Sunday, July 31, 2011

This is how Islamists do it

To paraphrase Montell Jordan, "This is how they do it:"
Abdel Fattah Younes, the top military commander of the Libyan rebels and a former Libyan government official, has been assassinated by–according to opposition officials–an Islamist militia. That’s a problem with Islamists: they murder people and intimidate with threats and violence. Consequently, they often get their way. Reformers can’t compete with that kind of thing. That’s why prospects in Libya or Egypt are not good. That’s the kind of thing that Westerners tend to forget since, despite what the mass media might say, Sarah Palin for example doesn’t have an armed militia dedicated to wiping out her enemies by decapitation.

In a few weeks or months, the Salafists in Egypt will probably start killing (or at least trying to do so) outspoken secularists. The Muslim Brotherhood won’t be involved directly but will point its finger and denounce people who are then targeted by other Islamist groups. The Western media will then remind us constantly that the Brotherhood has “renounced” violence and even that the Brotherhood is “protecting” Egypt from the “real” hardliners. Of course, for every person shot at, wounded, or killed (10, or is it 100 or 1000?) are thus intimidated.
And there are so many more instances.  Lebanon.  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  Read the whole thing.

America's Least Wanted found?

You know him, you love him.  The skyjacker whose pseudonym "Dan Cooper" became famous as its corrupted version "D.B. Cooper."  Has the FBI finally found him?

The FBI today revealed that it believes it has America's most elusive fugitive finally in its sights 40 years after famed hijacker DB Cooper disappeared when he jumped out of a plane over Washington.

Friday, July 29, 2011

ICE Busts Egyptian Antiquity Smuggling Ring

The ICE gets bashed for a number of legitimate reasons, but here they did something really good -- protect Egyptian artifacts that represent our united heritage -- and it deserves to be publicized and praised.  Check out Professor Kimberly Alderman's excellent Cultural Property & Archaeology Law blog for details.

Party like it's 1937

That's where Victor Davis Hanson thinks we are, on the verge of major world catastrophe, encouraged in part by military and financial weakness, that will find the US alone, stripped of allies because:
[T]he Obama administration, in four or five key instances, has signaled to the world that there are no advantages to being a nonjudgmental U.S. ally, and no downside to being an outspoken American enemy. Who has been more often on the receiving end of U.S. lectures—Netanyahu or Abbas? Eastern Europeans or Russia? Who has been the recipient of U.S. outreach? Iran or Israel? Syria or Egypt? It would be far better to be a totalitarian police state that practices institutionalized murder than a pro-American kleptocratic autocracy, at least as seen in the differing attitudes accorded a Tunisia in comparison to Syria and Iran. This administration has a bad habit of calibrating a regime’s authenticity and legitimacy by the degree of its expressed anti-Americanism between 2001-8.

The ineffectiveness of "soft power"

You hate to kick a country when it's down, but in the aftermath of the massacre in Norway, increasing scrutiny is being placed on Norway's version of "law enforcement," or, as they call it, "Gentle Justice":

Trond Berntsen was not only the stepbrother of Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit. He was also an off-duty policeman and former amateur boxing champion who was working as a security guard on Utoya island that fateful day when Andres Behring Breivik, dressed as a policeman, blew away as many people as he possibly could — including Berntsen.
Berntsen was by all accounts a brave man who made a heroic effort to protect his charges. Alerted to the fact that Breivik was acting suspiciously, Berntsen was one of the first to encounter and confront the gunman, although not before Berntsen had managed to save his own 10-year-old son by pushing him to safety in some sheltering bushes. But even bravery is sometimes powerless to save a person facing a determined murderer who is armed — because Berntsen, the real policeman, was not.

Cryptic developments in Turkey

The heads of the Turkish military resigned en masse:

Turkey's entire top brass quit on Friday night leaving one America's strongest military's allies leaderless as the country's Islamic government confronts senior officers for conspiring against the prime minister

Gen Isik Kosaner, the head of the Turkish armed forces, quit his post along with the heads of the ground, naval and air forces in protest over government pressure to sack scores of serving officers they wished to promote.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Was "Gunwalker" an attempted Reichstag fire?

