Sunday, December 31, 2006

Nab the Niqab

Mark Steyn:
Mustaf Jama, a Somali "asylum seeker" in Britain wanted for the murder of a policewoman, fled the country by taking his sister's passport, wearing a niqab (the full Islamic head-to-toe get-up that covers everything but the eyes) and passing unhindered through the checkpoints at Heathrow.

How about that? It turns out we are profiling after all, but we're profiling everybody except Muslims. Your wizened l'il ol' gran'ma on a Yuletide break to London is bent double and out of breath struggling to take off her coat and shoes. The officials sternly scrutinize her passport to check that the picture matches her flustered and bewildered face. All around her hundreds of women are doing the same, mutely shuffling through the scanner in their stocking feet. But Britain's most wanted man is breezing through because he took the precaution of dressing as a Muslim woman. And it would be culturally insensitive to expose them to the same scrutiny as your gran'ma.

Many of us think about the long-term shifts necessary to win this struggle: euthanizing the United Nations and overhauling other malign and anachronistic institutions. Fat chance. Mustaf Jama's express check-out is the perfect parodic reductio of "security": The state is willing to inflict pointless bureaucratic discomfort and inconvenience on everyone else, but the demographic group with the most links to terrorism gets to go through the fast-track VIP channel.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Rights Of Sheep

Shocking new investigations in the science of animal husbandry:
The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Navratilova defended the "right" of sheep to be gay. She said: "How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?" She said gay men and lesbians would be "deeply offended" by the social implications of the tests.
Thanks to Drudge who, as usual, is all over this.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Suspended Sentence

By the neck until dead:
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at an unspecified location, reports say.

Iraqi TV said the execution took place just before 0600 local time (0300GMT).
Drudge, as usual, snagged it first.

Update from the American Thinker:
Most of the great butchers of the 20th century died of old age, in their own beds, some of them honored by millions. Not a single one met justice in the sense accepted in free states across the world. The handful who died otherwise are aberrations, victims of strange events that act as models for nothing.

There is one single exception - the hanging of Saddam Hussein on December 30, 2006 after a careful, lengthy trial carried out under extremely difficult circumstances according to internationally recognized judicial norms. The state of Iraq has succeeded where the rest of the civilized world has failed. It is a singular achievement, and it will stand.

Mount Ashland

Viewed from the southwest. We were at about 8500 feet, a thousand feet above the mountain, headed for Grants Pass by the scenic route.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Any College—Or None—Will Do

The Wall Street Journal presents free of charge their 15 most popular articles from 2006.

My own favorite, given the impending doom of college-age kids and no savings, is 'Any College Will Do' by Carol Hymowitz:
The college diplomas of the nation's top executives tell an intriguing story: Getting to the corner office has more to do with leadership talent and a drive for success than it does with having an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university.

Most CEOs of the biggest corporations didn't attend Ivy League or other highly selective colleges. They went to state universities, big and small, or to less-known private colleges.
Only 10% of the top 500 CEOs have Ivy League undergraduate degrees. And Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both college dropouts—Jobs from Reed after only one semester.

What counts most, they say, is taking your opportunities when you see them.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lethargy

I can't motivate myself to do much of anything today except read the wit and wisdom of Stephan Pastis, and even that seems a little over-ambitious considering the weather outside. My first instinct this morning was to stay in bed. That would have been the wiser course.

The girls have gone outside to practice their fire starting skills. Do we need to call to see if it's a burn day? No, I said. Good luck, I thought, getting anything going in that soggy yard. The propane lighter ran out and Marielle asked to borrow my Zippo.

Don't lose it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Vertigo

My latest desktop background, from Astronomy Picture of the Day (click for larger). The space station, obviously, but what's that land mass below? I wandered all over Google Maps before returning to the APOD site and looking it up. Here's a hint: it's "right side up"; in other words, north is more-or-less toward the top of the photo.

Give up? Here's the map.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Tim's Bow

Timmy's so patient with us. Really he is.

Later that afternoon, apparently forgetting what he was wearing, he stepped outside to stalk some birds.

"Hah!" the jays laughed, "You look like a complete dork!"

When he came back inside he had lost the bow.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Reading St. Luke


And there were in the same country
Shepherds abiding in the field,
Keeping watch over their flock by night.

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.

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

For unto you is born this day
In the city of David
A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe
Wrapped in swaddling clothes,
Lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel
A multitude of the heavenly host
Praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace,
Good will toward men.
***
Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8-14; painting by Anton Raphael Mengs; music (ideally) by G. F. Handel

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What Ever Happened To...

Michele Malkin's Year In Review is a little different. She includes follow-ups. But in response to her question "What ever happened to the the Haditha Marines and Pendleton 8?" the news followed her.
Yesterday, 8 Marines were charged in the case. Heidi defends the Marines here and flashes back to this CNN embed's account via S&L. As I have said from the start, they deserve their day in military court....
When you have time, follow her links. This story's important, and not just because the marines are innocent.

