Monday, December 31, 2007

 

End of the Year Movie Marathon

After a long time with no movies, I managed to get to 5 recently. Here are the reviews--first a 5 word one, then a longer, regular review, at least for the ones worth talking about.

The Golden Compass--Movie's demon is overworked accountant.

Juno--Knocked Up with mature wit.

The Savages--Indie comedy pretends it's realistic.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead--Most singularly depressing movie, ever.

I Am Legend--Will Smith can't shoot shit.

Let's start with the good one, Juno, which is about a girl in trouble, as they used to say in the 50s, who does the right thing and gives up her illegitimate baby for adoption. Not the most daring of plot lines (although there are several movies where an inconvenient pregnancy is terminated--Play It as It Lays, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The End of the Road, Love with the Proper Stranger (almost terminated); and Vera Drake and The Cider House Rules featured abortionists). It is classified as a pro-life movie, but I doubt the writer (Diablo Cody (really)) or the director, Jason Reitman (Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman's son), who also did Thank You for Smoking, would be happy with that label.

What makes this movie is the possibly extraordinarily talented Ellen Page, who was so good in Hard Candy, as the title character here. (I say 'possibly', because so far all I've seen her be is the same character, a precocious, wise cracking misfit who can flat out get things done; but I'm hoping for more in the future as she really plays that character extremely well). Jason Bateman, from TV's Arrested Development and older Valerie, Silver Spoons and Little House on the Prarie, comes across as well as he did in Dodgeball (but saner), and was the glue that held the adoption sub-plot together. Everyone else was good on a less intense level. Well paced, believable, interesting--I can't imagine how this movie could have been better.

From the sublime...

There are so many plot holes in I Am Legend (which really is a pretty good, short book by Richard Matheson, although it can't be well filmed apparently despite at least three tries) that its film stock must look like lace. Starting next year, 90% of the World's population has died from a mutating enhanced anti-cancer virus created by Emma Thompson, 1% of humanity had natural immunity but they have all been killed by the 9% whom the virus turned into rabid vampires. Virologist Will Smith is the only non vampire survivor on Manhattan. He locks up at night and then goes to the video store, looting, or hunting in the daytime. He may be the worst hunter since hunting was invented. For one, he uses too small a round (5.64 mm NATO); he has a dog, but he doesn't really use it except to chase the deer ahead of him (I'm not kidding), and when he is mere feet from the deer, he fails to take the shot, again and again and again. He doesn't do much better with the vampires. OK, I can believe the lions escaped, somehow, from the Central Park Zoo, but where has this immense herd of deer come from? (Oh, and note to film makers, computer generated images are not sufficiently good yet and do not look good as surrogate human faces or animal skins--in fact, none of the CGI looked any good in this film).

Smith is still working on a cure and when a compound works on rabid vampire rats, he has to catch a human vampire and test it on it. He sets a snare, powered by a vehicle falling from a height. He then tells us that the vampires have lost all semblance of humanity. So who sets the snare for him?

The Air Force blew up all the bridges around Manhattan in a vain attempt to stop the virus, and the tunnels are realistically full of water, so how actually does Sonia Braga's niece get her girlie SUV, decked out with anti-vampire UV spot lights, onto the island to save Smith's ass?

Grenades have a relatively small explosion and under very few circumstances create a fireball. They almost never create a huge fireball.

When Smith goes into the dark to get his bitch back, that is a very suspenseful scene and it is artfully done with exquisite timing and subtlety. That's about it, though. Director Francis Lawrence, who only really did Constantine and music videos before this, may not be the new Stanley Kubrick.

OK, moving on. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in both Savages and Devil Knows and he looks exactly the same but he is believably not the same guy--not even close. He is rapidly replacing Paul Giametti as my favorite ugly actor. Laura Linney (the new indie 'it' girl ,replacing Parker Posey as a required fixture in each non-Hollywood film made in America) is almost as good, but usually plays a slightly different version of herself. Writer/Director Tamara Jenkins, who also did The Slums of Beverly Hills almost a decade ago, was fortunate to get these two for her movie as they play flawed brother and sister flawlessly, and with such ease.

The only good thing about Devil Knows is the gratuitous sex scenes with Marisa Tomei, who looks absolutely fantastic. Her tits aren't perfect but they are nice if somewhat oddly shaped. I have no complaints about the rest of her. The movie has plot holes too. Why doesn't the mother lock the door behind her? Why doesn't Ethan Hawke (looking bad and playing a very weak person convincingly) recognize his mom or dad or at least his dad's car?

The part time robber uses a .38 revolver of unknown make. Mom has a Beretta 92F; Dad a Smith & Wesson probably in .357 (which he never uses) and Hoffman picks up a Walther PPK in .380 with which he does his mayhem. It's not just kinda depressing, it's really, really depressing, losing your religion, no faith in your fellow man left sort of depressing, and I think The Grey Zone is uplifting. Just the sort of holiday cheer we all look forward to.

I've run out of steam. Sorry. Compass looked good (CGI is good for buildings and some animals after all, I guess) but it wasn't very good despite a valiant effort by a newcomer young girl named Dakota. I doubt it will make enough money above its budget to justify a sequel (even though there are two more books in this purposefully anti-Narnia trilogy). Just as well.

Labels:


 

Why the Transition From Day to Night is Unlike Throwing a Switch


Here is a photo from space from a few years ago, from 211 miles up, which shows the terminator, the line where the sun no longer illuminates the Earth. It's not a clear line, but a fading of the light across a number of miles, a diffuse, gradual darkening. You can also see the reddened clouds to the right of the terminator; that's because there's more red light when it comes in flat through the 'soup' of the atmosphere. You can also see the diffuse blue light of the atmosphere, which does have a fine line ending it at the top of the stratosphere about 125,000 feet up. We can only breath in the first 35,000 of that. What a thin layer we inhabit between ground and the vacuum of space.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

The total military dead in the Iraq war between 2003 and this month stands at about 3,133. This is tragic, as are all deaths due to war, and we are facing a cowardly enemy unlike any other in our past that hides behind innocent citizens. Each death is blazoned in the headlines of newspapers and Internet sites. What is never compared is the number of military deaths during the Clinton administration: 1,245 in 1993; 1,109 in 1994; 1,055 in 1995; 1,008 in 1996. That's 4,417 deaths in peacetime but, of course, who's counting?



Alicia Colon

Labels:


Sunday, December 30, 2007

 

Closer - Nine Inch Nails

This appears to be the unexpurgated version of the hit music video from a few years back. I may not know art, but I know what I like... and this is good stuff. Not, alas, safe for work.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

 

Pole to Pole Comparison



Over at The Cryosphere Today blog site, there are daily satellite pictures of the sea ice at the poles. There are also these neat graphs of the same. As anyone mildly interested in the global warming bruhaha would know, the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is below normal. The graph shows it's down about half a million square miles from the average (the average of less than 30 years though).



How about in the South? Even though it's the start of Summer down there, the sea ice in the Antarctic Ocean is above normal, well above normal, about 2 million square miles more than what we've seen from space for the past nearly 30 years. Is the below normal area of sea ice in the North made up by the above normal area of sea ice in the South? Well, right now, yes. The global sea ice is 1.5 million square miles to the good.

