Friday, September 30, 2005


Friday Movie Review

I gave my youngest daughter the pick of which movie to see and instead of Serenity or A History of Violence (my ineffectual mid beam choices) we went to see Just Like Heaven. Kind of an ironic title, to my way of thinking. It's a life after life, charming romantic comedy largely about fate but way, way over the top on new wave spirituality (it is set in San Francisco) and it was OK in a mindless, chick flick sort of way. It has Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo. It was 101 minutes long and had songs in it by the Cure. Still, I had a good time. And good looking but stupid girls are not my style either. Reese Witherspoon looked very good but she is short; as is, apparently, Mark Ruffalo, because the guy from Napoleon Dynamite towered over him.

The director was Mark Waters who rose from the miscellaneous crew on Requiem For a Dream to do the somewhat interesting, Indy film The House of Yes with Parker Posey (at that time all independent films had to have either Parker Posey or Eric Stoltz in them) and it was enough of a success that he's hit the big time in Hollywood and recent works of his cinematic art include: Head over Heals, the new Freaky Friday and the surprisingly successful Mean Girls. His brother, Daniel Waters, is a writer of screenplays whose best work (if you can call it that) now seems behind him. His credits start well-- Heathers was darn good, but the rest-- The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Hudson Hawk, Batman Returns and Demolition Man-- seem like a downward arc to oblivion. He did more recently write and direct Happy Campers of which I've heard pleasant things.

There is absolutely no need to talk about the plot of this film--it is designed for one thing only--to get women to think (no, feel) that love is possible and worthwhile (and it is, though it's hard to find) and that once you find love, all is right with the World, and the blind can see, and the dead can rise up and live. In other words, it is an absolutely standard chick flick. But it does seem to warm up some sort of warm fuzzy things somewhere. Like I say, I had a good time.

Donal Logue, who was so good in The Tao of Steve, was also good in this, but the movie had just the right amount of him in it. He's like salt in a recipe. I think the star of the movie was the apartment where the bulk of it took place. This might be the best apartment ever, anywhere in the World. No female nudity (though you did see an old man's backside) or sex. Violence was minimal. There wasn't a single surprise in the whole film. Go watch it if you have to, but don't say I gave you any false impressions.


Hand Me Down Camouflage

Very martial pose of an Iraqi soldier in a kneeling firing position in front of a house during a gunbattle in an al-Mansur neighborhood of western Baghdad on September 21, 2005. He looks great except for the camouflage. His shirt's our old stuff, the ugly cookie dough uniform we wore in the first part of the Gulf War. It looks particularly bad with the woodland camo vest (another left-over) underneath his black new issue magazine pouches. Fashion designers would call this an eclectic look. As I've said here, you don't want to lose a war because then the other side can make you wear their hand-me-downs.

That's an extended barrel on the soldier's AK74 and on the extension is what looks like a rifle grenade launcher. I though they used the easier to aim RPG 7. Although I hate our old camo and make fun of the Iraqis having to wear it, I'm glad to see them more and more in action, defending their country. Soon there will come a time that we're merely the SWAT teams for the country and most of our guys and girls (mainly guys) can come home.


Worst News of the Week

This is bad. Uzbekistan has stopped co-operating with us regarding terrorism. As bad as the French were regarding Iraq, they never stopped co-operating with us regarding intelligence in the war against militant Islamicism. Money quote:

After cutting off U.S. access to a key military base, Uzbekistan has also quietly terminated cooperation with Washington on counterterrorism, a move that could affect both countries' ability to deal with al Qaeda and its allies in Central Asia and neighboring Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
The government of President Islam Karimov, one of the most authoritarian to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union, has made a broader strategic decision to move away from the 2002 agreement made with President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and is cooling relations with Europe as well, the officials said.

So, we complain about human rights abuses by an increasingly authoritarian government in Central Asia and suddenly there's a hole in the intelligence net surrounding Afghanistan. Would it have been better to let Karimov become a mini-Stalin without criticism. Tough to call.


Asian Avian Flu

The headline certainly catches your attention: New Flu Pandemic Could Kill 150 Million. But the news is actually slightly less sensational. It all comes from the World Health Organization and Dr. David Nabarro. WHO?

Here is his big quote: "We expect the next influenza pandemic to come at any time now, and it's likely to be caused by a mutant of the virus that is currently causing bird flu in Asia."

They're waiting for Asian Avian Flu (the H5N1 strain) to mutate. That has to occur (and it certainly can) for the AAF to become a deadly pandemic. Right now it's not that scary.

Here's the reality behind the headline: "[The AAF] has swept through poultry populations in Asia since 2003, infecting humans and killing at least 65 people, mostly poultry workers, and resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of birds. The virus does not pass from person to person easily..."

65 people in three years is not quite the Spanish Influenza. However, everyone at WHO, it seems, expects the Spanish Influenza to reappear in the form of a mutated H5N1 strain of AAF. Or the bird flu could go the way of Swine Flu, where the cure was more deadly than the disease. There is no scientifically valid way to judge the likelihood that a certain virus will mutate towards greater communicability. No way at all.

Here's another headline, perhaps a few orders of magnitude less likely, but just as eye-catching: Seven Billion to Freeze to Death if Sun Dims Just a Little.


Thought of the Day

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, September 29, 2005


We All Knew He Chewed, Well, Tobacco

But who knew he could pitch too.

Hey, Red Socks fans, do you really think this can help?

(And what happened to Leia? Even current Carrie Fisher is prettier than this one).


This Day in Ancient History

AGAIN, MAJOR ROME SPOILER ALERT: This is the birthday of Pompey the Great (Pompeii Magnus) who was born in 106 BC. When his erstwhile friend and rival, Gaius Julius Caesar, was killed in 44 BC, it was at the feet of a statue of Pompey. It was rumored that, as Caesar bled out, he prayed to Pompey. I've always doubted that, as Pompey wasn't even an Emperor and Emperors of Rome didn't start being declared divine until Augustus.


Thought of the Day

We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.

R. D. Laing in The Politics of Experience

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Poem of the Month

Angustam amice pauperiem pati
robustus acri militia puer
condiscat et Parthos ferocis
uexet eques metuendus hasta

uitamque sub diuo et trepidis agat 5
in rebus. Illum ex moenibus hosticis
matrona bellantis tyranni
prospiciens et adulta uirgo

suspiret, eheu, ne rudis agminum
sponsus lacessat regius asperum 10
tactu leonem, quem cruenta
per medias rapit ira caedes.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:
mors et fugacem persequitur uirum
nec parcit inbellis iuuentae 15
poplitibus timidoue tergo.

Virtus, repulsae nescia sordidae,
intaminatis fulget honoribus
nec sumit aut ponit securis
arbitrio popularis aurae. 20

Virtus, recludens inmeritis mori
caelum, negata temptat iter uia
coetusque uolgaris et udam
spernit humum fugiente pinna.

Est et fideli tuta silentio 25
merces: uetabo, qui Cereris sacrum
uolgarit arcanae, sub isdem
sit trabibus fragilemque mecum

soluat phaselon; saepe Diespiter
neglectus incesto addidit integrum, 30
raro antecedentem scelestum
deseruit pede Poena claudo.

Horace Carmina Liber III Carmen II

Let the robust boy learn by rote to experience
the harrowing hardship through sharp military service,
but in a friendly way, and let him vex by horse the
ferocious Parthian with fearful lance.

And let him lead his life outdoors
and in the middle of dangerous action.
At this one, from hostile battlements, let
the matron of warlike tyrant and maiden daughter

sigh, "Oh, don't let the raw trooper/lover
provoke the royal lion, rough to the
touch, whom cruel anger snaps
through the middle of gore."

It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country:
And death pursues the fleeing man,
and it will not spare the unwarlike youth's
back nor the timid hollow of his knee.

Virtue, ignorant of sordid failure,
shines out with uncontaminated honor
nor takes up nor puts down the state power
at the arbitrary bidding of the mob.

Virtue, that lays open the sky for
undeserving dead, attempts passage on
forbidden ways and spurns the vulgar crowd
and wet earth by ascending wings.

There is a safe reward for loyal silence:
I will forbid those who broadcast the sacred
Arcana of Ceres to live under the same roof
with me or cast off the fragile ships.

Often negligent Jupiter will include
the honest with the impure but
rarely will lame footed Punishment stop pursuing
the wicked no matter how he started.

Horace Epodes, Book 3, Poem 2

What a difference from the wine and warmth and feast and willing, laughing girls in dark corners of the last poem to this harsh celebration of martial spirit and elan. Horace has definitely butched up. I have to admit I don't get the lion part. Is the lion, like Virtue or the named gods, a symbol for warlike spirit or is it a real lion? I can't tell. Having watched Rome on HBO lately and read some more, I have to say that a heartfelt 'it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country' is as pure a Roman sentiment as exists. It is, alas, far too foreign a concept to far too many of us.

