Sunday, December 31, 2006


.....To You And To All of Yours....

From the ol' vet and his family.

And a toast to the troops.

AmbivaBlog: "What name should we give this decade?"

AmbivaBlog: "What name should we give this decade?"

And following Annie's suggestion:

HAPPY 007!

Believe it or Not

From Mudville

Barring a New Year's Eve plane crash, 2006 looks like a slightly better year in Iraq for US casualties

...the year total of 816 as of Saturday morning, is on course to be slightly lower than last year's 846 U.S. fatalities.

The number of U.S. wounded also declined this year, from 5,947 in 2005 to 5,676 so far this year.

(We should also note that the majority of troops wounded in Iraq returned to duty within 72 hours.)

The headline above the story? Monthly U.S. military deaths in Iraq reach 2-year high

The Corner on National Review Online

The Corner on National Review Online: "It is getting so that the cheap anti-American rhetoric from Europe and the Middle East about our purported complicity in killing a mass murderer should be worn as a badge of honor. We caught him, turned him over for a transparent trial, and ensured he would never murder again. So the question remains: where is the true morality-building this killer's bunkers, selling him weapons, taking his oil-or putting him in a noose?"

This is surprising

Whatever the European media might say, if this poll is correct the majority of the people supported the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Palestinians on Saddam

"We lost a leader."

Ghouls and Parasites

From the opinion journal:

A small but telling example comes in the course of a Reuters report on the latest fighting in Somalia:

More than a decade ago, U.S. forces backed by Black Hawk helicopters suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of militiamen attacking from the city's maze of back alleys.

Reader Steve Tolle comments:

As an Army veteran who had a couple of buddies involved in the Black Hawk Down incident, I take a bit of umbrage at the characterization of a "humiliating defeat."

In the cold calculations of war, the numbers say otherwise. We had 18 soldiers killed and around 70 wounded while inflicting casualties on the enemy of up to 1,000 fighters killed and unknown numbers wounded. We retreated back to the main base in relatively good order while under fire the whole time. We had soldiers who came out of the fight that went back in to help their fellow soldiers. We did all of this against fighters who hid behind women and children while attacking.

We had two Special Forces soldiers win the Medal of Honor posthumously for their efforts to defend one of the downed helicopter's crew. They knew it would be two against hundreds, but went anyway because they were not going to leave any Americans behind.

It was the politicians and media, not the soldiers, which turned this battle into anything other than what it was: a group of U.S. Army soldiers, vastly outnumbered in a hostile city, fighting with bravery and skill, getting themselves out of a bad situation. I don't consider that a defeat, let alone a humiliating one.
Journalists tend not to respond well to such criticism. In his "TV Hall of Shame" for 2006, Eric Deggans, television critic for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, denounces "claims that journalists suppress good news from Iraq":

Statistics proving the Iraq War is the most deadly conflict in history for journalists didn't stop these boneheaded accusations from conservative pundits and war hawks. Even as first lady Laura Bush was insisting to MSNBC last week that journalists weren't reporting "good news," the Iraq Study Group report maintained the media was underreporting violence in Iraq, by not tabulating attacks that don't affect U.S. personnel. But with 126 journalists and support staff dead so far, perhaps the Ann Coulters of the world could ease up on reporters who are risking their lives.

Deggans doesn't actually dispute the contention that journalists suppress good news; he merely suggests that because war reporting is a dangerous business, it is bad form to criticize journalists. Meanwhile, Reuters treats military deaths that haven't even happened as a reason to further the propaganda of those who oppose the military's mission:

In Kansas City, they will light candles and lay out more than 80 pairs of empty combat boots. In Chicago, anti-war activists will hand out black ribbons, each bearing the name of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.

And in New Haven, Connecticut, opponents of the war plan to read aloud the names of 3,000 dead U.S. soldiers.

In all, organizers say some 140 demonstrations in 37 states are planned to mark the 3,000th U.S. military death in Iraq, a milestone that is likely only days away

Like they give a rat's behind. I can see them now, they have their party plans all made and they wait avidly and excitedly for the magic 3,000 to come about so that they can sing and preach and burn flags. Just like the good old days when the demonstrators burned down the ROTC building.

Well you know something? I remember those days and a lot of those demonstrators did not care about dead Americans. Not a bit. They were full of the sanctimonious outrage and wanted to bring about the Revolution! I remember. The dead were just handy, an excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway...raise hell.

What about grim milestones? The press loves them, feeds of them like maggots on a wound..but was the life of the first soldier any less precious than another? Is that life precious at all to the people who are planning this event? These soldiers are volunteers. They are not politicians, they are not policy makers and while the constant negativity can obviously erode the will of the public for conflict and keep hope alive in the ranks of the enemy...what then?

What did that humiliating defeat in Somalia lead to? Well... more war. Packing up and running for the hills did not bring peace. All it did was render the deaths of those young men meaningless. And that is what really hurts.


Now what?

Friday, December 29, 2006

It Is Over For The Butcher of Baghdad

Thankfully, for all of his victims.

I am sorry that even at the end, there are those who believe that something should have saved him from this fate.

Lieberman calls for more troops

In an oped in today's Washington Post, Joe Lieberman makes a case for more troops in Iraq. I am not sure if more troops will help or not, but Lieberman does make a good argument. Interesting thing is that this Democrat will vote like a Republican on this issue at least and that ties up the Senate.

This bloodshed, moreover, is not the inevitable product of ancient hatreds. It is the predictable consequence of a failure to ensure basic security and, equally important, of a conscious strategy by al-Qaeda and Iran, which have systematically aimed to undermine Iraq's fragile political center. By ruthlessly attacking the Shiites in particular over the past three years, al-Qaeda has sought to provoke precisely the dynamic of reciprocal violence that threatens to consume the country.

On this point, let there be no doubt: If Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran. Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism.

To turn around the crisis we need to send more American troops while we also train more Iraqi troops and strengthen the moderate political forces in the national government. After speaking with our military commanders and soldiers there, I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province -- an increase that will at last allow us to establish security throughout the Iraqi capital, hold critical central neighborhoods in the city, clamp down on the insurgency and defeat al-Qaeda in that province.

In Baghdad and Ramadi, I found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops. In both places these soldiers showed a strong commitment to the cause of stopping the extremists. One colonel followed me out of the meeting with our military leaders in Ramadi and said with great emotion, "Sir, I regret that I did not have the chance to speak in the meeting, but I want you to know on behalf of the soldiers in my unit and myself that we believe in why we are fighting here and we want to finish this fight. We know we can win it."

Execution Day

The death warrant for Saddam Hussein has been signed.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Are Journalists Idiots?

Or do they just make up good stories? Way back when, I knew a gal who wrote stories for one of the supermarket tabloids. They would send her a picture and she would write a story to go with it. Her stories were so, ahem, imaginative that they moved her down, or is that up, to one of their wilder publications. Anyway, take a gander at the picture of the "Bradleys" to the left and then read the rest of the story.

Saddam and Terror

Thanks to commenter Ikez I checked out this site, Regime of Terror and found all kinds of interesting stuff. I highly recommend it.

And Clinton let him hang out at the White House

From Captains Quarters :

A newly declassified report from 1973 shows that Yasser Arafat personally commanded the terrorist attack that resulted in the murders of Ambassador Cleo Noel and his deputy George Moore, as well as a Belgian diplomat. Moreover, the two murders appear to have been the entire point of Arafat's attack:

The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yassir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian embassy.

Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the release of the Fatah/BSO [Black September Organization] leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da'ud) from Jordanian captivity. Information acquired subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO leaders did not expect Awadh to be freed, and indicates that one of the primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States because of its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which many Arabs believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.

Peace prize my ass.

Would a reporter lie?

Surely not.