What about next year? Won't the northern sea ice be behind when it starts to melt and so melt even more next northern Summer, as most true believer Warmies say? Well, not actually, in fact, for the global sea ice, even in the North, it looks pretty good. In the North, right now we're about a half million square miles better than it was last year at the same time. I'd call that a pretty decent recovery from a somewhat alarming Summer melt off in the Arctic. In the South, we've 2.5 million square miles more ice than this time last year. That's good (I guess). I mean, if melting sea ice is a sign of global warming, then increasing sea ice must be some proof that the warming is not actually global; and certainly it doesn't seem to be melting away the home of the polar bears and penguins.

Labels:


Sunday, December 23, 2007

 

Light Posting Excuse

To all my friends on the left--Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to observe religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures.


And to all my Republican friends--Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

(h/t John Rushkin)

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Hard Fought, Successful Wars Against Muslims

On this day in 1902, an exceptionally brutal three-year war waged by the U.S. Army and others against Filipino Muslims, whom we called the Moro 'pirates,' ended (for a while) with the signing of an armistice by the rebels, which left the U.S. in possession of the archipelago of 7,100 islands. General Arthur MacArthur (father of Douglas) conducted this part of the war. The war, which started about as soon as we occupied Manila, after our slaughter of the Spanish fleet on May 1, 1898, resumed in the Sulu Archipelago and on Mindinao and continued until almost the First World War. The best thing to come out of this conflict was John Browning's Colt 1911 in .45 caliber, which was developed because the .38 caliber Army revolver wasn't knocking the Moros down in time to save the Army officer from edged weapon attack.

UPDATE: Missed the date of the Manila Bay battle by a hundred years, but all corrected now, thanks to Eric's sharp eyes

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

People have been calling for national dialogues and conversations for decades. It usually works something like this: Liberals say we need a frank discussion about race (or class or gender) in this country, and then they proceed to bludgeon any conservative stupid enough to take them up on their offer.

Jonah Goldberg

Labels:


Saturday, December 22, 2007

 

This Day During the Battle of the Bulge


At St. Vith, elements of the 82nd Airborne (including my cousin Ross Carter) and the 7th Armored Division were hard pressed by SS armored divisions and panzer grenadier and the city was a day away from falling. To the south, at Bastogne, elements of the 101st Airborne and 10th Armored Division (including my uncle William McChesney) were in better shape and would hold out against just as determined German attacks. Substitute general Anthony McAuliffe gained this day a sort of immortality with his 'nuts' reply to the German demand to surrender. The 101st's real boss, Maxwell Taylor, was on leave when the Bulge affair started.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they’re installed. But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.

Andrew Klavan

Labels:


Friday, December 21, 2007

 

Unanswered Questions


Science correspondent David Whitehouse, over at the New Statesman, asks the central question one would ask after looking at the reliable record of average temperature from satellite measurements (graph above)--Has Global Warming stopped? Certainly since the spike above the mean in 1998, there hasn't been any warming. I hate to be the sceptic here, but about a decade or so is just not enough time on which to base a trend. He is right to say that global climate is much more complicated than the rise of one minor gas equalling the rise of global temperature. But he may be wrong to say that he can't believe mitigating factors are keeping the temperature down. Certainly those mitigating factors might be. He makes up for it at the end.

I have heard it said, by scientists, journalists and politicians, that the time for argument is over and that further scientific debate only causes delay in action. But the wish to know exactly what is going on is independent of politics and scientists must never bend their desire for knowledge to any political cause, however noble.
The science is fascinating, the ramifications profound, but we are fools if we think we have a sufficient understanding of such a complicated system as the Earth’s atmosphere’s interaction with sunlight to decide. We know far less than many think we do or would like you to think we do. We must explain why global warming has stopped.
UPDATE: So much for the consensus. This article counts the substantial number of prominent scientists around the world who dispute the party line on anthropogenic global warming. However, a true thing is still true, even if 6 billion people don't believe it, and an untrue thing is still untrue, even if 6 billion people do believe it. Consensus doesn't enter into it.

Labels:


 

This Day When the Stones Hit Nadir


On this day in 1967, the Rolling Stones released what was up to then their worst album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, a blatant and bad rip off of the psychedelic sound of the Beatles' excellent Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Is that a Dunce Cap that Mick has on?

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Adventure is just bad planning.

Roald Amundsen

Labels:


Thursday, December 20, 2007

 

Funny if the Deception Wasn't so Sad


Labels:


 

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

At Sweetness and Light, a funny send up/focusing of the faux outrage over Beluga santa hats versus the public slaughter of all sorts of animals as part of Eid. Not for the feint of heart.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Evil Beginnings


On this day in 1917, the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage was formed under Felix Dzerzhinsky. After the Bolshevik Revolution, which he helped succeed, Dzerzhinsky used this outfit of secret police, called the Cheka, (part of the NKVD) to terrorize those who opposed the excesses of the people's revolution. Later the secret police became known as the KGB, one of whose members is now the leader of Russia and appears headed towards the bad old days of totalitarian rule.

"Throughout the country, without investigation or trial, the Checkists raged. They tortured old men and raped shoolgirls and killed parents before the eyes of their children. They impaled people, beat them with an iron glove, put wet leather "crowns" on their heads, buried them alive, locked them in cells where the floor was covered with corpses. Amazing, isn't it that today's agents do not blanch to call themselves Chekists, and proudly claim Dzerzhinsky's legacy?"

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

What more felicity can fall to creature, than to enjoy delight with liberty.

Edmund Spenser

Labels:


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

 

So the Warming Isn't Actually, Well, Global

David Deming, at the Washington Times, has a good article on the record cold temperatures throughout the World in 2007.

He ends with near perfect observation:

If you think any of the preceding facts can falsify global warming, you're hopelessly naive. Nothing creates cognitive dissonance in the mind of a true believer. In 2005, a Canadian Greenpeace representative explained “global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter.” In other words, all weather variations are evidence for global warming. I can't make this stuff up.

Global warming has long since passed from scientific hypothesis to the realm of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.

Well said.

Labels:


 

Battle Over Budget Goes GOP's Way

If the the Senate's numbers for funding regarding the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan pass in the House, the President was won an important battle to fund the troops without any strings attached, and the Democrats in control of Congress have again, broken a promise to end pork spending (the omnibus spending bill has about 9,000 such ear marks worth over $7 Billion) and the Democrats have caved on relatively important matters, yet again. The vote in the Senate for $70 Billion to the troops was 70-25 by the way (the worst of the 42 defeats the Democrats have received on this same issue?)

Democrats again failed to win votes to force removal of U.S. troops or set a nonbinding target to remove most troops by the end of next year.

[...]

Democrats were able to fill in most of the cuts by using the very budgetary sleight of hand lambasted by conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Citizens Against Government Waste.

The White House, which maintained a hard line for months, has been far more forgiving in recent days, accepting $11 billion in "emergency'' spending for veterans, drought relief, border security and firefighting accounts, among others. Other budget moves added billions more.


"Congress did come down to the president's overall top line,'' White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "And in regards of the emergency spending, most of that spending would have passed on an emergency basis anyway. It's not added into the baseline of the budget.''

I guess we Republicans are better in the minority, although I wouldn't want us to stay there forever.