Che Chic

The BureauCrash blog, which has it in for Che Guevara, seems to count this as a victory, and maybe it is, for good taste anyway:
Target Corp said on Friday it had pulled a CD carrying case bearing Ernesto "Che" Guevara's image after an outcry by critics who label the Marxist revolutionary a murderer and totalitarian symbol.
Yeah, he was about as cool as Huey Newton. But it's this bit that has me worried:
"It is never our intent to offend any of our guests through the merchandise we carry," Target said in a statement.
It is never our intent. Fortunately they worded that statement carefully, because more careless construction would be It is our intent never...

That way lies disaster.

Until Morale Improves

If you're not following the blog at Improbable Research, you're missing out on a lot of important news. For instance, the latest scientific resarch:
Siberian scientists believe that addiction to alcohol and narcotics, as well as depression, suicidal thoughts and psychosomatic diseases occur when an individual loses his or her interest in life. The absence of the will to live is caused with decreasing production of endorphins — the substance, which is known as the hormone of happiness. If a depressed individual receives a physical punishment, whipping that is, it will stir up endorphin receptors, activate the 'production of happiness' and eventually remove depressive feelings.
It seems your problem is: you've been a very, very bad boy.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Marley's Ghost

I've seen it a hundred times with everyone from George C. Scott to Yosemite Sam in the lead role. I've heard it on radio, on Christmas Eve while stuck on Siskiyou Pass (a truck had jack-knifed, blocking both lanes). We all know the story, know it by heart in varying degrees of detail and embellishment. But I'd never actually read it until last year.
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
And this is the way its author intended. Read it to yourself or read it out loud. You can find it any number of places online (here's a good one) or, as I did, borrow it from the library. Begin at the beginning and it will draw you in; you can't put it down.

As I read it again yesterday I thought I heard the voice of Mark Twain and I began to wonder, as many have, did they meet? As it turns out, yes, when Twain was the Washington correspondent for the San Francisco Alta California.
His pictures are hardly handsome, and he, like everybody else, is less handsome than his pictures. That fashion he has of brushing his hair and goatee so resolutely forward gives him a comical Scotch-terrier look about the face, which is rather heightened than otherwise by his portentous dignity and gravity. But that queer old head took on a sort of beauty, bye and bye, and a fascinating interest, as I thought of the wonderful mechanism within it, the complex but exquisitely adjusted machinery that could create men and women, and put the breath of life into them and alter all their ways and actions, elevate them, degrade them, murder them, marry them, conduct them through good and evil, through joy and sorrow, on their long march from the cradle to the grave, and never lose its godship over them, never make a mistake! I almost imagined I could see the wheels and pulleys work. This was Dickens -- Dickens.
Janurary 11, 1868. Twain was 32 years old, and Dickens 55.

Aid and Comfort

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Eradicating The Wahhabi Virus

Michael Barone is not a blogger in the sense that Rago uses the term. He is no fool and his readers are, I like to think, not imbeciles. Nevertheless he has a blog, and it's worth watching. Yesterday he appended this little tidbit to the bottom of a post:
An interesting side note from Stephen Schwartz, who converted to Islam as a result of his experiences in Bosnia. He says that Muslims in Bosnia and Serbia are rejecting the Wahhabi activists Saudi Arabia has sent there and that King Abdullah is trying, with the help of Prince Turki, who on December 15 suddenly and mysteriously resigned as Ambassador to the United States, to end Wahhabi proselytization around the world. "Many leading clerics and intellectuals among Sunni Muslims indicate that King Abdullah has effectively told the Wahhabis that they will no longer receive official subsidies and must end their violent jihad around the world." His final conclusion: "Given these developments, global eradication of the Wahhabi virus may be in sight." Good news if true.
I have not paid much attention to Schwartz lately, but I should. Here's the article to which Barone refers, and another related one at The Weekly Standard.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I'll Write When I Feel Like It

I'm busy right now.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Orange and Palm Trees Sway

Mark Steyn's Song of the Week:
In the end, "White Christmas" isn't a song about snow. They had white Christmases in Temun, Siberia, where Berlin was born, but a white Russian Christmas wouldn't be the same: It's not about the weather, it's about home.

In 1942, those GIs out in the Pacific understood that. And Berlin figured it out pretty quickly, too. The first thing he did was take the clever verse — the Beverly Hills orange-and-palm-trees stuff — off the sheet music. Twelve years later, building a new movie named for the song, Berlin acknowledged the men who made it special, in the best staging in the picture: Bing singing in the rubble, accompanied only by Danny Kaye's musical box, as the boys rest their chins on their rifle butts and gaze into the distance, thinking of familiar places and friendly faces. Berlin couldn't have predicted Pearl Harbor, but there's no surprise that, once it had happened, his were the sentiments the country turned to.
There's more to the story. Read it all.

Fish From (Near) Hell

BBC News, San Francisco:
What is certainly astonishing is their behaviour around the sulphur pools. The molten material that wells up from beneath the seafloor is denser than the surrounding water and simply lies in ponds in the depressions through which it emerges.

The measured temperature is more than 180C (355F).

"These flatfish live right up against the edge of the pools, and in a couple of cases we saw them out on the surface of a pool," said Dr Dower.

"We have video of a fish sitting on the molten sulphur and then moving off after a couple of minutes, apparently unharmed. They seem to be able to tolerate an environment that no other flatfish, and very few fish in general, are found in."