Over at Power line I saw this little diddy:

This account by Thomas DeFrank of the New York Daily News casts doubt on Woodward's version of what Gerald Ford said about Iraq. DeFrank met frequently with Ford, and did so for the last time in May of this year. On that occasion, Ford said he'd told Bush he supported the war in Iraq but that Bush had erred by staking the invasion on weapons of mass destruction. According to DeFrank, Ford explained:

Saddam Hussein was an evil person and there was justification to get rid of him, but we shouldn't have put the basis on weapons of mass destruction. That was a bad mistake. Where does [Bush] get his advice?

Woodward's account also focuses on Ford's view of what the best justification for the war was. But Woodward goes further to report that Ford told him he doesn't think he would have gone to war. That statement may not be 100 percent inconistent with Ford telling DeFrank that he supports the war (now that we're there) and that there was justification to get rid of Saddam. But as Jonah Goldberg says, at a minimum DeFrank's account seems more nuanced than Woodward's version.

Well, it is not as if we can ask Ford to clarify his remarks, now can we? And does it really matter?

I Hate it When That Happens

From the National Weather Service:


That is the outlier model --- most of the rest are only saying 9-20 inches in the next two days.

I'm just planning on staying inside until Sunday.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rest in Peace

President Bush's statement on the death of President Ford:

Laura and I are greatly saddened by the passing of former President Gerald R. Ford.

President Ford was a great American who gave many years of dedicated service to our country. On August 9, 1974, after a long career in the House of Representatives and service as Vice President, he assumed the Presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the Presidency.

The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character, and the honorable conduct of his administration. We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th President will always have a special place in our Nation's memory. On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to Betty Ford and all of President Ford's family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with them in the hours and days ahead.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Another Test

In September of 2002 President Bush spoke to the United Nations General Assembly . Below is an excerpt from that speech.

The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

We can harbor no illusions -- and that's important today to remember. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians, and 40 Iraqi villages.

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

Events can turn in one of two ways: If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The regime will remain unstable -- the region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom, and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

Now compare this speech to the one below and note similarities and differences. Obviously this speech was made after the attacks on 9/11. But, over all are the claims consistent? Is Bush making any demands that have not been made before? Is he more ideoligical? I was struck more by the similarities than the differences.

Oh well, times change. And while Bush might be stuck with reality, there is no reason why the political opposition should waste their time with it. Denial, indeed.

This is a Test.

Who said this? Bill Clinton or George W. Bush:

We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century. They feed on the free flow of information and technology. They actually take advantage of the freer movement of people, information and ideas.
And they will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein's Iraq. His regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region and the security of even against his own people.
And during the Gulf War, Saddam launched Scuds against Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain.
Now, instead of playing by the very rules he agreed to at the end of the Gulf War, Saddam has spent the better part of the past decade trying to cheat on this solemn commitment. Consider just some of the facts:

Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession after the Gulf War. When UNSCOM would then uncover evidence that gave lie to those declarations, Iraq would simply amend the reports.
For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times within just 14 months and it has submitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by UNSCOM.
In 1995, Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-law, and the chief organizer of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, defected to Jordan. He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more.

Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of weapons in significant quantities and weapon stocks. Previously, it had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected to Jordan and told the truth. Now listen to this, what did it admit?
It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability notably 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs.
And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production.
As if we needed further confirmation, you all know what happened to his son-in-law when he made the untimely decision to go back to Iraq.
Next, throughout this entire process, Iraqi agents have undermined and undercut UNSCOM. They've harassed the inspectors, lied to them, disabled monitoring cameras, literally spirited evidence out of the back doors of suspect facilities as inspectors walked through the front door. And our people were there observing it and had the pictures to prove it.
Despite Iraq's deceptions, UNSCOM has nevertheless done a remarkable job. Its inspectors the eyes and ears of the civilized world have uncovered and destroyed more weapons of mass destruction capacity than was destroyed during the Gulf War.
This includes nearly 40,000 chemical weapons, more than 100,000 gallons of chemical weapons agents, 48 operational missiles, 30 warheads specifically fitted for chemical and biological weapons, and a massive biological weapons facility at Al Hakam equipped to produce anthrax and other deadly agents.
Over the past few months, as they have come closer and closer to rooting out Iraq's remaining nuclear capacity, Saddam has undertaken yet another gambit to thwart their ambitions......

It is obvious that there is an attempt here, based on the whole history of this operation since 1991, to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the missiles to deliver them, and the feed stocks necessary to produce them.
The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons.

Now, against that background, let us remember the past here. It is against that background that we have repeatedly and unambiguously made clear our preference for a diplomatic solution......

But to be a genuine solution, and not simply one that glosses over the remaining problem, a diplomatic solution must include or meet a clear, immutable, reasonable, simple standard.
Iraq must agree and soon, to free, full, unfettered access to these sites anywhere in the country. There can be no dilution or diminishment of the integrity of the inspection system that UNSCOM has put in place.
Now those terms are nothing more or less than the essence of what he agreed to at the end of the Gulf War. The Security Council, many times since, has reiterated this standard. If he accepts them, force will not be necessary. If he refuses or continues to evade his obligations through more tactics of delay and deception, he and he alone will be to blame for the consequences.
I ask all of you to remember the record here what he promised to do within 15 days of the end of the Gulf War, what he repeatedly refused to do, what we found out in 1995, what the inspectors have done against all odds. We have no business agreeing to any resolution of this that does not include free, unfettered access to the remaining sites by people who have integrity and proven confidence in the inspection business. That should be our standard. That's what UNSCOM has done, and that's why I have been fighting for it so hard. And that's why the United States should insist upon it.

Now, let's imagine the future. What if he fails to comply, and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made?

Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction.

And some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal. And I think every one of you who's really worked on this for any length of time believes that, too.

Go here for the answer

Monday, December 25, 2006

Annie Gottlieb on Trump's Taste in Decorating

AmbivaBlog: Tough Assignment!: "Only a true peasant still holds up Louis XIV as his fulfilled fantasy of the rich life."

If you don't read Annie's blog, you should.

From the "most secretive administration"

Defense Tech: Flood of Secret Docs Coming: "Score one for the good guys. In a shockingly sane move, the Bush Administration -- widely considered to be the most secretive in recent history -- is going to let hundreds of millions of once-classified documents enter into the public sphere.

Secret documents 25 years old or older will lose their classified status without so much as the stroke of a pen, unless agencies have sought exemptions on the ground that the material remains secret..."

Happy Holiday

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Curse of the Pundit

“Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon taught whomever did not understand this before the importance of a recognized border for the security of Israel. Since 2000, the strength of the invisible wall of international legitimacy has been proven on the Lebanese border. This invisible wall is what is defending northern Israel today. This invisible wall is what is preventing even a terrorist organization like Hizbullah from firing its thousands of long-range Katyushas into the sovereign territory of Israel.”

That is a quote from the book They Promised a Dove by Haggai Segal and Uri Orbach, a compendium of false prophecies published by Israeli pundits in the years leading up to last Summer's war. I love that invisible wall bit because it really was, like, invisible, intangible even. That particular bit of wisdom came from Ari Shavit who writes for Haaretz. He recovered a bit during the war, if I recall, but being left is a mental disease from which folk seldom make a full return to normal. Augean Stables has a review of a review that contains more such quotes. Enjoy.

And yes, I am up late on Christmas Eve, packing for a trip tomorrow. I'm waiting for the sound of sleigh bells.

A Christmas Present

The Blog | Lawrence O'Donnell: Joe Lieberman Will Drop Out | The Huffington Post: "Joe Lieberman will drop out. He probably knows right now that the day will come in late September when he will announce his withdrawal from the race. No one is going to have to talk him into it. By that time, the Democratic Party power structure will be doing its thing for Ned Lamont and Lieberman will be trailing by double digits."

Nothing like seeing Lawrence O'Donnell made a fool of by his own words.

Airbus? Who dat?

Nice to see the EU shilling for Boeing.

