Friday, December 30, 2005

The Friday Furo Questus - PS Editition

The Pacific Slope Edition

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man."
Benjamin Franklin

Here I am, at the turning of another year.

And of course, the inevitable resolutions. Along with the usual ones to lose weight and eat healthier, I have some spiritual goals I hope to accomplish, I plan to date more, to read more, and to get going on that train layout I've been itching to get going. While some are more possible than others (although I did have two dates in a single month this month - wonders never cease), they're goals worth shooting for.

It also offers a time for some introspection and retrospection, a time to look at ourselves and where we have been. While I'm not satisfied with where I am (hence the aforementioned resolutions), there's time to improve, and in all, it's been a good year. I've been able to travel a little, making it to Chicago, Boston, and Boise; my dating situation is a little better than it was at this time last year; and thank's to
Jamo's urgings, I started blogging.

One of the results of Jamo's urgings is our group blog, the
Wasatch Front. There, A bunch of friends rattle on about the issues of the day and whatever strikes our fancy, although it has been quiet of late. The others are this blog, The Pacific Slope, and its spin-off, The Pacific Slope Extension. The Extension is a mostly de-politicized single-subject place, set aside for my interest in railroads and rail history, and my hobby of model railroading; here, I'll comment on anything, from the latest news to the oldest jokes.

Why blog in the first place? Well, it's good for my blood pressure - a rant-space where I can babble on, maybe write something someone will find interesting, and I can put down my thoughts. Am I writing for all the world to see? Maybe - but the world has to come find me if they want to read it. Here, I'm really writing for myself.

What will 2006 bring? Good and evil, heroics and cowardice, war and peace will all come. If we're lucky, 2006 will be a relatively quiet year, but I can't help but wonder if we live in the "interesting times" threatened by that old Chinese curse. Some interesting things will happen - friends of mine will be getting married, and other friends will be having kids. That weird feeling of at once being old and young, of simultaneously feeling behind even as I make progress, will be a constant companion in the year to come.

What the future holds for me is anybody's guess. I don't have the foggiest notion. I'm not worried; the ultimate end is assured. It's the getting there that's not too clear.

I'll keep you posted.

Without further ado. the
Churchill Quote of the Week
"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
Sir Winston Churchill

A good thought to keep in mind as we make our New Year's resolutions.

Happy New Year, everybody. See you in '06.

The Friday Furo Questus, only at the Wasatch Front!]

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bush Didn't Lie!

Paging Senator Blowhard, er, Kennedy - Paging Senator Kennedy...

Anyone who frequents this blog probably knows I didn't subscribe to that anyway. But I want to point you to
this piece at the Chicago Tribune. They analyze Bush's case for the Iraq war, point by point - and find the accusations of deliberate misleading baseless.

Where Are The Medals?

From USA Today:
American troops have been fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than four years, but just one soldier from those wars has received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor for bravery.

The lack of such medals - by comparison, two were awarded for fighting in Somalia - reflects today's unconventional warfare and the superior weaponry of U.S. forces, military experts say. It's not that today's troops lack valor, but they lack opportunities to display it in the extraordinary way that would merit the Medal of Honor.
Here's a question for you: Do any of you know who won the Medal of Honor in Iraq?


Anyone? There's only one name to remember...Anyone?

Didn't think so. You haven't heard his name much:
The most recent act to merit the Medal of Honor came on April 4, 2003. On that day, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith, his position near the Baghdad airport nearly overrun, hastily organized a defense.

Under fire, Smith climbed onto a damaged armored vehicle and attacked the enemy with a .50-caliber machine gun. He killed as many as 50 enemy soldiers and helped save the lives of 100 Americans.
Sgt. Smith was killed at his gun that day. You can learn more about Sgt. Smith at the St. Petersburg Times, or at the Army's official site.

Of course, no one remebers the names of the two killed in Somalia, either:
Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart received the award posthumously. They protected critically wounded comrades whose helicopter had crashed in hostile territory in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 3, 1993. Their heroism was depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down.
If you remember the movie - they were the two snipers who were in the fire support helicopter. When the second Black Hawk crashed, they went to its aid - two men, alone, with only a limited supply of ammunition. I don't know why we don't hear their names more often.

And there are acts of heroism recognized: In addition to Smith's Medal of Honor, the second top honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, has been awarded twice to soldiers fighting in Iraq. Next is the Silver Star; 174 have been issued, according to the Army. In Afghanistan, there has been one Distinguished Service Cross and 37 Silver Stars. The Navy has awarded three Navy Crosses and 30 Silver Stars since Sept. 11, 2001.

Sargent York and Audie Murphy were household names; our current heroes are lucky to get two minutes on their hometown newscast. Such is the homefront in this strange war in which we find ourselves.

[Crossposted to the
Wasatch Front.]

A Note To Sir Paul

[To our readers - from time to time, Tyler likes to post what he calls "randoms." They are just that - random thoughts from his fevered imagination.

We've been trying to reign him in on these, but this one slipped past the staff censor. Sorry.

And you have been warned. - The Editors]

Dear Sir McCartney:

Sir, I am, at best, only a minor fan. I do recognize your considerable songwriting and singing talent; the stellar success of the Beatles is ample testimony of that. "Get Back" is a great song, and "Live and Let Die" is a most excellent piece of rock'n'roll.

But I have to ask you to perform a public service, and renounce "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time." I don't know what you were thinking; perhaps you were having an off day, or you wanted to get your label to back off.

Having suffered through roughly 12, 893 repetitions of this song since November, I have decided that it must be on the soundtrack of Hell. Its vapid lyrics and gaudy synthesizers induce not Christmas cheer but a complete cessation of higher mental activity and a blank stare. In a just world, it would only be played in the hallways of Guantanamo Bay and piped into Saddam Hussein's cell; but instead I hear it in the grocery store, the mall, and the local 24/7 Christmas radio station. (Speaking of which... no, I'll leave that for another day.)

I have to say it is the only black mark on your stirling career, sir - so I ask that you renounce it.

I will have my Bond soundtrack collection blaring in anticpation of your response.



When you were young, and your heart was an open book, you used to say, live and let live...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Post-Christmas Syndrome

The rumor that I attempted to see just how high it is possible to get one's blood sugar over Christmas is a gross lie.

That was merely a byproduct of all the wonderful food laying about...

Friday, December 23, 2005

And Now, Kermit The Frog

I'm going to sign off for now, I'll be back next week. I'm going to leave you with Kermit singing one of his Christmas carols (lyrics here).

But before I go - have a Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays. May peace and joy be your lot this season and all throughout the coming year.


The Christmas Wish (Wheetman)

I don’t know if you believe in Christmas,
or if you have presents underneath the Christmas tree.
But if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for you to come and celebrate with me.

