Friday, September 30, 2011

Obama gets it right on Awlaki

Everyone who reads this blog (or the old blog, for that matter) knows I have been very, very hard on Obama for his foreign policy.  But I like to think that I am non-partisan and even-handed in that I will actually give credit when Obama gets it right.  And in using drones to perform addition by subtraction on American-born Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki and his American henchman Samir Khan in Yemen, he got it right.

As Michelle Malkin explains:
Obama’s far left flank will be unhappy if the mission to kill Awlaki, an American citizen, was successful. They will again decry such drone strikes against American citizens as unprecedented and lawless.
On this, I will come to Obama’s defense.
Awlaki’s membership and leadership in al Qaeda is undisputed.
We are at war.
Malkin goes on to detail the crimes committed by Awlaki and Khan.  Rusty at the Jawa Report, who was personally threatened by Khan, also has more.  I suggest checking them out.

Turkey's descent into darkness

Major media outlets continue to tout Turkey as major example of how representative democracy can work in the Muslim world.  Readers of this blog know better -- that representative democracy is slowly but surely dying, as Claire Berlinski, a columnist operating out of Istanbul, explains:

It’s easy and tempting to think that a 99% Muslim country is going to turn toward Islamism. Yet this may be happening in Turkey despite the fact that less than 10% of Turks describe themselves as “fully devout” (KONDA’s “Religion, Secularism and the Veil in Daily Life” Survey). For tens of millions of Turks, religiosity is a private matter, an attitude parallel to that in the United States.
The problem is that there is a minority of pro-Islamists who have been allowed to take control of Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP, although at the ballot box, the party represents nearly half of the Turkish people due to a combination of the ineptitude of the opposition, the AKP’s  far superior organization, and its exploitation of state power.

Contemplating a post-Chavez Venezuela

Power Line has a piece by Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute discussing what may happen in Venezuela after Hugo Chavez' regime ends:

The latest rumors out of Caracas — unconfirmed but not wholly without some foundation — are that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez may be fatally succumbing to cancer. If this is so, it won’t be long before the world knows it. The news certainly justifies some reflection on what might happen in that country were the president to die at the present time.

The fact is, chavismo is a one-man circus. There is simply no one else in the regime, not even his brother Adán, who can play the same role and attract the same level of political support. Chávez’s survival is absolutely crucial to the continuation of the regime, because the Venezuelan president, for all his buffoonery, for all the waste and corruption and downright silliness associated with his government, is still popular with roughly half the country’s population.

On the other hand, perhaps as much as forty percent — certainly thirty percent — are mildly to strongly opposed to his regime and its continuation in any form.

I was working on stuff about Hugo Chavez and Turkey

Until my Internet went down. So, light posting until it's back up.

(Yes, I know your next question: how am I able to post that my Internet is down when my Internet is down? Simple: the Blogger app on my iPhone. Good for posting quick stuff but not for the longer, linked articles that I like to write.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Are Hugo Chavez' days numbered?

Yes, but then again so are everyone's.  However, Chavez might have fewer than most. From Fausta:
After returning from his latest round of chemotherapy in Cuba, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez is hospitalized with renal failure and medullary aplasia:
The UK’s Telegraph reports, Hugo Chavez in hospital ‘for kidney failure’
Hugo Chavez, who has been fighting cancer, was rushed to a military hospital for emergency care following kidney failure, according to reports.
El Nuevo Herald also reports that (my translation: if you use this translation please link to this post and credit me):
On the other hand, the source stated that Chavez suffered from medullary aplasia, the disappearance of blood-producing cells in the bone marrow, which complicated his medical state. According to doctors, medullary aplasia can be total, affecting the production of red and white blood cells, or partial, which affects the production of one type of blood cells.
He closes with this:
Ambassador Roger Noriega last week was saying “we must start thinking about, and preparing for, a world without Hugo Chavez.”


Sit down

Couldn't help but feel some satisfaction from this story:
With the help of noted Cleveland Browns fan Bill Shakespeare, we present the star-crossed tale of Rob Stipe, a Dawg Pound fan who dresses up for games in a wig, face paint and shoulder pads and was recently kicked out of his seat at Cleveland Browns Stadium for standing up too much during games.
Stipe, a ticket holder of 25 years, was told by security personnel to sit during the first quarter of Sunday's game when he was standing during a third down. Later in the game, he was standing again and was asked to leave his seat due to a new rule that immediately boots second-offenders.

