Monday, October 31, 2005


Eu Raw

The AFP photo to the left carries the following caption: A US marine sniper fires at insurgents with a 50mm caliber gun from a hideout on a rooftop near the town of al-Qaim at the Iraqi-Syrian border, in western Iraq.

Close. It's a .50 caliber rifle (a semi-auto Barrett Model 82). John Wayne at his most macho, pulling grenade rings with his teeth, couldn't fire a 50 mm from his shoulder. No human could.

Let's do some review. Caliber is the diameter of the bullet measured as a percentage of an inch. .50 caliber is a half inch in diameter. That doesn't tell the whole story (but I'll get to that). Millimeter (mm) is one thousandth of a meter. 10 millimeters is a centimeter; 2.54 centimeters is an inch. Most of the European cartridges are in mm. Most of the American cartridges are in caliber. Some of the more successful cartridges have both. The famous 30.06 cartridge (.30 caliber (little less than 1/3 of an inch) first made in 1906) is also known as 7,62 x 63mm in Europe (where they use a comma where we would use a period). The little .223 assault round, which we use in our M-16, is 5,56 x 45mm in Europe).

The Barrett Model 82 is chambered for .50 BMG which is the cartridge developed for the Browning M-2 .50 caliber machine gun (BMG--Browning Machine Gun), our WWII heavy machine gun. It is huge and really the last cartridge a man could fire effectively from his shoulder. After that the next bigger useful cartridge is 20mm. The first German tanks in WWII had a light machine gun and a 20mm at the beginning of the war. By the end of the war they carried the same light machine gun but an 88mm cannon. The automatic gun on wheels that chews up the 101st paratroopers on the faux Tiger tank in Saving Private Ryan was an automatic version of the 20mm cannon. It was on wheels on purpose as there are few hand held 20mm rifles, none of them very successful.

Why is the marine using the .50? The main reason is the the bullet goes a long way accurately. I've seen guys put 10 rounds on a metal disc a foot in diameter from 1,000 yards. Few people could do that with a 30.06. Armed with a .50, you could probably hit someone out to a mile and a half. The second reason is when the bullet gets there, the incredible kinetic energy it carries blows the target up. It's awful, but it's kinda cool too.

Here's why.

The .223 with a little bullet, 45 grains in weight goes fast, 3200 feet per second, but doesn't have a lot of power, just 965 foot pounds of energy You cannot legally hunt deer with .223 in this state; it just isn't powerful enough to kill them outright. The 30.06 kills deer just fine (and men too) if you hit them and its bullet, which weighs, say, 190 grains, goes slower 2700 feet per second but because it weighs more, it packs a bigger hit, 3076 foot pounds of energy. The .50 BMG, with a big 770 grain bullet, goes about as fast, 2769 feet per second but hits with an amazing 12,775 foot pounds of energy. That's why you blow up. Hydrostatic pressure caused by the round hitting the body makes all the blood and other fluids escape the body with explosive force. Parts fly off. Drudge had a link to a video of a .50 BMG sniper hitting a Taliban soldier in Afghanistan a few weeks back but I could never make it work. The teaser still photo was informative enough.


Alito's In

In the Miers mulligan, President Bush appears to have driven near the green with pick Samuel Alito, Jr. to replace Justice Sandra O'Connor on the Supreme Court. A sound jurist with 15 years on the federal appellate bench (3rd Cir.) and apparently an originalist, Alito seems poised to satisfy the majority. The early buzz from conservatives is positive (Laura Ingraham is upbeat on air; Hugh Hewitt is happy (enough said); as is Michelle Malkin). If Ann Coulter has a problem with this choice, she's officially off the reading list as impossible to please. And the second best thing about this is that now the Plame affair indictment of Lewis Libby for lying about a non-crime is the old news story. Michael Barone all but calls this the event history will call the momentum changer for the Bush administration in its second term. He could well be right. I still wanted Brown, Luttig or McConnell.


This Day in Ancient History

In Egypt, 4,000 years ago, this was the Eve of the Day of the Dead and the Feast of Osiris. Halloween is a lot older than I ever imagined.


Thought of the Day

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.

Wernher Von Braun

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Hungry Like the Wolf

I'm a bad wolf; I didn't commit Bambicide. I passed on some young bucks at about 80 yards and then took two shots in a rainstorm at 200 yards. Missed. I'm going to use the scoped rifle next time, which is soon, as this was just a warm up for elk hunting in about 3 weeks.

It's not like the trip was wasted though. Here are some sights and thoughts.
Above is a clay bank up near the Wyoming border.

Over the divide, the ranches are buttoning up and tucking in for the long winter to come--the big bales of hay are stacked under tarps or awnings and the cows are in the home fields because the next snow (falling as I left) will not be a throat clearing warm-up but will be the first notes of a cold aria that will last until April, that will freeze the fields and water holes, that will make the domesticated animals wholly dependent on hay, and that will lay white drifts in the mountains that won't melt until summer.

Along the creeks and streams the scrub willow has turned yellow, crimson and violet; as beautiful as any daubs of paint by Monet or Gauguin. The taller trees that have lost their leaves stand like ghosts. Just below the rocks that give Rabbit Ears Pass its name, the last gasp of Aspen have splashed two big streaks of gold, like an ancient rune. My vehicle's ground clearance is measured in mere inches so I couldn't take third and fourth rate roads too often but on one try, as I passed a broad spring, a thousand pliant, bare willow wands, thinner than pencils, stretched two and three feet from the ground, sigmoid curve, as red and hard as a whore's nails, and the sound of them tapping against my undercarriage was unique and disquieting, as if alien life forms were reaching to catch hold of my car.

Walking through wet sage, as potent and pleasant a perfume as any ambergris based concoction in Paris, I saw, sprinkled about, winter kill skeletons and ants nests of two types--the dead square yard around a large pile of tiny pebbles and the 20-inch high mound of leaf mold and pine tags. Two juvenile Bald Eagles strafed an area trying to get a bunny to run out of hiding. I loved watching them but I was mad that they distracted me from looking for deer. In a draw, as I stalked some does for the practice, just as I began to feel good about the lack of snakes in the area, I stepped on a large, long, cast off skin with belly scales two inches wide. More to worry about in a warmer time. I nearly stepped on a cottontail. The huge jack rabbits will run out in front of your care giving a head fake every other step until the rabbit finally decides one way or the other.

To the right is a twelve foot high cedar tree with a trunk you can't reach around. Something wrong with that growth pattern.

The area just west of Black Mountain, the near westernmost of the Elkhead Mountains, which teams with elk just preparing to migrate to winter near Maybelle, is dry and low hilled and nearly treeless between the Little Snake and the Yampa rivers. It takes a little while to appreciate its beauty. Featureless and God-forsaken waste come first to mind. The tallest things are the power poles which, in just two months, on every other one, will carry the hulking settled frames of dark brown Golden Eagles scanning the ground for carrion and juking jack rabbits just as we will be scanning for elk herds with the aid of Japanese optics.

After hours of seeing mule deer does and bucks with so small horns they barely qualified as antlered, just as the rainstorm caught up with me, a big male mule deer with four long tines per side of antlers came up behind me, just over my shoulder, up hill at the crest. I walked on and then crouched behind some sage and proceeded to load and lock, sight and then miss and miss again. The second shot was followed by what I thought was the thwack of impact, but there was no blood and hardly any prints in the mud to follow. I spent another two hours to make sure I hadn't wounded it and then saw it again about 600 years off prancing off in that feet together bounding gait without any difficulty downwind. No point in chasing him like they do in The Deer Hunter and The Last of the Mohicans, where deer hunting seems more a race than a stalk.

Steamboat Springs ski area, as if in a dream, to the left.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day, in 130 AD, the city of Antinoopolis is founded in Middle Egypt by the great Emperor Hadrian in memory of his Bythinian servant


Thought of the Day

For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.

Thomas Jefferson

Friday, October 28, 2005


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 312 AD, Emperor Constantine had a vision of the Cross in the clouds with the message: In hoc signo vincit (In this sign will you win). He had his soldiers paint crosses on their shields before they engaged in battle with forces of the Emperor Maxentius in the battle of the Milvian Bridge just outside Rome. Constantine won and Rome became a much friendlier place for Christians. The weird part is that despite a direct message from God, his acceptance of the Christian religion in the Empire, and even some creation and modification of Christian doctrine, Constantine himself did not convert, but remained a devotee of Sol, the sun God. Weird.


...The Damage Done

Harriet Miers yesterday morning withdrew her nomination to replace Sandra Day O'Connor as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Right Wing shock radio personality Laura Ingraham, usually good, couldn't stop talking Miers down and laying down rules for the President when he takes his mulligan. The noive. I was so turned off that I tuned the radio to another station and heard Colorado's Governor Owen Bill talk about building a wall (just like the wall in Israel) along our Southern border. It was like entering a different reality. (Owen thinks that the border between the US and Mexico is 600 or 700 miles long (actually it's almost 2,000) but I see I'm digressing).

