Saturday, June 30, 2007

 

Photos From the Central Front--Afghanistan



U.S. Army Pfc. Nicholas Jonas looks provides security from his over watch position at a village outside Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Afghanistan, June 10, 2007. Jonas is assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, Arizona National Guard. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Isaac A. Graham)

Jonas also has what I consider to be the pinnacle of rifle development, the M-14 in .308. There are certainly more modern rifles out there, but very few more deadly and none more all around excellent.

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Ominous Order

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued an order agreeing to hear (probably in December) a case they had earlier passed on regarding whether the illegal enemy combatants held in Guantanamo had a constitutional right to a habeas corpus writ. The extremely rare reversal means that 5 justices voted to issue the order, which by chance is how many justices it takes to issue the decision of the court. We right thinking types can cling to the hope that the justices thought they needed to say "Heck no!" in a big written opinion rather than the silent no not granting a writ of certiorari to the lower court's decision actually is, but it's not a comfortable position to take. It is, alas, much more likely one of the lefty philosopher kings persuaded Kennedy that the issue needed a hearing and an opinion. Apparently, there have been 24 recent 5-4 decisions and Kennedy has been on the winning side of each of them.

The Supreme Court has already decided this matter in Johnson v. Eisentrager (1950). (See also Ex Parte Quirin). There is absolutely no need to revisit it. The Constitution does not apply to the World in general, but only to the people in the United States or its territories and to its citizens anywhere. It is an extremely bad idea, not just run of the mill stupid, but wholly idiotic and somewhat suicidal, to give foreigners fighting against us access to the courts. It ties up the courts and the witnesses, it hands over information during discovery which we should never give our enemies, and, in this particular case, it would elevate the scum like illegal combatants ABOVE the soldiers fighting by the rules by giving the former more rights than the latter. Surely there are not just 4 of the smart guys and gal on the Supreme Court who see this.

Upon final reflection, it's just possible that with the less than logically rigorous decision of the 4th Circuit panel in Al-Marri v. Wright, which dealt with infiltrators but not battlefield combatants, the Supremes thought they needed to hear the constitutional arguments regarding the battlefield illegal combatants at the same time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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This Day in the History of Unexplained Explosions

On this day in in 1908, something caused a big explosion in central Russia over the Tunguska River 500 miles north northwest of Lake Baikal. Part of the reason we don't know what caused the explosion is that a scientific expedition didn't reach the site until 1927. They didn't find a crater (although recently some scientists have suggested Lake Cheko is the missing crater) or much of anything else except millions of trees laid down in a pattern suggesting an airburst. Kinda strange.

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Thought of the Day

The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.



Chief Justice John Roberts

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Friday, June 29, 2007

 

Jules Crittenden mocks Dem leader and says, " Impeach Pelosi "

From Sister Toldjah

Whole Piece Here


Great Money Quote....

But let me get this straight. Bush and his “junta” are a gang of criminals
who have hijacked the United States and trampled on the Constitution, sent U.S. soldiers to meaningless deaths in an illegal war, imprisoned innocent militants in the hated Crusader gulag at Guantanamo, caused the world to hate us, thumbed their noses at Congress, subverted the Justice Department, etc.
But despite these outrages, it “wouldn’t be worth expending the political capital and effort to push the process forward.” This is interesting. He has committed all these crimes, but it isn’t worth it. What kind of crimes does he need to commit?
Here’s a hint: … the courts would be particularly unfriendly to Democratic moves for criminal investigations unless they
substantially “built the cases” for each move. Real crimes, apparently.
Crimes on which cases must be built.
But that’s an awful lot of work. Really hard. Even harder if you don’t have any crimes to start with. OK, moving
on:

LOL !!!!!!



 

This Day in the History of the Invention of Wonderful Things

On this day in 1964, the TV remote control was invented. What did I do before they existed, just sat there and watched one channel? Hard to recall life in the dark ages.

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Thought of the Day

In matters of intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard for any other consideration.



Thomas Henry Huxley

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

 

Scenes of Joint Training Downunder



The Australian troops, they're the ones on the right surrounding the guy in a fuzzy jumper, carry a different assault weapon now, the F88 AuSteyr (which is the Steyr AUG modified for military use) still in the wimpy .223. I can't get used to them. They just don't look right. Funny, because I like FN's P90 a lot (although it's horribly under powered as well). You may wonder why these guys are dressed warm in June. Recall it's the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Who's Really " Sicko " ?

Reality, yet again, stares back at another of Michael Moore's cinematic musings....

WSJ's David Gratzer, brings some hard truth, that is seemingly missing in SICKO.

Money Quotes....

It's not simply that Mr. Moore is wrong. His grand tour of public health care
systems misses the big story: While he prescribes socialism, market-oriented
reforms are percolating in cities from Stockholm to Saskatoon.....

......In Britain, the Department of Health recently acknowledged that one in eight patients wait more than a year for surgery. Around the time Mr. Moore was putting the finishing touches on his documentary, a hospital in Sutton Coldfield announced its new money-saving linen policy: Housekeeping will no longer change the bed sheets between patients, just turn them over. France's system failed so spectacularly in the summer heat of 2003 that 13,000 people died, largely of dehydration. Hospitals stopped answering the phones and ambulance attendants told people to fend for themselves......

.....Canadian doctors, once quiet on the issue of private health care, elected Brian Day as president of their national association. Dr. Day is a leading critic of Canadian medicare; he opened a private surgery hospital and then challenged the government to shut it down. "This is a country," Dr. Day said by way of explanation, "in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years."

Ouch.

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This Day in the History of New Musical Instruments

On this day in 1846, French-Belgian designer Adolphe Sax was awarded a patent for the saxophone. The unique, and, to my ears, sultry sound these instruments make comes from Sax's combination of the clarinet's single reed and mouthpiece with a widened oboe's conical bore. Because his first saxophones were made of wood, saxophones are still classified as a woodwind instrument, even though they are all brass now. Sax was a better inventor than a businessman and he made little profit from his most successful invention, one of many, yet he spent a decade in court protecting his patent. The first saxophone production in the U.S. began in 1888 when Charles Gerard Conn of Elkhart, Indiana, made brass instruments for military bands.

(h/t Today in Science History)

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Thought of the Day

A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

George S. Patton

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

 

This Day in American History

On this day in 1950, President Truman ordered the Air Force and Navy into the Korean conflict. He did so with the blessings of the United Nations Security Council which had asked for member nations to help South Korea repel the invasion from the North. What he did not have was a declaration of war from Congress. The Korean War was on, man, and it never ended (although there was a cease fire agreement on July 27, 1953).

Task Force Smith contained the first American troops to enter the fight, on July 5, 1950 and they got the snot kicked out of them by superior numbers of excellent troops and, even reinforced, were almost pushed off the peninsula. Although MacArthur brilliantly and completed defeated North Korea and occupied two thirds of that young country by Thanksgiving, when the Chinese entered the war in force, Truman foolishly forgot the lesson he seemed to have learned with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, namely, that nuclear weapons save lives in the bigger picture and longer run. We were sent packing and then fought hard just to get back to the original dividing line, the 38th parallel. The last years of fighting were the mid-20th Century version of trench warfare.

We should have nuked all along the Yalu as soon as we recognized the Chinese involvement and then all the military targets in Manchuria until the Chinese backed the heck out. We should have unified Korea and set the precedent/motto: Nemo me impune lacessit or perhaps an updating of the 1775 slogan: Don't tread on me, by adding unless you don't mind glowing in the dark. History would have been a lot different and better, at least for the North Koreans.

Ah, hindsight.

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Thought of the Day

Do not be fooled into believing that because a man is rich he is necessarily smart. There is ample proof to the contrary.

Julius Rosenwald

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

 

A German Sense of Free Exercise of Religion

You chuckle a little at the thought of the German government banning Tom Cruise from filming on military bases there because...he's a scientologist. Yeah, it's a scary pseudo religion (although there are a few Ron Hubbard books I quite enjoyed). But there's a hidden tragedy to this. Cruise was going to play the Inspector Clouseau of anti-Hitler conspirators, Claus von Stauffenberg, whom Tom quite resembles. Now we won't get to see that person recreated in a movie tentatively titled Valkyrie (the name the conspirators gave their coup attempt).