For I have held the precious gift that love brings
even though I’ve never saw a Christmas star.
But I know there is a light, I have felt it burn inside,
and I can see it shining from afar.

Christmas is a time to come together, a time to put all differences aside.
And I reach out my hand to the family of man
to share the joy I feel at Christmas time.

For the truth that binds us all together, I would like to say a simple prayer.
That at this special time, you will have true peace of mind
and love to last throughout the coming year.

And if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for peace to last throughout the coming year.
And peace on earth will last throughout the year.

When The River Meets The Sea (Williams)

When the mountain touches the valley, all the clouds are taught to fly
as our souls will leave this land most peacefully.
Though our minds be filled with questions, in our hearts we'll understand
when the river meets the sea.

Like a flower that has blossomed in the dry and barren sand,
We are born and born again most gracefully.
Thus the winds of time will take us with a sure and steady hand
when the river meets the sea.

Patience, my brother and patience, my son, in that sweet and final hour
truth and justice will be done.

Like a baby when it is sleeping in its loving mother's arms,
what a newborn baby dreams is a mystery.
But his life will find a purpose and in time he'll understand
when the river meets the sea.
When the river meets the almighty sea.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Traditional)

We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas,
we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

We want some figgy pudding, we want some figgy pudding,
we want some figgy pudding, please bring it right here.

We won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some,
we won't go until we get some (Animal, sit!), so bring it out here.

We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas,
we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

The Friday Furo Questus

Merry Christmas!

Questus Christmas
It's a most wonderful time of the year; hearts soften, eyes brighten, and joy abounds. Family and friends gather as best they can.

When one wishes another a "Merry Christmas," he is wishing that person well. He is hoping the best for that person - that joy and peace will go with him in the coming year.

And so it is with me. May you know peace and joy this Christmas, and all throughout the coming year.

Merry Christmas, every one.

For anyone who has even a passing interest in the doings and affairs of the LDS Church, today is an important day. Today is the
200th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith.

To commemorate this day, and as a way of remembering and honoring Jospeh Smith, leaders of the LDS Church will be participating in a number of activities throughout the day, capping it off with a
special broadcast this evening. Details of where and how to view it are available by following that link.

Recommended Reading
James Robbins,
"Christmas 1864."

Joseph Skelly,
"From the Delaware to the Tigris."

Doug Gamble,
"The Christmas Songs."

"Track Santa" website.

Thought of the Week
Book of Luke, Chapter 2:
1 AND it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Crossposted to The Wasatch Front.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Screaming Eagles Stand At Bastogne

John at Argghhh!!! has been remembering the Battle of the Bulge by exerpting from the well-written Official History of The Battle of the Bulge, by Hugh Cole.

Today is the anniversary of one of the most famous events of the battle, the encirclement and survival of the 101st Airborne Division and its attached units at Bastogne. (See maps here and here.)

Bastogne was key. A major road junction, as long as it was in American hands it would cripple the German advance, and if the Nazis took it their advance could have very well rolled all the way to Antwerp.

The Germans needed it, and the Americans had to hold it. Rushed to Bastogne on December 18th, 1944, they were encircled on December 20th. On December 22nd,
What may have been the biggest morale booster came with a reverse twist-the enemy "ultimatum." About noon four Germans under a white flag entered the lines of the 2d Battalion, 327th. The terms of the announcement they carried were simple: "the honorable surrender of the encircled town," this to be accomplished in two hours on threat of "annihilation" by the massed fires of the German artillery. The rest of the story has become legend: how General McAuliffe disdainfully answered "Nuts!"; and how Colonel Harper, commander of the 327th, hard pressed to translate the idiom, compromised on "Go to Hell!" The ultimatum had been signed rather ambiguously by "The German Commander," and none of the German generals then in the Bastogne sector seem to have been anxious to claim authorship.14 Lt. Col. Paul A Danahy, G-2 of the 101st, saw to it that the story was circulated-and appropriately embellished-in the daily periodic report: "The Commanding General's answer was, with a sarcastic air of humorous tolerance, emphatically negative."
Completely encircled, cut off from all reinforcements, and limited to what few supplies could be parachuted in, the American troops held on for a week, finally being reached by units of Patton's Third Army on the afternoon of December 26th.

They would remain on the front lines of the battle until late February, 1945. For their stand at Bastogne, the entire division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

More can be found at this website and also here.

Wandering The Web

Brace for impact: linkfest inbound!

The Iraq War: a war without heroes. And not because there aren't any.

Victor Davis Hanson has a new piece today, "Why Not Support Democracy?"

John at Argghhh!!! found this news interesting: Syria has signed a pledge to store Iranian nukes. Or, as John put it:
That headline should read: London - Syria has signed a pledge to be targets number one through "no stone left standing upon the other" in both the US and Israeli Air Tasking Orders by agreeing to store Iranian nuclear weapons and missiles.
Is that really a good idea, Mr. Assad? Anger us enough, and we might be willing to try regime change again...

How quickly we forget: the murderer of Robert Stethem ).S. Navy diver, executed during the hijacking of TWA in 198) was released by German authorities yesterday. He was supposed to be serving a life sentence. More at Bloodspite.

John Derbyshire at The Corner refers us to this piece by The War Nerd, "The Japanese Red Army." It's one of those things where you feel you shouldn't be enjoying it - it feels wrong - but you eagerly read on anyway. Such as:
The man who tried to rouse Japan's military spirit was a writer named Yukio Mishima. A freak, no denying that, but at least he was anti-peace, pro-war-he had "moral clarity," as they say. Not your typical militarist, though-Mishima was an "avant-garde" novelist. Haven't read his books, but I'd imagine "avant-garde" means his books make no sense even in translation. He was also a flaming mariposa, gay as a Spartan bath attendant. Worked out non-stop, got very buffed (for a Japanese) and was always posing with his shirt off, trying to look Imperial, with that rising-sun flag wrapped around him, or wearing a samurai sword and headband-only he's always got that "Hi there, Sailor" expression which pretty much ruins the effect.
The rest of it is worth reading, too.

And the good guys at Argghhh!!! have been keeping busy, too. There's something for everyone: airplanes, some humor, and remembering the Battle of the Bulge (today, Bastogne), a bit of comparative history, amd remembering today's war, too. Drop by - it's always worth a visit.

