Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Together

John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together

Merry Chrismas, Everyone!

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The First of The Few

Proudly presenting "The First of the Few," the 1942 story of the design of the Supermarine Spitfire and its designer, R.J. Mitchell.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Panzers in the Mist

Dec. 16th, 1944, started out bad and got worse, as the the Germans launched their operation "Wacht Am Rhein" ("Watch on the Rhine").

German panzer in advance, from captured German film. (US National Archives.)
Picture (and title of post) shamelessly stolen from John at Castle Argghhh!!!

The cream of the surviving Wehrmacht erupted out of the hills and forests of the Ardennes, objective Antwerp and a complete rupture of the Allied lines. It was a move born of desperation; in Field Marshall Model's terms, it was their "last chance to conclude the war favorably."

And it almost worked.

Throwing a massive weight of excellent German armor against an unaware and unready American line, the ensuing weeks of battle decided the fate of Germany.

We know now how it ended, but Christmas 1944 the fate of the war in Europe was still in question, and the certainty of the Allied successes in the summer of 1944 were suddenly very far away.

Instead, all they had was chaos and confusion - and the American soldier showed a tenacity that few knew they had. Hugh M. Cole tells what little of the story is known in his operational history, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge:

On the morning of 16 December General Middleton's VIII Corps had a formal corps reserve consisting of one armored combat command and four engineer combat battalions. In dire circumstances Middleton might count on three additional engineer combat battalions which, under First Army command, were engaged as the 1128th Engineer Group in direct support of the normal engineer operations on foot in the VIII Corps area. In exceptionally adverse circumstances, that is under conditions then so remote as to be hardly worth a thought, the VIII Corps would have a last combat residue-poorly armed and ill-trained for combat-made up of rear echelon headquarters, supply, and technical service troops, plus the increment of stragglers who might, in the course of battle, stray back from the front lines. General Middleton would be called upon to use all of these "reserves." Their total effect in the fight to delay the German forces hammering through the VIII Corps center would be extremely important but at the same time generally incalculable, nor would many of these troops enter the pages of history.

A handful of ordnance mechanics manning a Sherman tank fresh from the repair shop are seen at a bridge. By their mere presence they check an enemy column long enough for the bridge to be demolished. The tank and its crew disappear. They have affected the course of the Ardennes battle, even though minutely, but history does not record from whence they came or whither they went. A signal officer checking his wire along a byroad encounters a German column; he wheels his jeep and races back to alert a section of tank destroyers standing at a crossroad. Both he and the gunners are and remain anonymous. Yet the tank destroyers with a few shots rob the enemy of precious minutes, even hours. A platoon of engineers appears in one terse sentence of a German commander's report. They have fought bravely, says the foe, and forced him to waste a couple of hours in deployment and maneuver. In this brief emergence from the fog of war the engineer platoon makes its bid for recognition in history. That is all.

These unknown men would decide the fate of Europe. All of the blood, sweat, and tears that had been expended since June 6, 1944, depended on whether or not these unknowns held. Whether or not these few could buy enough time for Allied reserves to be brought up, divisions rallied, and the weather to clear so Allied air support could enter the fray.

We know now how this story ends; of the heroic struggle of the green US 99th Division; of the stand of the 7th Armored at St. Vith; of the siege at Bastogne the made a legend of the 101st Airborne; and the ultimate counteroffensive that transformed a German victory into the Wehrmacht's undoing.

But for a few days in December 1944, history hinged on the actions of a few cold, tired, and scared G.I.'s, men whose names we would never even know.

A small group of stragglers suddenly become tired of what seems to be eternally retreating. Miles back they ceased to be part of an organized combat formation, and recorded history, at that point, lost them. The sound of firing is heard for fifteen minutes, an hour, coming from a patch of woods, a tiny village, the opposite side of a hill. The enemy has been delayed; the enemy resumes the march westward. Weeks later a graves registration team uncovers mute evidence of a last-ditch stand at woods, village, or hill.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two Californias

Now, the other interesting thing I wanted to share: Victor Davis Hanson's depressing "Two Californias" piece.
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.
VDH knows whereof he speaks; the California he is surveying is his own backyard, the California he has spent his life in. Not the pampered coast, but the rural valley that once boomed with agriculture. But not any more.

