Friday, December 7, 2012

Remember

December 7, 1941. The unprovoked (no matter what leftist historians say) attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Carrier Striking Force Kido Butai.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Calling Kido Butai

It seems China's bullying in East Asia has gotten a predictible response. Smaller Asian nations are now coalescing around Japan in an effort to counter the "rising" dragon. And Japan is strengthening itself as part of that effort:
After years of watching its international influence eroded by a slow-motion economic decline, the pacifist nation of Japan is trying to raise its profile in a new way, offering military aid for the first time in decades and displaying its own armed forces in an effort to build regional alliances and shore up other countries’ defenses to counter a rising China.
Already this year, Japan crossed a little-noted threshold by providing its first military aid abroad since the end of World War II, approving a $2 million package for its military engineers to train troops in Cambodia and East Timor in disaster relief and skills like road building. Japanese warships have not only conducted joint exercises with a growing number of military forces in the Pacific and Asia, but they have also begun making regular port visits to countries long fearful of a resurgence of Japan’s military.
And after stepping up civilian aid programs to train and equip the coast guards of other nations, Japanese defense officials and analysts say, Japan could soon reach another milestone: beginning sales in the region of military hardware like seaplanes, and perhaps eventually the stealthy diesel-powered submarines considered well suited to the shallow waters where China is making increasingly assertive territorial claims.
Taken together those steps, while modest, represent a significant shift for Japan, which had resisted repeated calls from the United States to become a true regional power for fear that doing so would move it too far from its postwar pacifism. The country’s quiet resolve to edge past that reluctance and become more of a player comes as the United States and China are staking their own claims to power in Asia, and as jitters over China’s ambitions appear to be softening bitterness toward Japan among some Southeast Asian countries trampled last century in its quest for colonial domination.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No surprise here

The investigation of the explosion in the Richmond Hill subdivision that killed two is now a homicide investigation.

This is not a surprise, as the circumstances surrounding the explosion are simply too suspicious. The behavior of the owners of the home has raised red flags. And houses simply do not explode with that level of force without some "help." Authorities are looking into an unidentified white van that was spotted near the scene.

Hopefully law enforcement will get to the bottom of this in short order.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Explosion - UPDATED

That is what happened tonight on the Far Southside of Indianapolis. A giant explosion that leveled at least two houses, severely damaged at least 14 others and damaged perhaps 100 more. So far, no reports of serious injuries or fatalities, which would be a miracle. But it's still early.

To give you an idea of how big this explosion was, I live about 11 miles away from it, and I not only heard it, but felt it. So did my cats, who were scared by it.

The presumption is that this was a natural gas explosion, and, indeed, a witness said the smell of natural gas was overpowering.

Still, a lot of unanswered questions about this explosion. We have had natural gas explosions in Indianapolis before, yet I have never heard or felt one. Until tonight's explosion. By comparison, when we had a tanker truck explode on the 70 maybe a half mile from my house, I barely heard it and certainly did not feel it. (Then again, my home is made of brick.) Perhaps tellingly (or perhaps not), city officials have refused to call it a natural gas explosion.

This was far, far larger than any natural gas explosion of which I am aware. The fire seems to have been unusually large as well. News reports indicate the explosion also took place in a vacant house that was for sale. A few suspicious circumstances that warrant additional examination. But if it was not a natural gas explosion I can't even hazard a guess as to what it was. I thought maybe meth lab, but it was too big for that. Was it indeed a natural gas explosion, but maybe not from a distribution line (which goes to individual customers) but from a transmission line, which carries gas between service areas and thus is much larger than a distribution line?

Hopefully the investigators will give us some answers in the next few days. And hopefully the residents can put their lives back together in short order.

UPDATE: unfortunately, the good news as to casualties did not hold up. WRTV is reporting that two are confirmed dead. At least four more injured.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Civil Discourse Now

I will be a guest on Civil Discourse Now, hosted by Mark Small and Paul Ogden, this Saturday morning at 11:00 am. We will be discussing ... wait for it ... the election! I know, you're so surprised. Tune in at 11:00 am for the web cast or check it out on YouTube afterwards.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm back!!! (With random thoughts!!!)