On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin, home of the German parliament, was gutted by a fire that was the product of arson.   At least one of the arsonists, a Dutch communist named Marinus Van der Lubbe, was caught, but since Adolf Hitler used the fire, portrayed as a communist plot, as a justification for a sweeping grant of dictatorial powers to the Nazis by the Reichstag, the presumption has been that the Nazis were behind the fire. History has used the term "Reichstag fire" to indicate such false flag opeations, even though, ironically, the latest scholarship indicates the communists actually did set the fire and Hitler and the Nazis knew nothing about it and were even close to panic when the fire broke out.

Although I haven't been blogging about it, largely because the developments in the story have been coming so fast, I have been following the emerging scandal involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and its Operation Fast and Furious.  The Christian Science Monitor just did a pretty decent write-up, but blogger Bob Owens has been watching the spectacle closely.  Here is his really short summary of the background:

More latest additions to the library

Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization, by Richard Miles
Late Roman Cavalryman 236-565 AD, by Simon MacDowall

I'm very interested in the book on Carthage.  My take has been that Carthage was the "Wal-Mart of the Ancient World," making their fortune selling poorly designed, cheaply-made products that undercut their competitors.  They were also an oppressive imperial power, hated by their vassal states, which played no small role in their defeats at the hands of the relatively benign Romans.  The Carthaginians seems to have been respected for their mercantile prowess, but were otherwise hated by all the other major powers: Romans, Greeks, Egyptians.  They created little -- they left no literature, because their alphabet consisted of 32 consonants and, as author Will Cuppy once said, "You can't be literary without a few vowels." -- and appear to have been a rather joyless society.  Hard not to be, since they devoutly worshipped a very dark god, Baal-Hammon, who was distant, aloof and brutal, demanding the sacrifice of children.  The most famous Carthaginian, Hannibal, together with his entire family, may have been the worst of the lot.

That has been my take.  Let's see if that take withstands Miles' effort.  I do enjoy having my beliefs and positions challenged.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The growing threat from China

The Diplomat is chock full of good stuff on the growth of the Chinese navy (technically titled "the People's Liberation Army Navy," but a title I try to avoid because it sounds silly) and the increasing threat it poses to both China's neighbors and the United States:
For the past decade, while the West has been consumed battling Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Central Asia, China has been engaged in a rapid and impressive effort to establish itself as the supreme maritime power in the Eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans.
For years, China focused its military spending on the People’s Liberation Army, while the Air Force and Navy served as little more than adjuncts to the Army. But with the launch of its first aircraft carrier next month, the rest of the world – and especially the United States’ Asian allies – is taking note of how dramatically things have changed. China has big maritime ambitions, and they are backed up by a naval build-up unseen since Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to challenge British naval power with the building of the High Seas Fleet at the turn of the last century.

Spare the Roman ruins, spoil the tank

Tweeting Tripoli has a most interesting photograph:

More latest additions to the Library

Machiavelli: A Biography, by Miles J. Unger
The End of Byzantium, by Jonathan Harris
Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion, by Stephen Dando-Collins

Yes, I am a geek. Having the history of EVERY SINGLE ROMAN LEGION at my fingertips is beyond cool, but Dando-Collins' book is also a chronological compendium of the battles of the Empire.  With the battles of the Republic covered by John Drogo Montagu's excellent work, Battles of the Greek & Roman Worlds: A Chronological Compendium of 667 Battles to 31 BB From the Historians of the Ancient World, I figure I'm covered.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Latest additions to the library

Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General, by Major General Hugo Melvin
Three Armies on the Somme, by William Philpott
The Pope's Soldiers: A Military History of the Modern Vatican, by David Alvarez
The Illustrated History of Catholicism & The Catholic Saints

Friday, July 22, 2011

Terrorist attacks in Norway

There have apparently been multiple terrorist attacks in Norway.  As of right now, the story is still developing.  Perpetrators and motivations are unclear.  Big Peace, Belmont ClubMichelle Malkin and Legal Insurrection have a number of the bases covered.  I'll leave it to these fine blogs to keep the story up to date, but as the facts develop I do think one item of interest merits examination.