UPDATE: Welshperson Dafydd at Buig Lizards has a longer account of the rolling over the Democrats are doing and Michelle Malkin has details here and here.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Presidential Impeachments

On this day in 1998, President Clinton was impeached on two counts, Articles 1 and 3, for perjury and obstruction of justice, respectively. The 42nd chief executive became the second in history to be ordered to stand trial in the Senate, where, like Andrew Johnson before him, he was acquitted, even though, like Johnson, the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming, but the magnitude of his wrongdoing, under the totality of the circumstances, was less that Earth-shaking. I was angry at the Republicans for not coming up with more but proceeding, poorly, on what little they had. Of course, had Clinton been any sort of respectable man, he would have resigned after his lie about not having sex with the intern was revealed. As always, it wasn't the fellatio itself but the attempted cover up which should have showed him the door, but then, of course, had Clinton done the right thing, Al Gore would have won in 2000.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Stephen King

Labels:


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

 

This Day in the History of Real Progress

On this day in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect. So while first Republican President Abraham Lincoln didn't free the slaves, he fought a rough, bloody war to keep the South in the union so that the amended Constitution would do just that. He would have been there to free the slaves had a Democrat sore loser not shot him in the head.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.

Eric Hoffer

Labels:


Monday, December 17, 2007

 

Memories of Arctic Sea Ice

I remember as a kid seeing movie news films of the Nautilus (or another nuclear submarine) breaking through the sea ice at the north pole, and the sailors set up a baseball diamond around the pole so if one of them hit a home run that guy ran literally around the world. I can't find it on YouTube, but I'll follow this post with one such breakthrough, if I am able. I also recall another submarine rising in clear water at the pole and the sailors disappointed they couldn't play ball like the earlier guys. If my memory is intact, there have been open sea areas at the pole from time to time for at least 40 years. Here's today's photo of the ice.


Except for the Chuckchi Sea, the ice is pretty much over all the traditional area of sea ice and it's not yet Winter. Hudson Bay seems completely iced over. One can walk from Svalbard (scene of much of The Golden Compass) to Novaya Zemlya to Svernaya Zemlya to Alaska, Greenland or Canada for that matter. Except it would be really, really cold and you would die.


Yes, Warmies, the sea ice melt was big this Summer, but it's pretty much all back now, just as it should be and has been doing for millions of years and as it will, no doubt, for millions more.

Labels:


 

Would the World be Better Off if No Country Signed Kyoto?

Here is a fascinating little story at the American Thinker about CO2 emission increases since Kyoto was signed. Guess who did relatively well in holding down emission increases?

The Kyoto treaty was agreed upon in late 1997 and countries started signing and ratifying it in 1998. A list of countries and their carbon dioxide emissions due to consumption of fossil fuels is available from the U.S. government. If we look at that data and compare 2004 (latest year for which data is available) to 1997 (last year before the Kyoto treaty was signed), we find the following.

Labels:


 

Sea Level Rise

I had an argument about global warming this weekend and the subject of sea level rise came up during the discussion. (We were talking about the necessary third question, (after 1. Is it warming? (yes) and 2. Is it human caused? (partially)), Will it be a bad thing?). My opponent said that sea levels had risen alarmingly recently.

Here's a closer look at that assertion. During the depths of the last Ice Age 22,000 years ago, sea levels were 130 meters lower. That's a lot of warming, melting, and rising in 22,000 years, over 400 feet. Remember, however, 80% of the rise of the sea level after warming is thermal expansion of the sea water, not land ice melting and flowing in. But it hasn't been steady. Here's the s-curve graph.
From 22,000 to 8,000 years ago, most of the sea level rise took place, at least 120 meters of it or about .3368 in./year. In the last 8,000 years it's gone up at most 10 meters or .049 in./year.

Now we should take a look at sea level rise between 1880 and 2005, or for 125 years. Is it closer to the alarming rate 22,000 to 8,000 years ago or is it closer to the recent very stable rate?


Since 1880 the sea level has risen 20 cm (that's 7.8 inches in over a century, not alarming in my book) and the rate is .0629 in./year. Well, that's much closer to the recent, stable rate (only about 30% more) and much less than the alarming rate of the ancient past (about six times less, in fact). Nor is there a hint of acceleration in the rate of change; it's merely a straight line increase. So there's certainly no crisis in sea level rise. It's still getting warmer since the depth of the last Ice Age (as it always does during the first half of the interglacial and we've had at least 20 interglacials in the past few million years) and sea levels are gently and very slowly rising. Not exactly 'run for the hills, the sea's rising' sort of news.

Gee, I wonder why my opponent thought that sea levels had risen alarmigly recently?

Labels:


 

Stunning Picture of Saturn's Rings and Moon Tethys


The impact crater that might have shattered a less stout moon (and strewed its debris in a thin ring around the planet?) is about as big a crater, relative to the size of the orb, as we can see, although there is a bigger artifact of impact (but not the ring crater) on a different moon, the name of which escapes me just now.
I love our robot photographers. They do great work.

Labels:


 

Tying our Arms Behind our Backs Just to Make it Fair

On a very narrow vote, the House passed a bill which would make it illegal for the CIA interrogators to do what is prohibited to the Army in the Field Manuel. These are the things prohibited, followed by my comments in dark blue.

Forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner. I'm OK with banning the sexual stuff, but don't we need to get the prisoners naked now and again to make sure they are not smuggling in bad things? One step too far.

Placing hoods or sacks over detainees’ heads or duct tape over their eyes. Stupid to ban these things.

Beating, shocking or burning detainees. I'm OK with banning these (but the belly slap and attention getting face slap should still be OK).

Threatening detainees with military dogs. Stupid to ban this.

Exposing detainees to extreme heat or cold. Stupid to ban this (So long as the extremes are not life threatening--I certainly wouldn't want to bake or freeze our prisoners).

Conducting mock executions. Stupid to ban this.

Depriving detainees of food, water or medical care. I'm OK with no ban on medical care, but short periods of no food or even no water is OK. Man, we are capable of being so wimpy.

Waterboarding. Not torture if done for short periods of time, and apparently very effective with no lasting negative after effects. We should be able to use harsh, effective methods which are not torture--this is the poster child of those criteria.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Building a Big White Stick


On this day in 1907, a flotilla of 16 American battleships, having slipped their moorings at Hampton Roads the day before, entered the Atlantic, formed up, and steamed off on a 14-month circumnavigation of the globe to show the World the flag and our pretty, new navy. The Great White Fleet, as it was known because of its bright paintjob, was dispatched by President Theodore Roosevelt, who had been in his career, among other things, Navy secretary.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.

P. G. Wodehouse

Labels:


Sunday, December 16, 2007

 

Thought of the Day

Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures.

Han Suyin

Labels:


Friday, December 14, 2007

 

Update on Victory in Musa Qala


When Stephen Grey is not black guarding the CIA for their hard work to protect us from Muslim Extremists, he does a fair job of reporting the war, like here, The clearing of the Taliban and al Qaeda from the town, of 45,000 souls, called Musa Qala, went better than we had hoped because the enemy stayed in town and got an up close and personal view of the incredible firepower our armed forces are able to bring. Heavy bombers (B-2s and B-52s), A-10s, F16s, Apache helicopters and Spooky air gunships were used to kill hundreds of Taliban fighters. We lost one and the Brits two, but all to old Soviet land mines from the 80s war the Soviets lost. This was a large NATO/Afghan Army operation, the biggest good guys offensive since Operation Anaconda in March, 2002.

Here are some telling details.

Faced with a full brigade of NATO forces, a brigade of Afghan government fighters and the defection of a key Taliban commander, the Taliban chose not to flee at first but to fight a desperate battle.

Who engineered the defection? Did that cause the enemy forces to stay put?

U.S. forces believe the Taliban were backed by a large strength of foreign fighters, including those linked to al Qaeda. Soldiers who I accompanied found one dead fighter whose notebook revealed he was from Pakistan.

