons. But we had to beat them, and we did--decisively, in under 4 years. Why did we have to win? It shouldn't be any surprise to anyone with the most basic historical sense, that the Nazis were just plain evil. I don't mean they ate babies for breakfast, ganz im gegenteil, they loved their own children and their dogs. But once they started losing the war (as early as our entry into it in December 1941) they began to set up death factories where live Jews and Gypsies (and others) entered and only smoke and ash were carted out. The industrial product was the destruction of 6 million Jews and 90% of the Gypsies in occupied Europe. Just. Plain. Evil.
I like the Japanese (now); I like their food, cartoons, their old movies and most of the Japanese people I have met (especially Yoshiko Doi--what a cutie), but if anything the Japanese were worse than the Nazis during the war. Read Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking. The Japanese may not have set up death camps for the gaijin, but they dealt out torture and death to millions of them in the short span of the Empire. (Gaijin, which translates as barbarian, is anyone who is not Japanese). We had to win that war.
Is the current one any less imperative? Do we want the misogynistic, homosexual hating, Jew hating, American hating, non-Arab Muslim hating, suicide bomb loving, extreme followers of the Religion of Peace to win? The answer again seems obvious. The Islamofascist may not be quite as bad as the Nazis and Imperial Japan, but they are close.
So, what do we do? Well, the obvious answer is to fight to win. We at least fight as hard as we did in WWII. How hard was that? Pretty darned hard. We bombed and shelled and invaded the countries and islands the Nazis and Imperial Japanese had invaded and conquered, and then we worked our way towards the homelands--bombing, shelling and engaging the German and Japanese forces in combat. We killed them. We killed civilians living in the homelands. We reduced their cities to ash and rubble. One raid against Hamburg in 1943 was specifically designed to kill all the firefighters so that there would be no firefighters for the second and third waves of incendiary bombs and the fires would get out of control and burn up huge swathes of Hamburg and roast or asphyxiate the women and children hiding from the bombs there. We fire bombed Tokyo in March, 1945 and killed more civilians (probably 200,000), including women and children, during those two days than died when we nuked the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that summer. We nuked Japanese cities! That's how harsh we got; that's how hard we fought to win.
On the field of battle we killed or captured the German and Japanese troops opposing us. The ones we captured were interrogated and the interrogations were not turning off the air conditioning and playing bad pop music at them. We inflicted more than mild discomfort, at times; we did what it took to get the information we needed. I am not accusing the Greatest Generation of torture. Torture is not an effective method of extracting reliable information. But the American interrogators didn't just stick their fingers lightly in the prisoner's chest. We were fighting to win, and harsh methods of interrogation of prisoners is a necessary (if regrettable) part of war, when you're fighting to win; it's part of the reason that war is hell.
During WWII, the Democrats were the majority party by a large margin. Our conduct during the war was the product of Democratic foreign policy. Here's what the Republicans, the minority party at the time, did not do. They did not compare us to our enemies on the floor of the Senate. Even the Republicans were fighting to win.
Rush Limbaugh has been talking about this the last week in a slightly different form. His question is do we take WWII as the template for our fight against Islamofascism or do we take Vietnam (the only war we lost) as the template? I think it's the same question I'm asking.
Fighting to win means that you are deadly against your enemies, even harsh (but not criminal-- war is terrible enough). You also support the effort, even if it's very harsh. Especially if you're not fighting in it, if you love your country, you support the effort by saying things (when people are listening and recording) that are supportive of our aims and our troops. This war will likely last a long time and public opinion (and to a smaller part World opinion) will have an effect on our desire to fight to win in the future You do not hand the enemy ammunition for the propaganda part of the war. You especially do not do this when you have a position of authority in the U.S. government. We can't stop you from saying things that supply comfort and support to our enemies (the First Amendment dose not allow prior restraint except in the narrowest of circumstances) but don't pretend you are a patriot and supporting the troops when you say things (like they're Nazis) that make their job more difficult and dangerous and which weaken the will of the people to make the necessary sacrifices over the long haul. That's fighting to lose; and for the sake of my daughters (at the very least) I don't want to lose this war.