More on Muammar's missing missiles

From Chuck Simmins:
Since April 2011 the group Human Rights Watch has been warning about the dangers of unsecured munitions in Libya. Those complaints were renewed in recent news articles after HRW took reporters to munitions sites they believe had been looted. The Daily Caller and AFP both are reporting that up to 20,000 man-portable surface to air missiles have disappeared from Libyan military warehouses. Are those missiles missing or did they never exist?
There is some confusion in the various reports over just what types of missiles are missing. Moammar Gadhafi’s security forces are believed to have supplies of the SA-7 and SA-16 portable anti-aircraft systems as well as the SA-24 vehicle launched system. All three are Russian built and exported. The Russians have told Aviation Week that the SA-24 systems sold the Libyans lack the man-portable components needed and can only be vehicle fired.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Coming to a sea near you

The Iranian Navy:
Iran plans to send ships near the Atlantic coast of the United States, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Tuesday, quoting a commander.
"The Navy of the Iranian Army will have a powerful presence near the United States borders," read the headline of the story, in Farsi.
"Commander of the Navy of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran broke the news about the plans for the presence of this force in the Atlantic Ocean and said that the same way that the world arrogant power is present near our marine borders, we, with the help of our sailors who follow the concept of the supreme jurisprudence, shall also establish a powerful presence near the marine borders of the United States," the story said. The reference to the "world arrogant power" was presumably intended to refer to the United States.
IRNA cited the force's website as saying that the announcement was made by Adm. Habibollah Sayari on the 31st anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war.

Pakistan's web gets ever more complicated

from StrategyPage:
The United States has stopped "playing the game" of pretending that the Pakistani military does not control or cooperate with Islamic terrorist groups. Senior American commanders have told the public, and in closed meetings with senior American politicians, presented the classified information that proves this Pakistani involvement continues. It's no secret in Pakistan that this connection exists. The military began backing Islamic terrorists in the late 1970s as a way to cure the corruption that was crippling the economy, while also providing a weapon that could defeat India. The corruption is still there and India remains undefeated. In the 1980s, this move to Islamic terrorism became fashionable when the Russians invaded Afghanistan and Pakistan became a base for Afghan "holy warriors" who fought back. When the Russians left in 1989, Pakistan continued to back Islamic terrorist groups in Afghanistan (most famously the Taliban, which the Pakistani army created) and sustained the civil war there. This war was still going on when September 11, 2001 came along. It's still going on today, and it's still being sustained by the Pakistani military. The Afghans are not happy with this, they never have been. Afghans point out that Pakistan has been interfering with Afghan internal affairs since Pakistan was created in 1948. The Afghans want this interference to stop, and have been pressing the U.S. to help.

Thousands of Libyan SAMs missing. Again. -- UPDATED and CORRECTED

It seems that in the aftermath of the Libyan civil war, thousands of surface-to-air missiles are missing:
ABC News reported today U.S. officials and security experts were concerned some of the thousands of heat-seeking missiles could easily end up in the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists groups, creating a threat to commercial airliners.
"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst nightmare," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, a member of the Senate's Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee.
Though Libya had an estimated 20,000 man-portable surface-to-air missiles before the popular uprising began in February, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News today the government does not have a clear picture of how many missiles they're trying to track down.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roman shipyard found

As is usually the case with ancient Rome and archaeology, this is cool:

University of Southampton and British School at Rome (BSR) archaeologists, leading an international excavation of Portus – the ancient port of Rome, believe they have discovered a large Roman shipyard.

The team, working with the Italian Archaeological Superintendancy of Rome, has uncovered the remains of a massive building close to the distinctive hexagonal basin or 'harbour', at the centre of the port complex.

University of Southampton Professor and Portus Project Director, Simon Keay comments, "At first we thought this large rectangular building was used as a warehouse, but our latest excavation has uncovered evidence that there may have been another, earlier use, connected to the building and maintenance of ships.

