Wednesday, February 28, 2007


A Beautiful Planetary Nebula

A planetary nebula (I didn't catch its number) which looks remarkably like the blue green eye of the devil. I believe this is false color. When a star collapses and quits its thermonuclear shining, the gas expands out to some portion of the solar system and sometimes looks cool like this one. The other type of nebula is a gas cloud which was not a former star. This has to be from the Hubble Telescope.


Wise Words About Shifting Definitions from Jay Tea

On Rewriting the Dictionary

Smear, according to one dictionary:
charge falsely or with malicious intent; attack the good name and reputation of someone; "The journalists have defamed me!" "The article in the paper sullied my reputation"

Smear campaign, according to the dictionary:
An attempt to ruin a reputation by slander or vilification, as in This press agent is well known for starting smear campaigns against her clients' major competitors. This phrase was first recorded in 1938 and uses smear in the sense of "an attempt to discredit" or "slander."

Smear, as defined by various and sundry leftists:
To expose someone's own words and deeds in an attempt to present an accurate portrayal of that person.

The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth "smeared" John Kerry by exposing his fabrications, misstatements, and exaggerations about his service in Viet Nam -- most famously, the "Christmas In Cambodia" fairy tale.

Right-wing blogs "smeared" Amanda Marcotte, the brief in-house blogger for the John Edwards campaign, by reprinting her own words, in full context, for all to see.

Right-wingers routinely "smear" Bill Clinton by pointing out that, by his own admission, he raised his hand in a legal proceeding, swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and proceeded to lie his ass off to protect himself from embarrassment and financial culpability -- an action that resulted in his impeachment and disbarment.

Republicans regularly "smear" Democrats by taking the Democrats' stated positions, policies, and notions and comparing them with those of our declared enemies -- and noting striking parallels.

Critics of Al Gore "smear" him by pointing out that his home consumes far, far more electricity than the average person's, even when scaled up to reflect the size of his mansion.

I can add nothing to this penetrating analysis. Tea goes on, however.


H.D.S. Greenway is the Paul Campos of Boston

There comes a point where the worst lies are those of omission. Like in this really horrible op-ed by H.D.S. Greenway this morning in my crisp electronic edition of the Rocky Mountain News.

Here are the first few sentences: What the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby really revealed was the astonishing lengths to which Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration went to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson for his 2003 claim that the administration had been dead wrong about Saddam Hussein trying to buy material from Niger to make nuclear weapons. The intensity and single-mindedness of this pursuit leaped out from the testimony.

The decision to "out" a covert CIA officer, Wilson's wife -- which is a federal crime -- showed a kind of desperation.

Let's take them one at a time. 1) ...the astonishing lengths to which Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration went to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson...

Is this guy high? What astonishing lengths? Jedi mind control of Richard Armitage so that he mentioned as gossip with Woodward the fact that Joe Wilson's wife, who worked at the CIA, recommended him for the 'investigation' in Niger. Joe Wilson denied his wife got him the job. "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," Wilson wrote in a memoir published this year. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip." He was lying, as usual. There's a memo (p. 38) where wife urges husband as the right choice for the job. Does Greenway not know this? He certainly doesn't mention it.

2) ...discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson for his 2003 claim that the administration had been dead wrong about Saddam Hussein trying to buy material from Niger to make nuclear weapons.

Some U.S. support for the well founded European intelligence that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy partially processed uranium ore (called yellowcake) from Niger, was former Ambasdor Wilson himself, who confirmed that Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s former IAEA Representative and former head of the pre-1991 Iraqi nuclear weapons program, went to Niger as part of a trade delegation, in a move correctly interpreted as an attempt to buy uranium for use in Iraq. After Wilson's debriefing to the CIA confirming these facts (pp. 43-4), Joe Wilson began, as usual, to lie about what he did indeed find in Niger in an op-ed in the New York Times on July 6, 2003. So the administration does a rather ineffectual job of trying to expose Wilson as a man who said one thing to the CIA and the exact opposite to the world, through the NYT; and Greenway, who again does not mention the Wilson lies, interprets that as an intense and single-minded pursuit. Incredible. Not my idea of a political Jihad. Not Clintonian war room in the slightest.

And there was one more Wilson lie not mentioned by Greenway, and this one's a dusie: The former ambassador also told Committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article ("CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report of Uranium Bid," June 12, 2003) which said, "among the Envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because `the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong" when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports. The former ambassador said that he may have "misspoken" to the reporter when he said he concluded the documents were "forged." He also said he may have become confused about his own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in March 2003 that the names and dates on the documents were not correct and may have thought he had seen the names himself. The former ambassador reiterated that he had been able to collect the names of the government officials which should have been on the documents. (non-pdf version here). He lies about his lying.

3) The decision to "out" a covert CIA officer, Wilson's wife -- which is a federal crime -- showed a kind of desperation.

If it's a crime--why wasn't Armitage or anyone charged with the crime? The simple answer is that it wasn't a crime to identify a CIA desk jockey (analyst) as gossip (just as it's not a crime to mention who is the head of the CIA, whoever that is now). What is a crime is to publish the names of our spies in place overseas with the specific intent to get them captured or killed. There was no crime here, and there never was. Nor was there any and I mean any evidence at the trial about some intensely desperate and single-minded pursuit in revenge of a truth teller. What existed was the question--how did Wilson get to Niger for the CIA? to which the answer was--his wife got him the gig. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, Washington gossipers (like Armitage) abhor unanswered questions.

The sense any sane and fair journalist would take from the affair du Plame is Joe Wilson told lie after lie and the administration took steps to reveal them. That seems a perfectly rational reaction to a liar. Greenway is either a fool (unlikely--he went to Harvard) or so partisan he cannot see the truth as it slaps him in the face.

And the op-ed just got ever worse after that.


Angelina Jolie

Although he is a pretty good if one-note actor, Jon Voight was rumored to be a bit of a dunce. His daughter, Angelina Jolie, is no fool but I can't say that she has a firm grasp on how the world really works. Exhibit One is her opinion piece on the genocide of dark skinned Muslims in western Sudan by Arab descended Muslims, Justice for Darfur.

She writes: Ending [the genocide] may well require military action.

Gee, ya' think? We can't just talk 'em out of it?

I think you could put her firmly in the it would be better if we were all nice to one another camp. Just a guess on my part.


Oedipus Was Rescued From Abandonment This Way

Who's to say the Dark Ages were completely depraved? They used to have a way for women to abandon their babies safely, and now they are doing it again. And the Greeks did it in a slightly different way--they had these pots in lonely places where you could drop off the unwanted infant and sometimes it would be picked up before exposure killed him or her.

The method in the 1200s was called a foundling wheel, one of the originals of which is pictured above. Beats leaving it in a dumpster, or in the Tiber. I have been a proponent of this method of very late term, non-fatal 'abortion' for about 20 years now. Good to see I wasn't alone.


More Duke Prosecutorial Misconduct

The first rule of holes is when you find you've dug yourself into one, stop digging. A specialized corollary of that is when you've been caught withholding exculpatory evidence, you need to reveal everything you have right then. It appears that Mike Nifong has failed to learn this lesson and now people are no longer talking about disbarment as the worst case scenario, but are mentioning prison. Even my old boss, Norm Early has stopped apologizing for Nifong. No fool Norm.

Here's what the defense is alleging in a 39 page motion to dismiss they filed yesterday. Nifong and the head of the private DNA firm he used to retest the samples after the initial tests proved the three Duke lacrosse players he had accused of rape were innocent, Brian Meehan, apparently conspired to keep back the fact that there was the DNA of five males (none of them a Duke lacrosse player) in the vagina and anus of the so-called victim. Rather than come completely clean (if that word applies in this case) and revealing all the results of the analysis, the discovery of the DNA of at least two more males in the so-called victim's anus was not revealed, late, in December 2006.

