Friday, August 31, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Mismatched Couples

On this day in 1940, actor Lawrence Olivier and actress Vivian Leigh were married. Kind of like Tchaikovsky marrying Nina Milyukova, or at least a more polite British version of that.

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Thought of the Day

Quos amor verus tenuit, tenebit.

Seneca

Those whom true love has held, love will hold.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

 

Actual, Factual History

Viet Nam historian Mark Moyar at the American Spectator proves he has an intact memory of the Viet Nam War. I'm pleased, especially with the proliferation of so many false memories being displayed, largely on the left.

His best stuff:

The insurgency in Vietnam was dead by 1971, thanks to South Vietnam's armed forces, America's forces, and a South Vietnamese civilian population that overwhelmingly viewed the South Vietnamese government as legitimate. During 1972, after all American combat units had departed, South Vietnamese forces defeated a massive North Vietnamese invasion with the help of American air power. The so-called Christmas bombing of 1972 bombed North Vietnam into submission, resulting in a peace treaty. Had the antiwar Congress not slashed aid to South Vietnam and prohibited the use of American aircraft over Vietnamese skies, the South Vietnamese probably could have repulsed the North Vietnamese when they violated the peace treaty in 1975.

[...]

In response to the President's comments about abandoning Vietnam, some have argued that abandonment was not that important because Vietnam is now a nice capitalist country. This argument shows a callousness toward the loss of human life (in the late 1970s) and the harsh repression of political dissent (from 1975 to today) that is thoroughly out of keeping with how these people normally view international affairs. Hysterical hatred of the Iraq War and President Bush seems the only possible explanation for such an inconsistency. The present-day capitalist economy of Vietnam, moreover, is not reason to doubt the wisdom of U.S. involvement. Instead, it is reason to doubt the wisdom of North Vietnamese involvement. While America was fighting for capitalism in South Vietnam, North Vietnam was fighting to destroy it.

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Yangtze River Dolphin Extinct...or Not


The Yangtze River Dolphin the experts announced after a fruitless 6 week search for one, is now extinct. However, somebody took a recent video of one so perhaps not, although certainly the Yangtze is not teeming with them. Good news actually (the later report).

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Rosa Brooks and the Pathetic Fallacy

Rosa 'Luxemburg' Brooks, lefty law professor somewhere and weekly columnist for the rapidly sinking L.A. Times, is usually unreadable and silly, but today she was spectacularly so. This is the same woman Hugh Hewitt had on his show to talk about FISA and she had a deer caught in headlights reaction to the basic questions. I'll try to keep this brief.

Here is her unbounded fountain of compassion for the suffering of the South Vietnamese and Cambodians slaughtered by the Communist totalitarians starting in 1975 (as part of the incredible 100,000,000 plus political murders by the left during the 20th Century): Yes, many innocent civilians suffered in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam (Wow, I'm moved by her truly magnanimous spirit).

She qualifies it, however, as follows: -- but it's more accurate to attribute their suffering to the prolongation of the war itself, rather than to the U.S. withdrawal as such.

What?

Our part in the war was over in 1973, in April, when our last ground forces left Viet Nam. I'm unsure how we prolonged the war after we withdrew from the battlefield. The NVA invaded and conquered the South in 1975. How is that our fault? How did we prolong the war by making the NVA break the peace accords and attack the South? Of course, lefty logic often baffles me, but I'm sure this makes sense to someone else.

There's another profoundly lefty and profoundly wrong bit of pseudo history in there: To Bush, the tragedy of the Vietnam War is that we didn't let it drag on for another decade or so.

She's being ironic; but you see, to the left, the end of the war was inevitable, the attempt to save South Viet Nam from Communist aggression doomed to failure, and it was our mistake even to try to stop the spread of Communism from the North to South when it was foreordained and the effort just wasted lives delaying the inevitable. She literally couldn't be more wrong. But back to the stellar piece.

Then she proceeds to make, on her own, a series of logical non sequiturs which she attributes to the President. No, their yours, professor. This is a sort of stylistic pathetic fallacy; that is, to repeat in the style of writing the subject matter of the writing. In the real world, for example, to employ this style, if you were complaining about off key singing, you would sing the complaints off key. Here she is accusing the President of making unconnected historical connections by making unconnected historical connections. She's so droll.

Of course, high on the list of things not to do in writing is employ this sort of stylistic pathetic fallacy, but perhaps she missed that lesson, just as she missed the key FISA court precedents about a year and a half ago.

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This Day in the History of Evil


On this day in 1941, the 29 month siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) began when German troops of Army Group North cut the last rail line between the city and the rest of the USSR, although most historians put the start date as September 8, 1941, when the encirclement of the city was complete. A third of a million Soviet troops were battle deaths and nearly a million civilians starved to death before the city was fully liberated on January 27, 1944.

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Thought of the Day

Discretion is not the better part of biography.



Lytton Strachey

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

 

The New York Times Explains Why Good News is Bad

In what can only be called a bizarrro world opinion piece today, the NYT editors put the ultimate spin on recent census bureau information about incomes--it's all bad news to the cognoscenti and it's all Mr. Bush's fault. No, really. Behold, beginning with the lead: The Census Bureau reported yesterday that median household income rose 0.7 percent last year — it’s second annual increase in a row— to $48,201. The share of households living in poverty fell to 12.3 percent from 12.6 percent in 2005.

OK, income is on average up and poverty is down. (And look at our 'poverty.' People in the slums of any South American city would laugh at us calling American homeowners with two cars, air conditioning and two color TVs poor. It's a point worth remembering).

So how can 'income up, poverty down' be bad news? Like this, answers the far seeing NYT editors:

The gains against poverty last year were remarkably narrow. The poverty rate declined among the elderly, but it remained unchanged for people under 65. Analyzed by race, only Hispanics saw poverty decline on average while other groups experienced no gains.

So two group gains and the others stay where they were. Still not bad news for any sane person.
Over all, the new data on incomes and poverty mesh consistently with the pattern of the last five years, in which the spoils of the nation’s economic growth have flowed almost exclusively to the wealthy and the extremely wealthy, leaving little for everybody else.

I see, those who earn a lot of money earned even more money and those who only earn a little money only earned a little more. Oh, the horror!

What do we need to do to end this endless cycle of misery and inequality? The NYT knows:

What are needed are policies to help spread benefits broadly — be it more progressive taxation, or policies to strengthen public education and increase access to affordable health care.

Oh, I see, I get the picture, we need socialism. We need Robin Hood robbing the rich and giving to the poor and more money into our failing government schools and free health care for the poor. The NYT supporting these suspect 'fixes' is like seeing the sun at mid-day. Unfortunately, making a more progressive tax rate hurts the economy and actually rakes in less money to the government. More money doesn't mean better schools. otherwise Washington DC's schools would be the best and not the worst in our nation, a national disgrace, in fact. Health care? I thought the subject was earnings? How would socialized medicine run by the government help poor people earn more money? The truly poor get medicaid already.

Final words of wisdom: Unfortunately, these policies are unlikely to come from the current White House. This administration prefers tax cuts for the lucky ones in the top five percent.

Tax cuts for the rich, the lucky ones--not the hard working risk takers, just the lucky ones. Of course.

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This Day in American History



On this day in 1862, the Second Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas) began in earnest and was decided in the South's favor, although it lasted until the 30th. Despite having more men, better armed, the Union forces (at 75,000) were up against superb fighters well led even though there were only 53,000 Rebels by the end of the battle. The North's general, John Pope, just was no match for Lee, Longstreet and Jackson. In order to prevent McClellan's forces, freshly defeated in the Seven Days, from linking up with Pope's, Jackson started battle late on the 28th and then held throughout most of the next day, outnumbered 3 to 1, until Longstreet's reinforcements could arrive. Unnoticed by the Federals, the reinforcements outflanked the Union lines and then rolled them up. The guys in blue beat it back to Washington, again. Although Antietam was a disappointment, the Army of Northern Virginia was not defeated in major battle until the afternoon of July 3, 1863, more than halfway through the war.

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Thought of the Day

We can only learn to love by loving.



Iris Murdoch

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

 

I Am Not Gay

Idaho Senator Larry Craig (R) goes out of his way to deny that he is gay, in the wake of a bust several weeks ago for attempted lewd conduct with a male undercover officer in a Minnesota airport bathroom. "I am not gay. I have never been gay," he said.