I am sure that this will not only boost the credibility of our policy on climate change, but will also help European airlines to develop a competitive advantage through investing in modern technology/methods like with the example of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which will use 20 percent less fuel per passenger than similarly sized airplanes.

Heh. More here.

A Modest Proposal

I was at the counter at Wal-Mart yesterday (yes, Wal-Mart. Wanna make something of it?) buying gift cards for my in-laws (and there's a whole comedy routine right there, I'm sure) and I had an odd experience.

I was next at the counter after waiting for maybe three minutes, the person behind the station I was at was organizing some returns she'd just processed, and after a minute she looked up, apprehension in her eyes, and asked if she could help me. I said "well, yeah, but I can wait for you to finish what you're doing."

Big deal, right? I sure didn't think so. But the other cashier immediately commented to me and to her customer how nice I was being, and the customer also said she'd just been thinking how nice I was being.

I was mildly embarrassed, especially at the degree of appreciation I was getting, and it did strike me that they must have been having a pretty hard day --- which is no surprise either, as this was the first day things were open following the Blizzard of '06. Cabin fever is not pretty and the desperate need to get back on track for Christmas wasn't helping.

All in all, though, it just strikes mke the whole Holiday Season is just unreasonably difficult for pretty much everyone. So here's my plan:

We take a couple of months off, first of all.

Starting in March, if your Social Security number ends in '0', Christmas is on March 25 and New Years Eve is March 31st. If your SSAN ends in '1', you have Christmas on 25 April, and New Year's Eve is the 30th. And so on.

Think of the advantages! The crush of the holidays is replaced with a little rush at the end of most months. We get January and February off from the whole thing, which makes it much easier on people like me who more or less want to hibernate during the Big Dark anyway. Demand is spread out and retailers no longer have to plan their years around one big season; companies can start doing their product announcements whenever something is ready, instead of waiting for the Christmas Season.

We can kill off the month of Hallowe'en and Valentine's Day promotions --- or at least Hallowe'en, I guess they could still push Val's Day. But the whole rest of the year is the "Christmas Season".

Only downside I can think of is that stores will want to play Christmas music all year. But I have a plan for that too: any retail operation that plays Christmas music more than five minutes in every hour will be burned to the ground, and the store managers drawn and quartered in the public square.

For a first offense.

Happy Holidays!

Believe me, in a family including Buddhists, Jews, Baptists, and evangelical atheists, it's the easiest answer.

(That think keening sound you hear is Bill O'Reilly screaming.)

The Diplomatic Mindset

Somalia is back in the news. Bill Roggio has been following it for a while and now Powerline references an article in the Washington Times and a talk by Terrence Lyons sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. It is the latter I wish to talk about, but first I can't help but notice this bit in the Times article.
One area that came under heavy attack was the town of Baledweyn, 220 miles south of the capital Mogadishu...
Baledweyn is in fact 220 miles north of Mogadishu. South of Mogadishu is the Indian Ocean.

Anyway, on to the CFR talk. One point that Terrence Lyons makes is that the events in Somalia are connected to the stalemated peace talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea in Algiers.
So in other words, the dangerous escalation of conflict in Somalia is inherently, and in important ways, connected to the breakdown of the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process, the Algiers process.
I am not convinced on this point. One of the things missing from the talk is any mention of Iran, Hizbollah, or the conflict all around the borders of Islam. No doubt there are local factors involved, but it seems to me that in modern war the most important things are ideology and means. In this case Islam, arms, money, and training. Terrence fails to make the case that Eritrea is supplying any of these, although it is certainly possible. Bill Roggio, on the other hand, points to the use of anti-tank methods also used by Hizbollah in the recent conflict with Israel as an indication of Iranian involvement. So in this case I suspect that Terrence has too narrow a vision. As the saying goes, when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail, and I think the hammer Terrence has in hand is his own participation in the talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Continued...I also find Terrence's proposed solutions curious.
The first is that I believe what is needed to contain the potential conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a much stronger, multilateral diplomacy that is energized by key players like the United States, but also the European Union and the Africa Union, that will reinvigorate the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission, and UNMEE, and this group that's called the Witnesses to the Algiers Process -- these multilateral mechanisms that were moribund for a while, revived to some extent in the last year, but now seem about to pass, we really need to get that piece right because without that multilateral constraint, the prospects for war between Ethiopia and Eritrea are much, much higher.
I simply don't see what impact multilateral diplomacy can have in this situation. The Islamic Courts Union is experiencing victory and I think it unlikely that a winning army, an army that has called for Jihad against Ethiopia and has the support of Al Qaeda, is going to sit down and have productive peace talks with Ethiopia. Things just don't work that way. I think Terrence's point of view is influenced by his profession.
TERRENCE LYONS, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution. Regional dimensions of conflict, conflict management, political transitions, and peace keeping.
It strikes me that Terrence is deeply invested in a specialty that has no successes to speak of. He also makes no mention of a possible role for military force in any solution, yet it seems to me that political settlements in these situations depend almost solely on the threat of force and the potential for loss. Terrence will speak softly but he carries no stick nor wishes to purchase one. No stick, no solution, so say I.

Terrence does supply some extra information that I didn't know. Ethiopia itself is about 50% Muslim. I had always thought of it as a Christian nation, so this changes my view of the dangers to Ethiopia in the developing situation. Terrence says that the Muslims are of a moderate sort, but that sort of thing is always subject to change when the historical winds kick up. Terrence does acknowledge the potential for a wider conflict.
And so the real explosive potential of conflict in Somalia, in my mind, is less because of a fight between the TFG and the Union of Islamic Courts, but rather a region-wide war that brings in Ethiopia on one side, Eritrea on the other, and has the potential to spread across the border into Kenya and Djibouti, and really creating a region-wide conflict and humanitarian emergency. The Islamic Courts Movement is very, very diverse, has many elements in it. The hardline Islamists, who the Americans often point to, are indeed one element of the Islamic Courts, but they're not the only one. But there are some within the Islamic Courts who would very much like to provoke a fight with Ethiopia. That would allow them to use the Somali Nationalism to combine with Islam into a very powerful movement. So -- and Ethiopia has been -- is having great difficulties in resisting those provocation
I think there is going to be a region wide conflict if there are arms and money available. I would also point out that northern Kenya is also Muslim. So even if there aren't a lot of arms involved there is always the possibility of low level guerilla war developing like those currently taking place in southern Thailand and the Phillipines. It just looks to me like we are headed into that sort of historical cycle. The US has important regional bases in Djibouti, sort of inherited from the French, and I keep waiting for some word about what we are doing there to prepare for eventualities. I am sure something is going on.

Terrence then addresses U.S. foreign policy.
The first is that U.S. foreign policy towards the Horn of Africa has been episodic, has been not focused on questions like Ethiopia-Eritrea, but rather Darfur and counterterrorism issues and that what is needed is a comprehensive policy that recognizes the regional linkages, looks for opportunities in one part of this conflict system, the central link set of conflicts that will have positive impacts on other parts of the conflict system.

Let me also say about the -- well, the U.S. action, rather than pursing such a diplomatic, political, regional approach, has in fact been pushing a very narrow sense of U.S. national interest and particular concern with counterterrorism issues. That led the United States to push for this Resolution 1725 in the United Nations.

I say in the paper that I think that resolution was both provocative but also largely symbolic; provocative because it's unambiguously designed to try to constrain, contain, if you will, the Islamic Courts, but largely symbolic because once Ethiopia was -- Ethiopian troops were no longer authorized by this resolution -- the neighboring states were excluded -- there became very little chance, very little prospect that Uganda's really going to send a meaningful force into Baidoa in the kind of time scale that is necessary to avert some -- a crisis.

And so the resolution helped link the United States ever more closely to Ethiopia -- which is dangerous for the United States; and, frankly, I don't think it's, in this case, particularly good for Ethiopia or the transitional federal government -- and in that way has made conflict and the implications of such a conflict in Somalia for U.S. interests in greater danger.