Cross-posted to The Wasatch Front.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks we are backsliding to a pre-9/11 mindset. I'm joined in this concern by no less than the editorial board of National Review Online. The lede:
We are once again living in September 10 America. The signs are all around us: Congress's acting to neuter interrogations of terrorist detainees; the Senate's filibustering the reauthorization of the most important piece of counterterrorism legislation since 9/11, the Patriot Act (Sen. John Sununu, who supports the filibuster, responds to our Friday editorial here); and now the controversy over National Security Agency intercepts of conversations between persons in the United States and suspected al Qaeda operatives overseas.
As much as I would like to comment on the NSA flap, I cannot add any value to that debate. You would be better off going here and here, for a legal analysis and for some ongoing analysis (and even more here). Some things to keep in mind - the purpose of the program was intelligence-gathering, not criminal prosecution; contrary to Democratic protestations, Congress was not circumvented and did have oversight (probably through the Select Intelligence Committee); the intent was to monitor international phone calls, not domestic calls; and finally, there seems to be some unique technology involved - several reports have hinted that the intelligence was collected using some means that makes warrants difficult to procure. If that is the case, the President may have decided it was better to proceed than spend a decade arguing over and creating legislation and case law. In other words, act, and deal with the consequences when they happen.

While the legalities and proper procedure can be argued - there's a lot more to learn on this story - it is not the "The President is spying on you!" narrative the major media was pushing over the weekend. (Headline in last Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune: "President says spying on citizens OK.") The truth is, it's a lot more complicated than that.

And that reaction is what troubles me. It suggests to me that all too large a portion of the public and the media fear Republicans more than they fear terrorists, and that's just sad.

While I would rather be whispering to the wind than be right on this, I fear that the public consciousness has forgotten September 11th, or at least banished those thoughts to that some dark place our grandparents buried memories of World War One, the 1918 flu pandemic, and the Korean War. A dark and quiet place, far from here, where the ghosts cannot trouble us.

That's not to say everyone has forgotten. I had a conversation with a friend this last weekend. She was alone on business in the Midwest when 9/11 happened, and was stranded there by the airline grounding. She was in an area where fuel prices immediately shot sky-high on panicked speculation. She hasn't forgotten.

But then I look more broadly around, at the movers and shakers, at those in the public sphere. While there are thousands of stories like my friend's, they seem to matter little in the bigger scheme of things.

I have to be honest, I worry, and I worry too much. Not for me - when my time comes, it comes. When God calls me home, who am I to argue? But I worry for my family, my friends, and my countrymen - I watched thousands die on September 11th, practically before my eyes. I admit I was scared then - how far would it go, and why? Now, I just want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

If Locusts Show Up, I'm Outta Here

If hurricanes and floods weren't enough, now Lousiana has had an earthquake.

Granted, it was only a 3.0 - big enough to notice, if happened right under you. Nothing to worry about.

But enough is enough. I know New Orleans was a pretty decadent city, but I'm not sure it deserves the whole "seven plagues" treatment...

Latter-Day Politics

Kathryn Jean Lopez has an interesting interview with Michael Cromartie, director of the Evangelical Studies Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The interview can be found here.

To sum up - Mitt Romney's LDS faith could and probably will be a negative influence in a Presidential run - but an influence that could be overcome.

A couple of Cromartie's thoughts: Romney will need to be up front and discuss his faith and what it means to him; evangelicals have issues with Mormon beliefs; the "Mormon factor" will play a more negative role in the national, general election; either he or his campaign will need to state what the LDS religion believes about the relationship between church and state.

Makes for an interesting read, anyway.

There's some good blog-fodder in there, as well. Stay tuned for a post on LDS attitudes towards church & state, probably after Christmas.

As for the "Mormon Factor," well, only time shall tell.

Crossposted to The Wasatch Front.
And check out our Mitt Romney archive page, RomneyWatch.

The Scientific Glories Of The Soviet Union

Or, "there's a reason Communism was consigned to the dust bin of history."

Truth is stranger than fiction.

As reported in the Scotsman, Stalin literally tried to create The New Soviet Man:
THE Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the creation of Planet of the Apes-style warriors by crossing humans with apes, according to recently uncovered secret documents.

Moscow archives show that in the mid-1920s Russia's top animal breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, was ordered to turn his skills from horse and animal work to the quest for a super-warrior.

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."
As you may have noticed, due to the lack of any Communist monkey overlords, that this project failed. But failure carried a high price in the Soviet Union:
Mr Ivanov was now in disgrace. His were not the only experiments going wrong: the plan to collectivise farms ended in the 1932 famine in which at least four million died.

For his expensive failure, he was sentenced to five years' jail, which was later commuted to five years' exile in the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan in 1931. A year later he died, reportedly after falling sick while standing on a freezing railway platform.
History is silent as to whether his illness was due to acute lead poisoning, a common illness in Stalinist Russia.

A lot of men and women died because they could not bend science to the will of the State. "I canna change the laws of physics!" carried no truck in the age of Stalin.

The time has come to read Robert Conquest, I think. He was one of the view who saw the monster for what it was, and still does today. (Jay Nordlinger wrote about him back in December 2002, and this last November Conquest was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Especially, make sure to read the 24th paragraph.)

(Crossposted to The Wasatch Front.)

Friday, December 16, 2005


From The Corner:
All across Washington today, Republican frustration has shot off the scale after the successful filibuster in the Senate of the extension of the Patriot Act. First, Republicans I have talked to are angry at the four GOP senators who voted with Democrats to filibuster the Act -- John Sununu, Larry Craig, Lisa Murkowski, and Chuck Hagel. "Disgusting," said one Hill Republican. "Just disgusting." More substantively, pro-Patriot Act Republicans are angry because they believe that if the Act is allowed to expire, key weapons in the war on terror will be lost. But Republicans are angry about more than just the Patriot Act. When the filibuster is viewed in context with some other recent developments -- the Bush surrender on the treatment of terrorist detainees, today's New York Times story on "secret" National Security Agency surveillance, and the Democrats' continuing "Bush lied and people died" campaign against the administration's conduct of the war on terror -- a number of Republicans believe they are in a titanic struggle, not just against global terrorism, but against those in the United States who oppose the administration's policies in the fight against global terrorism. And all of it comes against the backdrop of a stunning success in the Iraqi elections, in which pro-democratic forces were able to attract the participation of large numbers of Sunnis. Put it together, and today has been a day of great success and bitter anger for supporters of the Bush administration.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that we are either too stupid or too gutless to win this thing.

Listen - these guys - the terrorists and the leaders of sympathetic countries, especially Iran, North Korea, and Libya - like to parade around in uniform and give fiery speeches about the Great Satan and evil and terrible we and our decadent ways are.

They did that before 9/11, too. Then some of them decided to finally act on it.

It's a great deal for those dictatorships - they get to see their enemy given a black eye at negligible cost and at no accountability to them.

The Bush Doctrine was supposed to change that. So far as it has been applied, it has. But our enemies think we lack the will to persevere.