Bring North Korea's Refugees Here

Melanie Kirkpatrick:
This being The Wall Street Journal, we went straight to the bottom line. How much, we asked our visitor at a recent editorial board meeting, does it cost to free one North Korean refugee hiding in China?

The Rev. Phillip Buck pauses a moment before replying, apparently making the yuan-to-dollar conversions on the abacus in his mind. "If I do it myself," he says, "the cost is $800 per person. If I hire a broker to do it, it's $1,500."...

The refugees, Pastor Buck argues, are the key to regime change in North Korea and, by inference, the key to halting the North's nuclear and missile programs. Help one man or woman escape, he says, and that person will get word to his family back home about the freedom that awaits them on the outside. Others will follow, and the regime will implode. This is what happened in 1989, when Hungary refused to turn back East Germans fleeing to the West, thereby hastening the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

That's what we're here for.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Parental Advisory

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

Blogonomicon reminds us that Santa smokes.

Quick! Get Your Christmas List!

Pearls Before Swine is on mine.

My new favorite comic. This will make it easy on you: books, mugs, calendars, coasters, I'll love it all; just no t-shirts, please. I don't wear t-shirts. If you can find a nice Arrow poplin long sleeve dress shirt with Pearls Before Swine characters printed on it, that's cool. I'll wear that.

The Eternal Solution

Alan Reynolds:
The politically correct yet factually incorrect claim that the top 1% earns 16% of personal income appears to fill a psychological rather than logical need. Some economists seem ready and willing to supply whatever is demanded. And there is an endless political demand for those able to fabricate problems for which higher taxes are, of course, the preferred solution. In Washington higher taxes are always the solution; only the problems change.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Information

Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells of the first time she learned of the Holocaust—in college:
I saw pictures of masses of skeletons, even of kids. I heard horrifying accounts of some of the people who had survived the terror of Auschwitz and Sobibor. I told my half-sister all this and showed her the pictures in my history book. What she said was as awful as the information in my book.

With great conviction, my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed."

She was not saying anything new. As a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews are evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims, and that their only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.

Gordon's Fruitcake

I love fruitcake but the anti-fruitcake lobby has so dominated the media lately that nobody sends them anymore. So I make my own. Here's my recipe, tested and refined over the course of five years:

Fruitcake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ t cinnamon
  • 1 ½ t cloves
  • 1 ½ t allspice
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 1 t mace
  • ½ t salt
  • 3 ½ lbs orange peel, lemon peel, citron, cherries, raisins, dates, figs
  • 1 lb nuts, especially filberts
  • 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • ½ cup Baccardi dark rum
  • 10 eggs, separated
Mix 1 cup flour with spices and salt.
Mix 1 cup flour with fruits and nuts.
Cream sugar and butter.
Add beaten yolks.
Add rum and flour-spice mix.
Fold in fruits and nuts.
Fold in beaten whites.
Press into greased, parchment-lined pans.
Bake at 275° 2-3 hours.
Glaze
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup Baccardi dark rum
Melt butter. Add sugar and water. Bring to full boil. Cool. Add rum. Brush on.

Friday, December 15, 2006

In His Dotage

Victor Davis Hanson:
Jimmy Carter, silent about Iran's latest promotion for its planned holocaust, is hawking his latest book — in typical fashion, sorta, kinda alleging that the Israelis are like the South Africans in perpetuating an apartheid state, that they are cruel to many Christians, and, as occupiers, are understandably the targets of suicide bombers and other terrorist killers. Sadly, all that shields this wrinkled-browed, lip-biting moralist from complete infamy is sympathy for a man bewildered in his dotage.
Hanson's too kind.

Here's Carter himself, explaining why he won't debate Alan Dershowitz:
I don't want to have a conversation even indirectly with Dershowitz. There is no need ... to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine.
What a putz.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Long Freakout

Peggy Noonan, miss heart-on-her-sleeve, is not swooning for Barack Obama:
He is, clearly, a warm-blooded political animal, an eager connector, a man of intelligence and a writer whose observations suggest the possibility of an independence of spirit. Also a certain unknowability. Which may account for some of his popularity.

But again, what does he believe? From reading his book, I would say he believes in his destiny. He believes in his charisma. He has the confidence of the anointed. He has faith in the magic of the man who meets his moment.

He also believes in the power of good nature, the need for compromise, and the possibility of comprehensive, multitiered, sensible solutions achieved through good-faith negotiations.

But mostly it seems to be about him, his sense of destiny, and his appreciation of his own particular gifts. Which leaves me thinking Oh dear, we have been here before. It's not as if we haven't already had a few of the destiny boys. It's not as if we don't have a few more in the wings.
Hear her out. She's got something to say.

Three NCOs On The ROE

Michael Ledeen directs us to The Captain's Journal and an excellent post on the Rules of Engagement in Iraq.

Worth reading in its entirety.

The Doctor Has No Opinion

Danielle Crittenden in Opinion Journal:
"My patients were hurting, they looked to me and what could I do?" So confesses an anonymous campus physician in the beginning of her startling memoir. Over the course of 200 pages, she tells story after story about suffering young women. If these women were ailing from eating disorders, or substance abuse, or almost any other medical or psychological problem, their university health departments would spring to their aid. "Cardiologists hound patients about fatty diets and insufficient exercise. Pediatricians encourage healthy snacks, helmets and discussion of drugs and alcohol. Everyone condemns smoking and tanning beds."