Hmmm, the U.S. pursuing its own interests doesn't strike me as a bad thing in itself. Nor do I think Ugandan troops would have made any difference anyway. Those sort of African peace keeping missions don't have a history of success. And note again the centrality that Terrence places on the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict. I just don't see it. Nor do I see any solution in sight. I do find it interesting that the U.S. is said to be tied to Ethiopia. What is this resolution 1725? Ah, here it is. Nope, I don't see it. The main thing I see is support for the Transitional Federal Institutions -- the government in Ethiopia under attack by the Islamic Courts and a product of Kenyan negotiations -- and a request that the Islamic Courts cease fighting. Looks pretty benign to me except that it doesn't recognize the Islamic Courts as the legitimate government of Ethiopia. I think engagement with the Islamic Courts is what Terrence wants. He justifies it this way.
But within Somalia itself, and recognizing that policymakers are facing a really difficult short-term set of conflicts -- of crises, I would urge the Bush administration and other international actors to treat the Islamic Courts within the Somali context. First of all, they are not monolithic. There's a lot of different forces that are coalescing at the moment around the Islamic Courts. But there's other -- to see them as a monolithic al Qaeda cell is to misunderstand the nature of the movement, misunderstand how clan politics still cut across Somalia and shape, at least in part, the Islamic Courts movement.
So, he says we can work with them. Hmm, didn't Carter have that idea about Khomeini? Wasn't that the justification for throwing the Shah to the wolves? Come to think of it, hasn't Terrence worked with the Carter Center? I am not convinced.

I have been reading Bryan Ward-Perkins' The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. Interesting parallels keep coming to mind. One is the demilitarization of the Roman population, with civilians forbidden to possess arms. That sounds like current day Europe, athough I would like to know more about the Roman law before jumping to conclusions. A second is the role civil war played in weakening Rome at a crucial time. I think that is analogous to the current political civil war taking place here at home with the Democrats and Progressives aligned against the President and his supporters. So much energy expended on internal conflicts and paralysing U.S. power can't be a good thing. The main solace I have is that Rome and the Germanic tribes were more evenly matched in power than the U.S. and the Islamic world and that there are large areas of the globe unaffected by the current conflict. Still, the sense of civil war here at home is disquieting.

Update: There are reports that several thousand Eritrean troops are fighting with the ICU. Weren't the Eritreans sort of Marxist-Leninist back in the day? I seem to recall women fighting in the trenches with the men and all. Ah, well. Times change and Marxism ain't what it used to be. A new religion is in town.

Scapegoating and Denial

Mary Eberstadt has a fascinating article in Real Clear Politics about scapegoats, 9/11 and how the world has and has not dealt with that reality.

Political particulars aside, the ubiquity of that word "denial" is worth pausing over. It connotes that we live in an era of unreality, perhaps even surreality, in which what is said in public is at odds with what is true -- a shortfall invoked now more or less constantly as a feature of political discussion. And so to the obvious question: Why do so many Americans apparently share the sense that we are all being misled, one way and another, about political reality -- and not only about reality in Iraq, but about politics more generally....

One way to begin is to survey the main intellectual and political currents since 9/11, which investigation yields a fact both unexpected and significant. As it turns out, a flight from political reality has indeed been underway on both the left and the right in America in the years since that event, as well as accelerating into more advanced forms in much of Europe. To switch metaphors, in the wake of the 9/11 attack -- and later, related Islamist attacks on civilians, most notably in Spain and Britain -- many Western observers have responded not by absorbing what we now know to be true about our world, but rather by transposing those brute facts into other, safer, more familiar keys.

She then deals in detail with certain manifestations of scapegoating:

Illegal Immigration
In other words, there is something telling about the fact that so far as their critics are concerned, pretty much anything the Mexicans and Central Americans do appears to be a problem. If they work, that's bad because they are taking our jobs. If they don't, that's also bad because they are taking our welfare. Men come to America and live in groups instead of in families: This is bad because men in groups can be frightening and unruly. Men come to America and live in families instead of in groups: This is bad too because it means more Mexicans here. Women come to live with the men: This is worst of all because they are doing it to have what the critics call "anchor babies." Similarly, the workers come here when they're young and healthy and that's bad because it makes them better at physical labor; but they are apparently also full of diseases that make them a menace to a First World community. And so on -- and on and on. One wonders when an environmental impact study of the very air they exhale near the Rio Grande will be waved by Lou Dobbs to show just how far the law-breaking civilization-busters have gone now. Tancredo even manages outrage over the fact that undocumented aliens can apparently use the stacks of the Denver public library by presenting only a driver's license. Mexican farm hands, reading in a library? Dios mio! Will these people never learn to behave like Americans?

In sum, the insistence by impassioned theorists that illegal immigration south of the border is the pre-eminent problem of our time makes perfect sense -- or would, had those been Salvadoreans piloting airplanes on 9/11, Guatemalans bankrolling their efforts, Hondurans plotting attacks on the subways and government buildings of Europe, and Mexicans across the global labor diaspora plotting how to bring down the American government, presumably by poisoning our gardens and toilets. If you do not think that is the way it went down, then Occam's razor dictates this: The sheer volume of emotion on the subject of illegal aliens makes most sense as a manifestation of denial about who would really like to see the end of the American republic -- as it turns out, one form of many now circulating.

Fundamentalist Christians:
In sum, just as the paleoconservative and nativist wings of the right appear to have channeled the anxiety of the post-9/11 years into one relatively safe scapegoat -- largely Hispanic illegal immigrants -- so have the libertarians and some liberal allies fingered their own culprit in the "theocrats," "Christocrats," "Christianists," and "Christian nationalists." At the heart of their case is an obnoxious positing of moral equivalence among "fundamentalists" and "theocrats" irrespective of religious stripe. Accordingly, anyone believing anything based on any holy writ whatever is suspect, no matter whether the message being received is that two hundred babes must die in Chechnya tomorrow or that two hundred trees should be planted in Tel Aviv by Texan evangelicals to hasten the second coming. As with the example of illegal immigration, this rhetoric all makes perfect sense -- or would in a world where Jerry Falwell calls down fatwas on naral, the 700 Club sends suicide bombers into the Key West Fantasy Fest, and Richard John Neuhaus posts death warrants on ewtn whenever he wants the members of decapitated

George Bush:
The author does draw the line between legitimate criticism and scapegoating:
In addition to the ideological scapegoats arising from points right to left, certain other forms of the denial of reality have also manifested themselves in the years since 9/11. Most obvious is the cult formed of disparate theories maintaining perhaps the ultimate resistance: that the towers did not fall because Saudi-born hijackers flew into them, but because of (fill in the blank): an Israeli conspiracy, a Washington conspiracy, a military conspiracy, an industrial conspiracy, a plot ordered by the man in the moon. Of course no one serious -- at least in America -- believes any of this (about some others we shall presently see). Even so, the inside-job men do warrant at least a mention as the most literal incarnation of post 9/11 denial.

But there is one other scapegoat in whom some serious people do believe: George W. Bush -- not the president of the United States, exactly, but his all-purpose totemic doppelgänger.

I think one of the things which has always amazed me about this phenomenon is the seeming amnesia that accompanies it. I remember back in the 90's when Bill Clinton thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ABC was doing specials on Hussein's relationship with AlQaida. It is as if this happened in another dimension. But like other scapegoats, Bush does not fight back.

No, perhaps the anti-Americanism of today is best understood instead as a way of being furious in public with somebody for the insecurities and anxieties wrought by Islamist terrorism in this world, including in increasingly Muslim Europe -- an option made even more attractive by the safe bet that Americans, unlike some other people, are unlikely to respond to this rhetoric, let alone to editorial cartoons, by burning cars, slitting throats, or issuing death threats in places like Paris and Amsterdam and Regensburg and London.

