Friday, July 31, 2009

Climbing Mount Tambu

Malum Nalu, who blogs from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, hiked the Black Cat Trail from Salamaua to Wau in 2003.
We pressed on the next morning through thick rainforest as the track steepened and deteriorated markedly. My bulk and weight of the backpack on my shoulders caused the track to give way in many places, and on more than one occasion, I had to grapple on to salat — stinging nettles — for dear life. We continued like this, scrambling down to creeks, back up again, over and around slippery log falls, landslides, and salat. On several occasions, we heard the calls of bird of paradise, which tantalisingly weaved their way through the forest canopy....

Suddenly, Lionel gave out a yell, thinking that a snake had bitten him. After close inspection, no, but it was a leech. Thus marked our entry into leech country. The insidious creatures crawled on the forest floor like tiny dragons, and once they sniffed out blood, clung on to our legs and sucked until fattened. Shoes and socks were no hindrance as they worked their way in and continued in the same vein as miniature vampires. Lionel and Solomon, who walked barefoot, had their feet absolutely devoured by the slimy leeches. Every now and then, we had to stop, and scrape the leeches off with knives.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Touched with Fire

In a sudden rush to learn a little about my father-in-law's 162nd Infantry and its seventy-six day battle from Nassau Bay to Salamaua, I've ordered more than a dozen books on the subject. Some, after a brief scan, will go on the shelf unread; they were almost (but never quite) a waste of money. Others will bear reading twice. This is one of the good ones.

Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific by Eric M. Bergerud.

It's a topical, not a narrative, history, and I'll have more to say about it in a later review. Right now, though, I can recommend it — highly.

The Derbs Buy A New Car

A mini-essay by John Derbyshire.

Stuck On Sunday

I don't know about you, but when I click on the link to Prickly City I get last Sunday's strip. Have for four days now.

On the off chance it's because gocomics.com is censoring Scott Stantis for some reason, here are the strips. I'll keep adding them here until the problem clears up.

As always, click the pics to enlarge.

Update: Problem cleared up. Randy informs me that they've changed syndicates. Prickly City can now be found at http://comics.com/prickly_city/.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Sentiments Exactly

Monday, July 27, 2009

American Hillbilly

Here's what Palin said to the media:
Democracy depends on you. And that is why, that's why our troops are willing to die for you. So, how about, in honor of the American soldier, you quit making things up.
Here's how one so-called news site transcribed it:
Democracy depends on you, and that is why, that's why our troops are willing to die for you. So, how 'bout in honor of the American soldier, ya quit makin' things up.
How 'bout ya quit makin' things up?

Hell, why didn't they just run it through The Dialectizer?
Democracy depends on yo'. An' thet is whuffo', thass whuffo' our troops is willin' t'die fo' yo'. So, howsabout, in hono' of th' South Car'linan soldier, yo' quit makin' thin's up.
Howsabout it, MSM? Ya wanna quit makin' thin's up?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

No You Can't

Nile Gardiner says the Obama dream has turned into a nightmare.
Even with liberals dominating the Executive Branch and both Houses of Congress, as well as about 80 per cent of America's print and television media, the Obama team has so far spectacularly failed to win over the American people to a radical big government agenda that seeks to significantly enhance the power of the state over the individual.

If he is not careful, Barack Obama may end up as one of the least popular presidents in American history.
Barring an affair with an intern, of course.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In the Land of Duh

Susan Estrich, 2007:
The minimum wage should go up.
Susan Estrich, 2009:
The kids came home from college this summer, good kids who work every summer and count on it to pay their bills during the year. There were no jobs to be had. No barista jobs. No salesgirl jobs....

I am usually the fount of advice for my friends and my friends' friends about getting a job. Do this, do that, don't be so picky, go here, get on the bus, be flexible, send more resumes, call, network. "... I always have ideas.

I have no ideas.
At least, no good ones.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mighty Shaky Assumption

Alan Blinder says the economy has hit bottom, but bases his conclusion on the assumption that things just can't get any worse.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Duct Tape On The Moon

LA: Music and Architecture

Two good reads on music and art in Los Angeles appear in The Wall Street Journal this morning. Anne Lewis writes about the work of the architectural photographer Julius Shulman, who died last week at the age of 98. (ZW has mentioned him before.) The article includes a nice slide show of his work.