I apologize for being gone so long, except on Twitter and Facebook, where I have been more active. As way of explanation, I’ve not only had work, but I’ve had the book tying me up.

For those of you who are thinking of writing a book, however hard you think it is, it is harder. Much harder. I had Rising Sun, Falling Skies written in my head for some four years, I’ve known most of the facts since I was a kid, but – and this will sound very, very strange – I learned that once you put the book on paper, it takes a life of its own. And it develops a will of its own. It can go in directions you never intended, never thought possible, never even imagined. Almost like the writer becomes a conduit for something else. Or at least in my case it has been, a conduit for people, in the case of the Americans, the British, the Dutch and the Australians who fought against Japanese aggression in Southeast Asia, have not gotten nearly the exposure they deserve. It has been a truly amazing experience for me, certainly a learning experience, but it has been an eye opener as to the power of literature, the power of writing. Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn’t. I don’t have the experience to tell for sure. But I would not trade this experience of writing my first book for the world. Very difficult, but very, very fun.

But I have not been completely incommunicado. I have been paying attention to the news and developments in the US and around the world. Just a few random thoughts to chew on and spit out.

  • God bless New York City. May you recover from Hurricane Sandy quickly.

  • Mitt Romney will win the presidential election, by a significant margin in the popular vote and by a narrower margin in the electoral vote. Presidential elections tend to track the preference of independents, and Romney is way up with independents, in some cases by double digits. His campaign is organized and responsive and is acting confident. Barack Obama is well organized as well, but he has been unable to make a case for a second term. He has had Benghazi, about which I will say more anon. He, his campaign and his allies in the mainstream media are acting scared, desperate and increasingly irrational.

  • Joe Donnelly will be the next US senator from Indiana. Richard Mourdock was in decent shape until the debates, which did him in. Donnelly seemed relaxed and at ease with himself. Mourdock seemed angry and had trouble looking at the camera. (Libertarian Andrew Horning made no case for his election except “Vote for me because I’m neither Republican nor Democrat,” which might be OK if his ideas for defense and foreign policy did not suck so badly.) Mourdock’s abortion in cases of rape comment was not nearly as bad as Todd Akin’s, inasmuch as Mourdock at least seems to have taken a high school biology course, but not allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest is extreme. Depending on the poll, some 70%-80% of the electorate support allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest. Mourdock’s position is undoubtedly sincere and based on religion, but a good many women, including GOP women, were highly offended at the thought of having no say in the matter because of someone else’s religious beliefs.

  • That said, it is ironic that Mourdock’s comments were not as bad as Akin’s, but Mourdock is more likely to lose than Akin. Claire McCaskill is absolutely hated in Missouri. Akin’s rape comment gave her an opening, but recent revelations about self-dealing with her husband’s business may have closed it again.

  • Mike Pence will be the next governor of Indiana. John Gregg ran a terrible campaign. It’s too bad that he and Vi Simpson were not reversed on the Democrat ticket. I disagree with most of Simpson’s positions, but I respect her highly. She is honest, extremely intelligent, articulate and knows how to kick some ass. She is a great senator. She is far too liberal for Indiana, but it would be interesting to see what she’d do as governor.

  • And, no, I’m not touching any other statewide races ;-)

  • Note to the San Diego Chargers: put the lightning bolts back on the shoulders of your jerseys.

  • The reason for the NHL lockout can be explained in two words: Don Fehr.