Unfortunately, the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices." And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tiny Shades

Yes, that's a real fly, and those are really tiny sunglasses manufactured by Micreon which specializes in "micro-machining using ultrafast laser sources."

Hat tip to Improbable Research, which has lots of good stuff.

Others Retained By The People

Thanks to Instapundit, a link an article by Randy Barnett on the Ninth Amendment, which as you recall says
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Professor Barnett's conclusion:
The historical evidence presented here supports an unremarkable, almost mundane, conclusion: The Ninth Amendment's public meaning in the founding era is identical to what ordinary readers take it to mean today (until they enter law school and are told otherwise). No elaborate theory or hidden code is required to decipher its words. The Ninth Amendment prohibits constitutional constructions... that infringe upon the unenumerated, natural, and individual rights retained by the people. In other words, it means what it says.
I wonder if one of those unenumerated rights assumed by the founders would be the right to build, on your own property, with your own money, your own home, in your own way.

Nah. That would be asking too much.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tallowbox Lookout Vandalized

The Mail Tribune:
Engineers and investigators are evaluating damage from flames that ravaged a fire lookout and a key radio equipment outpost on Tallowbox Mountain southwest of Ruch Sunday evening....

Although the fire didn't burn the lookout, it did char support beams and burn through some cross pieces, Alexander said. The lookout, which was shuttered to withstand winter storms, also had smashed windows and railings on its steep steps were torn down, he said.
Picture of the lookout in better days here. Google map here.

Update: More details of the vandalism here.

Schooner Milan

Rochester:
After more than 160 years, the twin masts of the Milan still stand erect — all the more remarkable because the commercial sailing ship sits in the dark depths of Lake Ontario.

"It almost looks like it could be floated" to the surface, said shipwreck explorer Dan Scoville on Monday.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Temperate Clime

Data from The Weather Channel for Medford, Oregon. I've smoothed the record highs and lows using a nine-day running average, but you can still see bumps caused, for instance, by the record cold snap of Dec 4-13, 1972.

More interesting, I think, is the general shape of the graph—not perfectly sinusoidal, as you might expect. True, the coldest days correspond almost perfectly with the Winter Solstice, but the hottest days of summer come more than a month after the longest days. And the warmth of summer lingers long into the fall with the steepest decline during the month of October. Winter's worst is mercifully brief as warmer days begin in February or March at the latest.

Climate is what we expect, as Mark Twain famously said: weather is what we get. Most of the year what we get is pretty good. I really can't complain, but I do.

Hezbollah's War Crimes

Opinion Journal has a few scenes from modern warfare:
Mohammad Abd al-Hamid Srour moved missiles across southern Lebanon under cover of a white flag. Hussein Ali Mahmoud Suleiman used the porch of a private home to fire rockets. Maher Hassan Mahmoud Kourani dressed in civilian clothes, hid his Kalashnikov in a tote bag and stored anti-aircraft missiles in the back of a green unmarked Volvo. The three men, all members of Hezbollah, were captured by Israel during last summer's war.

Now their videotaped interviews form part of a remarkable report by retired Lieutenant Colonel Reuven Erlich of Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Relying heavily on captured Hezbollah documents, onsite and aerial photography and other first-hand evidence, the report shows how the Shiite group put innocent civilians at risk by deliberately deploying its forces in cities, towns and often private homes.

Night Launch 10 Dec 2006 8:47 PM

"Night Launch" by Datona Beach News-Journal photographer Nigel Cook. Wallpaper available at news-journalonline.com.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Would Bean-O Help?

Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor, The Independent:
Meet the world's top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane,or even George Bush: it is the cow.

A United Nations report has identified the world's rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.
Man, that's one bad animal.
Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
I don't know if "responsible" is the operative word here.
Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world's emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain.
There's only one thing we can do. Each and every person on the planet is going to have to commit to personally eating about 40 pounds of delicious, organic, sun-dried beef jerky.

Starting right now.

Running On The Moon

Astronaut Schmidt on his way back to the rover. A few days after this image was taken, humanity left the Moon and has yet to return.
Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Click picture for panorama.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Beginning To Look A Lot

Light Christmas.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The name's Fleming. Ian Fleming.

Steyn reviews Casino Royale—the book, not the movie.

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, RIP

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick's Dictatorships and Double Standards, which I read in college, still occupies my bookshelf. Her ideas fundamentally influenced my movement from left to right. Together with Ronald Reagan she changed the world.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, eighty years old, died in her sleep Thursday.

Reluctant Superpower

Shelby Steele raises some interesting points. First:
Why don't we know the meaning of this war and our reasons for fighting it? I think the answer begins in the awkward fact that America is now the world's uncontested superpower. If this fate has its advantages, it also brings an unasked-for degree of dominion in the world. This is essentially a passive dominion that has settled on a rather isolationist nation, yet it makes America into something of a sheriff. Whether the problem is Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea or Darfur, America gets the call. Thus our youth are often asked to go to war more out of international responsibility than national necessity. This is a hard fate for a free and prosperous citizenry to accept—the loss of sons and daughters to a kind of magnanimity. Today our antiwar movement is essentially an argument with this fate, a rejection of superpower responsibility.
And then:
And yet the end of the Cold War has made these wars between the West and the Third World inevitable. When the world was clearly divided between the free West and the communist East, Third World countries could play the ingénue by offering their alignment to the most generous suitor. At the center of a market in alignment, they could extract financial support and enjoy a sense of importance.