And Norman Lebrecht reviews A Windfall of Musicians: Hitler's Emigres and Exiles in Southern California by Dorothy Lamb Crawford.
Stravinsky, drinking heavily, mingled with the authors' colony, making friends with the Englishmen Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden. Most other composers spun hack music for B movies. Hanns Eisler, a radical songwriter, developed a theory for matching musical color to screen emotion. Friedrich Hollander, one of Berlin's wittiest cabaret composers, stuck to satirical songs until his wife was caught shoplifting food, after which he churned out 175 movie scores. Billy Wilder, himself a Hitler exile, was the only director who let Hollander write an original film song.
Looks like an interesting read. It's on my wish list.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bay of Pigs

On the beaches of Big Major Spot Island, the Bahamas, a family of brown and pink boars and piglets live freely on the sandy white beaches and swim in the tropical surf.
Slide show at the Telegraph.

Live Free Or Die

Wasn't S'pose to Be This Hard

Peter Wehner.
When Barack Obama assumed office, his supporters viewed him as a man of preternatural talents: highly intelligent and unusually reasonable, disciplined and competent, open to different points of view, committed to bipartisanship and to achieving common ground, an agent of reform and comity, cool and graceful, trans-ideological and groundbreaking. Governing is never easy, especially when facing an economic crisis — but Obama was extraordinary, we were told, a once-in-a-lifetime figure, wise beyond his years, compared to Lincoln and to God, destined for greatness, The One. Or so the story went.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The House Call

"I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day."
— Karl Marx, in a letter to Friedrich Engels, 1867.
We do, we do.

Cronkite's Dead And I'm Glad

In a dozen short paragraphs Matt Patterson explains why.

Read it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Letters From the Southwest Pacific

Before there was e-mail there was V-mail.
V-mail ensured that thousands of tons of shipping space could be reserved for war materials. The 37 mail bags required to carry 150,000 one-page letters could be replaced by a single mail sack. The weight of that same amount of mail was reduced dramatically from 2,575 pounds to a mere 45.
As you know, I'm studying the Pacific War. When I mentioned V-Mail at dinner the other night my wife said, "Would you like to see the letters my Dad sent?"

I sure would.

She brought out a manila envelope with a couple dozen letters in it. Some were standard weight, some tissue-paper thin Air Mail, and some were V-Mail. Marielle, who has a delicate touch any archivist would envy, helped me open them and scan them into the computer. Now I'm in the process of transcribing them, and doing a little research as I go along.

You wouldn't by chance have a copy of The Oregonian, August 14, 1943, would you?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Disarmament Without A Treaty

John Lehman in The Wall Street Journal.
When John McCain was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, he was flying an A4 Skyhawk. That jet cost $860,000.

Inflation has risen by 700% since then. So Mr. McCain's A4 cost $6.1 million in 2008 dollars. Applying a generous factor of three for technological improvements, the price for a 2008 Navy F18 fighter should be about $18 million. Instead, we are paying about $90 million for each new fighter. As a result, the Navy cannot buy sufficient numbers. This is disarmament without a treaty....

On May 22, President Obama signed the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act. Despite the grandiloquent name, it is in fact just an addition of 20,000 more bureaucrats who will only make matters worse.

Why is this happening? Where did things go wrong?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Unpersuasive

By way of TJICistan, this comment by some fellow named Beldar nicely sums it up.
At this point, I'm entirely satisfied with that result. Watching Judge Sotomayor testify — and comparing her with, for example, Chief Justice Roberts in the same setting — confirms my belief that Obama could hardly have nominated a less effective person to be an internal advocate within the Supreme Court's deliberations for the political points of view he would espouse. The idea that she's ever going to talk Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, or Alito around to her point of view on anything by virtue of subtle but powerful rational argument is essentially nil. The likelihood of her doing so with Kennedy is fractionally larger, but barely that — and appointing someone who could have done that (e.g., Cass Sunstein or someone else whose intellectual approval Kennedy might have craved) was the greatest opportunity for Obama in this appointment, an opportunity that he clearly has missed.
My emphasis. Beldar has his own blog, if you would like him to elaborate.