Anyone who opposes the war in Afghanistan can not be taken seriously. It's al Qaeda fighting us there. They engineered a sneak attack on us; we have the right to kill them all, and we should.

We have to rely on journalists and the Afghan government to tell us the casualties the enemy is taking because, in a silly overreaction to the notorious body count during Vietnam, our government won't tell us their estimates and real body counts. Several hundred to 3. Can't wait for the dreaded Spring Taliban offensive.

Here is another nice tidbit from a rather mournful Reuters story on the victory.

Afghan and NATO troops also bombed an important Taliban meeting in the mountains of Sangin and Musa Qala district that led to a high number of casualties.
Bombing a meeting-- the perfect integration of intelligence and modern weaponry; excellent work, men.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Sneak Attacks on America

On this day in 1999, in Port Angeles, WA, Ahmed Ressam was arrested after crossing the border at Port Angeles from Canada with over 150-pounds of bomb-making materials, including 200-pounds of urea, timing devices and a bottle of RDX (cyclotrimethylene trinitramine) in the trunk of his car. The arrest came solely because of the heads-up work of Diana Dean, despite the claims of a former President that he was responsible for foiling of the attack planned for Los Angeles Airport.

(h/t This Day in History)

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.

Alexander Hamilton

Labels:


Thursday, December 13, 2007

 

Democrats Cave

On nearly every issue--energy, alternative minimum tax, funding the war and, to a lesser degree, pork spending, the Democrats in Congress are facing the reality that they cannot do what they want and promised to do and our President has probably won on each of these issues. Not too shabby for the moron of Democrat popular imagination.

The agreement signaled that congressional Democrats are ready to give in to many of the White House's demands as they try to finish the session before they break for Christmas -- a political victory for the president, who has refused to compromise on the spending measures.

Music to my ears.

House Minority Leader John Boehner piled on the hapless leadership of Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) pointing out that the Democrats in the majority are as bad at running Congress as the Republicans were. Meow.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Voting Not to Ruin Our Flag's Symmetry


On this day in 1998, voters in Puerto Rico voted on a multi-part referendum and ultimately rejected statehood 50.2% to 46.5%. The vote was properly interpreted as a decision to remain a commonwealth within the U.S., with many of the benefits of being part of America but with home rule. I'd welcome them as the 51st state, but I like the clean rows of stars on our flag as it exists now.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Susan Ertz

Labels:


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

 

All Global Warming, All The Time, Part Deux


Global Warming and Hurricanes




Democrats are trying the blame the Bush administration for pressuring experts to downplay the connection between hurricanes and global warming. A report released by Democrats on Monday called the "Political Interference With Climate Change Science Under the Bush Administration" marks the end of a 16-month investigation into the conspiracy theories of Democrats. The report says that "the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming."
Now former director of the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield has stepped forward to contradict the Democrats' findings: political pressure did not cause him to change his congressional testimony which downplayed the link between global warming and hurricanes.
The controversy started when a staff member of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska sent an email to the NOAA asking Mayfield to say that global warming was not making hurricanes stronger. Bottom line for Democrats ... Bush was behind the whole thing. I wonder how many Democrat staffers have pressured government scientists to participate in the global warming alarmism?
By the way, part of Mayfield's original testimony following hurricane Katrina states, "the increased activity since 1995 is due to natural fluctuations/cycles of hurricane activity driven by the Atlantic Ocean itself along with the atmosphere above it and not enhanced substantially by global warming."
Why are Democrats upset? They see global warming as the key to more income redistribution. They don't want to lose this argument.

 

All Global Warming, All the Time

After Mark Dunn and I posted on the same report, it seems appropriate to follow that up with more recent science on global warming. So here we go with a paper by David Evans.

His first point is that, with a finer resolution of measurements, CO2 increases in the atmosphere FOLLOW warming, by an average of 800 years, so Gore's most impressive chart in An Inconvenient Truth, showing congruence of CO2 and temperature, puts the cart in front of the horse.

Second, the temperature modeling by computers, relied on by the IPCC, predict a bloom of heat in the tropic troposphere up to 10 kilometers, but real observation shows no such pattern. Not even close.

Finally, what went wrong with the model is the very reasonable assumption it contained that greater heat would evaporate more water into the atmosphere and cause both low and high altitude clouds, the later of which would further trap heat and warm the Earth, creating a positive feedback which would accelerate the heating. Good assumption, but not true. What scientists have actually observed is less high altitude clouds with warming, so a negative feedback mechanism... Hmmmm.

As I have argued, the only reliable temperature records are satellite measurements, which only go back to 1979. What they show is little to no warming in the Southern Hemisphere and some warming in the Northern hemisphere but none since 2001, and, in fact, temperatures have cooled in the top half of the world since then.

These very recent scientific documents may not be an empire striking back but they are a hit, a palpable hit on the Warmie dogma. Rather than attack the authors, let's see the true believers take each point and show how it is wrong, just as Evans shows how the Global Warming Hysteria industry got it wrong.

I think I hear the crickets warming up their legs.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Judicial Smackdowns

On this day in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Florida Supreme Court was out of control and reversed that Court's decision to recount presidential votes in the peculiar way it had ordered, remanding the case back to that court, thus ending Al Gore's attempt to keep counting the votes until they came out right. I recall this well as it was an energizing political moment for me.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgment of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you're going to do about it.

Kathleen Casey Theisen

Labels:


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

 

Really Good News

If you've ever been in a greenhouse, you know that the heat accumulates just inside glass of the roof and it gets cooler the farther away you get from the glass of the roof. The floor is the coolest place inside the greenhouse. Just so, if the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing a greenhouse effect, you would expect the atmosphere to be hotter than the surface of the Earth. That's not what's going on, so the inescapable conclusion is that CO2 is having a negligible effect and that the recent warming is natural and therefore unstoppable.

Yeah, we don't have to waste Trillion of dollars trying to reduce CO2 omissions. That is great news.

Oh, but you ask, who is saying this? Three Four scientists publishing in International Journal of Climatology of the Royal Meteorological Society, professor David H. Douglass (of the University of Rochester), professor John R. Christy (of the University of Alabama), Benjamin D. Pearson and professor S. Fred Singer (of the University of Virginia) are saying this. Here are highlights.

The observed pattern of warming, comparing surface and atmospheric temperature trends, does not show the characteristic fingerprint associated with greenhouse warming. The inescapable conclusion is that the human contribution is not significant and that observed increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases make only a negligible contribution to climate warming.

Satellite data and independent balloon data agree that atmospheric warming trends do not exceed those of the surface. Greenhouse models, on the other hand, demand that atmospheric trend values be 2-3 times greater.

The current warming trend is simply part of a natural cycle of climate warming and cooling that has been seen in ice cores, deep-sea sediments, stalagmites, etc...

Our research demonstrates that the ongoing rise of atmospheric CO2 has only a minor influence on climate change. We must conclude, therefore, that attempts to control CO2 emissions are ineffective and pointless — but very costly.

QED

I wonder if the Warmies will be angry its not our fault?

UPDATE: I corrected my counting error. Thanks, Mary.

UPDATE II: Here is a link to the abstract of the article, entitled A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions. I can't afford the $25 for the pdf of the article itself. Sorry to be so cheap. Here is an old post I wrote on discovering how tiny the anthropogenicc CO2 component in the atmosphere is. Really tiny.