The Wild Turkey, Part 33 1/3

These just keep coming up.  Now it's Daniel Pipes:
In a Middle East wracked by coups d’état and civil insurrections, the Republic of Turkey credibly offers itself as a model, thanks to its impressive economic growth, democratic system, political control of the military, and secular order.
But, in reality, Turkey may be, along with Iran, the most dangerous state of the region.
Pipes lists several reasons:

New additions to the library

Battle Report: Pearl Harbor to Coral Sea, by Cmdr. Walter Karig and Lt. Welbourn Kelley;
The First South Pacific Campaign: Pacific Fleet Strategy December 1941-June 1942, by John B. Lundstrom;
The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, by Andrew Roberts;
The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945, by Ian Kershaw; and
The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World, by Adrian Murdoch.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Egypt's slide

shows no end in sight:

The stirring, iconic scenes of courage and national unity, sacrifice and magnanimity, have long since faded, like a discarded bouquet of lotus and jasmine.
They have been replaced with endless strikes; attacks on churches; countless, sometimes bloody, demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square; growing radical Islamist (Salafi) control of Sinai; cross-border attacks on Israel (and Israel’s inevitable response); and, finally, the sacking of a sovereign embassy with the ruling military’s apparent complicity. For the first time in Egypt’s five thousand years of Pharaonic-style rule, the people have put the top man on trial, but the exercise somehow seems cheap and tawdry.
Meanwhile, tourism has all but died and investment has retreated as chaos reigns and foreign currency reserves shrink to a memory. There is even talk of imminent mass famine, as Egypt can no longer afford to import staple foods and can’t even effectively get subsidized bread to those who actually need it. By almost any measure, things looked better for most people under the reviled ancien regime. While violent crime (bag-snatchings, burglaries, petty thefts, domestic murders, kidnappings, and muggings) were on the rise in Mubarak’s last years, they have surged since his fall. One novelty of the new Egypt is an epidemic of attacks on police stations in which guns are stolen and people often killed. That simply did not happen under Mubarak.

Two broadsides at Obama's foreign policy

from the Yamato and the Musashi ... er, Barry Rubin and Michael Ledeen:

First, Rubin:
I accuse President Barack Obama of Destroying Western Interests in the Middle East, Helping Destabilize the Region, and Putting Millions of Lives in Jeopardy.
Careful.  You might be called (gasp!) uncivil.
Do you think that’s extremist, crazy, can’t be true because you’re not seeing that stuff in the New York Times? You must be a right-wing Republican, you say?
No, just a serious Middle East analyst.

A dumb question repeated

As we asked earlier, is Pakistan at war with the United States?  Would the answer be more obvious if they sent panzers across our border?
The top U.S. military officer on Thursday accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting Haqqani fighters in planning and conducting last week's attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pakistani duplicity puts in jeopardy not only the frayed U.S.-Pakistani partnership against terrorism but also the outcome to the decade-old war in Afghanistan.

In his final congressional testimony before retiring next week, Mullen said success in Afghanistan is threatened by the Pakistani government's support for the Haqqani network of militants, which he called a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's intelligence agency.

A Pakistani government minister who spoke on condition of anonymity to CBS News' Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad said Mullen's accusation that the Pakistani agency, the ISI, has links to the Haqqani network "will not help to stop the ongoing slide in our relations. Any public bickering of this kind makes it much harder to overcome the damage."

Stupid marketing ideas

I love my Cleveland Browns. (And my San Diego Chargers. And my Pittsburgh Steelers.  Yes, I support multiple teams in a set order of priority.  I'm allowed to because of the Browns move.  If you don't like it, blame Art Modell and his enablers.)   The Browns have always been our family flagship, win or (mostly) lose.  The Central Indiana Browns Backers are some of the best. most knowledgeable football fans anywhere.  But, like me, no matter how painful it is, they do not hesitate to call the Browns out for their mistakes.

And this ... well, it may not be fair to call this a mistake, but it is really, really stupid:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who needs North Korea when you have LightSquared?

North Korea jamming the GPS navigation on our aircraft is bad enough.  A politically-connected US company doing is is far worse.  And yet that seems to be precisely what is happening.  From Michelle Malkin:
If you thought the half-billion-dollar, stimulus-funded Solyndra solar company bust was a taxpayer nightmare, just wait. If you thought the botched Fast and Furious border gun-smuggling surveillance operation was a national security nightmare, hold on. Right on the heels of those two blood-boilers comes yet another alleged pay-for-play racket from the most ethical administration ever.
Welcome to LightSquared. It’s a toxic mix of venture socialism (to borrow GOP Sen. Jim DeMint’s apt phrase), campaign finance influence-peddling and perilous corner-cutting all rolled into one.
The company is building “a state-of-the-art open wireless broadband network.” Competition in the industry is a good thing, of course. But military, government and civilian aviation experts have long objected to LightSquared’s potential to interfere with the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network. As the government’s own Positioning, Navigation and Timing agency explained:
“The GPS community is concerned because testing has shown that LightSquared’s ground-based transmissions overpower the relatively weak GPS signal from space. Although LightSquared will operate in its own radio band, that band is so close to the GPS signals that most GPS devices pick up the stronger LightSquared signal and become overloaded or jammed.”