Golden Horde In Blue Helmets

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia.
Eight centuries after Genghis Khan's conquering hordes swept across Asia subduing all in their path, the proud heirs to that military tradition have found a new mission in life -- U.N. peacekeeping.

Hundreds of highly trained soldiers drill and exercise in U.N. blue helmets at a dusty base in the capital's dreary western suburbs, mastering such skills as manning checkpoints and escorting convoys in hopes of an assignment to serve the cause of world peace in some forsaken trouble spot.
There are plenty of those.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Earth to Mars

David Warren in The Ottawa Citizen.
Perhaps better terms for the two sides, to replace left and right, might be "martians" and "earthlings."

It is to the earthlings in this scenario that Ms. Palin is speaking. And when she writes lines like this intentional jaw-dropper in the Washington Post -- "We are ripe for economic growth and energy independence if we responsibly tap the resources that God created right underfoot on American soil" -- she is quite intentionally signalling that she is ready for war.

That only implies an immediate run for the presidency to people who cannot understand her. Instead, she intends to use her celebrity to champion the views of the many earth-based Americans who have been overlooked -- and who the Republican establishment will continue to patronize, and overlook, at the cost of their own annihilation.

We are going to have a war, next door in the U.S.A. -- a war between two world views that have become very nearly mutually incomprehensible. One might almost say that it was quietly declared on the op-ed of the Washington Post yesterday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

Tam reminds us. Coincidentally I had just begun, two days ago, re-reading A Tale of Two Cities, which was included in full in my high school literature textbook, a copy of which I still have on my shelf: Outlooks Through Literature (1964), amazingly enough still available on Amazon for somewhere between $0.68 and $104.11. Don't assume that the more expensive copy is in better condition.

I quit doing homework in fourth grade and by my junior year I was pretty much a straight-F student, but they had my test scores and they put me in AP English. We read Tale of Two Cities, Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, Gunga Din, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and a lot of other stuff I don't remember reading but I do remember having read. Every now and then I pick up my old textbook and re-read it, this time paying more attention; completing the work Mr. Barneck assigned me in 1971. Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. So too, I think, is fine literature.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

Willie Brown in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The pundits are wrong. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Sarah Palin's decision to step down as Alaska governor was a brilliant move.
J.R. Dunn in American Thinker.
In a few years her children will be settled, she will no longer have hostages to fortune, and the laughter will have long died away. That is when the lady will start shuffling the cards. We will all have further opportunity to wonder what Sarah Palin is up to.
Robert Stacy McCain in The American Spectator.
The punditocracy can't predict Palin because she shares neither their perspective nor their assumptions.
Tim Lindell in Alaska Dispatch.
Sarah Palin already has the power to destroy the GOP, simply by taking her constituency off the field with her. That's why I've always viewed the attacks on her by other GOP politicos to be colossally stupid...
Matthew Continetti in The Weekly Standard.
For whatever reason, the press cannot take its unblinking eye off of her. To the media and her detractors, she is a force of nature. She cannot be ignored.

The obsession is sure to intensify. Be prepared. Hurricane Sarah is about to descend on the Lower 48.
I personally prefer history to futurology. Something happened in the past and our only problem is to figure out what it was. On the other hand a million things could happen in the future and your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, July 10, 2009

F6F Hellcat

You may or may not know that I'm embarked on a ten-year course in the history of World War Two. It will take that long, working in my spare time, to get the rough outlines of it.

My current read is Eagle Against the Sun by Ronald Spector. To aid in visualization, I've also got Pacific War Eagles by Jeffrey L. Ethell and The Pacific War Atlas by David Smurthwaite.

But I need a better look at the aircraft and ships involved. How about plastic models? I used to love them as a kid. Do they still make them anymore?

Do they ever.

Scale Hobbyist, in Merrimack, NH, may not have the rock-bottom lowest prices (they're close) but they do have the very best web site. You can drill down by scale, era, type, country, manufacturer, and description. How many 1/72 scale Japanese A6M Zero model kits are there? Nine.

That's pretty cool.