Uh-huh.

He forgot to add, "not that there's anything wrong with that." He also forgot to plead not guilty and took the misdemeanor plea deal offered by the prosecution.

What is it with so deep in the closet Republican gay men that they can't face the truth? We're a big tent--we welcome the Log Cabin guys and wish more would come out of the Democratic closet. If you don't want people to think you're gay, don't be weird in public bathrooms. Pretty simple rule, that. It's not like bathrooms are overwhelmingly romantic; in fact it's kinda the opposite.

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Crowded House - Weather With You

Good song, silly music video--a Kiwi/Down Under idea of a fun outing. From Wood Face.


 

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing

Christopher Hitchens, I think, nails it at Slate today on the three fights in Iraq and our success in two of them. Will the stalemate/slow progress in the third doom all action, even the successful, in Iraq? Only if Democrats get real power.

Here's a taste:

There are currently at least three wars, along with several subconflicts, being fought on Iraqi soil. The first, tragically, is the battle for mastery between Sunni and Shiite. The second is the campaign to isolate and defeat al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. The third is the struggle of Iraq's Kurdish minority to defend and consolidate its regional government in the north.

Taking these in reverse order, we can point to Kurdistan as the most outstanding success of the past four years, with its economically flourishing provinces run along broadly secular lines...


On the second front, everything I hear by e-mail from soldiers in Anbar province and some well-attested other reports suggest...that the venomous rabble of foreign murderers and local psychopaths that goes to make up AQM has insanely overplayed its hand, lost all hope of local support, and is becoming even more vicious as its cadres are defeated...One must not declare victory too soon, but if the United States has in fact succeeded in not only smashing but discrediting al-Qaida in a major Arab and Muslim country, that must count as a historic achievement.

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This Day in the History of the Race not Going to the Swift

On this day in 1565, the oldest city in America, St. Augustine, FL, was founded by the Spanish, beating the Jamestown settlement by 42 years. The fort built later to protect the town from sea bombardment is still there.

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Thought of the Day

Video meliora proboque; deteriora sequor.

Ovid

I see and praise better things; I do worse ones.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

 

Soft Jazz/Soul Funk Review


Went with old friends to David Sanborn opening for Tower of Power at the Paramount downtown (I think I saw Bambi there about half a century ago when it was a movie theater). The funny thing is that the tickets just said David Sanborn. I guess he was having trouble following ToP's high energy (or generating many ticket sales alone). I have to admit that I never got to critical mass with jazz--oh, I own a few records (even some by Sanborn), but I'm not a fan and I don't seek it out. None the less, I liked David Sanborn a lot. His band was OK to good; I didn't like the guitarist's style although he was competent. He's good to excellent on the alto sax, smooth as silk sprayed with teflon, and I was nodding in time to nearly all his songs. He even had a couple of the Tower of Power guys help him on the next to last piece. Lot of energy from that move.

The sax, I think, is nearly a human voice replacement, although of course it can't make words (so no intellectual content) but it does have mood and emotional content and just sounds good to my ears. That being said, there is no reason for Sanborn to name his songs. He should just start playing, because few of us pseudo fans could have identified more than one he played, if that. Failing that, he should just do song 1, song 2, etc. On the other hand, he was pretty funny introducing the songs; my favorite was he was about to play a song he wrote for an ex-girlfriend and he felt ready to "because the statute of limitations on bitterness has run." Very clever that, and true, in my experience. Now on to the unmentioned headliners.


I own their first two albums and last saw Tower of Power, a ten man soul/funk band from Oakland, CA in San Francisco in 1973. I liked them a lot. So it's 34 years later and at least a few in the band are the originals--do they still have the stuff? Sadly, I have to answer 'no'. Time, and music, have moved on and left them in the irrelevant eddies. This is the roughest thing I'll write about them--they didn't make me want to dance. I could barely get into the head nodding groove. The leader, and original, Emilio Castillo (pictured above), was angry at the people like me for not standing and demanded we stand up. He called us lazy. No, just not that into you. Don't get mad at us for your failure. And don't call us names because the bloom is off your rose.

Still, I would recommend them to first timers for the great show they can still put on and for old timers, like me, at least for the staying power they have shown. It is my memory that at least one of the first two lead singers they had were forced to leave the band to go to prison for murder. The new lead singer is pretty good (he's pictured above too)--but not the gruff baritone the first one was or even the suaver stylings of the second. He actually soars in his vocals. Petty amazing. Nearly everything they do is on the James Brown one. That will mean something to soul music fans. Long explanation needed otherwise. Some other time.

After forty years, these guys know what they're doing. They do a lot to make it fun and pleasurable and for the life of me I can't tell you what was missing. They sang late in the set--I'm back, ba-ack, back on the street again... No, not really--off the streets and back in the concert hall again. Not quite the same. Knock yourself out.

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This Day in the History of Serious Self-Delusion

On this day in 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed by 15 nations, outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes. All it really did was weaken the 'good' nations and allow the bad ones, Germany and Japan, to prepare for war, which they nearly won because of their head-start in armament (and because they were good at fighting). This is an important lesson for the silly, Utopian and pacifist lefties out there. A piece of paper prevents war not at all; a well prepared army and navy does.

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Thought of the Day

Edepol nunc nos tempus est malas peioris fieri.

Plautus

Now is the time for bad girls to become even worse.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

 

Lack of Vision at the L.A. Times

Although the author, Andrew J. Bacevich, is a Vietnam Vet and a history professor at Boston University, he's wrong, wrong, wrong about what he calls Vietnam's Real Lessons in today's L.A. Times--they're more like false lessons for the real dumb. Let's just take a few examples with my comments following in red:

The president views the abandonment of our Southeast Asian allies as a disgrace, deploring the fate suffered by the "boat people" and the victims of the Khmer Rouge.

So views any person with a heart and the brain cells to remember what happened 1973-1979. Does Bacevich see it differently? Here's the straight dope on Vietnam history vis a vis Iraq from Max Boot in today's Wall Street Journal Online.

In unconventional wars, body counts don't really count. In the Vietnam War, superior American firepower enabled U.S. forces to prevail in most tactical engagements. We killed plenty of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. But killing didn't produce victory -- the exertions of U.S. troops all too frequently proved to be counterproductive.

Killing the enemy always matters. Even though the war evolved in major ways, we won the Viet Nam War by killing the enemy at enormous rates and winning every major tactical engagement. We destroyed the Viet Cong in 1968 and the rest of the war was waged by North Viet Nam Regulars (the NVA) whom we slaughtered as well. When the last American ground troops left in Spring, 1973, we really had achieved a peace with honor; and, as long as we provided air cover and war material, South Viet Nam was safe from Northern aggression. Then the overwhelmingly Democratic congress, elected in the wake of the Watergate scandal, pulled the plug on air cover and war material and the South went down in an NVA blitzkrieg in 1975. That was the disgraceful abandonment.

Wars like Vietnam and Iraq aren't won militarily; at best, they are settled politically.

Is this guy serious? All wars are either won or lost militarily. It is only when a military power cannot or, more likely, will not prevail, then there has to be a political settlement, which more often than not leads to renewed conflict after a rest and rearmament period. That's why there are so many 'second' wars--failure to win an overwhelming military victory and settling for the political 'solution'.

In the Republic of Vietnam, created by the United States after the partition of French Indochina, such institutions did not exist. Despite an enormous U.S. investment in nation-building, they never did. In the end, South Vietnam proved to be a fiction.

I refute this nonsense with two words--South Korea. The only difference between South Korea and South Viet Nam is that we didn't disgracefully abandon South Korea. Oh, and the suffering of the South Vietnamese, that's a difference. They were more like the North Koreans in their level of suffering after 1975.

From Dwight D. Eisenhower through Richard M. Nixon, a parade of presidents convinced themselves that defending South Vietnam qualified as a vital U.S. interest. For the free world, a communist takeover of that country would imply an unacceptable defeat.

Notice that he names the two Republican Presidents who had little to do with committing massive numbers of American troops to Viet Nam and leaves out the two Democrats who did. Sometimes, to stop the spread of an evil ideology, you have to draw a line--here and no further. Defeating Communism, which is indeed an evil ideology, was of vital U.S. interest and good for the free world. Part of our decades long fight to end Communism was trying to prevent the Communist takeover of South Viet Nam. Would someone tell Professor Bacevich that we won the Cold War by actively opposing Communism and drawing lines (even though the battle of South Korea was a draw and the battle of Viet Nam a legislated loss)? I'm not sure he knows it.