An oversight, I'm sure.

The accuser tells a different story of the (non) rape every time she talks; and she's carrying in every orifice a lot of evidence that she's an easy lay or a prostitute but which evidence exonerates the three she apparently picked at random from the can't choose wrong photo line-up. Oh yeah, she's the dream single witness of rape. No sane and prudent DA would have brought these charges and I'm pretty sure Mike Nifong is kicking himself for doing so. If he's not, he's a fool as well as a soon to be former NC lawyer or worse.


This Day in the History of Wrong Choices

On this day in 1933, President Hindenburg and Chancellor Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permitted the suspension of civil liberties in a time of national emergency. This "Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State" abrogated the following constitutional protections: Free expression of opinion, freedom of the press, right of assembly and association, right to privacy of postal and electronic communications, protection against unlawful searches and seizures, individual property rights, states' right of self-government. (who knew Germany had states?) A supplemental decree created the SA (Storm Troops) and SS (Special Security) federal police agencies.

I think it's safe to say this was the result of the Reichstag fire, so if the Nazis didn't set it, they sure were well prepared to take care of it. Before the Reichstag became the German Parliament again after the reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the entire USSR, it housed the best museum on this period in history. It was these 'emergency powers' which allowed the Nazis, only slightly more popular than the Communists, to outlaw other parties and become the state itself.

(h/t This Day in History)


Thought of the Day

Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.

Jerry Garcia

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


The Truth About Kyoto

There seems to have been a lot of misinformation propounded about the signing and non-ratification of the Kyoto Accords by the United States. During the time that the Treaty was basically finished but not ready for signing, our Senate voted 95-0 on a measure (Sen. Resolution 98) which directed the Executive not to negotiate a treaty like Kyoto became. We signed the treaty anyway (Al Gore did) but the Clinton administration never tried to get it ratified by the Senate. And given the vote before the treaty was finalized, who can blame them.

The Bush administration has continued the Clinton policy of not submitting the policy for ratification. That is history.

If I had a dime for every lefty who has blamed the Bush administration for not signing the Kyoto treaty I would be dollars richer, but it is complete bunk. The buck stopped with Clinton and Gore, and with the Senate which told everyone not to bother putting it in front of them. Bush is blameless to rational people. And the Senate was right to signal its displeasure with the treaty--it accomplishes very little at an enormous cost which only falls on leading industrial nations but leaves huge polluters like China and India out.

Are the nations which signed and ratified it living up to their pledges of CO2 reduction? Not hardly.


This Day in the History of False Flag Operations

On this day in 1933, Nazi operatives under orders from Hermann Goering set fire to Germany's parliament building, the Reichstag, in Berlin. The Nazis, blaming Communists, used the fire as a pretext for suspending civil liberties in the thin end of the totalitarian wedge. The loopy guys who believe we brought down the twin towers with controlled demolition and fired a missile at the Pentagon use this episode as an example of false flag operations in the past. Yeah, the Nazis did things like this, we didn't.


Thought of the Day

To make laws that man cannot and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Monday, February 26, 2007


Oscar Results

I did pretty well in the big ones. I was right on everything except some of the ones I waffled on (best supporting actor; best foreign film and the tie-breaker--best song). I guessed 13/24 over all. I should give it up on the animated ones and the shorts, which I never see and must necessarily just guess on. Who really cares about cinematography and sound editing, after all. I think I did well enough to win another free lunch, I believe that's 9 in a row, not that I'm bragging.

UPDATE: My former nemesis has challenged the ruling in that we both were 13/24 (but he did worse in the big 9 plus tiebreaker). He guessed Arkin (but missed both categories of screenplay and missed O'Toole and best supporting actress). It's not like I need another lunch--it's just nice to win at something.


This Day in the History of Superior British Guarding

On this day in 1815, Napoleon left his exile on the island of Elba, intending to return to France. This was the start of the hundred days, where Napolean raised just enough troops to be narrowly defeated at Waterloo and ended up in exile on an island much farther away, St. Helena.


Thought of the Day

Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

Ranier Maria Rilke

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Funny as Heck

These interpretations of government signs are as funny as anything they ever did at National Lampoon back when it existed, and further back when it was funny.

(h/t Pejman Yousefzadeh)


Back to Normal vis a vis the New York Times

Here is a warmie supporting editorial which I think embodies the worst sort of 'watermelon' approach to environmentalism, that is, it's green on the outside, red on the inside.

The way to "clean up" less efficient coal burning power plants is, according to the NYT, either impose a carbon tax or impose a steadily decreasing cap on emissions.

This whole editorial is a little muddled. There are two issues here--dirty coal plants which put off gases other than CO2 and their necessary CO2 output. The cleanest coal plant in the world would put off only CO2, but that, apparently, is not good enough, as CO2, formerly the ideal for powerplant emissions, is now a deadly contaminant itself. Only one non nuclear fuel burns without producing CO2 and we're not even close to a hydrogen economy yet. But back to the editorial.

Tax is rapidly becoming a bad word in my vocabulary. I don't mind paying my fair share of the rent for my state and country, but the last thing we need is a tax on powerplants--corporations don't pay taxes, they collect taxes from users and purchasers of their goods and services and, regarding electricity, that's you and I. So if I have to pay ever more for my power, will I use less of it as a result of the tax induced price climb? Probably not. It would depend on how high the tax is.

Cap the emissions (which I assume includes CO2) to make the powerplants 'clean' themselves up sounds OK. But what happens if the powerplant can't meet the government set standard? There is, in fact, a word for that circumstance--it's called brownout.

Democrat California governor Gray Davis and the Democrat controlled state house messed with regulations concerning the power companies a few years ago in an effort to make the companies improve themselves. Anybody seen Davis lately? Cleaning your pool, delivering your paper? Anyone?

That these ideas come from dumb as a rock Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and nobody's fool, but a warmie, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) should give us pause. Of course the Democrats support a new tax.

No one is for dirty air, but we're not returning to whale oil and buggies to reduce our collective so called carbon footprint. The free market makes for the most efficient use of stored carbon fuels (if the government doesn't step in and make a dog's breakfast of it) and powerplants that get as much electrical energy from each ton of coal as possible will inevitably replace the ones that have to buy more coal (or natural gas for that matter) to make a kilowatt. There is no need for government intervention here--the new plants are ever more efficient, as are the appliances that use the electricity produced.

If you really want CO2 free electric power right now, go nuclear. Oh that's right, that's not an option because the government has made such powerplants not commercially viable due to over-regulation. Brilliant.


Gasp--Agreement with the New York Times

The word on the street has always been that the SATs were hardest about 1965 and have been dumbed down since then in an attempt not to humiliate the ever dumber test takers who still manage to get more wrong of the ever easier questions so that scores have declined ever since the mid-60s. (Between 1972 and 1992, the combined math and verbal scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) fell from an average of 937 to 899).

I don't know if the dumbing down is true, but I always thought the guys about 4 or 5 years ahead of me in High School (I graduated in 1971 and took the SATs, and did OK, the year before) were smarter and generally everyone after was, on average, a little bit dumber each decade. I no longer care if it's true or not, because it fits my world picture so well as to need no factual backing. Besides, such a belief feeds my ego.

The whole idea of the testing done state and country wide in the No Child Left Behind bureaucracy is to get a handle on how much (or how little) the children are learing in school compared to past test scores; so it doesn't do any good to dumb the tests down. But that's what their doing. They certainly were doing it on The Wire this past season, which I am aware is just a TV show.