A week ago I did a post titled Where's the Varangian Guard when you need them? about the fears of militant Islam in Norway. The post quoted extensively from a Pajamas Media post by Bruce Bawer titled Oslo Car Fires Highlight Threat to Norway’s Future: A growing Muslim enclave outside of the city is a hotbed of crime and Sharia.  Let's leave aside the most obvious suspects in these attacks for the moment.  Bawer discussed severe problems with Norway's policies of law enforcement:

Good riddance to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

As much as I bash Barack Obama for his policies, I must give him credit when he does something right.  He is doing something right by officially ending the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for gays in the military.

I must admit, I used to be against gays in the military.  I believed all the talk about how they disrupted "unit cohesion" and how they couldn't be trusted in the fox hole.  That was, of course, before I knew any homosexuals, before my interest in military history developed to the point where I could examine the issue in earnest.

Now I know better.  I know a number of gays and lesbians, and find them to be little different than anyone else.  I have found little in the way of historical evidence that homosexual conduct has been detrimental to combat effectiveness. The Spartans were the most infamous practitioners of "Greek love," yet they were the most feared fighters in classical Greece.  Thebes' most famous and most feared unit was the "Sacred Band," consisting of pairs of homosexual lovers.  Alexander the Great had a gay lover, Hephaestion.  Julius Caesar, Rome's greatest general and politician, was bisexual.  The Roman emperors Trajan (who conquered Dacia; just ask Trajan's Column) and Hadrian, both of whom along with Julius Caesar remain very popular in Rome even today, were both gay.

In fact, the anti-gay policy of the US military has been counterproductive.  Several years ago, most of the military's Arabic translators were let go because they were gay.  How's that worked out?

The vast majority of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered don't want to bother anyone, but just want to live their lives like anyone else.  It's past time we let them.

The sad truth about bullying

After a short trip to Pittsburgh to visit my Pirates, I've been catching up on my TiVo'd episodes of CSI: Miami.  One of them, "Stoned Cold," turns out to be the best episode of CSI: Miami in years, albeit a very flawed one, and one that hits pretty close to home.

The official CBS teaser describes the plot of "Stoned Cold" this way: "The CSIs try to figure out which nerd took revenge when a high school bully is stoned to death."  I definitely have issues with that description, but let's put that aside for the moment.  The victim, perhaps counterintuitively, is a high school girl, Blair Hawkins, gorgeous, rich, popular, extremely self-confident and an evil, manipulative bitch who destroys people psychologically for her own amusement. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Driving us to bankruptcy

We did it to the Soviet Union.  Are the malevolent mullahs of Iran doing it to us? Reza Kahlili points to an article posted on a web site run by the Pasdaran (Iranian Revolutionary Guards) that suggests as much:

The article continues that without a doubt the United States and its Western allies “will slowly but surely extricate their forces from the Middle East and Central Asia. Also, the security umbrella is from yesteryears (prior to the Second World War), which is conventional to the region, and will be effectively eliminated as well. This process has already begun in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and though there are the exceptional American bases in the Persian Gulf, they will not last very long either.”

The analysis weighs in on the financial trouble in America:: “It appears that subsequent to several wars, the United States finds itself depleted and desperate. Their total debt exceeds $14.5 trillion which is equal to America’s GDP. Seemingly this year’s $900 billion will not stretch to cover the defense and military budget of the years to come. The United States will retreat from the world of Islam and the Arab world so that it can refocus its energy on China, which, in the American view, is its global rival.”

Weakness encourages war -- the South China Sea edition

I am starting yet another ongoing series called "How weakness encourages war."  It will highlight how a projection of weakness by one party (usually, but not limited to, the US under the Obama administration) encourages that party's enemies to cause mischief and even violence.  It will run, basically, whenever I feel like running it.

Today's installment considers one of the more obvious examples, China.  At Hot Air, blogger J.E. Dyer gives a long, scholarly post a fairly obvious title, "Meanwhile, in the South China Sea: 'Forget the US'":

Senator James Webb (D-VA) told David Gregory on Meet the Press three weeks ago that he thinks the US is facing a “Munich moment” with China in Southeast Asia. While no exact analogy is on the horizon to the original Munich moment – Neville Chamberlain proclaiming “peace in our time” after agreeing with Hitler to the partition of Czechoslovakia – Webb’s larger point is that China’s career of aggression in the South China Sea needs checking.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Islam a religion? A political movement? Both?