Labels: ,


 

This Day in the History of Abandoned Achievement

On this day in 1972, the lunar lander Challenger, during the Apollo 17 mission, touched down on the Moon's surface carrying Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan. It was the last time man visited the Moon.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.

William Wrigley Jr.

Labels:


Monday, December 10, 2007

 

Polar Bear Facts


Polar bears have become an icon of the dangers of anthropomorphic global warming. Global warming could cause polar bears to go extinct by the end of the century by eroding the sea ice that sustains them. The fact that there are more of the bears now than at any time in the last hundred years doesn't seem to matter. They are photogenic animals and most of the photos being circulated are cute family portraits. Here is a photo of a bear doing what they were born to do, kill seals and eat the skin and blubber.

The estimates of the number of living bears varies between 20,000 and 40,000. Canada has the lion's share of the bears, about 60% of the World population. Most of the Canadian bears live in Nunavut, the newest Canadian Territory. The World Wildlife Fund lists the 19 populations of polar bears here.

Below is the map of those 19 areas. There is a noticeable asymmetry caused by the Gulf Stream; that is, there are bears in Ontario at 50 degrees latitude but over in Europe there are no bears south of the Arctic Circle, none even in northern Norway, which is above 70 degrees latitude.

Hudson Bay has three distinct bear populations--the Western Hudson Bay population which is about 1/3 in Manitoba and 2/3 in Nunavut; the South Hudson Bay, which is mainly Ontario with a little Manitoba and some Quebec (in the northern third of Quebec called Nunavik); and then there is the Foxe Basin to the north all in Nunavut. Notice too the population to the east, in the Davis Strait area, which includes some of Nunavik, Labrador, Baffin Island in Nunavut and some of Western Greenland.

Here is what the Canadian government says about the Western Hudson Bay population, that it has decreased by 22%, from about 1,200 in 1987 to less than 950 in 2004. That's not what some residents of the area say and not what the native population says. Inuit also argue the bear population is on the rise along Western Hudson Bay, in sharp contrast to the Canadian Wildlife Service, which projects a 22% decline in bear numbers. The Inuit say the government estimators fly over an area and miss a lot of bears, while they, on the other hand, are actually on the ice and see all the bears that are there. Except for their use of snow mobiles, that makes some sense. So I believe the Inuit and Churchill residents, not the scientists.

Here's some support for that belief. The South Hudson Bay population is stable. The Foxe Basin population is stable. There was not enough information to make a call about the Davis Strait, but now it turns out that the Davis Strait bear numbers have been rising, fast, from about 800 in the mid-1980s to 2,100 now. The scientists admit that if global warming is a cause of the decline in the bear numbers, one would expect it in the south where it should be "the first to show negative effects associated with climate warming and consequent loss of sea ice."

So I'm going to propose a different reason for the supposed decline in polar populations and it is an old one, indeed, it is the same one that led to a 5,000 bear World population earlier in the 20th Century, hunting. Nunavut allows at least 500 bear kills a year. Other Canadian places, like Nunavik, have no restrictions on the number of bears killed (by Inuit). There are no restrictions on Inuit kills of polar bears in Greenland. Who knows what goes on in Siberia. (A reader pointed out that Manitoba does not allow hunting so the Churchill population would not be decreased thereby. To him or her I respond, less than half of the Western Hudson Bay population is in Manitoba and it is disputed whether the population is decreasing). We'll see how the bear populations fare in the next few years, just as we watch, through the wonder of weather satellites and Mr. Gore's internet, the rise and fall of sea ice almost in real time.

Labels: ,


 

This Day in the History of Parochial Enlightenment

On this day in 1869, women were granted the right to vote in the Wyoming Territory, the first in the United States.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Stultus est qui stratum, non equum inspicit, stultissimus qui hominem aut veste aut condicione aestimat.

Seneca the Younger

Stupid is the man who inspects the saddle blanket and not the horse; most stupid is he who judges another man by his clothes or his circumstances.

Labels:


Sunday, December 09, 2007

 

NATO Taking Names in Musa Qala, Afghanistan


The Brits made a foolish, in hindsight, deal a year ago and withdrew from Musa Qala in Helmand Province in the southwest of Afghanistan. Despite promises to the contrary, the Taliban took the city over earlier this year and have made it the center of opium distribution in Helmand if not of all of Afghanistan. On Friday, NATO and Afghan forces surrounded Musa Qala and are pounding the Taliban. With some warning, most, if not all, of the civilian population is out and all that's left in the town center is the die hard Taliban, 12 of whom have already gone in search of several dozen virgins in Paradise. One Brit soldier has been killed and one other NATO soldier was killed in the area.

The good Captain Ed speculated on what had taken the Brits so long to right their mistake and retake Musa Qala. I think he makes some sense, but I don't know for sure he is right. Usually the illegal combatants bug out with the populace as soon as we show up in force; and that's just what one Afghan general is saying happened here: The reports which we have received from the site so far indicate that most of the enemy personnel have laid down their weapons and are leaving the area in civilian clothes...

Contrast that to Ed Morrissey's happier take: Many have awaited this push to liberate Musa Qala, and wondered why it took almost all year to launch this operation. It could have something to do with the calendar. The brutal winter puts the poorly-equipped Taliban at a severe disadvantage, especially in options for retreat. They have little hope of melting away into the surrounding mountains now and for the next several months. They have three options now: surrender, die in Musa Qala, or freeze to death trying to flee an army prepared for the elements. They cannot just run away and live to fight another day -- and so the NATO forces have them right where they want them.
Expect to see the Taliban choose option 2. They will die in Musa Qala, and without many civilians around, they won't be able to take too many innocents with them.

I have to admit that the though of the die hards being destroyed by artillary in their fortified clubhouse is Musa Qala to my ears.

UPDATE: NATO is claiming victory (about 24 hours after the Afghan leaders declared victory) in Musa Qala and NATO troops (including Estonian troops--see picture below) along with Afghan Army soldiers have taken the town, but how many Taliban died there and how many fled has yet to be clearly displayed. The AFP had a grudging story yesterday about the victory and ended with this bit of dis-information: [We kicked out the Taliban after 9-11] The Taliban has since regrouped and is waging a spiralling insurgency that this year alone has left around 6,000 people dead. Yeah, most of them Taliban.


Labels:


 

Psychological Motivation

I never paid much attention to the psychological motivation of characters in books and in the movies. Books and movies showed us both the world outside and the inner world of the characters, but since I never studied psychology, the idea that people would do or say things for reasons they did not know or understand was foreign to my worldview.

I still haven't studied psychology, beyond reading some things in the DSM IV-R, but I began to understand the term and see unknown motivation at least in some movies. The first time I thought that I understood every human move for psychological reasons in a movie was in The Remains of the Day. Since then it has been hit or miss, but I do get the concept at last.

Just so, I think it is very possible to see that sort of motivation in some of our politicians, and as an example, I present the following bloody obvious things about Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Let's skip the influence of his father the admiral, and go directly to his mistreatment, indeed, torture by his North Vietnamese captors. The long term resonance of that is plain to see every time he speaks on the subject of torture or even 'harsh' interrogation treatments well short of torture. Also very clear is his reaction to being one of the Keating 5. That bad experience has apparently blinded him to the damage he has done to our First Amendment speech rights with his absolutely useless campaign reform. There's more, but let's leave it at that.

I believe, however, that anyone can do the same to any other politician or any celebrity for that matter. The question is will we be drawing the right conclusions.