  • It is not inaccurate to say that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has betrayed the trust of his supporters in his first election in 2007 and even in 2011. His vetoing the budget because it does not contain a tax increase is unheard of for a Republican. His cries of poverty for the City of Indianapolis lack credibility because, aside from his inexcusable cuts to the police force (we’re now down 300 officers), he has never acted like the City has a budget problem. Really, you can’t fund police but you can put in those damn bike lanes? Bike lanes no one wanted, no one asked for and that have needlessly snarled traffic and created numerous safety hazards throughout the city. Massachusetts Avenue is one of the most vibrant areas of the city, yet he felt the need to give it a TIF and essentially give away city property in the area. He gave his staff major massive salary increases. He actually thinks it’s a good idea to privatize the City-County Building. Do we even need to mention the ACS deal and the Broad Ripple parking garage? Or Frank Straub? And now after blowing all this public money on uselessness, he has the unmitigated gall to demand a tax increase from us? Greg Ballard, Ryan Vaughn, how dare you!

  • I investigated public corruption in Lake County for three years, and Indianapolis is rapidly sinking to that level of corruption and lack of concern for the welfare of the residents. And the reason for that erosion in responsive and effective government is Greg Ballard and Ryan Vaughn.

  • Two words: Emmanuelle Vaugier.

  • Two more words: Stana Katic.

  • In most cities, the major newspaper would have an investigative staff on the trail of public corruption. But Indianapolis lacks a major newspaper.

  • The Benghazi affair may be the single worse act of cowardice, dishonesty and incompetence ever from the US presidency. (And that’s saying something, considering Jimmy Carter was president.) I will give Obama credit for sending a homosexual ambassador to the Muslim world in Chris Stevens, inasmuch as it promotes LGBT equality and says we do not abide by your stupid shar’ia law, and by all acconts Stevens was the most qualified person for the job (for one thing, he spoke Arabic fluently). But then Obama threw it away. When Stevens needed help, someone refused and ordered them to “stand down.” When a CIA response team of former Navy SEALs violated those orders and went in anyway to help him, they were denied support and left to fend for themselves, resulting in two of their number being killed. The more evidence comes out, the more evidence that the “someone” was in the White House. Obama refused to call it a terrorist attack because it would have meant his Middle East policy of appeasement and apology was a failure, which it, of course, is. Then he lied about what happened and lied about what information he and his senior advisers had to cover up his callousness and incompetence, knowing his allies in the media would help him cover it up. And they are, but the story is still getting out to the public, and the public does not like it. Smacks of Jimmy Carter, which as Glenn Reynolds says, is a best case scenario right now.

  • Note to the San Diego Chargers: put the lightning bolts back on the shoulders of your jerseys.

  • I like Jimmy Haslem buying the Cleveland Browns and hiring Joe Banner as team president. I hope he keeps General Manager Tom Heckert, who has done a great job with the NFL draft, but Head Coach Pat Shurmur really needs his walking papers.

  • Bioware ruined the entire Mass Effect series with its ridiculous, dues ex machine ending for Mass Effect 3. The ridiculous, insulting ending is now the Jar Jar Binks of the video game world. Bioware blew it.

  • Speaking of Star Wars, Disney, I like your purchase of Lucasfilm. Now, can you do something about the Star Wars video games? Some of us out here actually are not interested in MMORPG’s and want more story games and flight sims. Why don’t we have a Bounty Hunter 2 or a revamped X-Wing and TIE Fighter? LucasArts spent way too much time on the MMORPG’s and it has alienated a lot of us who want something else.

  • Borderlands 2 is hilarious.

  • They think they found the spot where Julius Caesar was murdered. Contrary to popular belief, he was not assassinated in the Senate House, but in the Curia of Pompey. Except based on the description I read, I cannot tell where it is. The Julian Forum? The Augustine Forum?

  • I hope Last Resort tanks.

  • They think they found the mass grave where all the dead from the Battle of Hastings are buried. Um, how did you lose that many dead in the first place?

  • Note to the San Diego Chargers: PUT THE LIGHTNING BOLTS BACK ON THE SHOULDERS OF YOUR JERSEYS.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Woo hoo!