I guess I could swallow all the left leaning teacher culture and solidly leftist teacher's unions are doing to indoctrinate the students to the teacher's politics if they were actually teaching the students well. They are not. Certainly not after grade school.

Indeed, things are so bad, I'm with Mike Rosen now; there is no hope to improve the system from within. We need to allow for competition with non government run institutions with vouchers. There will still be problems, but we just can't have the next generation be too ignorant for words.


Face Off in the Circle

A real tragedy hit the Denver Zoo yesterday as a 6 year old (middle aged?) Jaguar mauled to death an unknown zookeeper and was shot to death as it approached rescue workers.

The Jaguar is the third largest big cat behind the really huge Siberian Tiger (800 pounds) and the African Lion (400 pounds) and they are not very big (the Denver mauler was only 140 pounds) but they have a different way of killing prey which makes them really dangerous. We used to think that the other big cats often bit into the throat of large prey and closed the windpipe and suffocated the prey. The guys who are out in the wild watching and filming the big cats began to wonder because they didn't always see a real clamping down but more often there was a 'soft' bite on the throat and within just a few seconds an immobile prey and within a few minutes a dead animal (that's a little quick for a death by suffocation--as mass murderer Richard Speck infamously told us on video--when strangling someone, you've got to really get on it for about four minutes). It turns out the soft bite closed down the arteries to the brain and rendered unconscious and then killed the animal quickly.

Jaguars don't usually mess around with the throat, they bite you right in the head, generally from the back, and put four big canines through your skull right into your brain, which trauma and bleeding kills you just as effectively as the throat (or carotid) clamp.

We still don't know how the zoo worker got into the space containing the Jaguar and whether such space sharing is a routine practice. I'm sure most of the time, if it is routine to go into the cage, nothing happens, but you wonder why there's any need for that.

As I say, a real tragedy.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1870, Hiram R. Revels (R-Miss.) became the first Black member of the U.S. Senate when he was sworn in to serve out Jefferson Davis' term, because Davis was barred the office by a little used section of the Fourteenth Amendment.


Thought of the Day

If it will take ten years to make the machine with available technology, and only five years to make it with a new technology, and it will only take two years to invent the new technology, then you can do it in seven years by inventing the new technology first!

Neal Stephenson

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Palestinian Peacekeeping

Apparently, the Palestinians are as good at holding a cease fire among themselves as they are with the the Israelis. The Reuters story goes out of its way to firmly establish that the fighting, which killed four and wounded 18, was just a 'domestic dispute.' OK, I'll buy it. Money quote:

Palestinians hope the coalition deal, which ended weeks of fighting between Hamas and Fatah in which more than 90 people died, can avert a Palestinian civil war.

We all hope that. But Gaza, from which the Israelis forcibly evicted all Jewish settlers and withdrew just recently, should be Palestinian Heaven, but instead it is Palestinian Hell with crime, such as the recent regrettable domestic violence above, rampant.


Friday Movie Review (slightly late)

Went with Beata to Amazing Grace and cried with pride at the end. It wasn't quite heaven but it was pretty darn good and cool that they released it on the anniversary of the vote it depicts near the end of the film. I have some historical quibbles but it really was pretty magnificent for a budget less than $30 mil, mainly because the quality of British acting is so high--there were no bad performances to be seen and several of them were wonderful.

OK, it's about William Wilberforce, a very religious Brit born in the second half of the 18th Century who entered politics as a Tory Member of Parliament from Yorkshire at the tender age of 21 and after a reconfirmation of his belief in God decided to devote himself to good works, not the least of which was the abolition of slavery. On yesterday's date in 1807, he succeeded in passing a bill which outlawed British involvement in the African slave trade (emancipation of British slaves came just at his death years later). He was good friends from school with William Pitt the Younger who remains the youngest British Prime Minister ever.

Now the opposition Whigs. Ciaran Hinds, the late Caesar from the late Rome, was Lord Tarleton, the same Banastre Tarleton who fought so tenaciously against us during the Revolution (Tarleton's Quarter!) and was just as tenaciously disagreeable in politics thereafter. He seemed much older than Ioan Gruffudd's Wilberforce when in fact Tarleton was just 5 years older and they both died in the same year, 1833. The Duke of Clarence (destined to be the last king of England in the 19th Century, William IV) receives worse treatment, and not just from being portrayed by semi-dwarf Capote clone Toby Jones, but he actually spoke in Parliament against the slave trade. You wouldn't know that from this movie. The best treatment is reserved for Lord Charles Fox, who is played by who may be the best British actor, Michael Gambon, whose character defects to the abolitionist cause early. The greatest missing historical detail was that Fox was a dandy leader of the Macaronis. No way to tell that from his dress or wig in this movie.

They slim down the history because it was really complicated and much of it was off the story. I liked the romance they centered on but I missed the fervency of Wilberforce's religious life. He was surrounded by clergy, but he seemed to prefer to talk to God out on the wet grass and only went to church to visit with former slaver and the author of the Amazing Grace hymn, John Newton, played by the aging but still delightful Albert Finney. To the casual observer Wilberforce seems the perfect secular humanist-- slave free sugar, don't hurt the animals, no beggar is turned from his door, but that is, I assure you, a false picture of the man--God was central to his life and the good works and bleeding heart concerns flowed from his faith and not the opposite.

But these really are quibbles--how else to get a life into less than two hours? If you want a fair and beautiful slice of history that packs an emotional punch, you couldn't do better than this movie. It probably is not winning the 14 to 24 crowd. There was hardly anyone under 45 in the theater when we saw it opening night.


Oscar Picks

Except where noted, and for all of the 'little' ones, you can take these to the bank.

Pest Picture-- very difficult to pick between The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine--I'm picking The Departed but fluff might win.

Best Director--Martin Scorsese

Best Actor-- Forrest Whitaker

Best Actress--Helen Mirren

Best Support Actor-- It will probably be Eddie Murphy but it well could be Alan Arkin

Best Supporting Actress--Jennifer Hudson

Best Foreign Film--Another difficult one with a pick between Germany's The Lives of Others and Mexico's Pan's Labyrinth.

Best Cinematography--Emmanuel Lubezki for Children of Men (because of the single take tracking shots) although it's just possible Vilmos Zsigmond for the bad The Black Dahlia could take it for his whole career.

Original Screenplay--Michale Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine.

Adapted Screenplay--William Monahan for The Departed.

Best Long Documentary--An Inconvenient Truth

Best Short Documentary--Two Hands

Best Live Action Short--Eramos Pocos

Film Editing-- United 93

Makeup--Pan's Labyrinth

Art Direction--Pan's Labyrinth

Sound Mixing -- Dreamgirls

Sound Editing--Pirates of the Caribbean II

Visual Effects--Pirates of the Caribbean II

Costume Design--Marie Antoinette

Original Score--Alexandre Desplat for The Queen (as well as his other good work this year).

Original Song--Listen from Dreamgirls (but if politics reigns, it will be Melissa Etheridge's eminently forgettable I Need to Wake Up from Gore's science fiction film.

Animated Feature--Cars

Animated Short--The Little Match Girl

UPDATE: The always difficult choice for art direction was a successful choice (and the spelling mistake above corrected). Gregory Peck (as Atticus Finch) beat O'Toole in '63 when he was up for best actor in Lawrence of Arabia. Just thought you might be wondering. Make-up--Pan's Labyrinth, right again. Animated short--always just a guess for me--escaped me. I guess it would help actually to see them, but nowhere shows them, that I know about. No sweep for my guesses.