Labels: ,


 

This Day in the History of Unfair Fights


On this day in 1940, the British forces in North Africa began an offensive, called Operation Compass, against Axis troops near Sidi Barrani west of Alexandria and were very, very successful through the Winter. Of course the Axis troops were Italians not Germans and the year-and-a-half long ass kicking the Tommies would receive from Field Marshall Rommel, with but a single division, was four months away.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

Thomas Jefferson

Labels:


Saturday, December 08, 2007

 

Tales of a Vanishing Population


Sooo cute! and scientists tell us that they are endangered. Here are some tidbits from a fascinating little article.

[The polar bear is the] only predator that will actively stalk a human.

[...]

Dennis Compayre raises bushy grey eyebrows as he listens to the environmentalists predict the polar bear's demise. "They say the numbers are down from 1,200 to around 900, but I think I know as much about polar bears as anyone, and I tell you there are as many bears here now as there were when I was a kid..."

[...]

Flying into Churchill, the weather seems cold enough.
If minus 5C means the greenhouse effect is upon us, heaven knows what it was like before.
According to my taxi driver, however, the seasons have changed, and by rights it should be a whole lot colder.
"Last week, it was minus 20C, but now it's suddenly warmed up again, and not long ago that never happened," he informs me.
In Churchill, the effects of this odd upsurge in temperature are clear.
By this time of year, Hudson Bay has usually refrozen and the bears are beginning to slide off to hunt seals on the fringe of the ice-sheet.
After freezing briefly, however, it has now melted again, and so the bears are still very much among us.


Although hard to find, as opposed to the minimum ice NASA photos you couldn't escape last Summer (and attached here as well) here is a three week old photo of the Arctic ocean showing a very rapid, indeed record recovery (but not complete recovery) of the sea ice in Autumn. I'll wait to the end of April to see the end of Winter extent of the sea ice. We'll see if it's abnormally small.

The guy in Churchill, Canada says it's been warmer than he remembers, who am I to argue? The other guy in the story says there are as many polar bears as ever, who are you to argue?

Labels: ,


 

This Day in Forgotten History

On this day in 1948, the Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan annexed Arabic Palestine. So the next time someone tells you that the Palestinians are a people (like the Kurds) without a nation, nod your head in agreement and say, yeah, Saudi Arabs took it from them nearly 60 years ago.

Labels:


Friday, December 07, 2007

 

Insomnia Theater

Most of the people who really love movies have a soft spot in their hearts for Ken Russell, the British director who loves to put the lives of artists, usually composers, on the screen. He had a period of white hot creativity from about 1966 (with the superb black and white biopic of Isadora Duncan) to 1980 (with an updated Jekyll/Hyde story called Altered States). There were only a few bad films in the 20 or so he made during that period and superb ones like The Music Lovers and Women in Love. But very few stay hot artistically forever. He's not dead yet and he, at age 80, is apparently working on a new version of Moll Flanders. But his creative juices began to dry up in the mid-80s and when he really bore down and tried again for magic with another D.H. Lawrence novel about the Brangwen girls, he pretty much failed; The Rainbow in 1989 was pretty awful. Just before that he filmed a really bad novel by somewhat famous Irishman Bram Stoker, of Dracula fame, called The Lair of the White Worm, which is the movie I watched tonight when I couldn't sleep. I'd seen it before.

It's so bad, it's good. Camp doesn't begin to describe the complete over the top, guilty pleasure this pitiful B movie wonderfully is. For one it has Hugh Grant, looking very young but being exactly the same as he has been in every movie since. The real treat is Amanda Donahoe looking pretty darn good and just enjoying the heck out of her super villainess role. She sprays green venom on a crucifix on the wall of a farmhouse from 4 inch fangs in a wide open mouth. That's the first thing she does to reveal she's actually more than just a cougar eccentric in a hot Jaguar XKE. "Do you have children?" ask Grant and Donahoe, as Lady Sylvia Marsh, replies, "Only when there are no men around."

Then it gets really weird.

Some of the acting is so bad as to cause actual pain to the viewer, and the story is worthless, but you see in some of the flashbacks, and in parts of the strange Concorde dream sequence, the final flare ups of the cooling embers of a profligate and somewhat wasted cinematic genius.

If you don't expect a thing, you will have a ball.

Labels:


 

Tasteless Halloween Costumes





The list started when a Prince in England wore a poor copy of a Nazi uniform, now it includes shooting victims from the Virginia Tech tragedy. I apologize for being so perverse, but I think they're kind of funny. What? You want us to cry about it forever?
I also like the blonde's devil costume, but I can't put my finger on why.

Labels:


 

Legislating Energy Production

"...my shoes rubbing across this carpet create more energy than the Democrats' energy bill."
Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.).

The above-referenced House bill failed to get to a final vote in the Senate today, losing 53-42, with some Democrats joining the Republican minority to block passage of the bill.

Republicans and the Bush administration have criticized the plan for including $21 billion in new tax revenues and setting rules requiring 15% of electricity production by 2020 to come from renewable resources.
[...]
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the bill would “finally put Americans on the path to solving the energy crisis,” and noted that automakers and environmental groups support the fuel economy increase to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

What energy crisis? We have tons and tons of fuel in the Rocky mountains here in the United States and even more tons and tons up in the heavy oil and tar sands north of Edmonton. Renewable energy will become affordable (and more than 1 or 2% of the world's energy) when there's nothing left but renewable energy. Until then we ought to use responsibly the fossil fuels we can find. It's not like oil, gas and coal in the ground is doing anyone any good.

I could be wrong but I thought the essential reason for energy legislation was to make more of it available (and therefore cheaper) rather than this plan, which taxed it at a much higher rate (making it less available and more expensive). Maybe the Democrats are so deep into global warming nonsense that they actually do want to make fossil fuel less available and more expensive in the hope that the little people will use less of it. ANWAR, bans on offshore production, even Colorado's new 'Watermelon' oil and gas commission, all seem to point to that basic truth.

Some people are saying that this defeat is just temporary, wait 'til next year and the Democrats will really put the screws to energy producers and consumers.

Could be.

UPDATE: David Freddoso, whoever that is, at the NRO agrees with me that the bill is worthless. Here's what he said at The Corner:

That Awful Energy Bill [David Freddoso]

It failed to get cloture today. I don't see why we don't just scrap the thing, it has absolutely no redeeming value. They will probably try it again without the Renewable Portfolio Standard (which forces utilities to waste money on non-feasible sources of energy like solar and biomass), which will give it a better chance of passage. But Bush would be a fool to sign this bill or anything like it.

It will make
gas more expensive, it will make cars more expensive, and it won't produce any new energy. There's just no reason to pass an energy bill at all, especially if it looks like this one.

There is only one reason this bill didn't die long ago. Big Corn and Big Ethanol are demanding ludicrous, multi-billion gallon fuel-use mandates so that they can maintain their parasitic attachment to Americans' private wealth. And they have bought the Republican Party in the Heartland every bit as much as they have bought the Democrats there.

I have never been a fan of John McCain, but he attracts me if only because he is willing to speak out against this madness. Ron Paul might be the only other candidate willing to do so.

Labels:


 

This Day in Ancient History


On this day in 43 BC, agents of Mark Anthony catch Marcus Tullius Cicero fleeing his country estate north of Rome, kill him, cut off his hands and head, and bring them back to Rome where they are displayed on the Rostrum of the Senate. Fulvia, Mark Anthony's wife at the time, is rumored to have repeatedly pierced the tongue of the hanging head with her hair pin to 'punish' Cicero for his sharp words against her husband. It was rarely good to piss off the powerful in ancient Rome. Cicero, 63 at his death, had been a gifted orator and prosecutor/spokesman, and left behind years and years of lessons for schoolboys studying Latin. Years and years.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Architecture is the art of how to waste space.