The Parthians were as tough an opponent as the Romans faced at that time. Their specialty was the lightning raid on horseback and then when the Roman cavalry lit out in pursuit, the Parthians would turn around in their saddles and shoot arrows accurately at their pursuers. (The Parthian shot--the final, withering words in an argument as one leaves--is the legacy of Parthian cavalry archery skill and has transmuted to 'parting shot' in modern English).

The rest of the poem is really self explanatory (and besides, I don't know what the arcane knowledge of Ceres is). The next poem is by Wilfred Owen, who died in November, 1918, and contains an echo of this poem.


Brotherly Advice

Although he's merely a half brother to the former Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, who lost in the last election, but, Gore-like, refuses to acknowledge it (because apparently nearly-a-tie goes to the incumbent in Germany), Lothar Vosseler is giving good advice to his brother:

"I think he should give up. He has already done so much for the Social Democratic party that he can leave with his head held high."

Yea, double digit unemployment (including his half-brother--he's not bitter), declining population and clout in the World, and there was a war (in Iraq) and Germany didn't fight in it. I guess Herr Schroeder has indeed left his mark, but, by my way of thinking, it's not a head held high set of accomplishments.


Win Ben Stein's Wisdom

Read this bit of clear thinking from Ben Stein and compare it to the fatuous self-satisfaction from disgraced "reporter" Dan Rather here.

Dueling money quotes:

Stein: It is just plain evil to try to divide the nation -- especially in time of war -- with false cries of racism. The response to Katrina shows just the opposite of racism -- a loving, compassionate response to victims without regard to race. One expects Al Sharpton to cry racism. He would not have a job without that phony cause. But for the media, who should know better, to try to paint such a wicked, dishonest picture -- well, Goebbels would have been proud.

Rather: Covering hurricanes is something I know something about," he said.
"It's been one of television news' finest moments," Rather said of the Katrina coverage. He likened it to the coverage of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
"They were willing to speak truth to power," Rather said of the coverage.

Finest moment, huh? It was largely a pack of lies. Of course, Rather would endorse that sort of reporting, more aptly named speaking lies to power.

UPDATE: Local blogger Jeff "Easy-to-Understand" Goldstein has more on the terrible reporting.


News From the Gaza Front

This is an Israeli M109AL 155 mm self-propelled howitzer at a staging area near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, just outside the northern Gaza Strip.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz pledged Tuesday to step up pressure on the militants, who won't stop firing Qassam rockets into Israel from Gaza, saying a ground invasion into Gaza is possible as a last resort. He spoke as he toured an Israeli artillery battery near Gaza.

"This battery ... is not meant to be decoration. It is operational, within range and it will respond against every firing of a Qassam in real time, and that is to deter," he said.

Not decoration indeed. See the shells on the extreme left with the eye bolt in the top. They have not been fused. The rest of the shells, with sharp black points and white stripes at the top--they're ready to go. As is the IDF if the Palestinians don't get smart and quit waging ineffective war against Israel which will be serious and efficient in its response.


This Day in Ancient History

MAJOR ROME SPOILER ALERT: On this day in 61 BC, Pompey Magnus celebrates a Triumph (his third) for his victories in battle over Mediterranean pirates and in present day Syria, Armenia and Israel; and all of Rome cheers him. Just 13 years later, in 48 BC, on the anniversary of his Triumph (and a day before his birthday) Pompey Magnus is killed by the Egyptians in Alexandria where he had fled from Gaius Julius Caesar. Caesar had not ordered or wished for the murder and was angry at those who carried it out and at Ptolemy XIII who had ordered it.


Thought of the Day

Half the world is composed of idiots, the other half of people clever enough to take indecent advantage of them.

Walter Kerr

Walter Kerr was long-time theater critic (back when theater was a bigger deal) for the NYT. His wife wrote a book about their lives with four boys and it was made into a movie Please Don't Eat the Daisies. I went to grad school with the youngest boy, the one they kept in a crib/cage. Pretty good guy. And a pretty cynical view of the World his dad had. You're either stupid or you take advantage of people. Who wants to be in either group?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Friday Movie Review (early)

Went to the early show of Serenity, the new science fiction movie of the failed TV show Firefly. I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. What a good movie. Some other bloggers were there (Zombyboy and Vodkapundit) as were some for real movie critics (Robert Denerstein and Reggie McDaniel). The movie was funny; it was exciting; it was scary; and, it tied up a lot of loose ends from the show. I liked it a lot.

Best of the new stuff was Chiwetel Ejiofor (I'm not making that up) who was so good in Dirty Pretty Things and briefly in Love Actually (both fine movies). He plays the unnamed "operative" for the Alliance and was an honorable and worthy foe (as all good screen villains are wont to be).

The best thing from the old show remains the Reivers, except now we know where the Reivers came from. Nihil ex nihilo I always say. The explanation is part of the brilliant writing that makes the plot device of government wickedness integral to the themes developed back during the TV show. Why do they want the girl so? Who are these Reiver guys and what makes them so monstrous? All answered. And you have to admire a movie that will kill off some of the regulars and make it look like they're all going down.

Some missteps were River Tam (played by Summer Glau) as a kung fu maven. I know getting kicked by a 90 pound girl might well hurt, but I doubt one could take me out. I love David Krumholtz (just for "Luck be a Lady Tonight" in the Slums of Beverly Hills) but his character, Mr. Universe, was slim to non-existent (even though he is an important plot advancer). Loved the love robot. Ron Glass played such a small role that he was barely even there.

The canon they used to lure in the Reivers was a German 20mm (probably the same one used in Saving Private Ryan). It's tough to tell what the small arms are because they just glue doodads on late 20th Century guns. Captain Mal carries what looks like an M-16 with the air cool cowling from an M1919A4 (Browning .30). Jayne carries an HK 41 but it's hard to tell with all the junk crammed on. They even put a scope on Zoe's pump shotgun. What's that about?

The movie takes a bit to set up and get going but, after the trip to Miranda, it revs up and kicks into a rollicking overdrive. I have not had this much fun at the movies since back when the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series were good.


Yea, We're Losing in Iraq

Within the last few days, American Special Forces in Iraq received a tip regarding Abu Azzam, an important lieutenant to Abu Masab al Zarqawi and the top money man for al Qaeda in Iraq. (I know, I know, the terrorists are too stupid to realize that there is no connection between al Qaeda and Iraq). The troops went to pick Azzam up but he fired first and was killed in return fire.

Even Knight Ridder can't spin the story all negative.

It's good that we're getting tips sufficiently fresh to lead to this sort of operation and it's certainly possible that we captured documents that will lead to more operations and, we hope, captures.

Now, are the terrorists in Iraq, what the left calls insurgents, co-ordinating attacks on our Brigadiers and Colonels? Are they capturing any Americans? Or are they hiding like worms and attacking civilians because they don't shoot back? Merely to ask these questions is to make any lefty pronouncement that we've already lost the war in Iraq seem rather silly.

UPDATE: Two more stories on the good news (both tempered with reports of continued suicide bombings). Now Azzam is called the number 2 guy of the organization called al Qaeda in Iraq and the one in charge of terroritst operations in Baghdad. The Constitutional referendum is three weeks away and Saddam's trial starts just days after that historic vote. I love the smell of purple permanent ink in the morning. It smells like...victory.


Thought of the Day

Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats.

Howard Aiken

Monday, September 26, 2005


Quality Over Quantity

Last weekend saw two demonstrations (street political theater) in D.C.--one by the left, which was anti-war (when it wasn't just loopy) and one the next day by people supporting our troops and their mission in Iraq. The numbers tell a story. Although more accurate counting would certainly question the 100,000 number the left claims attended theirs (more likely it was less than half that), even the smaller number still beats the 2,000 to 15,000 that showed up for the pro-troop rally. We have to face it, the right just can't compete in street theater (although we seem to be doing OK in the more important things--like voting).

However, comparing the photos from the rallies above and below, it seems a question of quality over quantity.


Pattern of Politics

Although it is generally conceded by even the Democrats on the Judicial Committee that Chief Justice nominee John Roberts is supremely qualified for the job, not all of them voted for him and in the general vote among all the Senate this week not all of the Democrat Senators will vote for him either. These ones will:

Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Max Baucus of Montana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

With the exception of Leahy, which came as a surprise to nearly everyone, and the Wisconsin Senators (more surprises), there is a commonality among all these men. It's not, I believe, a desire to put the best, or one of the best persons for the job on the Supreme Court. It's that they are in red states--states that went for President Bush, usually in a big way, last election. The pattern, I believe, betrays any claim of principle.

UPDATE: Roberts was confirmed by the Senate 78 to 22, which means he received 8 more than I predicted. The bulk of his support from Democrat Senators came from red state Democrats, continuing the pattern noted above. I try to be as cynical as the next guy, but it's hard to keep up.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 46 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar dedicated a temple to Venus Genetrix (he traced his lineage back to Venus--somehow) in the 'new' forum near the real forum. Ruins of the temple can be seen even today, but they're not very impressive.


