Friday, October 28, 2011

New additions to the library

The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici, by Elizabeth Lev;
Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire, by Robin Waterfield; and
Maurice's Strategikon: Your Handbook of Byzantine Military Strategy, translated by George T. Dennis.

OK, I threw in the "Your" for Maurice's Strategikon.  It just seemed to fit, though.  I mean, who doesn't need to know about Byzantine military strategy, right?  Anyway, this book was THE Bible of Eastern Roman tactics, written as it was by the Eastern Roman Emperor Maurice, and was actually intended for use by field commanders.  It gives insight on how the workings of the late Roman and Eastern Roman military and how its officers were supposed to think.

Dividing the Spoils is part of my attempt to assemble a library of a rather undercovered period of history, the wars of the Diadochi.

If you have played the video games Assassin's Creed 2 or Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, you've gotten a taste of Caterina Sforza, who is one of the main protagonists (and a very impressive protagonist at that, especially with her intelligence, drive and sharp tongue). Check out how the real life Caterina Sforza measures up to her video game counterpart.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Losing more hope in the Middle East

In a piece in PJMedia, Barry Rubin picks up on a theme I had yesterday.  Key grafs:
Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, Obama-lovers and Obama-haters, no matter what your race, creed, gender, national origin, or level of unpaid college loans, two things should be clear to all of you:
First, to describe the Obama administration’s Middle East policy as a disaster — I cannot think of a bigger, deadlier mess created by any U.S. foreign policy in the last century — is an understatement.
Second, the dominant analysis used by the media, academia, and the talking heads on television has proven dangerously wrong. This includes the ideas that revolutionary Islamism doesn’t exist, cannot be talked about, is not a threat, and that extreme radicals are really moderates.
I won’t review all the evidence here, but it amounts to a retreat for moderates, allies of the West, and American interests coupled with an advance for revolutionary Islamists.

So, how's India doing?

Micah Zenko takes a look.

Our military weakness may cause the next Korean war

My study of military history has taught me that, with very few exceptions, military weakness causes war.  The pacifist case for foreign policy is flat-out wrong and to follow it to any significant degree is extremely dangerous.  The examples of it are too numerous to mention in their entirety, but I can think of a few prominent examples.
  • Archaeological and geological evidence shows the Mycenaean Greeks took down the Minoan civilization in Crete after the Minoans were devastated by the eruption at Santorini and the resulting tsunami.
  • The Philistines kept picking on the Israelites because the Israelites, despite their victories over the Canaanites at places like Jericho and Hai, could not compete militarily with the newcomers.
  • After the First Punic war, when the Carthaginians were distracted by a revolt of their own mercenary army -- because the Carthaginians tried to cheat them out of their pay -- the Roman Republic helped itself to Carthiginian Sardinia.  The Roman seizure of Sardinia helped fuel the anger of the Barcids in starting the Second Punic War, but the Barcids were also encouraged by the weak Roman response to their own seizure of Saguntum, in northern Spain.
  • For all the complaining by the German tribes about the Romans invading their territory, when the the Romans would withdraw their legions from the Rhine the Germans rarely missed a chance to attack, especially under the emperors Gratian and Honorius. 
  • Ditto in the east with the Sassanid Persians. 
  • Both William, Duke of Normandy (later William the Conqueror or (King William I of England) and Harald III Sigurdsson (Harald Hardrada) were encouraged to invade England by the military and political weakness of the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II Godwinson. 
  • After it was permanently weakened by the defeat at Manzikert, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire was constantly facing nibbling attacks on its territory, culminating in the Fourth Crusade, which conquered and sacked a defenseless Constantinople.  The Eastern Roman Empire was eventually restored, but the damage had been done.
  • Western weakness in the face of Hitler's provocations encouraged him in the drive to World War II. 
  • The Arab states attack Israel when they perceive it to be weak.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Losing hope in the Middle East

The news out of the Middle East continues to turn silver clouds into dark ones.  Where to begin?

Libya -- The new government is replacing Muammar Gadhafi's thuggishness with a new one, or more precisely an old one: shar'ia law:
The announcement that Islamic sharia law will be the basis of legislation in newly liberated Libya has raised concerns, especially among women, despite Islamists insisting moderation will prevail.
Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said on Sunday, during his speech to the nation in Benghazi to formally declare the country's liberation from the ousted regime of Moammer Kadhafi, that sharia would be Libya's principal law.
"Any law that violates sharia is null and void legally," he said, citing as an example the law on marriage passed during the slain dictator's 42-year tenure that imposed restrictions on polygamy, which is permitted in Islam.
"The law of divorce and marriage... This law is contrary to sharia and it is stopped," Abdel Jalil said.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is South Africa turning into Zimbabwe?