And today's vote suggests they're right. We may very well be back to a mindset where 9/11 never happened. And if that's the case, Heaven help us. Because our enemies mean what they say. We would do well to take them at their words.

Remembering the Battle of the Bulge

Leave it to John at Argghhh! He has called to my attention that on this day, in 1944, Nazi Germany made one last grasp for victory. And they almost succeeded.

But John does it better than I - so go see his post for yourself.

The official history of the Battle of the Bulge can be found here, free and online.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fire And Ice

A steam plume extending from Augustine for about 50 miles (75 km) towards the SE was noted in a MODIS satellite image from 2040 UTC today (Dec. 12, 2005). This image comes from the Geographic Information Network of Alaska (GINA) web site.
Picture courtesy the
Alaska Volcano Observatory

It appears that Mount Augustine, roughly 175 miles southwest of Anchorage, is becoming active again. While the Alaska Volcano Observatory does not believe an eruption is imminent, they do believe magma is moving closer to the surface, which could eventually lead to an eruption. A large steam plume (seen in the satellite photo above) has appeared over the mountain, and contains high concentrations of sulfur and sulfur oxides, characteristic of fresh magma. The gas concentrations have been strong enough that they can be smelled on the Kenai Peninsula, almost fifty miles away across the Cook Inlet.

While not presenting a direct danger to humans, so far as anyone can tell, the volcano does have the potential to disrupt intercontinental and local air traffic, and disrupt travel and communications with the many small villages that dot the Cook Inlet side of the Kenai Peninsula. The AVO will be watching.

For the latest, go to:
Alaska Volcano Observatory
AVO's Mount Augustine page
Anchorage Daily News

The War Goes On

Michael Ledeen has a sobering column at National Review Online today.

All over the world, terror is gathering its forces. All accross Europe, it spreads its tendrils, snaking into every country. All across Asia, its hatred grows.

And in Iran, one of its staunchest supporters pursues the nuclear bomb, at the urgings of a madman.

And we sit here, fat, dumb, and happy, with our media focused on movie box office receipts and political games.

Mr. President, as Mr. Ledeen says: faster, please.

Hey Kanye... does this mean George Bush hates white people?

Yes, you read that right - white people died at a higher rate than black people in New Orleans. So all you racial camp-followers can just shut up now.

That especially means you, Kanye West.

(I have to listen to that yahoo this Saturday, too. He's opening for U2. Bono, buddy - what were you thinking?)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Romney For President?

Could be. Breaking news - Mitt Romney will announce that he will not run again for Massachusetts governor in 2006.

Details at The Wasatch Front.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Missing Memorial

"How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."
Ronald Reagan
John J. Miller writes today about a worthy effort - the construction of a monument to the victims of Communism.

This monument needs to be built. Earlier this year, a small memorial to those who died trying to escape across the Berlin Wall was destroyed. The monument consisted of a small field, with a number of simple wooden crosses, one for each life lost. They were bulldozed to make way for a new gallery. There is no plan to replace the monument.

The history of the Cold War is being lost, partly out of the forward march of time and partly out of deliberate neglect. There are those who do not want the ills of Communism remembered, despite the fact that the only legacy of Communism is the accomplishment of reaping more human misery and death than any ideology in human history.

It should be remembered, so that we and our successors do not try it ourselves.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Never Give In

"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School

The Friday Furo Questus

Questus Furore - Dishonoring The Fallen
Well, atheists are back in the news. (Or as Best of the Web put it recently, "atheist jerks.")

It seems that a
Texas-based atheist group has sued the Utah Highway Patrol over thirteen memorial crosses, placed in memory of state troopers killed in the line of duty.

As the
Salt Lake Tribune article explains, these crosses are placed as close to the spot where the officer died as they can be, so that the general public can remember them.

However, the atheist group has a problem with them. Their complaint states that they hold that the crosses' first purpose is not remberance, but religion, and that violates the Constitutional prohibition of state-established religions. Their suit also contends that the crosses represent an affront which is almost painful for them to bear.
A lawsuit filed by the American Atheists in U.S. District Court on Thursday seeks to remove steel crosses that dot roadways throughout Utah and memorialize Utah Highway Patrol troopers who have died in the line of duty.

...Plaintiffs Stephen Clark, Michael Rivers and Richard Andrews in conjunction with the American Atheists Inc. also seek to have the UHP symbol removed from the crosses.

"The presence of the UHP logo on a poignant religious symbol is an unconstitutional violation of the United States Constitution. It is government endorsement of religion," said Rivers, Utah director for American Atheists.
It's a pretty tame endorsement, if you ask me. I guess the crosses in Arlington are government endorsements of Christianity as well.

As a local radio host put it, "For a bunch of people who don't believe in God, they sure worry about what others think of God."

But it gets worse.
Reading the complaint, it gets real interesting fast:
23. The presence of the Latin crosses on government owned property with the Utah Highway Patrol logo prominently displayed thereon has a primary effect to advance religion, and conveys or attempts to convey the message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred, The reaction of the average receiver of the government communication or average observer of the government action is that of endorsement of religion and particularly of Christianity.

24. Plaintiffs have suffered direct and personal contact with the Lation crosses causing non-economic injury to them. Because the Latin crosses are displayed at prominent locations, and plaintiffs are brought into direct and unwelcome personal contact with them, or plaintiffs are forced to alter their behavior to avoid contact with the crosses. Plaintiffs are forced to view a religious object they wish to avoid but are unable to avoid because of plaintiffs' use of the public buildings, real property and/or highways of the State of Utah.

25. Plaintiffs' harm is actual personal injury, fairly traceable to the defendants' unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by a favorable decision of the court.
(Please note: I had to type this in myself. Any typos are mine. But the words are theirs.) Although the injury must not be too severe, as the plaintiffs are asking for nominal damages of $1.00 plus legal costs.

"Actual personal injury" is suffered just by driving by a cross? They have to alter their behavior? What happens when they drive by a church? (Do they recoil from the cross like a vampire, or something?)

I really can't understand the state of mind required to be offended by these memorials. They're pretty simple. No calls to repentance or anything like that is involved. No admonishment to go to church, go on a hajj, or be excellent to one another. Just a reminder, that a man gave his life here in performance of his duty. A sacrifice that deserves to be remembered.

This isn't about God. This is about remembering those state troopers who gave their lives in enforcing the law and keeping us safe.

This indecent attack is an attack on them, not God. And it cannot be allowed to stand.

And it won't. Tomorrow
a rally will be held, in support of the memorials. The rally will take place Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the UHP section office in Murray, 5681 S. 320 West.

There's a lot of legal battling ahead, though. I'm sure lots of legal fees will get racked up by the plaintiffs.