The good news is that we might get Luttig or McConnell or Janice Rogers Brown as a replacement. The bad news is that we might get another of the President's friends from Texas (now the Attorney General).

The good news is that the President had continued to show that he can recognize and correct mistakes. He got rid of O'Neill pretty quickly and the stupid steel tariffs lasted only about a year and President Bush is also showing signs he's finally waking up to the porous borders and that spending has really gotten out of control.

More good news is now NRO's David Frum has $300,000 in a fund and nothing to spend it on.

Here's some of the bad news --all self inflicted damage. (Some of these come from Hugh Hewitt):
The right's embrace in the Miers nomination of tactics previously exclusive to the left - exaggeration, invective, anonymous sources, an unbroken stream of new charges, television advertisements paid for by secret sources - will make it immeasurably harder to denounce and deflect such assaults when the Democrats make them the next time around. Given the overemphasis on admittedly ambiguous speeches Miers made more than a decade ago, conservative activists will find it difficult to take on liberals in their parallel efforts to destroy some future Robert Bork.

Then there's the delay problem--we're unlikely to have a new Justice before the new year which means that Justice O'Connor, who is staying on until replaced, will hear the parental notification of minor daughter's abortion case at the end of November. I don't expect Justice O'Connor to get that one right. What cases, which a new Justice would have voted differently on, will be heard in December?

But the worst damage is that this idea has hardened concretelike in the communal matrix of accepted concepts: A successful, smart, good lawyer is not good enough for the Supreme Court. We need super intellects, up to their elbows in Supreme Court case arcana in the past 20 years at least, members of the Supreme Court monastery, to be the Justices. And we need this because we've accepted the idea that the Justices are Platonic Guardians and philosopher kings who set the policy of the country and don't just decide law cases. It's terribly difficult to be a Platonic Guardian and you do need the super intellect, but the proper role of a Supreme Court Justice is not that difficult and any successful, smart, good lawyer can fill the role.

I've seen the needle and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone.


Thought of the Day

Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parent, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Light Posting Excuse (weekend)

I'm going hunting this weekend. Male mule deer. In the 1800s, we killed almost all the wolves in America; now we have to be the wolves. It's like a duty.

I am again going to leave behind the multi thousand dollar, beautiful Colt Sauer rifle in .300 Win Mag and take along the iron sighted 1903 Springfield in 30.06, which my dad got for $24 in 1955. I always have better luck with the beat up, old '03.

There are not many problems that a man can't fix
With $7,000 and a 30.06.


Fighting the Last War

Like many ex-military types, failed presidential candidate Senator John Kerry (D-MA) wants to fight the war he was involved in (at least for a few months) 36 years ago. That is to say, he wants us to lose in Iraq, by pulling out before the job is done, just as we did in VietNam.

Here is the quote yesterday at Georgetown which shows how truly clueless the Junior Senator is: "We must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces."

Guess what the political settlement he's talking about is. Negotiations. I know it's hard to believe--negotiations with suicide bombers, negotiations with al Qaeda in Iraq. Every time I get mad at our President for not vetoing bad spending bills or ignoring the border crisis, I try to imagine how bad it would have been under this buffoon.

How about we do this instead, Senator? We continue to do just what we are doing. We continue to hunt down and capture and kill the terrorists; we continue to provide security for the political solution (not settlement) of a republican/democratic Iraq; and, we continue to train the Iraqis to do the first two things. Then we come home to well deserved Victory parades. Sure sounds better to me.


A Deceptive Headline but Worth it

Victor Davis Hanson, who really does know Ancient Greek warfare like the back of his hand, has a column in the free part of the New York Times with the title: 2,000 Dead, In Context. But it's really about the political ramifications of running even a successful war. Money quote:

Yet castigating a sitting president for incurring such losses in even a victorious or worthy cause is hardly new. World War I and its aftermath destroyed Woodrow Wilson. Franklin Roosevelt's closest election was his fourth, just as the war was turning for the better in 1944 (a far better fate, remember, than his coalition partner Winston Churchill, who was thrown out of office before the final victory that he had done so much to ensure). Harry Truman wisely did not seek re-election in 1952 in the mess of Korea. Vietnam destroyed Lyndon Johnson and crippled Richard Nixon. Even George H. W. Bush found no lasting thanks for his miraculous victory in the 1991 Gulf war, while Bill Clinton's decision to tamper Serbian aggression - a victory obtained without the loss of a single American life - gave him no stored political capital when impeachment neared.

I've always wondered why this is--why we punish the leader for success. It's often a removed nose to spite face kind of thing. Churchill is the best example of that. He had to leave the Potsdam Conference to face the election back in England, and he never came back. As a result, neophyte Truman and lightweight Attlee were run roughshod over by Uncle Joe Stalin to the detriment of millions of Eastern Europeans. Well, I guess it's a removed nose to spite someone else's face kind of thing in that particular instance.

I've been calling the Iraq War we're still involved in, the Gulf War (part 2) for a long time now. And I've been calling it a success since about the time I watched Saddam's statute be pulled down on TV. It all seems more natural (in the historical perspective above) that the President's approval numbers fall now that signs of our success prove impossible to ignore.


Thought of the Day (twofer)

Maybe this world is another planet's hell.

Aldous Huxley

Hell is other people.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Waiting Until the Last Moment

The woman I share office space with and I argued a case in front of the Colorado Court of Appeals this summer and, when the decision was announced in September, we just beat the snot out of the other side. In a three part analysis, we won on all three parts. So the question then became, would the other side waste their clients' money with a waste of time Petition for Cert. I argued that they would (despite the a**whipping) and that they would wait until the last day to file the petition. I was correct.

Those of us who have thought for many months now that the Plame affair was much ado about absolutely nothing because, absent Valerie Plame's out of country posting as a spy within 5 years of her name's disclosure by Robert Novak, there simply was no crime, have wondered if the lack of indictments today could possibly be a good sign. The grand jury disbands on Friday (although it could be extended by mere Court order) [already extended once; they're done]. So the question becomes is Special Counsel Fitzgerald one of those lawyers who waits to the absolute last minute to file? Time will tell. Mere hours now.


Supporting Our Soldiers in Iraq

Third Infantry Division soldiers on patrol in Baghdad earlier today in an AP Photo by Jacob Silberberg. What do you think these guys want to hear more: "We're so sorry that you and your dead comrades wasted your time and lives in the quagmire of Iraq." or "We're proud of your efforts and sacrifice to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq"? Just asking.


Thought of the Day

Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.

Pope John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Frog Marching Galloway

In an annoying asymmetry, it is illegal to lie to Congress (while they can lie to us with no legal effect), but that may be, in a grander scale, a good thing, because it's looking like exasperating lefty gadfly (and friend to all Muslim extremists) George Galloway lied to Congress.

Francis Harris writes for the Telegraph thus:

The Palestinian-born wife of George Galloway, the Respect MP, is accused today of receiving $149,980 (about £100,000) derived from the United Nations Iraqi oil-for-food programme.
A report by an investigative committee of the United States Senate says the money was sent to the personal account of Amineh Abu Zayyad in August 2000.

George Galloway has always denied receiving money from Saddam's regime
The report, compiled by Republican and Democratic staff, contains detailed information gleaned from Iraqi archives and bank accounts in Britain and Jordan.
The investigators concluded that Mr Galloway knew about the payments and that "through his wife was personally enriched" by them. They say that he "knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath before [a Senate] sub-committee".

In a slightly less than the Empire Strikes Back move, Galloway says (in a seriously be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment): "I did not lie under oath in front of the senate committee." and "In this case the remedy is clear - they must charge me with perjury and I am ready to fly to the US today, if necessary, to face such a charge because it is simply false."

OK. Take it away Justice.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens at Slate has an article with a good headline, Calling Galloway's Bluff, but it's not about Ungorgeous George's statement inviting indictment.


Iraq Has a New Constitution

I really don't think it was much of a stretch to predict this (as I did), but in a squeaker, the Iraqi Constitution was passed by popular vote. In an effort to include and protect minority Sunnis, there was a provision in the Constitution being voted on that would have defeated the whole thing if three of the 18 Iraqi provinces voted against it with a 2/3 vote. There are four provinces with a Sunni majority, and the Sunnis opposed the Constitution, but only two of these provinces (again as I predicted) got to the necessary 2/3. Next stop on the democracy train is in mid-December when the Iraqis vote for their government for real.

A real good thing and a real solution to a failing insurgency.


Thought of the Day

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul.