For some years now, South Africa has been slowly but steadily sliding towards heavy socialism, and suffering considerable negative economic consequences because of it.  The latent racial issues still tormenting the country make this slide particularly dangerous.  Nevertheless, even I was surprised by this piece in Forbes:
Julius Malema, the 30-year old leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) has attracted growing headlines since 2010 for his calls to nationalize South Africa’s mines, and to emulate Zimbabwe’s land redistribution program in order to rectify a wide wealth imbalance between the white minority, which accounted for 9% of the 50 million person nation according to a 2010 census.  Malema proclaimed “The only option is to take the land without compensation, if you refuse to give us an alternative.”

Last month, he was convicted of hate speech for singing an inflammatory anti-apartheid song which translates into “Shoot the Boer” (Dubhula iBhunu) at a ANCYL rally.  Are these the harmless ravings of an innocuous radical activist, or an ominous harbinger for South Africa’s future?   Current President Jacob Zuma has previously referred to Malema as a future president.

Britain about to break up?

I can't say I like this news from Walter Russell Meade:
News from the not-very-United Kingdom these days is that the Scottish National Party, now in full control of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, plans to press ahead for a referendum on full independence for the land of Burns.  Rejecting the idea that fiscal independence would be enough, SNP head and Scots first minister Alex Salmond told his cheering party conference that independence in foreign policy was a key party goal: “[E]ven with economic powers Trident nuclear missiles would still be on the River Clyde, [...]we could still be forced to spill blood in “illegal wars” such as Iraq, and still be excluded from the councils of Europe and the world.”  (From the invaluable, if pay wall protected, Financial Times.)
In other words, it’s the whole thing the Scots want, and this raises a question: if the UK breaks up, can little England (even if Northern Ireland and Wales stay loyal) hold on to one of only five permanent seats on the UN Security Council?  Legally a case can be made that England would be the successor state to the UK, and could therefore hold on to the seat, but one wonders whether countries like India and Japan could accept a system in which the English rump of the UK would continue to hold a veto-wielding seat denied to them?

New additions to the library

Gallipoli, by Peter Hart
Green River Running Red, The Real Story of the Green River Killer --  America's Most Notorious Serial Murderer, by Ann Rule.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Son of Stuxnet?"

A new computer virus is making its rounds ... somewhere.  It goes by various names.  It's "official" name is "Duqu" but many are calling it the "Son of Stuxnet":

A powerful new computer virus that some are calling the "Son of Stuxnet" has been discovered, and researchers are concerned about its potential for attacking critical infrastructure computers around the world.
The mysterious Stuxnet worm -- perhaps the most powerful ever created -- managed to infiltrate computer systems in Iran and do damage to that nation's nuclear research program. The new worm, dubbed Duqu, has no such targeted purpose. But it shares so much code with the original Stuxnet that researchers at Symantec Corp. say it must either have been created by the same group that authored Stuxnet, or by a group that somehow managed to obtain Stuxnet's source code. Either way, Duqu's authors are brilliant, and mean business, said Symantec's Vikrum Thakur.
"There is a common trait among the (computers) being attacked," he said. "They involve industrial command and control systems."

News you can use

The NFL's 10 Best Cheerleading Squads, as rated by CNBC.

My question: why is CNBC rating them?  How about having dance professionals rate them?

Probably because by "best," CNBC means "most profitable and best marketed."

REALLY no more "Libyan Hit Squad" cartoons

It seems the inspiration for my old "Libyan Hit Squad" cartoons is no more:

Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi is dead, Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril has confirmed.

"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Qaddafi has been killed," Jibril told a news conference in the capital Tripoli. Qaddafi died of wounds suffered during his capture near his hometown of Sirte on Thursday, according to a spokesman for Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC).

"Qaddafi is dead. He is absolutely dead ... he was shot in both legs and in the head. The body will be arriving in Misrata soon," media spokesman Abdullah Berrassali told Sky News.
Something tells me there was something lost in the translation.  "Absolutely dead?" As opposed to what? "Mostly dead?"  I think he was trying to get the point across that Gadhafi's death is confirmed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What is the Lord's Resistance Army?