UPDATE 2: It was in fact Alan Arkin and not Eddie Murphy (darn that Norbit); the German film over Pan's Labyrinth; and the Etheridge song over anything from Dreamgirls. I was 7 for 10 in the bigs (with tiebreaker) and with the three I missed I mentioned by name the real winner as a distinct possibility. I feel vindicated for my bragging.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1914 the case of Weeks v. United States is announced and published, in which the U.S. Supreme Court gave birth to the "exclusionary rule": Evidence seized illegally by the police is excluded from subsequent trial. Our British cousins have looked at the problem of keeping in check police zealous to catch the bad guys by any means necessary and have decided, rightly, that the exclusionary rule is a bad idea. In England, solid evidence no matter how obtained (within reason) comes in. Why should society pay for the error of the police with a criminal free to recidivate? For the life of me, I can't think of a way to keep what would be a tiny fraction of the American police in line, so it looks like were stuck with this bad idea.


Thought of the Day

Originally, SAT stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test. When the test changed a few years ago, the official name was changed to Scholastic Assessment Test. In 1997 the test makers announced that SAT no longer stands for anything, officially.

The Staff of Kaplan, Inc.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Steyn to the Rescue

Our friend Tony Blair announces a further drawdown of Brit troops in southern Iraq because the troops are not needed there. War stalwart John Howard says things are too hot in Iraq for the Aussies to pull out. Mark Steyn explains how both these men are right, and heaps appropriate scorn on Norway just for giggles.


This Day in the History of Evil

On this day in 1919, Benito Mussolini created the Fascist Party. The fasces were a bundle of rods tied around a central axe carried by the lictors before magistrates and persons of political inportance in ancient Rome. You see the reference. Here is the definition of fascist--A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism--but the Italian fascists were primarily anti-Communist, socialist nationalists, as were the Nazis. They were lefties, different from the Communists in their nationalism (as opposed to the Soviet's internationalism) and in the fact the fascist government didn't own the factories and businesses but controlled them just as absolutely through other means. Fascism pretty much ended as a viable form of government (except in Spain) in the mid -40s.


Thought of the Day

Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor.

Adam Smith

Thursday, February 22, 2007


The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib vs. The Stanford Prison Experiment

I have to admit that I didn't watch it all (I was switching back and forth to the Avs being humiliated by the Wild) but I came away from Rory Kennedy's documentary on the torture in Abu Ghraib wondering where were two things: 1) Commenters who are not of the Andrew Sullivan school of torture detection; and, 2) Torture. I saw abuse and humiliation, and evidence of one either involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, but that was about it. It was a little boring too and pretentious yet obvious. That's not a good combination. Under certain conditions ordinary people can be very mean to other people, but we knew that from an aborted experiment from my old school.

What angered me was its one-sidedness (did they have no films of what Saddam used to do to people in that prison--I seem to remember seeing some--was the Nick Berg video copyrighted by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?) particularly the rampant speculation by three or four 'torture' experts, all singing in the same key. Ultimately, however, it was a pretty big yawn. Any outrage I had from seeing the photos years ago dissipated with the internecine struggle lately the center of Iraq and reports of actual torture in Fallujah and all around Baghdad.

It repeats at 10:30 tonight but I think I'll forego the pleasure.


Princes At War

There is the news that, as the Brits pass out of Iraq, young Prince Harry (Diana's youngest son, third in line to the throne unless Charles is to be by-passed) is going in. That's he to the right in full kit.

There are in history, some mixed results of letting Princes go to war with British troops.

There is the magnificent--the Black Prince, who accompanied his father, Edward III to France during the Hundred Years War and beat the French soundly at Crecy in 1346 and ten years later at Poitiers. He lies in Canterbury Cathedral beneath this handsome effigy to the left.

There is the pretty good--Prince Andrew flying helicopters from HMS Invincible during the Falkland war off the coast of Argentina in 1982. Andrew, who is also the Duke of York, is Harry's uncle, and though he survived the Falkland war, he later was wounded in love by a failed marriage to Fergie. Andrew's to the right just above.

There is the completely bland-- the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charles, who invaded England from Scotland, got really nowhere and then got spanked at Culloden in 1746, although he escaped the slaughter to Skye and then died of drink in France. The portrait on the left was during younger and happier times no doubt.

And then there is the complete fiasco-- the Imperial Prince Louis Napoleon who accompanied the Brits to Zululand in 1889 and was about the last white fatality of that tough little war, stabbed to death with spears. That's the unlucky lad to the right.

Let's hope for better than bland for bonnie Prince Harry.


On the Utter Inutility of Negotiating With Iran

Here's the Reuters headline: Iran defies deadline to halt atom work: U.N. watchdog. The watchdog, toothless and smelly, is the International Atomic Energy Agency ("IAEA") by the way, which was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2005.

I'm stunned.

The urbane, professional statesmen of the UN were unable to talk Iran out of refining and enriching uranium on an industrial scale; and the Iranians blew off yet another deadline.

Who could have foreseen that?


Another Look at the Raging Success of British Gun Control

Ben Whitford (never heard of him either--he looks about 25) in the Comment is Free section of the UK Guardian on line urges us to take another look at the statistics on crime since the 1997 complete ban on private ownership of all handguns (other than flint locks). He first outs John Lott for having used a female sock puppet on the web (hmmmm?) and then quotes him:

"Crime was not supposed to rise after handguns were banned in 1997. Yet, since 1996 the serious violent crime rate has soared by 69%: robbery is up by 45% and murders up by 54%. Before the law, armed robberies had fallen by 50% from 1993 to 1997, but as soon as handguns were banned the robbery rate shot back up, almost back to their 1993 levels."

Then Mr. Whitford says that's all bunk-- " 1998 - just after the UK banned handguns - the police changed the way they counted crimes. Crimes like common assault and harassment were reclassified as violent crimes; the underlying crime rates stayed the same, but the recorded crime rate almost doubled overnight. Further changes came in 2002, when police introduced a national standard for recording crime; the Home Office estimates the move inflated violent crime figures by at least another 20%."

He bases his conclusions on a crime survey (the gold standard?) rather than police statistics, but OK, I'll use them as well. However, I don't actually follow the logic of his statements--there was unreported violent crime which only changes in the police bureaucracy brought to light? Or there were violent crimes, but they are overreported now due to changes in statistical classifications? Difficult to fathom. Well, let's just stick with a certain type of violent crime which seems pretty black and white and unlikely to be inflated in the crime statistics--murder. Is that up or down since the complete handgun ban? Up (although last year was better, as he points out). How about robbery--up or down? Way up! Now it occurs just about twice as often as at the time private ownership of handguns was criminalized.

Yet despite the clear rise in these traditional violent crimes (murder and robbery) using his "gold standard" statistics, Mr. Whitford writes: the people of Britain are at less risk of being the victim of a crime today than at any point since the survey began in 1981. Violent crime rates have fallen by 43% since 1995.

Less likely to be a victim of any crime is red herring. I doubt that guns in any way could stop short changing at the chemists, but if murder and robbery are up (and sexual offenses have doubled, and 'more serious wounding or other act endangering life' has nearly doubled--the catch all 'violence against the person' is nearly 3 times as high ) then how can violent crime be down by nearly half? What else is there? Is it the use of the word 'rates' which is the misdirection? The actual number is way up but it peaked in 2003 so the rate lately has been down. Who's manipulating the statistics now?

He then states, utilizing, I think, the less than perfectly reliable statistics from Private Guns Public Health that: People with guns in their home are three times more likely to commit suicide. Even if that is true, is it the siren song of the gun that causes the suicide? Do the inanimate metal machines have some mysterious way to manipulate human behavior? I have used firearms since before I could drive and I have not yet had my mind taken over by the gun.