George Bernard Shaw

Monday, October 24, 2005


I Knew I Always Liked Brazilians

Despite huge pressure from the government, the UN and the Church, the Brazillian people overwhelming rejected gun control in a countrywide referendum this past weekend. This despite the fact that with less than half our population, Brazil has three times our annual gun deaths. Money quote from the BBC story sadly reporting this:

"We didn't lose because Brazilians like guns. We lost because people don't have confidence in the government or the police," said Denis Mizne, of anti-violence group Sou da Paz.
"The 'No' campaign was much more effective. They are talking about a right to have a gun - it is a totally American debate."

A totally American debate and it saved gun rights (and therefore people) in Brazil. They can thank us later.

If you see City of God, you wonder how anyone gets out of puberty unshot there. No wonder they wanted to be able to have a gun for self defense. I have some thoughts on why certain nations are so violent, but they're not complete.


Left Handed Crystals

Part of the reunion, one of the better ones, is what they call classes without quizzes--50 minutes of current Professors covering a topic of interest to them. Having been an English major with a minor in classics, I decided to go to a chemistry lecture about the origin of life. It was fascinating and you (or at least I) had to concentrate a bit to keep up with the chemistry Professor, Richard N. Zare, who is so smart they let him be a physics Professor too.

One of the cool things was when he passed around Quartz crystals which displayed mirror symmetry, that is, one was left handed and one was right handed in the twist of its formation. They were both of a simple chemical formula, SiO2, and absolute identical chemically--so why the different shape? Nearly half the quartz crystals in the world are right handed and the rest are left handed. What that meant to the Professor was that the starting point for the spin, the left or right handedness was absolutely random, but once it got started, the whole crystal had the twist. Self-organizing simple chemical compounds. One definition of life is self-organizing, self-replicating complex organic chemical compounds. Professor Zare's definition of life was that if you stepped on it and it stopped moving, it had, until recently, been life.

Here's how a very good Christian, Jonathan Sarfati, explains this stuff about right and left twist of compounds vital to life:

These two forms are non-superimposable mirror images of each other, i.e.: they are related like our left and right hands. Hence this property is called chirality, from the Greek word for hand. The two forms are called enantiomers (from the Greek word for opposite) or optical isomers, because they rotate the plane of plane-polarised light.
Nearly all biological molecules must be homochiral (all molecules having the same handedness. Another term used is optically pure or 100% optically active) to function. All amino acids in proteins are 'left-handed', while all sugars in DNA and RNA, and in the metabolic pathways, are 'right-handed'.
A 50/50 mixture of left and right-handed forms is called a racemate or racemic mixture. Racemic polypeptides could not form the specific shapes required for enzymes, rather, they would have the side chains sticking out all over the place. Also, a wrong-handed amino acid disrupts the stabilizing a-helix in proteins. DNA could notstabilizedised in a helix if even a small proportion of the wrong-handed form was present, so it could not form long chains. This means it could not store much information, so it could not support life

So in review, the reason for the emphasis on the handedness was that DNA, RNA and many proteins have a helix that's right twisting. All of the amino acids in proteins twist left. No one really knows why that is, but it could be important.

Professor Zare felt that the origin of life took place in hot wet rocks for several reasons, the best of which is that the chemical substrate for RNA and DNA is a sugar joined with phosphorus, or more accurately with phosphate (PO4 to 3-), which does not occur often in liquid and almost never as a gas. So life almost certainly did not start on Earth (assuming it did) in the air and probably did not start in some warm shallow sea. HMMM. Completely the opposite of what was common knowledge even a few years ago.

More questions raised than actually answered but interesting and humbling. Like I said, classes without quizzes are a good part of the reunion.


30th Reunion

To the left, two of the more attractive girls from the freshman dorm reunion. Even after thirty years these women look great. As a connoisseur of reunions, I have to admit that the best were the 20th and 25th and now we're on a downhill slide. Still fun. My daughter Alex went along and was bored nearly to tears. I don't know why I was expecting different. My dad took me along to some UVA reunions when we lived in Richmond in the 60s and I hated every moment. Saw some old girlfriends, talked to dormmates and mutual friends. I was pretty much the only open Republican in the group. I thought that was a little weird. Maybe I don't know the social pressure in the Bay Area to be liberal. All of the women I knew in freshman dorm became wives/mothers or health industry workers (with quite a few doctors among them) or both. That's an impressive yin yang. Saw the only for real genius I ever met. His daughter, whom I last saw when she was 6, is all grown up, a teacher (like her mom) and very self assured. I caught up on some health issues with old friends and nearly all are much better, I'm glad to say. Barb Franks Ralston became a font of fascinating gossip so I sat near her when I could. Nearly everyone has grey hair and the guys who have hair still look about the same; the ones without hair look pretty ancient. All the women had aged gracefully.


This Day in Ancient History

This is the birthday in 51 AD of the Emperor Domitian (Titus Flavius Domitianius). He was Emperor from September 14, 81 AD until his assassination in 96 AD. He became a dangerous tyrant and a bit of a religious zealot, and is probably more proof (as if we needed it) that absolute power corrupts absolutely. He went out a tiger though, and mortally wounded the assassin who killed him.


Thought of the Day

Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Friday, October 21, 2005


Thought of the Day

Women and Cats will do as they please. Men and dogs had better get used to it.

Robert Heinlein in Time Enough for Love

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Light Posting Excuse (quintannual)

No blogging this weekend as I am off with my youngest daughter to my 30 year College reunion in California. Take it away Diomedes. Perhaps you can describe the slow decline of Lou Gherig from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Saint Roche suffering from bubonic plague. That'll pack 'em in. Just kidding--the post on George Orwell suffering from tuberculosis was good but a bit harrowing.


Stopping Misuse of the Judiciary

About 3 months after the Senate passed this law, the House today passed, 283-144, a law which stops nuisance lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Dave Kopel, who lives in these parts, has an astute analysis over at Volokh Conspiracy. The gun sites (blogging sites about guns) are jubilant. President Bush is expected to sign it right quick.

"Lawsuits seeking to hold the firearms industry responsible for the criminal and unlawful use of its products are brazen attempts to accomplish through litigation what has not been achieved by legislation and the democratic process," House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, (R-WI), said.

I'm happy too, but here's a little tidbit which gives me pause: Under the measure, a half-dozen pending lawsuits by local governments against the industry would be dismissed. Doesn't the Fifth Amendment prevent that? I think it might. Although the Kelo decision has made a cruel mockery of it, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, in a different part, prohibits the government taking property without just compensation. Being the victim of negligence has a recognized value even before the lawsuit is filed--it is called a chose in action. If the 'local governments' had choses in action in the lawsuits that had been filed, and the federal government takes them away with a new law and gives the holder of the chose in action nothing in return, I, for one, have a problem with that (as much as I hate these sorts of lawsuits). You can't violate the Constitution even if it's for a good cause, namely, preventing the abuse of the judiciary. The anti-gun forces were attempting to bankrupt gun makers through unsuccessful suit after unsuccessful suit, where the costs to the gun manufacturers for defense lawyers is out of control. Maybe it's OK that it's local governments, whose chose in action is rendered worthless, and not individuals.

Colorado has had, for years, this sort of immunity for gunmakers who make a good product which, through no fault of theirs, is used in a crime to hurt or murder someone. We're still standing.


The Todd Anselmo Mug Shot

Back when Diomedes and I were prosecutors in county court, a couple of decades ago, we had to deal with mug shots now and again, usually in photo array lineups. And almost always the criminal (excuse me, the accused) was mean looking, drunk or drugged, beat up or just plain scuzzy. Hardly anyone was happy. I mean the guy or girl pictured had just been arrested-- who could be happy? One exception was Todd Anselmo (not his real name). He was not only happy, he was ecstatic. He beamed a 1000 watt smile. Just to mention Todd's name in the year or so we worked there always brought a smile to our own faces. We never learned what was making him so happy.

Above is the mug shot of Congressman Tom Delay (R, TX) taken very recently. I think I know what's making him so happy. Apparently the prosecutor, the disgraced Ronnie Earle, never had his lynchpin piece of evidence. Or he lost it. Anyway, it's gone. Take another look at that smile.


I'm Apparently Not the Only One Not Listening

Air America, the liberal radio network that I just can't stand to listen to, no matter how hard I try, isn't doing so well in D.C.

Air America, the liberal talk network carried on WWRC-AM (1260), went from bad to nonexistent. After WWRC recorded a mere fraction of a rating point in the spring with syndicated shows from the likes of lefty talkers Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo and Stephanie Miller, Arbitron couldn't detect a measurable listenership for the station this time around.

They are up to 70 stations but we don't know if any are making money.

(h/t Hugh Hewitt)

UPDATE: In New York, at the Air America station, WLIB, the midday duo of Jerry Springer and Al Franken were especially hard hit, plunging 35 percent from year-ago ratings.

(h/t New York Post)


Thought of the Day

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.

George Santayana

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Friday Movie Review (early)

Caught a free sneak preview of North Country and it was much better than I expected.