Barack Obama's decision to send 100 US troops to Uganda to take part in operations against a group that calls itself "The Lord's Resistance Army" is leaving quite a few people scratching their heads.  And understandably so. 

Well, the obvious question is many people (including myself, and I've studied Africa) asked is, what exactly is The Lord's Resistance ArmyHot Air pretty much nails it when they call it "a cross between the Branch Davidians and the Khmer Rouge, with a special fondness for killing families and then impressing the surviving children into service as soldiers."

I rounded up as much as I could find online about the LRA.
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, operated in the north from bases in southern Sudan. The LRA committed numerous abuses and atrocities, including the abduction, rape, maiming, and killing of civilians, including children. In addition to destabilizing northern Uganda from bases in Sudan, the LRA congregated in the Bunia area in eastern Congo. They linked up with the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR) and other rebel groups that were battling with forces from the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD).

Bring on the trade war

Business interest groups are lining up against the China currency bill.  The latest is the US Chamber of Commerce:

Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the influential business group, told a group of Dow Jones reporters and editors that U.S. policy makers should resist embracing protectionism. While understandable in times of economic stress, an attempt to force China’s hand could have negative repercussions for U.S. firms, he said, as Beijing seeks to maintain full employment for its citizens.
“They want to keep all those people working and if that was forced on them somehow … they would simply just drop the prices as low as they have to to keep those folks working,” Mr. Donohue said.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators last week passed legislation intended to force Chinese officials to allow for greater appreciation of the yuan through trade channels and other international governing bodies. House GOP leaders have thus far balked at moving the bill, even though it enjoys support from both House Democrats and Republicans.

Is there a "Western underground" in Egypt?

Michael Totten explains:
The first time I traveled to Egypt I was shocked at how Islamicized the place is compared with other Arab countries I’ve visited. It’s liberal compared with Saudi Arabia, but that’s not saying much and, besides, I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia. Egypt is still the most conservative Muslim country I’ve ever seen.

It’s hardly less Islamicized now than it was in the middle of the last decade, but modern liberal “Western” culture is nevertheless a little more visible now than it was. And that’s something. It’s not yet enough to bring Egypt fully into the 21st century, but it’s something.

This summer in Egypt my colleague Armin Rosen showed me a copy of magazine called Awesome that he found in a coffeeshop. We were both surprised to see anything like it in Cairo at all. A magazine like that in the United States would be described, if you’ll allow me to use an outdated term, as part of the counterculture. Awesome is in some ways like an Egyptian version of Vice, which makes it defiantly anti-Islamist and anti-traditional even though little of the content is actually about politics.

Monday, October 17, 2011

An interesting question

In the midst of all its other troubles, why is the Assad regime now attacking the Kurds ... again:
The murder this month by the Assad regime’s security forces of Syrian Kurdish leader Mashaal Tammo is the latest act of unprovoked brutality by this most cruel of regimes. Tammo was killed in his own home in the northern Syrian town of Qamishly by regime gunmen. Afterwards, Syrian security forces opened fire on a crowd of 50,000 at his funeral procession. Two more Syrian Kurds were killed and many more wounded. Tammo, leader of the Kurdish Future Party, favored non-violent opposition to the Syrian regime.
The killing of Mashaal Tammo might at first glance appear to be just the latest atrocity by a regime whose hands are deeply stained with the blood of its own citizens. About 2,900 Syrians are estimated to have been killed so far as Assad fights for his political life against his own people.
Yet Tammo’s murder also contains within it a mystery. Kurds represent between 10-15% of the population of Syria. They have been perhaps the most harshly oppressed section of the population since the Arab nationalist Ba’ath Party came to power in 1963. Many Syrian Kurds have been deprived of citizenship. Others were expelled from their homes in the early days of the regime, as the Ba’athists created a belt of Arabic speaking communities along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Victor Davis Hanson is on a roll

At his usual hangouts.  Pajamas Media:
In 2008, the following was the general right-wing argument against Obama’s candidacy:
a) The self-professed “uniter” Obama had, in truth, little record of uniting disparate groups. From community organizing to politics, his preferred modus operandi was rather to praise moderation, but politick more as a radical, and sometimes go after opponents as unreasonable or illiberal. Thus the most partisan voting senator in the Congress, who talked grandly of “working across the aisle,” also urged supporters to “get in their faces” and “take a gun to a knife fight.” Acorn, Project Vote, and SEIU were not ecumenical organizations.
b) Obama knew very little about foreign affairs, or perhaps even raw human nature as it plays out in power politics abroad. At times, he seemed naive about the singular role of the U.S. in the world, especially his sense that problems with Iran, the Middle East, Venezuela, Russia, and others were somehow predicated on American arrogance and unilateralism (and neither predating nor postdating George Bush) — to be remedied by Obama’s post-racial, post-national diplomacy.