The need to blame
To identify primal fear as the denominator common to the anti-American scapegoating now emanating from some quarters in Europe is not to suggest anything like sinister intent. The same is true of the pundits who have made a different industry of scapegoating in the U.S. All have their reasons, and the overriding reason is an obvious one. There is something deeply human about the desire to find all the things scapegoats can provide: a vessel to bear one's anxieties and outrages, a target that won't hit back, a welcome distraction from the real thing.

Read it all, it really is worth the time.


Everything you ever wanted to know about Santa Klaus.

A few years ago I awoke shortly before dawn on a Christmas morning. It was very cold and there was snow on the roof. But I heard the bells. I did. I lay there very still wondering if I had lost my mind...but clear as anything I heard the soft sound of bells, it sounded as if it came from the tree tops. It was only for an instant..but after that I began to wonder if my childhood belief of Santa Claus was such a fantasy after all.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The four fruitcakes so far...

If you are not a fruitcake fan you can skip this post all together. Which might be 90% of America, led astray by Johnny Carson several decades ago.

But. If you are appreciative of good fruitcake, ya gotta hand it to the Trappists.

And to Grandma. My Grandma (on Dad's side, born in London) made a kind of fruitcake without nuts, more cake-like than a standard American fruitcake, and very similar to something described at Mondo Fruitcake. It also had a hard white icing, though I would have remembered a thin layer of marizipan beneath. The fruits may not have been so finely chopped, but otherwise it sounds and looks quite similar. Absolutely delicious.

This year, I plainly went off my rocker and bought four (4) fruitcakes for those who live in and visit Castell Skookumchuk, ranked as follows in comparison to Grandma's using an utterly arbitrary percentage rating system:

1. Grandma's English Christmas Cake - 100%. Only remembered, the recipe lost. The gold standard.
2. Assumption Abbey - 95%. Rich, fruity, honey and rum flavors. Right behind Grandma, here.
3. Collins Street Apricot and Pecan Cake - 90%. I could eat a whole bowl of pecans - which seemed to be in abundance around Christmas as a kid - or a whole bowl of apricots, so to find them in combination was pretty good, boosting the ranking of an otherwise only better than average fruitcake.
4. Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey - 90%. Good, dense fruitcake, brandy-soaked, heavy on the raisins and the walnuts, made by the monks in Yamhill, Oregon. Would probably be tied with Assumption Abbey were my apricot infatuation not a factor. Thank you St. Benedict. If not for the celibacy thing and getting up at 3:30AM for Mass followed by work, I might be tempted to drive the three hours to Yamhill to convert and enlist.
5. Collins Street DeLuxe Fruit Cake - 85%. OK, so it is made with a host of artificial ingredients. Who cares?

Only a faint, relict sense of moderation kept me from ordering more for further research, especially:

- Gethsemani Farms, in the middle of Kentucky.
- Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA.

Maybe next year. Makes me want to sing Monteverdi's Christmas Vespers just thinking about it, even though I'm tone deaf and don't know Latin.

Merry Christmas.

Let me be the first

... to wish everyone a joyful Festivus.

Today's quote

Spider Robinson: "Anyone who sneers at patriotism—and continues to live in the society whose supporters he scorns—is a parasite, a fraud, or a fool. Often all three."

Friday, December 22, 2006


Bodyhack: "What are the worst things you'd want to hear from a talking vibrator?"

I love the internet.

In From the Cold

In From the Cold: "obviously, such rules don't apply to former national security advisors. Mr. Berger received minimal punishment for offenses that would put mere mortals in grave legal jeopardy. Long-time readers of this blog may also recall that the federal judge who sentenced Berger actually imposed a 'harsher' punishment, since the recommended sentence from the Bush Justice Department was even milder. As we observed at the time, the department's 'go easy' approach smacked of insider politics, an example of high-ranking officials taking care of another member of the club, even if he worked for a Democratic Administration.

Sadly, those same practices seem to be in effect today, more than a year later. Was it any accident that the report was released less than a week before Christmas, when much of official Washington (including the press corps) is out of town. And why did it take so long for the IG to conclude his examination? The events were observed, reported and summarized years ago, and the criminal case against Mr. Berger was concluded last year. Given its glacial pace, we should be thankful the archives IG doesn't handle 'pressing' matters.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's observed famously that the 'rich are different from you and me.' No where is that more evident that inside the Beltway, where the rich and powerful sometimes go to great lengths to assist one another, with little concern for the gravity of offenses committed, and the example it provides to 'the rest of us.'"

Gag Me

AlQaida has a message for the Democrats:

Al Qaeda has sent a message to leaders of the Democratic party that credit for the defeat of congressional Republicans belongs to the terrorists.

In a portion of the tape from al Qaeda No. 2 man, Ayman al Zawahri, made available only today, Zawahri says he has two messages for American Democrats.

"The first is that you aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost," Zawahri said, according to a full transcript obtained by ABC News.

Zawahri calls on the Democrats to negotiate with him and Osama bin Laden, not others in the Islamic world who Zawahri says cannot help.

"And if you don't refrain from the foolish American policy of backing Israel, occupying the lands of Islam and stealing the treasures of the Muslims, then await the same fate," he said.

Hey, maybe Senators Kerry and Nelson could have their people get in touch with his people.

Reason Magazine - The Lingering Stench of Malthus

Reason Magazine - The Lingering Stench of Malthus: "Jeremy Rifkin, the president of the leftist Foundation on Economic Trends, recently wrote an op/ed entitled 'The Risks of Too Much City' in the Washington Post. Mostly it's filled with vacuous platitudes about 'sustainability,' but he does decry the growth of cities. 'In the great era of urbanization we have increasingly shut off the human race from the rest of the natural world in the belief that we could conquer, colonize and utilize the riches of the planet to ensure our autonomy without dire consequences to us and future generations,' he declares. Of course that's exactly what we've done and it's a good thing too."

Confederate Yankee: Another Straw

Confederate Yankee: Another Straw: "In short, four weeks after breaking this story, the Associated Press has no credible witnesses, nor any physical or photographic evidence, of a series of four terrorist attacks that they claimed killed as many as 24 people, six of them burned alive. To date, they refuse to issue a retraction."

Colby Cosh on Saganmas

Once a scientist, then a priest: "Any body of received knowledge stops being science the moment it starts being a priesthood." - -: "'Nearly half of all traffic fatalities are caused by drunken drivers, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data. The NHTSA, along with help from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, tells us that fully 80 percent of all traffic crashes are caused in part by distracted drivers, mostly those talking on cell phones. So why do more drivers encounter radar guns during the holidays than breathalyzers or unsafe driving citations?' Because states and localities don't make money from saving lives. They make money from writing tickets, and it's easy to write speeding tickets."

What's more, by these numbers, 130 percent of all traffic fatalities are caused by the combination of the two. Reducing them by 77 percent would completely eliminate all traffic fatalities whatsoever.

Say Anything: North Dakota's Most Popular Political Blog - The Appalling State Of Our Indian Reservations

Say Anything: North Dakota's Most Popular Political Blog - The Appalling State Of Our Indian Reservations: "It’s happening because of the total failure of the idea embraced by some that the government exists to take care of us. The government has been taking care of North Dakota’s Indians, but it’s harming them more than it’s helping."

Another lovely line

The Volokh Conspiracy - -: "Let me be clear--Harry Belafonte has the same right to express his bizarre, ignorant, and hateful opinions as any other showbiz crackpot."

Breaking News!

Fox News just announced that Mike Nifong has dropped the First Degree Forcible Rape charges against all three of the Duke lacrosse players. Some of the other charges remain, and there are no further details.

No word on where they can go to get back their reputations.