My Cleveland Browns actually won a game! One whole game! We even had Owen Marecic on the field for part of our offensive series, which is like playing 10 on 12. And we get to keep it and everything (unless some jerk at the NCAA notices that several of our players have tattoos). Woo hoo!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lotsa stuff going on

Sorry for the light posting. I know there has been a lot of stuff to talk about. Obama's racist rants on video. The Univision investigation into fast & Furious. The tensions between China and Japan, and now between the two Koreas. The collapse of Obama's Middle East narrative. And, of course, tonight's debate.

Locally, there has been the insulting suggestion that we lose our homestead exemption or else Ballard will cut police and fire for an alleged lack of money, even though he somehow found money to put in bike lanes that no one wanted or needed. There is also the passage of the new Mass Ave TIF, which completes Indianapolis' descent into the corrupt and incompetent governance of East Chicago.

However, I have been absolutely swamped this past week. I hope to free up some time this weekend. In the meantime, check out my latest appearance on Civil Discourse Now, with Mark Small and Paul Ogden.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

There was a touchdown in Cleveland, and the Browns game had not even started yet

Picture taken with my iPhone from the top of the east ramp to the upper south concourse at Cleveland Browns Stadium at about 12:30 pm EDT today:

Tornado (waterspout) on Lake Erie about a mile east of Cleveland Browns Stadium. In the foreground is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and a windmill. Just behind them is Burke Lakefront Airport. Taken from the top of the east ramp to the upper south concourse of Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Lemme tell you, if you have ever been curious like me and actually wanted to see a tornado, but without the massive death, destruction and terror that often accompany one, this is the way to do it. Tornadoes over large bodies of water -- waterspouts -- are generally not nearly as dangerous as their land-lubbing brethren.

I had seen a tornado only once before -- a rather disorganized job glimpsed for only a second or so between the trees as it went down a road about a half mile from my house. I was at work when a decade ago, almost to the day, one went tearing through my subdivision, leaving my house -- fortunately made of brick -- with very, very minor roof damage. I saw this one from the beginning, walking up the ramp to our seats at Cleveland Browns Stadium on a weird weather day in Cleveland -- windy, dark clouds but also, as you can tell from the picture, sun. Saw a weird tongue of cloud of a type I had never seen before, looked sort of like a spinning straw, much straighter and sharper than I've ever seen from a cloud. Saw it keep extending and thinning up. Thought it had dissipated and I turned around to leave, but I turned around again and it had touched down. The result was this.

I gotta tell you: it's pretty cool. At least when you can watch one like this, where there is little if any danger to anyone.

No reports of any damage or injuries that I am aware of and it dissipated after a few minutes. A big crowd of us had gathered at the top of the ramp to watch and photograph it. An example of the awesome power of nature, all too common in its most destructive and deadly form, but here in a harmless form few of us are lucky enough to witness.

Just absolutely fascinating. That my Browns got outcoached and outplayed -- again -- could not compare to this.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Israel bombing Iran may be our only hope

I have never understood all the angst in the political and foreign policy world's about the possibility of Israel bombing Iran to keep the mullahs from getting their hands on nukes. While not the ideal solution, it would not be nearly the catastrophe it is being made out to be, not compared to the alternative of letting the Iranian mullahs get nukes, in any case. Now, Spengler seems to agree with me. The attack may indeed be the catalyst for all-out war in the Middle East, but that is actually the best-case scenario for resolution of the current conflicts across the region:

[C]onsider the possibility that all-out regional war is the optimal outcome for American interests. An Israeli strike on Iran that achieved even limited success - a two-year delay in Iran's nuclear weapons development - would arrest America's precipitous decline as a superpower.