Final words: We in America would kill for a murder rate as low per capita as the one in Britain. We are too violent a society, but banning guns has never helped and it never will for the obvious reasons I already stated here.

UPDATE: The Say Anything blog (out of South North Dakota) has an interesting post on an FBI investigation of where 40 cop-shooters got their guns. Short answer--illegally. None at a gun show. So much for the gun show loophole.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1856, the first national meeting of the Republican Party took place in Pittsburgh. And a Grand Old Party she is, despite a recent wobbly stumble.


Thought of the Day

You become what you admire.

Gareth Jones

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The Score So Far in the Legal Side of the War Against Jihadists

Those of us interested in American military history usually didn't have to follow the interplay between Congress and the Supreme Court to follow what was happening in a war because, as it should be, the Executive was the only player allowed at the table by the Constitution. Times have changed.

Here's some background. We are not immediately executing the illegal combatants we capture around the world in the war the Jihadists are waging against us, but have detained a few hundred at a military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The illegal combatants want out and have used the great writ--Habeas Corpus-- to get to federal court. Congress has passed laws preventing them from going to court.

In Rasul, the Supreme Court held that the detainees in Cuba had a statutory right to habeas action, but left open the question whether there was a constitutional habeas right. In response, Congress passed a law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which stripped out of federal courts, or any court, the jurisdiction to hear such cases and left the determination of the detainees' fates to military tribunals set up by the Executive Branch. In Hamden, the Court said 'not good enough' and held that Congress had to set up the military tribunals. Congress complied with the Military Commission Act, which law was the subject of a recent consolidated appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court.

Earlier this week, there was a new decision on the subject. Here it is, as simplified as I can make it--Non-citizens of America, held in captivity (like war prisoners) outside American territory, have neither a statutory nor any constitutional right to bring a challenge, in a federal district court, to their being held, through the writ of Habeas Corpus. There, now you don't have to read the 68 page pdf file here of the case Boumediene v. Bush from the D.C. Circuit--a three judge panel which went 2-1 for the recent jurisdiction stripping law's constitutionality.

I have been getting a little more scathing in my posts here (especially about Paul Campos) and, now that I think about it, in some of my briefs lately. So I was happy to see that the two judges in the majority (Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who was appointed by the first President Bush in 1990 and Judge David Sentelle who was appointed by President Reagan in 1985) were equally scathing against the dissenting judge, Judith Rogers (appointed by President Clinton in 1993), calling her an idiot (in a polite sort of case writing way) on numerous occasions (and she was, big time). Creative but not cogent, indeed.

The case will of course go to the Supreme Court where we on the right side have our fingers crossed that since Congress created the military tribunals (in the law that stripped away Habeas Corpus jurisdiction, again), Justice 'Any Way the Wind Blows' Kennedy will be satisfied that the tribunals deciding the Guantanamo prisoners fates are now "regularly constituted courts," as required by the Third Geneva Convention, Article 3, section (d), and will vote with the conservative majority this time. That will pretty much be the end of Guantanamo habeas cases (which are all dismissed right now). It is unlikely any attempt to give the foreign prisoners back a statutory habeas right will get past a Republican filibuster.


This Day in WWI History

On this day in 1916, the longest, bloodiest battle of WWI, the Battle of Verdun began and went on for bloody month after bloody month. Over 700,000 German and French troops died in this standoff, where “trench warfare” proved its ultimate uselessness as a way to decisive victory, but it also proved its efficiency as a killing ground for men. Ils ne passeront pas. This was the last time the French fought well, on a big scale, for a long time. When the war resumed in May, 1940, not so much.


Thought of the Day

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Fascist! Murderer! He Explained Patiently

Our least favorite law professor columnist, Paul Campos, gets a little personal in today's installment of the weekly opportunity Campos uses to reveal his true ignorance of the war we are in and his candyland ideas of the world outside his classroom. First he compares my friend Hugh Hewitt, and leading right center blogger, Glenn Reynolds, to Ward Churchill in the title of his piece; then he compares them to fascists (which is a joke--at worst Reynolds is a libertarian and Hewitt an evangelical, both are about as far from fascist as you can get on the political continuum). Here is Campos' money quote:

And while it would perhaps be an exaggeration to call people like [Glenn] Reynolds and his fellow law professor Hugh Hewitt (who defended Reynolds' comments) fascists, it isn't an exaggeration to point out that these gentlemen sound very much like fascists when they encourage the American government to murder people.

OK, let's go back. Here, in total, is what the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds said (linking to Cap'n Ed Morrissey) about the capture in Iraq of 100 of the 800 Steyr-Mannlicher HS50 sniper rifles Austria sold to Iran a few months ago, et al. Here is the first paragraph:

This has been obvious for a long time anyway, and I don't understand why the Bush Administration has been so slow to respond. Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy, or an invasion, is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs' expat business interests out of business, etc. Basically, stepping on the Iranians' toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq. And we should have been doing this since the summer 2003. But as far as I can tell, we've done nothing along these lines.

And here is what Hugh Hewitt said, after quoting the above:

Glenn will no doubt attract virtual bricks from the usual suspects, but he goes right to the heart of the problem. If we know that Iran is killing American soldiers, if we don't punish that action is some way, the killing will not only continue, it will increase.

Note that Hezbollah hasn't kidnapped any Israeli soldiers lately. There's a reason.

I am unable to find the fascist content in any of these three paragraphs. Of course, I'm not a lefty, so I don't immediately use the word 'fascist' to describe someone I simply don't agree with.

Campos is totally wrong, and really very naive, to say "Of course Iran is not at war with America..." (They invaded our territory (the Tehran Embassy) in 1979, and have never backed down, never apologized and continue to wage war against us since that first warlike act).

He is also completely and somewhat simperingly wrong that scientists working on nuclear weapons are classified as non-combatants.

Campos is also monumentally wrong (and I hate to say this considering his position at the University of Colorado Law School) as usual about the law, almost every bit of it he refers to. The smart, anti-fascist, right side of the political aisle has pointed out a lot of what was lacking in Campos' screed, like facts and logic--that sort of thing, particularly Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit and John Hinderaker at Powerline.

Name-calling, particularly using names like 'fascist' and 'nazi,' is not designed to further debate, but to cut it off--to stifle continuing and free speech by shifting the ground under the opponent, who must instantly start defending him, or her, self from the vile names so that the original thread of the 'debate' is lost and forgotten.

Campos should be ashamed of himself, but I believe, as I have for years now, that he is too fatuous to feel shame. There's some name-calling that is actually deserved.

And finally, when the Behemoth of lefty intellect Ward Churchill was, as usual, comparing people to Nazis, he was talking about his fellow citizens who were victims of the 9-11 attacks. How in the world does that odious comparison to SS Obersturmbannführer Eichmann in any way compare to Reynolds' and Hewitt's seeking effective ways to protect our troops in Iraq from attack by Iranians or by Jihadists with Iranian supplied weapons?

UPDATE: One of our favorite law professor bloggers, Eugene Volokh, has his well reasoned say on the matter, Money quotes:

Nor can we simply say that "Murder is the premeditated unlawful killing of a human being" and appeal to some abstract legal principles to decide that targeted killings are "unlawful" and therefore beyond reasonable discussion. First, the legal rules are far from clear — for instance, some have pointed to Executive Order 12333 as a categorical prohibition on "assassination," but an influential, and, in my view, persuasive, 1989 memo concurred in by various Executive Branch legal officials concludes that many targeted killings remain permissible despite this. The memo likewise concludes that many such targeted killings do not violate various international law norms.