It was directed by New Zealander Niki Caro, who directed Whale Rider, a well received movie I never bothered to see. I've found it to be the case that foreign directors can often see things in the way we Americans interact that we are blind to due to sheer repetition. Ang Lee, from Taiwan, is a recent example of this (I can't stress how good Ride With the Devil is and how much it taught me about the American Civil War in the West). But while Ms. Caro can show us human relationships at a simple or basic level, she didn't appear to have any insight into what made these particular guys and girls tick. The location she raved about before the movie started was simply irrelevant. The characters were universal father and mother, universal wayward daughter, etc. I say this as a major criticism of the film.

The semi-antiseptic baring of the souls of most of the characters was as bleached out and tame as the accents of the natives. So Charlize Theron is from South Africa (but with no trace of that accent left), the director is from the smaller, dowdier, down under nation (with a broad accent) and you'd think they would be sensitive to the speech patterns of the people they are portraying and filming yet not a single guy or girl sounds like they grew up in Northern Minnesota. I mean not even Frances McDormand sounded like she was from there and we know that she can do that accent because we heard her do it in Fargo. What is the deal? I mean you just throw in some 'Oh, by gollys' and a 'don't cha know' or two or at least flatten out most of your vowels. What's so freakin hard? Of course I've never been to Northern Minnesota so maybe everyone in the movie had the accents there down cold.

Still when there were good adult actors on screen and the subject was forgiveness or standing by your kin, the movie was crackling with emotional power and it could reach out and grab you by the throat. Other times, usually with uninvolved child actors, the movie swung for the bleachers on the same subjects and missed. Big time.

Now about the subject matter of the film. We guys make fun of each other and play tricks on each other and we are heartless and cruel in the way we do it. And it is a form of male to male affection and a tie that binds men together. I don't think most women can comprehend this, just as most men cannot comprehend many of the mysteries of women (one of which is why do they have 10 pillows on the bed but remove all but one or two when they sleep there? I see I'm digressing). This movie was about the first successful class action sexual harassment (hostile environment) lawsuit in America, at a big open pit iron ore and taconite mine and adjacent mill. What they showed were boorish guys treating the girls as if they really were just one of the guys. The girls didn't get it, as I would not expect them to. What we guys have to learn is that the feminist rhetoric that women are just the same as men and want only to be treated the same as other men is a lie. We men have to take care to treat them like women at all times. They don't really want to and they don't get to play in the male reindeer games. They don't like male reindeer games. Don't get me wrong. Women should be able to work any job they can physically do (they certainly can do any mentally challenging work without any limitations), but they shouldn't fool themselves into thinking that their presence in a heretofore male dominated area of work won't change that work in a profound way.

In short, I found the hostile environment to be rather tame. Compare what happened to Charlize Theron, or any of the girls at the mill, to what happened to her in High School. Pretty tame at the mine, in that light. What really cut to your soul for these women was the lack of love and support they each had from those who should have been their main source. What were the cruelest things was what the women did to each other--mainly public humiliation. That and the male rejection of Theron's character.

It's 2 hours 3 minutes long. Has a lot of good Dylan songs on the soundtrack. There was no nudity I recall, no consensual sex, not much action. You know, I think this was a chick flick. If I were to judge this art with a school letter grade, which, of course, I would never do, I'd give it a B+.


Posh Spice

More proof that David Beckham is a very lucky guy. Is it just me or has Victoria Beckham gotten better looking over time? There's a story behind this post, but I doubt any of our male visitors would read it, so I won't bother to link or describe it. For you women, she and soccer superstar husband are suing another tabloid for lying about their marriage. The last time they did that, they won some money (like they need it).


A High Order of Bungling

As an ex-prosecutor, I am amazed and dismayed by the utter lack of competence shown by Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle and his office. Apparently, his dog ate the single most important piece of evidence he supposedly had in the DeLay indictments. Well, maybe not that, but he can't produce it. Money quote from the Houston Chronicle:

Indictments against DeLay, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro state that Ellis gave "a document that contained the names of several candidates for the Texas House" to a Republican National Committee official in 2002 in a scheme to swap $190,000 in restricted corporate money for the same amount of money from individuals that could be legally used by Texas candidates.

But prosecutors said Friday in court that they only had a "similar" list and not the one allegedly received by then-RNC Deputy Director Terry Nelson.

I have to think now that the indictments, seriously suspect from the git go, are complete shams and Mr. Earle is nothing but a political hack and a disgrace to his profession.


Short TV Blog

Rome was pretty interesting. As in some of the scenes where Septimius (7th born) guts and beheads Pompeii Magnus, in the background of an opening scene to last week's episode, Caesarion (the name of Caesar's and Cleopatra's son), there is a tall building in the background. That is the lighthouse or Pharos of Alexandria, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, destroyed by a series of earthquakes in early 1300s AD. Looked a little dark on Rome, as the real thing was built with white marble on the outside.

The other remarkable thing was a less than stunningly beautiful Cleopatra. We have all grown up with the idea that Cleopatra was dark skinned with black hair like all Egyptians. I'm no longer so sure. As Vorenus said, her people rode with Alexander which means they were from the ancient nation of Macedonia, which is now called, well, Macedonia, but just a few years ago was part of Yugoslavia. Plenty of blonds and redheads in Macedonia and the general hair color there is brown, not black. Absolutely no reason to think she looked like an Egyptian.

Now a little criticism. The fight between Pullo and the Nubian was terrible. It was clear that the Nubian was trying his best NOT to stab Pullo. That fakery was not made up for by the 20 or so stab wounds he got at the end. Also, I'm OK with the fact that everyone speaks with an English accent, but, every so often, a modern British slang word creeps in and strains my willing suspension of disbelief. Like the slang term Gyppo for Egyptian. I'm sure the Romans had a nickname for the Egyptians, but it wasn't Gyppo. Words like that cause a Monty Pythonic comic dissonance, as disturbing to the ambiance as Caesar would be with a Cockney accent--"Cor, blimey, what's all this then, Brutus?"

Caesar actually sounded like a Mafia boss when he demanded immediate repayment of the Roman loan to Ptolemy XII, but I guess that's probably right. Finally, Lucius Vorenus may not be as good in the sack as Pullo, but riding on horses, Vorenus has the decided edge as Kevin McKidd clearly is an experienced horseman--he is smooth as glass, he's one with the horse, where poor Ray Stevenson rides like a big bobble head.


This Day in Ancient History

In Rome and throughout the Empire this was the Autumn Armilustrum, held each year for two reasons--to purify the armor and weapons contaminated by contact with the enemy during the previous seasons' battles, and to mark the end of the Summer campaigns.


Thought of the Day

A beauty is a woman you notice; A charmer is one who notices you.

Adlai Stevenson

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Not As Breathlessly Anticipated As OJ's

In an AP photo from his salad days, Saddam Hussein (looking a lot like Denver's own Craig Silverman) on October 30, 1997 holds up a rifle (an English SMLE (Short Magazine Lee Enfield) Mark 3, in .303, the gun the Brits used during WWII). He's also wearing what appears to be a sleeveless, Carolina blue, leisure suit. Hanging may be too good for the guy.

His trial for war crimes/mass murder regarding a 1982 massacre starts tomorrow (although his lawyer wants to postpone it for 3 months). What I want to know is why this is getting little to no press. Is it because the trial of Saddam would be a reminder of another Bush success? Just asking.



Not much to write about. We're waiting on things--the official results of the recent Iraqi elections; who, if anyone, will be indicted in the Plame affair; what will happen when Senators start actually questioning Harriet Miers; in what game will Houston finish off the usually unlucky Cards; how far the indictments of Tom DeLay will get; and, when will Karl Rove clean out his garage. Until then, it's all speculation.


Thought of the Day

A man who marries a woman to educate her falls a victim to the same fallacy as the woman who marries a man to reform him.

Elbert Hubbard

Monday, October 17, 2005


This Day in Ancient History

This is the birthdate in 331 AD of Emperor Julian the Apostate, who revived paganism in the late Empire and staged the last Christian persecution. Not a good Emperor. An extremely able general whose northern campaigns retook Cologne and secured Rome's German border for a half century, who rejected Christianity for rational reasons, who tried for religious tolerence, and who started to rebuild the temple in Jeruselem (until, it was believed then, God stopped him). You have to take the rough with the smooth with this guy.

He ruled for just two years and died of eagerness or hubris in 362 AD when he did not put on his armor and took a dart to the torso.


Thought of the Day

When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him.

Thomas Szasz in The Second Sin

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Rare Sports Post

In the last 5 days it's been 100%. If I wanted a team to win, they lost: Angels, Cardinals, Irish, Avs. So for protection, I'm really, really hoping that the World Champion Pats beat Denver. There, it's on record. If I have to really believe it, though, the Broncos are in trouble.