Philip Johnson

Labels:


Thursday, December 06, 2007

 

Overseas Box Office

According to Box Office Mojo, here are the foreign box office totals for the following films:

Lions for Lambs -- $28.5 Million after four weeks. Apparently the Europeans and/or Asians like this movie more than we did.

The Kingdom -- $35 Million in nine weeks. We liked this one more here.

Rendition -- $6.7 Million in seven weeks. Weak both here and over there.

Redacted -- $28.8 Thousand in three weeks. Universal disaster.

Labels: ,


 

The Flaws In The Iran Report

John Bolton lays it out in the WAPO

Very well stated observations.....

Rarely has a document from the supposedly hidden world of intelligence had such an impact as the National Intelligence Estimate released this week. Rarely has an administration been so unprepared for such an event. And rarely have vehement critics of the "intelligence community" on issues such as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction reversed themselves so quickly.
All this shows that we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than "intelligence" analysis, and too many in Congress and the media are happy about it. President Bush may not be able to repair his Iran policy (which was not rigorous enough to begin with) in his last year, but he would leave a lasting legacy by returning the intelligence world to its proper function.

Consider these flaws in the NIE's "key judgments," which were made public even though approximately 140 pages of analysis, and reams of underlying intelligence, remain classified.
First, the headline finding -- that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between "military" and "civilian" programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's "civilian" program that posed the main risk of a nuclear "breakout."

The real differences between the NIEs are not in the hard data but in the psychological assessment of the mullahs' motives and objectives. The current NIE freely admits to having only moderate confidence that the suspension continues and says that there are significant gaps in our intelligence and that our analysts dissent from their initial judgment on suspension. This alone should give us considerable pause.

Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux. As undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003, I know we were nowhere near exerting any significant diplomatic pressure on Iran. Nowhere does the NIE explain its logic on this critical point. Moreover, the risks and returns of pursuing a diplomatic strategy are policy calculations, not intelligence judgments. The very public rollout in the NIE of a diplomatic strategy exposes the biases at work behind the Potemkin village of "intelligence."

Third, the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. We have lost many fruitful sources inside Iraq in recent years because of increased security and intelligence tradecraft by Iran. The sudden appearance of new sources should be taken with more than a little skepticism. In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was "possible" but not "likely" that the new information they were relying on was deception. These are hardly hard scientific conclusions. One contrary opinion came from -- of all places -- an unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency official, quoted in the New York Times, saying that "we are more skeptical. We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran." When the IAEA is tougher than our analysts, you can bet the farm that someone is pursuing a policy agenda.

Fourth, the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the overvaluation of the most recent piece of data. In the bureaucracy, where access to information is a source of rank and prestige, ramming home policy changes with the latest hot tidbit is commonplace, and very deleterious. It is a rare piece of intelligence that is so important it can conclusively or even significantly alter the body of already known information. Yet the bias toward the new appears to have exerted a disproportionate effect on intelligence analysis.
Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as "intelligence judgments."

That such a flawed product could emerge after a drawn-out bureaucratic struggle is extremely troubling. While the president and others argue that we need to maintain pressure on Iran, this "intelligence" torpedo has all but sunk those efforts, inadequate as they were. Ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.

 

This Day in the History of Success at Last

On this day in 1921, after nearly 8 centuries of unsuccessful rebellions, the Irish Free State, comprising four-fifths of Ireland, was declared. The Brits were a little pre-occupied with other matters on the continent, when the Irish, starting on Easter, 1916, once again rebelled from British rule. But to be fair, the Irish Republican Army fought a very effective guerrilla campaign and the Brits were finally willing to get out of most of Ireland. Of course, this day is also the nominal start of the Irish Civil War, a focused, savage little conflict largely over who would govern the new free Ireland.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

Albert Einstein

Labels:


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

 

Feelings of Trepidation

The Supreme Court held oral arguments today in Boumediene v. Bush and Orin Kerr, at the Volokh Conspiracy, listened to the arguments and questions and gave this ominous report.

What is likely to happen in the case? My guess is that the Supreme Court will reverse and remand. They'll probably say that there is a Constitutional right to habeas jurisdiction for the Guantanamo detainees, and then remand back to the D.C. Circuit to shape its proceedings in light of the constitutional requirement. Based on Kennedy's questions, I expect they'll also say that they interpret the DTA to allow a wide range of Constitutional challenges by detainees when they bring suit in the D.C. Circuit following their CSRT decisions. That's my guess, at least.

This would be madness. There is no constitutional habeas corpus right for legal combatants; there certainly is none for illegal combatants.

The Second Amendment DC case scheduled to be heard later next year, now known as District of Columbia v. Heller, is even clearer, yet I fear the Learned 9 will blow that one too.

I need to go see a comedy or something. You know, here was a time I had faith that the Supreme Court would actually do the right thing. Ah, memories

Labels:


 

Weakness in Boulder

Millions for Defense, not one cent for Tribute.

Robert Goodloe Harper

The stalwart University of Colorado agreed today to settle, for nearly $3 Million, with two former students, who had a party off campus, got really drunk (on their own), had sex with guys they didn't know, and certainly regretted that later*, at least before they started drinking heavily again. But what has that got to do with CU, you ask? That is an excellent question.

If you twist the unnecessary, counterproductive laws we all call Title IX beyond all recognition, then there was the beginning of the color of an argument that CU was on the hook for the boorish (but not criminal) behavior of high school student athletes, inter alia, being shown a not inaccurate taste of what life is like for student athletes at CU (and nearly every other large state university in the country), that is, being recruited. So the university folded like a cheap card table in light of the 10th Circuit's bad decision in September about the previously unknown coverage of Title IX to girls' off campus private parties which male athletes might attend. Title IX's original purpose was to make female student athletes equal to their male counterparts, not to protect heavy drinking, foolish young women off campus. The federal appeals court had reinstated the girls' 'Title IX' lawsuit against CU, and CU today bailed. Part of the reason outgoing temporary president of the university Hank Brown (R) gave for the decision was that to win would have cost a million to a million and a half in University attorney fees, and also they wanted to get out of the stink these girls were making regarding recruitment practices.

Makes you wonder if they'll also bail on the lawsuit (now pending in Denver District Court, before good guy Judge Larry Naves) by faux Indian, sham scholar, former Department Head and Professor Ward Churchill, who has merely a masters degree from a school no one has ever heard of. They would probably win that lawsuit in a walk as well.

I am so glad my children wouldn't even apply to CU.

The Wages of Sin are... substantial.

* I am basing my disdain for the girls' claims of sexual assault on the decision of the Boulder DA not to bring any charges in the matter. It is rape in this State to have sex with a woman whom you know is too blitzed to consent, so it's not like there was a hole in the law. Here there just was not sufficient proof of rape even to call it that in my book. The young men have said there was consent by women not too drunk to know what was going on. Maybe it's the fallout from the Duke Lacrosse case, but I generally believe the less drunk witnesses in these sorts of cases.