But after the Cold War, these countries suddenly became crones without appeal or leverage in the West. And it was out of this sense of invisibility, this feeling of having fallen out of history, that certain Middle Eastern countries found a way to play the ingénue once again. They would not compete with or seduce the West; they would menace it.

Islamic extremism is an ideology of menace. It empowers those who, but for menace, would languish in the world's disregard.
And finally:
For every reason, from the humanitarian to the geopolitical to the military, Iraq is a war that America must win in the hegemonic, even colonial, sense. It is a test of our civilization's commitment to the good against the alluring notion of menace-as-power that has gripped so much of the Muslim world. Today America is a danger to the world in its own right, not because we are a powerful bully but because we don't fully accept who we are. We rush to war as a superpower protecting the world from menace, then leave the battle before winning as a show of what, humility? We confuse our enemies, discouraging them one minute and encouraging them the next.

Could it be that our enemies are really paper tigers made formidable by our unceasing ambivalence? And could it be that the greater good is in both the idea and the reality of American victory?
Time, perhaps, to update Kipling, and take up the Western Man's Burden.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cultural Transmogrification

Victor Davis Hanson meditates (again) on that amazing country called California:
Anyone can leave a vast untouched Sierra alpine forest, snowbound, and on the edge of an even more vast wildness to the immediate east over Kaiser Pass, and then within one-and-a half hours descend through foothills into the richest agricultural land in the world—still at this late date not yet completely turned into a San Jose or San Fernando Valley, and replete with orange groves, table-grape vineyards, and endless miles of tree-fruit. Then in a little less than three hours, you drive over a Mediterranean-like coast range and end up near the Pacific with a climate like the Greek or Italian seaside.

We sometimes rightly cry about despoiling our natural heritage. But eastward 50 miles from the Stanford campus to the coast are literally millions of acres that are untouched, and relatively unknown—as is true even in the corridor surrounding the 280 freeway. And this radical change in landscape within hours is matched by equally radical cultural transmogrification as well.

Up in the Sierra at this time of year, there are a number of rugged, 1940s types who plow snow, supply propane, or work for the power company who are as eccentric as admirable in their contrariness and independence.

The world should visit the Valley below to see how various races and religions live in relative harmony without killing each other. Millions of Mexicans, whites, blacks, Punjabis, Southeast Asians, Armenians, and Filipinos intermarry, integrate, and assimilate. Tuesday in Fresno County in the space of 30 minutes I drove by a Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, mosque, Sikh temple, and synagogue—and about thirty Protestant congregations from Unitarian to Church of the Holy Redeemer. Anywhere else in the world—the Parisian suburbs, Darfur, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo, etc., such races and religions would be letting off bombs, assassinating or rioting.

A Family Marked For Tragedy

Yesterday I posted a link to an Opinion Journal article by Debra Burlingame.
Ms. Burlingame, a director of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, is the sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Today the New York Times reports that Wendy Burlingame, Mr. Burlingame's daughter, has died in a fire in her apartment.

Bush Should Just Say No

The Economist, Dec 7th 2006:
What will not help is scuttling from Iraq before exhausting every possible effort to put the country back together. The Baker-Hamilton group is right to say that America should neither leave precipitously nor stay forever. Leaning harder on Iraq's politicians is an excellent idea. But setting an arbitrary deadline of early 2008 for most of the soldiers to depart risks weakening America's bargaining power, intensifying instead of dampening the fighting and projecting an image of weakness that will embolden enemies everywhere. On this recommendation, Mr Bush needs to insist on his prerogatives as custodian of America's foreign policy and just say no.

Living The Low Life

Klamath Falls Herald & News:
James Parrott reportedly shot at three other employees early Tuesday after fatally shooting the director of his Klamath Falls retirement home, authorities say.
He certainly looks harmless enough, doesn't he?

Like a snake.
Chapman [the director] apparently was trying to resolve a problem with another resident. Parrott had accompanied the resident to the meeting in the center's community room, when he became upset with Chapman, Swanson said.

The suspect then said he was having heart problems and needed his medicine, went to his room and returned with a rifle.
Pretty cool retirement home that lets you keep guns in your room.
Parrott is a convicted felon who served time in prison. Court records show he has several burglary convictions out of California.

In Klamath County, he has been charged with several misdemeanor crimes, including fourth-degree assault and driving under the influence of an intoxicant.
You might wonder what kind of retirement home caters to scum like this. A federally funded one, obviously. After all, you wouldn't expect him to have to rely on family or friends or his own initiative, would you? He probably doesn't have any of those.

And another thing. There really ought to be a law against convicted felons owing guns.
In court Wednesday, Parrott also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Oh, good. I feel better already.