Rock Concert Review

Went to the Fox Theater in Boulder last night with friend Mark and his friends to see Porcupine Tree and opening act, Margerie Fair. It was fun. Margerie Fair had one good song (out of 7) and a lead singer who sounded remarkably like Coldplay. Unlike the headliners, you could hear every word he sang but (in a serious case of Hey Jude taking over music) he usually sang the same lyric over and over until the song just petered out in boredom.

Porcupine Tree, an unfortunate name by my way of thinking, is like the long lost son of Art Rock in the 70s--not metal, not wimpy new age whining (which is pretty much all white, mainstream rock now), but pretty good (sometimes very good), interesting songs with a solid backing of synthesizer-like keyboards and strong guitar work. I had never heard of these guys so there were no old favorites to listen for, but almost every song had a hook and a bite.

Unless you get to the Fox as the doors open, you have to stand the whole time, which sucks big time; but perhaps that's an old man's complaint. There really wasn't any dancing, just a lot of deadhead like bobbling. I'm old enough to remember a time in the late 60s when the cutting edge music could not be danced to. You just had to sit or stand there and listen. We're definitely not back to that--we were all subtly moving and grooving at the Fox last night.

The lead guitarist singer had long John Edwards fine hair and when he looked down he seemed like Cousin It with a recent trim. He also looked about 25 years old, which must be wrong since the band has been producing CDs since 1991. (Still, Steve Winwood started professionally at age 15--there are child prodigies). He said that the band had been to Boulder four times and would come back. You could listen to a lot worse music than these Brits (and I have, but not recently).


Thought of the Day

The average man does not know what to do with this life, yet wants another one which will last forever.

Anatole France

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Victory for Democracy in Iraq

No matter what the results of today's vote in Iraq concerning ratification of the Constitution there (and I'll bet anyone a six-pack that it passes), there is one thing clear, hardly any violence against those voting. In January, when Iraqis were voting for provisional representatives, there were 347 acts of violence against voters. This time there were only 13. Or so says The GOP Vixen. (h/t Instapundit).

Even as I write this, memory banks, both electronic and organic, are being purged by lefty naysayers of dire predictions of Iraqi elections prevented by blood baths/start of Civil War.


Friday Movie Review (late)

On Hugh Hewitt's recommendation, I went last night to see Everything is Illuminated. I didn't like it but it wasn't at all a bad movie. Hewitt said it would stay with you for a long time and I guess that's right.

It starts off kinda slow and then picks up and is actually very funny once we're in the Ukraine (or is it the Czech republic?). The first time director, Liev Schreiber, an actor whom you have seen in films whether you remember his name or not, makes fun of, but at the same time is jealous of, the unsophisticated but full of life Ukrainians the same way the director held up his fellow ex-patriot Yugoslavians for ridicule in Montenegro. (I still recall the main male character in that film saying his non de plum was meant to be ironic and he said it with a vehemence and a bitterness that should have warned us of the red hot rivalries that existed in Tito-led Yugoslavia that would erupt and send the country into chaos and a 6 way split after Tito died in 1980--but it didn't. Back to the Ukraine). The movie even pays homage to the famous steps of the memorable scenes in Battleship Potemkin by Eisenstein.

The movie stays rolling along pretty well until they reach their destination. You get the sense of the fields of wheat and sunflowers running on forever and the Ukraine is surprisingly beautiful. Sharp eyed viewers might question whether the place they were having a roadside circus or fair (where they first asked for directions) wasn't the same place where the arms sales went down in Lord of War. Looked exactly the same to me. Once they find the village they're looking for, then the movie falls apart, for me. I can't talk about the main mystery in the movie without ruining it, so I won't, but I wonder if the central mystery is the thing that Hewitt warns will stick with you. I felt very little emotional connection to the Elijah Wood's character and I started off liking the translator, Alex, but he became less and less endearing even as he took over the road trip/spiritual awakening part of the movie from Wood's character. After the central mystery thing a lot of elements start to fall into place and there is a sort of catharsis/recognition of Man's place in the universe, that is, totally screwed by the past. But not everything falls into place. Needless to say, for me, the title was ironic as all was definitely not illuminated. It's 106 minutes long--no sex, no nudity, no violence (really), and no action. Some thought production, though and most of the actors, including Elijah Wood, are pretty good. The dog in it deserves an Oscar. If I were to rate art with a school letter grade, which I would most certainly not do, I'd give this film a B-.


If It Had Been A Fight...

...they'd have stopped it in the first round. Victor Davis Hanson, who recently visited our fair State (and spoke at DU, my alma mater legis), takes on, over at NRO, former President Carter's national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, for his poorly reasoned piece called American Debacle in the LA Times. Zbig, as he was sometimes called, thinks things are going poorly in Iraq in particular and generally in the global war against militant Islamacists.

Mr. Hanson proves that an accurate historical perspective certainly gives one a different perception of the current war from the one the sky-is-falling Democrats have (and, indeed, a greater moral clarity as well). Since I'm at heart a little catty, what I enjoyed most was Hanson's list of the major failings of President Carter and Mr. Brzezinski back when they ran things. Hanson noted that the criticism of the current administration was coming from:

...a high official of an administration that witnessed on its watch the Iranian-hostage debacle, the disastrous rescue mission, the tragicomic odyssey of the terminally ill shah, the first and last Western Olympic boycott, oil hikes even higher in real dollars than the present spikes, Communist infiltration into Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Cambodian holocaust, a gloomy acceptance that perpetual parity with the Soviet Union was the hope of the day, the realism that cemented our ties with corrupt autocracies in the Middle East (Orwellian sales of F-15 warplanes to the Saudis minus their extras), and the hard-to-achieve simultaneous high unemployment, high inflation, and high interest rates...


What follows this body blow is a clear eyed assessment of what we've accomplished since 9/11/01. It is a great read and not that long.

What struck me, on the other hand with Mr. Brzezinski, was his closing, amazingly callow suggestion. He urges the President to form a bipartisan foreign policy (yea, that's a good idea--listen to the cut and run party) and get out of Iraq. And the sooner the U.S. leaves, the sooner the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis will either reach a political arrangement on their own or some combination of them will forcibly prevail. In other words, he's perfectly willing to condemn Iraq to Lebanon-like civil war. The man (and his party) don't exactly have a zbig heart, do they?

There, I think, is the essential difference in vision between left and right: Hanson and his supporters see that a small but noble sacrifice by U.S. forces can create greater good. Brzezinski and his ilk metaphorically quote Dan Rather and say 'F--- 'em all,' if it's even the least bit hard.


This Day in Ancient History

This is the birthday, in 70 BC, of epic poet Virgil, author of the Aeneid and other poems. Arma poetamque cano. Briefly.


Thought of the Day

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

Douglas Adams

Where? Dead in his early 50s?

Friday, October 14, 2005


I Always Wondered Why She Seemed So Sad

This week, the daughter of famed movie actress Marlene Dietrich, revealed that her mother "hated sex." I guess that explains why, in nearly all her roles, she always seemed a little sad.


Polio Tragedy

The one thing we can clearly point with pride to in modern medicine is the elegant solution to communicable diseases called inoculation. Introduce a weakened form of the virus into the blood and the body learns to fight off a more powerful version later. Teach the body to fight the disease and there's nothing else the doctor has to do. Brilliant.

Some diseases, once everyone is inoculated and the wild forms eradicated, are gone forever, like Small Pox (unless we use it as a weapon). Other diseases are alive in the wilds and will never be eradicated, like polio. I was one of the first generation to become immunized to polio (I can still recall sucking something down on a sugar cube). Every generation needs to do the same and when they don't, through a willful living anachronistically, tragedy like this can ensue.


Best News From Iraq So Far This Month

A guest commentary from Lieutenant Colonel Gary Skubal, over at the excellent Real Clear Politics, about Iraqi operations in Tal Afar, is heart-warming, spine stiffening, lump-in-the-throat good news from Iraq, the best news so far this month. Money quotes:

But out of this apparent chaos comes the brilliance of the idea. Despite the volume of fire during the raid, I still don’t know if any shots came from the insurgents. To them it must have sounded like all hell was breaking loose and heading their way. The pilot of a cavalry scout helicopter above exclaimed over the radio, “it looks like ants everywhere” as he watched the commandos flowing through the courtyards and gardens. Later a seasoned cavalry sergeant likened the commandos to “a swarm of killer bees.” In some houses we entered, we found the suspects cowering in dark rooms. Other houses contained evidence of insurgents fleeing in haste. There was something new going on here. Terror had gripped the terrorists...

What I saw during my time with these men inspired my faith in a better future for Iraq. These commandos are accomplishing something that has challenged the best efforts of conventional forces for some time – hope for the Iraqi people on the street and, something we have long wished on the terrorists – a taste of their own medicine.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Iraqi Interior Ministry special forces, in American and British hand-me-down camo with AK 47 underfolders, happy to be on patrol in Baghdad the day before the Constitution is accepted. Photo by AP.