My latest appearances on Civil Discourse Now

are now up.  Check here and here.

Big thanks to hosts Mark Small and Paul Ogden for having me.

Beloved Trajan

I am still as sick as a dog and barely able to produce a coherent thought, let alone type a coherent sentence.  But I do have some interesting pictures of my beloved Rome I can easily share.  Here is Marcus Ulpius Nerva Trajanus Augustus, better known as Trajan (technically pronounced "TRAY-an").

Still beloved in Rome: the Emperor Trajan.

Trajan was always one of the "good" emperors, but I didn't realize how good.  Look closely at the base of the statue itself.

There is a rose.  Someone placed a rose there.  To honor Trajan.

Other than Julius Caesar's Basilica in the Roman Forum (which had a lot of offerings placed by fans), this was the only imperial monument to have any offerings.

It's wondferful to see the people of Rome take such pride in their imperial history.

And another reason why I love Rome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blowing Lebanon

Just like Neville Chamberlain's kissing up to Hitler sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia, Obama's insistence on kissing up to the Iranian mullahs may have sealed the fate of Lebanon, and the normally low-key Saudis, nominally our second-best allies in the region, are furious:
Once a key U.S. partner in the Middle East, the Saudis are unhappy with the Obama administration, and thus the United States. They are angry that the White House never consulted them about helping to bring down the Mubarak regime in Egypt. But their greatest wrath is reserved for the U.S. government’s failure to oppose the Iranian regime’s expansionism and subversion.
In one Wikileaks-leaked State Department document after another, Riyadh’s anger is apparent. The “traditionally confrontation-averse” Saudis — as a phrase in one of the reports calls them — also make clear that the threat of force as well as words is necessary to stop Iran. A recently released secret 2009 U.S. State Department memo written for General Petraeus discussed this Saudi view of Iran and U.S. policy toward Iran at length:
The Saudis see a dangerous Shia power bent on destabilizing the region. … They remain concerned that we might be prepared to accept an enhanced role for Iran in the region in exchange for concessions on its nuclear program.

Revisiting the Wild Turkey

After my post from yesterday on the dangerous path being followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, this blurb from StrategyPage has me scratching my head:
It's not just Turks who are surprised.  The pieces I highlighted yesterday seem to contradict StrategyPage.  So who is right?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while on a trip taking him to three Arab Spring nations (Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia), told an Egyptian television audience that Egypt needs a secular state. Militant Islamist factions of the Muslim Brotherhood were upset by what they regard as interference in Egypt’s revolution. Erdogan surprised many Turks who perceive him as an Islamist who intends to undermine Turkey’s secular state. Time will tell.
Indeed, time will tell.

Light blogging for a bit

Because I am sick.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Pakistan at war with the United States?

A dumb question, of course, but Walter Russell Meade answers it:

Possibly, or at least part of its government may be.

The United States government believes it has evidence linking the Haqqani network, a terrorist organization which has repeatedly carried out attacks against US government personnel and positions, with the government of Pakistan. As ABC News (Australia) reports,
The United States says there is evidence linking the Pakistani government to the militant group that carried out last week’s attack on the US embassy in Kabul.
The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, claims there are links between the Pakistani government and high-profile terrorist group the Haqqani network.
In blunt comments broadcast by state-run Radio Pakistan, Mr Munter said: “Let me tell you that the attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago that was the work of the Haqqani network,” he said, referring to a deadly miltant attack in on Tuesday.
“There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.”
Is anyone else sick of Pakistan and ready to let India have at 'em, as I am?  Meade is not ... yet:
Via Meadia supports a continued US-Pakistan relationship, but in our view the US has to be ready to walk away for the relationship to have a chance.  As long as Pakistan thinks we have no option, it will continue to play gruesome games.  In fact, we have a number of pretty good options, and it is high time we explored them in depth.