Always Will We Remember

The White House, December 8, 1941:
Always will we 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 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 very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

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 unbounded 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 seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
More on the crafting of the speech, including photos of the drafts, here. More on the attack itself from Jonah's Military Guys (thanks to Instapundit for this link).

Food Fad du Jour

Colby Cosh in the Western Standard:
If you think there's something a little weird about the current dietary crusade against trans fats, you've either got good instincts or a long memory. Trans fats are considered pernicious because they reduce the level of "good" cholesterol in the bloodstream and are reliably correlated with increased risk of heart disease. As their critics are fond of noting, they do not exist in nature. They're created when vegetable oil is hydrogenated—rendered solid—for easier transport and storage.

What the health commissars don't tell you is that we're all eating loads of hydrogenated vegetable oil, precisely because they freaked out about natural animal fats a generation ago. Trans fats go back to the invention of Crisco (1909), but their presence in commercially prepared baked and fried foods increased in the seventies and eighties, when butter was seized upon by dietitians as the "Ingredient of Death," and groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest attacked fast-food restaurants for cramming patrons full of lard and tallow. Myriads may have died prematurely as a result—to say nothing of millions who grew up needlessly deprived of buttered toast, shortbread and french fries cooked in beef fat.
I've got to start paying more attention to this newspaper, and not just because they feature Mark Steyn.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

No Reception

Well, searchers have found the body of James Kim near the mouth of Big Windy Creek, a half mile from the Rogue River, and seven miles from where he left his car. The Mail Tribune has what information there is. We naturally have a lot of questions, but with Kim dead, many of those questions will go unanswered.
  • Why did he wait a week before going for help?
  • Why did he leave the road to and head downhill?
  • How did he die? Of exposure, or starvation, or an accident?
  • And when?
If he died last night the searchers will feel terrible. They were so close. But if he died three days ago, well, nothing could have been done.

Nothing, that is, except stay out of this situation in the first place. As is so often the case with tragedies of this sort, they made more than one mistake. Obviously they shouldn't have taken that route. They should have had more information to begin with. They should have told someone where they were going. But most of all, they should have been better prepared.

The Mountaineering handbook lists "ten essentials" without which one should never enter the wilderness:
  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sun protection
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Flashlight
  6. First-aid kit
  7. Fire starter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food
Naturally, since they travelled by car, they went without most of these. They did have extra clothes. They had a few jars of baby food. A couple cigarette lighters. And their cell phones.

The Mountaineering handbook has this to say about cell phones:
Cell phones should be viewed as an adjunct to, not a substitute for, self-reliance. No party should set out ill-prepared, inadequately equipped, or attempting a route beyond the ability of its members with the notion that they will just call for help if needed. They will imperil themselves and the rescuers who may try to bail them out.
Maybe this is the key to the whole tragedy.

Maybe the Kims, who had lived their whole lives wired, connected, and communicating, couldn't imagine themselves in a situation where they were really and truly alone and cut off from the rest of their world. Dead batteries. Incommunicado. No reception.

And they simply didn't know what to do.

FBI Wirelesstapping

Irons In The Fire links to an article on CNET:
The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations....

Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without having physical access to the phone."
Turning the phone off won't help. The software can switch it on remotely. Removing the battery works.

I would suggest simply dropping the phone, mic end first, into a holster made of sound absorbent material. Leather ought to work.

Derb on Steyn

John Derbyshire comments on Mark Steyn's America Alone, in which Steyn comments on Derb's "rubble doesn't cause trouble" slogan, Steyn pointing out that the rubble of Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Grozny has actually caused quite a bit of trouble:
Ah, but Mark, there is rubble, and there is rubble. Of the 13th-century Mongol horde it was said that when they had once bestowed their attentions on a city, you could afterwards ride over the place where that city had stood without your horse stumbling. If the indignities suffered in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Grozny are the root causes of present-day Islamic terrorism, then I submit that the indignities were insufficiently severe.

Armchair warriors like myself are sometimes accused of laboring under the illusion that all the world's problems can be solved by neat "surgical strikes" on troublesome locations, in which suspect facilities, or persons, are cleanly eliminated with minimal collateral damage.

Not guilty! I am, in fact, willing to confess myself a collateral-damage armchair warrior, who would be happy to see us trade in our inventory of smart laser-guided precision munitions for lots and lots and lots of old-style iron bombs, and fleets of great big iron planes to deliver them. Remember those photographs of mid-1945 Berlin, fragments of broken wall sticking up out of vast drifts and dunes of pulverized masonry? Now that's rubble.

Oh, and we won that war.
Derbyshire says that he hasn't really written a review because there are so many thought-provoking points in Steyn's book that a review would run to 10,000 words to address them all, and at that point you might as well read the book.

I have, and I enjoyed reading John Derbyshire's comments as well.

Water Still Flows On Mars

December 6th, 2006:
NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.

"These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows occasionally on the surface of Mars," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, Washington.
Not exactly enough to surf in—yet.

Hat tip to Drudge.

Update: Astronomy Picture of the Day has closeups.