The Corner on National Review Online

The Corner on National Review Online: "Yes, a draft might produce a docile citizenry fit to delight a Rodham, a Blair, or a big government conservative, but other than in a profound national emergency (and compelling youngsters to dig ditches or whatever does not seem to fall into that category) it ought to have no part in a America still run according to the ideals of its founders. Is encouraging patriotism and a pride in this country a good thing? Absolutely. But is a draft the way to do it? No."

And you think you had a bad day....

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Uncommon Sense: Signs of trouble for dictatorship (UPDATED)

Uncommon Sense: Signs of trouble for dictatorship (UPDATED): "CIEGO DE AVILA, Cuba, December 18th, 2006 – More than 300 signs reading “I want change; I do not cooperate” were placed on posts and walls along the main highway, Aguada de Pasajeros.
According to Bernardo Rogelio Arévalo Padrón, director of Linea Sur Press, and independent news agency, numerous stickers appeared in the street on December 8th, the last day of carnivals."

I was hoping this would not happen

Marines to be charged with murder

A Marine Corps squad leader was charged Thursday with murdering 12 people and ordering Marines under his command to murder six other people during an incident that left 24 civilians dead in the Iraqi town of Haditha last year.

The squad leader was one of eight Marines charged in the biggest U.S. criminal case involving killings to arise from the war in Iraq. The others included four officers accused of failures in investigating and reporting the incident, the Marine Corps said.

The highest ranking defendant, Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, was accused of failing to obey an order or regulation, encompassing dereliction of duty.

The squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, was charged with unpremeditated murder of 18 Iraqi civilians, including six people inside a house members of his squad cleared with deadly force. Wuterich also faces a charge of making a false official statement and a charge of soliciting another sergeant to make false official statements.

Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz was accused of the unpremeditated murders of five people and making a false official statement with intent to deceive.

Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt was accused of the unpremeditated murder of three Iraqis.

Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum charged with the unpremeditated murders of two Iraqis, negligent homicide of four Iraqi civilians and a charge of assault upon two Iraqis.

In addition to Chessani, officers charged in connection with how the incident was investigated or reported included 1st Lt. Andrew A. Grayson, Capt. Lucas McConnell, and Capt. Randy W. Stone.

There has been some discussion lately of a change in the Rules of Engagement. I doubt that will happen and incidents like this are why.

Turkmenbashi Died

Yea, I'm still alive. Thankfully, Saparmurat Niyazov (aka the Turkmenbashi) isn't. Good riddance to him.

"It's the most repressive country I've ever been to," British conservative European parliamentarian Martin Callanan told European Union observers earlier this year after a trip to Turkmenistan. "Human rights standards don't exist."

Niyazov was recently ranked No 3 on a list of the world's top five dictators by Britain's New Statesman magazine, just two steps down from North Korea's Kim Jong-il.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

OpenMarket » What do economists really think about global warming

OpenMarket » What do economists really think about global warming: "In other words, if we adapt, we won’t be hurt. If we sit and cower, however, we will be. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by caps and taxes actually lowers our ability to adapt because it makes adaptation more expensive. Some adaptation, of course, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions anyway, so that’s a win-win. And all of this presupposes that the impacts of a warming world will be as severe as the models suggest when, as we saw yesterday, that’s a big if."

Blizzard Intensifies; Travelers Stranded - Weather

Blizzard Intensifies; Travelers Stranded - Weather: "DENVER -- A powerful blizzard crippled holiday travel and shopping in Colorado's biggest cities on Wednesday, dumping up to a foot of snow in the mountains and whipping up 3-foot drifts on the plains."

If you're one of those people who goes around singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" --- just stop it. Now.

Socks, Pants, and Construction Trailers

Former national security adviser Sandy Berger removed classified documents from the National Archives in 2003 and hid them under a construction trailer, the Archives inspector general reported Wednesday.

The report was issued more than a year after Berger pleaded guilty and received a criminal sentence for removal of the documents.

Inspector General Paul Brachfeld reported that when Berger was confronted by Archives officials about the missing documents, he said it was possible he threw them in his office trash.

A new definition for Trailer Trash!

ScienceDaily: Go To Church And Breathe Easier

ScienceDaily: Go To Church And Breathe Easier: "Using peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), researchers measured pulmonary function in 1,189 study subjects ranging in age from 70 to 79 years. They found that regular religious service attendance (at least weekly attendance) was associated with a slower pulmonary function decline among men and women, compared to those who never attend services. The findings could not be explained by differences in smoking or physical activity.

Maselko and her colleagues believe that this is the first study to examine the relationship between religious engagement and lung function over time. Religious activity could benefit health in a number of ways. Overall, going to church provides social contact and emotional support, thereby reducing the isolation that afflicts many elderly and boosting psychological well-being."

Uh, hello? Singing?

Gads, people can get anything funded these days.

Sagan blog-a-thon is Dec. 20

Sagan blog-a-thon is Dec. 20: "Fans and bloggers are planning a worldwide blog-a-thon to commemorate the life and legacy of Carl Sagan -- consummate scientist, communicator and educator -- on Dec. 20, the 10th anniversary of his death. Sagan was Cornell's David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences.

The event, organized by New York City fan Joel Schlosberg, encourages bloggers of all stripes to discuss the Cornell astronomer's influence in their lives. Schlosberg plans to compile a meta-blog -- a blog of blogs -- following the event to link Sagan bloggers to one another."

I'm not as much of a Sagan fan as a lot of people, in particular because he explicitly kept pushing the "nuclear winter" idea long after the original paper was pretty decisively refuted, because he felt it was politically convenient. (Politicizing science is never a good idea.)

But, all in all, we won't see his like again.

What if we are winning in Iraq?

View From The Fruited Plains: What if we are winning?: "One meaning of all of this is that we may not be losing after all. If most of the country is prospering and Iraqis are forming new businesses, then can we assume that overall, we are indeed winning? Another meaning is that Iraqis are showing that they can operate in a liberated economy and if they can work in a free market economy during a war time setting; imagine what they could do if the insurgency is defeated? One important aspect of a liberal democracy succeeding is a liberal economy that frees entrepreneurs from the shackles of government. And Iraqis, with lower tax rates than even seen in the United States, have the money to form new businesses and spend money on new goods. "

Nice line -: "UPDATE: Joel Mackey emails: 'Enron, Worldcom, et al are blared as indictments of capitalism, but let a government agency bilk millions from the public and nary a peep.' If it's only bilking millions, it's not news. Usually, they milk billions!"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Don Surber: Saddam's shame

Don Surber: Saddam's shame: "180,000 dead.


In one campaign.

By his own men.

You know, it was not until the end of World War II that the gas chambers were found. Or that the horrors of the Bataan March were known. I know, we did not go after Japan because of the Rape of Nanking. But history showed we were right then.

We are right now.

Stay. Fight. Win."

Well I'll be danged

Iraq economy is booming .

An Idealism that strangles Mercy

Michael Gersen, former speech writer for George Bush writes an interesting piece for Newsweek :

As antigovernment conservatives seek to purify the Republican Party, it is reasonable to ask if the purest among them are conservatives at all. The combination of disdain for government, a reflexive preference for markets and an unbalanced emphasis on individual choice is usually called libertarianism. The old conservatives had some concerns about that creed, which Russell Kirk called "an ideology of universal selfishness." Conservatives have generally taught that the health of society is determined by the health of institutions: families, neighborhoods, schools, congregations. Unfettered individualism can loosen those bonds, while government can act to strengthen them. By this standard, good public policies—from incentives to charitable giving, to imposing minimal standards on inner-city schools—are not apostasy; they are a thoroughly orthodox, conservative commitment to the common good.

Campaigning on the size of government in 2008, while opponents talk about health care, education and poverty, will seem, and be, procedural, small-minded, cold and uninspired. The moral stakes are even higher. What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare? Nothing. What achievement would it contribute to racial healing and the unity of our country? No achievement at all. Anti-government conservatism turns out to be a strange kind of idealism—an idealism that strangles mercy.