Thought of the Day

Summum ius summa inuria

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The more laws, the less justice. (literally, the more injury)

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Those Who Cannot Remember the Past...

...Are usually on the left. Here is a transcript of a shouting match last week between lefty has-been Phil Donahue and current hot-property blowhard Bill O'Reilly. I've seen the video too; believe me it's easier to take in print.

One thing that got me was this exchange:

DONAHUE: Saddam--Saddam was a bastard. But he was our bastard.
O'REILLY: He wasn't anybody's...
DONAHUE: Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in the '80s.
O'REILLY: Well, that's true (ph).

Way to debate, Bill! Ya' lightweight.

How about a little historical context through the Socratic method:

Q: During the 80s, was Iraq at war with any other country?

A: Why, yes, from 1980 to 1988, the overwhelming bulk of the 80s, Iraq was at war against Iran.

Q: And between those two combatants, Iraq and Iran, whom did we support?

A: We supported Iraq over Iran.

Q: Why was that?

A: Because in 1979, Iran had a revolution and the Iranian militants took over our embassy in Teheran (the very definition of a barbarous act) and held most of the Americans there hostage for well over a year. That made us pretty angry at Iran.

Q: Did there come a time between 1988 and 2005 when we no longer supported Saddam Hussein in Iraq?

A: Well, yes, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, we were then pretty angry at Iraq and waged war against their forces in 1991. I would think bombing Baghdad and killing tons of Iraqi soldiers as we kicked them out of Kuwait could be considered a pretty clear signal of the ending of our support for Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Q: So Saddam Hussein was not 'our bastard' even though Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in the 80s?

A: No, he was never our man; we just preferredd him over the mullahs in Iraq because of the Embassy thing and because the enemy of one's enemy is one's friend, even if he's a bastard. That someone in our government shook Hussein's hand is not really a very significant sign of support given the history of our struggle against Iraq since then in the Gulf War (part 1).

Q: Does lefty has-been, former talk show host Phil Donahue know about the Gulf War (part 1) in 1991?

A: He doesn't seem to, or he consciously ignores it to make a false claim to support his flawed opinion. A lot of people do that, not always on the left.

Quod erat demonstrandum.


Short TV Blog

The Friday Geek shows on the SciFi channel are out of new episodes until January. Battlestar Galactica continues to kick ass, with a particularly strong finish, Stargate slowly sinks into shark infested water now that the sexy Brit woman (Claudia Black) is in another galaxy, and Atlantis limps along with the most interesting thing about it being guessing what race the new guy, Ronon, is (I say white, maybe with some Polynesian mixed in).

I'm catching up on old Deadwood episodes which I believe (early in the second season) are near masterpieces of writing.

But the real talk of the town is Rome, which just keeps getting better and better. Although I was not particularly keen on it, there was full frontal male nudity, as Mark Anthony "bathed" while begging and badgering Lucius Vorenus to come back (he demurs). This needs some explanation. Although the Roman public baths are famous, there was a missing ingredient. Soap. The Romans never got around either to inventing or importing soap, lye soap, the type they're selling in Fight Club, where it's made from human fat. That's a problem for true cleanliness. Instead, the dirty Romans got to sweating in hot pools or rooms, did some exercise too, and then got oiled and dusted by slaves who then squeegied off the resulting mud with a curved bronze instrument called a strigil. Doesn't sound all that cleansing to me. Anyway, that's what's happening to Mark Anthony standing naked in the courtyard. Just so you know. (Although he apparently was a switch hitter sexually--not that there's anything wrong with that).

Historical heads-up. He marries (and then abandons) Octavia, the hard-luck daughter of Atia. It's years down the road though.

Telling the future through interpretation of the flight paths of birds is called augury. Telling the future through the inspection of the inner organs of a beast is called haruspication. Rome shows augury to be a complete fraud despite being showy, pretentious and state run (or maybe because of that). I'd guess for symmetry they'll have the haruspication about Niobe's secret and her husband's wealth really predict the future.


Zag to the Right

We right thinking citizens don't oppose Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) because we think she's stupid. By opposing the 'internationalizing' of the 9/11 memorial, Clinton kills two birds with one stone. She scores points with her constituents for the next race and she seems saner for the '08 run.


Thought of the Day

Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.

Christopher Morley in Inward Ho

Saturday, September 24, 2005



If I like a TV show on broadcast TV, it's pretty much doomed. I liked Firefly a lot (and even bought the DVD). It was cancelled after eleven episodes with three shows left in the can. So I am very enthusiastic about the movie version of Firefly, Serenity, which is opening next Friday, the last day of September. This is fun science fiction. I am so sick of comic books-to-movies standing in for real science fiction, I could scream. I'm so looking forward to this movie.

The Serenity is a Firefly class space ship, 500 years in the future, named after the tide-turning battle for the rebellion in which some of the crew fought. They lost. There's a little bit of western mixed in with the science fiction but that's not a bad thing. As Steve Miller said so well: I'm a space cowboy, bet you weren't ready for that. Be ready for Serenity.

UPDATE: Here's a synopsis of the movie: Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.


Bulgarian Desert Camo

Two Bulgarian soldiers standing guard in Karbala, Iraq. They're looking good. They've got the AK underfolders. They've got the Bulgarian Desert Camouflage uniforms. They've got the knock-off designer sunglasses. One has a doo-rag and the other has his sidearm strapped real low. (Wonder if that is a Russian made Makarov in the holster or if the Bulgarian have their own sidearm?) Very cool. I'm proud to count these men among our allies in the Coalition.

Bulgarian Desert Camo...that has to be pretty rare. Like Sudanese Winter Camo or Mali Jungle Camo. It looks pretty good though. Much better than the six color Desert Camo (Cookie Dough Camo) we wore in the first part of the Gulf War. We're making the Iraqis wear that now. That's what happens to you when you lose a war; you have to wear the other side's ugly hand-me-downs.


John Roberts--Too Good?

Micky Kause at the always good Kausefiles, the only thing worth reading regularly at Slate, says the President blew it by wasting the too good John Roberts on the conservative replacement for departed Chief Justice Rehnquist, rather than using him to sail through, replacing retiring Justice O'Connor. Does Mr. Kause know something about the next nominee we don't? Here's my response.

What do you call the person (we'll use the name Mr. or Ms. X) who only gets 50 votes in the Senate for confirmation to the Supreme Court, so he or she has to suffer the humiliation of having the Vice-President cast the deciding vote?

You would call that person Justice X.


Gaza Lions

Many feared leaving Gaza to the Palestinians would only cause suffering for the surrounding Israelis. Its beginning to look like the prophets of doom were more right than wrong. Hamas militants sent some 39 missiles into Israel, wounding 5. The IDF responded with a missile strike killing 4 and then set up an artillery fire base for further counter-battery fire.

Under the rubric, be careful with those explosives, a truck filled with masked terrorists and some sort of explosives, suddenly blew up at a rally on Friday killing perhaps 15 (including children) and wounding over a hundred.

The IDF also staged a pre-dawn helicopter strike at Hamas targets, mainly arms shops, in Gaza City and in the north, however the effectiveness of the targeting is unknown.

Many Israelis in the know think the violence in Gaza only helps former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu try to take back leadership of the Likud party from Prime Minister Sharon.
Either one is fine as far as I am concerned.


This Day in Ancient History

This is the birthday in 15 AD of the Emperor Vitellius. His motto was: Paulum statis est.


Thought of the Day

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances - to choose one's own way.

Victor Frankl

And a heartfelt RIP to Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal who died last week at age 96. A well finished life.

Friday, September 23, 2005


Friday Movie Review

Lord of War is what passes for a thoughtful geopolitical treatise made by earnest wanna-be do-gooders. It says at the end that it was based on true events. What that phrase means in the Hollywood language is that the movie was set on planet Earth sometime during recorded history. This one happened to be set mainly in the 90s all over the World, but a lot of time is spent in West Africa and the Ukraine. What do those two places have in common? Apparently, the common thread is the Automat Kalashnikov Model 47, which is the assault rifle the Nicholas Cage character helps steal from the Ukraine and sells to rebels and governments in Liberia and next-door Sierre Leone. That's the story the movie follows, but Cage's character, Yuri Orlov, sells weapons to anyone.

Hard to imagine a more cynical look at modern arms merchants. It's 122 minutes long but feels longer. There is some sex (not a lot though) and violence. Pretty good first scene regarding the manufacture of a cartridge, 7.62 x 39mm, Russian assault rifle round, and its ultimate use. (Have to doubt they're casting about sparks as they manufacture cartridges--bad mix gunpowder and welding sparks). In structure, this movie is remarkably similar to the film biography Blow about drug dealing George Jung played by Johnny Depp. The arc of success to ruin; the gaining of eveything and its loss; the ingenuity of the criminal and the square plodding of the police (in this movie distilled into one character played, adequately, by Ethan Hawke). It's virtually the same movie. Jared Leto is the drug addled younger brother (playing his same character from Requiem for a Dream but without the emotional connection). Leto looks about the same as he did on the legendary TV show My So Called Life, and his botox method of acting hasn't changed much either. Is a good looking guy, though. Another familiar face is Eamonn Walker, who was jailed revolutionary Kareem Said on the TV show Oz. He plays actual dictator of Liberia Andre Baptiste. Finally, there is totally misused Ian Holm as a rival arms merchant.