No Room For Error

Debra Burlingame on the Minneapolis imams:
Here's what the flying public needs to know about airplanes and civil rights: Once your foot traverses the entranceway of a commercial airliner, you are no longer in a democracy in which everyone gets a vote and minority rights are affirmatively protected in furtherance of fuzzy, ever-shifting social policy. Ultimately, the responsibility for your personal safety and security rests on the shoulders of one person, the pilot in command. His primary job is to safely transport you and your belongings from one place to another. Period.

This is the doctrine of "captain's authority." It has a longstanding history and a statutory mandate, further strengthened after 9/11, which recognizes that flight crews are our last line of defense between the kernel of a terrorist plot and its lethal execution. The day we tell the captain of a commercial airliner that he cannot remove a problem passenger unless he divines beyond question what is in that passenger's head and heart is the day our commercial aviation system begins to crumble. When a passenger's conduct is so disturbing and disruptive that reasonable, ordinary people fear for their lives, the captain must have the discretionary authority to respond without having to consider equal protection or First Amendment standards about which even trained lawyers with the clarity of hindsight might strongly disagree. The pilot in command can't get it wrong. At 35,000 feet, when multiple events are rapidly unfolding in real time, there is no room for error.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

String Topology, Hochschild Cohomology, and the Goldman Bracket

Dmitry "Mitka" Vaintrob, 18, accepted the 2006-07 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology award at New York University...

Vaintrob qualified for the national competition in November after beating out four other finalists in the individual category in the Western regional finals. In New York, he was up against five competitors whose projects included the discovery of three new pulsar stars and the exploration of potential prevention methods against Parkinson's disease.

Vaintrob's project may well have been the most esoteric and difficult to grasp. Its title alone — "The string topology BV algebra, Hochschild cohomology and the Goldman bracket on surfaces" — is enough to trigger a headache for most math experts and glazed eyes for the rest of us. Even the lead judge, former astronaut Kathryn Thornton, admitted she understood little beyond Vaintrob's introduction.

But the Siemens Foundation ensured that at least one judge on the panel was an expert in the area of focus for each of the 12 individual and team projects. In Vaintrob's case, it was Michael Hopkins, a math professor at Harvard University, who called the work "at the Ph.D. level, publishable and already attracting the attention of researchers."
Dmitry Vaintrob is a senior at South Eugene High School.

Spreading Holiday Cheer

Carnival of Cordite #80 is up over at TBGs.

(And well worth the wait, too.)

The Cure

Stephen Moore in Opinion Journal:
About 10 years ago, I broke my leg playing basketball. After I came out of surgery, with a cast stretching from my ankle to the top of my leg, an orderly asked me whether I had ever used crutches before. I hadn't, so he showed me what to do, swinging through them from one end of the room to the other. The whole lesson lasted about 90 seconds. When I got my hospital bill, I saw that I had been charged $150 for "gait training on crutches." I did what all insured Americans do: I forwarded the bill to my insurance company. Why should I care? I wasn't paying for it.
And that's exactly the problem.

Moore recommends The Cure by David Gratzer.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lost Near Bear Camp

Merlin, Oregon:
The wife and two young daughters of missing CNET senior editor James Kim have been found alive and well after surviving more than a week stranded in the wilderness of southwest Oregon, authorities said Monday afternoon.

A full-scale ground and air search has now shifted to the 35-year-old editor, who left the car on foot Saturday morning to seek help and has not yet been found, Josephine County sheriff's authorities said at a news conference in Merlin, Ore. "He's a resourceful guy and we're hoping for the best," said Mike Weinstein, a detective with the Portland Police Bureau's Missing Persons Unit.
I've been over that road a couple of times and it's bad enough during the summer. It really ought to be closed to through traffic—there's really no other kind because there's nothing between Galice and Agness—during the winter. I'd hate to find myself on foot there in this weather, even with good boots. Kim's wearing tennis shoes.

Updates available at www.jamesandkati.com.

From The World Trade Center Site

Greg writes from New York:
I wanted to see the World Trade Center site, and I'm glad I did, but I don't ever want to see it again. I'd never expected it would hit me as HARD as it does. I don't have any personal connection to it, but its impact is visceral and intense. It was early on a Sunday morning, and there were only a couple hundred people wandering around. They were all absolutely dead silent. The whole area around the fence has a feeling of pain and mourning that just attaches to you. I can hardly describe it now without choking up, and that's why I'm making this email separate from the others. Check it out, and move on.







Bush Unpersuaded

Michael Barone:
NBC News has declared that Iraq is in the midst of a "civil war," just as CBS's Walter Cronkite declared Vietnam was lost after Tet. Many in the mainstream media today, as in 1968, see nothing but the prospect of American defeat. George W. Bush seems to have other ideas.
Worth reading in its entirety.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

VDH On The Trojan War

From Victor Davis Hanson's blog:
Currently I am reading Barry Strauss's The Trojan War....

The strange thing about the Trojan War is that as the decades roll on, and more philological evidence from Near Eastern and Mycenaean texts is sifted and resifted, and the site is re-excavated and enlarged, the more likely it becomes that Homer really was the custodian of a far off, quite important war near the end of the Mycenaean Age. Despite the necessary requisites of oral poetry, the nature of fiction, the passing of five centuries, the contamination of Dark Age and early polis allusions, and the aristocratic nature of early oral audiences, the Iliad and the Odyssey probably capture a great deal of information about this shadowy war between Mycenaean lords and an outpost of Near Eastern rivals in Asia Minor.
Interestingly, Hanson links to the Fagles translations in a boxed set, which I take as an endorsement. I've mentioned the audio CD of the Odyssey, translated by Fagles and read by Ian McKellen, before. We've certainly enjoyed it.