Thought of the Day

The weapons laboratory of Los Alamos stands as a reminder that our very power as pattern finders can work against us, that it is possible to discern enought of the universe's underlying order to tap energy so powerful that it can destroy its discoverers or slowly poison them with its waste.

George Johnson in Fire in the Mind

Thursday, October 13, 2005


No One Expects the Spanish Influenza

One of my favorite columnists, Charles Krauthammer, has written a chilling tale of science taking one step too many--reconstructing the virus for the Spanish Influenza of 1918, which killed millions around the World, and then publishing its entire genome so anyone with a commercial DNA sequencer can make a copy of one of the World's most deadly viruses. Anyone at all.

I guess the good news is that we found out things about it--we found that it is a virulent form of Avian Flu. Mr. Krauthammer is a doctor, a psychiatrist, so he knows more about this stuff than I do, but he seems to fall into the genetic path trap. He implies that the H5N1 virus' movement from a relatively benign (to us) form of flu that won't travel person to person to a deadly pandemic like in The Stand is merely a few mutations away, like dialing in a safe's combination or putting in a PIN at the ATM. My education in this stuff, never too intense and 30 years ago, tells me that that's not how mutation works. The important change in the continual mutation process is to the 'shell' of the virus, so that, for example, the virus can last outside a body longer or so that the body that had a flu shot no longer recognizes and kills the virus inoculated against.

There remains, however, no effective treatment for the resulting infection once you've contracted this virus--the H5N1 virus is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine, two antiviral medications commonly used for influenza, but two other antiviral medications, oseltamavir and zanamavir might work. In the absence of effective antiviral medication, you let the disease run its course, giving what palliative care you can, and the person gets well or, uh, doesn't.

The real triumph of modern medicine, once they stopped the bleeding people to cure a cold thing, is that they can inoculate us against the virus so that our bodies never let it get started. I can only hope that the reconstruction of the Spanish Influenza virus is the sort of pure research that helps create a vaccine that works, in the off chance that we need it for the Asian Avian Flu out there now. They have not yet developed a vaccine for that virus.

I haven't bought the hand soap or Michael Jackson surgical masks yet, but I'm thinking about where I could get them.


Largely Political Prize for Literature

The Nobel Prize for Literature this year goes to has-been, lefty Brit playwright Harold Pinter, it was announced today. Thus the Lit prize joins the Peace Prize as an award given largely for a political position, general opposition to American interests. It's not a huge step down for the Lit Prize.

The search committee for the Nobel Prize for Literature over the years, never strong on finding talent, usually gravitated towards seldom-read Norse novelists with a sprinkling of never-heard-of-them or just plain bad lefty poets, like Pablo Neruda. They managed, however, to ignore true giants like Proust, Joyce, Nabokov and Borges (even though Borges lingered on for almost 90 years), but found such members of the immortal pantheon as Bjornstjerne Bjorrison, Carl Spitteler, Frans Sillanpaa, Henrik Pontoppiden (who shared the prize with Karl Gjellerup) and Pearl Buck. In 1974, it was all Swedish, all the time with co-winners Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson.

Pinter is another weak choice. Has Stanislaw Lem died and no one told me?

Even some of the good choices are not what you'd call a barrel of laughs. Knut Hamsun (good, if you ignore the Nazi sympathies), Samuel Beckett, Haldor Laxness, Elfriede Jelinek, and Sinclair Lewis are best read when you're feeling great and need to sadden down a little.

I never liked Pinter, even when he was a hot literary property, and to know that he won it for America-bashing doesn't sweeten the bitter pill a bit.


This Day in Ancient History

This was the day of the annual Fontinalia in Rome, honoring the god of fountains, springs and wells, Fontus. The citizens would garland all sources of water in the city, including the little spigots marked SPQR you can still drink from today.


Thought of the Day

A cult is a religion with no political power.

Tom Wolfe

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Like Money From Home

The recently de-classified letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's number two, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its chief in Iraq, is great news. Now even senior al Qaeda is saying to junior al Qaeda in Iraq: "You suck," although you wouldn't know it from the AFP story, which leads with this whitewash:

A captured letter shows Al-Qaeda positioning itself for a US defeat in Iraq, but struggling to curb a top leader whose campaign of beheadings and attacks on Shiites is costing the extremist movement popular support.

I think a better lead would be: "A captured letter shows al Qaeda in Iraq losing the war due to faulty tactics." Positioning themselves for a US defeat in Iraq, my left toe. Positioning themselves for a continued ass-whupping is more like it.

I have three children in college now, who only talk to me when they need money, so I certainly recognize this part of the letter:

The brothers informed me that you suggested to them sending some assistance. Our situation since Abu-al-Faraj is good by the grace of God, but many of the lines have been cut off. Because of this, we need a payment while new lines are being opened. So, if you're capable of sending a payment of approximately 100,000 [units of currency] we'll be very grateful to you.

Original al Qaeda is not only unable to send the requested cash, but is reduced to asking its franchisee Zarqawi for 100 K. I'd say the whole world-wide domination thing might not be going exactly as planed. If they weren't blowing up women and children and chopping off heads here and there, we'd be laughing at them.

This photo, also from AFP, tells a tale to the informed, with nary a caption needed.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 54 AD, the Emperor Claudius is poisoned, probably by his wife Agrippina so her son Nero could become Emperor. That didn't work out so well. If you haven't already read them, Robert Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God are the best historical novels I have ever read.


Thought of the Day

The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces.

Maureen Murphy

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Political Triumph in Iraq

The Iraqis (Kurds and Shiites) trying to get the Sunni minority involved in the political (as opposed to the terrorist) struggle to create a democratic and stable Iraq have hammered out a last minute deal which brings the Sunnis in in a big way. One Sunni Arab party now supports the new Iraqi Constitution. I doubt this guy to the left has the newest version, but he certainly has a lot of them.

I can't stress enough how good this news is. The political solution to the Iraq insurgency is now just two months away and no longer in serious doubt.

The naysayers who were predicting imminent civil war are wrong, yet again.


Secretary Rice Plugs the Hole

After hard bargaining, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice secures the continued use of an airbase we built in Kyrgyzstan and used to launch the first airstrikes against the Taliban. Earlier this year, Uzbekistan had told us to clear out of the base we built there, so I, for one, was worried about what effect that would have on our ability to continue the war in Afghanistan and the larger war on militant Islamicism (because the Uzbeks said they wouldn't share intelligence either). But Uzbekistan is small and right next to Kyrgyzstan (and Tajikistan too) so no real harm done. The Kyrgyzstan government had earlier told us to take a hike as well but Secretary Rice brought President Kurmanbek Bakiev back into the fold. Good job, Condi!


Auf Wiedersehen und Viel Gluck

One down in the Axis of Weasles. Gerhard Schroeder gives up the Gore ghost and steps completely down. He will no longer be Chancellor of Germany and he will have no role in the new coalition government. He wasn't so bad a guy for an inept, lefty, back-stabbing, pacifist, job losing, Old-Europe, Bush-bashing, Kraut politician. I mean, he wasn't like, uh, Hitler or anything.


Dental Exam for Gift Horses

The Czechs are nice enough to donate weapons and uniforms to Iraq "to help the country protect its cultural heritage." The Iraqis can only pray that the 1,500 military uniforms they're talking about aren't these to the left. Not the infamous Czech yellow clown camo, but pretty darn ugly none the less. Actually the Czechs have a new desert camo which seems OK. It's pictured below. A little too 101 Dalmation looking for my tastes, but better than the Mandalbrot abomination to the left.


This Day in Ancient History

In Athens, long ago, this was the Annual Thesmophoria, a woman's rite in honor of agricultural goddes Demeter. Sacred offerings are cleaned from her cave. It was common knowledge back then that the offerings to the Gods were their food. Usually they were burned so that the smoke went up to the sky and the God got it. We've seen on Rome that the household Gods, the Lares and Penates, could be fed directly by placing food on their figurines. We've also seen a little girl, Lucius Vorenus' youngest, place grapes on an alter in the city replacing an older bunch, which she takes, runs home with, and everyone there ate one of the old grapes, seemingly for luck. Anyway, the year's direct offerings to Demeter in her cave near Athens were getting pretty rank and this was the day the women cleaned out the whole rotten lot and started over.


Thought of the Day

Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.

W.R. Inge

Monday, October 10, 2005


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 19 AD, Germanicus, brother of Claudius, dies by poisoning in Antioch, Syria. The person who ordered the murder is widely believed to be either Livia or Tiberius.

(Captain Kirk was middle-named after a bad guy, trekkies).


Thought of the Day will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on.