A wild Turkey

Turkey under Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan has gone from being a staunch NATO ally and testimony as to the ability of a Muslim country to govern itself rationally (if with the occasional help of the military) to a semi-Islamist bull charging through the Middle East china shop after drinking several gallons of double espresso.  David Warren calls Erdogan, "The man who could trigger a world war":
The "vision" of this politician, which he can articulate charismatically, is to combine efficient, basically free-market economic management, with a puritanized version of the religious ideals of the old Ottoman Caliphate. (Gentle reader may recall that I am allergic to visionary and charismatic politicians, who operate on the body politic like a dangerous drug.)

Erdogan's vision has turned outward. His strategy has been to seek better economic integration with the West, while making new political alliances with the East - most notably with Iran. He now presents Turkey as the champion of "mainstream" Sunni Islamism, while trying to square the circle with Persian Shia Islamism. This could still come to grief over Syria, where the Turks want Iran's man, Assad, overthrown, and the Muslim Brotherhood brought into a new Syrian government.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Which is the real China?

There seems to be a definite dichotomy in both perception and, potentially reality, concerning Communist China.  Consider this piece by Australian analyst Hugh White:
Over the next few months, as Asia's leaders gather for their annual round of summits, we are going to hear a lot about the South China Sea. Australia doesn't care who owns the uninhabitable rocks and reefs that dot these waters, but we have a huge stake in an edgy game of double bluff that is playing out there.
The issue no longer concerns the rocks themselves, or even the oil and gas that might lie around them. It is about the growing rivalry between America and China over who exercises power in Asia. Unless both countries are very careful, a small incident in the Spratly Islands could shatter the US-China relationship, plunge Asia into a major crisis, and destroy the foundations of Australia's foreign policy.
Disputes over the Spratlys and other fly specks in the South China Sea have been around for decades, but they have taken a new turn since 2009, when China, after years of restraint, began to push its claims much more assertively. It started to describe its claim to almost the whole area as a ''core national interest'' and to more vigorously enforce those claims, especially against Vietnam and the Philippines.

More on North Korea jamming our GPS

from StrategyPage:
The U.S. recently revealed that one of its RC-7C reconnaissance aircraft was forced to land last March 8th, after a North Korean GPS jammer disrupted the aircraft’s navigation system. All that had previously been revealed about this was that, from March 18th onwards, North Korea had been directing a GPS jamming signal across the border, and towards the southern capital, Seoul. [...]
The jamming was more of a nuisance than a threat, and most military equipment is equipped with electronics and other enhancements to defeat it. So it was somewhat surprising that the U.S. would now admit that one of their aircraft was disrupted by the North Korea GPS jammer ten days before (sic) this equipment was just aimed in the general direction of South Korea and turned on for a week.
The North Korea GPS jammer threat has been around for a while. South Korean intelligence has been trying to get their hands on North Korea's new GPS jammer for over three years. These items are used to spoil the aim of GPS guided bombs and missiles, as well as disrupt other navigation systems, in wartime. The U.S., NATO, Israel and several Middle Eastern nations (friendly to the U.S.) are big users of such guided weapons. The North Korean jammer has been offered to Middle Eastern Nations (as in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah), and is touted as superior to the Russian model (which Iraq had, and used, without much success, in 2003). The Russians have since improved their technology, but the U.S. believes its anti-jammer devices are capable to dealing with the new Russian gear. One is never sure unless you can test the anti-jammer technology against the jammer. Thus the eagerness to get a North Korean jammer into the hands of U.S. Air Force anti-jammer experts for examination. Until last March, many GPS experts doubted that the North Korean jammer actually existed, as the North Korean have never exhibited much talent in that area of technology. That attitude has changed somewhat, but it’s still a mystery why the North Koreans would reveal their capabilities just like that. What makes the March incident ominous is that there were reports, from some refugees that the north was working on jammers with longer range and even more power.
As I said in my earlier post on the subject, I think this was a small-scale test.  StrategyPage is correct to consider this incident ominous.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

As Egypt falls apart

The next stop in the Mission of Misery in the Middle East is Egypt, where developments are ominous, to say the least.