Vanished Without a Trace

Scene: A lonely residential street in the city of Niigata, along the western coast of Japan.

Time: Late afternoon in the autumn of 1977.

Action: A 13-year-old girl is walking home from school, having stayed late for badminton practice. She waves goodbye to friends, turns the corner, and is never seen again.

This is the true story of "Abduction," a documentary that opened in Japan last weekend after winning accolades at several international film festivals. The lost girl is Megumi Yokota. In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped Megumi, along with 12 other Japanese citizens, enslaving them for the purpose of training its spies to pass as Japanese. "Megumi-chan," or "Little Megumi," is now a household name in Japan.
Melanie Kirkpatrick tells about the documentary.

The film's web site is here. The last photo taken of Megumi is here.

The AP's Problem

Jules Crittenden, City Editor for the Boston Herald:
The AP, once a just-the-facts news delivery service, has lost its rudder. It has become a partisan, anti-American news agency that seeks to undercut a wartime president and American soldiers in the field. It is providing fraudulent, shoddy goods. It doesn't even recognize it has a problem.

This is the point at which, another big American industry learned, people start buying Japanese. But as an American newspaper, if you want to provide your readers with affordable regional, national and international news, you have to deal with the AP.

If newspapers don't have an alternative, readers do. It's called the Internet. That's why newspapers, if they don't want to be dragged further into irrelevance and disrepute, have to tell The Associated Press they are dissatisfied with its product.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Chess Player's Perspective

Garry Kasparov in the Wall Street Journal:
Thirty years as a chess player ingrained in me the importance of never losing sight of the big picture. Paying too much attention to one area of the chessboard can quickly lead to the collapse of your entire position. America and its allies are so focused on Iraq they are ceding territory all over the map....

The attack on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan went so well that the U.S. and its allies did not appreciate all the reasons for the success. Almost every player on the world stage benefited from the attack on Afghanistan. The rout of the Sunni Taliban delighted Iran. Russia and China have no love for religious extremism near their borders. India was happy to see the U.S. launch a direct attack on Muslim terrorists....

Not only was there a confluence of world opinion aided by sympathy for the U.S. after 9/11, but the proverbial bad guys were undoubtedly bad, and we knew where they were. As subsequent events have shown, effectively bombing terrorists is a rare opportunity.

Learning from our defeats is obvious, but too often we fail to appreciate the reasons for our successes; we take them for granted....
Kasparov goes on to provide a brilliant analysis of the current situation. But what move does he then suggest?
"Mission accomplished" jokes aside, the original goals in Iraq—deposing Saddam Hussein and holding elections—have been achieved. Nation-building was never on the agenda, and it should not be added now. All the allied troops in the world aren't going to stop the Iraqi people from continuing their civil war if this is their choice. As long as Muslim leaders in Iraq and elsewhere are unwilling to confront their own radical elements, outsiders will be spectators in the line of fire.

As for stability, if allied troops leave Iraq: What stability? I won't say things can't get worse—if we've learned anything, it's that things in the Middle East can always get worse; but at least the current deadly dynamic would be changed. And with change there is always hope for improvement. Without change, we are expecting a different result from the same behavior, something once defined as insanity.
That's a strategy? Change and hope?

I expected better.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Christian Atheist

Mark Steyn on The Hugh Hewitt Show:
HH: Well, let's talk about Oriana Fallaci, because I've read her interviews all these years, but I never quite got her until I read your essay. And of course, we can't read your essay on the air, or the FCC will come and take my license away.

MS: That's right.

HH: But she was a remarkable woman.

MS: Yes, and she was basically, she described herself at the end of her long life as a Christian atheist.

HH: Right.

MS: And she understood, as actually...she is the embodiment, really, of the sort of feminist, left-wing, career woman. And certainly, that's how she was admired around the world in the 60's and 70's. But she came to understand, she requested a meeting with Pope Benedict toward the end of her life. They agreed on the grounds that what they discussed would never be divulged, but she started describing herself as a Christian atheist, and that's a very shrewd designation, because atheists in Western Civilization should understand that they enjoy the lives they do, in part because of the Judao-Christian inheritence that they cannot bring themselves to believe in. So in a sense, she understood that even as an atheist, she had a vested interest in the continuation of Christian civilization. And more left-wingers, more atheists, more secularists should understand that.

Foundation of Wet Garbage

Derb has a way with words:
As with any other art, mastery of fighting — in Bruce's style or any other — depends on thousands of weary hours of repetitive exercises, of pitiless self-criticism, and of careful correction by yourself or a teacher. That kind of rote discipline is not much found in our education systems any more. It has come to be considered unimaginative and oppressive of the human spirit, which, left to itself and freed of all restraints, will soar aloft in joy, spontaneously discovering all knowledge and skill for itself. This is the foundation of wet garbage on which modern pedagogy is built.