Von Staufenberg not only muffed the famous failed bombing at the "Wolf's Lair" on July 20, 1944, but also failed in an earlier bombing attempt. In his defense, he had lost an eye, his right hand and much of his left in Africa (strafed by the RAF in 1943), so he surely was not as dexterous as he formerly had been.

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Historical Perspective

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit (and Rob over at Say Anything--one of NORTH Dakota's better blogs), points out this paragraph at Wikipedia regarding the planned invasion of Japan in 1946, Operation Downfall:

Nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the casualties resulting from the invasion of Japan. To the present date, all the American military casualties of the sixty years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number. In 2003, there were still 120,000 of these Purple Heart medals in stock. There are so many in surplus that combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan are able to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to wounded soldiers on the field.

Over 60 years of warfare and we haven't run out of them yet. Kind of makes the current, breathless news coverage of casualties seem a bit overblown.

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While The Rest of the USA Laps Up The News Of Paris Being Liberated...

....and I don't mean in the WW II sense...Boortz points out a matter of real concern.

HAMAS AND AL-QUEDA, TOGETHER AT LAST

The radical, peace-loving religion of Islam continues to assert its power. And there's not a country that seems to want to do anything about it.
Just over a week ago, Hamas took over Gaza, defeating Fatah and asserting its power in the region. This put a smile under the scraggly beards of our al-Qaeda friends. They are joyous. In fact, they are so grateful to have a more radical presence in power, that they have called on Muslims around the world to back Hamas with arms, money and violence against US and Israeli interests. Osama Bin Laden's number two said, "Taking over power is not a goal but a means to implement God's word on earth." Which God? Well, that would be Allah ... the one who calls for the destruction of innocent non-believers in his name. The one who, devout Muslims tell us, demands the suppression of women.
Generally, al-Queda doesn't think Hamas is radical enough (who knew?). But in this case, al-Queda is willing to support any group that is within striking distance of Israel and U.S. strongholds.
OK .. that's enough. Just a brief refresher to help you keep the players straightened out.

 

This Day in the History of Alegorical Evil

On this day in 1284, a piper dressed in a red and yellow diamond pattern, lured 130 children out of the Saxon village of Hameln and none of them were ever seen again. The Grimm Brothers wrote down this story as a Deutsche Märchen in 1816. William Manchester, in A World Lit Only by Fire, called the pied piper a psychopath and a pederast, but no one knows where he got his information. The rat and non-payment meme were added later.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

 

Thought of the Day

Metus improbos compescit, non clementia.

Syrus

Fear, not kindness, restrains the wicked.

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Tuesday Bonus Concert Review

Went with eldest daughter to Joan Armatrading at Chautauqua in Boulder and was very pleasantly surprised. I haven't really listened to her since the early 80s and I've never seen her. Wow.


There was more soul (and testosterone, in the music) in two minutes of her singing than in all of the efforts of effete, deracinated Winwood and company. Joan, who in the late 70s was a sui generis feminist pop singer/songwriter, is now gravitating to the blues and with her great deep voice, it's a good mix. Her new CD is called Into the Blues, and she seemed pleased to report it debuted at #1 on the Billboard blues chart. She's also playing an OK to fair lead guitar. Double wow.


I liked her band as well--they all looked, at least, British. Three white, pushing forty guys backing up a semi-ageless black woman. I think I caught the symbolism. Actually she's 56 and from St. Kitts, although she's been in England since 1958. I think in the bad old days, they would have called her a West Indian (although she was born within sight of the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton over on Nevis and I don't think we called him that). Sorry, historical digression.

Highlights included the song with the refrain "give me love" and a socially conscious song I'd never heard with superb use of echo. She didn't sing I'm Lucky or Drop the Pilot and she didn't do an encore, but it was a fun, powerful show in which you heard and understood every word of the good lyrics and I'd see this woman again any time. My daughter liked her too and that indeed is high praise. It didn't hurt that we were, unlike Bob Uecker, actually on the front row.

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Michael Yon Speaks

The X Gens' Ernie Pyle finally posts new information on Operation Arrowhead Ripper (part of the larger Operation Phantom Thunder (bad name!)). He's confirming that most of the al Qaeda in Extremis leadership got away because our brass telegraphed the punch. (That should never happen again). He ends with this hopeful note:

It would be nice to wrap up this dispatch with a neat ending, but accuracy requires this ending be jagged. While typing these last few words, there have been explosions, gunfire, and the sounds of helicopters and jets. The fighting has decreased remarkably over the last few days, but the last pockets have not been cleared, and nobody knows what awaits. So the battle is on and it’s time to get back with the soldiers as they clear Baqubah inch by inch, street by street.

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This Day in the Short History of American Disasters

On this day in 1876, at the Battle of Little Big Horn, General George Custer and his force of 208 men were annihilated by approximately 10,000 Sioux and Lakota warriors in eastern Montana. Rough day for the still extant (kinda) 7th Cavalry.

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Thought of the Day

Pants get shiny even on a throne.

Stanislaw Lec

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

 

Sunday Concert Review

Went with my son to Steve Winwood at the Botanical Gardens. It was fun, but Stevie is finally showing his age. He's 59 now, just five years older than I am, so it pains me to say that, but I've been a fan for at least 4 decades, so I guess it had to happen some time. His voice isn't what I remembered the last time I saw him, probably in 1972. We didn't have the best seats and I didn't take the best picture ever, but that's Steve at the Hammond B-3 in a blue shirt. He has a pretty lame guitarist in his touring group and two percussionist and the guy in white with his back to us is the new Chris Woods on woodwinds (mainly sax) and he sings a little.

He started with Spencer Davis Group hit I'm a Man and the second encore was Boomer anthem Gimme Some Lovin'. Knock me over with a feather for that choice. My favorite SDG song is I Can't Get Enough of It. Chances of hearing that ever, zero. All the songs had evidence of a good performance evolution. I can't tell if the conga guy is there because Winwood likes the conga beat or if his presence makes most of the songs sound as if Traffic had actually been blue eyed reggae. If I had to guess a highlight, I would go with several of the middle/late period Traffic pieces, with Dear Mr. Fantasy the best of the lot because of Steve's fine guitar work. Not that they turn up the volume in the gardens loud enough to call it rock and roll. The rest of the shows I'm seeing this summer are folk to folk rock, which is more the milieu there. Can't Find My Way Home, Empty Pages and a quaalude version of Crossroad Blues were very pleasant for a soft Suday evening sitting, uncomfortably, on grass in among the sweet smelling flowers. Least it didn't rain.

I prefer Jim Capaldi's version of Low Spark For High Heeled Boys, which is achingly beautiful. Winwood still does it in the Traffic pseudo reggae way but he screwed up the words in two verses. I can remember the lines, what's up with him?

Traffic, especially in later Dave Masonless versions, was called the quintessential jam band. I'd have to go with the Dead or Phish for that title, but for each song, Winwood sets the tone, time and mood and everyone gets in the groove. They could have made each of the good songs 10 minute jams and sometimes they did. Pleasant journeys with a high nostalgia content. I'm glad I went, but I think I'll spare myself the spectacle of a sexagenarian Stevie. Even the Stones are having trouble pulling that off.

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What's With Our News Coverage Priorities?

I have been trying to find out what's happening in Baquba all day. Michael Yon posted earlier last week and then fell silent. I hope he's OK. I can find out details of a poor little rich girl's traffic court travails; it seems Fox is going non-stop about some woman being murdered and her husband arrested for it. Like that's news. But there's barely a peep about our biggest offensive in Iraq since the Mission Accomplished banner went up on the USS Abraham Lincoln years ago. Except that al Qaeda already lost by killing fellow Muslims indiscriminately, this could be the Midway of Gulf War II.

I'm not alone in my frustration. Behold Jack Kelly's cogent whine:

Simultaneous offensives are being conducted in another insurgents' rat's nest, Babil province southwest of Baghdad, and in Baghdad neighborhoods where coalition soldiers in the past have been reluctant to go.

Simultaneous offensives are the best way to gain decisive victory over a numerically inferior force, because they prevent the enemy from shifting forces from one front to another. The Union did not prevail in our Civil War until Grant attacked in the East at the same time as Sherman attacked in the West.