The full edition of The Friday Furo Questus is available at The Wasatch Front.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thus Beginneth The Smackdown

A well-written insult can be a joy to read.

So, I'll send you to Mark Goldblatt's review of Maureen Dowd's latest book. Now, I'll admit I'm not a big reader of Ms. Dowd; the doctor said exposure to copious amounts of inane moronity ar bad for my blood pressure. And nothing can be more aggravating than to be lectured at by those who don't know what they are talking about. So I avoid her.

Mr. Goldblatt, on the other hand, wades right in:
Maureen Dowd begins her book Are Men Necessary? with a confession: "I don't understand men." If only she'd left it at that, we could simply add "men" to the long list of subjects into which she has no particular insight: history, psychology, philosophy, religion, economics, literature, art, constitutional law, international diplomacy, and several other topics upon she comments in her twice weekly column for the New York Times. But Dowd had to go and write a book about men and women, and Putnam had to go and publish it, and now it's sitting on my desk, waiting to be reviewed, and I feel like Bugs Bunny, holding a freshly baked cherry pie, about to smash it into the face of the haughty but hapless magician Ala Bahma, thinking to myself: "If I dood it, I get a whippin' . . . I dood it!"

Dowd claims her book "is not a systematic inquiry of any kind, or a handy little volume of sterling solutions to the American woman's problems." She insists she has "no special wisdom about redemption in matters of sex and love," nor is she "peddling a theory or a slogan or a policy." She concedes that she's "as baffled as the next woman" and that her book "offers only the diligent notes . . . of a fascinated observer of our gender perplexities." As is the custom with intellectual cowards, Dowd wants her ideas taken seriously; she just doesn't want them judged according to traditional evidentiary and logical standards.

So be it.
And that's just the first couple of paragraphs.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor

December 8th, 1941
Address of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to a Joint Session of Congress

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.
(From American Rhetoric. An mp3 of the speech is available there.)

For more information:
USS Arizona Memorial
National Geographic's Remembering Pearl Harbor
U.S. Navy
Eyewitness to History
Consolidated Aircraft

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Deep in the American subconscious, particularly among our military planners, there lies an unspoken fear - a fear of failure, of a second Pearl Harbor which would once again leave America defenseless at the very moment when her offensive striking power could best be used to make difference. This fear drove American military planning and policy throughout the Cold War.

When the bombs stopped falling on Pearl Harbor, American naval might was so much scrap, sitting in the bottom of the harbor. The only capital ships left in the Pacific were cruisers and the untested aircraft carriers. The pride of the Pacific Fleet was gone, and with them was America's ability to respond to the flood tide offensive Japan mounted across the Western Pacific.

The next several months would be desperate. One by one, Allied stations throughout the Western Pacific fell.

British and Commonwealth forces were hard-pressed, and eventually driven back to the peripheries of the Pacific, to India, Australia, and New Guinea.

American outposts in fought hard, but cut off from all outside support, all eventually fell. American marines and civilians fought hard at Wake, but outgunned, outnumbered, and out of ammunition, surrendered just before Christmas.

In the Philipines, American and Filipino forces lasted until the middle of March, 1942. At no time since before the outbreak of the war did those forces recieve large
amounts of supplies, reinforcements, or even hope. Still they held on. A few were evacuated by submarine and plane to Australia, but many died there, either from combat or in harsh Japanese captivity. A third of those whon survived combat died in Japanese captivity.

Eventually, American industrial and economic might prevailed. By the end of the war, the American navy had grown to eclipse the Royal Navy in both size and might, with dozens of aircraft carriers and battleships, and with the most advanced combat aircraft in the world. American troops numbered in the millions, and American high command prepared to invade Japan itself as American heavy bombers took the war to the Japanese homeland. Ultimately American technology ended the war with the creation and use of the atomic bomb.

But that took years. There were seven desperate months, between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the first major victory at Midway, where the Allies were rolled back wherever they fought. American combat power was incredibly weakened, and the American victory at Midway was due not so much to to skill as to desperation - America had to give battle with what she had.

Looking back from a safe and victorious perspective some sixty years later, we forget that the Second World War was much closer than we realized. Had America been persuaded to quit early, as the Japanese strategy intended, the world would have been a drastically different - and worse - place.

There's something to be said for being stubborn, persistent, and uncompromising.

Monday, December 05, 2005

No Peace At Christmas

Events in the Middle East are eclipsing our ability to pay attention. While Iraq occupies America's attention, events in Iran may be coming to a head.

El Baradei:
Iran only months away from a bomb
IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel's assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.

If Teheran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only "a few months" to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent.

On the other hand, he warned, any attempt to resolve the crisis by non-diplomatic means would "open a Pandora's box. There would be efforts to isolate Iran; Iran would retaliate; and at the end of the day you have to go back to the negotiating table to find the solution."
Such much for that. A leader of an ineffective body, saying Iran is about to get a nuke but don't do anything about it. But the Israelis may not wait.

Netanyahu hints could consider Iran nuclear strike
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that he could consider a pre-emptive air strike against Iran's nuclear installations if he were to be re-elected. Netanyahu, who is widely expected to regain the leadership of the right-wing Likud party later this month, said Israel needed to "act in the spirit" of the late premier Menachem Begin who ordered an air strike on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

"I view the development of the Iranian nuclear (programme) as a paramount threat and as a real danger to the future of the state of Israel," Netanyahu told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper.
How did it come to this? America was and is focused elsewhere, at least the public is. We really don't know what our leaders are thinking on this one. Most other nations see a chance to embarrass the US and make a profit. The European powers that aren't supplying Iran are too weak militarily and constitutionally to do anything about it.

Israel is
willing to do something - something no one wants them to do.

There are two countdown clocks ticking, one in Tehran and one in Jerusalem. It is anyone's guess as to which will reach zero first.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Difficulties Within

"The worst difficulties from which we suffer do not come from without. The come from within. They do not come from the cottages of the wage-earners. They come from a peculiar type of brainy people always found in our country, who, if they add something to its culture, take much from its strength. Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians ... Nothing can save England if she will not save herself. If we lose faith in ourselves, in our capacity to guide and govern, if we lose our will to live, then indeed our story is told."

- Sir Winston Churchill, April 24, 1933

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Life As Football

Overheard this weekend: "Dating and marriage is a lot like sports, actually. Some people are first-round draft picks right out of college. Others are second-round picks. The rest of us? Well, we're walk-ons, just trying to find a team."

And the player's union in this league is worthless. Where's my bennies?