I didn't feel like I really learned anything. There was no eye-opening moment. And the message that the gun merchants are the catalyst of true suffering in the World, mainly Africa, apparently, is wholly undercut by most people's memory of Rwanda and the deadly use machetes were put to in April, 1995. We know you don't need guns to have a bath of blood, you just need hatred. So stop with the pontification regarding firearm sales. Still, despite its ultimate failure as a movie, there were scenes in it that will haunt me for a long time--like the little girl holding up her stump of a right arm and asking if it will grow back. But that shows how poorly aimed the intellectual force of the movie is. The little girl is certainly showing a machete wound not a gunshot wound, so the single most effecting scene in the movie has nothing to do with arms sales.

In another scene, the almost always reliable AK misfires twice. Cage offers to help the shooter even though he is the target. That's the microcosm for this movie, a series of unlikely misfires.


This Day in Ancient History

This is the birthday, in 62 BC, of the great Emperor Augustus, born Gaius Octavius, grand nephew of Gaius Julius Caesar.


Thought of the Day

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

P. J. O'Rourke

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Pledge Drive Radio

Good guy blogger Brian Maloney, at the Radio Equalizer, has me thinking: Why is it that lefty radio, like Air America and NPR, has to beg for money regularly and right wing radio pays for itself with advertising and even makes its stars millionaires? Just asking.

Our favorite Philippine born blogger, Michelle Malkin, along with the Radio Equalizer, has the goods on Air America's new source of funding. Check out Air America's recent ratings as well.

UPDATE: AnklebitingPundits (the old Crush Kerry site) has a funny take on Air America's inability to get anyone to listen to it.


Laying Low

The British troops laid low yesterday in their patrol section of Iraq, especially in the southern city of Basra. They had to stage a jailbreak of two of their soldiers, probably SAS commandos, captured by Iraqi police and militiamen three days ago. The city government has demanded an apology, restitution and promises it won't happen again. The other fallout from the British rescue mission has been Iraqi troops and police alone on the streets of Basra. Had to happen sooner or later.


Thought of the Day

I believe everyody in the world should have guns. Citizens should have bazookas and rocket launchers too. I believe that all citizens should have their weapons of choice. However, I also believe that only I should have the ammunition. Because frankly, I wouldn't trust the rest of the goobers with anything more dangerous than string.

Scott Adams

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


This is News?

Yawn. Cindy Sheehan arives in D.C. and is ignored by everyone but the media. She has 30 people with her. 30 people! They are expecting more on Saturday--maybe several thousand. I remember anti-war protests in D.C. in October and November 1969, what?-- 36 years ago, with hundreds of thousands, maybe even a half million. There are 30 people in the United States who want us to repeal laws prohibiting sex with animals. Why is this collection of somewhat loopy protestors newsworthy? Oh that's right, because they reflect badly on the Bush administration. That seems to be the sine qua non for a lot of political coverage lately.

Sheehan says she wants to meet this week or next with Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). As John Wayne said so well in The Searchers, "That'll be the day."

UPDATE: Byron York over at NRO has a great piece which provides details on some of the 30. It's worse than I thought. Money quote:

About that time, a cameraman shooting the scene noticed something. "I've seen a lot of these people before," he said. Pointing to a woman a few feet away, he said, "That one was at the World Bank thing. They're professional protesters."
And indeed, that one — Fithian — had been at the protests in Washington a few years earlier. And so had some of the people working with Fithian. And Code Pink's Medea Benjamin, exchanging a warm hug with Fithian on the Capitol lawn, had been at hundreds, if not thousands, of protests. There were some real protest veterans in the group.

UPDATE II: The only democrats planning to attend the "big" antiwar rally in D.C. on Saturday are perennial moon-bayers Reps. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and John Conyers of Michigan. The rest, including, significantly, Hillary Clinton, are avoiding Cindy Sheehan and her ilk like the plague.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 19 BC, the great Roman poet Virgil died in Brindisium, Italy while traveling with the great Emperor Augustus. Virgil is the author of the Aenied, which contains all the stories you remember about the Trojan War, as well as the Georgics, Buccolics and Eclogues.

Brindisium (now called Brindisi) is on the outside heel of the Italian boot and has traditionally been the gateway to Greece from Italy. I spent a week in Brindisi one afternoon while waiting to board a ship bound for Piraeus, Greece. I think Virgil probably died of boredom.


Thought of the Day

Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many players on the field?

Jim Bouton

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Not Enough Armor

Remember the storm of complaints that the Humvees in Iraq didn't have enough armor last December? I do. I also read with sadness the Department of Defense News Releases about the deaths of four American soldiers in the last few days in Iraq. All were killed by IEDs. Three of the four were killed while in their M1A1 Abrams tank, which weighs 70 tons and can survive a direct hit from the 120mm gun of the Russian T-72 main battle tank. How much more armor could we have possibly provided those brave soldiers than our biggest and best tank? They were: Sgt. Matthew L. Deckard, 29, of Elizabethtown, Ky; 1st Sgt. Alan N. Gifford, 39, of Tallahassee, Fla.; and, Spc. David H. Ford IV, 20, of Ironton, Ohio, all of the 3rd Infantry Division.

If only the Bush administration had thought to buy the kits to upgrade the Abrams' several inches of special metal armor.

The fourth soldier was killed in his Humvee. We don't know the thickness of his vehicle's armor, but it was certainly less than the Abrams tanks had. He was Staff Sgt. Regilio E. Nelom, 45, of Queens, N.Y., assigned to the 1st Corps Support Command.


Close Encounters

Remember the line in Aliens when Cpl. Hicks (Michael Biehn) pulls out a pump shotgun before they first fight the aliens? "I like to keep this handy," he says as he racks in a shell, "for close encounters." I always liked the sly allusion to the title of Spielberg's first alien movie, in which the aliens were all sweetness and light, in Hick's macho line.

Anyway, good to see this Third Armored Calvary Regiment soldier is following Hick's sound advice as he and his comrades go house to house in Tal Afar last week. I can't see the shotgun well enough to tell you what it is. Sorry, won't happen again.

UPDATE: If I have to guess, and I guess I do, I'll go with the Mossberg 500 Persuader. If so, good choice for the soldier.


Suicide Bombers Flocking to Iraq

It's only Fox news, but here's a report difficult to fit into Democrat talking points that we're creating jihadist by fighting them in Iraq. I personally think we're killing the so called insurgents faster than they can be replaced by volunteers and here is some support for that belief. Money quotes:

A suicide bomber captured before he could blow himself up in a Shiite mosque claimed he was kidnapped, beaten and drugged by insurgents who forced him to take on the mission. The U.S. military said its medical tests indicated the man was telling the truth...

Televised interrogations and confessions are becoming increasingly common as Iraqi and American officials capture more militants and use their confessions in an attempt to undercut support for militants...

The kidnapping "demonstrates the desperation of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his ability to execute his strategy," said [Col.] Buckner [U. S. spokesman] . "He knows that he can't win against Iraqi security and coalition forces, and is therefore willing to use innocent Iraqi citizens to further his cause to disrupt the election process and prevent a free and democratic Iraq," he said.

To paraphrase Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall) in Apocalypse Now, "I love the smell of desperation in the morning. It smells like...victory."


Thought of the Day

Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est.

Francis Bacon in Meditationes sacrae 11, "de haeresibus", 1597

And indeed knowledge itself is power.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Good News from North Korea

In what's called a breakthrough in the 6 party talks we insisted on (over strenuous objection on the left here at home) regarding North Korea's development of nuclear weapons in violation of treaty obligations, the worst government on the planet promised to give up its nukes and stop developing more (in return for some massive aid).

This is the point where the Clinton crowd whooped it up, popped the champagne and closed their eyes. We serious folks should think this just the start of the difficult process of verification, but if verified, this is very good news indeed. Invasion of North Korea would have killed millions.

The tiny caveat I urge is that peace talks started November 25, 1951 during the Korean War, and the Cease Fire agreement was nearly two years later on July 27, 1953. Apparently negotiation with North Korea is tricky, difficult and slow.


Thought of the Day

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.

Muhammad Ali

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Self Assured Beauty

A group of us old guys eat breakfast every Saturday at El Tejado on Broadway (in Denver) and we're served each time by the same pretty young Mexican-born waitress (at least half the reason we go back each time). Yesterday, Dom said to her, "You're very pretty today." And she did look good (better hairstyle) so she answered. "I'm pretty every day."