Michael Totten has been sounding the alarm for some time.  He continues in his new missive, an interview with Egyptian liberal intellectual Hala Mustafa:
Egypt’s revolution against Hosni Mubarak captivated the world. It helped inspire an armed rebellion against Moammar Qaddafi’s hellish dungeon in Libya and peaceful protests against Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Party regime in Syria despite his government’s ruthless repression. The only problem with the Egyptian revolution is that it was not a revolution. It was a coup d’etat against the president by the army.
The coup d’etat had the support of the people, of course. It might not have happened had mass demonstrations not broken out, and it certainly wouldn’t have otherwise happened on the day that it did. Still, no one from Mubarak’s political opposition is in charge. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces rules the country as a military junta.

Is Jordan tottering?

I can't say that I like what is coming out of the Middle East right now.  There are bad developments from all over the region, but I'm a little surprised that some of it is coming out of Jordan.  Now, Israeli officials say Jordan is hanging by a thread
As the US steps up its effort to prevent a Palestinian unilateral bid to declare statehood, Israeli officials fear a new eastern front in the form of Jordan. State officials warn that Jordan is in an extremely precarious state and effectively "hanging by a thread."

Jerusalem is also considering causing significant damage to the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian Authority, however has no plans to withdraw its statehood campaign.


There is also growing concern in Israel over the situation in Jordan. Senior Israeli officials define the Hashemite kingdom's situation as "hanging by a thread". The officials claim that "the situation in Jordan is precarious and it is possible that it is heading for a major jolt which should be taken with the utmost seriousness.

Solyndra statement

The story about Solyndra, the "green" tech company that made solar panels went bankrupt, leaving the US government on the hook for about a half billion dollar loan, is exploding across the blogosphere and even the major media.  The major questions involve corruption and/or judgment. 

Solyndra's major private investor was Obama-donor George Kaiser.  The company was approved for a loan guarantee by the Obama administration even after the same company had been denied a loan by the Bush administration.  Sound suspicious?  Of course it does.

Except this happens all the time in governments across the country.  Doesn't make it right, but doesn't make it a national scandal.  The far bigger issue is the judgment of the Obama administration.

Solyndra, as it turns out, was manufacturing its solar panels at a loss.  So determined was Obama to tout the myth of "green jobs" that his people rushed to approve the loan.  Now Solyndra has, if anything, helped debunk the myth of green jobs.

Some good background and updates on the story, better than anything I can add, from Megan McArdle, Michelle Malkin and Power Line.

In fact, really the only thing I may be able to add is something that just needs to be said.  I haven't seen anyone else say it, so I will:


Sorry. Just had to get that one out of my system.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is Pennsylvania pushing us to a parliamentary system of government?

Pennsylvania is considering a new method for apportioning its presidential electoral votes:
A new proposal is pushing the often-forgotten Electoral College into the spotlight as Pennsylvania officials ponder the state's role in next year's presidential race.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state's "winner-takes-all" approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he's suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.
So far, the idea has received support from colleagues of the Delaware County Republican in the state House and from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. But Democrats, who have carried the state in presidential contests since 1992, said the shift would erode Pennsylvania's clout.
Only two states -- Nebraska and Maine -- divide their electoral votes instead of giving the whole bloc to the candidate that wins the state's popular vote. Even for those two states, the piecemeal approach has been a rarity, with Nebraska historically dividing its five votes in the 2008 election, when one went to President Barack Obama.
An analysis by the online news service Capitolwire noted that had the proposed distribution process been in place in Pennsylvania in 2008 before the state lost one congressional district due to a population decline in the 2010 census, Mr. Obama would have won only 11 of the state's 21 votes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Forced socializing is rude

I am a typical church-goer in many ways.  I go to Mass every week at my ROMAN Catholic Church.  We have a great pastor who actually gives intelligent sermons.  But one problem we've had in recent years is with our lead singer.  I won't mention his name or give any indication of who he is, because he's probably a decent guy, but he has a most infuriating practice of having us introduce ourselves to the people around us before Mass.  Such introductions are not a requirement in the Catholic mass or even standard practice, but this guy forces it on us and the pastor lets him.  For those of us who are socially shy and introverted like myself, it is not only extremely uncomfortable but offensive.  I am there to worship God, not to network.  It became so annoying to my parents that they actually switched parishes.  I haven't, but I've done my best to avoid it.  I tried to pray during these introductions, but the people around me would just force themselves on me.  Lately I've taken to coming to Mass late to avoid the whole thing.

The practice of holding hands during the Our Father, also not required in the Church, can be just as bad, with on occasion those next to me actually grabbing my hands. 