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has been taking a bit of heat lately for saying that communities have the right to ban mosques.  Cain made the statement on Fox News Sunday in discussions about a controversial mosque in Murfreesboro, TN:

“Our Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. Islam combines church and state,” Cain argued, as host Chris Wallace maintained that separation of church and state permits mosques to exist in any community. To Cain, however, the problem was not Islam as a religion, but Islam as a set of laws. “American laws in American courts,” he repeated, a mantra he used in the latest Republican primary debate. “It is not just a mosque for religious purposes.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

New additions to the library

Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, by John Julius Norwich
Roman Battle Tactics 109 BC-AD 313, by Ross Cowan
Late Roman Infantryman AD 236-565, by Simon MacDowall
On Roman Military Matters, by Flavius Vegetius Renatus, translated by Lieutenant John Clarke

Am I the only one who thinks "Eat your vegetables" when I see the name "Vegetius?"

Father Hardin has a new fan

This is why my blog is now called "No Boxes Allowed." And why I sometimes need to be reminded of the need for not putting people in boxes.  Not metaphorical ones anyway.

Went to Mass yesterday, like I always do on Sundays.  I saw the procession getting lined up to go in and noticed that we had a guest priest.  One that I had never seen before.  And he seemed out there.  Weird hair.  Weirdest robe and vestments I had ever seen.  Seemed kind of out of it, too.  Looked a bit like this:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where's the Varangian Guard when you need them?

There are few military forces in history as weird as the Varangian Guard.  Viking mercenaries from Scandinavia who worked their way through Russia to Constantinople into the army of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, where they became a sort of medieval Praetorian Guard of the Roman Emperors.  Their mere presence signified that the Emperor was personally involved.  They were famous for their fierceness, bravery, effectiveness in combat, colorful clothes and very large axes.  And drinking.

They had a hand in defending the Eastern Roman Empire from Arab Muslim incursions, be it in Sicily or in the Eastern Mediterranean.  They were chopped to pieces at the Battle of Manzikert but were reconstituted enough to make a futile effort to defend Constantinople from the Venetian-sponsored invaders of the Fourth Crusade.  After the fall of Constantinople to and subsequent sack by the Fourth Crusade -- the true cause of the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire to the Turks later on -- the Varangian Guard seemed to disappear.  They may have been disbanded or the reconstituted Eastern Roman government may not have been able to afford them.

Whatever the reason, it seems the Varangian Guard may be needed back in Norway:

If you want to see psychosis in action

read Michael J. Totten's interview with Esam El-Erian, member of the executive board of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  Wow!  Casey Anthony is a picture of mental health compared to this guy.  Heck, for that matter so is Charles Manson.  And the Joker.

Totten won't characterize the interview, only saying that he will let it "speak for itself."  Unlike most Western journalists, Totten actually stands up to Erian's misguided missives against the US.  Fortunately, Totten's intro is somewhat comforting on Egypt's future:
The range of political opinion right now in Egypt is much wider than it was before. The January revolution really broke this place open. It’s physically and culturally the same country I visited before, but it’s politically unrecognizable as the Egypt I knew.

"Why do they hate us?" wonders Chinese leadership

Rather interesting note on China from StrategyPage.  Money grafs:
As China becomes stronger economically and militarily, the persistence of communist rule causes other nations (worldwide, not just neighbors) to be nervous. That's because politicians who get into trouble tend to try and distract their angry citizens with real or imagined foreign threats. Chinese propaganda plays on this regularly, and Chinese diplomats are still surprised to find that their foreign counterparts are aware of this, and unhappy with this domestic saber rattling. Foreign nations are also disturbed by the Chinese tendency to assist other dictatorships (in return for economic benefits). Thus Chinese support for Libya, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe and others is looked down on, and Chinese diplomats have a hard time defending these relationships. Meanwhile, China is made to look more like a predatory monster because of it.
The predatory activity is more feared because China often does not even admit what it is doing. Officially, China is not engaged in Cyber War or Internet based espionage. But a growing pile of evidence says otherwise. Continued Chinese denials are not only annoying and frustrating, but have become the source of disdain for China in the world community. This does bother the Chinese, but if you want international respect, you have to at least try to play by the rules.
Um, as it stands now, China pretty much is a predatory monster.  There is no justification for supporting such scum as Muammar Gadhafi. Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong-Il and Robert Mugabe.  None.  You want international respect, China? Support the good guys, not the bad guys.