I really liked that answer.

They say beauty is only skin deep (and having just seen photos of the inside of my colon I say, 'Thank God') but there has to be something more to it. Self assurance might just be the catalyst or difference between bland, symetric pleasing features and a pretty face. Look closely at Mae West. Not that pretty (to me not pretty at all) but she thought herself a great beauty and most of the World followed suit. Heck, most people thought she had a good figure.


Sunday Shows

Stephanopoulos interviewed his old boss Bill Clinton and was a tiger with tough questions and hard hitting follow-ups (just kidding). Clinton showed us he has not grown any out of office and continued to lie to the American people. In memoriam told us five American soldiers died last week in Iraq (so I assume none died in Afghanistan). Huge car-bomb attacks in Iraq, a major offensive in the northwest, renewed violence in Afghanistan before the latest election there and we lose only five? I'd have to say that the Iraqis and Afghans have pretty much taken over the fight already, or we've gotten really, really good at fighting this war (or both in some combination).

The Fox show was pretty bland but at least Senator David Vitter (R-LA) wasn't the empty suit he was last week. The interview of Vladimir Putin seemed a waste of good broadcast time.

Chris Matthews said flat out the gathering triumph in Iraq is a quagmire and that last week was a victory for al Qaeda. There is none so blind as he who will not see. Is Arlen Specter the dancing guy in the 6 Flags commercials? Just asking.


This Day in Ancient History

In 98 AD, the Emperor Domitian was stabbed to death at age 44 on this day. It was the end of the Flavian Dynasty. Domitian's replacement, Senator Nerva, was made Emperor and he, childless, adopted Trajan as his heir to start the nearly hundred years of adoptive Emperors. It is also the birthdate of Trajan, a great Emperor, born in Spain in 52 AD.


Thought of the Day

You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.

John, Viscount Morley in On Compromise

Saturday, September 17, 2005


The Piggy Eyes of Fascism

Warhawk leftist Christopher Hitchens and true soul of the New Left George Galloway had a sort of debate last week at Baruch College in NY, NY, which was broadcast on C-SPAN 2 just a bit ago. I say sort of debate because it certainly paled in comparison to the Lincoln-Douglas standard (way too much ad hominem, really mean ad hominem attack), but beat whatever our Presidential candidate debates have become (the listing of which possibilities certainly does not include a debate). That the most able spokesmen, pro and con, for the war in Iraq are British subjects or at least British born, ought to give us pause about the state of secondary education in this country. It was great fun, particularly the 'trash talk' before and the ad hominem during, some of which is the title of this piece.

I am not an impartial judge, but I though Hitchens carried the debate easily. He actually alluded to facts. Both men took great pains to point out that the other was a hypocrite and had said different things in the past. Hitchens seems a true lefty (still a Trotskyite, I believe) but he happens to have clear vision on the proper choice between bad (renewed Gulf War) and more bad, letting Saddam Hussein continue as fascist dictator of Iraq. Galloway has sufficient vision to see the difficult choice but makes the wrong decision. Now that the greatest evil of communism is defeated, overthrowing dictators is good, appeasing them is bad. Why can't the majority of the left see that?

Galloway made two extraordinary errors and was roundly booed for them by the mainly lefty audience. He blamed us for the 9/11 attacks and he let his anti-Semite (or at least his anti-Israel) feelings show. Generally he was wrong-headed and fatuously ignorant of history.


Picking the Right Defense

The Hmong hunter, who decided to hell with deer, let's hunt men, and killed six out of nine he shot at, was convicted of six counts of first degree murder, three attempted murder and will get the maximum for murder in Wisconsin (where there is no death penalty), life in prison.

If you're going to murder a group of people and then defame them at trial (i.e. call them racists and attempted murderers) you can't leave anyone alive to tell the truth. But if it's too big a group, killing them all seems too much like murder for self defense to fly. As it didn't here.

I was shot at by immigrants while hunting more than a decade ago--it was their over-eagerness to kill elk, not a conscious decision to try to kill me, that sent the rounds snapping past my ear. Cold comfort there; and for a second or two, as I low crawled to behind a tree, I seriously considered returning fire. That would have been the wrong decision.

I was worried that the jury might buy the self defense theory here (despite four of the victims being shot in the back), so it's good to see justice done.

UPDATE: The defense tried to depict the murders as the result of hatred and racism by the victims. They got it half right. The source of the killing rage was indeed hatred and racism BY THE DEFENDANT, Chai Soua Vang. His inability even to begin to explain during cross-examination his statements, after the killings, that the victims deserved to die, sealed his fate.


Cloud Target Practice

As I have noted, somewhat snidely, before, no one is better than the Palestinians at shooting into the air. Here they're at it again. From the BBC:

Palestinian police have fired in the air to prevent stone-throwing crowds in southern Gaza from crossing into Egypt.

Well, at least they're shooting at nothing in order to get control of their border to the South; because if we know anything, it's that a nation that does not control its borders, cannot last.


Friday Movie Review (late again)

I couldn't sleep at all last night. So I cycled through the movie channels and stopped on the indy channel and watched about 80% of this Japanese thing called Audition. Man, was that a mistake. It's billed as a horror movie, but I find it difficult to describe. More like a look into the depraved soul of the Japanese people. About 10 years ago I rented an anime film that turned out to be hentai, or pornographic anime. Not good natured cartoon sex, but evil minded, rape incest with multiple mechanical penises defiling every hole. Another brief glimpse. I know it's wrong to judge a whole society by a few films here and there (Is it fair to judge us on the basis of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or The Last House on the Left? Maybe.), but could we produce anything like Audition. I pray to God we can't.

Anyway, if a movie's success is judged by how shocking it is, this movie is a huge success. The 'tag line' is "she always gets a part." If you ever see it, you'll know how macabre and funny that line is. 115 minutes, no real nudity or sex, about 90 minutes of boredom and 25 minutes of wanting to be ill. I can't recommend it, but I couldn't look away either.


Thought of the Day

Nothing is so useless as a general maxim.

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay in On Niccolo dei Machiavelli. 1825.

Friday, September 16, 2005


German Politics

Governor Arnold Swarzenegger says figurative I'll be back. We'll see. This next run for governor might not be so easy as the recall he won against the dynamic and popular Gray Davis and the smart Gabor sister with the unlikely name of Arianna Huffington. That was some stiff competition.

In Deutchland itself, it looks like Angela Merkel might take the Chancellorship from Gerhard Schroeder. Schroeder's party has been closing the gap but it's about 10 points between them so it looks good for a woman Chancellor. Merkel's party is the CDU (Christian Democrats-- usually the inclusion of the word Christian in a party name means right center) and Schroeder's party is the SPD (Social Democrats--whenever Social is in the party's title it's a lefty outfit, for example, the National Socialist and German Workers' Party, which we call the NAZIs, was way left). I know nothing of Ms. Merkel, but I want Schroeder to be spanked for not supporting us in Iraq and for being a lefty in general.

UPDATE: I know Arnold is from Austria but what is Austria but the 'oester reich' the eastern reign of Germany? Anyway he speaks German, so there was the connection. That the German unemployment rate is above 10% and their quality control on the vehicles they make seems to have gone out the window seems to lead one to believe a change of some kind is coming.

SUNDAY EVENING UPDATE: At this point, Merkle's CDU is three seats ahead of the SPD with almost all the returns in. Not enough for an out and out win--so some sort of coalition is to be formed. What sort we're not exactly sure. But it's pretty clear that in the still somewhat testosterone world of German politics, Schroeder was beaten by a woman with no particular (or even apparent) flair for running for office. Bush led crowd of right thinkers 7--Axis of Weasles 0. (Spain remains a fluke that should not repeat).


Thought of the Day

"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the Mock Turtle replied, "and the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in Alice in Wonderland, Chap. x

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

The AP has a balanced story that the Israeli Supreme Court has defied the World Court in the Hague and held that the security fence, with some revisions to alleviate Palestinian suffering, is legal and necessary. (My response is: Duh!).

But there are a lot of other stories that emphasize the revision in the fence around five Palestinian villages near the settlement of Alfei Menashe, home to about 5,000 Israelis. (What's it all about, Alfei?). Sometimes, it's all about where you put the emphasis.

The BBC leads and almost exclusively talks about the ordered revision to the fence:

Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that the government must consider re-routing part of the controversial West Bank barrier it is building.

The AFP also leads with the fence's revision and then stays with it:

Israel's supreme court has ordered a section of the controversial West Bank separation barrier to be torn down as it imprisons thousands of Palestinian villages for the sake of a Jewish enclave. The unanimous decision on Thursday urged the government to dismantle a small sector of the barrier in the northern West Bank, but ruled the fence was a "central" component of national security that justified confiscation of Palestinian land.

Reuters does the same thing.