But there is another Republican Party—what might be called the party of the governors. It is the party of Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who has improved the educational performance of minority students and responded effectively to natural disasters. It is the party of Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who mandated basic health insurance while giving subsidies to low-income people. Neither of these men embrace big government; both show convincing outrage at wasteful spending. But they have also succeeded in making government work in essential government roles—not a small thing in a post-Katrina world.

The future of the Republican Party depends on which party it wants to be—the party of purity, or the party of the governors. In that decision, Republicans should consider: any political movement that elevates abstract antigovernment ideology above human needs is hardly conservative, and unlikely to win.

Read it all, it is not long.

What Gersen says is true. People don't want small government, they want effective and honest government. The voting public will not thank the purists for doing away with the drug pescription program..when their Mom or Grandma benefits from it. They will not thank the purists for doing away with financial aid for college tuition when they have kids to send to college.

And they will not thank the purists if everything from Social Security reform to immigration reform die in vitro because purists of either extreme refuse to compromise.

Zucker 12, Baker -3

Smoky Polonium 210 bombs?

Hot air asks "What am I missing?"

Help me out here. By Zimmerman’s own estimation, the dose that killed Litvinenko was “perhaps the size of a couple of grains of salt.” What he doesn’t mention is that the street value of those grains was a cool $10 mil. Doctors believe that he would have been killed with even 1/10th the dosage, which means we’re talking about $1 million per lethal dose. Do the world’s jihadis have nothing better to do with the Saudis’ money than drop half a billion dollars on a “smoky bomb” that would kill 500 people?

A grain of salt seems too large to me, something more like a 10 micron sized particle would do. Lets run through some numbers. If a 10 µm sized particle is LD50/30 -- 50% mortality in 30 days -- then a volume of Po-210 equivalent to a human hair 1 inch long would suffice to kill or sicken about 200,000 people. How large a dose would individuals receive while breathing in a cloud dispersed throughout a large volume? Let us suppose that same hairsized volume of Po-210 dispersed in a stadium, say a football field that holds ~100,000 and a cloud 100 m high. Such a cloud would have dimensions of about 250m x 250m x 100m and a volume of about 6e9 liters. If we further assume a spectator inhales 20 L/min for 15 minutes, or about 300 L, then the fraction of the LD50/30 inhaled by each spectator would be about 1%. Looks like most folks would survive such an attack, although those close to the bomb probably would not.

How does that dose compare to a grain of salt, say a little cube 1 mm on a side? Such a cube has a volume of about five times that of the hair, so about 20 such cubes would poison the whole stadium. Assume $10 million a cube, then for a price of about $200 million in materials one could cause some real damage. Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Still, it looks to me like the money would be better spent on widely available plastic explosives or dynamite.

These numbers are very rough, but I think they do highlight one of the prime problems of chemical warfare: delivery. If that same amount of material could be individually targeted then one could kill millions. Biological warfare at least has the advantage of contagion if the right pathogen is chosen.

Caveat: I haven't rechecked all the numbers. Later.

Lobbying reform?

Mark Tapscott weighs in on lobbying reform:

The key provision of the 2006 bill was its redefinition of grassroots lobbying to include small citizens groups whose messages about Congress and public policy issues are directed toward the general public, according to attorneys for the Free Speech Coalition.

All informational and educational materials produced by such groups would have to be registered and reported on a quarterly basis. Failure to report would result in severe civil penalties (likely followed soon by criminal penalties as well).

The new bill isn't out there yet, nor am I likely to wade through it when it appears, so I will have to wait for further analysis. But this doesn't look good. If citizens groups receiving $50,000 or more in outside funding are to be considered "lobbyists", then we have reached a point where the first amendment is looking pretty thin.

Why are lobbyists evil anyway? Seems to me the problem isn't with the lobbyists, it is with the legislators. Maybe we should require quarterly reports from the congress critters.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Corner on National Review Online

The Corner on National Review Online: "the social gospel and the state cannot be married because the government cannot love you. This is not a metaphysical point but a practical one. States cannot love individuals in much the same way deck furniture cannot write poetry: it is not in their nature. It cannot be done. And when people attempt otherwise, horrible folly ensues. "

Come on, tell us what you really think

Editorial: Carter removing all doubt - "WASHINGTON - There appears to be no bottom to the pit of specious vacuity in which former president Jimmy Carter has been falling since his massive repudiation by voters in his 1980 election loss to Ronald Reagan. Carter’s latest book — “Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid” — poses a ridiculous argument and commits unforgivable intellectual sins while doing so."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

news @ - People track scents in same way as dogs - Human reputation for poor sense of smell is down to lack of practice.

news @ - People track scents in same way as dogs - Human reputation for poor sense of smell is down to lack of practice.: "If you think only hounds can track a scent trail, think again: people can follow their noses too, a new study says. And they do so in a way very similar to dogs, suggesting we're not so bad at detecting smells — we're just out of practice.

Scientists have found that humans have far fewer genes that encode smell receptors than do other animals such as rats and dogs. This seemed to suggest that we're not as talented at discerning scents as other beasts, perhaps because we lost our sense of smell when we began to walk upright, and lifted our noses far away from the aroma-rich earth."

"Real victims ... just have to remember stuff."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Here Today....

...instruments of tomorrow.

Nobody said it would be easy

Charles Krauthammer has an interesting article on the rise of America as a unipolar power and the challenges we face in Iraq and the world as other forces consolidate to oppose us. It is too long to excerpt, so just read the whole thing. He does offer some hope, but it is a sobering read.

I think I like this post by Victor Davis Hanson even better. I especially agree with his remarks about media induced panic. His historical analysis is right on. He is right, this is not Dunkirk. I do however, disagree with his suggestion that we put a dime tax on a gallon of gas. That would be political suicide.


Story Time.

I believe I made reference to this story before so please forgive me for repeating myself.

Years ago in Konowa, Oklahoma a white woman was killed by Indians. The year was 1911. The woman's husband was a saddler and blacksmith. He had made a saddle for two Indian men who lived in the area with their families. The men went to pick up the saddle and the woman was alone. The story was they gave her the money but she refused to hand over their property. Instead she grabbed a gun and went after them. One of the men pulled a knife and killed the woman. In an effort to hide what had happened they tried to feed her to the hogs.

Of course they were picked up with the saddle. The local KKK got wind of the situation and decided that the only good Indian was a dead Indian and besides they had God on their side so they went to what passed for a local jail house and took the men. My great grandfather Fin Scoggins had the audacity to suggest that even an Indian should get a fair trial and these good Christians burned down his barn with his best cow still in it.

They then took the Indians and tied them to huge wagon wheels and whipped them with straps. When they tired of that they poured kerosene over them and lit a match.

My grandmother's family was forced to leave the area. They went to Singer, Texas for awhile and after a few years came back to Konowa when Papa Fin thought it would be safe again. My grandmother was eight years old when this happened, she was 13 when they returned to Oklahoma.

Question: Were these men, who thought they were doing the work of the Lord, vigilantes, terrorists or just plain murderers?

I think perhaps there is another question as well. I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church. They were good people in many ways and if anyone in the congregation was sick or alone they always had support in the Church. But, I have to say the idea of turning the other cheek got lost in the fire and brim stone. I have heard men quote scriptures to justify some of the most unjust acts imaginable. That is why I left the Church. I still consider myself a Christian, but not that kind of Christian.

I suppose my other question is what if the KKK or someone like them had become the political force in our politics that Muslim fundamentalism has in much of the Muslim world? What would that do to do how the nonChristian world views us? After all these guys burn crosses for a reason.

I know people will say that did not and can not happen, but I live in Indiana and it was only about a generation or so ago that the Governor of Indiana had ties to the KKK. In the small town nearby there used to be sign at the edge of town warning all blacks to be gone by nightfall. There are still no black people here. The loss of influence by the likes of the KKK came about because of the rape and murder of a white girl by a prominent member of the organization, not because they saw the light or had a magnaminous change of heart. And whatever they did, they used the bible to justify it, so does that mean the bible is a dangerous book?