Yet when South Vietnam did fall, the strategic effect proved to be limited. The falling dominoes never did pose a threat to our shores for one simple reason: The communists of North Vietnam were less interested in promoting world revolution than in unifying their country under socialist rule.

No responsible person said we were fighting in Viet Nam to prevent Communism from coming to America. We were fighting in South Viet Nam to prevent Communism from coming to South Viet Nam.

We deluded ourselves into thinking that we were defending freedom against totalitarianism.

Is this guy insane? We were fighting in South Viet Nam to prevent Communism from coming to South Viet Nam, a corrupt, inept but non-totalitarian government. That is precisely defending freedom against totalitarianism. He's the one deluded.

And here's his big humanitarian finish: Once the Americans departed, the Vietnamese began getting their act together. Although not a utopia, Vietnam has become a stable and increasingly prosperous nation. It is a responsible member of the international community. In Hanoi, the communists remain in power.

I have to admit I have no idea what he means by 'getting their act together'. Certainly just after our ground forces left the North began planning an offensive to take South Viet Nam. Is that what he means? Getting their conquering act together? After they conquered South Viet Nam, they murdered thousands of Vietnamese, placed hundreds of thousands of others in what we call concentration camps (they called them re-education camps), drove hundreds of thousands to desperate flight (which killed unknown hundreds of thousands), and they lowered the standard of living for all Vietnamese so that they are a real poor and inconsequential member of the international community, and will remain so as long as the Maoist Communist remain in power. I don't call that getting your act together unless your act is the spreading of misery and death; then I guess it is. Not a utopia, he admits--man, his compassion for the suffering of the Vietnamese must be limitless.

Here are some of the books this guy has published: The Long War: A New History of US National Security Policy since World War II (2007); American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy (2002); The Imperial Tense: Problems and Prospects of American Empire (2003), and The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005). Imperial, Empire, seduced by war. Kind of a one note samba, no?

He seems like a nice enough guy but you really have to be a professor to be this dumb.

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This Day in the History of Historical Distractions


On this day in 1940, at the height of the air war over England, the British Royal Air Force dropped its first bombs on Berlin. Some historians speculate that this act caused Hitler to switch from the effective bombing of the British fighter airfields to the ineffective bombing of London, et al., turning the tide of the Battle of Britain, but I've never read anything from the Krauts which backs this up. It makes sense that Hitler would go tit for tat, but it is just as likely that he mistakenly believed his bombing of the airfields was ineffective (they were just big grass fields with a few wooden buildings here and there after all). He was wrong about a lot of things.

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Thought of the Day

Nec mortem effugere quisquam nec amorem potest.

Syrus

No one is able to escape from either death or love.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

 

Soft Rock Review

Went with the double ex fiance to the Crowded House concert at the Filmore yesterday and had a really great time. I've always been a Finn Brothers fan and Crowded House at one time had both and now has just Neil Finn, the younger brother, the band's founder. They were great. Let me elucidate.

The Parthenon in Athens has little details which make it look better. The columns, for example, are slightly fatter in the middle to nullify the optical effect which makes perfectly straight columns next to each other look thinner in the middle. The base of the building bows up a little in the middle along two axes for similar reasons; and there are other architectural tricks as well.

Crowded House does a lot of little things right and has learned the tricks which makes its satisfying, but less than exciting, music sound fuller and richer. Neil Finn sings well, even without the close harmony his brother, Tim, can provide and you could hear every word, some of which are beautiful. They layer the sound well, if that's the proper description, and have at times just the right amount of echo to fill out the sound. Their instrument playing, as far as I can tell, was no better or worse than the average band, it was the words and lyrics and the musical architectural details described, poorly, above which make all the difference.

The opening act was Fountains of Wayne, of whom I have heard but never heard consciously. I thought they were pretty good, but a real fan said he thought they just mailed it in. Even if they just mailed it in, it was pretty good mail for an opening act.

Crowded House didn't play my favorite song, It's Only Natural, from Woodface but they played all the famous ones, except for Chocolate Cake (because Tammy Faye Baker, mentioned therein, died recently, I suspect). They also let the crowd sing along a lot to the famous ones and we sounded OK, I thought. They did a couple of encores including an impromptu Happy Together by the Turtles, with most of the lyrics intact. It was, I thought, an appropriate song for how I was feeling.

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This Day in the History of Religious Intolerance


On this day in 1572, the St. Bartholomew Massacre, which had started on St. Bartholomew's Day on August 23, ended in the deaths of as many as 50,000 Huguenots (French Protestants) by Catholics in Paris and surrounding provinces. Urged on by the queen mother Catherine de' Medici, Catholics disemboweled the young king's adviser Gaspard, Admiral de Coligny, and threw him from his window still alive. Pope Gregory XIII and all the Catholic powers congratulated Catherine, and the Pope commanded that bonfires be lit to celebrate the massacre, which he called "better than 50 Battles of Lepanto."

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Thought of the Day

Peccare pauci nolunt; nulli nesciunt.

Syrus

A few don't want to sin; none don't know how.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Real Social Progress

On this day in 1833, Great Britain abolished slavery in all its territory and colonies with the Abolition of Slavery Act, and nearly 700,000 slaves were freed. This was the death knell for slavery throughout the world, an institution that had existed from time immemorial--it was gone (at least on paper) by 1865. This Act of Parliament followed on the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act which merely fined ship captains for carrying slaves, but freed no slaves.

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Thought of the Day

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.

Peter Drucker

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

 

The Popular and the Puny

Saw lately with my daughters two movies, the very popular and slightly satisfying Superbad and the little seen and not funny for more than a few seconds, The Ten. The last was seen on the eldest's recommendation because she likes Paul Rudd and Wet Hot American Summer.



Man, I thought, comedy must be hard.


The ten little stories in The Ten sometimes illustrate one of the ten commandments, other times they don't. All of them have one thing in common, they may have seemed funnier to someone (perhaps impaired in his or her perception) before filming began. They are also of the making you laugh at the 'surreal discomfort of others' school of comedy. From this modest beginning, the filmmaker totally fell down. Part of the problem was in the choice of actors. Liev Schreiber, for example, may or may not be a good actor (I have liked him in some roles in the past) but he has the comic actor ability of a claw hammer. No one in this film actually showed any ability to act comically. Whatever comedy there was existed entirely in the situations shown and they were all about as funny as a crutch. Let's move on.

Superbad has a few more moments of comedy but it's not high comedy and it's not what is interesting about the movie. Do teens really curse non-stop or is it just the director's version of modern reality? I do know real boys think about sex about as much as these boys. Heck, I think about it almost as much as they do, I just have a job that takes up some of my time.

English majors such as myself are trained in irony detection, which I'm not sure is a great skill. I detected some in Superbad, which was interesting and pleasurable. The fat gross kid is all excited that the pretty Jules wants him to buy booze because it's his idea that only impaired by alcohol would she have anything to do with him, physically (I would think the same under most circumstances regarding him). So he goes to all this trouble to get the booze only to discover that Jules isn't drinking any. Yet it's his reaction to that disappointment which gives him a chance with her (and that he was somehow impressive making bad looking tiramisu and was a life of the party type guy). As eldest daughter noted, funny or life of the party ugly guys get laid about as often as unfunny, dull Adonises. I hope that's not 602 knowledge.

Regarding the wimp going to Dartmouth, not McLovin, the irony is that his clueless refusal to get the hint with Becca, and then take what she is drunkenly offering, makes him all the more attractive to her. He wins her by rejecting her. I was reminded of the devil on one shoulder, angel on the other scene in Animal House and had the same ending reaction when the boy didn't have sex with the drunk girl, namely, questioning his sexuality. But on a better level, he and she have earned a better relationship by waiting until sober moments to declare their true feelings (for the boys this is clear from their willingness to go shopping with the girls--nothing could show the range and tenor of their affection more clearly).

The bad cops were over the top but underneath the unbelievable veneer, the most interesting characters in the thing. Superbad (the title is totally ironic as well) is not the fun of rite of passage good movies like American Graffiti or Dazed and Confused or even Gregory's Girl, but it's not a complete waste of time either.