Our soldiers are being assisted by former insurgents who have turned against al-Qaida. Unlike the Anbar Salvation Council on which it is modeled, the Diyala Salvation Front isn't strong enough to take on al-Qaida by itself. But the intelligence its members provide could prove invaluable to our troops.

You haven't heard of the Anbar Salvation Council? Maybe that's because our news media have tended to treat good news from Iraq as no news. When Thomas Ricks of The Washington Post reported last September that a senior Marine intelligence officer thought Anbar province had been "lost politically," his story attracted enormous attention from his fellow journalists. Google lists 789,000 references to that one story.

The Anbar Salvation Council, a coalition of 41 Sunni tribes under the leadership of Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi, has in very short order reversed that situation (if it were ever as dire as Col. Pete Devlin imagined). Al-Qaida has been all but driven out of Iraq's "Wild West." But Google lists only 114,000 mentions of the Anbar Salvation Council. (Paris Hilton has nearly 76 million mentions.)

The Anbar Salvation Council model is spreading. The Diyala Salvation Front was formed in May. More than 10 tribes in Baghdad and its suburbs have banded together to fight al-Qaida, USA Today reported Tuesday.

If Arrowhead Ripper succeeds, al-Qaida in Iraq will suffer a blow from which it may not recover. "In Diyala, both the foreign jihadists and their domestic allies are beginning to feel cornered, with few places left to hide," STRATFOR said.

But if Arrowhead Ripper succeeds, you may not hear much about it. A U.S. victory would be too embarrassing for those in the media who have staked their reputations on defeat.

Al Qaeda has a rough choice when we actually wage war against them. They can stand and die or they can run away like little girls and be seen as the weak horses asses they are. Wow, who could have imagined that all we had to do to win this front of the war was attack the enemy in force? General Petraeus must be a Grant-like genius.

UPDATE: Bill Roggio reported yesterday that everyone is doubting that there will be a big fight, al Qaeda last stand in Baquba. Darn. That means they slipped out easily. Well, if it was easy, anyone could do it. Running away, as I said, has its own problems for al Qaeda.

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Rare Sports Post, in Spirit

The triumphant Rockies were swept in turn by the just short of mighty Blue Jays, the only team in MLB not in the United States. I guess the on the road Rockies are a slightly different team. Let's see if they can bounce back against the perennial doormats of the National League Central Division (except recently), the Cubbies.

The Blue Jay's pitcher, Dustin McGowan, had a no-hitter going into the 9th. He had to settle for a one hit shut out. Nice, but not a no-hitter.

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A Tragedy Worth Pondering

Good guy former judge, former Denver City Attorney, Larry Manzanares shot himself in the Highline Canal next to Eisenhower Park (about 10 blocks from where I'm typing this). He was 50, a Harvard grad with a nice family. That's rough. A lot of people are blaming the special prosecutor for going so hard at him for allegedly stealing a laptop from the city and loading it with porn. He certainly was becoming the butt of an awfully lot of jokes. I think there is an alternative theory. He finally realized he was going to have to spend the next several months to years with his very abrasive lawyer, Gary Lozow, and it broke his will to live.

I liked this guy a lot--a self imposed death penalty and eternal damnation are way too harsh penalties for what at worst was helping oneself to a soon to be obsolete laptop gathering dust in a city closet. Everyone who was pushing for real punishment after his resignation from the city ought to question their morality, at least their sense of proportion vis a vis the Christian ideal of forgiveness. Of course, no one actually forced Manzanares to pull the trigger.

My bright line rule is that those with children cannot under any circumstances commit suicide as it just greenlights that sad, wrong choice for the little ones.

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Proof of Global Warming


Seaman Recruits Jamal Powell, left, and Stephen Harmon stand the forward lookout watch aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) as the ship navigates through an ice field in the Arctic Circle north of Iceland on June 12, 2007. DoD photo by Lt. j.g. Ryan Birkelbach, U.S. Navy.

Wait, what's with all that ice in the water?

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Now Everyone's al Qaeda

Faithful reader/commenter, peter b, notes a current lefty meme that where the press and military were calling everyone insurgents or Sunni or Shia militia before, now they call all our enemies al Qaeda. Bob Owens, the Confederate Yankee, has a good reply to this here. Since Arrowhead Ripper is specifically targeting al Qaeda in Extremis in Diyala Province and specifically in Baquba, al Qaeda gets mentioned a lot. It's selective memory, however, to claim the military press releases are exclusively or even mainly attributing the affiliation of the guys we're killing and capturing to al Qaeda. Bob's got the proof.

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This Day in the History of Roman Defeats

On this day in 217 B.C., in the Battle of Lake Trasimeno, Hannibal defeated the Romans during the Second Punic War. It was a huge defeat. At least 15,000 Romans were killed and more probably 30,000 while perhaps only 1,500 Carthaginians died. The road to Rome lay open. Unfortunately, Hannibal had neither the patience or the skills to lay seige to the city itself and so just ravaged Italy and kicked Roman ass (Cannae was next year--50,000 Romans killed) until he needed to go home.

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Thought of the Day

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

Terry Pratchett

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

 

Good News from Iraq

The AP has a lukewarm hopeful story on Operation Arrowhead Ripper. The hard part in a block and sweep or any envelopment attack is to keep the enemy in the bag. Senator James Webb (D-VA) described how the NVA used to get out of our best efforts by taking casualties at a weak point in the American line which effort punched a hole and allowed the enemy to escape. I haven't been able to learn if that has happened in Baquba. If I were a member of al Qaeda in Extremis, I'd be looking for an Iraqi part of the line to try to punch out.

Yon's coverage of yesterday is not yet up.

UPDATE: This story says that 75% of the "senior militant commanders" have escaped. How the heck do they know that? If they could count them, couldn't they have captured or killed them? The story does have this bit parallel to my thoughts:

Since Monday, two U.S. Army battalions have launched air assaults to the south and west of the area, a tangle of narrow dirt and paved roads crisscrossing a residential area. Troops discovered at least seven homes booby-trapped with trip wires, said Col. Steve Townsend, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Two more units moved in to flank the north and east to block the militants' escape. But by then, Odierno said, many were already gone.
"It's like jelly in a sandwich — it squirts when you squeeze it," Parke said. "We're fooling ourselves if we think we can hold them in."

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This Day in the History of Meaningless Gestures

On this day in 1961, The Antarctic Treaty, signed by twelve nations in 1959, finally took effect. The treaty guaranteed that the continent of Antarctica would be used for peaceful, scientific purposes only. Britain, Chile and Argentina, however, have overlapping claims to pie shaped pieces of the frozen continent. The success of the treaty (marred slightly in 1982 at South Georgia Island) has been largely because it's just too freakin' cold there to fight.

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Thought of the Day

Poscis opem nervis corpusque fidele senactae. Esto, age--sed grandes patinae tuccetaque crassa adnuere his superos vetuere Iovemque morantur.

Persius

You pray for good health and a body strong in old age. Good--but your rich foods block the gods' answer and tie Jupiter's hands.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

 

This Day in American History

On this day in 1944, FDR signed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, aka The GI Bill of Rights. In my opinion, this was about the the best government program ever--it helped the deserving poor (military pay was absurdly low) but allowed them to choose where to go to school and what to study, and it paid off huge dividends back to society in general (as well as to the government as taxes) when our better educated former serviceman became successful businessmen.

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Thought of the Day

I like to go swimming
with bow legged women
at the Y Dubya CA.



George Perry Campbell Whitley

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

 

Drawing a Moral Line

My congressperson here in Denver, Colorado is Diana DeGette (D-1st District). I know her slightly through the double x fiance, who attended Colorado College with her a few decades ago. She's a raving lefty. She suffers, like I do, from a degenerating hip. Indeed, I believe she has had it replaced, although it's a little soon in the game for that. Her big thing is embryonic stem cell research. She wants to shower the researchers with federal money. The funding bills she co-sponsors pass both houses but not with enough support to override the President's veto. He's vetoed such bills twice; one was today, in fact.

Because of one of the ways we treat infertility (which effects an enormous number of people, one couple in five), there are surplus embryos, frozen, awaiting implantation. There are more frozen embryos than will ever be implanted. Eventually they stop keeping them frozen. I don't think they bury them, probably incinerate them in medical waste crematoria.