This was not some small group of crazies, they were mainstream every day Christian men and women and not only did they not love their fellow man, they hated him.

Where does this kind of hate come from? I honestly do not know, but I think hate feeds on hate. I think that the Jihadis believe that too. They know that the more we hate all Muslims, the more they hate us back. They know that when they riot over silly cartoons we think they are barbarians...they like being barbarians, it makes them powerful. They want a holy war and to have a holy war means they must have an enemy. And right now that is us. I am not some pie in the sky romantic. I am not a flower child. But I know that this kind of hate devours the hater and I want no part of it. When an American can say {and I have heard it said} that he does not care how many innocent people die over there because there are no innocents in the Muslim world..he has lost his humanity. I fear that enemy, the enemy of hate almost as much as the one with the bomb.

Friday, December 15, 2006

People need to do some things for themselves

David mentioned in the comments to the Skook's Five o' Clock post below that Bush is responsible for the ignorance of the Democrats and the American people in regards to the enemy because he is too politically correct to name the enemy.

I disagree. I have heard both Bush and Blair say that we are in a war with Islamic fascists and all they got for their trouble was hell from the press and the pundits.

But the truth is people need to do a better job of figuring some of this out for themselves. Whether they be private citizens or Congressional Representatives there is no excuse for sitting back and waiting for George Bush to tell you who the enemy is when the enemy is out there threatening to kill you on a daily basis. I mean really, we live in a world in which there is an unprecedented amount of information available to people and it is as if the more information there is, the more confusion there is.

My father told me that when they heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii he and his best friend went to the school house to look at the globe and find Pearl Harbor. But today, they could go to Google and probably get pictures of the smoking hulks of US Naval ships.

And yet people argue over whether it is Bush's job to tell who is Sunni and Shia and AlQaida and Hezbellah. In truth political correctness is not the only problem, or even the main one. The problem is people do not agree on who the enemy really is.

I for one do not believe we are in a war with Islam. I resent people on the Right characterizing all Muslims as being the same, as if they are part of the Borg, some ccollective intelligence that commands all their movements and beliefs. At the same time there are people on the Left who see all Muslims as victims, as some oppressed class who bear no responsiblity for themselves or the world they are a part of. Both views are overly simplistic and tell us more about the people who have such beliefs than they do about the Muslim world itself.

I was watching the show Closer recently, an episode that I believe was called Serving the King. An older CIA agent has asked Kyra Sedgwick's character to help in an investigation of the murder of an Arab teen because the CIA believes there are ties to terrorism and that perhaps the agency itself has a traitor. This agent makes a comment that I think says who our enemy is as well as any I have heard: He said that years ago the enemy read Mein Kampf and then the there was a new enemy who read Lenin and Marx and dispatched people with a shot to the back of the head. Now the enemy misuses the Koran and kills with bombs. Same enemy, different book.

So no, I don't think it is that simple. I don't think any president, politically correct or not is going to go on TV and make some statement that will satisfy people. He can not simply name the enemy and win the debate. Especially if people can not be bothered to educate themselves enough to know who and what they are dealing with and to agree among themselves what it means.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock?

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock"?

You know, some guy always comes up to my window to renew his driver's license at 5:02. Of course, he swears that by his watch, it is only 4:55. Every friggin' day.

Followed quickly by:

"Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?"

No. Disculpe, pero no entiendo castellano.

It is going to be a very long century.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lies We Must Live With

New at CSPO: "I find efforts to reconcile science and Judeo-Christian religion rather bizarre, despite many well-meaning efforts (such as the recent book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence of Belief, by NIH National Human Genome Research Institute director Francis Collins). After all, religion cannot exist without ultimate meaning, and science cannot exist with it. It would be a strange God who laid reality out as a mystery for scientists’ continual amusement, and a strange science whose job was simply to reveal the mechanics behind God’s mysterious ways. But wait a minute, that’s what Copernicus, Kepler, and other titans of early Western science thought they were doing. Kepler, for example, saw in science a gift to humans that allowed them “to some extent taste the satisfaction of God the Workman with his own works,” and he viewed celestial mechanics as “this music which imitates God.” Sounds a little too close to Intelligent Design for comfort, doesn’t it?

On second thought, it is not particularly problematic for science to trace evolution or celestial mechanics back to an ultimate origin in God’s work, since ultimate origins don’t really make any difference one way or the other to the validity of the science. The authority of an evolutionary biologist is in no way threatened by the notion that it all started through supernatural intervention, since you can push “it all started” as far back into pre-history as you like, say, 15 billion years. Where you get into trouble, though, is when you try to explain phenomena like moral reasoning or religious belief in terms of, say, neurological activity or the evolution of the brain, which of course is just the sort of thing that researchers in fields such as cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology try to do. This type of trouble was acknowledged with rare candor by Columbia University biologist Robert Pollack in his book The Faith of Biology & The Biology of Faith, who writes that “evolution through natural selection explains certain facts of life that touch on matters of meaning and purpose . . . [T]he vision of the natural world these explanations produce is simply too terrifying and depressing to me to be borne without the emotional buffer of my own religion.”

And I'm going to miss this guy...

I am going to miss this guy

Via Greg Tinti :

In typical Bolton fashion, he's not going to go out without a bang.

The outgoing US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, is backing a call for the president of Iran to be charged with inciting genocide because of his speeches advocating the destruction of the state of Israel.

Barely a week after he announced his resignation from the UN post, Mr Bolton will appear tomorrow among a panel of diplomats and lawyers calling for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be prosecuted. The panel has been convened by a Jewish umbrella group in the US, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations.

I know the ICC will not do anything to the mad mullahs, but it is nice to see someone have the nerve to call Ahmadenijad on his crap. I understand that David Duke attended the Holocaust Conference in Teheran. With all those haters there in one spot it is too bad that God or the President of the United States did not send down a lightning bolt to blast them straight to hell where their kind belong.

Would Jefferson be ticked?

dafydd says he would be. Why? Because bloggers like Dean Barnett claim that we have failed to establish a Jeffersonian Democracy in Iraq. Dafydd's point being that we never said we would. Jeffersonian Democracy was not the model. He also makes a good point that if violence is a sign of a country that can not live under a democratic system then our Civil War should have made it plain we were incapable of it long ago. Dafydd's most interesting comparison however, is with Greece. Not so long ago that country seemed to be locked in hopeless violence.

Personally I don't think that most people today even know what Jeffersonian Democracy is. And that includes Americans.

Joyce Appleby, a modern day historian of Thomas Jefferson says that the true Jeffersonian legacy is to be hostile to legacies. The man was a contradiction, a libertarian slave holder, a believer in states rights and the author of the Declaration of Independence. Let us not burden him with the responsiblity of creating a democratic model for the Middle East.

Europeans and Japanese and Turks have each managed their own form of representative government. It is the only modern style of government which mandates accountability and that is what the Middle East is most in need of.

Abolish the Education Degree?

Transterrestrial Musings: "Mr. Levine's research shows that even the students themselves know how weak their programs are. Sixty-two percent of ed-school alumni say their training didn't prepare them to 'cope with the realities of today's classrooms.' Surveys show that school principals agree. "

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

From the Academic Parallel Universe

Language Log: Slogan strong: "It's hard to disagree with the idea that the US Army really needs a new slogan. For some mysterious reason it's become difficult for the military to recruit new soldiers these days. "


WASHINGTON - Though Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the war in Iraq, the Pentagon said Tuesday it is having success enlisting new troops. The Navy and Air Force met their recruiting goals last month while the Army and Marine Corps exceeded theirs, the Defense Department announced.

The Army, which is bearing the brunt of the work in Iraq, did the best. It signed up 6,485 new recruits in November compared with its target of 6,150 — meaning 105 percent of its goal.