Until that time, the Chinese government will be seen for what it is: a malevolent force on the world stage.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reading addiction

I've been working on a lengthy post about the ATF Gunwalker scandal, but I've gotten sidetracked by the video game crack known as Borderlands and my normal addiction to history books.  In this case, April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici, by Lauro Martines.

Having just played Assassin's Creed 2, in which the plot against the Medici is part of the, um, plot, makes the book all the more interesting.  I'm not done with it yet, but Martines seems to take the tack that the Medici, especially Lorenzo il Magnifico, were little more than gangsters in no way better than their rivals, the Pazzi.  This is counter to the prevailing opinion of history, but that's part of what makes the book interesting.  There are at least two sides to every story.  As a litigation attorney, I like to know every version and interpretation of events.  That's how you best judge your case.  That's how truth is found.

Nevertheless, I do not find Martines' case convincing thus far.  I'll say more later after I've finished the book.  But in any case I highly recommend it.

Happy Belated Birthday, South Sudan!

I made a mental note of this but forgot to post it: we recently had a new country brought into the world.   After some fifty years of civil war and, more recently, a popular referendum authorizing independence, the black Christians and animists in the southern Sudan have broken away from the oppressive and discriminatory Arab and black Muslims in the north and formed their own country: South Sudan

Congratulations! We wish you peace, safety and prosperity.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Punishing the innocent and protecting the guilty

The title of this post is arguably a misnomer, as you will see, but I think the question it suggests is nevertheless sound.

I have been following the case of Jerome Jay Ersland, a case which has some interesting issues of law, crime and common sense.  The Oklahoman has been on the case and has a substantial archive, so you can "check my work" there.

The facts, as best as can be determined from news reports, are these:  On May 19, 2009, two teenagers attempted a holdup of Reliable Discount Pharmacy in Oklahoma City.  As the second robber to enter the store, Antwun "Speedy" Parker, 16, was putting on his mask, Ersland, 59, shot him once in the head.  Unconscious, the unarmed Parker fell to the floor.  The other robber, Jevontai Ingram, then 14, who was armed and had entered the store before Parker, fled.  Ersland chased Ingram for about a minute, but did not catch him.  Ersland then returned to the store, got a second gone, and then shot Parker five more times in the abdomen. 

The coroner's office determined that the wounds in the abdomen were the cause of Parker's death.  The part of the incident inside the drug store was caught on and recorded by security cameras.  That Parker and Ingram were trying to rob the store is not in dispute.

Is it or is it not Caligula?

This is pretty cool:
Officials on Tuesday unveiled a massive statue believed to be that of Roman emperor Caligula sitting on a throne and said it came from an illegal dig south of Rome that may have been the site of one of his palaces.
The statue, which had been broken in several large pieces and a head, was first found last January when Finance Police stopped it from being smuggled out of the country by boat at a port near Rome.
The statue, now cleaned of the earth that had covered it for 2,000 years, shows parts of a robed man sitting on an elaborate throne like the Greek god Zeus.
Significantly, it shows a man wearing a "caliga," shoes worn by Roman legionaries and from where the emperor got the name by which he is known. His real name was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.
Caligula, who reigned from 37 to 41 A.D., has gone down in history as a crazed and power-hungry sex maniac who demanded that his horse, Incitatus, be made a consul.

More flashbacks to Jimmy Carter

Up until the election of Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter was by far the worst POTUS in US history.  Whether it was defense, foreign policy, the economy, etc., pretty much everything Carter did, with the possible exception of the Camp David Accords that had been mostly negotiated already by Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin, was disastrously bad.  Carter by his own intent projected an image of weakness, much to America's detriment, the most prominent example being the Iranian seizure of the US embassy in Tehran.