Oh. They don't come until the contract is signed? Well, rats.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Disturbed Peace

Michael Totten reports from Lebanon:
Whether the Lebanese government likes it or not, Lebanon will remain in a state of war with Israel as long as Syria says that it has to, and as long as Syria and Iran continue supporting Hezbollah's "resistance" and control of the border.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, this will be my last post here before Monday; I'm going to try to get some work done, and then see if it is possible to give yourself a tryptophan-induced coma.

The history of the Thanksgiving holiday is facinating; the tradition of declaring days of Thanksgiving goes back to colonial days, but did not become an annual holiday until 1863, in the middle of the Civil War. Lincoln in his own words:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863."

Since then, Thanksgiving has been observed every year in the United States.

And as complaining and contrary as I can be from time to time, I have much for which to be thankful

I have my parents and sister, whom I love dearly, and for some reason love me. I have all the rest of my family, who have all been much better to me than I have ever deserved. I have my good and noble friends, who I consider an honor to know, and a gift indeed to call "friend."

I have my faith and my freedom. Many good and honorable men, too many, have sacrificed and died to bring me both of those. My mind is beggared for words to express my gratitude.

How do you thank the many who have served you, the many who have given of their substance or themselves to you, many without knowing it? How do you thank them?

How do you thank a brother, who willingly took your sins upon Him, to spare you an eternity in sorrow?

How do you thank a Heavenly Father, who gave you all that you have, even sacrificing His Only Begotten Son, so you might be able to see Him and bear His presence again?

All I can do is say thanks. Thank You. And now I promise to do all I can to live a life worthy of your gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And thank you.

On Torture

Jeff Goldstein, writing over at Protein Wisdom, has an interesting and thoughtful piece on torture and the tortured debate over it.

Check it out.

Nope, Nothing To See Here

Worth reading.

Andrew McCarthy, writing in The Corner today:
Ed Epstein has stayed on the case and has done the 9/11 Commission one better: he has actually conducted something resembling an investigation into whether the top hijacker met with in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence agent five months before 9/11. Ed’s report on what he found out, after traveling to the Czech Republic and meeting with the BIS (i.e., Czech Intelligence) officials who were personally involved in the matter is featured in the Wall Street Journal this morning (registration required).

His article will not be good news for the Richard Clarkes of Clinton revision-world, who maintain that the previous administration so intimidated Saddam after the attempted murder of the first President Bush in 1993 that the Iraqi dictator foreswore collaboration with terrorists against the U.S. – a claim that has never made any sense given that top Clinton officials (including the former president himself) continue to defend their Augugst 1998 bombing of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan on the ground that it was a joint Iraq/Qaeda/Sudan effort to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bottom line, as Ed puts it, is that the Atta/Prague connection remains “consigned to a murky limbo” – largely thanks to American officials leaking the possibility while the Czechs were still trying to investigate it.

But this much is known – notwithstanding the energetic effort to suppress it by some former Clinton officials, Democrat partisans, and members of the intelligence community invested in the delusion that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. In 1998, Saddam began trying to blow up an American target, Radio Free Europe in Prague, by having Jabir Salim, his consul to the Czech Republic (but in reality, his top intelligence agent there), attempt to recruit terrorists to carry out the mission. This intelligence became known when Salim defected, and Clinton administration was so concerned about it that it took several steps to protect the facility.

Salim was replaced by Ahmad al-Ani, whom the BIS was obviously interested in – interest that only intensified when the BIS learned he was trying to access explosives and make contacts with “foreign Arabs.” It came to a head on or about April 9, 2001, when al-Ani was observed getting into a car with an unknown Arab male who was later identified as Atta – an identification that has never been disproved, despite Herculean efforts to knock it down. The Atta identification did not happen until after 9/11 (when Atta’s photo was splashed across the international press), but the Czechs were so worried about whomever al-Ani had met with back in April that they decided to take no chances: al-Ani was expelled due to suspicion of terrorism – four months before 9/11.

In the end, the FBI cannot account for where Atta was between April 4 and April 11, 2001, or how he spent the $8000 cash he abruptly withdrew on April 4 before he disappeared for a week. (They’ve pointed to use of his cellphone in the U.S. during that timeframe, but that, of course, does not mean Atta was the one using the cellphone.) Nor can the FBI explain why Atta stopped in Prague in June 2000 right before flying to the U.S. to begin the 9/11 preparations. The Czechs, meanwhile, regard as “pure nonsense” al-Ani’s protestations that he was nowhere near Prague the day he was seen meeting the man a witness has identified as Atta.

This is Able Danger all over again. The "Atta in Prague" possibility never fit the 9/11 Commission’s narrative, so it was buried with a shoddy, slap-dash investigation -- the same treatment Able Danger got; the same treatment the Clinton Justice Department's dramatic heightening of "the wall" between criminal investigators and intelligence agents got; the same treatment the internal assessment of the Clinton administration's performance in the run-up to the Millennium bombing plot got, and so on.

Meanwhile, in 1998 alone, we have $300K going from Iraq to Zawahiri (al Qaeda’s number 2); bin Laden’s famous February fatwa calling for the murder of all Americans and prominently featuring, as part of the justification, U.S. actions against Iraq; meetings in Iraq between Qaeda members and Iraqi officials in March; meetings in Afghanistan between Iraqi officials and al Qaeda leaders in July; the embassy bombings in August, after which, of all potential targets, the Clinton administration chose to retaliate against al Shifa, believed to be an Iraq/Qaeda joint weapons venture; an Iraqi member of al Qaeda (now held in Guantanamo Bay) traveling with Iraqi Intelligence to Pakistan to plot chemical mortar attacks on the American and British embassies there; and Iraq seeking to recruit Arab terrorists to blow up Radio Free Europe. Oh, and in February 1999, Richard Clarke objected to a suggestion that U-2 flights be used to try to find bin Laden because, if bin Laden learned the walls were closing in, Clarke wrote to Sandy Berger that “old wiley Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad.”

But the anti-war left is probably right. There was no connection between Iraq and terrorism. None at all. I don’t know why the right-wing nuts keep insisting there was.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lethal Flash

Found at the Drudge Report, as reported by the Washington Times:
The United States is highly vulnerable to attack from electronic pulses caused by a nuclear blast in space, according to a new book on threats to U.S. security.

A single nuclear weapon carried by a ballistic missile and detonated a few hundred miles over the United States would cause "catastrophe for the nation" by damaging electricity-based networks and infrastructure, including computers and telecommunications, according to "War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World."
Only need one nuke, and a ballistic missile...
An electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack uses X-rays and gamma rays produced in a nuclear blast in three separate waves of pulses, each with more damaging effects, and would take months or years to repair, the book states. The damage to unshielded electronics would be irreversible.