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Wondering About the Passion Vick's Crimes Cause


I've had a pet dog nearly my entire life, or actually a series of them, including now two great mutts from the local rescue pound. Whenever I see dogs fighting, I try to separate them. I realize, however, that dogs are just property and not pseudo humans who are part of the family. There were a lot of people calling into Laura Ingraham's show this week, who may not know that. If Michael Vick serves more time than Mary Winkler, the woman who shot her husband in the back with a shotgun as he lay on the bed, I'm going to lose the last vestiges of respect I have for American Justice.

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This Day in the History of British Explorers

On this day in 1770, Captain James Cook landed on Australia and claimed it for the British crown. It's still largely in British descended hands. The aborigines didn't have much say in what happened after that. They kind of deserved what happened to them, in my mind, for killing off the amazing mega-fauna on the continent over the 40,000 years since their arrival, destroying the Dream Time. Karma is a black hearted bitch sometimes.

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Thought of the Day

Greatness is more than potential. It is the execution of that potential. Beyond the raw talent. You need the appropriate training. You need the discipline. You need the inspiration. You need the drive.

Eric A. Burns

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Evil Ends

On this day in 1991, the last gasp, hard-line Soviet coup against Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev collapsed in the face of a popular uprising led by Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin. This was the coup where all the conspirators kept calling in sick. Thus ended the second to worst lefty totalitarian regime in modern history.

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Thought of the Day

Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.

David Lloyd George

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Monday, August 20, 2007

 

Joan Armatrading - Love And Affection (live at Later... )

Voices are like red wine--some fade quickly and others last and age and gain. Armatrading is in the later group.


 

Must Read Steyn

Mark Steyn, naturalized Canadian writing talent, has a very gloomy picture of the future of this country vis a vis illegal immigration. Read it all if you're too happy right now.

Here's a taste regarding the bigger picture of the recent executions in Newark:

One could, I suppose, regard this as one of those unforeseen incremental consequences that happens in the darkest shadows of society. But that doesn't extend to Newark's official status as an illegal-immigrant "sanctuary city." Like Los Angeles, New York and untold others, Newark has formally erased the distinction between U.S. citizens and the armies of the undocumented. This is the active collusion by multiple cities and states in the subversion of U.S. sovereignty. In Newark, N.J., it means an illegal-immigrant child rapist is free to murder on a Saturday night. In Somerville, Mass., it means two deaf girls are raped by MS-13 members. And in Falls Church, Va., it means Saudi Wahhabists figuring out that, if the "sanctuary nation" (in Michelle Malkin's phrases) offers such rich pickings to imported killers and imported gangs, why not to jihadists?

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Not Just the Loony Left Complain About Padilla's Conviction

The New York Times ran a strangely conflicted, unsigned op-ed a few days ago entitled The Padilla Conviction. Although the NYT has long been in the 'Just Like Criminals' camp regarding how to fight back against the Muslim extremists waging war against us, the Times is reluctant to acknowledge getting, for Padilla, just what it claims to want--criminal convictions in federal court of illegal combatants. Witness the lead paragraph:

It is hard to disagree with the jury’s guilty verdict against Jose Padilla, the accused, but never formally charged, dirty bomber. But it would be a mistake to see it as a vindication for the Bush administration’s serial abuse of the American legal system in the name of fighting terrorism. (Emphasis added).

The abuse, by the way, is that the Administration did not use the federal criminal justice system from the beginning (as if the Judiciary has any roll in fighting a war). Witness: Bush trampled on the Constitution...Even with the guilty verdict, this conviction remains a shining example of how not to prosecute terrorism cases. That's closer to reality, we shouldn't prosecute terrorism cases. The President tried and failed to fight this war in the most effective way possible. For the NYT editors, effective doesn't enter into it.

They really just don't get it. [Padilla] was denied access to a lawyer even when he was being questioned. Imagine, if you will, having to provide a lawyer to each German or Japanese prisoner of war before interrogation can begin. And those guys were obeying the rules of war (at least as far as wearing uniforms was concerned). More rights for those who flaunt the rules of war seems a curious way to handle things. Indeed, it is the opposite of how it should be.

The administration is already claiming victory, but the result in Mr. Padilla’s case is in many ways a mess. He will likely never be brought to trial on the dirty-bomb plot, a much publicized charge that cries out for resolution. (In another move worthy of Alice in Wonderland, the government is holding another prisoner in Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed, because he was accused of conspiring with Mr. Padilla in the dirty-bomb plot for which Mr. Padilla was never charged.) There is also the danger that Mr. Padilla’s conviction will be reversed on appeal because of his alleged mistreatment before trial. (Emphasis added).

The Alice in Wonderland reference reveals that the NYT thinks it strange that a non-citizen Jihadist is being held without 'charges' in a prisoner of war camp. Holding captured combatants for the duration of the hostilities is the opposite of strange. And that Padilla wasn't charged with the dirty bomb plot doesn't mean the dirty bomb plot didn't exist. The administration obviously doesn't want to burn the source that got Padilla arrested as he got off the plane, and then there's the Miranda problem with his apparent confession to the bomb plot. The NYT doesn't appear to see that and, in the end, it is this op-ed which is through the looking glass.

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This Day in the History of Evil Ends

On this day in 1940, exiled Russian Communist Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico City, with a mountain climber's ice pick to the top of the head. Stalin had exiled this former member of the Inner Circle in 1929, but then had him killed (as if Trotsky was planning to return to the Soviet Union and lead a counter-revolution).

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Thought of the Day

It has been my experience that one cannot, in any shape or form, depend on human relations for lasting reward. It is only work that truly satisfies.

Bette Davis

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

 

Thoughts on the Democratic Non-Church-Going Debate

OMG, Mike Gravel is clinically insane.

Bill Richardson is pig ignorant of military history. He thinks we are causing the problem by fighting those who want to kill us (but are content to kill fellow Muslims merely to effect our decisions). He's got it 100% wrong. You solve the problem of murderous Muslim Extremists by killing Muslim extremists; just as we won WWII by killing Imperial Japanese and Nazi German troops as fast as we were able. We didn't create new enemies by doing this, we made fewer of them. It is clear no Democrat wants to do the right, but hard, thing and actually fight to make our enemies too weak or just afraid to attack us. If the Democrats get the White House and keep their majorities in Congress, the war being waged against us will be lengthened by decades. That's the choice we Americans face-- a tough war made somewhat shorter by our putting our all into it or a long ever more bloody affair, probably stretching into the next century, caused by refusing to fight and withdrawing into so called fortress America (with open borders). Yeah, that'll work.

How the heck did a funny little man like Kucinich get the young trophy wife he has?

Edwards mentioned his dead son, for about the 1000th time. But Coulter is the evil one for noticing it. Just so I'm clear on that.

What is this question about prayer? This is political misdirection.

Dodd seems to think the internet will save the family farm. He can't possibly say how.

Sorry, I'm going to switch to people who actually know what they are talking about or at least aren't on extreme pander mode.

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This Day in the Slow Death of Painting as Art



On this day in 1839, Louis Daguerre announced the invention of the daguerreotype photographic process, the first process to allow an image to be chemically fixed as a permanent picture. Below on the right is the first proto-photograph with people in it--of Paris in 1839.

(h/t) Today in Science History


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Thought of the Day

Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.

Charlotte Bronte

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Early Withdrawals

On this day in 1924, because of progress in the London Great War Reparations talks, the military leaders of France and Belgium began the evacuation of troops from Offenburg and Appenweier in the Ruhr, Germany. Bit too soon on that we can now see.

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Thought of the Day

Mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step; for lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair.

C. S. Lewis

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FLCL, Colin Hay-Overkill

Most music videos cobbled together from Japanese anime are crap, but this one seems to work OK. That Fooley Cooley is beautiful helps a bit as well as that this is a good song.


Friday, August 17, 2007

 

Foreseeing the Bloody Obvious

I predicted that the far left would not be happy that Jose Padilla got his day in court. Not the thinnest of branches out on which I have gone. Behold the traitorous left. Samples:

I'm having a hard time understanding why much of the evidence
againstnPadilla wasn't thrown out as obtained by unconstitutional
means. This case is going to be tied up in appeals for a very long time, and hopefully some of those crazy Federalist Society nut cases on the Supreme Court will be replaced by judicial moderates of liberals in the mean time. I hate to hope for ill health for anyone, but sometimes I think a sudden coronary thrombosis is just what this country needs.