UPDATE: My description of the basic function of Title IX was too narrow. It's not just about sports at school, it's about all school activities. And Ward Churchill has filed his treatened suit not just threatened to file it. Sorry.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Correcting Big Mistakes

On this day in 1933, the federal Prohibition of alcohol came to an end when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing the 18th Amendment. Not even a noble experiment, making alcohol illegal was ineffective in stopping the consumption of alcoholic drinks. It did cause crime to rise, particularly organized crime, caused corruption in law enforcement to become rampant, eroded our 4th Amendment rights and proved that our Government would do away with our freedoms to be mildly bad, for our own good, of course, as soon as the particular vice fell into disfavor. Like drugs and smoking now.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Raram fecit mixturam cum sapientia forma.

Petronius

Beauty and wisdom rarely mix.

Labels:


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

 

Iranian Nuclear Weapons

One thing we lawyer types can do is judge the severity of the risk vis a vis the likelihood of the occurrence. I know for sure, for example, that I will cut myself shaving again sometime. I will not bleed to death because of it. I'm not worried. In another instance, it would be horrible if a malevolent alien race destroyed the Earth, but that's not going to happen. So again I don't worry about it. Likewise, it would be horrible if Iran developed nuclear weapons and used a few against Israel. So what is the likelihood?

There's a lot of discussion about the National Intelligence Estimates regarding Iran's nuclear weapon program. The spies seem to be pretty sure Iran stopped the program when we finished Gulf War II in 2003 and it's possible they never have restarted it.

Does the CIA help put out the NIE? What is the CIA's 'batting average' regarding foreign nations nuclear weapon's programs? It's like 0. They've never been right. Nearly every Foreign nuclear explosion (other than Great Britain's and France's or the one the Commies announced ahead of time) have been news to the CIA. They admit that after Gulf War I, Saddam's nuclear weapons program was much more advanced than they thought.

What do the Israelis say? They were able to locate, raid and destroy a nuclear weapons fabrication point in Syria just a few weeks ago. I'll go with them.

And they say Iran is doing just what Ahmadinejad says they are doing, making weapons grade uranium in order to make a few bombs to destroy Israel.

Labels:


 

Some Proof That Longevity is Hereditary



This guy in the fedora is still alive, at 63, almost 64.









This guy's dead.

And 70s running and fitness guru Jim Fixx has been dead of a heart attack while jogging for 23 years.

Labels:


 

This Day in the History of Creepy Coincidences


On this day in 1941, the military units on Guam were ordered by the Navy Department to destroy all codes and secret documents. Such was our country's isolationism that only a successful sneak attack by one of the belligerents could have gotten us into WWII. I've always considered the Roosevelt knew crowd nut case conspiracy theorists, and I still do, but this is weird.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Nusquam est qui ubique est.

Seneca the Younger

He who is everwhere is nowhere.

Labels:


Monday, December 03, 2007

 

Lip Puffing


A while back, with photos of the new, unattractive Jenna Jameson, I warned women not to get their lips puffed up. It is, at best, a tight rope walk between imperceptible change and looking horrible, with most women who do it looking just horrible. Like talentless poor little rich girl, Paris Hilton, nearly unrecognizable to the left.
The photo's from The Superficial.
Really, don't do it.

Labels:


 

Anti-War Movie Box Office Report

The anti-American, anti-Gulf War II or anti-Afghanistan war or anti-War on Terror movies haven't been doing too well domestically. Here's what Box Office Mojo reports from last weekend about their paucity of paying viewers.

Lion for Lambs is at #18 in its 4th week, having grossed domestically $14 Million on a star studded $35 Million budget. That's not a successful movie.

Redacted is at #62 in its third week and is playing in less than a dozen theaters. The site doesn't list its budget (although I believe it was a modest $5 Million) but its domestic gross is truly pathetic at $54 Thousand. That's thousand, with a T.

In the Valley of Elah, which has been around almost a quarter, is at #72 with a very pathetic $6.7 Million domestic gross.

Two earlier films, Rendition and The Kingdom, are apparently no longer being shown in theaters, and topped out with domestic grosses of 9.7 Million and 47.5 Million respectively. The latter, which was a somewhat apolitical action flick, was merely a disappointment at the box office rather than the serious disasters the other movies were and are. And I'm barely aware there was an earlier anti-war film late last year, Home of the Brave, which vanished without a trace with a domestic gross of next to nothing, $25 Thousand, a worldwide gross of a quarter million dollars and a $12 Million budget. Ouch, that one hurts.

Even the unpopular wars in Korea and Viet Nam had a few good movies come out of them.

I'll research the foreign grosses in the next few weeks.

Labels:


 

A Reasonable Projection

Based on the rate of infiltration of this Christmas music backing up television commercials, I think it is likely that by the year 2020, every commercial between Thanksgiving and Christmas will feature either Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker or Leontovych's Carol of the Bells. Every one.

Labels:


 

Report on the American War Dead in Iraq and Afghanistan

I've decided to go by the month because it's easier. For the month of November, as reported by the Department of Defense, 40 American soldiers, etc. died in Iraq and 11 died in Afghanistan. Here are the breakdowns. In Afghanistan, two died from IEDs, two also from small arms (including an RPG). One died from a non combat cause and one from combat operations. The most, five soldiers, died in a single incidence of direct fire (which I assume is the opposite of indirect fire--mortars and cannon and the like). Michael Yon and others keep telling us things are getting worse in Afghanistan, but I'm not seeing it. 11 is of course higher than last month's 9 and both are higher than the average monthly butcher's bill in Afghanistan, but everything I read about is a very one sided affair and it's not us taking the short end of the stick.

If Iraq, 25 were killed by IEDs and 6 were killed by small arms. Five died in accidents (one a roll over of an ambulance in Kuwait) and three died from non combat causes. One was killed by direct fire, whatever that is. I used to go from the fourth of the month to the third of the next, so some of the war dead in this posting's count were counted last time I reported; therefore it seems like slightly less were killed than last month, when I had 40 as well. We lost four Captains and three 2nd Lts. It continues to be a deadly place for our women in the armed forces and four were killed. Tracey Alger, 30, was killed by and IED. Christina Ndururi, 21, died of a non combat illness in Kuwait. Carletta Davis, 34, from Alaska, was killed by an IED. Ashley Sietsema, 20 died in the Kuwait roll over accident.

At the beginning of summer the totals were well over 100, and in August and September the totals were 98 and 72, respectively, so the trend line stays down and it will be good to get it to zero or at least to the rate of accidental and incidental deaths in Germany and Japan in say, 1949. We can't hope for much more than that, even as we turn the corner in Iraq, at least, due largely to the change of strategy and fully to the heart breaking sacrifice of these brave service men and women.

Labels: ,


 

This Day in the History of Close American Votes for President

On this day in 1800, U.S. state electors met and cast their ballots for the presidency, which voting resulted in a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both with 73. Jefferson had been running for President and Burr for Vice President, but the electoral system back then had a few kinks to work out. As fate would have it, Jefferson received more votes, finally, in a House election and became President and later had Burr tried, unsuccessfully, for treason. Burr later shot and killed Alexander Hamilton who had been instrumental in getting Jefferson the votes he needed in the House. Kind of make our current politics seem like patty cakes.

Labels:


 

Thought of the Day

Thais habet nigros, niveos Laecania dentes. Quae ratio est? Emptos haec habet, illa suos.

Martial

Thai has black teeth, Laecania has snowy teeth. What's the reason? The latter bought hers, the former has her own.

Labels:


Sunday, December 02, 2007

 

Thought of the Day

Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right.

Isaac Asimov

Labels:


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?