The entire piece is an essential read, but one thread that runs through it stands out to me more than anything - a lack of equality before the law.

We hear about the tough small-business regulations that have driven residents out of the state, at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a week. But from my unscientific observations these past weeks, it seems rather easy to open a small business in California without any oversight at all, or at least what I might call a “counter business.” I counted eleven mobile hot-kitchen trucks that simply park by the side of the road, spread about some plastic chairs, pull down a tarp canopy, and, presto, become mini-restaurants. There are no “facilities” such as toilets or washrooms. But I do frequently see lard trails on the isolated roads I bike on, where trucks apparently have simply opened their draining tanks and sped on, leaving a slick of cooking fats and oils. Crows and ground squirrels love them; they can be seen from a distance mysteriously occupied in the middle of the road.

At crossroads, peddlers in a counter-California economy sell almost anything. Here is what I noticed at an intersection on the west side last week: shovels, rakes, hoes, gas pumps, lawnmowers, edgers, blowers, jackets, gloves, and caps. The merchandise was all new. I doubt whether in high-tax California sales taxes or income taxes were paid on any of these stop-and-go transactions.

This is far different than the usual legal iniquities spoon-fed us by popular culture, where poor minorities are preyed upon by the rich & powerful.

Rather, today's California is the opposite, where the shadow world is ignored - if not abetted - by the government of California. This is a tyranny of apathy, of ignorance, of sloth. Where political correctness and obeisance to trendy pieties matters more than truth.

Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie business — rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections — but apparently none of that applies out here.

It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. But in the regulators’ defense, where would one get the money to redo an ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare wires?

As California seeks to provide more and more with less and less, one has to wonder - how much longer can it continue?

At some point, the money has to run out.

"Communism Kills." Yet We Still Need Reminding.

Marxism is intellectualism for stupid people; it tends to attract the sort who can’t understand that an economic system that cannot feed its own population reliably has failed at the game of Life. Literally.

Moe Lane

I've been lax in my blogging lately, and I'm paying for it, as there has been a flood of fascinating things to discuss the last couple of days.

For now, let me share the discussions ongoing at Instapundit and Moe Lane. (I mention both, as each is worth reading, and each references the other.)

Prompting this discussion is new evidence of deliberate Communist Chinese policy to starve its peasants into obedience during Mao's Great Leap Forward. (Tom Friedman, please call your office. Paging Dr. Friedman...)

But this is not mere policy, of harsh measures to reel in rebels. Rather, this is a product of the unique totalitarian ability to mass produce death, to the scale of almost 6.5% of China's 1960 population - 45 million people. All in the name of progress.

How progressive.

And it was not unique to China. Rather, such carnage is inherent in the communist system. (So successful in the Soviet Union, Ukraine, Cambodia...)

And yet, people still defend it.

I'll let Moe Lane have the last words:
Ah, Glenn got a irate email from somebody throwing out the ‘But their motivations are noble!’ apology. Yes, of course: when I get a bullet in the back of the head from somebody for the ‘crime’ of believing in property rights I so totally will feel better about it because the shooter and I ‘merely’ disagree on the best route to Utopia.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Parties and Politics

I meant to get this out here last week, but better late than never. Yuval Levin, in writing on a new sorta-centrist movement, expanded a little more broadly into political philosophy in The Corner last week, and his discussion is worth pointing out:

Our best guide here is Edmund Burke, who was not only the father of a great deal of what we now think of as conservatism, but also quite possibly the foremost theorist of partisanship in the Anglo-American tradition. In a series of pamphlets in the late 1760s and early 70s (and especially Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents, in 1770), Burke makes a positive case for partisanship as essential to the politics of any free society. Parties, Burke argues, are often mistaken for factions pursuing private interests (or we might say “special interests”) at the expense of the broader national interest. But in fact, he says, parties represent different views of the national interest—they stand not for what is best for different parts of the nation, but for different beliefs about what is best for the whole.