Counterintuitive

Radley Balko in The Wall Street Journal.
A city of illegal immigrants with easy access to guns, just across the river from a metropolis ripped apart by brutal drug war violence. Should be a bloodbath, right?

Here's the surprise . . . El Paso is among the safest big cities in America.
Read the rest. File it away. It will make sense some day.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Clean Up Crew

Professor Reynolds notes this post at the TierneyLab and mis-attributes it to John Tierney. Actually, Tierney's on vacation and this is posted by Nicholas Wade, whose book I've mentioned a few times before. The post concerns the self-domestication of wild cats.
They had the wits to notice that the first human settlements were full of uncleared garbage strewn about by their slovenly inhabitants and so were overrun with rats, mice and sparrows.

The cats decided to move into this inviting new ecological niche, even though the price of admission was to develop a disdainful tolerance of people.

And after 10,000 years of helping people keep down pests, their reward is to have their utility questioned in a new paper in the National Academy of Sciences' journal. The researchers, led by Stephen J. O'Brien of the National Cancer Institute, an expert on cat genetics among other things, even call them "profiteers," although admittedly this sobriquet is preceded by two positive epithets.
There follows a long and acrimonious debate over the utility of cats. My cat yawns and looks out the window. Stinkin' monkeys.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Arrr!

Sailor Gordon Fake will turn three years old this Saturday and these scurvy dogs are having a luau at the Sellwood Riverfront Park.

I'm invited but I'm sorry I can't make it.

Phil Fake, for those of you who don't already know, has been my best friend since fourth grade. He's a real life starving artist, the proprietor of philfake.com, and the father of this charming three-year-old boy. When my son was born we named him Charlie Philip, and when his son was born he returned the honor.

If your liberal friends deride you for not supporting the arts, check out Phil's gallery. If you can't afford $2000 for an original — this is the one I want next — or $300 for a print, buy a painting on a coffee mug at Zazzle. Be a patron of the arts!

And help keep the little guy in peanut butter sandwiches.

The Dawn of IT

If you had trouble figuring out the newfangled codices you could always call the helpdesk.

(I laughed until I cried. And then I cried some more. It's so true.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

One Down

One to go.

I've retired a few thousand dollars of debt this year and closed one credit card account. When, later this summer, I pay off the other and close that account, it will be the end of credit cards for me. I will never have another one as long as I live.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Another Unemployment Chart


As if that last one wasn't depressing enough, check out this chart, by way of Ezra Klein at The Washington Post, at the Calculated Risk blog.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Quote of the Day (5)

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Quote of the Day (4)

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;...

Quote of the Day (3)

The question whether an act repugnant to the Constitution can become the law of the land is a question deeply interesting...

— Chief Justice John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison (1803)
You owe it to yourself, once a year or so, to read Marshall's opinion in Marbury v. Madison, not the whole thing, but just the last five pages, beginning at the words quoted above.

Quote of the Day (2)

"The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once."

— 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski (2003)
Thanks to Free In Idaho!

Quote of the Day (1)

"All books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of tottering authority or the misery and sufferings of the people. They should begin with a psychological chapter, one that shows how a harassed, terrified man suddenly breaks his terror, stops being afraid. This unusual process, sometimes accomplished in an instant like a shock or a lustration, demands illuminating. Man gets rid of fear and feels free. Without that there would be no revolution."

Ryszard Kapuscinski

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sarah Palin To Resign

Having decided not to run for re-election, Sarah Palin has made a follow-on decision not to govern as a lame duck. She announced this morning that she will "transfer the authority of governor to Lieutenant Governor Parnell" effective July 26.

AP story here. Rather rambling official statement by the governor here.

Update: Better treatment of the story at the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.
She said she discussed with her family the decision to step down. They took a vote.

"It was four yeses and one hell yeah," she said.
I bet the "hell, yeah" was Piper.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Should Have Gone Without

The headline this morning was not good.
Nation's Unemployment Rate Climbs to 26-Year High at 9.5 Percent
And headed for double digits, everybody says.

Geoff at Innocent Bystanders has an interesting chart.

It shows Obama's projections of unemployment with and without the stimulus bill, and superimposed on it the actual numbers. It looks as if we would have been better off Without.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Libertarian Argument Against Abortion

Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute in The American Spectator.