The story is that hundreds of miles of the fence are OK and oh, yea, they need to do a short section over; the story is not that they have to do a section over and, oh, yea, the rest of the security fence is OK. Sometimes bias is not that subtle.


Good News from Iraq (Including the Car Bombs)

I'm proud of the Iraqi forces in Tal Afar who, with our back-up, cleared out of that largely Turkman city, the terrorists and foreign fighters there. My satisfaction is slightly diminished by the news that many of the terrorists got away. Others reported that most of the Iraqi troops doing the fighting in Tal Afar were Kurds, an ethnic designation that has always included warlike proficiency (in comparison the Kurds are like Germans and the Iraqis are like Italians, or so goes some peoples' thinking). Oh well, you can't have everything.

So I am buoyed by this exchange at a briefing from Col. Robert Brown of the 25th Division:

Q Colonel, Charlie Aldinger with Reuters. Are the Iraqi troops, the army, well enough trained yet to take over?

COL. BROWN: That's such a great question. We have the full gamut or the spectrum of Iraqi troops. We have some that have taken over and have their own areas of operation. We still are there training with them, but they could do it independently. We have two predominantly Sunni battalions that I would put up against any battalion in Iraq. They're absolutely fantastic. We also have battalions that, I think, are about six to eight months away from taking over their areas of operation. They're just newer battalions. They are going through training.

Sunni troops as good as any. Great news!

Even the fact that the terrorists are reduced to blowing up other Iraqis with car bombs and can't stand up and fight or hold on to territory is, to my ears at least, good news, despite the Iraqi suffering. We'll see who gets tired of that strategy first.


Thought of the Day

The Puritan hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay in History of England. Vol. i. Chap. iii.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Occam Soccer Rule

I coached community soccer for about a decade as my kids were growing up. I attended too many meetings where rules were promulgated and discussed. Finally, I was able to cut through to the core and see which rules were good and which ones that were bad. Here's how it shook out. Those rules that got more kids playing soccer were good; those rules that in any way prevented kids from playing soccer were bad. Let's apply this sort of test to a different real world problem, the War against Islamofascist Jihadists.

When the enemy sends someone over here to carry out a plan to kill Americans and destroy this nation in whole or in part (like Mohammed Atta, for example), the very best thing that can happen is that we detect that person and he (it's going to be a he, trust me) suddenly disappears and is never heard from again (until the war is over). It's the uncertainty that is the most damaging to the enemy in some foreign land. What happened? Was he detected and killed? Was he detected and flipped? Did he just abandon his task and run away? What went wrong? How was he detected? Who informed against him? What happened? Disappearance is the best thing that can happen for us; the worst thing that can happen for them. Anything that helps us make enemy agents in America just disappear is good; anything that makes it hard to do that is bad.

I guess we could just kill them or execute them without delay after a military tribunal as we did the German spy/saboteurs in the Ex Parte Quirin case; that would be one form of making the agent disappear (and it is the traditional punishment for spy/saboteurs during wartime). However, I'm not necessarily advocating that. A captured enemy agent properly interrogated (not tortured) can be a big asset. What we don't want to do is tell anyone we captured him, how we captured him, what he did wrong or let him have access to his family and his fellow jihadist so they learn to do it better the next time. That's the dumb way. Simply disappearing is the ideal.

As things happen in the world (and if we hear about captures of foreign agents and foiled foreign plans, we're necessarily doing it the dumb way--I'm thinking more about U.S. citizens and what the administration and Courts are doing with that) I'll post with this simple rule to guide the discussion. I can hear your hearts all atwitter.


Bill of Rights Absolutism

Usually the unsigned editorials in the Rocky Mountain News, steered by Vince "our Main Man" Carroll are sober and thoughtful. Not today. A fisking might be in order. Today's editorial is in italics.

The Constitution seems admirably clear on a couple of points: No person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law; and if someone is locked up, that person has a right to be charged and have a speedy, public trial.

Yes to both these general statements, but what process is due? It is not necessarily a trial. In the matter of waging war, a military tribunal is the only process due and it is not always due. Hasn't anyone at the News read Ex Parte Quirin or the Hamdi case? Notice too, the not so subtle commingling of prisoner-of-war status with pre-trial incarceration for a crime by use of the term "locked-up." Yes, those locked up because they are charged with a crime must have a speedy, public trial. Legal (or illegal) combatants during war are indeed "locked up" but they are not charged with a crime and they don't get a trial. If we want to do more than just keep them away from the battlefield, like try them for sabotage or war crime, then we have to do more by way of a military tribunal. This is a very bad start to the editorial.

A three-judge appeals-court panel has ruled unanimously that in the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S.-born American citizen, the president has the right to suspend these constitutional protections and keep him locked up indefinitely. And Padilla has been locked up in a military prison for over three years.

Yes, but one of the German spy/saboteurs, who was executed after being locked up after his capture pursuant to a 1942 law, was also a U.S. citizen and there was no trial for either incarceration or execution, and the U.S. Supreme Court was absolutely OK with that. Before we even get to the issue of waiving one's right through conduct, the News is acting like a trial is the only way to handle a U. S. citizen being locked up. The Supreme Court says just the opposite.

That overturned a lower court ruling that seemed to say precisely what the Constitution says: The government has to try Padilla or let him go.

Yea, the three judge panel said what the law really is and overturned the lower Court's mistaken ruling. Just as appeal Courts are supposed to do. The news is hanging on to "all detention must be pre-trial incarceration" like a dog to a bone.

Finally, the Supreme Court will decide. The high court has had the Padilla case once already, but sent it back to the lower courts on a technicality.

Yea, the minor technicality that the lower Court the first time had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Only one other person has been held under circumstances similar to Padilla's: a young U.S.-born Saudi, Yaser Esam Hamdi, captured in Afghanistan. The Supreme Court ruled that Hamdi could challenge his detention in the federal courts, but before the case could be pushed to a resolution, the Bush administration let Hamdi go home to Saudi Arabia.

It seems to me that the News is accusing the Bush administration of punting the problem. Do they have any evidence of that or is this another case of uninformed opinion leading to a smear through innuendo? No evidence is evident.

The administration's reasons for holding Padilla have shifted in a way that doesn't inspire confidence. Supposedly al-Qaida-trained, Padilla at first was alleged to be plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb"; then to blow up apartment buildings by leaving the gas on; and then for having fought against his countrymen in Afghanistan.

What the News characterizes as 'shifting' reasons is actually the result of more information about Padilla becoming available as the federal case progressed. This increase in information is itself a problem, as discussed here, but it is a smear to accuse the Bush administration of shifting the reason for holding Padilla when the administration had the whole information at the beginning while the News and the rest of the country did not. In other words, the News is lashing out at the administration because of the News' initial ignorance. Cheap shot, guys and girls.

Even if one or both of the first two accusations are true, the problem for the government is that Padilla wasn't captured in Afghanistan. He was arrested in Chicago and spirited out of reach of his lawyers and the courts.

The fact that he was captured in Chicago after taking up arms against us in Afghanistan was directly addressed by the three judge panel in Padilla v. Hanft. Here's a simplified version of the Court's reasoning. If the Executive branch can hold without trial an enemy combatant captured overseas (as the Hamdi Court held) then it can hold that same enemy combatant who comes to America to continue the fight. I think even a dog could follow that logic. What's up with the News?

If he's guilty of any of this, the government ought to be able to prove it in court and lock him up legally. Otherwise, the president then has the power to lock up any American on his sole say-so that the person is an enemy combatant intent upon waging war on the U.S. at the direction of a foreign power or group.

Finally, we get to the gist of the News' problem with the case. It's scary that the Executive has this power during war to fight the war as wars are always fought (taking and keeping prisoners of the enemy combatants and spies/saboteurs) without a Court balancing that power. The sheer power of it, unchecked, is why we only allow it during war, when the actions of others, aimed at killing our citizens and destroying our country, has made it necessary for us to take these warlike steps. And, yea, we probably can prove the "case" against Padilla, but it hurts us and helps the enemy to do it in court, so why do we want to do that? The Bill of Rights, as famously said and repeated, is not a suicide pact.

The appeals court says this is a vital wartime power and one that Congress gave the president in a post-9/11 resolution. Sorry, we don't buy the idea that Congress can abrogate basic constitutional rights.

Oh really? So the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, which is a personal right (at least in the majority of federal circuit courts), cannot be abrogated by Congress? So, if your live-in girlfriend obtains a restraining order because she's afraid of your reaction to her leaving, but not because you've done anything wrong or ever threatened violence, you still have the right to keep and bear arms? So, the Lautenberg Act, passed by Congress, doesn't abrogate the basic constitutional right to keep and bear arms in just the way I've described above? I can assure you that it does. I can assure you that because of it, you can lose your Second Amendment rights, not for your conduct, but because of the conduct of others. Funny, but I can't recall a huffy News editorial saying "we don't buy the idea that Congress can abrogate basic constitutional rights" when the Lautenberg Act was passed. Perhaps my memory is faulty. (Google has nothing, though)

You can lose your basic constitutional right to freedom through your actions as proved by the Government using the process that is due under the circumstances, and in time of war, regarding enemy combatants, the Court is not, just plain not involved in the process; it's all Executive branch. That is the well reasoned law and, since this war, declared on us by al Queda in 1998 and waged against us for years by them before we lifted a finger in response, is probably going to last a long time, the faint of heart at the News better get a clearer view of reality. No right is absolute.