Thought of the Day
It is not good to be just better than the worst.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Thought of the Day
I usually don't comment on the Thought of the Day, but this one cries out for a little explanation. First you have to get past the archaic forms for the verbs and personal pronouns. 'Thou', 'thy', 'thine' are of course forms we have replaced with 'you' and 'your' Same with the verb forms and the 'st' or 'est' added to the otherwise familiar verbs. Modern 'you look' becomes 'thou lookest' 400 years ago. I'm not a hundred percent sure but I think this was a familiar form, that is, words and endings one would only use with family and friends--like the 'du' in German. 'Du' and 'dich' are familiar, informal. 'Sie' and 'ihnen' are formal. 'Thou' may have been informal. 'You' was likely formal. One other problem is the word 'mote'. What the heck is a mote? Isn't that the thing around a castle? And how can the thing around a castle get in your eye? A moat is around a castle. We don't use the word 'mote' much any more. It means speck, as in a speck of dust, a very tiny particle.
The last problem is the word 'beam'. We know what a beam is; it's a huge piece of timber used to hold up the roof or floor of a house. But how can such a huge piece of wood be in someone's eye? (I hope I'm not the only one who's ever asked that question) How would it fit? Wouldn't it be instantly fatal? I don't know the exact use beam had when King James ruled England, but the point of the comparison is the tiny speck versus the larger (not necessarily house framing size) milled wood piece. You see the tiniest of defects in another but ignore the unmissible (but for denial) defects in your self.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Durbin says that if you heard the FBI report about interrogation, including turning the air conditioning up and then off and playing rap music loudly, you would think it was the Nazis, etc. No we wouldn't. There are the obvious anachronisms. (Nazis and rap music--get real) but the real kicker is that the interrogation technique is way too tame. Go rent The Grey Zone, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, and The Killing Fields; and then read again Durbin's recounting of the "horror" (according to him) in Guantanamo Bay. There simply is no comparison; and that Durbin holds onto it, like a Bulldog a bone, is the best evidence there is that he has no judgment.
Friday Movie Review
I think that the Japanese idealize their pre-Meiji restoration sword masters the way we idealize (at times) our gunslingers (from about the same period). But while I really like the gritty realism of The Unforgiven and Bad Company, I also enjoy the slightly less realistic westerns where the guns come out like lightning and shoot with exquisite accuracy without the gunslinger even bringing it up to his eyes. I see I'm digressing again.
Sword of Doom is halfway between unreal ability and stark realism. It starts out with Nakadai (playing swordsman Ryunosuke Tsukue) walking over the pass wearing one of those elaborate straw hats/baskets over his head. He overhears an old man lamenting that he is a burden to his granddaughter, and he kills the old man. It is the first of many, many murders. There are an interwoven series of stories about people effected by that act, but the focus is all Nakadai. He specializes in playing people with otherworldly intensity, verging on madness. He is a very handsome man, but there's something about his eyes. When he gets the 1,000 year stare going, he's in the zone.
All his character in this film cares about is getting better with the sword. He's pretty good to begin with, but begins to turn to the dark side, well, within 5 minutes of the movie's start. He uses what is called a cruel style. I've seen this movie 6 or 7 times and I still don't know what that means. He draws his opponents in, I guess, with an open stance/defense and then beats them (at formal duels with wooden swords) or kills them everywhere else. He leans forward with the sword en guarde and then draws it slowly down to his side and back daring his opponent to try to get to him. Did I mention there were a lot of murders in this movie?
One irony is that the wife of an inferior fencer with whom Nakadai is to have a wooden sword duel sleeps with Nakadai to get him to go easy on her husband. Unfortunately the husband finds out about the tryst and, enraged, tries to kill Nakadai who kills him first (with a wooden sword to the face). Big help from the little lady there. She takes up with Nakadai as he becomes a disgraced fencer/professional killer. Later Nakadai kills her and their kid. Real turning to the dark side, there. He can't beat one guy, played (uncredited) by Toshiro Mifune. His disgrace, failure, guilt all come back to him in a Geisha house and he goes completely nuts and fights and kills nearly every man there (it seemed like there were about 50).
I guess this is what passed for a psychological portrait of a sociopath in mid 60s Japan. If you watch it a few times, it all falls together. The first time you see it, it is shocking. The great joy is watching the first duel; it is exquisite. "The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword." says Nakadai's master. That's the pseudo profound level of discourse found through out the film. It's black and white but very beautiful, 119 minutes long, little sex, no nudity, and very, very violent. Roger Bob says check it out.