Embryos have stem cells which can grow to become any specialized cell in a more mature body. Embryos are by no means the only source of such cells. They exist throughout the birth process--cord blood, amniotic fluid, all over. American scientist have recently developed a way to turn skin cells into stem cells. Some scientists think the embryonic stem cells are the best, however, but the scientific enthusiasm has always been more theoretical than practical and has yet to produce anything approaching an actual medical breakthrough.

If you look at the frozen embryo as a fellow human who has not yet had the privilege of developing in a womb, the idea of cutting the embryo up for medical research is horrifying. I can't stop thinking about the Nazis when I hear about embryonic stem cell research. There is a straight line from the first Nazi medical atrocities, gassing the incurables with CO, to the gas chambers at Birkenau und so weiter. Couple that with the inhuman Mengele human medical experiments nearby at Auschwitz, and you can easily see the thin end of the evil wedge with medical research that ends individual human lives as its basis and subject.

If, however, you see a human embryo as a mere clump of cells, no more important from a scab or a broken off piece of toenail, then failing to use the soon to be medical waste extra embryos to try to cure diseases and suffering of real live, breathing humans seems pretty much like a crime.

I find it to be a very close call, but I have to go with the President on this. If you have to draw a line, draw it on the side of human life. Protect those least able to defend themselves. Do not be like the Nazis early on. (That's always good advice). As the President said today. “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical.” Right on, as some of the less tragically hip used to say in the late 60s.

Of course, the President and, to a lesser degree, his party are paying a political price for his moral decision and it doesn't help that the main proponents, like my congressperson, and the Democrat's front runner for the job in '09, are obfuscating what is "banned" by the federal government. We have no ban on embryonic stem cell research. In fact no previous administration has spent more tax money on such research (limited to cell lines in existence when the 'ban ' passed). We just don't allow government funds to pay scientists to cut up new embryos for medical experiments.

We've heard all the promises of miracle cures to everything--including, I guess, plain old death from aging, and of Christopher Reeves walking again (We'll have to scratch that one off the wish list). If such miracles are so certain in embryonic stem cell research, wouldn't the private sector be lining up to become billionaires by developing cures for everything under the sun? Why does the government have to pay for it? Because of history, and the belief of a substantial portion of our fellow citizens that any embryo is human life, the only entity that should not be sponsoring these experiments is the government. The government should never be involved in the active killing of some human life for the medical benefit of another human life. That's a fairly clear moral line for right thinking types with even the barest grasp of the facts.

UPDATE: Longtime reader Jimmypol called to complain that he couldn't post a comment. Sorry. This is just a big typewriter for me. I can't fix 'em. But he did say that once you decide the embryo is a human, it's not a close question. It's an easy question. He's right and that was the crux of my argument. It's a rough situation to forego using those soon to be disposed of embryos to try to cure diseases, but that's the right thing to do.

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Not Quite as Rare a Sports Post as Previously

We swept them.

What's it the younger guys say? Oh, yeah, Boo-ya!

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This Day in the History of Obsolete Methods of Sound Recording

On this day in 1948, the first successful long-playing microgroove phonograph records were introduced to the public at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Made of nonbreakable Vinilyte plastic, and designed for the new speed of 33-1/3 r.p.m., the records were developed by Dr. Peter Goldmark of Columbia Records. The 12 inch record could play 23 minutes per side, as compared to only 4 minutes per side on the earlier 78 rpm record. The LP was also an improvement because of the quietness of its surfaces and its greatly increased fidelity. The first LP featured violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The did tend to wear out and get noisy with use, though.

They had a longer and better run than 8 tracks. Except that I'm dissatisfied with the sound of the MP3 recording program, I'm ready to skip programmable CDs and go straight to digital.

(h/t Today in Science History)

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Thought of the Day

Revolutions always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions.

Terry Pratchett

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

 

Another Rare Sports Post

The Rockies crush the vaunted Yankees yet again, 6-1 this time. OK, I know the Yanks aren't having that good a year, but it's still sweet because, like the less than stellar Rangers, they are the highest paid team in the sport and talented. Our young looking pitcher did well, with a record, for him, number of strikeouts and we pounced on the NY old man veteran pitcher, with at least two too many 't's in his name, Pettitte, when his placement became, with fatigue, less than perfect. A good night at the ball park. Why the success or failure of the home team has such an effect on my mood, I'll never know. It's not like any of them are from around here.

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Rare Sports Post

The Rockies beat the vaunted Yankees 3-1 yesterday in inter league play, with solid pitching by Fogg and some fair hitting by the rest of the team. It was exciting, well, as exciting as baseball gets. Tonight the Yanks could get revenge unless 12 year old Jeff Francis can pitch the game of the season.

I'll be watching.

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The Surge Has Just Begun

Now that all the extra troops are actually in Iraq, the new 'clear and hold' tactics can begin in and around Baghdad. A couple of days ago, we started a 10,000 man clear in Diyala Province north of Baghdad in the town of Baquba, Michael Yon, a true freelance journalist, had an account of the opening that was really quite exciting.

This battle might be as big as the '04 sweep of Fallujah. I'm hearing no coverage of it at all in the big press. The NYT covered it, but the story was pretty negative. Here's part of Yon's description, which I prefer.

The doctor has made a decision: Al Qaeda must be excised. That means a large scale attack, and what appears to be the most widespread combat operations since the end of the ground war are now unfolding. A small part of that larger battle will be the Battle for Baquba. For those involved, it will be a very large battle, but in context, it will be only one of numerous similar battles now unfolding. Just as this sentence was written, we began dropping bombs south of Baghdad and our troops are in contact.

Northeast of Baghdad, innocent civilians are being asked to leave Baquba. More than 1,000 AQI fighters are there, with perhaps another thousand adjuncts. Baquba alone might be as intense as Operation Phantom Fury in Falujah in late 2004. They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers—real snipers—have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.

The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.

Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cutoff escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.

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This Day in the History of Rude Awakenings

On this day in 1960, the Supreme Court ruled, in Flemming v. Nestor, that workers have no legal right to Social Security benefits. Congress is free to cut or even to eliminate Social Security benefits at any time regardless of a worker's contributions. Lock Box, my butt.

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Thought of the Day

Got my mojo working, but it just won't work on you.


Muddy Waters

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

 

This Day in American History

On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by electric chair at Ossining (Sing Sing) prison, a half hour north of NYC, for passing U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Although Ethel was more co-conspirator than spy, there is no doubt that they were traitors and the sentence appropriate, despite what an ever shrinking number of apologists and useful idiots say. Since Venona intercepts and even Khruschev's memoirs make the couple's guilt clear, the current lefty fashion is to claim that the secrets they passed were not that useful to the Soviets. OK, I'll bite--they were ineffectual traitors and spies.

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Thought of the Day

Genius. To know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from Anonymous premises; to discern the soul of things.

Ambrose Bierce

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Monday, June 18, 2007

 

Friday Movie Review (quite late but a two fer)

This weekend I had my willing suspension of disbelief tested past the breaking point in two different movies. First was the beautiful but pretentious and empty Paprika, the new anime from Satoshi Kon. The second was the new Kevin Costner vehicle, Mr. Brooks, which was satisfying and disappointing at the same time. In discussing Mr. Brooks there will be non-stop spoilers because I'm interested in the plot devices and how they failed the otherwise good acting, etc. I don't think I can spoil anything in Paprika because you have to know actually what happened in a film in order to create a spoiler. Let's go with the Japanese cartoon first.

Mr. Kon has yet to make a good movie (with the possible exception of Tokyo Godfathers, which I haven't seen). His first, Perfect Blue, was incredible for its dislocation. You had, at one point, absolutely no idea what was real and what was not as it changed rapidly between the two opposites. Few movies have accomplished that feat. I was, however, disappointed with Millennium Actress and Paranoia Agent. He says this is the last of the dream movies. God, I hope so.

The parade and characters in the abandoned amusement park reminded me a lot of a good episode of Cowboy Bebop (#20, Pierrot le Fou). I wonder if Kon had a hand in that. They certainly looked the same. Some of the artwork really was truly stunning. OK, that's the good part.