Fear is being used to poison the minds of the jurors, and fear almost always wins out over reason when presented by authority figures in a courtroom.
This trial is not be conducted based upon evidence; we have become a nation gripped by terror.
Bin-Laden wins. We lose.

He was in "fact" found guilty of... being a non-white American citizen.
Everyone knows "they" have no rights.

Horrible miscarriage of justice This is terrible. Should we be surprised that this verdict came out of Miami?
Sadly, no

ad infinitem


Ace of Spades puts it well: Is it too much to ask that those who pose as favoring law enforcement over military measures in fighting terrorism take the next step and actually, you know, support law enforcement measures and hope for good outcomes?

With the loopy left, yes, it is too much to ask.

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The Winning Boy's Mojo

Even well spoken, accomplished editors of major papers don't seem to know what it's going to take to win the war Muslim extremists are waging against us. Witness these two editorials today: Jose Padilla's Due Process in the Washington Post and Putting Away Padilla in the New York Daily News. They had this in common.

WaPo: Does the orderly disposition of Mr. Padilla's court case prove that every terrorism prosecution can and should be channeled through U.S. courts? No, although civil libertarians will make that case, there will be genuine enemy combatants who may not belong in civilian courts. But every person held by the government -- U.S. citizen or not -- must have due process to challenge that detention. The presumption must be that U.S. citizens can rely on the federal courts to oversee their prosecutions. And Mr. Padilla's abhorrent disappearance into limbo should come to be remembered as an aberration never to be repeated. (Emphasis added).

NYDN: Given that Padilla is an American citizen, the government was overzealous in denying him for several years the trial to which he was constitutionally entitled. Ultimately, it is good that he had his day in court. He is, it bears saying again, an American citizen. Which assorted other detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere are not. Enemy combatants they are, status-wise. Enemy combatants let them remain. (Emphasis added).

When the al Qaeda terror network sends someone into America to do us harm, the best thing that can happen from our point of view, and the worst thing that can happen from their point of view, is that the operative just disappears (because we secretly captured him). Al Qaeda then has no clue what went wrong. That is a good thing, because we don't want them to have any information with which to learn from their mistakes. For all they know the operative has flipped and is giving our Predator operators the global coordinates of some al Qaeda asset and they have to take steps to abandon or move everything the operative knew about. We help them out to acknowledge his capture. This is just not debatable. Ask anyone who knows what he or she is doing regarding proper anti-terrorism activity.

So if al Qaeda sends another American citizen in to kill us, and there is no reason to think they won't and often, in fact, I hope we have the brass to put him into a solitary cell and mention not a thing about his capture for years and years if not forever. The al Qaeda terrorist is not a criminal--he's a spy and saboteur and should be put before a military tribunal and then executed if convicted (except we don't do that for reasons unknown to me). Grown ups know we are not going to gain a thing by being kinder than we need to be to our enemies. His citizenship, we know from Ex Parte Quirin, doesn't get him into the federal court system if he's a spy and/or saboteur. Sorry to be so harsh, but putting captured spies and saboteurs into secret solitary confinement is what it's going to take to win this thing. Sooner or later, we'll realize this is the way we have to go, and the end of the war will be sooner if we start doing it now.

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This Day in the History of Evil


On this day in 1987, Rudolf Hess, the one time Deputy Führer in the Nazi Party, who had been held as the single prisoner in Spandau Prison near Berlin for nearly four decades, killed himself at age 93 by self strangulation with an electric cord. What, he just couldn't stand one more day in prison? Hess was always a weird one and the strangest thing he did was fly to Scotland on May 10, 1941 in a Messerschmitt Bf 110 (from which he parachuted) in an effort, he said, to negotiate a peace between Britain and the Third Reich. Most people who had contact with him just thought he was insane. Probably.

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Thought of the Day

There is no law of progress. Our future is in our own hands, to make or to mar. It will be an uphill fight to the end, and would we have it otherwise? Let no one suppose that evolution will ever exempt us from struggles. 'You forget,' said the Devil, with a chuckle, 'that I have been evolving too.'

William Ralph Inge

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

 

Paul Campos Scolds Us for Thinking the 9/11 Attacks Were Important

Paul Campos, the least impressive University of Colorado professors since Ward Churchill, had an exceptionally silly column this past Tuesday. I was going to let it pass, because, as a good lefty friend points out, criticizing Campos is like shooting fish in a barrel, and it just wasn't worth the virtual ammunition. But then Campos today appeared on a local radio show with my old boss and fellow ex-DA Craig Silverman et al. and was even stupider than normal, so here goes.

His thesis is that the co-ordinated al Qaeda attack on New York and Washington on 9/11/01 " is becoming the most overblown and shamelessly exploited event in American history."

Here is his support for this: 1) Only a few people died and most Americans don't know anyone who died; 2) There hasn't been another attack and all the ones that have been foiled have been just north of Keystone Cop like fantasies; 3) Even if al Qaeda still exists, it is feeble and unable to mount any sort of attack which could really cripple us; and, 4) The Soviets with thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at us for four decades were a real threat, the Islamic extremists are nothing compared to that.

He also believes what have become lefty talking points without any real basis in reality, namely that using the 9/11 attack as an excuse, we have: 1) Attacked Iraq illegally; 2) Shredded the Bill of Rights and "indiscriminately" spied on lots of Americans (Campos uses the word "wholesale"); 3) Held people for years without charges and tortured them; and, 4) Shipped foreign illegal combatants back to their homes for local authorities to deal with (lefties call this extrajudicial rendition--it just sounds more ominous).

OK. More people died on 9/11 than on December 7, and we shamelessly exploited that overblown attack to invade various countries with Germans and Japanese in them, obliterate whole cities in Japan and Germany (whose forces did not attack us) and, with the Russians and our other allies, overthrow the sovereign governments of those nations. which we occupied for years afterwards. Paul, a good government reacts to attacks on its citizens and territories with sufficient force to stop future attacks and destroy the attackers. Doing less merely invites other attacks (witness the Clinton method of response).

Our efforts have paid off with prevention, so far, of further attacks. As Mark Steyn says, the Jihadists in planning stage always look silly, until the bombs go off or the planes crash. Imagine had 9/11 been foiled, the laugh we would have had at the expense of those silly Saudis who thought they, armed only with box cutters, could bring down mighty buildings. What fools.

But Professor, we don't want any attacks on our country and we don't want nuclear attacks a lot. I know the Soviets had a whole bunch of nukes and I am very glad that we successfully negotiated that tense and terrible period of history, but that the Soviets were worse means nothing to the threat here and now. It may be a lesser threat, but it is easier to implement as certain death to the perpetrators doesn't seem to deter the desire to kill us, as it seemed to do with the much deadlier Soviets.

As to your lefty talking points:

The war in Iraq started with Saddam attacking Kuwait and never ended. Our restart when Saddam failed to keep hardly one of the cease fire agreements was sanctioned by the United Nations. Illegal or immoral how?

The Bill of Rights still exists. Let's just examine the 4th. No warrant is required for an otherwise reasonable search and seizure. It is not only reasonable, it is necessary that we attempt to intercept signal intelligence from our enemies and no FISA warrant is required to listen to the communications of foreigners in foreign lands. I assume you don't teach Con Law. Am I right? [I am--Property and Litigation].

Holding captured combatants never requires charges because it's not punishment for crimes, it's preventing the captured from returning to the battlefield and killing our guys. Therefore, the combatants are kept as long as the struggle lasts. This is such basic common legal sense, I think you are near idiotic to think 'charges' are in any way required to hold the captured until the end of hostilities. Andrew Sullivan et al. has done us a great disservice to define torture down to near meaningless. Nothing I've read about, and I've read a lot, by our guys has qualified as real torture. We don't torture as a matter of policy. Cite some examples, if you have any.

Rendition is immoral? In what universe? We return an illegal combatant to his country of origin for them to take care of. What's the problem? According to you, we can't keep them and we can't send em back. What should we do? Can we send them to your house?

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Jihad as Crime

Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al-Muhajir, and his two co-defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, were all convicted on all counts in federal court in Miami of supporting terrorists activities and conspiring to be terrorists, and will be sentenced on December 5, 2007.