Politics is not a scientific exercise in which there is a single correct answer out there and the proper application of the proper method will get us to that answer in a demonstrable way. Rather, politics is our means of governing ourselves in an effort to best serve the interests, needs, and desires of the nation amidst great and permanent uncertainty. That uncertainty cannot be overcome entirely by human reason, and so our exercise of reason in politics has to be accompanied by an exercise of prudence, wisdom, and a sense of proportion. Such things are inherently controversial. Every individual’s knowledge is partial (and even the sum of all of our knowledge is partial), and every individual’s reason is limited. That is why individuals have to work together in politics, and parties exist to facilitate that working together.

Preparing For The Worst?

In From The Cold has this interesting story:
There's been a flurry of activity in recent months surrounding a new drug called CBLB502 and a company called Cleveland BioLabs. Less than two weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration took the unusual step of labeling CBLB502 as an "orphan drug," reserved for medications used to treat rare diseases and conditions. The orphan drug designation came only four months after the FDA granted "fast track" status for CBLB502, accelerating its development and potential introduction.

Why those designations for Cleveland BioLab's new product? Because CBLB502 is the only drug available to reduce the risk of death due to total body irradiation. The most likely cause of that condition: a radiological or nuclear disaster.

ince Congress passed the Orphan Drug Act 27 years ago, less that 250 new medications and treatments have reached the market, so that means CBLB502 is in very select company. It is the first designed to combat the effects of a massive radiation dose.

The rush to get the drug on the market raises a rather obvious question. The threat of a nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists has existed for more than a decade. If their capabilities in those areas have remained rather crude, why expedite production and introduction of CBLB502?
The short answer? Something in the strategic calculus has changed.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

More Wikileaks Reverberations

Throughout the day WikiLeaks supporters have been mounting denial of service attacks against Mastercard, PayPal, Visa, and others deemed to have impeded WikiLeaks. Reportedly, these supporters have disclosed large files containing Mastercard account numbers and expiration dates.

But don't call it Cyberwar, you might offend some people.

And of course, the government of the United States is standing idly by, twiddling its thumbs and dawdling.

And Eric Holder? He's still reading the Instruction Manual for Attorney General.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Interesting Wikileaks Take

From Theodore Dalrymple, in City Journal:

The idea behind WikiLeaks is that life should be an open book, that everything that is said and done should be immediately revealed to everybody, that there should be no secret agreements, deeds, or conversations. In the fanatically puritanical view of WikiLeaks, no one and no organization should have anything to hide. It is scarcely worth arguing against such a childish view of life.

The actual effect of WikiLeaks is likely to be profound and precisely the opposite of what it supposedly sets out to achieve. Far from making for a more open world, it could make for a much more closed one. Secrecy, or rather the possibility of secrecy, is not the enemy but the precondition of frankness. WikiLeaks will sow distrust and fear, indeed paranoia; people will be increasingly unwilling to express themselves openly in case what they say is taken down by their interlocutor and used in evidence against them, not necessarily by the interlocutor himself. This could happen not in the official sphere alone, but also in the private sphere, which it works to destroy. An Iron Curtain could descend, not just on Eastern Europe, but over the whole world. A reign of assumed virtue would be imposed, in which people would say only what they do not think and think only what they do not say.

The dissolution of the distinction between the private and public spheres was one of the great aims of totalitarianism. Opening and reading other people’s e-mails is not different in principle from opening and reading other people’s letters. In effect, WikiLeaks has assumed the role of censor to the world, a role that requires an astonishing moral grandiosity and arrogance to have assumed. Even if some evils are exposed by it, or some necessary truths aired, the end does not justify the means.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"Air Raid, Pearl Harbor. This is no drill!"

On a bright Hawaiian morning, war came to the United States. In a matter of hours, the core of the American Pacific Fleet was destroyed, American air power in the Pacific crippled, and American forces were under attack not only in Hawaii, but on Wake Island, Guam, Midway, and the Phillipines.

The men that survived those battles and served as constant reminders are fading quickly away, as time exacts its price. The lessons still hold, even if we forget them.

The cost of relearning those lessons is so very high.

pearl harbor poster

Friday, December 03, 2010