Absent an Israeli strike, America faces:
  • A nuclear-armed Iran;
  • Iraq's continued drift towards alliance with Iran;
  • An overtly hostile regime in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood government will lean on jihadist elements to divert attention from the country's economic collapse;
  • An Egyptian war with Libya for oil and with Sudan for water;
  • A radical Sunni regime controlling most of Syria, facing off an Iran-allied Alawistan ensconced in the coastal mountains;
  • A de facto or de jure Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Kingdom of Jordan;
  • A campaign of subversion against the Saudi monarchy by Iran through Shi'ites in Eastern Province and by the Muslim Brotherhood internally;
  • A weakened and perhaps imploding Turkey struggling with its Kurdish population and the emergence of Syrian Kurds as a wild card;
  • A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan; and
  • Radicalized Islamic regimes in Libya and Tunisia.
  • Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

    I hope everyone remembered this was Talk Like A Pirate Day. I, for one, can never forget the words of Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush):

    I'm curious. After killin' me, what is it yer plannin' on doin' next?

    But as much as I like Barbossa and admire the splendid performance by Geoffrey Rush in portraying him, Barbossa, obviously, cannot be my favorite pirate of all time, for that position is already taken:

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    A foreign policy of apology

    After yesterday's events - the attacks on our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi, which were apparently intended to distract from the main target, US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who was murdered in a well-planned and -executed attack - it seems that Obama's State Department has actually found a foreign policy worse than appeasement: a foreign policy of apology. As if the attacks were our fault.

    So, do you think if Obama had been POTUS on December 7, 1941, he would have apologized to the Japanese?

    Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    Is it just me?

    Or have the conventions of both the Republicans and the Democrats been virtually unwatchable?

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    More on Quemoy-Matsu II

    For the last week, Walter Russel Mead has been doing an incredible job covering the slowly boiling situation developing in the Far East with Japan and China both claiming a small island chain that the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands and the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands:
    The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan is heating up. The biggest anti-Japan protests in years erupted in China this weekend in response to 150 Japanese activists who attended a commemoration for Japan’s war dead there, reports the Financial Times:
    Chinese protestors gathered in dozens of cities, in some cases vandalising Japanese-made cars and retail outlets. About 1,000 people marched in the southern city of Shenzhen, overturning a Japanese-made police vehicle and attacking a Japanese restaurant, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency.
    And we can expect more to come. September 18 is the the 81st anniversary of the Mukden incident, Japan’s pretext for invading northern China in 1931. The same Chinese activists from Hong Kong who first landed on the island plan to organize protests at Japanese embassies across the world on this anniversary, according to the New York Times.

    Friday, August 24, 2012

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    Dan Burton involved in DC infiltration by Pakistani intelligence?

    While we're on the subject of what is treason and not treason, over at Pajamas Media, Patrick Poole has the first part of a series discussing the possible infiltration of the US government by agents of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the same cute, cuddly, teddy bear-types that created the Taliban:
    Two years ago, the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), Ghulam Nabi Fai, was riding high in Washington, D.C. circles. In March 2010, he hosted a pricey fundraiser in his own home for Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), the powerful chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia and co-chairman of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus.
    In 2004, Fai testified before Burton’s subcommittee. Internal KAC documents show that in just 2007 alone, he had 33 meetings with members of Congress, congressional staff, the Bush administration’s National Security Council, and the State Department. He led congressional delegations to the disputed Kashmir region, and over the years nearly three dozen different members of Congress of both parties attended or spoke at Fai’s annual Kashmir Peace Conference held on Capitol Hill. KAC’s events were even broadcast live on C-SPAN.
    One thing that bought Fai so much access was that Fai and the KAC board of directors generously spread campaign contributions all over Capitol Hill to members of both political parties. However, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the bulk of contributions by Fai, KAC’s board, and Fai’s associates went to Burton and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
    That all changed on July 19, 2011, when Fai was arrested by the FBI not far from his Fairfax, Virginia home, where he had held the fundraiser for Burton sixteen months earlier. And just last month, a year after his arrest, Fai reported to federal prison.

    Is Obama protecting Hugo Chavez?