So we treated Padilla's form of waging war against us as if it were a crime like bank robbery or wire fraud. Let's see if the lefties decrying his treatment as an illegal enemy combatant are happy now. I'm betting not.

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Identification of Unfired Cartridges

The AFP 'reports' that these unfired bullets are the ones that 'hit' this Iraqi woman's house after a raid by American troops. What, are we throwing them?
Michelle Malkin has a comprehensive blog with links to many who have covered this story. One thing a commenting reader brings up is whether these cartridges are even American 5.45 mm (.223 Winchester) rounds? The military puts colors on the tips of the bullets to designate use, such as black for armor piercing, red for tracer, etc. These obviously have no colored tips--probably not American military cartridges. The reader said he recognized them as Soviet 7.62 x 39 mm (the round that fits the AK family of assault rifles). I'm not that good to say yea or nay.
However, the naivety of the reporters and then cowardice of the editors is breathtaking.

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Why We No Longer Trust the Anonymous Source

Historian and classicist Victor David Hanson has a good rundown of the false stories that have been published in the various media from anonymous sources. They include, most recently, the 'Scott Thomas' Baghdad Diaries (and more importantly the 5 anonymous soldiers who, the TNR editors claim, back the stories--we need some cross examination of them and we need to know who they are to do it). Blasts from the media's infamous past include Michael Scheuer's Imperial Hubris; Michael Isakoff's Koran in the toilet lie, and Dan Rather's personal computer printed memos from before PCs existed.

Hanson has particularly good analysis of the history of these recent false stories. Behold:

If an "I accuse" author like Scott Thomas Beauchamp or Michael Scheuer avoids using his own name, or reporters like Dan Rather or Michael Isikoff won't name a source for a potentially history-changing story, there is often a good suspicion why: They apparently don't look forward to questions about why -- and how exactly -- they wrote what they wrote.
Instead, anonymity gives them free rein as judge and jury, exempt from cross-examination. This "trust me" practice goes against the very grain of the American tradition of allowing the aggrieved the right to face his accusers.


The likelihood of being duped by a source goes way down if the source is named, I believe, and objectively that seems a reasonable belief.

Hanson also notes that the pushers of false scoops don't do so well:

Sometimes the result of this increasing abuse is more lasting damage to the authors than any temporary discomfort of fending off cross-examination. Beauchamp is now a disgraced storyteller. The New Republic has lost whatever credibility it had regained after its embarrassment several years ago of printing false stories by Stephen Glass, the lying reporter who likewise used anonymous sources.
Scheuer sounds goofier each time he gives an interview -- and the credibility of his once anonymously written "Imperial Hubris" shakier and shakier. Isikoff has never quite recovered his journalistic reputation. We all know what happened to Dan Rather.


Michelle Malkin has a similar tale regarding another anonymous source for Ellen Goodman's 'good' writing here, as well as a tasty take on the Beauchamp TNR fables with good links.

From Mack the Knife

Und die einen sind im Dunkeln
Und die anderen sind im Licht
Doch man sieht nur die im Lichte
Die im Dunkeln sieht man nicht

And some are in darkness
And the others are in light
But you only see those in light
Those in darkness you don't see

If the source wants to stay in darkness, we don't believe the source. It's as simple as that.

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This Day in the History of Daredevils for Science

On this day in 1960, Captain Joseph W. Kittinger made the longest delayed parachute jump on record when he bailed out of a balloon at 102,800 feet and dropped 84,700 feet (31,330 m) or 16.04 miles before opening his parachute over New Mexico.

(h/t Today in Science History)

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Thought of the Day

It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge.



Enrico Fermi

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

 

This Day in the Long, Long History of CIA Failures

On this day in 1961, East Germany began building the Berlin Wall. Our vaunted intelligence service had not a clue.

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Thought of the Day

Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.

Simone Weil

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A Prescription for Regaining a Reputation

Welshman Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards Blog has a good set of steps for The New Republic to undertake to clear its very tarnished reputation in light of what now appears to be another writer of fiction (like Stephen Glass) masquerading as a journalist, namely, the Baghdad Diarist, Scott Beauchamp. It boils down to this--fire everyone in charge and then independently investigate all aspects of the stories including what was done at TNR to nurture Pvt. Beauchamp, and then tell us about everything they find.

Right now the decibels of the crickets chirping is about 90 and growing louder and more ominous with each passing day. When editor Franklin Foer took over for fast talking, slow thinking Peter Beinart in February of this year, the New York Times reported that Foer was taking over the helm of a magazine which had lost nearly 40% of its already low circulation in four years. It doesn't appear they have a lot of cushion left to be losing 40% more, but they will if they continue to let this matter fester.

Having said all that, this really is nothing. Even if everything Beauchamp wrote was true, all he accused himself and fellow soldiers of doing was being rude and insensitive and killing dogs. Wow. War is indeed Hell. It's the cover-up that is doing the lyin's share of the damage.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

 

NASA Temperature Revisions Explained

Many of us know now that NASA had a computer glitch which mistakenly had most of the hottest years in history very recently. Now it's corrected. Here's what the correct record shows:
The 15 hottest years since 1880 are spread over seven decades. Eight occurred before atmospheric carbon dioxide began its recent rise; seven occurred afterwards.
In other words, there is no discernible trend, no obvious warming of late.


Nor is it proof that increasing CO2 causes increasing temperature. (It well could have been a lot hotter in the 1120s and it probably was). So the next time someone says, as Al Gore did in An Inconvenient Truth, that nine of the ten hottest years on record have occurred in the last decade, you know that they are repeating a convenient (to them) lie.

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This Day in the History of Fortuitous Weather

On this day in 1281, the invading Mongol fleet is pretty much destroyed by a typhoon the Japanese called Kamikaze, the Divine Wind. With over 250 ships carrying nearly 150,000 men, there is little doubt that the Mongols would have been successful, because Japan, as was usual during most of its history, was just coming out of a disastrous civil war.

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Thought of the Day

The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.

William Hazlitt

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Monday, August 13, 2007

 

Short TV Post


Just watched new Showtime comedy Californication with David Duchovney and beautiful Natascha McElhone. I don't know--I'm pretty sure I saw it before in the 70s. I think it had a different name though.

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This Day in the History of Liberations of the Oppressed

On this day in 1521, Hernando Cortez took the Aztec capitol, Tenochtitlan, after a three month seige and ended what may have been the most evil empire ever to exist--an empire devoted to organized cannibalism. School children have been taught for decades that the Spanish were the bad guys who murdered and then exploited the innocent and peace loving Indians. The truth is nearly exactly opposite that.

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Thought of the Day

When we got into office, the thing that surprised me the most was that things were as bad as we'd been saying they were.

John F. Kennedy

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

 

Friday Movie Review (quite early)

Went with my daughters to Stardust and had a good time. Especially good was Robert De Niro. It's very predictable but it's a fun amusement park ride just the same. You could do a lot worse.

The director, 36 year old Matthew Vaughan, also directed the good Layer Cake, and produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. So he's climbed the heights (or plumbed the depths) of English organized crime. This is fantasy--not usually my favorite.

Here's my problem--the son Tristan (played by newcomer Charlie Cox) is looked on by most of his village (including the comely Sienna Miller) as a shop keeper's boy. He and the star, (played by Claire Danes) think of him as a boy who happens to work in a shop (he's actually a bastard prince destined for better things). He and the star are right. But is it a deserved belief? One of the best tests of sanity is the congruence of how you view yourself with how others view you. Good mental health is a close congruence. We all know the kind who have a grandiose self image but who most people think suck, but there are plenty of people who others think are great, but who think of themselves as crap (like Curt Cobain). Why isn't Tristan just a guy who thinks too much of himself? You may think this is a trivial question but it is key, I think, to the emotional resonance of the movie, its very success. The transition is in the brief time he spends on the air pirates' ship. He learns a style he has heretofore not had; he learns to fence, he begins his own journey of self awareness about the object of his heart's desire. He has to work on these, with the help of his mentor. It's a fairly easy transition (just a week of effort) but at least he pays some dues and can enter the witches' lair with a hope of success of being the man his mother somehow knows he can become. (How do these people know this stuff? Oh, that's right it's fantasy).