Thought of the Day

Evolution is not a force but a process; not a cause but a law.

John, Viscount Morley in On Compromise

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Republican Fundraisers--Not All Politics is Yokel Politics

Went to a fundraiser for underdog Republican candidate for Governor, Marc Holtzman, tonight. It was at one of those mansions off Alameda overlooking the Denver Country Club that used to have all lawn between it and the street, behind the wall, but now is a cluster of mini-mansions for the nouveau riche. Because Holtzman is not the anointed one, the powerful Republicans in the area did not attend. In fact I knew no one, but I am not really part of the great and powerful Republican party (that lost both the State House and Senate, a seat in the U. S. House and one in the U. S. Senate as well, last year, while President Bush was cruising to victory here) so I probably wouldn't recognize any of those geniuses if I saw them.

I did meet the President of Poland, Alexsander Kwasniewski, though, who is a friend of Holtzman's from his days before and after the wall fell bringing a market economy to the reluctant Commies of Eastern Europe. He looked very Polish and very good. His wife, Jolanta, whom I did not meet, just looked good. He spoke English very well but I can't remember a thing of what he said except it is very difficult to go from state run to capitalism--any fool can turn free market into state run. Kwasniewski beat Lech Walesa ten years ago to gain the presidency, got Poland into NATO and the EU, and recently sent a decent size contingent of troops to Iraq to help out there. I like him already, even though he is a lefty.

It was odd; Holtzman, whom I have never seen before in my life, pretended to know me, read my name off the name tag and introduced me to the President and I shook his hand. Actually I am grateful for that. The house was lovely and amazing, the food great without being too frufru and the wine I was drinking very nice. Hardly talked politics at all, except to warn any who would listen, which was precious few, that unless Bill Ritter got a little bloodied in a primary battle, it probably wouldn't matter who won the Republican nomination. I'm already peparing my sour grapes list of why Ritter as governor is a good thing.

I also met the woman Holtzman introduced as his fiancee (and immediatley forgot her name). She works in the Attorney General's office although she isn't a lawyer, and is very nice but perhaps is just a tad too tall for Holtzman. I also met the Attorney General John Suthers and totally disparaged the two attorneys in his office who are on cases against me (just kidding).

Holtzman spoke about his view for the future for the Rocky Mountain region not dependent on the boom and bust cycle of oil. He's touting a global economy. That's all I can remember. I kept trying to see if the dozen or so hard looking Polish Secret Service types were carrying Radom pistols under their coats. I couldn't tell. They seemed to sport Communist Party buttons on their lapels, but I have to be mistaken about that.

I want Holtzman to get the nomination so Bob Beauprez stays put as the incumbent and holds onto the 7th District seat. That's the totality of my support for Holtzman. It's probably a wan hope anyway that either Holtzman can win the nomination or that, if he does, Beauprez will run for his old seat in Congress. But there is the allure of the underdog. I continue to think I was right about Bob Schaffer last year over Pete Coors although Diomedes, also a Schaffer supporter, tells me Ken Salazar would have kicked Schaffer's butt as well. Oh well, it's just politics.


Thought of the Day

When all is done, human life is, at the greatest and the best, but like a froward child, that must be played with and humoured a little to keep it quiet till it falls asleep, and then the care is over.

Sir William Temple in Miscellanea. Part ii. Of Poetry.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Wizbang Caption Contest

I took 4th in last weekend's Wizbang Caption Contest. Again. It was a pretty good one and the winner was clearly the best. Congratulations. Head and shoulders the best.
And tip of the hat to Sean Penn for actually doing something to try to help, even in the showy but ineffectual way he did it.


Landrieu v. Wallace

There's no transcript, yet, for the questions of Chris Wallace on the Fox Sunday show and the non-answers he gets from Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), but there is a tape here from the Political Teen, Ian Schwartz. And I have listened to it enough to piece together a partial transcript.

Landrieu says, "I am not going to level criticism at the local level....I am not going to level criticism at local and state officials." She then goes on to level not just criticism but actual blame at George Bush. "This administration does not believe in mass transit. They won't even get people to work on a sunny day." When Wallace shows her the famous (to those of us on the right) pictures of hundreds of flooded school buses in New Orleans, Landrieu repeats, "Those buses were underwater." Wallace says twice that they weren't underwater on Saturday or Sunday [before Katrina hit]. Landrieu ignores him

You have to ask yourself, why won't she answer the question?

(hint: The person responsible for not using the buses in the water has a D behind his name too).

It gets worse. After Landrieu calls the evacuations "the best" Wallace points out that 100 thousand people were left in the city. Landrieu has an answer for that: "One hundred thousand left in the city because this federal government won't support cities to evacuate people [in many crises]...That's the truth."

Yea, if you ignore the unused 450 metropolitan buses and the hundreds of school buses left parked below sea level, then it might be up to the federal government to get buses to rescue the people the state and city government have screwed. But that doesn't make it the federal government's failing or put any blame on it.

And we hear nothing but blame for FEMA, so here's some reality check.

Ask yourself, what is FEMA's purpose, that is, what is it supposed to accomplish after a natural disaster?

(hint: It's not the first responder, that necessarily must be local police and firemen, etc. and then the state national guard. It's the red cross and salvation army (among others) that comes next and FEMA is 3 or 4 days away with reinforcements and a lot of money).

Local wunderkind Jeff Goldstein (Protein Wisdom) has done some heavy lifting in a fisking of conventional lefty thinking (Newsweek article) about the efforts after Katrina. Good guy Jack Kelly (Irish Pennants) makes the case that the mainstream media and the Democrats (redundant) have portrayed it exactly wrong (like Tet during the Viet Nam war) and it was a federal government triumph portrayed as a total failure. I'm with Jeff and Jack

There's more to Landrieu's inability to answer easy questions truthfully.

Wallace points out that Bush gave more for levee construction and maintenance in his 5 years than the Clinton administration did in it's last 5 years. Landrieu rewrites history: "Number one, it is true that the President gave slightly more than Bill Clinton, but what is also true is that Bill Clinton was running the largest deficit created by the [prior two administrations]...President bush was running a surplus...."

Wrong! 180 degrees wrong. Wrong on both counts. As wrong as wrong can be. In the last five years of the Clinton administration, there was a surplus (not a deficit) and because of a recession Bush inherited and the damage the 9/11 attacks caused the economy, for most of the President's time in office, the spending has far outweighed the income.

I've asked it before and I'm sure I will again, how does this stupid woman get re-elected?

UPDATE: Landrieu twice used the weird phrase "less alone." I guess it means "much less" as in 'She didn't offer any ideas much less any good ones.' Must be a southerism with which I am unfamiliar. Didn't think there were too many of them.


Thought of the Day

The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or a party.

John Caldwell Calhoun in a Speech, Feb. 13, 1835.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Don't Tread on Me

In what he calls a revised policy, Walter Pincus at the Washington Post talks about un-classified documents regarding our policy concerning the use of our many nuclear weapons. It turns out that, if the draft documents are approved, local commanders will be able to call in a nuclear strike (with the President's approval, of course) "to pre-empt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction [or] to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons."

Pincus has been covering nuclear weapons policy forever; what's this noise about a revised policy? We are the only nations to have used nuclear weapons in war (and to good effect--by quickly ending the war, thus making invasion of Japan unnecessary, we saved perhaps millions of lives). We have never forsworn first use. Perhaps he is talking about revisions concerning the targets which revisions take into account the particular nature of the war we are now fighting against Islamofascism and the particular targets that would be available for nuking.

I hope the jihadists are reading the Washington Post, although, with their particular penchant for suicide in battle (even against non-combatants--I guess, usually against such civilians) maybe it won't matter. I, for one, have no doubt that, given the right circumstances, we will again use nukes to take and, at the same time, save lives.


Thought of the Day

If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country I never would lay down my arms,—never! never! never!

Willaim Pitt, Earl of Chatham in a Speech, Nov. 18, 1777.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


New Clients

I have been approached by representatives of BDS, the Brotherhood of Drunken Sailors, who wish to hire me for some legal work for Drunken Sailors everywhere. They want me to obtain an injunction, prohibiting anyone from comparing their spending habits with the rate of spending by the Republican controlled Congress and Senate. They say the Republicans are giving them a bad name.