New additions to the library

Surface and Destroy: The Submarine Gun War in the Pacific, by Michael Sturma;
Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire, by James Romm; and
Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride at Gettysburg, by Eric J. Wittenberg and David Petruzzi.

It may seem strange today, but during the First and Second World Wars, submarines usually had deck guns to engage in limited surface warfare.  The Germans actually preferred the use of deck guns until the arly part of World War II, when advancements in anti-submarine measures rendered the tactic too dangerous.  The US did use deck guns in the Pacific on a limited basis.

While Alexander the Great has been covered (and covered and covered and covered and ...) by authors over the centuries, the wars of his successors, called the Diadochi, have gotten relatively little, even though one of the Diadochi was Ptolemy, son of Lagos, who would start the Egyptian Macedonian Ptolemaic Dynasty that would produce the famous Queen Cleopatra.  (Truth be told, the Ptolemaic Dynasty produced multiple Cleopatras.)  I'm anxious to leard more about the Diadochi through Ghost on the Throne.

As for Gettysburg, I have never found that battle as interesting as the Vicksburg Campaign or the Chickamauga-Chattanooga Campaign, but Plenty of Blame to Go Around sounds like a great "sniper" book that I almost always find appealing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What to do about Iran?

Haven't we been asking this question for more than thirty years now? As Power Line says to Obama about the latest outrage, "This was an act of war, pal. Ralph Kramden radiated more more menace than you.
One of these days…."

(And while this is indeed an outrage, let's not lose sight of the fact that, whatever diplomatic law and custom has been over the millennia, diplomats have always been targets.  Remember the case of Benjamin Bathurst, a British envoy to Austria who disappeared in Perleberg in 1809.  Initial suspicions were that he had been kidnapped and murdered by French agents.  Turns out Bathurst was likely just a victim of a mugging.)

James Jay Carafano is in a similar mood to Power Line:
It’s just that talking about states that foster and fund the slaughter of innocents is much too inconvenient a truth for the administration.
The president came into office with a plan to make nice with evil regimes (which won him the Nobel Peace Prize after just months in the White House). The Obama Doctrine called for engaging with America’s enemies. Little foibles -- bankrolling terrorists, or trampling the human rights of their own citizens -- would just have to be overlooked.

Where are Muammar's missing missiles?

ABC News reports that many of Muammar Gadhafi's missing MANPADs have been found -- on the Gaza border:
Some of the thousands of surface-to-air missiles that have gone missing since the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in Libya have now turned up just miles from the Israeli border.
U.S. officials say there were 20,000 Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles in Libya before the uprising, and thousands have disappeared in the looting of Moammar Gadhafi's arm caches. According to the Washington Post, many of those Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons are being sold in Egyptian black markets, and so many are available the price has dropped from $10,000 to $4,000.
Egyptian officials told the paper they have intercepted looted Libyan weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, missiles and artillery, on the road from Libya into Egypt, in black markets on the Sinai Peninsula, and in the smuggling tunnels between the Sinai and Gaza.
The heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, most of them shoulder-fired, have a range of two miles and would pose a threat to Israeli helicopter and planes on either side of the Israel-Gaza border.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Was Ahmadinejad the real target?

About that Iranian terror plot ...

Yes, I know the proper response to that is "Which Iranian terror plot? They have so many ..." But you know which one I'm talking about.

There are a lot of disturbing facets about this case.  The big issue I am having: plausible deniability.

When you get right down to it, we went to war with Saddam Hussein to avoid the issue of plausible deniability.  After 9/11 -- and remember that the Taliban denied involvement in 9/11 -- the new reality that terrorist groups could be the delivery vehicles for weapons of mass destruction was obvious to everyone, including state sponsors of those groups. 

The nightmare scenario was that someone like Saddam Hussein, who had extensive ties to just about every terrorist group in the Middle East (yes, including al Qaida) and bragged about it, handing off WMD to one of those groups, who would then detonate it in, say, New York City.  The US would look to take out those responsible and Saddam Hussein would say, Who? Me?"  Plausible deniability.