It pained me to see the beautiful Susan (Sarah Alexander) on Coupling only in old hag make-up. Michelle Pfeiffer, just a few months from 50, is a wonder; when she sheds her old hag makeup and puts on hot woman makeup she looks, well, hot--very hot. Just a miracle. The whole movie is beautiful and the wonderful lake district, where I believe most of it was filmed, doesn't hurt. Another plus is the Greek chorus effect of the seven sons of Peter O'Toole. Excellent. And yes, as he 'promised' in Venus, he only has a death bed scene. The narration by Ian McKellan is pretty good too. It's just over two hours long but doesn't drag a bit.

One final quibble. Small magic, like turning a man into a goat, has a big aging effect on Michelle Pfeiffer's arms. Even a few small repairs to her face causes her bosom to collapse. However, the huge magic of making an Inn from her chariot costs her not a thing. So much for Newton's Third Law of Magical Transmutation.

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Short TV Post

You probably want a careful exegesis of tonight's season finale of the HBO series John From Cincinnati.

Sorry, I've got nothing.

UPDATE: Dean 'Chowdah head' Barnett over at Hugh Hewitt's blog was not impressed.

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Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are

The New Republic continues to release information in drips and dribbles about suspected Steven Glass memorial guest writer Scott Beauchamp. It doesn't appear they are doing themselves any good. Here's the latest from TNR re L'Affaire Beauchamp:

...we continue to investigate the anecdotes recounted in the Baghdad Diarist. Unfortunately, our efforts have been severely hampered by the U.S. Army. Although the Army says it has investigated Beauchamp's article and has found it to be false, it has refused our--and others'--requests to share any information or evidence from its investigation. What's more, the Army has rejected our requests to speak to Beauchamp himself, on the grounds that it wants "to protect his privacy."

At the same time the military has stonewalled our efforts to get to the truth, it has leaked damaging information about Beauchamp to conservative bloggers.

Here is how the Weekly Standard (by Michael Goldfarb who now owns this story) responds, with a note from Col. Steve Boylan :

We are not stonewalling anyone. There are official statements that are out there are on the record from several of us and nothing has changed.

We are not preventing him from speaking to TNR or anyone. He has full access to the Morale Welfare and Recreation phones that all the other members of the unit are free to use. It is my understanding that he has been informed of the requests to speak to various members of the media, both traditional and non-traditional and has declined. That is his right.


We will not nor can we force a Soldier to talk to the media or his family or anyone really for that matter in these types of issues.

As Mark Steyn writes, quoting Goldfarb: ...the army isn't stonewalling, Private Beauchamp is.

Steyn has more here.

So the Army won't produce what it has discovered because of statutory confidentiality and TNR won't let anyone else interview the 5 'corroborating' soldiers, to which it continues to cling to like a drowning man a straw, because it granted them anonymity, something a lot of truth tellers need and desire. Crickets madly chirp as the two gunfighters stare at each other under the scorching Arizona sky.

I predict the dam will burst by this time next week. The deluge will not touch Goldfarb and the other "people with ideological agendas" questioning this tempest in a teapot set of stories. I wonder if any real journalist will throw TNR editors a lifeline?

UPDATE: Krauthammer, as usual, had some good thoughts on the subject.

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This Day in the History of Large Animal Extinctions


On this day in 1883, the quagga, a zebra species, went extinct when the last mare died in an Amsterdam Zoo. The quagga had been numerous in South Africa but had been hunted to extinction by Boer and English farmers who did not appreciate the competition for grazing, et al. Recent efforts to resurrect the distinctive coloration by selective breeding have yielded some results.

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Thought of the Day

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.

Jack Handy

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

 

Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson - Red House (G3 1996)

Co-blogger Mark Dunn, no slouch on guitar himself, urged me to see Eric Johnson a while back and I thank him for the recommendation; Johnson is great. He's coming to Denver in September and my eldest daughter and I are going with two lucky people as yet unpicked. To further psych ourselves up, here is the first of a weekly youtube video treat; this one is Johnson with Satriani (Satch to his fans) and Vai doing justice to a good blues standard.


 

Shotgun Down The Avalanche - Shawn Colvin

From 1988, a skinnier Shawn Colvin doing my near favorite song. Same tuning fetish, same clear fine voice, same stupid hat choices.


 

This Sad Day in the History of Poor American Government

On this day in 1964, a Democrat dominated Congress approved the enabeling bill for President Johnson's "War on Poverty" (the Economic Opportunity Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 2701 et seq.). Since then, the federal government has spent nearly 7 trillion (with a 't') dollars on anti-poverty programs and the percentage of the life's lottery losers living in poverty has risen (although the rest of the World's poor would kill to live in a state of American poverty). Any government program that has the word 'war' in it, but does not involve bombs and troops, is a very, very bad idea, indeed.

Did no Democrat read Matthew 26:11?

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Thought of the Day

The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.

Lewis Thomas

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Friday, August 10, 2007

 

Reliable Data on Climate Change




In the debate regarding what is the man made portion of recent global warming, a lot has been made of the placement of the weather stations actually doing the temperature data gathering. Some are next to the hot end of big air conditioner units. That's no good. (An article discussing this from a different point of view is here). Many are in the middle of at least mini heat islands (big asphalt parking lots, too close to buildings, etc.) and many more are in the mega heat island of cities as opposed to the grass trees and rocks of the countryside. America is about 6% urban environment and 94% countryside (although 80% of Americans live in cities). Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles says only 6% of the weather stations should be urban and the rest out in the grass, trees and rocks of the countryside. Sounds reasonable to me.

If the man-made portion of rising average temperatures over the past 150 years is merely that the temperature data has been increased by bad placement of the weather stations, then this global warming thing is worse than a tempest in a teapot. So how about non-tweakable, good as gold, temperature measurement on which we can rely with confidence--does that information exist? It seems that it does.

Above is a chart of 28 years of satellite data for temperatures in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (with the World's composite at the top). That's a very short period of time from which to extrapolate a trend. However, the Southern Hemisphere doesn't seem to have warmed at all. The Northern Hemisphere seems to have warmed about one degree F. In 28 years, that's a lot, I think--a rate, if it continued, of almost 4 degrees F. per century. But we just don't know anything about the future based on such a short period of measurements. I'm content to wait until we have good information over a long period of time, before I support drastic changes in our way of life.

UPDATE: Oh, no. NASA has 'revised' its numbers, reducing further the hockey stick type graph of the mean temperatures recently (since 1880) in America. Now the warmest year on record was 1934 not 1998. Oh, great. Now whom do we trust?

UPDATE II: One of the recurring themes in the Beatles' movie Help, was a Brit scientist eager to rule the world, Prof. Foot (played by Vincent Spinetti), who decried the brain drain and all British equipment. His Webley Mark VI revolver is no good at one point ("British," he waives it around, "useless.") but he warns the lads, "If I had a Luger..." Just so, Global Warming hasn't been going so well lately and won't be bad for the next few years, but one of a group of un-named climate experts identified as Douglas Smith in an AP story warns, just wait til 2009. Then it's going to get us, and our little dog, too.

Lead paragraph:

Global warming is forecast to set in with a vengeance after 2009, with at least half of the five following years expected to be hotter than 1998, the [formerly] warmest year on record, scientists reported on Thursday.

[...]

The real heat will start after 2009, they said.

Until then, the natural forces will offset the expected warming caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, which releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. (Emphasis added).

Wait. It would be getting warmer, but for the 'natural forces.' You mean like sun and rain and wind--that sort of natural forces, like the weather? The weather would be getting warmer because of human activity but the weather is preventing it. OK I'm clear.

Actually, Paul at Wizbang is much more vicious than I am about this strange story, or rather a similar one at Breitbart. His best lines:

But what this story really shows is how UNscientific this whole scam is. Global warming was not "offset." It did not occur. The only way these "scientists" can say that Global warming was "offset" by natural forces is to presume they knew what the temps should have been.

In other words, this is the opposite of science. They are starting with a conclusion then when they don't get it, they say the experiment must have been flawed.

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This Day in American History



On this day in 1776, a committee of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson suggested the United States adopt Virgil's E Pluribus Unum as the motto for its Great Seal. It translates as 'from many, one' no matter what Al Gore said. It made the cut as did Annuit Ceoptis--'He approves of what has begun' and (also from Virgil) Novus Ordo Seclorum--'A new order of the ages.'