Sir Winston Churchill

Sunday, October 09, 2005


A Different Sort of Elitism

The Republican base is seriously up in arms about the President's proposal that Harriet Miers take over as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court for Justice O'Connor. Some fear she is not conservative enough (as Jeff Goldstein said, tongue in cheek, that 'Miers' is German for 'Souter') while others, too many, say she's not qualified for the Supreme Court. This is elitism--unlovely, ironic elitism. To paraphrase Laura Ingraham's first sentence in her anti-elitism book, "They think she's stupid." When I make that charge, most right thinking people counter, oh no! we don't care where she went to school (Miers went to Southern Methodist University both undergrad and Law School) she's just not qualified. It's the second part that is the snobbish elitism which I find wrong. Let me explain.

It's elitism to think that being a Justice on the Supreme Court is only appropriate for brilliant, super minds, who have spent many years knee deep in Supreme Court arcana and who have devoted careers to an appellate practice and been federal court appellate judges, preferably on the D.C. Circuit. In other words, it is elitism to think that there are 9 philosopher kings (or Platonic Guardians, as Diomedes says) in this country and only a few, properly anointed, super intellects are capable of that pinnacle of service. Elitism on stilts! We conservatives used to reject the very notion that the judiciary are philosopher kings. We reject completely that the Supreme Court should set policy. They should review cases and decide if the issues and laws reviewed pass constitutional muster. That's it (and maybe not even that). And for that proper role, a prudent person, with good common sense and a judicial temperament is fine. Harriet Miers is probably fine. I trust our President to have the motherwit to recognize this sort of ability in another. Why don't you? You guys, howling in self-rightous pain, point out another person picked personally by President Bush who has let us down. I can't think of one. Maybe the guys over at Kos or DU can propose some. Yea, help out the left on this choice. What a good idea! The howlers, like Ann Coulter, George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol, to name but a few, have clearly bought into the notion that the Supreme Court are philosopher kings.

Because if we on the right really want super philosopher kings on the Supreme Court, I, for one, want some better decisions. Pick your favorite egg-head-brilliant-but-bone-headed decision recently. Here is mine: Clinton v. Jones, a 9-0 decision in 1997, authored by Justice Stevens in which the brilliant philosopher kings said that Paula Jones' lawsuit wouldn't have any effect on the Presidency (and the Nation), "[o]there than the fact that a trial may consume some of the President's time and attention..." Yea, no distraction to the President from that lawsuit, o annointed ones.

I say to my right thinking brothers and sisters, quit buying into the inflated importance of the Supreme Court. Let's put normal people on a more normal, self limiting court and restore not a better balance of power on the court (originalist versus activist) but a better balance between the three branches; where the Legislative and Executive branches (elected by We, the people) interact to set policy and the Judiciary puts the brake on only where those branches go too far.

This Republican revolt is truly revolting and ugly in that we're doing just what we hate so much by those on the left, denying that a good, normally smart person can handle any job in this Government, supposedly of the people. Hugh Hewitt is helping to lead the charge to stop this madness, but not with my arguments. I'm with him.


Short TV Blog

Reading Roman history has me wondering about the show Rome. Tonight is episode 7, titled Pharsalus, which is the name of the turning point battle in Greece between Pompeii Magnus and Gaius Julius Caesar. What bugs me a little is that there is no sense in the show of the passage of time. We know some time has passed, but not nearly enough. In episode 1, we were shown the death of Caesar's only daughter Julia. That was in 54 BC. The battle of Pharsalus was August 8, 48 BC. Does it seem like 6 years have passed in the past 6 episodes? It doesn't to me. If the current series goes to the regular 12 or 13 episodes at the same rate, we'll be to 42 BC, two years after Caesar's death.

I guess that won't be completely terrible. Wild Bill Hickok was killed before the end of the first season of Deadwood and that series has only gotten better as it goes along. I am almost caught up in episodes on that. It is a great TV show.

One thing that holds back our sense of the passage of time is the lack of change in Octavian. He was supposed to be 9 in episode 1 and 15 in episode 6, yet he looks exactly the same. We all know that our children change a lot, body and soul, in that period of time. By 42 BC, he's active in chasing down the murderers of his grand uncle (and later in the power struggle between Marcus Antonius and himself). I doubt 16 year old Max Pirkis, as good as he is, can pull off Octavian becoming Augustus in his late 30s next year on Rome or even the year after that. (He didn't look much older than 9 in Master and Commander though, where he was great.)

What I really want them to do is slow down, so that the battle of Actium is at the end of Season 7 or so.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 28 BC, Augustus dedicates a temple to Apollo on the Palatine Hill in Rome. The temple has libraries in it. Little remains of the temple.


Thought of the Day

The best armor is to keep out of range.

Italian Proverb

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Columbus Day Parade in Denver

As promised, went to the Columbus Day Parade with Diomedes and his youngest daughter (more about her later). Craig Silverman was there too, co-host of KHOW drivetime talk show (630 am dial weekdays--3 to 7 PM) and fellow ex-DA. He was constantly talking into a little dictaphone cassette recorder. I'm worried about his memory. The parade was supposed to start at 10:00 AM but was delayed for about 45 minutes by this:

Faux dead Indians. Rather than get arrested for blocking the parade, after the police bull-horned a warning, Indian auxiliaries came out and carried the faux dead Indians off. Some red liquid was splashed and had to be washed off. We were told by the crowd shouting ad nauseam: "You can't wash away history." True, but not entirely useful.

20th and Blake, right across from Coors Field turned out to be the epicenter of the protest. To the left are about a third of the protestors. I'd estimate the crowd around us was nearly 300 strong. Didn't see too far down the line, but it was sparser there.

Not all the protest was about Indians and Columbus. Some protestors managed to find a way to include the current President. Not the clearest or cleverest protest sign ever concocted.
Although he said he would not be there, infamous faux scholar Ward Churchill is standing a head above the normal height of the crowd. In sunglasses. Not holding a sign.

I am old enough to have been witness to actual Vietnam protests out at Stanford in late 1971. Free the El Camino 600! They had the exact same chants back then, like the "Hey, hey, ho, ho" chant. But adding "Columbus Day has got to go" makes it a few syllables too long.

Faux Indian and Grand Marshall of the counter-protest Four Directions All Nations March, Ward Churchill.

Actually Glenn Morris seemed to be doing all the work not stopping the Columbus Day Parade. Maybe that's what he wanted to do--not stop the parade. Did a good job of that.

Below, with bandannas over the bottom of their face, are representative protestors.

Man, did they get obnoxious with top of their lungs chanting and beating on an empty 5 gallon wall "mud" bucket. "Celebrate pride, not genocide." Another protest semi-haiku. I think it was their anger and earnest shouting that scared D's little girl. She definitely didn't want to be there and Diomedes left early. Why the need to cover your face in the cowboy/robber style? I don't get that. Are they ashamed of what they're doing? Do they fear some sort of government reprisal? I just don't get it.

What Diomedes missed was this:

The parade itself. No flowery floats. No marching bands. No balloons. Just people walking with American or Italian flags. There were a few floats--a band playing (when it passed us) Moondance by Van Morrison. I didn't know he was Italian. Another float had Columbus, ah, herself. There was a float with a Sinatra-like karaoke guy. And lots and lots of cars and trucks. (Sorry about so few pictures of the actual parade but my camera apparently has very limited interior memory. I'll have a memory card in the future.)

All in all, it is a very little parade and would have all but disappeared, I believe, if the Indians hadn't started the protests and piqued some interest. But, using the occam soccer rule, if it scares little girls, it can't be good. And the protestors definitely scared one little girl. The Indians should take their defeat by superior forces hundreds of years ago like the stoic Nobel Savage of popular imagination and leave the Columbus Day Parade in Denver to the moribund end by apathy it was destined for.

Craig Silverman said that it was a good day for the First Amendment on both sides. I guess it was, but at large government expense. The police almost outnumbered the protestors. Here are just the reserves.


When Good Marines Go Bad

A 12 year veteran marine, former Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, who was honorably discharged with PTSD, has written a book in which he claims that he committed atrocities during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He had the backbone to bring his claims to the attention of his superiors while he was still a marine and the Marines investigated and the Pentagon says that what he describes was not an atrocity under the rules of engagement during the second part of the Gulf War. That doesn't mean Mr. Massey did not kill protesting civilians who were later found to be unarmed. Those facts would certainly fit the PTSD discharge. I know that, for all my pseudo military bluster and ability with guns, if I killed anyone, it would devastate me. Perhaps this is what happened to this devil dog author.

The thing that gets me a little is that Mr Massey has chosen to publish his book, titled Kill! Kill! Kill! in France, where anti-American books sell like hotcakes. (It was ghost written by a French journalist). While that might be publishing paydirt, it just seems shameful to do this rather minor mea culpa overseas.

Semper fi indeed.


Avian Flu Fear Mongering

The New York Times today has an editorial that you don't have to pay $50 to read. I think it leaves out one important point and says something else which has little scientific support. Here's the former:

The two most recent global pandemics, in 1957 and 1968, were caused by human flu viruses that picked up some bird flu components. Now it turns out that the far more lethal 1918 virus, which killed perhaps 20 to 100 million people, was most likely an avian strain that jumped directly into humans. That gives today's avian strain two routes to wreak havoc among humans. It could either mix some of its genes with human influenza, like the 1957 and 1968 viruses, or it could mutate on its own to become easily transmissible among humans, like the 1918 virus.