Now, we have another attack on a US embassy in the Middle East:
Hundreds of Syrian government supporters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Damascus Monday, smashing windows and spray-painting walls with obscenities and graffiti that called the American ambassador a "dog." Guards at the French Embassy fired in the air to ward off another group of protesters.

The Berbers are back in town!

The revolt against the rule of strongman Muammar el-Gadhafi has had an interesting and, I think, welcome side effect: the revival of the ancient Berber language:
In a packed classroom on a cool evening near the front line in Libya’s civil war, 15-year-old Mira is teaching children to spell out the names of animals in the ancient Berber script, an act that once could have landed her in one of Muammar Gaddafi’s jails.
The indigenous people of north Africa, known to others as Berbers and among themselves as Amazigh, were brutally suppressed under Gaddafi, who considered the teaching of their language and culture to be a form of imperialism in his Arab country.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts on Casey Anthony

Like many, I have followed the Casey Anthony murder trial with considerable interest. Many lawyers like myself follow such high-profile cases like football games.  It may seem twisted, but few of us will ever take part in such a nationally visible case that there is always some.  There is always some learning to be had in a case like this, as well as some, "I could have done better."

My take had been that the evidence against Casey, while circumstantial, topped off with her own behavior, which can be described as odd, to say the least, was almost certain to result in a conviction for murder.  Party girl Casey was unhappy that Caylee was crimping her bar-hopping lifestyle, so Casey got rid of Caylee.  Seemed obvious to me.  The defense's only chance, in my view, was the Chewbacca Defense.  Obviously, I was mistaken.  I was shocked as anyone as to the verdict.

Latest additions to the library

I've always loved Florence and the Renaissance.  After my recent trip to the city, I've decided to update my library detailing its history.

April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici, by Lauro Martines
The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall, by Christopher Hibbert
The Borgias and Their Enemies 1431-1519, by Christopher Hibbert
Florence: The Golden Age, 1138-1737, by Gene Brucker

April Blood is a particularly compelling read.  Anyone who has played Assassin's Creed 2 should give April Blood a read, as it gives much of the background on the conspiracy against the Medici that forms much of the plot of the game.


to New York Yankee Shortstop Derek Jeter for 3,000 hits.  Jeter may have gone to Michigan, but he's still an example of doing it right. Stayed with the same team (albeit with the Yankees, who can pay more than anyone else anyway), worked hard, played great, treated teammates and fans right. This is why, on my magical trip to Yankee Stadium back in 2007, I chose to get a Derek Jeter jersey (Yankee jerseys are so classic that I had to have one).

Classy reaction by the fans in Tampa Bay and the members of Tampa Bay Rays celebrating and congratulating Jeter on his accomplishment. 

Jeter is a story of how doing it right can be rewarding and recognized by all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Latest additions to the library

The Incas, by Craig Morris and Adriana von Hagen
Turn Right at Macchu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams

Should Catholics be offended by Assassin's Creed?

I just finished my umpteenth playings of Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.  To say that I love both games is an understatement.  The graphics and attention to detail that went into creating virtual Florence and Rome circa 1500 is amazing, so much so that I played both to get myself geographically prepared for my visits to both cities this past spring.  The gameplay, plots, and voice acting of both are excellent, with the possible exception of Casare Borgia, who comes off less like a threat and more like a whiny brat.  But I digress.

Both Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood take place during an uncomfortable historical period for a proud Catholic (not just Catholic .. ROMAN Catholic! All the way back to the ROMAN EMPIRE!!! JULIUS CAESAR, baby!!!) ) like me.  The Catholic Church during the High Middle Ages and Renaissance was riddled with corruption, with no better example than Pope Alexander VI, whose real name was Rodrigo Borgia, his son Cesare and daughter Lucrezia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Spillover in Syria

(So much to blog about today, so little time.)

Farid Ghadry has an interesting post about the road ahead in Syria.  He first describes the sectarian, uh, breakdown:
Syria may be on the brink of a civil war far bloodier than anything seen for a long time in the Middle East. To make matters worse, it could spill over into neighboring countries by pitting Sunni and Shia Muslims against one another, a conflict whose power has already been seen in Iraq
Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies in Iraq and elsewhere are often extremist Shia Muslims; the radicals further west — as in Saudi Arabia, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood — are Sunni Muslims.