Paprika is about the 150th retelling of the Frankenstein myth--a scientific discovery is abused and grows out of control and the continued existence of our universe is in doubt. OK, that last is what the Japanese add to all their movies, as well as Tokyo being partially destroyed. I think it's a filmmaker union rule or something. Here the abused scientific discovery is a device you put on your head and it reads your dreams and records them and, I'm not sure how this was explained, someone else can enter your dream. Apparently, that's bad.

Listen, I'm not against movies NOT telling a story. It make as much sense to me to do the movie version of War and Peace, for example, as it does to sculpt a version of the Mona Lisa. A good movie can be merely a sound and light show (but it had better be freakin' beautiful). There were a series of movies with long, unpronounceable titles in the Hopi language which were terrific. But if you decide to tell a story, go ahead and tell the story. That's all I ask. There was a tiny bit of epistemological interest in this film, but the love story, such as it was, kinda sucked. Too much cliche dream vision, not enough soft core hentai.

OK, back to America, [spoilers follow] and of all the hundreds of millions of stories to tell, the director of Mr. Brooks, Bruce Evans, pick one of the rarest (so rare as not to exist), a successful businessman who happens to be floridly psychotic and get a sexual kick out of shooting people in the head. Of course! What could be more relevant to our every day lives than the problems of a successful serial killer? Director Evans hasn't made a good movie before either, but he did write some good ones, Stand By Me and Starman.

I think people who are floridly psychotic and get sexual pleasure from murdering people cannot compartmentalize it. There will be a bleed through. I know there are serial murderers who were supposedly charming and smart and able, like Ted Bundy, but they are mainly loners and the only people who really get close to them are unaware of what's really going on because the hangers-around are shallow and blind.

Costner has a successful box business in Portland, OR and is in fact so successful and popular, he is businessman of the year. Right. He hides his 'hunger' and fights it with AA meetings and the Twelve Step mantras. OK and I'm willing to swallow that, but he also has a 6 foot invisible friend named Harvey, no! sorry, Marshall, with whom he has conversations, in his head. I'm sorry, but a guy having a conversation in his head with an invisible friend for minutes at a time is going to come off as really weird, not as the businessman of the year. It gets worse (and don't get me wrong the interplay between Marshall and Mr. Brooks is about the best thing in the film).

OK, he gets caught on film closing the curtains on the exhibitionist couple he's just shot. Now, if I'm the photographer, knowing I am a threat to a successful (uncaught) serial killer, I'm clamming up and running away. Perhaps I would send the photos to the police anonymously. Perhaps. The last thing I would do would be to approach the killer, let him know I have the photos that will put him away and demand not money, but comradeship--take me along next time you kill someone--not me, of course, someone else. Yeah, everyone wants to be a murderer and cozy up to someone who lacks the little switch that disconnects the 'thrill' of murder from the the beta endorphin jolt we normal humans get with sexual orgasm. We secretly long for the the thrill of getting ourselves killed. And the stand up commedian Dane Cook looks bad in this film, really bad.

Then there's the daughter, who has the gene and is a messy murderer. Yeah, like I believe it's genetic. The reason Costner calls the dream of his murder a nightmare is not that she killed him but that she was so bad at it and sloppy (no way she doesn't get caught). He's OK that she's a murderer and considers him a possible target, but he's revolted by the mess she makes. Yeah, that's a normal fatherly reaction to news like that. Good that he's pro-life too. I liked that little detail.

Then there's the Demi Moore detour. She still looks pretty good, but is definitely fading (I liked that they dinged her through her character's wedding to a young man). OK, she's a very rich cop, looking for Costner, but is sidetracked by her divorce from Kutcher avatar and being stalked and attacked by another serial murderer she had earlier caught, who has escaped. Yeah, like that happens. I guess her role in the movie was important for the plot, but not what you'd call integral.

OK, the guns. Costner killed people with a suppressed PPK in .380 that he shot through a big plastic bag (very clever) and he could keep because he always recovered the slugs. (Tough to believe none stayed in the skull--the .380 will usually punch through one side of cranium but not through both sides, every time). Dane Cook had a 1935 Browning Hi Power in 9 mm. (I'm not sure 'bending' the firing pin would do anything to stop it firing. Removing or shortening it might have been a safer course). Demi had a Sig Sauer P229 in .40 S&W. She was not that good a shot, apparently, (although she drew her gun at the drop of a hat) and unlike the real characteristics of the round she was using, she managed to wound the steroid addicted (what?) serial torturer without actually knocking him down with the force of the bullet. He would not have gotten back in the fight after the shoulder hit, in reality. He was as bad a shot as the whole of the storm trooper corps in Star Wars, which is very bad indeed.

I'm sick of cartoons other than anime; movies based on comic books I recognize; movies about professional hit men and soon I'll add movies about Hannibal Lecter type serial killers who are unable to conform their behavior to social norms but are still very clever and otherwise noble and normal. I don't think those guys really exist either.

Mr. Brooks was the better movie, but just barely. I hope a good movie comes along this summer.

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This Dayin American History

On this day in 1864, Col. Joshua Chamberlain, Medal of Honor winner for his defense of the Union flank at Little Round Top, is severely wounded in fighting in the trenches around Petersburg, VA. His wound is so serious, that the doctors declare it fatal. Grant promotes him to general, as a tribute, and his hometown paper in Maine prints his obituary. He survives, however, another half century and attends the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg before an infection from the Petersburg wound kills him a year later.

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Thought of the Day

Male dictum interpretando facias acrius.

Syrus

Explaining a bad saying makes it worse.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Changes for the Better

On this day in 1991, The Parliament of South Africa repealed the Population Registration Act, which was the basis of all apartheid laws in South Africa. It had required all South Africans to be classified at birth: Caucasian, mixed, Asian and black. Apartheid laws obviously couldn't have existed without those racial categories. The Population Registration Act was the penultimate apartheid law to be repealed; the last apartheid law prevented blacks from voting.

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Thought of the Day

The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well.

Joe Ancis

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

 

A Nation of Nihilists

The first two paragraphs of the Wall Street Journal's editorial about the Palestinian question vis a vis the little Civil War in Gaza is exactly how I see and feel about the matter. I have met some Palestinians and liked them; so I have some compassion for their suffering, but I have to admit that, in the thinking part of my brain, I see they brought it on themselves.

Here are the good paragraphs:

Scores of Palestinians were killed this week in Gaza in factional fighting between loyalists of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and those of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. As if on cue, it took about 24 hours before pundits the world over blamed the violence on Israel and President Bush.
This is the Israel that dismantled its settlements in Gaza in August 2005, a unilateral concession for which it asked, and got, nothing in return. And it is the U.S. President who, in a landmark speech five years ago this month, called on Palestinians to "elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror." Had Palestinians done so, they could be living today in a peaceful, independent state. Instead, in January 2006 they freely handed the reins of government to Hamas in parliamentary elections. What is happening today is the result of that choice--their choice.


As you sow, so shall you reap. That's s thought from that region, isn't it?

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Nifong Disbarred

As I predicted, now former attorney and former District Attorney of Durham in North Carolina, Mike Nifong, has had his law license taken away from him. As a prosecutor you can't merely assume a crime was committed, never interview the alleged victim, and never look closely at the evidence that everyone else clearly sees is exculpatory to the accused. Nor can you do the 19 unethical things Nifong did during this case.

Justice prevails by the skin of her teeth. What an extraordinary thing to bring a discipline action while the case was being prosecuted! Now let the civil trials against Durham, it's police department and perhaps against Nifong and/or his office, if there's a way to get past the government immunity he and it have.

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This Day in the History of Idiocy

On this day in 1994, former President Jimmy Carter, butting in in North Korea, reported that the Communist nation's leaders were eager to resume talks with the United States in order to resolve the question of North Korea's pursuit of nuclear arms. Yeah, that all worked out pretty well.

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Thought of the Day

I got the key to the highway, and I'm billed out and bound to go
I'm gonna leave here runnin', cause walkin' is most too slow.

Jimmy Witherspoon in Keys to the Highway

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Friday, June 15, 2007

 

The Lawyer Equivalent of 'No Mas'

Soon to be disbarred lawyer Mike Nifong announced from the witness stand in his ethics hearing before a panel of the North Carolina Bar Association, that he would resign from his post as Durham DA, where he dealt DAs everywhere a setback and did Justice itself a bad turn in his rogue prosecution of patently innocent men, the Duke Lacrosse Three. What a wussie!