New additions to the library

Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot of World War II, by Barrett Tillman.

The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (2nd ed.): A Study of the Chilling Criminal Phenomenon, from the "Angels of Death" to the "Zodiac" Killer, by Michael Newton.

The "Marianas Turkey Shoot" is another name for the Battle of the Philippine Sea, in which the US 5th Fleet was responsible for defending US landing sites in the Marianas from Japanese attack.  The Japanese launched a series of air attacks on our carriers, but their pilots were so deficient in training that the vast majority of them were easily shot down, just like on a turkey shoot, from where its nickname comes. 

A rather odd battle, which attracts my interest because of the odd, somewhat mysterious circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Japanese aircraft carriers.  The US Navy did not launch a carrier air attack until very late in the battle, claiming the Japanese not-quite-fleet carrier Hiyo

Monday, October 10, 2011

Egypt and the Food Bomb

While incidents like the massacre of Christian Copts get all the press (or, rather, whatever press the big outlets are willing to give), David Goldman has been watching the dark cloud hovering over everything in Egypt -- the army, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Alexandria, everything -- like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of Damocles: Egypt is running out of food and has no way to get more. From his his latest:
[A]ccording to today’s summary of the Egyptian press:
The state-owned [newspaper]  Al-Dostour reports on an “insane” increase in the prices of commodities and services that has left citizens “screaming,” presumably in despair. In its report, Al-Dostour claims that the “current state of lawlessness has left merchants and businesses with no supervision,” giving them free reign to raise prices without fear of repercussion. After a string of powerful metaphors depicting consumers as helpless prey in the grips of some fiercer yet unspecified predator, the report turns into an onslaught of numbers and percentages – food products up 80 percent since January of this year, LE7 for a kilo of sugar and LE13.75 for a liter of vegetable oil, 50 percent increase in the price of flour and LE22 for a kilo of duck meat, and on and on. LE9 for a kilo of humus, too.

Why is Afghanistan a quagmire?

In a word?  Pakistan.  Walter Russell Meade:

There is a flaming contradiction at the heart of President Obama’s Afghan war policy that threatens his strategy for safe withdrawal; the latest news from Pakistan suggests that the President now recognizes that something basic has to change.
Many readers find their eyes glazing over when it comes to yet more bad news from Pakistan, the “Islamic” republic which brings so little happiness to itself and its neighbors.  (One of life’s little mysteries: why more Muslims don’t demand that countries take the word “Islamic” out of their names until they cease to bring discredit upon it with their great honking failures of elementary justice?)
But depressing as the Pakistan news usually is, especially to those of us who know some of the idealistic and genuinely patriotic people in Pakistan who are working so hard to make things better, and who have a feel for the kind of place this beautiful country could some day become, you have to follow this story if you want to make sense of world news.  There are signs that US policy is moving toward a tipping point on Pakistan, one that would have major consequences for a lot of big issues, including the war in Afghanistan.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Computer virus infects US drone fleet

This isn't good:

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.
The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.
“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Obama quickly screws up what he got right

I had congratulated Obama on the wise decision to kill American-born Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki and his American henchman Samir Khan by drone strike.  Then his State Department goes and does this:
An official from the U.S. State Department has called the Charlotte family of al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan to offer the government's condolences on his death in a U.S. drone attack last week in Yemen, according to a family spokesman.
"They were very apologetic (for not calling the family sooner) and offered condolences," Jibril Hough said about the Thursday call from the State Department to Khan's father, Zafar.
The phone call came a day after the family released a statement through Hough that condemned the "assassination" of their 25-year-old son - a U.S. citizen - and said they were "appalled" that they had not heard from the U.S. government to discuss their son's remains or answer questions about why Khan was not afforded due process.
On Friday, State Department spokesman Harry Edwards confirmed to the Observer that the call had been made, but said "privacy issues" kept him from offering details.
Hough said the Thursday conversation lasted a few minutes. "It wasn't just 'I'm sorry' and hang-up," said Hough, who added that the phone call included no discussion of the status or condition of Khan's remains.
Khan was killed along with cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki. Also a U.S. citizen, Al-Awlaki was a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and appeared to be the main target of the drone attack.

Friday, October 7, 2011

NCAA screws Ohio State. Again.