Why is it that outgoing people try to force socializing on ther rest of us who simply want to be left alone?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Go figure

Another picture I took in my beloved Rome of something I found amusing.  We were returning to our tour bus from il Colosseo and il Foro Romano when I spotted this store:

You can't find these stores just anywhere!
I couldn't believe it.  I mean, an Italian store?  In Italy?  You're kidding right? Who coulda guessed that?

I wanted to stop in -- I'm guessing it sold souvenirs -- but we were being herded to our bus and it was across the street.  Crossing the street in Rome typically requires special health and life insurance riders.

Although as I understand it, Rome is far better than Naples, where before you cross the street you are advised to provide contact information for your next of kin.

New archaeological survey at Ostia

Via the excellent RogueClassicism, we have news of a major survey project at the port of ancient Rome, Ostia:
The remains of a harbour city that was one of the most important ports in Ancient Rome is to undergo a major surveying project that will allow for complete verification of its established control points and a new GNSS-based coordinate system.

Ostia Antica, which is sited at the mouth of the Tiber River and is a major Roman archaeological site, was prioritised for the survey by the Superintendent of the Archaeological Heritage of Rome due to its historic importance.

The city was founded in 620 BC as a military base and, as Rome's importance throughout the Mediterranean grew, became the main emporium of Rome, housing a number of important civic buildings.

Battle of Marathon re-enactment

This is cool:

Sweating beneath heavy armour, a group of die-hard archaeology fans brought the Battle of Marathon to life this weekend on the coastal plain where the fate of Europe dramatically changed 2,500 years ago.

Gathering from Europe, North America and Australia, the re-enactors staged a three-day event of combat, archaic culture revival and commemoration at Marathon Bay never before seen in Greece despite its rich archaeological heritage.

For many of the participants, it was also a personal pilgrimage after long years of arduous preparation and unfulfilled hope.

"It's a dream come true after 10 years," said Hywel Jones, a printer from Wales who came to Marathon with his wife Stephanie to fight as a Greek hoplite, the heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece.

Iranian mullahs up to no good

but then you knew that.  What you may not have known is the Iranian mullahs are pursuing electromagnetic pulse technology to disable American computer systems:
The first thing they will notice is there is no power. Another damn power outage, they will grumble — but then again, there has been no storm. Confused, some will try to call for information, but the phones will be down. The TV, the radio — nothing, no reception.
The panic will come when cars won’t start.
The traffic lights will be out, too. It will get much worse. Most will not survive to see life get back to normal in America.
Thousands will be stranded on subways, and over a million passengers who fly daily across the continent will be stuck at airports with flights canceled. Those already in the air will meet a deadly fate as planes plunge from the sky, their electronics fried.

These were on my office walls after September 11, 2001

Friday, September 9, 2011

North Korea amps up electronic warfare

I don't like where this is heading:
A US military reconnaissance plane came under electronic attack from North Korea and had to make an emergency landing during a major military exercise in March, a political aide said Friday.
The aide said the plane suffered disturbance to its GPS system due to jamming signals from the North's southwestern cities of Haeju and Kaesong as it was taking part in the annual US-South Korea drill, Key Resolve.

Not quite up to 21st century standards -- UPDATED

Following up on the recent post discussing British Detective Trevor Marriott's claim that he has identified Jack the Ripper as German merchant seaman Carl Feigenbaum, I re-read his book Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation.   Unfortunately, in my edition of Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation, Marriott does not identify Feigenbaum as the killer.  Marriott apparently does so in a later edition of the book, and I seem to be having trouble finding places that differentiate between the two editions.  And in any event, I was so unimpressed by the earlier edition that I am reluctant to spend the money on a rehash of the same.