Money quote from the New York Times story: Joe Cheshire, a lawyer for one of the Duke defendants, said afterward “I believe it’s a cynical, political attempt to save his law license. His apology is far too late.”

We all think that, Joe.

The story was covered by Nifong apologist Duff Wilson, who appeared to believe in the case when all other rational folks had seen through the lies. Here's an interesting juxtaposition. In paragraph 6 there is this: [Nifong]said that some mistakes made in the case, including mishandling evidence and not turning favorable DNA tests over to defense lawyers, were based on his inexperience in handling felony cases and oversight. He said he had not handled a felony case since 1999...(Emphasis added). It is not until the penultimate paragraph that there is this tidbit: Mr. Nifong, 56, is a 29-year veteran of the district attorney’s office. (Emphasis added). Who's still trying to pull the wool over his readers' eyes? Who's still lying to try to save his law license?

By the way, Nifong handled a DNA based rape case in 2000. Oopsie.

UPDATE: Nifong still claims he believes that "something happened in that bathroom" that night. Just incredible.

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This Day in the History of Doomed Nations



On this day in 1931, Poland and the USSR signed a friendship treaty. And just over 8 years later, the USSR showed the true meaning of friendship by invading Poland from the East while it was fighting for its life against the Nazi new form of warfare.

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Thought of the Day

I'm not looking for another as I wander in my time,
walk me to the corner, our steps will always rhyme
you know my love goes with you as your love stays with me,
it's just the way it changes, like the shoreline and the sea,
but let's not talk of love or chains and things we can't untie,
your eyes are soft with sorrow,
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye.


Leonard Cohen from Hey, that's no way to say goodbye

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Evil


On this day in 1940, German troops occupied Paris, after a whole 35 days of fighting and march down the Champs Elysées to a reported silence from the Parisians; while, in Poland, they opened the Auschwitz Konzentrationslager.


Busy little Nazis.

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Thought of the Day

For animals, the entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks.

Terry Pratchett

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

 

Durham DA Nifong in the Dock

The ethics hearing against Durham District attorney Mike Nifong had its second day and the testimony from Detective Himan, the lead investigator on the Duke Lacrosse (never was a) Rape charges, paints an ever worsening picture of Mr. Nifong. Money quotes:

Benjamin W. Himan, the Durham detective who was lead investigator on the case, said in testimony for the ethics prosecutors on Tuesday that Mr. Nifong had acknowledged to him that the case was weak and relied on the word of a woman hired to strip at a lacrosse team party.
Mr. Himan said he had responded with disbelief when he learned that after a month of inconclusive investigation, Mr. Nifong planned to indict two students. “With what?” Mr. Himan said he responded. At that point, he said, the police did not even know whether one suspect had been at the lacrosse team party. (It turned out he was there but left before any rape could have possibly happened.)
Mr. Himan also said he was “shocked” and “upset” that an investigator for the district attorney later interviewed the accuser by himself, not inviting him as the police investigator. When he read the results of that interview, Mr. Himan said, “It didn’t make any sense to what she had previously told us.”


Part of the ethics charges against Mr. Nifong is that he made false, inflammatory statements in pre-trial media coverage. Who knew he had so little faith in the case or the lying 'victim' as he made them.

The District Attorney has a lot of power and it is shocking when he or she abuses that power so blatantly as DA Nifong. I'm sticking with my disbarment prediction.

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This Day in Ancient History



On this day in 323 B.C.. Alexander the Great died of an unknown febrile disease (perhaps West Nile virus encephalitis) in Babylon at age 33.

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Thought of the Day

Whenever I hear people talking about "liberal ideas," I am always astounded that men should love to fool themselves with empty sounds. An idea should never be liberal; it must be vigorous, positive, and without loose ends so that it may fulfill its divine mission and be productive. The proper place for liberality is in the realm of the emotions.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

 

Judicial Legerdemain

The majority in a recent split panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Al-Marri v. Wright reached the wrong conclusion regarding the ability of the President to conduct war against the enemies of the United States and did it in a underhanded way. Andrew McCarthy has similar complaints about the decision over at NRO. He's a great writer. I'm just another right wing blogger. Still, let me elaborate.

You have to start with the Authorization for Use of Military Force ("AUFM") from September 18, 2001, which reads in pertinent part:...the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(Emphasis added).

As the dissent pointed out on page 80 of the less than concise opinion, the majority treats the AUMF as if it only applied to the Taliban and Afghanistan. It obviously contained no such limitations. Indeed, the organization responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks we now know was al Qaeda. Here's the money quote for how the majority gave a foreign national, a sleeper agent for al Qaeda, constitutional rights as if he were a citizen and declared him a civilian and not an illegal combatant (or spy or saboteur) and finessed the clear grant of the already held constitutional power of the President as commander-in-chief contained in the AUMF: For unlike Hamdi and Padilla [both U.S. citizens], al-Marri is not alleged to have been part of a Taliban unit, not alleged to have stood along side the Taliban, or the armed forces of any other nation, not alleged to have been on the battlefield during the war in Afghanistan, not alleged to have been in Afghanistan during the armed conflict there, and not alleged to have engaged in combat with United States forces anywhere in the world.

Who cares if he wasn't a Taliban fighter? He's an al Qaeda sleeper agent sent here to do us harm. The Taliban didn't commit the 9/11 terrorist acts, al Qaeda did (although the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and is thus subject to the AUMF as well as al Qaeda.

In short, two members of the panel have not been keeping up with current events. War is not being waged against us by the armed forces of a nation state but by a powerful and pervasive organization to which the laws of warfare do not apply. The members of al Qaeda coming here to kill us are not part of a civilian, criminal organization nor are they the equivalent to the Unabomber or Timothy McVeigh, et al. (Although the panel compares al-Marri to those criminals by name on page 71). It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new war and the judiciary needs to butt the heck out. This is the President's exclusive roll.

Isn't al Qaeda like the Barbary Pirates President Jefferson sent our armed forces to capture and kill? No declaration of war needed; no judicial determination of the status of the pirates needed.

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This Day in American History

On this day in 1776, the Virginia Convention, assembled in Williamsburg, unanimously adopts George Mason’s declaration of rights. Ultimately derived from the 1689 English Bill of Rights, the concept of individual rights was put into our Constitution by amendment two decades later. Although Madison should get the lion's share of credit for the Constitution, Mason should get the same for the first ten amendments.

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Thought of the Day

Facile remedium est ubertati; sterilia nullo labore vincuntur.

Quintillian

Exuberance is easily corrected; dullness is incurable.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Evil


On this day in 1963, Governor George Wallace (D) stood in the way of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, matriculating at the University of Alabama; but after things were explained to him by federal marshals and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, he backed down at the "schoolhouse door" at Foster Auditorium. I was living in Mobile at the time and I saw most of this live on television. I was just ten years old, had attended integrated schools in Denver and I thought two things: 1) I couldn't understand why black students couldn't attend the University of the state in which they lived; and, 2) Wallace was a pussy. I can still see the Il Duce sort of smug upthrust chin of defiance he affected after he finished his brief speech in the very short time before he stepped aside. You can see a hint of it in the photo above.

A good friend yesterday told me seriously that we live in a racist society. He's wrong-- things have changed and improved; I've watched them change.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

 

Thought of the Day

Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.

Isaac Newton

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Well Deserved Criticism

I looked for Mark Steyn in vain but found former Democrat Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, giving some very deserved criticism to the NYT for it's terrible journalism and editorial decisions and opinions lately. It's a good, short read. Money quote:

The military commission and conditions at Guantanamo have been in American courts, with appeals going as high as the U.S. Supreme Court. As so far as I know, the President has obeyed every court order on the subject. But nothing will satisfy The Times on the war in Iraq or the continued leadership of President Bush, other than the immediate end of the war and the end of the President's tenure. How does The Times explain the fact that a Democrat-controlled Congress has not seen fit to end the military tribunals and the continued existence of Guantanamo Bay prison? Are they all wrong and only The Times' editorial board right? The Times simply will not accept the fact that we are at war and millions of Islamic fundamentalists believe it is their religious duty to kill every Hindu, Christian, Jew and other Muslims with whom they disagree on aspects of their shared religion. Wake up, New York Times. We are at war.