    Investor's Business Daily ran an editorial yesterday detailing a very disturbing pattern of conduct on the part of Obama with respect to Venezuela's fat paratrooper Hugo Chavez:
    Colombia's Alvaro Uribe admitted he was ready to invade and hose out Venezuela, but term-limits stopped him. It calls to mind that President Obama urged Uribe to limit his term. Was Obama protecting Chavez?
    That's turned into an interesting question, given that Chavez has emerged as a full-blown security threat to the U.S., and is taking desperate measures — like launching a new guerrilla army and pulling out of human rights conventions that may hold him accountable — to ensure he wins reelection in October.
    But even with this ugly picture, it's startling that Obama says Chavez is "not a threat."
    Never mind that Chavez has forged an alliance with Iran and illegally shipped U.S. military aircraft there to help it evade U.S. radar.
    Or that his defense minister is listed by the Treasury Department as a full-blown "kingpin," and he's hosted terrorists — from Iran's Hezbollah to Colombia's FARC — on Venezuelan soil. He's also helping Iran and Syria evade international sanctions. And he's buying billions in advanced weaponry from Russia.
    For all this, Obama says Venezuela is not a threat. Does Obama not care, or is he protecting Chavez?

    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    Islamist Nazis consolidate power in Egypt

    I never cease to be amazed at how dense the foreign policy community is when it comes to Islamists like al Qaida, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. They continually underestimate their capabilities and refuse to accept their malevolence. The latest example is Egypt, where the ability of the military to hold power and halt the country's descent into hell has been overstated:
    Remember how the military junta was going to keep Egypt’s new Islamist president on a tight leash?
    Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s president, has dismissed the head of the armed forces and defence minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, according to the country’s state news agency…
    Yasser Ali, the presidential spokesperson, said in a news conference aired on state TV on Sunday, that Morsi appointed a new defence minister, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
    Tantawi headed the military council that ruled Egypt for 17 months after Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011…
    Al Jazeera’s correspondent, Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said the president’s spokesperson made the surprising announcement on state television.

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Faux-Microsoft phone scam

    General rule of thumb: Microsoft will not cold call you for any reason.

    This afternoon I got a call from a guy with an Indian accent. Identifying himself as "Michael," he told me that he was from Microsoft. According to "Michael," my computer had indicated to their servers that it had a bad virus that would cause it to shut down permanently in the next 2-3 days. "Michael" said they wanted to help me fix it.

    I'm no computer engineer, but I do generally know my way around a computer and computer software. So I practiced my litigation skills by asking "Michael" some questions, like, from where was he calling. He said Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA. I countered that if he was calling from Redmond, why did my caller ID say it was from "PAYPHONE" somewhere in Burbank, CA. He said that Microsoft's phone system was trunked there.

    Then I asked him how did "Michael" know my computer was infected. He responded by saying it had told their servers so. I told him that my computer does not talk to Microsoft servers. He insisted that it did, because that's how they know my IP address, or at least what he said was my IP address, which he proceeded to read off to me. I told him I have anti-viral software that has recorded no virus of any kind. He kinda grew desperate and pleaded that he was "trying to help" me.

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    An explosive combination in East Asia

    One of the very few places where the Obama administration seems to have gotten the policy largely right is in the Far East, where China is acting a lot like Japan circa 1937. The US has had success building a loose alliance of states -- Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam (yes, Vietnam!) and Indonesia, in addition to the usual Taiwan -- who are victims of Chinese bullying. And they need it, for things are continuing to get worse, as a detailed in a new report:
    The disputes between China and four of its Southeast Asian neighbors over claims in the South China Sea have become so intense, the prospect of open conflict is becoming more likely, an authoritative new report says.

    The disputes, enmeshed in the competition for energy resources, have reached an impasse, according to the report, by the International Crisis Group, a research organization that has become a leading authority on the frictions.
    “All of the trends are in the wrong direction, and prospects of resolution are diminishing,” said the report, titled “Stirring Up the South China Sea: Regional Responses.”
    The pessimistic conclusion came a day after China stepped up its political and military control of the Paracel and Spratly Islands, which both Vietnam and the Philippines claim, and the Macclesfield Bank, claimed by the Philippines. The islands are known in Chinese as Xisha, Nansha and Zhongsha.
    On Monday, the Philippine president, Benigno S. Aquino, III, announced plans to buy aircraft, including attack helicopters, that could be used in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China and the Philippines have competing claims there over the Scarborough Shoal and potentially energy-rich underwater ground around Reed Bank, among other areas.