In any case, these are serious questions that serious people should discuss seriously. But Campos isn't in the mood for discussion. He is so confident of his position that he wants his academic adversaries fired, the usual rules of academic freedom suspended, and the debate presumably shut off at all levels: After all, if discussion about this is improper for academics, it is presumably at least as improper for journalists, think tank members, Congressmen, executive officials, and everyone else.

Welcome to visitors following the link from Instapundit.

UPDATE 2: Our less liberal paper, The Rocky Mountain News, which runs Paul Campos' thoughts and ideas on Tuesdays, was nice enough to publish Glenn Reynold's response to Campos. Reynolds was nicer than I was, but ultimately his response cut the deeper. Behold:

Other law professors have, of course, made similar arguments, at far greater length than my blog post. Campos, himself a law professor, could have learned these things through a simple Google search, but apparently did not.

Instead, he authored an uninformed column, and then added a thuggish suggestion that my university should discipline me for daring to utter thoughts that, in his uninformed state, he found uncongenial. After he has educated himself sufficiently to have an informed opinion on the subject, Campos might still disagree. But if he does, I promise not to try to get him fired for not sharing my opinions. Perhaps one day, he’ll learn to return the favor.

UPDATE 3: Local blogger Jeff Goldstein throws in his two cents--snarky without being smarmy. His best paragraphs:

It used to be that public intellectuals took their positions seriously enough to engage in good faith arguments. But Campos—despite being given a high-profile forum from which to do so—is less interested with arguing points of fact than he is in placing his opponents on the defensive. That is, rather than argue against a position on the relative merits of that position, Campos seems entirely more interested in unfairly demonizing those who disagree with him, the hope being that such a rhetorical ploy will weary them into silence. Which, as a strategy, is both intellectually lazy and transparently self-serving.

Reynolds calls this attitude “thuggish,” which is far too kind a description, I think. Because what it is is precisely the kind of progressive totalitarian impulse that, drawing on the intellectual entitlement it feels it has earned by virtue of what it considers to be the moral and intellectual unassailability of its positions, is able to rationalize away anti-intellectual behavior as just another necessary evil in the service of constructing the perfect society, even if doing so dictates that virtually any means, however temporarily distasteful, are ultimately justified.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1942, Lt. Edward O'Hare, flying an F4F Wildcat in Fighter Squadron 3 (Felix the Cat logo) off the USS Lexington, on its way to bomb the Japanese air bases at Rabaul, shoots down in a few minutes five Japanese G4M1 'Betty' bombers bombing the Lexington and becomes the first WWII American ace in a day and wins the Medal of Honor for saving his ship, thus confirming his cool nick name, back then, 'Butch.'


Thought of the Day

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

H. L. Mencken

Monday, February 19, 2007


More Rock Sell-outs

Here are more advertisers sucking dry the long bones of the greats and not so greats of rock and pop music by recycling the songs of my and my children's former fondest memories into advertising on TV. The scum.

Republica Ready to Go Listen Mitsubishi

Beatles From Me to You Macys

Beatles Hello Goodbye Target

Bob Dylan Love Sick Listen Victoria's Secret

Ren & Stimpy Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy Listen Sarah Lee

The Black-Eyed Peas Let's Get it Started Listen Ford

Stealers Wheel Stuck in the Middle With You Wendy's (The association the song has with cutting off an ear for Tarantino fans must be waning.)

Thin Lizzy The Boys are Back in Town Listen Wranglers

Shins New Slang Listen McDonalds

Violent Femmes Blister in the Sun Listen Wendy's

Status Quo Pictures of Matchstick Men Listen Saturn

Smash Mouth Can't Get Enough of You Baby Listen Wendy's

Devo Freedom of Choice Listen Miller beer

Supertramp Give a Little Bit Listen GAP

Foghat Slow Ride Listen Honda

Norman Greenbaum Spirit in the Sky Listen Nike

Paul Oakenfold Stary-Eyed Surprise Listen Volvo

Goldfrapp Strict Machine Listen Nintendo

Daft Punk Technologic Listen Apple (ipod)

Sixpence None the Richer (cover) There She Goes Listen Ortho Tricyclen

Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick Listen Hyundai

Cream White Room Listen Apple (computer)

Dead guy wing--

Jimi Hendrix Fire Listen Verizon (Say it's not so, Jimi!)

Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze Listen Pepsi (Oh, no, it just gets worse and worse.)

Antonio Carlos Jobim Aguas De Marco Listen Banana Republic

James Brown Get Up... Sex Machine Listen Pontiac

and a special shout out goes to Modern English for selling I Melt with You Listen both to GMC and to Ritz Crackers. Well done, lads, a double sell-out.

UPDATE: Hollies Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress Listen Gatorade

Traffic Feelin' Alright? Listen Friskies (cat food, Dave?)


This Day in American History

On this day in 1945, the Battle of Iwo Jima began: Ultimately about 60,000 U.S. Marines went ashore, where they began a tough, long battle to seize control of the island from the Japanese who were dug in there. The 36-day battle took the lives of 7,000 Americans and about 20,000 of 22,000 Japanese defenders. We've see a lot of detail about this battle in Clint Eastwood's recent two movies (as a director), Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, both of which left me pretty cold.


Thought of the Day

Science is like sex: sometimes something useful comes out, but that is not the reason we are doing it.

Richard Feynman

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Weary of Second Amendment Told-You-Sos

Good lefty Brit Prime Minister Tony Blair wants to lower the age for which a mandatory 5 year jail sentence is required for a criminal using a handgun in Great Britain. What? They have a problem with handgun violence in Britain? How can that be, they banned private ownership of all handguns years ago? That didn't take care of the problem? I'm stunned (sarcasm meter on high).

In a sidebar to the story here's a very telling statistic: The number of people injured by firearms in England and Wales has more than doubled since 1998.

So what happened in 1998 that caused gun violence to soar? It was actually in 1997--The Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997 was the first significant piece of legislation introduced by the new Labour government of Tony Blair in which the complete ban on private ownership of handguns was fully implemented and strictly enforced. Actually, as local friend of the Second Amendment David Kopel stated four year ago, all the 1997 act did was exterminate (provide appropriate Dalek voice modulation) exterminate! "Britain's pitiful minority of handgun target shooters" as previous laws had removed all guns higher than .22 caliber (5,54mm for our few non American readers) from the hands of the law abiding; and English law had evolved to the point that it now is impossible to use deadly force in self defense in England. Says Kopel, the lesson: More gun bans, more violent crime.

Kopel was optimistic in 2003 that the British government would see the errors of its ways. Hah! Fat freakin' chance.

If there is a criminal element (and there always is), they will possess modern weapons and no amount of legislation can stop that because by definition criminals don't obey the law (that this Truth seems to escape otherwise sane and responsible adults continues to be a marvel for me). The cure to rampant violent crime is to allow the majority of honest citizens to own guns and to use them to save themselves and defend their property. To repeat, one more time, John Lott's aphorism: More guns, less crime.

We wild colonials have once again hit upon the obvious but apparently invisible solution. Yes, we have a lot more firearm deaths in America compared to England but that's a cultural thing (the Brits were a bit more civilized, don'tcha know), but the trend lines for America are down for gun violence as our population increases while the rates are up, up, up in England as the population levels off before the inevitable decline.


The Invisible Jihad

There is none so blind as he who will not see. An echo of white guilt over what was condemned years ago as racial profiling (when it was often rational profiling) is the refusal of those in the government and media to ask the easy question when violent acts are perpetrated in this country by young Muslim men.

It's also known as Sudden Jihad Syndrome. Here's the list beyond the Bosnian youth, Sulejman Talovic, who killed five and wounded four in a Salt Lake City Mall last week.