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Short TV Post

Here are some Tony Soprano predictions.

The consensus is that he won't get killed, but a family member other than his wife will get killed by accident, probably by Pauli Walnuts. That sounds about right, but only about right. Here are three predictions from least likely (but cool) to most likely:

1) Special Agent Harris protects him from the hit and pulls him into the witness protection program after he rolls on Leotardo's organization. He ends up with the life of his fever dream when we was shot, Kevin Finnerty, the heating and air conditioning equipment salesman from Arizona;

2) AJ is killed instead of Tony and Tony is somewhat devastated (he would be more so if it were Meadow) but the hit causes the feckless son, Little Carmine Lupertazzi, to retaliate against Leotardo and Butch; and the series ends in a funeral home (perhaps this is too like Godfather III); or,

3) Nothing really bad happens and he continues to be head of the North Jersey Mob with nearly all the problems he had at the beginning of the series.

UPDATE: I think my 'most likely' prediction was pretty spot on. I added the word 'nearly' after the fact. I'm glad Phil Leotardo got popped, if you forgive the use of that particular word.

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This Day in the History of Ill Conceived Egotistical Decisions

On this day day in 1940, Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini declares war on France and Britain. He had not declared an allegiance to either side during the Spring offensive but now that victory seemed pretty much assured for the German forces in France, he joined in. Hitler was blunt in his appraisal: "First they were too cowardly to take part. Now they are in a hurry so that they can share in the spoils." It was horribly ill timed and without warning to his own guys. Britain inters nearly all Italian males in the Empire and captures scores of Italian ships still in British ports. Italy is more of a hindrance than a help to the Nazis for the remainder of the war. They do make great cars though.

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Thought of the Day

Vetus illud Catonis admodum scitum est, qui mirari se aiebat quod non rideret haruspex, haruspicem cum vidisset.

Cicero

Old Cato always wondered this, how a fortune teller could look an another fortune teller without laughing.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

 

Never Give Up the Golan

In what may be the stupidest act of blind faith ever, Ehud Olmert, unpopular, bad prime minister of Israel, is apparently offering to quit the Golan Heights, captured about 40 years ago, well, today, in return for promises from always reliable Bashar al Assad.

Don't do it!

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In Total Agreement

It's rare that I agree with everything in a 500 word op-ed, but I do with this one by Walter E. Williams. Every. Single. Word.

Williams sometimes is the guest host (oxymoron) on Rush's show where he is a treat. Since he's black he can actually talk about race. One time the subject of The Bell Curve came up and somewhere along the line a caller made the suggestion that we give up on SATs and ACTs and go with just the grades. Williams thought about two seconds and asked: "If I'm a track coach looking at a prospect, do I want to know where he placed in his races, or do I want to know his times?" Very impressive for a real world comparison that ended any further debate.

Money quotes from his recent work:

Liberals often denounce free markets as immoral. The reality is exactly the opposite. Free markets, characterized by peaceable, voluntary exchange, with respect for property rights and the rule of law, are more moral than any other system of resource allocation. Let's examine just one reason for the superior morality of free markets.

Say that I mow your lawn and you pay me $30, which we might think of as certificates of performance. Having mowed your lawn, I visit my grocer and demand that my fellow men serve me by giving me 3 pounds of steak and a six-pack of beer. In effect, the grocer asks, "Williams, you're demanding that your fellow man, as ranchers and brewers, serve you; what did you do to serve your fellow man?" I say, "I mowed his lawn." The grocer says, "Prove it!" That's when I hand over my certificates of performance -- the $30.


[...]

Liberals love to talk about this or that human right, such as a right to health care, food or housing. That's a perverse usage of the term "right." A right, such as a right to free speech, imposes no obligation on another, except that of non-interference. The so-called right to health care, food or housing, whether a person can afford it or not, is something entirely different; it does impose an obligation on another. If one person has a right to something he didn't produce, simultaneously and of necessity it means that some other person does not have right to something he did produce. That's because, since there's no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy, in order for government to give one American a dollar, it must, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American. I'd like to hear the moral argument for taking what belongs to one person to give to another person.

There are people in need of help. Charity is one of the nobler human motivations. The act of reaching into one's own pockets to help a fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else's pocket is despicable and worthy of condemnation.

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I'll Never Forget Whats'isname

Sandy 'Pants' Berger gave up his law license, that is, he let himself be disbarred rather than face further questions about his stealing and destroying certain original documents from the national archive. The press apparently could barely care less. It's not like he was using his license anyway, but why avoid the question? His criminal 'punishment' is complete and double jeopardy protection prevents anything else happening. This is maddening.

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This Day in American History


On this day in 1863, the Battle of Brandy Station was fought in Northern Virginia near the Rappahannock river. This was the most important battle between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and the largest cavalry battle ever fought in North America. The Southern cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart and nearly 9,500 strong was surprised by 11,000 Yankee horse soldiers under Pleasonton. The battle raged for ten hour, and the Yankees retired at the end of the day, so it was technically a Southern victory; but it was remarkable that the Yankees fought well all day and gave the Rebs as good as they got. By even that time in the war the accuracy of the rifles made cavalry charges sort of like organized suicide and most cavalry soldiers rode to battle, dismounted and fought like infantry. Not that day--which was dashing charge with sabres and pistols the whole time. The Southern press was unimpressed with Stuart--not only for being surprised (the cavalry existed to prevent surprise)--but for not kicking butt and taking names as he had in nearly every engagement before that one. However, it was not so much Stuart's decline as the North's slow progress in getting cavalry units worth spit. Stuart's egotistical decline came about a month later in Pennsylvania.

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Thought of the Day

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Leonard Cohen from Sisters of Mercy

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Friday, June 08, 2007

 

Good News from al Anbar

There's been a slow bleed of good news from al Anbar province in Iraq (the western third of the country) since the surge was announced. There was this article in the LA Times in late April, 2007 about the formation of an anti-insurgency co-op by Sunni tribes.

You know it's bleeding obvious if Time's Joe Klein is aware of it. He still manages, in late May, 2007, to find bad news in the destruction by Sunni tribesmen of al Qaeda in Iraq in al Anbar--now the Sunnis have more time to fight with the Shi'ites.

The Kuwaiti News Agency was reporting yesterday that a joint strike by American and Iraqi forces has killed the al Qaeda emir in al Anbar, Khalid Mahal, and one of his aides, identified as Nasif Al-Mawla.

In fact, the al Qaeda types are dropping like flies in al Anbar.

General Petraeus has called the developments in al Anbar 'breathtaking.'

Here's a hopeful story from a millblogger about a failed attack a few days ago.

I could keep this up all day, Mike in Prague

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This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 452, Atilla the Hun invaded Italy. I've never understood why he has become a benchmark for 20th Century conservative thought. I personally think he was a lefty.

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Thought of the Day

Plus aegri ex abitu viri quam ex adventu volupatis crepi.

Plautus

I felt more sorrow in his going than joy in his coming.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

 

Locating a European Missile Defense System

President Bush's administration wanted to protect our new good friends in the former 'behind the iron curtain' crowd of Eastern European nations with a missile defense system, based in the Czech Republic (radar system) with the interceptors in Poland. Vladimir Putin, soon to be out of power in Russia (we hope), had a hissy fit and talked about a new cold war and retargeting European cities in response.

Now he wants it put in Azerbaijan, a former republic of the USSR. Sounds good to me. We should do it. We'll have to protect the technology, but the siting is sound for the purpose it is to serve, namely to protect Europe from nuclear tipped missiles from Iran or Pakistan or perhaps from North Korea (although it's not a good place against North Korean missiles as I view the world map).

If we don't take him up on it, we ought to have very good reasons.

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We Win!

The second cloture vote today on the poorly drafted and unnecessary immigration reform bill failed by a wide margin. Harry Reid (D-NV) said he would pull the bill from consideration for a few weeks. I think it's just plain old dead. Build the fence that was voted on last year. Start doing things with a Social Security number verification system that were promised in 1986. Then we'll see if we need any comprehensive reform.

This is very good news.


I guess we can stop thinking along these lines for a few days at least.

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This Day in American History

On this day in 1942, Japanese soldiers occupied the American islands of Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, where they would remain for nearly a year.

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Thought of the Day

Raram fecit mixturam cum sapientia forma.