Libya coming to a head?

StrategyPage seems to be of the opinion that Muammar Gadhafi's days in Libya are numbered:
Given the rate at which rebels are pushing back Kaddafi troops, and the effects of the air and sea blockade of Kaddafi controlled western Libya, Kaddafi is not expected to last more than three months. Kaddafi now has a goal. If he can hang on into October, the coalition fighting him might fall apart, enabling some kind of peace deal that would partition the country. But with the embargo and war crimes indictments, that is unlikely. Kaddafi is a fugitive in his own capital, constantly moving to avoid NATO bomb attacks. U.S. and NATO intelligence, using rebel sympathizers, is constantly updating their map of who is where in Tripoli. While military targets have priority, a suspected Kaddafi sighting will always get at least one smart bomb. NATO military planners keep score of Kaddafi's military strength (which is kept secret, lest it provide useful information to Kaddafi military or intelligence forces), and the trend has been down, more sharply of late. That, plus the difficulty supplying millions of civilians under his control, is why NATO believes Kaddafi won't last another hundred days. It's been about a hundred days since NATO began its military operations in Libya. Meanwhile, the rebels have gotten better on the battlefield, and behind the lines. The rebel coalition is holding together, and each day, rebel fighters gain more combat experience, and more of them come out of NATO training programs. Some NATO troops are on the ground in rebel-held Libya, to conduct training or assist with coordinating the bombing.

UPDATED How exactly is this supposed to benefit the US? -- A New Series

I'm going to start a new blog series, titled "How exactly is this supposed to benefit the US?"  Barack Obama's job as POTUS is to enact and promote policies that benefit the US, yet so many of his decisions, especially in the realm of defense and foreign policy (F-22, Honduras, Poland, Iran, Venezuela, etc.) seem ... less than beneficial to the US. 

Now, if I said these policies seem intended to hurt the US, I would be called "uncivil."  Oh, dear ... So, I will just ask the question and see if there is in fact a way that these policies can indeed protect and advance the interests of the US.

Think Shar'ia can't happen here?

Think again.  Because that's exactly what Islamists in Tehran are shooting for, and we have an administration that has shown no ability or even intent to stand up to them.  Via Gateway Pundit:
Tehran’s provisional Friday Prayers Leader Hojjatoleslam Kazzem Sediqi underlined that the growing waves of Iran’s Islamic Revolution which have swept the Middle-East and North Africa are now spreading to the European continent and the US.
“The Islamic Revolution (of Iran), featured by confronting the US and defeating the arrogance over the past 32 years, has not only spread to the region but also reached Europe and the US now,” said Hojjatoleslam Sediqi in his second sermon to large groups of Friday prayers worshipers in Tehran University campus.
He said the movements, originating from the Islamic Revolution of Iran, are getting universalized.
Earlier, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei had stressed that the European continent will soon experience popular uprisings and revolutions sweeping the Middle-East and North of Africa at present.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Especially when it comes to foreign policy.

The Evil Empire wasn't so evil.

Professor Stephen Bainbridge points to an io9 post called "Ten Tired Movie Plots That Need to Show the Villain’s Perspective." By far the most interesting of the ten is Number 1:

The freedom-loving rebels against the fascist empire.

From the empire striking back, to a ragtag group of serene space-western characters, to a guy who has a fetish for the letter V, this has to be the most popular storyline. I know that those who trade security for freedom end up losing both, and movies show that very well. The problem is, before you get to the point where you lose both, it's still a trade-off. And the term trade-off means that both concepts have value. To the rebels, the fascists who run their world have gone too far. What if there was a movie where, from some perspectives at least, they hadn't?

Colony status better than independence

So say the people of Jamaica:
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence from the United Kingdom, but a new island-wide poll suggests most residents of the tiny Caribbean nation believe they would be better off had the country remained a British colony.
The survey, conducted for the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper by Johnson Survey Research, found that 60 per cent of Jamaicans think the country would be better off today if it was still under British rule. A mere 17 per cent said they believed the country would be worse off. The remaining 23 per cent of respondents said they didn’t know.