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Thought of the Day

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

Virgil

The times change, and we change with them.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

 

Rock Concert Review

Went with the Boulder cousins to Shawn Colvin and John Hiatt at Chautauqua. Colvin shined--Hiatt left me absolutely cold, and sleepy. It was just they and their guitars (or fender rhodes with Hiatt). Colvin sang at least two songs less due to her incessant tuning and breaking a G string. Hiatt was complaining that we could have high mileage cars if some miscreants (Hiatt was blunter) would do their jobs. He said that he could make such a car even though he only recently graduated from high school. I guess it was his confessed ability to steal cars which equipped him for the engineering challenge. What a maroon!

Colvin was wearing a stupid big white cap (think Artful Dodger in Oliver) and a big A-line, African print summer dress which well disguised her massive thighs. She still looked good although age has at last sunk her eyes. She finally sang my near favorite Shotgun Down the Avalanche and it was wonderful. Maybe one day she'll sing I Want it Back. Her guitar work just gets better and better and her voice seems lighter and more agile every time I see her. No new songs I could discern.

Hiatt had on a redneck's idea of good looking cloths. His guitar work is OK but less subtle and satisfying than Colvin's. He puts on an energetic show but, having seen him the last two years, it just seemed the same old thing without the help of the North Mississippi Allstars. Good that he pointed out the lyrics Bonnie Raitt left out of her version of Thing Called Love. Can't say they are important lyrics though. The highlight was he and Colvin singing on encore Slow Turning, which I still think is his best song, so I left with a smile on my face.

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This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 378, the Romans fought and lost big time to the Goths in Adrianople, which is in present day European Turkey (Western Thrace). The Romans may have lost 30,000 and the Emperor Valens was definitely killed. The battle is important for two reasons: 1) This was the beginning of the end of the Western Roman Empire; and, 2) This was the beginning of the rise of cavalry forces which would thereafter be preeminent in land battles for over a 1,200 years in Europe and the Middle East.

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Thought of the Day

And I know where you live and I know who you are

Don’t get too close and don’t go too far



Shawn Colvin in Fill Me Up

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

 

"Get A Life, Middle East"

VDH lays out an acrid list of examples, showing the duplicitous mindset, of the Islamic Holier Than Thou's.


Money Quotes :


This type of hypocrisy in the Muslim world is not limited to supposedly devout oil-rich Gulf sheiks who cherry-pick Western sin. Terrorists — with one foot in the 7th century and the other in the 21st century — want it both ways, too....

...Jihadists champion sharia law, too. But when captured, they hire sophisticated secular Western nitpicking lawyers to sue over conditions in Guantanamo or incarceration in British prisons. Al Qaeda, of course, complains about everything from American troops once stationed in Saudi Arabia to even the U.S.'s failure to sign the Kyoto accords. Meanwhile, by blowing up religious shrines across Iraq, they show far less respect for mosques than we do....


....It's worth noting that the United States is not hated in numerous other places, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where it has had a military presence or adopted controversial foreign policies.In contrast, the peculiar furor at the U.S. in the radical Islamic world arises because our culture, when viewed on DVD, satellite television and the internet, is judged to be incorrect in the ideal world of 7th-century Islam — and impossible for conflicted Muslims to enjoy fully in the 21st...


OUCH.



 

This Day in American History

On this day in 1942, six Nazi spies/saboteurs who had landed in the U.S. by German submarine, were executed after a military commission found they were illegal belligerants who had violated the laws of war. See Ex Parte Quirin. What's up with us today? We haven't executed a single one at Guantanamo. No wonder this war is going to be a long one.

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Thought of the Day

The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance.

Laurence J. Peter

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

 

Another Black Eye for the New Republic

Michael Goldfarb over at the Weekly Standard has published leaked information from the Army's investigation of the three anti-troop stories by soldier Scott Beauchamp published by the New Republic and it's a killer:

...Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp--author of the much-disputed "Shock Troops" article in the New Republic's July 23 issue as well as two previous "Baghdad Diarist" columns--signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods--fabrications containing only "a smidgen of truth," in the words of our source.

[...]

According to the military source, Beauchamp's recantation was volunteered on the first day of the military's investigation. So as Beauchamp was in Iraq signing an affidavit denying the truth of his stories, the New Republic was publishing a statement from him on its website on July 26, in which Beauchamp said, "I'm willing to stand by the entirety of my articles for the New Republic using my real name."

As we lawyers dream of asking--so were you lying then or are you lying now?

We'll see what TNR editors say when they get back from 'vacation.' So far it's just cricket chirping.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt's producer, Duane Patterson, (back to blogging at Townhall) has some good thoughts on this mess. Since TNR confirmed all but one of Beauchamp's 'lies' after he had allegedly recanted, a lot of us want to know how exactly they blew the fact checking long after the stories were published. A small story, perhaps, but telling of the bigger lefty dominated media picture.

UPDATE II: Here's a telling bit from the TNR's doubling down last month on the apparent lies they had published, and which the editors claim were fact checked before publication:

Most important, we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp's company, and all corroborated Beauchamp's anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.) (Emphasis added). Yeah, I bet.

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This Day in American History


On this day in 1942, the Battle of Guadalcanal began as U.S. Marines landed in force on a Japanese held island in the Pacific during World War II. Throughout most of this battle, the Americans ruled the surrounding waves by day and the Japanese owned the sea at night. Guadalcanal in the Solomons, east northeast of Australia, was the first of a string of tough island invasions, all of which we won, but at no small price as the Japanese fought tenaciously if not well and rarely surrendered. A very tough fight on Guadalcanal would last for the Marines until November, when they were relieved in large part by Army troops, who fought into February, 1943. The fight would cost us about 1,800 dead (nearly 5,000 out at sea) while we slaughtered them (sometimes as they made near suicidal 'banzai' charges) killing 25,000 out of the 36,000 troops on the island before the survivors were evacuated.

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Thought of the Day

There are two types of people--those who come into a room and say, 'Well, here I am!' and those who come in and say, 'Ah, there you are.'

Frederick L Collins

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Monday, August 06, 2007

 

Report on the American War Dead in Iraq and Afghanistan

According to Department of Defense announcements during the period July 4, 2007 to August 3, 2007 (inclusive) there were 80 American military deaths during that period in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's better than it has been for a while. Here's the breakdown.

In Afghanistan, 12 Americans dies--5 were killed by IEDs and 5 by small arms. One was killed by indirect fire and 1 in what was described merely as combat operations. That sounds like a real, but very small war. Karzai has announced that the Taliban is defeated and it is merely a matter of time before they are eradicated. Sounds plausible to me.

In Iraq, as usual, the IED has killed the most--this period it was 33. That is way, way down from early Summer. Good. Thirteen were killed in combat operations, but they were not all Marines and not only in al Anbar. Seven were killed by small arms including grenades and rocket propelled grenades. Three died in accidents and 7 were dead from non combat causes. One was killed by mortar fire and one was killed by indirect fire. It really bugs me that I do not grasp the distinction between those two. One was killed by a land mine, one died from a non hostile cause and one from an unknown cause. A colonel was killed and two majors and two first lieutenants. I did nor see a single woman's name. That's good too. So the total was 68, which is about half of what the figure was in July and June (122 and 120) and nearly a third less than the figures in May and April (98 and 96).

I would not expect that more aggressive tactics would result in less battle deaths, not immediately, at least. The surge tactics involve, in set piece attacks, take and hold as opposed to take and abandon. That change in itself doesn't seem actually more aggressive. Still, our casualties were up since Petraeus took over. But there is a hidden side of this sort of war; the special forces who target and kill, target and kill in small, well planned attacks. Apparently those guys have been unleashed and are wreaking havoc in the al Qaeda middle management. So with no big increase in our casualties, were sending the Jihad types on to Paradise at an increasing rate. And we're being joined by ever better Iraqi forces and also sick-of-al-Qaeda Iraqi citizens, not only in al Anbar but in Diyala and even Salah ad-Din provinces as well.

Getting tougher and tougher to say the new tactics have failed.

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Photographs from the Central Front



The good guys in Iraq, dramatically lit. (lighted?) Whatever.

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This Day in WWI History



On this day in 1918, the Second Battle of the Marne ended in a German defeat at the cost of just under 300,000 dead and wounded to both sides. It was the beginning of the end for the Germans on the Western Front and they were never again on offense in a big way to the end of the war 4 months later.

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Thought of the Day

The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet.

William Gibson

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