The EMP danger was highlighted recently by a special congressional commission that has received little public attention and is considered a unique way for rogue states such as North Korea and Iran, or other enemies such as al Qaeda, to use nuclear weapons in the future.
Those rogue states have also been pursuing ballistic missile technology. Anybody remember that missile North Korea fired over Japan a couple of years ago?

But remember what our celebrities tell us: We're the bad guys. Just listen to Chris Matthews.

[P.S.: An aside - it would be nice if Mr. Matthews had the guts to say this in the United States, rather than in Canada where he assumes no one in his American audience can hear. But he lacks in that department, apparently.]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Let It Burn

Well, who would have thought one representative's statements would have the news a-buzzing.

Rep. Murtha wants us to pull out of Iraq. (Although his statement is hardly new, you wouldn't know that from the news. Hat tip to The Corner.)

What is it, Congressman? The sand people aren't worth our blood and treasure? They're too inferior to grasp the complexities of democracy?

Just leave them alone, and let them kill one another. If we don't bother them, they won't bother us,
right? Right?


(And there's plenty more examples
where these came from.)

Isolationism will not work. We can hide all we want. Eventually these terror groups will find some excuse to hate us and hit us again.

In Iraq, we are trying to effect a change. Trying to drain one of the fever swamps, and thus demonstrate to other peoples that they can too. Difficult? You bet. Will it work? Only God knows. But isn't it worth trying?

We have invested much in Afghanistan and especially Iraq in terms of blood and treasure. But The Iraqis have expended much more blood. If you really want to turn this into Vietnam, then yes, let's leave now. Let's abandon the Iraqis. If they don't tear themselves apart, Iran or Syria will move in, or we'll have Afghanistan 2.0, only this time flatter and with oil wells.

And we'll be rightfully damned for the cowards we are.

If you have a better idea, let's hear it. All I'm hearing is whining.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tortured Debate

"There is mercy which is weakness, and even treason against the common good."
George Eliot
Once again, Senator McCain (R-Media) and the Senate are pushing a bill that looks good to the media but doesn't accomplish a blasted thing.

Andrew McCarthy today, writing in National Review Online:
Terrorists do not just flout the laws of war. They turn them into an offensive weapon. When they are not killing civilians, they are hiding among them. When they are not blowing up civilian infrastructure whether hotels, office buildings, or houses of worship they are using them as weapons depots, meeting halls, and war rooms.

...We don't know who they are or from which way they come. This is not a traditional foe. We can't conquer his territory. He doesn't have one. He's a nomad who trains in secret then sets up shop among innocents only long enough to kill. We can only desperately seek him out. We can only hope to kill or capture him before he uses the honor of true soldiers against them before he converts to his advantage their moment's hesitation, borne of dedication to a code that war is to be fought between warriors, not by opening fire on non-combatants.

Superior force and discipline are not enough against this adversary. We need intelligence. Intelligence is the single asset that stands between the terrorist and scores if not more of slaughtered civilians. Between the terrorist and murdered American military personnel. In the war on terror, as in no war before it, intelligence will be the difference between victory and defeat.

And if Senator John McCain has his way, the most urgently needed intelligence will be lost.
But here is the kicker:
The grandstanding elements are plain enough. First, the whole exercise is a melodramatic condemnation of torture capitalizing on the Abu Ghraib scandal and isolated instances of prisoner abuse which, while deplorable, are not only infrequent by historical standards but compare favorably to the civilian detention system.

None of it is necessary. Torture is already against the law. It is, moreover, the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain which is to say, much of the prisoner abuse that has prompted the current controversy has not been torture at all. Unpleasant? Yes. Sometimes sadistic and inexplicable? Undoubtedly. But not torture. And where it has been either torture or unjustifiable cruelty, it is being investigated, prosecuted, and severely punished.

Second, the McCain Amendment affects a high-minded prohibition against "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." This, too, is a meaningless gesture — except to the extent it will be perceived by McCain's breathless following in the mainstream media as a political slapdown of the president, the secretary of Defense, and the military brass.

That's because the provision does not change existing law a wit. In 1994, the United States ratified the 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (UNCAT).

But wait a minute, you say. Haven't commentators (like yours truly) noted that the Senate approved the treaty with a heavy caveat? Indeed it did. The Senate provided that the treaty was limited by the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Although those amendments call for due process and bar both coerced confessions and cruel and unusual punishments, they have largely been limited to judicial proceedings involving criminal defendants. Thus, they are essentially irrelevant to wartime detentions of alien enemy combatants.

So does the McCain Amendment change that? No. It contains exactly the same reservation. In fact, it expressly reiterates the UNCAT caveat and explicitly cites to it, lest there be any confusion. On this, again, it is all show and no substance.

So what's different? That question brings us to the suicide part. McCain wants to turn every enemy combatant into an honorable prisoner of war — at least to the extent that such prisoners are protected under the Geneva Conventions against any type of coercive interrogation.
Read the whole thing.

"All show and no substance." From the Senate. Gee, there's a surprise.

Here's the deal. I don't want to tie our hands. We did that in the 1970s, as a result of Senator Frank Church and his commission. He may have been great for the environment (I'm not convinced) but he was terribly destructive to our national security. Our intelligence establishment has still not recovered, over twenty years and one disastrous bolt from the blue later.

Now we want to do it again. No. Not this time.

First, we need to have faith in our people, that they will only use extreme force when they deem it absolutely necessary. And I want them to have the leeway to do so. I would choose to torture one man to save a city. And I don't like the idea of torture - it harkens back to the Inquisition.

Second, what's torture? I think it's putting some guy on the rack and seeing how much longer his arms can get. But the ACLU thinks putting a guy in a cold room or messing with his sleep patterns is torture. I disagree with the ACLU, and will continue to do so until they get their Iranian chapter up and running. I just can't make the leap in logic comparing turning the thermostat down to chopping people's heads off that the ACLU can.

Third, I want the bad guys to know it's no-holds-barred. Our enemies know no bounds. Prisoners are tortured and executed. They deliberately target civilians, as last week's bombings in Jordan should have proved to everyone's satisfaction. Indeed, they make no distinction between civilians and soldiers. Everyone is an equally valid target - "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" in gory application.

So why do such sub-human animals merit the full protections of civilized society? They shun our conventions and seek to overturn our ways of life. Tolerance, equality, and liberty are not in their lingo. And they are not citizens of our countries, either - they are foreigners, seeking to do us harm.

We very well may have been too merciful already. The wars against piracy are to my mind a good example civilized civlized society could handle murderous outlaws. When suspected pirates were captured, they received a military tribunal. The innocent were held until they could be dropped off at the next port. The guilty were immediately hung from the yardarm - no appeal. Harsh justice - but so were their crimes.

Al-Qaeda and their affiliated groups have made the civilized world their enemy, and they will not go away. They were targeting us before Iraq, and they will continue to target us regardless of what we do there.