The NYT makes it sound like the two paths make it twice as likely that the flu will turn pandemic-like. There are always two paths for every virus to become deadly to humans. And there are always a hundred thousand paths that lead to non-lethality to humans. Because the virus can mutate in a hundred thousand ways and is constantly in the process of doing so at random.

The next suspect statement is: So far, the avian virus has rarely jumped from birds to humans and seldom spread from one human to another. But it may be traveling slowly down the same evolutionary path as the 1918 virus.

There is no such thing as an evolutionary path. In hindsight, we can see how an organism like an animal changed over time (or didn't change-- some animals, like sharks and horseshoe crabs, have changed very little over hundreds of millions of years--if they were on a path, it was very short). But our hindsight, usually fossil record, view doesn't mean that the organism here, the H5N1 virus, is doing anything other than mutating at random. Think of viruses as nano-hypodermic needles filled with genetic material which can make many more nano-hypodermic needles by taking over a cell's RNA protein factory. There is no brain, no volition, there isn't even a method of movement--the virus just runs into the cell by accident. The virus doesn't want to jump to humans, it just 'wants' to produce more of itself (like all life). About the avian flu, about all viruses, the best we can say is alea iacta est and wait to see if the die comes up like the 1918 pandemic or like the 1976 swine flu. I've posted before about fear mongering regarding this virus here.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 314 AD, rival Emperors Licinius and Constantine have their first battle.


Thought of the Day

The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he really is very good, in spite of all the people who say he is very good.

Robert Graves

Friday, October 07, 2005


Blind Good Luck Day

Diomedes and I are going to the Columbus Day Parade tomorrow. We'll report back. Here's my take on Columbus Day, which I taught my children as soon as they learned about brave Columbus in Elementary School. You remember the story. Columbus figured out the Earth was round, while all around him thought it was flat, and so they mocked him when he set sail for the East by heading west and everyone thought he'd sail off the edge. And after about 4,000 miles sailing, he discovered Caribbean islands instead of the East and the discovery stuck and European colonization of the New World started.

Here's the truth:

Smart people have known the earth was a sphere for a long, long time. They even knew the real circumference of the earth since at least 200 BC when Eratosthenes of Cyrene measured it to at least within 2% and probably to within 200 miles (depending on the real measure of the 'stadion' he was using). His calculations survived and were commented on by Cleomedes and Strabo, and work along the same lines was known to the Muslim World in the 9th century AD through scholar Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, among others.

The World is about 24,800 miles around at the equator.

They also knew how far it was from Europe to China because they traveled the route since at least Marco Polo. It is about 8,600 miles from Madrid to Shanghai. So if one subtracts 8,600 from 24,800, the result is 16,200 miles. That's a long way by sea. By the last decade of the 1500s, sailing 16,000 sea miles was beyond the technological capability of the European sea going vessels or the endurance of their crews. They could barely make 4,000. No one thought to sail to the East by going west because it was just too far. All the sailors would die before reaching China. So no one tired.

Columbus calculated the circumference of the World and got it horribly wrong at only 12,000 miles. Oh, mighty navigator. 8,600 from 12,000 is 3,400 which was in range of the tiny little vessels the Europeans had. So off Columbus goes and had there not been two continents about 4,000 miles away from Spain, which no one in Europe (certainly including Columbus) knew about, he and his crew would have either had to turn around or all died on an endless sea.

It was blind good luck for Columbus that there were continents (and islands) just within sailing range of Spain at just about the place he mistakenly put China. Blind Good Luck.


This Day in Ancient History

In Athens, from about the 6th century BC through the Roman Occupation, this was the day that the Pyanepsia, the "Day of Boiled Beans," was celebrated. Children walked from house to house carrying branches decorated with fruit and toys, singing hymns and receiving gifts.

There are echoes of the Pyanepsia in a lot of modern holidays, but Halloween comes to mind strongest. And the month is right.


Thought of the Day

I recognize that many physicists are smarter than I am--most of them theoretical physicists. A lot of smart people have gone into theoretical physics, therefore the field is extremely competitive. I console myself with the thought that although they may be smarter and may be deeper thinkers than I am, I have broader interests than they have.

Linus Pauling in The Meaning of Life

Thursday, October 06, 2005


The Last 30 Days of Casualties

Here is a somewhat helpful analysis of the last 30 days of casualties (deaths only) in Iraq and Afghanistan. These all were officially announced by our Department of Defense (click on releases) from 9/3/05 to 10/3/05. There were a total of 67 (which is above our average, as is to be expected with increasing violence prior to important elections mid-month).

During this period three guys in the Navy died. None were battle deaths. One died in a car wreck; one fell out of a helicopter; one was lost at sea (just disappeared).

In Afghanistan, six died in accidents--one in a car wreck; 5 in the crash of a helicopter. One died of a 'non-hostile gunshot wound' under investigation. One died in a mortar attack. Two died from small arms fire. In other works, 30% were killed in what everyone would consider standard war fighting. None were killed by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).

In Iraq, forty-0ne died from IEDs. Forty-one! Only three from small arms fire. One from a 'non-hostile gunshot wound' under investigation. Three died from 'indirect fire' (which I used to think was a mortar attack but now I'm not so sure). Six were killed in accidents of which 4 were vehicle related. In other words, 11% died in what everyone would consider standard war fighting and nearly 78% were killed with roadside bombs--not generally considered standard war fighting.

They are clearly different sorts of wars going on in these two countries.

Only one was a woman: Airman 1st Class Elizabeth N. Jacobson, 21 of Riviera Beach, FL, the only airforce personnel, who died from an IED near her convoy vehicle outside Camp Bucca on September 28, 2005.


Thought of the Day

At two-tenths the speed of light, dust and atoms might not do significant damage even in a voyage of 40 years, but the faster you go, the worse it is--space begins to become abrasive. When you begin to approach the speed of light, hydrogen atoms become cosmic-ray particles, and they will fry the crew. ...So 60,000 kilometers per second may be the practical speed limit for space travel.

Isaac Asimov in Sail On! Sail On! in The Relativity of Wrong

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Media Bias IQ Question

Which of these is not like the others:

1) Israelis kill Palestinian who attacked soldier (by Atef Sa'ad at Reuters)

2) Palestinian woman killed after stabbing Israeli soldier (AFP)

3) Knife attacker killed in W Bank (BBC)

4) Palestinian Woman Stabs Israeli Soldier (By RAVI NESSMAN AP)

5) Calm in Gaza as Israelis kill Palestinian (AFP)

These are all headlines about the same event--a Palestinian woman (mother of 5), while on her way to conduct a suicide attack in Israel, was stopped at a checkpoint where she stabbed a female Israeli soldier in the face and was then shot in the legs by other Israeli soldiers. The woman died from the wounds.

The top two headlines tell the complete essential story. The next headline is a little less complete but at least manages to get in the knife attack part. The fourth headline talks about the attack but fails to mention the shooting and death of the attacker. And the last headline leaves out the knife attack entirely. One point for guessing number 4; three points if you guessed the last one.

What is it with AFP and headline number 5? The writer can't even mention the knife attack in the first paragraph: Calm returned to the Gaza Strip after deadly internecine clashes and police protests over dire insecurity problems, as Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian mother of five in the West Bank.

Apparently the Israelis aren't fighting just the Palestinians.


Thought of the Day

Nothing tends so much to the advancement of knowledge as the application of a new instrument. The native intellectual powers of men in different times are not so much the causes of the different success of their labours, as the peculiar nature of the means and artificial resources in their possession.

Sir Humphrey Davy

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


The Fall Offensive in Iraq

Fresh on the Iron Fist operation which started early Saturday in the village of Sadah and has since spread to Karabila and Rumana, two nearby towns on the Euphrates River, 2,500 US forces along with Iraqi troops have started an operation called River Gate in the Euphrates river valley northwest of Ramadi. With this news comes the unwelcome announcement that 4 US soldiers have been killed. But we're kicking in doors, discovering arms caches, and killing the terrorists who fight with their faces masked. On the left is a PKM, a light machine gun, belt fed with 7.62 x 54R cartridges. On the right is an RPG 7; both weapons are of Russian manufacture. The photo is from Reuters and was taken in Ramadi yesterday. Who goes to war in red trainers?

More on the last 100 battle deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan in a later post.

UPDATE: There is also a third operation called Mountaineers in Ramadi. Bill Rogio at the Fourth Rail has expansive coverage of these three operations. (h/t Barone Blog)

UPDATE II: Sir Humphrey's Blog has an interesting story about the genesis of the photo above. He's not happy.

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