Petronius

Beauty and wisdom rarely mix.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

 

Hysterical Moral Blindness at the New York Times

In a second (in a month) editorial, urging Congress to close down Guantánamo Bay detention facilities for captured terrorists, today in the NYT, there is this series of thoughts:

[The California lady legislator's] bill would close Gitmo in a year and the detainees would be screened by real courts. Those who are truly illegal combatants would be sent to military or civilian jails in the United States, to be tried under time-tested American rules of justice, or sent to an international tribunal. Some would be returned to their native lands for trial, if warranted. The rest would be set free, as they should have been long ago.

The Guantánamo camp was created on a myth — that the American judicial system could not handle prisoners of “the war against terror.” It was built on a lie — that the hundreds of detainees at Gitmo are all dangerous terrorists. And it was organized around a fiction — that Mr. Bush had the power to create this rogue system in the first place.

The detention of the illegal combatants we capture is not punishment for their illegal actions, nor is it pre-trial detention. It is protective custody--we are protecting our soldiers in the field from being killed by the guys we capture. Once you have this elementary and indeed simple fact in mind, the editorials of the NYT on this subject instantly seem the fatuous ravings they are.

We don't screen the status of captured soldiers and spies or the war criminality of their actions in "real courts," we do that in military tribunals. Our Supreme Court has always said that it's OK to do so. If we sent the ones we want punished to an international tribunal, their only sure punishment would be death from old age before the tribunal could complete its task. I have no real problem with sending war criminals back to their country of origin for final disposition of the case (usually by a scimitar to the neck) but isn't the NYT on record against extraordinary rendition? Let the rest go? Are they completely stark raving mad at NYT? I guess the question kind of answers itself.

The American judicial system is not the proper place for trials of war criminals because our rules of discovery are completely incompatible with the gathering of military intelligence during a conflict. Myth? The guys in Gitmo are mainly dangerous terrorists and the ones that weren't have already been released (and some have returned to the battlefield against us). Lie? The President is the Commander-in-Chief under the Constitution and the rest of the rules were passed by our elected representatives in Congress. Rogue?

We don't have to determine their status; we don't have to try them--we just have to keep them off the battlefield or kill them. We're at war. Killing the enemy (or holding them in prison camps for the duration) is how you win at war.

And would you please stop with the puerile non-honorific of 'Mr.' before our President's name. You guys are worse than grade schoolers.

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Seek and Ye Shall Find

A few weeks ago I asked why we can't get the numbers on the number of Islamic terrorists we're killing in Iraq. So here they are.
The first is combat deaths to combat deaths.


The second is IED plus combat deaths to combat deaths. Looks about a nine to one ratio to me. Although in May, it was more like 5 to 1. So clearly the surge is failing

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This Day in the History of Evil


On this day in 1985, authorities in Brazil exhumed a body later identified as the remains of Dr. Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi Todesengel, who performed horrible experiments on the people, often Jewish and Gypsy children, imprisoned at Auschwitz/Birkenau. That he escaped trial for war crimes is a crime in itself.

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Thought of the Day

Es tan corto el amor, y tan largo el olvido.

Pablo Neruda

Love is so short, and oblivion is so long.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Justified Preemptive Attacks


On this day in 1967, the Six Day War began when Israel, convinced an Arab attack was imminent, conducted a devastating air raid against Egyptian military targets. An Egyptian attack was imminent and the preemptive air strikes were key to Israeli success. It was Egyptian false reports of success which caused Jordan and Syria in turn to attack Israel. The Israeli Defense Force took Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. They have given back the first two absolutely and the West Bank conditionally. They should never give up the Golan. The IDF air arm did better later, but the armored forces never fought more bravely or effectively. The Six Day War was the high water mark for Israeli ground battle prowess.

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Thought of the Day

In the begining there was nothing, and it exploded.

Terry Pratchett

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Monday, June 04, 2007

 

The Shame of Modern Design


On the one hand there is a Ferrari automobile, any of them. On the other hand there is the London 2012 Olympics logo which is just about the most hideous thing I have ever seen. Other than the London 2012 Olympics logo, what is it supposed to be? Other than ugly that is. After you've seen it, there's nothing left to say.
UPDATE: And it only cost $800,000. I could have made something that ugly for half that.
UPDATE II: It says 2012, I don't know why that just didn't jump out.
UPDATE III: OK, now it looks like a guy squatting down, looking left and pointing right, but maybe that's just me as I see a rabbit not a man in the full moon.

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Report on American War Dead

Based on Department of Defense releases, for the period May 4 , 2007 to June 3, 2007, 6 American soldiers died in Afghanistan, and 120 died in Iraq, which is another very bloody month (up over 20 from last month). Here are the breakdowns. In Afghanistan, one person died on a combat patrol, 4 from small arms and one from absolutely unknown causes. Too late for the dreaded Spring Offensive by the Taliban. It will have to be the dreaded Summer Offensive, if it comes at all this year.

In Iraq, the IED, as usual, killed the most--81 (which I think is the most by that tactic ever). Small arms was a distant second with 20. The generic term combat operations killed 11. There continues to be some real fighting going on with the surge. Only one was killed in an accident; four from non-combat causes; and, one each from indirect fire, non-hostile incident, and enemy action (without further information). I believe again no women died, unless they had absolutely masculine names.

There was one Colonel killed by small arms, in Afghanistan, and four first lieutenants and one major killed in Iraq.

I'm unsure why these unprecedentedly low casualty figures make the majority of Americans want to bring the boys and girls home before it's over, over there. And the fact that we're taking more casualties now that there are more men and women in the field trying hard to kill the enemy in no way tells the tale of success or failure. The tell tales in al Anbar and in Baghdad are in fact positive, with the surge finally just getting the full compliment to deploy.

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This Day in the History of Missed Opportunities

On this day in 1940, the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk, called Operation Dynamo, ended with the rescue of 340,000 troops. The German forces could have slaughtered the British Expeditionary Force in France but didn't. I guess it's hard being evil every day.

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Thought of the Day

Civilization is built on a number of ultimate principles...respect for human life, the punishment of crimes against property and persons, the equality of all good citizens before the law...or, in a word justice.

Max Nordau, zionist

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Evil

On this day in 1938, the German Reich ordered the confiscation of "degenerate art." Because some of the Nazis were rank hypocrites, some of the prettier confiscated art ended up in their private villas. Reichmarschall Hermann Göring was indeed a collector of degenerate art. Better he see it daily than the masses, I guess.

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Thought of the Day

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

 

This Day in American History


On this day in 1941, Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse of the Yankees, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis which is more widely known now in America as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Until Cal Ripken beat it, Gehrig held the record for most consecutive games played. From what little I know, he seemed like a quite decent fellow. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a degenerative nerve disease with no known cause or cure. Unlike dementia, the memories, personality and cognitive abilities survive but the ability to control muscles goes away, the muscles atrophy and eventually the sufferer dies from an inability to breath. Sounds like a tough way to go, to me. The photo is of Gehrig and Babe Ruth on the day Gehrig retired in 1939 and called himself, inexplicably, the luckiest man alive.

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Thought of the Day

A neurosis is a secret that you don't know you are keeping.

Kenneth Tynan

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Friday, June 01, 2007

 

A Coincidence Difficult to Shake

The XDR Tuberculosis man (Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker) doesn't know how he contracted such a rare and deadly form of Tuberculosis. So far no one does. Here's a clue. His father-in-law, Robert C. Cooksey, is a microbiologist who handles rare and deadly forms of Tuberculosis for his work at the Center of Disease Control in Atlanta.

No, no possibility of connection there. No possibility of contamination.

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This Day in the Short History of American Defeats


On this day in 1813, outside Boston Harbor, the USS Chesapeake was soundly defeated by the HMS Shannon. This avenged three defeats in a row for the vaunted British Fleet by the upstart former wild colonials (USS Constitution v. HMS Guerriere; USS United States v. HMS Macedonian and USS Constitution v. HMS Java). The only thing we got out of it was the Navy motto: Don't give up the ship. This was the last order of mortally wounded captain, James Lawrence, which was, unfortunately, not carried out. Superior British cannon accuracy and the discipline of the boarding party won the day for the Shannon.

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Thought of the Day

If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.

Shimon Peres

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