• A 30-year-old Muslim man, Naveed Afzal Haq, who went on a shooting rampage at a Jewish community center in Seattle, announcing "I'm a Muslim-American; I'm angry at Israel."

• An Egyptian national, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who shot two and wounded three at an Israeli airline ticket counter at LAX.

• A bearded 21-year-old student, Joel Hinrichs, who blew himself up with a backpack filled with TATP (the explosive of choice in the Mideast) outside a packed Oklahoma University football stadium not long after he started attending the local mosque.

• A 23-year-old student, Mohammed Ali Alayed, who slashed the throat of his Jewish friend in Houston after apparently undergoing a religious awakening (he went to a local mosque afterward).

• The D.C. snipers — John Muhammad and Lee Malvo, both black Muslim converts — who picked off 13 people in the suburbs around the Beltway as part of what Muhammad described as a "prolonged terror campaign against America" around the first anniversary of 9/11, which he had praised.

• Omeed Aziz Popal of Fremont, Calif., who police said hit and killed a bicyclist there then took his SUV on a hit-and-run spree in San Francisco, mowing down pedestrians at crosswalks and on sidewalks before police caught up with him, whereupon the Muslim called himself a "terrorist."

• A 22-year-old Muslim, Ismail Yassin Mohamed, who stole a car in Minneapolis and rammed it into other cars before stealing a van and doing the same, injuring drivers and pedestrians, while repeatedly yelling, "Die, die, die, kill, kill, kill" — all, he said, on orders from "Allah."

• A 22-year-old Iranian honors student, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, who deliberately rammed his SUV into a crowd at the University of North Carolina to "punish the government of the United States" for invading Iraq and other Muslim nations.

Ian Fleming is credited with the aphorism--Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. What is 9 times? A campaign of terrorism which way too many of us refuse to recognize.

UPDATE: Add one more--Palestinian English teacher Ali Abu Kamal who went to the observation deck of the Empire State Building in 1997, pulled out a gun, and opened fire, killing one person and wounding six others before killing himself. The media invested in the lie that he was despondent and suicidal after a financial loss. Now we know, pretty much for sure, that this was part of the invisible Jihad.


Rare Sports Post

I had the pleasure of watching two high school age hocky games--nothing like them for making you appreciate how fast, skilled and hard hitting the pro games are. But a lot of fun. Thanks, Beata and Justin, who played well.


This Day in Central Asian History

On this day in 1405, Tīmūr bin Taraghay Barlas (who has many AKAs including Tamerlane (Timur the Lame)) dies of fever on an expedition against Ming dynasty China. Descendant of Ghengis Khan but born in Uzbekistan and speaking a Turkish language, Timur created an empire from the Persian Gulf to the Volga and Irtish and from the Hellespont to the Ganges, which lasted in some form until 1837. He is well respected in the central Asia countries but reviled by the Arabs, so he probably was a good guy. Another hole in my history education.


Thought of the Day

Beauty. The power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.

Ambrose Bierce

Saturday, February 17, 2007


This Day in American History

On this day in 1947,the Voice of America began broadcasting to the Soviet Union. Later we added Radio Free Europe for the eastern European countries behind the iron curtain. I can still recall this great black and white commercial for Radio Free Europe--this guy walks through New York, enters a radio booth, puts on the Drifter's "On Broadway" and then speaks this rapid and impenetrable Czech ending in a semi-recognizable "On Brod-vay."

I'm wondering if we should play Tupac and Snoop for all the boys and girls in Iran and North Korea. Couldn't hurt. Except Andrew Sullivan might call it torture, but Sullivan thinks it's torture if you look mean at someone.


Thought of the Day

Stone-headed Frisco spacer
Ate all the meat I gave her
Said would I like to taste hers
And even crave the flavour

"Like marron-glaced fish bones,
Oh, lady, hit the road!"

Fripp/Sinfield in Ladies of the Road

Friday, February 16, 2007


This Day in American History

On this day in 1804, the U.S. super frigate Philadelphia (a sister ship of the U.S.S. Constitution), which had run aground the previous October and been captured by Muslim pirates in Tripoli harbor during the undeclared war against the Barbary Pirates (Pelosi really should read some history), was quietly boarded, set afire and destroyed by a small group of men led by an early American hero Stephen Decatur. So we destroyed our own ship, not usually the stuff of myth, but for daring and successful audacity against long odds, it's hard to find a better example than Decatur reducing our losses (the Philadelphia was never after used against us) with a group of men going over the side of the captured ketch Intrepid armed with pistols and knives.


Thought of the Day

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busy-bodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C.S. Lewis

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Wait For It!

Although I put the champagne on ice, I'm waiting to pop the cork until United States authorities confirm what the Iraqis have announced--wounding the newish leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who only was promoted to leader about 8 months ago after we bombed to death the long time leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Oh, and they said they killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri's number 2, Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai. Must be dangerous being an al Qaeda number 2.

Let's see; Moqtada al-Sadr has most likely fled the surge to the safety of his Shia brethren in Iran and has ordered his number 2,3, etc. to join him; and the surge forces have proceeded to disarm elements of the vaunted Mahdi Army and are seizing weapons caches inside Shiite Mosques. Others have fled the city and have been killed, wounded, or captured? There, unfortunately, continues the aftermath of the bombing of the Samarra Golden Mosque--internecine car bombing between Shia and Sunni mainly in Baghdad, but the surge has barely started and success appears to be piling on success. Strategypage is nearly ecstatic: ...most people believe al Qaeda in Iraq is finished. After boasting last Fall that they would establish a safe zone in western Iraq, and failing to do anything close to that, the Islamic terrorists lost whatever credibility they had left.

Please vote (in a completely meaningless and non-binding way) on how stupid the surge is in the House. Let's see who are White Flag Republicans, who need pro-forward defense opponents in '08 primaries, and let's see some of that magic Democrat timing, again.

UPDATE: The report out of Iraq is now that Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai was not killed last Thursday but was captured on February 9, 2007; and the Americans are pulling a Sgt. Schultz, officially, while leaks are they don't believe any of the report on Abu Ayyub al-Masri. I did say wait for the confirmation.

UPDATE 2: The difference noted in Baghdad for the 'surge' is not more guys per se as different tactics with some more guys--clearing and holding will probably turn out better than clearing and abandoning, But that's just a guess on my part.

UPDATE 3: MSNBC reports that we don't think Abu Ayyub al-Masri was either wounded or hurt, and the enemy is now calling the Iraqi military leadership liars who are "making up such news, that have been denied even by their masters, the Americans." Oh well, I did say wait for confirmation.


Austrian Fifty Cals

This is the Steyr Mannlicher HS50 sniper rifle. It is a single shot, .50 BMG bolt action with a major league muzzlebreak, no internal magazine, and the useless, built-in, downfolding bipods. In the hands of a competent shooter, it is accurate out to a thousand meters, or more. The venerable 30.06 Springfield round has a muzzle velocity of 3000 feet per second and 2998 footpounds of energy (for a 150 grain bullet). That's a competent man-stopper and often a chest shot is instantly fatal. The .50 BMG, with the 750 grain ball round only goes 2769 feet per second but carries 12,775 footpounds of energy--the bullet packs a huge punch, through about an inch of steel or a couple of inches of otherwise bulletproof glass. Such bullets laugh at body armor. If it hits you, generally pieces of you fly off spectacularly. There's a video of our guys' work doing just that in Afghanistan.

Despite an EU imposed arms embargo against Iran and us begging them not to sell these to Iran for fear they would be used against us in Iraq, the Austrians sold about 800 to Iran and within 45 days they were being used against us in Iraq. We have captured about a hundred of them. I'm led to believe the rifles have serial numbers on them.