Casebook: Jack the Ripper investigates Marriott's theory and pretty much levels it.  After discussing the lack of corroboration of the evidence provided by Feigenbaum's attorney, Willam Sanford Lawton, Casebook goes into Marriott's independent evidence on Feigenbaum:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Not Alaric but Totila

In the same vein as my talk of how the riots in London and across the US calls to mind Alaric and his sack of Rome, Victor Davis Hanson, without naming him, invokes the 6th century Gothic leader Totila:
Last week, I mentioned that my local community is struggling with council members calling each other names and alleging serial conflicts of interest, theft of the city’s manhole covers by public employees, and child pornography charges lodged against a policeman. This week? An epidemic of the theft of honorific bronze plaques from the walls of the city’s schools, civic centers, and public buildings — the sort of commemoration for good deeds that are the stuff of civilization. It reminds me of Procopius’s description of post-Roman Italy in the 6th-century AD, when lost Ostrogoth and Visigoth souls drifted amid the great cities of the Old Romans, cannibalizing the ancients’ marble, bronze, and lead clamps, and melting down monuments for lime. What scares me is that the gang bangers, who are prying these plaques off the walls and selling them, for pennies on their original dollars, for scrap, have no idea of the now dead who built and created these buildings and institutions, but so often in extremis will expect to use them. Did the man who built a school or the woman who founded a civic club ever expect that their commemorative citations would end up in a melt-down pile in the local wrecking yard?
Copper wire torn out from agricultural pumps? Manhole covers stolen by their very custodians? Commemorative plaques pried out? We are almost an entire generation of parasites that cannot create anything new and so feed on the capital and labor of the past. Sixth-century Rome to the core, or maybe Dark-Age Greece around 1000 BC where the illiterate and ignorant were wandering beneath the walls of Mycenae or Pylos looking for shelter that they could not build for themselves, and swearing superhuman “gods” must have erected such walls. Who knows, just as the most fertile period of Greek myth-making came out of the oral traditions of the Dark Ages as an impoverished and illiterate age tried to make sense of the monumental traces of a lost civilization, so too soon we may think our forgotten dam builders and water project architects of the last century were Apollo or the Cyclops, as we watch their legacies erode and crumble.
It's nice to think like a great mind, as Victor Davis Hanson is definitely a great mind.

Has anyone ever seen these two men together?

Muammar al-Gadhafi 2009

Michael Jackson 2002

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Has Jack the Ripper been identified?

Not sure what to make of this:

A reconstruction of a murderer's face has reawakened interest in one of the world's most famous unsolved mysteries: Who was the serial killer behind Britain's "Jack the Ripper" murders in 1888?

More than 100 suspects have been suggested over the years, including Lewis Carroll (author of "Alice in Wonderland") and Victorian painter Walter Sickert (who was fingered in a book by crime novelist Patricia Cornwell after a $4 million investigation). This week, the BBC is throwing a spotlight on a dark-horse candidate: German merchant seaman Carl Feigenbaum, who was executed in New York in 1896 for a totally different killing.

Feigenbaum was convicted for the murder of his landlady in Manhattan, and his attorney, Willam Sanford Lawton, said afterward that his client admitted to having an "all-absorbing passion ... to kill and mutilate every woman who falls in my way." It was Lawton who first suggested that Feigenbaum was behind the murders of women in London eight years earlier.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Metro Police give green light to stealing cars

Another stupid idea in law enforcement is coming to Indianapolis:
The chase that ended in the deaths Tuesday of two suspected car thieves would have been banned under a new vehicle pursuit policy under review by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Chief Paul Ciesielski said Wednesday that the new policy would allow officers to chase only violent suspects who are an immediate threat. Currently, police can pursue any motorist who flees, regardless of what they did.
Critics of chases say they put police officers, offenders and innocent bystanders at risk.
"The advantages of a new policy would be that it takes into account the safety of our officers and meets our moral and ethical obligation to keep citizens safe," Ciesielski said.

Ciesielski, who favors the new policy, said there is no time frame for deciding whether to adopt it.
The disclosure follows a fatal accident in which two teenagers fleeing police were killed after a three-minute chase on the Westside. Brandon Palmer, 19, and his passenger, D'airres Hightower, 15, were in a Chevrolet Trailblazer that had been reported stolen at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Ohio State better start raising hell

Over this:

Quarterback Jacory Harris and 11 other Miami players who accepted extra benefits from former booster Nevin Shapiro will be allowed by the NCAA to play again, the first sanctions in a scandal that continues to overshadow the Hurricanes.

Of those, eight will miss at least one game, and all 12 must pay restitution.

The harshest penalties handed down Tuesday were reserved for those who took gifts from Shapiro while being recruited. Defensive lineman Olivier Vernon will sit out six games, while Ray Ray Armstrong, considered among the nation's top safeties, and tight end Dyron Dye will miss four games apiece. Among the players sanctioned, only Vernon will miss more than one Atlantic Coast Conference game.