The NCAAsuspended Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey for five more games Friday and three other Buckeyes for one game for taking too much money for a summer job.
Offensive lineman Marcus Hall, defensive lineman Melvin Fellows and last year's leading rusher, Daniel Herron, will miss one game and must repay benefits after receiving pay for work not performed from booster Bobby DiGeronimo, who has been banned from any further contact with Ohio State athletes.
Posey was overpaid $728. Herron and Fellows both accepted approximately $290 in excess pay while Hall received $230 in overpayment.
Posey and Herron already had been suspended five games for accepting cash and tattoos from a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner.
Posey, the Buckeyes' leading returning receiver, will not be able to play until Nov. 19 against Penn State. The others will be available at Illinois a week from Saturday, although Fellows is out with a medical issue.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith called the penalty against Posey "harsh."
"I am extremely disappointed with the NCAA's decision regarding Devier Posey," Smith said in a statement. "This penalty is harsh considering the nature of the violation and the five-game suspension already served by this student-athlete."
That, friends, is your 2011 Ohio State football season.  The offense is in free fall without Posey.  They may not win another game.


We told you and told you. But noooooooo .... you, you in the GOP leadership, you never listen.  Notions of "civility," "comity" and "tradition" with the national Democrat leadership are only means to an end.  Their end.  Republicans may offer and try to respect such notions, but such acts are only very rarely reciprocated. 

The latest example:
In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.
Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.
Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.
The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation. 

New addition to the library

Rome & The Sword: How Warriors & Weapons Shaped Roman History, by Simon James.  My initial scan-thru suggests this book will be really good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good news on missile defense

Spain has agreed to help us with missile defense:
Spain and the U.S. have announced that Spain will provide a base for U.S. ships in support of NATO's missile defense system.

The Oct. 5 agreement was announced by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at NATO headquarters in the margins of a meeting of NATO defense ministers here Oct. 5 and 6.

Under the agreement, four U.S. Aegis ships will be based at the Rota naval base near Cadiz in Spain. The agreement is part of U.S. President Barack Obama's phased adaptive approach to missile defense, under which ship-based, anti-ballistic missiles are being deployed in the eastern Mediterranean followed by ground-based systems in Romania and Poland.

Roman Trip-Tiks

It seems that in Britain they are trying to determine if a path was built over an ancient Roman road:

A ground-breaking archaeological search for an ancient Roman road starts in Purbeck next week.

Experts will excavate part of the straight footpath running through Sandford Heath, known locally as the Roman Road.

Historians hope this dig will, once and for all, answer whether the thoroughfare visible today was constructed over an ancient road built during Dorset’s Roman occupation.


Historians believe such a road could have been built by the Roman army during the conquest of Dorset, not long after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD43.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Protectionism can be a good thing

The US Senate is taking up measures to strike back at Communist China for its currency manipulation:

The Senate voted Monday to advance legislation pressuring the Chinese government to stop undervaluing its currency, a practice most economists agree is giving the country an unfair trade advantage and is costing the U.S. jobs.
The Senate voted 79-19 to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011. While the vote does not mean the bill has passed, the strong show of support suggests it could well be approved in the upper chamber by the week’s end. Passage through the House is less clear, however, and GOP leaders have given no indication they will move forward with it.

Who are the Alawites

that have ruled Syria for decades?  Michael Totten links to an article in the New Republic that gives some insight.  The article is titled "The Cult: The Twisted, Terrifying Last Days of Assad’s Syria."  A taste:

It would be interesting to know more about the ideology of those who are imposing this regimen of killing on their fellow citizens. Twenty-six hundred citizens, say the human rights organizations, have been killed so far, with no end in sight. Are the army units doing this in the name of religion?

Just about every observer who has analyzed the conflict in the western press—Robert Fisk in The Independent, Anthony Shadid in The New York Times, Malise Ruthven in The New York Review of Books—has reminded readers that beneath everything else in Syria, there lies the bitterness of the Sunni-Alawi rivalry. There are about three and a half million Alawis in Syria (out of a total population of 22 million). It will not do to impugn an entire religion, but those who’ve written about this topic do not fail to observe that the most influential positions in the army are occupied by Alawis, that the all-powerful mukhabarat, or secret service, is dominated at every level by Alawis, that Alawi officers have superintended every large-scale episode of killing in Syria in recent years (at the Tadmoor Prison in 1980, in Hama in 1982, and now in Deraa, and Hama again), and that the family which has been inflicting this variety of civic calm on Syria for the last 40 years has been an Alawi one.