Friday Movie Review (late again)

Saw March of the Penguins with youngest Daughter at the Mayan today. It turns out to be a French film that originally had voices for the penguins and a pop soundtrack. I am thankful that ours had Morgan Freeman narrating a pretty straightforward documentary. I had read a lot about Antarctica (where it is set--penguins live in the southern oceans only and a lot of them are on the edge of and in the seas around Antarctica) so Daughter was surprised that I knew what a leopard seal was and that skua gulls would attack the chicks. The film is about Emperor penguins, the largest, who after they hit breeding age (at 5) have to go to extraordinary lengths to hatch the egg and raise the chick in the cold dark winter there.

The penguins themselves are beautiful with hints and highlights of a saffron orange on the head and neck, and white, grey and black everywhere else. The scenery was absolutely magnificent. Man, but that place must be freaking cold.

You really did learn all there is to know about Emperor penguins. There were some young kids in the theatre and they delighted in the moments of anthropomorphic humor. Pretty good flick.

All through the movie, you're thinking they look about 4 feet tall. I don't know why, but I thought they'd come up to my sternum. Maybe it was the scale of the water or ice or other clues from the surroundings, but I was shocked to see at the end, when the credits rolled and the photographers were shown next to the penguins that they barely cleared the peoples' knees. Make that 2 feet tall. Daughter thought that too. Weird. Go see it. Even if you don't want to learn anything, it's a beautiful light show and less than an hour and a half long.


Palestinian Sharpshooting

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs, under the rubric Palestinian Civil War Watch, links to this story on Yahoo News about a drive-by shooting at the Palestinian interior ministry offices in Gaza City, which missed everyone. Money quote:

"Bodyguards responded to the fire," Hosa added, but said the vehicle and its occupants managed to escape unharmed.

What the heck, bodyguards? You've got full-auto Kalashnikovs, with a cyclical rate of 6 rounds per second and good up to at least 300 meters, and you can't hit a car?

And drive-by guys, here's a little hint--you have to aim a little behind them to make up for the movement of the car.

No wonder the Israelis kick ass, up against this sort of marksmanship. Is anyone over there even practicing (and shooting up in the air doesn't count)?


Luttig for Justice

I just finished reading Padilla v. Hanft, the 4th Circuit case just written by Judge Michael Luttig which reversed the poorly reasoned, lower court ruling that Jose Padilla, sent here by Al Qaeda to blow up apartment buildings, could not be detained like a prisoner of war, but had to have charges brought against him. Judge Luttig, and the other two on the panel, said the President could do just exactly what he has done; take the traitorous American citizen prisoner and keep him in jail until the war's won (OK, he didn't use those words).

It is a well reasoned decision, so well thought out in fact that Luttig jumps to the head of the line, in my book, for nomination and appointment to the Supreme Court to replace Justice O'Connor.* It turns out Luttig was at UVa Law School when I was attending grad school there but I didn't know him. (Maybe I saw him at Graduate Unhappy Hour). What really impressed me was how clear headed Luttig was discussing the real problems associated with bringing an enemy belligerent to trial during the war (and I don't entirely mind saying that I had the same thoughts in an earlier posting here):

We are convinced, in any
event, that the availability of criminal process cannot be
determinative of the power to detain, if for no other reason than
that criminal prosecution may well not achieve the very purpose
for which detention is authorized in the first place -- the
prevention of return to the field of battle. Equally important,
in many instances criminal prosecution would impede the Executive
in its efforts to gather intelligence from the detainee and to
restrict the detainee’s communication with confederates so as to
ensure that the detainee does not pose a continuing threat to
national security even as he is confined –- impediments that
would render military detention not only an appropriate, but also
the necessary, course of action to be taken in the interest of
national security.

The Washington Post, of course, urges us to do the exact wrong thing--indict Jose Padilla. If you can stomach it, here's what passes for Democrat logic.

* Although I still hold out hopes for Janice Rogers Brown. One of these days black Americans have to realize that it is Republicans who are trying to raise them up and Democrats who are trying to keep them down.


Fantasy Rebuilding Plans

The New York Times carried four different articles today advocating various rebuilding plans for New Orleans. I think they ought to give it some antigravity repellers so the city could float above any storm or flood that comes it way like that city in The Empire Strikes Back (just kidding). Actually my plan is not much less fantastic than those published in the NYT. They are:

Make it an island like Venice by renowned city planner Bruce Babbit, erstwhile Secretary of the Interior under the Clinton administration;

Restore the swamp by Craig Colten, professor of geography at Louisiana State University (I'm reminded of a line from a Randy Newman song--"college men from LSU; went in dumb, come out dumb too...");

Raise the ground by Duke engineering professor, Henry Petrosky, who says: "Engineers are ready to come up with whatever it takes to rebuild New Orleans. The real question is how much the politicians are willing to invest. Whatever it will cost to raise or otherwise protect New Orleans surely will seem worth it when the next ferocious hurricane hits." (Hey, not to me, pal!); and,

Make sure it still has lots of poor people by assistant professor of geography at the University of Kentucky, Michael Crutcher. What is it about geography professors and silly ideas? Actually this one is not so silly because the city will have many poor people no matter what the government does, as our four decades long War on Poverty has proved.

Of the four, raising the ground, if possible, would be better than building bigger levees, which is what will almost certainly happen.


Terrorist, Criminals, and Bloodsuckers

In just the kind of effort we need to see in Iraq, joint U.S. and Iraqi forces swept into Tal Afar and started killing terrorist there, mainly foreigner fighters. In what looks like the start of a series of these operations, the troops from several nations had already surrounded the city of approximately 200,000 a few days ago and told everyone to leave, and, unlike in New Orleans, the civilians left. Our guys arrested terrorists (about 200) who tried to slip out with the residents, hit a few staging areas with airstrikes, and in the middle of last night went in with armor and killed more terrorists. No word on our side's casualties, although Spc. Jeffrey Williams of Warrenville, IL was killed Spetember 5, 2005 by an IED.

Did I mention this is just the start? Here's what Iraqi Defence Minister Saadoun Dulaimi said, "We tell our people in Ramadi, Samarra, Rawa and Qaim that we are coming. There will be no refuge for the terrorists, criminals and bloodsuckers."

What do the marines say when they like what they hear? Oh yea--OU-RAW!

UPDATE: This story says there have been no American casualties on the first day of the assault, and only five killed, three wounded among the good guys. That's the good news. The bad news is that the bad guys have slipped the noose and abandoned the city. It will be interesting to see if we adapt our tactics to create a better 'anvil' for the 'hammer' of these assaults in the future, so that few, if any, of the terrorists, criminals and bloodsuckers escape the next time.


Illegal Gun Confiscation in New Orleans

Denver's own Dave Kopel makes a convincing argument over at the Volokh Conspiracy that the confiscation of guns by police in New Orleans is illegal. This link contains his argument and a good, but not as convincing, counter-argument by Orin Kerr.

When I wrote that I was pragmatically OK with a temporary disarming of the citizenry, I was not making a legal argument, merely one of safety for the troops and first-responders (God, I hate that word) doing an already tough job. And I certainly thought that the guns would be given back once the floodwater was pumped out and the vaunted New Orleans police force (sorry, Al) was back in charge--or at least the 1200 of them that didn't disappear after the hurricane. Because when the New Orleans police force is in charge, the city is a dangerous, crime ridden place and you need a weapon there for self defense.


Thought of the Day

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.

John, Viscount Morley in Voltaire.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Good News from New Orleans

The Washington Post, in a longish article by Fox regular Ceci Connolly and Dan Eggen, cites some good (but not absolutely unexpected) news from New Orleans. Here are the highlights:

They probably brought way too many body bags. (Mayor Nagin can estimate deaths in his city about as well as he can effectuate an evacuation plan).

The flood waters continue to recede and about a fifth of the available pumps are pumping.

No cholera or typhus (though a little dysentery here and there).

Power is back on in a little less than a third of the city.

All but 500 or so of the police force have been accounted for, though some are feared dead.


Blame Game Scoring

Here in Colorado, in lawsuits, the defendant can designate other people (non-parties at fault) who helped to cause the damages he or she is being sued for and have the jury designate percentages of blame. It is a good system.

The mainstream press and the Democrats (redundant) are blaming only President Bush. If I were his lawyer and this blame game being waged was a lawsuit, I would designate the following as non-parties at fault:

Hurricane Katrina
Governor Blanco
Mayor Nagin

and here's how, at this point, I'd assign the 100% of blame for the suffering in New Orleans during the first two weeks after the storm hit.

Hurricane Katrina 99.6%
FEMA .o49%
Governor Blanco .10%
Mayor Nagin .25%
President Bush .001%

There are others assigning blame, here, here, and here. They're not using the same system as I am, though.

UPDATE: I've read some more and I'm ready to revise the percentages of blame. Here we go then.

Hurricane Katrina 99.6%
FEMA .oo99%
Governor Blanco .20%
Mayor Nagin .1999%
President Bush .0001%

I may have to update it again if there's an investigation.

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