Let's fight to win.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Foiled Terror Attack In Australia

Details of the terror attack in Australia prevented by the police are beginning to emerge. Most frightening - it appears they intended to bomb a Sydney nuclear reactor.

From the Associated Press:
Eight Sydney men arrested on terrorism charges may have been planning a bomb attack against the city's nuclear reactor, police said on Monday.

Their Islamic spiritual leader, also charged with terrorism offences, told the men if they wanted to die for jihad they should inflict "maximum damage," according to a 21-page police court document.

The document outlines how the men, arrested last week in the nation's biggest security swoop, bought chemicals used in the London July 7 bombs, had bomb-making instructions in Arabic and videos entitled "Sheikh Osama's Training Course" and "Are you ready to die?"

Under the heading "Targets," police said three of the men were stopped near Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in December 2004. A security gate lock had recently been cut.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil. The country has been on medium security alert since shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
And the perpetrators were home-grown fanatics.

I wonder what the risks of an attack by home-grown Muslim whackos is here in the U.S.? Probably much higher than I want to think about...

Blustery Day

Okay, it's rainy and windy and cold outside.

I left in autumn and returned to winter. I was only gone six days...

Back From Boston

I have safely returned. Fun trip.

The age of everything back there is amazing. Yes, I know they're young compared to Europe. But when you realize that Salem was founded as a town 220 years before anyonee settled in Utah...

Well, it's an interesting perspective.

I was able to see the USS Constitution, Fenway Park, Lexington and Concord, and make it up to York, Maine.

More to follow.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Off To Beantown

No, I'm not going for the candy.

Business calls in Boston. So no activity this week. See you next Monday.

Monday, November 07, 2005

There Is That

French Riots Continue

Riots continued for an eleventh straight night, and spread to 300 towns across France, and even outside French borders into Belgium.

Glenn Reynolds, writing at Instapundit, had this to say:
"CHIRAC VOWS ORDER AS FRENCH RIOTS SPREAD:" I was wondering if the blogosphere was making too much of this, but now I'm pretty sure the answer is no. Note the reference to other European nations being "unnerved." (Maybe they should offer to send troops. It's supposed to be the European Union, right?)
He offers a link-rich roundup of posts here, and includes some links to some interesting analysis pieces. So, is this a European intifada - or the collapse of French urban policy? Who knows? While many are eager to turn this into a racial issue rather than a religious one, what pictures I've been able to find don't show a lot of blacks rioting - rather, the rioters are of Arab descent. Not being up on French demographics, I could be wrong; but I think there is more to this than readily meets the eye. The French government's utter inability to deal with this says something else about its weakened state.

A good round-up of last night's events can be found at Outside The Beltway
here and here.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ready To Meet My Maker

"I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."
Sir Winston Churchill

A New Friday Furo Questus up at The Wasatch Front.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Darkness In The City Of Light

From Reuters:
Shots fired as French riots escalate
By Paul Carrel

BOBIGNY, France (Reuters) - Rioters shot at police and fire fighter crews in the worst night of a week of violence in poor suburbs that ring Paris, as France's conservative government struggled to quell the unrest.

Youths who rampaged on Wednesday night left a trail of burnt cars, buses and shops in nine suburbs north and east of Paris, home to North African and black African minorities frustrated at their failure to get jobs or recognition in French society.

"It's a dramatic situation. It is very serious and we fear that the events could even get worse tonight," said Francis Masanet, secretary general of the UNSA police trade union.

Rioters torched 177 vehicles and attacked a primary school and shopping centre, local officials said. Four police officers and two firefighters were hurt, including one with facial burns from a Molotov cocktail.

Prefect Jean-Francois Cordet, the government's top official in the Seine-Saint-Denis region, confirmed shots had been fired at police and fire crews in three separate incidents.

"Four live bullets were fired. Two shots were fired at La Courneuve against police. One shot was fired at Noisy-le-Sec against fire crews, and one shot was fired against a fire crew in Saint-Denis," he told a news conference.

Cordet did not say what sort of weapons had been fired but media said local police recovered shotgun cartridges from the scene at La Courneuve. No one was reported wounded.

Twenty-three people were in custody, he added.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, accused by opponents of enflaming passions with his outspoken attacks on the "scum" behind the violence, maintained a conspicuously low profile.

He met Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin for a working lunch but neither man, rivals to lead the right in 2007 presidential elections, spoke out publicly over the escalation in the violence.


At a supermarket in Bobigny's shopping centre, staff swept up broken glass and worried about the future.

"If this continues, I'll have to close. Clients are afraid. There's normally lots of people here at this time of the day," said a local cobbler who did not want to be named.

"It's because of the police that this is going on," said one black youth who did not want to be identified. "They are too violent. That's not what their job is."

Governments across Europe have been confronted with violence in deprived inner city areas, and the unrest in France comes despite Sarkozy's anti-crime drive led in the wake of President Jacques Chirac re-election in 2002, won on law and order issues.

Villepin has struggled to end squabbling within his cabinet over how to handle the disturbances that forced him to cancel a Canada trip.

The ruling Union for a Popular Majority is split between a pro-Sarkozy camp and rivals who support Chirac and Villepin, handing the opposition Socialists a rare chance to beat the conservatives over their much-vaunted record on crime.

"When you see what's gone on over the past three years, when neighbourhood police have been dismantled ... I think there's another failure to be noted," Socialist leader Francois Hollande said on French radio.

Sarkozy has scoffed at Socialist attacks, noting crime rose 15 percent during its last 5-year rule. He has sent 2,000 extra police to the areas to help enforce his "zero tolerance" on rioters.

Some leftwing police trade unions have criticised his policies and called for a return of neighbourhood police. One police union official described the unrest as a "civil war" and urged Sarkozy to impose a curfew in the affected areas.

The unrest erupted first in the Clichy-sous-Bois after two teenagers were electrocuted while apparently fleeing police during a local disturbance.

Local prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters police had not been chasing the pair when they clambered into an EDF substation, but he had opened an official probe to further investigate the matter.

(Additional reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich and Jon Boyle)
© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Take note of the identity of the rioters. Not easy to find, is it? Also note they are "North African," not Muslim. But Islam does appear to be an issue, since some of the happenings have occurred around mosques.

I'm not sure I agree that a lack of jobs is solely behind this violence. This is a clash of cultures as much as anything. I could be wrong, though. One of the biggest problems is that this is a very underreported story, at least in the American press.

The riots are in their eighth straight night right now, and seem to be worsening. What is going on, and why cannot the French restore order?

Update: Perhaps the riots are simply another symptom of cultural rot. See this article by Theodore Dalrymple for a more thorough look.