I'm not saying we should nuke Wein or anything, but there should be repercussions for Steyr Mannlicher Gmbh & Co KG.'s stupidity here. If only we had a serious House and Senate, they could pass a binding resolution to hurt Austria and Steyr Mannlicher a little bit.

UPDATE: I hardly noticed this the first time but Bill Roggio is writing about the same thing and says each rifle costs 10,000 pounds, that's nearly $19,500. What a rip off! Although you have to wait, you can get a semi-auto ten shot Barrett (in .50 BMG) for under $8,000, and there will soon be a new single shot Barrett (in updated .416 Rigby) which is accurate out to 2,500 yards, nearly two miles. Reach out and touch someone indeed.

UPDATE 2: It just hit me (after talking to Doug Sundseth) that there is a second reason that Barrett is leaving the .50 BMG for the .416 Rigby update, I mean besides that the smaller round goes faster and therefore farther with accuracy--the company can also avoid the silly law passed in California regarding citizen ownership of a .50 BMG rifle and still deliver a long distance express train of a round.


This Day in American History--Twofer

On this day in 1989, the second class battleship USS Maine blows up in the Havana harbor, which event will certainly start the Spanish-American war, while it is far from certain that it was enemy action which blew the ship up. I personally believe it was an accidental coal dust explosion in the fuel bunker (or possibly a fire in a coal bunker next to a powder magazine or Cuban rebel action or..).

On this day in 1944, we obliterate with bombs the ancient monastery atop Monte Cassino, Italy. This was a mistake, as the rubble made a good defensive position for the Fallshirmjaeger. Lt. General Mark Clark, largely in charge of the 'side show' in Italy, was the least talented of our field commanders and made a lot of such mistakes. My father thinks he should have been shot for his criminally negligent tactics. I'm slightly less blood thirsty and think he should only have been relieved of command when he passed on trapping the Germans in order to get the glory of liberating Rome in early June, 1944. Certainly a large amphibious landing on the Adriatic coast north of Ancona could have ended the war in Italy in a month while, by starting at Sicily on July 9, 1943 and slogging it up the whole country, we didn't even get to Austria before the war ended 17 months later, at the waste of thousands of Allied soldiers' and Italian partisans' lives.


Thought of the Day

Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.

H. G. Wells

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Ray Nagin Held In Contempt of Court..... the very least, you would think that the people of New Orleans should hold him in contempt for ineptitude....but onto the Constitutional aspect....Ahem.

The Second Ammendment Foundation has scored a victory in their contempt motion against New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and NOPD Superintendent warren Riley, for " for failure to provide initial disclosures and answers to discovery in a lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation. "

Money Quote....

“They seem to forget that we went to court over a serious civil rights violation,” Gottlieb continued. “In the days following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans dispatched police officers and National Guard troopers to confiscate firearms. In many cases, citizens were disarmed at gunpoint, without warrant and without probable cause. Nagin and Riley, and every other official in New Orleans who was part of this outrage, need to understand that the Constitution may not be suspended in New Orleans or anywhere else by a natural disaster, or on somebody’s whim.

While I understand the idea of trying to prevent looting and further loss of life post Katrina, if Nagin had the minimal competence to get everybody OUT of New Orleans with the transportation that WAS readily available prior to the storm.....

....he wouldn't be dealing with this case right now would he ?


This Day in American History

On this day in 1943, in Tunisia, the 5.Panzerarmee (under von Arnim) begins its attack on the US 2nd Corps (under Fredenhall) in the battle of Kasserine Pass. It is a humiliating defeat for the Americans, but we got a lot better as the war progressed.


Thought of the Day

Nature is not cruel, pitiless, indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous -- indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.

Richard Dawkins

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Good News from Iraq

It seems that Militant Shia leader Moktada al-Sadr, whom the troops all call Mookie, is neither present nor accounted for back at the clubhouse, which sure sounds like good news, despite the spin the New York Times puts on his absence.

He might be visiting relatives, as the NYT suggests, or he might be the first bonus of the first 25% of the surge. Time will tell. I hope all the Democrats in the House vote that they have no confidence in Petraeus' ability and plan. They would display their usual fighting spirit, weird way of supporting the troops and impeccable timing yet again.

Captain Ed feels the same way as does John Hinderaker at Powerline. I'm hard pressed to come up with a different way to think about it.


Good News from Afghanistan

The little noticed, soon to be completely forgotten, battle of Sperwan Ghar, a hill 40 miles southwest of Kandahar, is finally given a little press coverage in the Fayetteville Observer; Fayetteville is where Fort Bragg is located.

The battle took place in September (the dreaded Fall Taliban Offensive) and we took it right to them. My favorite paragraph:

About 900 Taliban fighters died in the month, during what was dubbed Operation Medusa. Soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group, the Canadian army and Afghan forces battled insurgents, who decided to stand and fight. Bigger clashes have become more common — U.S. Army spokesman Clifford Richardson said that more than 2,000 Taliban deaths have been confirmed in just the last four months.

OK, OK the big bad Taliban is back in ever greater force, with ever better equipment and are standing and fighting. And we are stacking them up like cordwood. You'all come back now, ya'hear?

(h/t Big Lizards)


You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

I've been writing about Senator Joe McCarthy recently here and here. In the longer one I wrote this:

The first stumbling is that there seems to be an intractable conflation, in most people's minds, of McCarthy's efforts in the Senate with the House Un-American Activities Committee ("HUAC" for short). Many people (and not just on the left) will readily admit that McCarthy's 'irresponsible' allegations ruined lives. When asked who? Those people blink, check the interior memory logs and either have nothing or offer something lame, like the Hollywood 10 (HUAC).

In the comments, lefty (but not completely looney) 'peter b' berated me for not supporting with details or links nearly every word I wrote (as if these blogs were law review articles). I asked him in return to name someone ruined by Joe McCarthy and he names Walter Bernstein, "one of many."

Peter b, and all who read this, McCarthy was a Senator. He was on committees in the Senate. The House Un-American Activities Committee took its members from the House, not the Senate. Senator Joseph McCarthy never served on the House Un-American Activities Committee. So if someone in Hollywood was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (like Walter Bernstein), Senator McCarthy didn't do it.

Peter b, you've just done what I said people often do and for which you demanded names and dates. Look in a mirror, pete.

I'll ask again, based on the consensus, but false, history that Senator McCarthy ruined lives, name one person Senator Joseph McCarthy ruined the life of. Just one will do.

P.S. I liked Bernstein's screenplay for The Train very much. Good movie.


All Global Warming, All the Time

This recent story from the People's Republic of Boulder caught my eye. What I really liked is the never say die attitude of the researcher, Ian Howat, who is with both the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center and the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory. I'm sure he is an accomplished scientist. He also definitely knows what side of the bread the butter goes on (and it is not big oil butter).

His report shows the [two] glaciers [on Greenland] shrank dramatically and dumped twice as much ice into the sea during a period of less than a year between 2004 and 2005.
But then, fewer than two years later, they returned to near their previous rates of discharge.

Got that? The two glaciers melted a lot for a year and then stopped melting so much over two years.

Ian draws the logical conclusion: Our main point is that the behavior of these glaciers can change a lot from year to year, so we can't assume to know the future behavior from short records of recent changes.

Very wise, Ian. But he does not give up on global warming: Future warming may lead to rapid pulses of retreat and increased discharge rather than a long, steady drawdown.

Like most scientists of the global warming (cpbha) persuasion, he assumes the lack of increased melting (return to normal) is just another symptom of global warming. The Warmie tactic is to claim every possible weather condition is further proof of global warming and we just witnessed that tactic here.

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