    Fed up with the Taliban?

    As the Olympics begin and I get buried in my book, lotsa interesting stuff are happening around the globe.

    Via Hot Air, it seems that there are rumblings of Afghan exasperation with the Taliban:
    A series of “uprisings” by local tribes against the Taliban Islamist terror group in Afghanistan are beginning to spread throughout the country, a sign U.S. and allied efforts to stabilize the country are increasing, according to U.S. officials.
    The growing popular opposition began in May and has been detected taking root in eight provinces in the northeast and eastern parts of the country. It is being driven in part by Afghan nationalism and opposition to foreign terrorist support for the Taliban, an Islamist extremist group that took over the country in 1996 and backed the al Qaeda terror group in its attacks against the Untied States.
    The Taliban was ousted by the October 2001 U.S. invasion, but remains a potent insurgency that seeks to retake control in Kabul.
    Afghan President Hamid Karzai told state television July 17 that the popular uprisings were “of the people,” and a reaction to the Taliban’s “excessive cruelty, destroyed and burned schools, martyred young people and students, and harassed families.”
    The Taliban uses terror tactics to coerce local tribes and the population generally into supporting its insurgency and opposing U.S., allied and Afghan government forces. It is seeking to reestablish an Islamist state under Sharia law and has set up its own shadow-government system.

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    The politics of chicken

    I've been following the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A with considerable amusement. In case you missed it, Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain specializing in chicken, has for years been known as a right-wing Christian chain, so much so that its restaurants remain closed on Sundays in observance of the Sabbath. They have long opposed gay marriage. Now, they reiterate their opposition to gay marriage and for some reason leftists have their boxers in a bunch and are calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A. Worse, now the mayors of Boston and Chicago are threatening to bring the hammer of government down on Chick-fil-A.

    It's fun to enjoy the hypocrisy of leftists who scream "freedom of speech" whenever someone rips the United States or calls for horrible things to happen to conservatives but then tries to shut down any speech with which they disagree or that uses the same language that they do, as I know from personal experience. "Freedom of speech for me, but not for thee." It usually works, though, because conservatives usually cave.

    Let me be perfectly clear: Chick-fil-A's opposition to gay marriage is detestable and bigoted, based on an erroneous interpretation of the Bible that does not take into account historical context, an interpretation that is shared by many religions, unfortunately including my own ROMAN Catholic Church. Gay marriage hurts no one and makes gays happy. There is no rational reason to oppose it.

    That said, it's Chick-fil-A's right. Currently gay marriage is the subject of public debate, and the heads of Chick-fil-A have every right to take part in that debate. They should not be punished for asserting the rights that each and every one of us has to speak and engage in public debate, no matter how wrong speech is. Punishing them only chills and stifles public speech, but especialy at a time like this we need more speech, not less. Sure, you'll hear a lot of wrong things, a lot of crazy things, but you'll also hear a lot of good things, good things you would not hear if you tried to ban all the wrong and crazy things.

    Let Chick-fil-A say what they want, no matter how wrong it is. Do not boycott them. As much as I find their opposition to gay marriage reprehensible, I plan to pay them a visit and maybe get that Chicken Caesar Wrap and waffle fries. And, of course, a giant Diet Coke with free refills. I will disagree vehemently with what they say but I will stand with them to defend their right to say it.

    And I will even give them a tip to help their business: I think Iran might be a lucrative market for Chick-fil-A. After all, Iran is now facing a serious chicken crisis ...

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    The disappearing Aral Sea

    Little known fact to most of the world: due to environmental crimes by the old Soviet Union, the Aral Sea in Central Asia is disappearing. I've been aware of it only vaguely, but Columbia has an interesting report on the issue:
    The Aral Sea is situated in Central Asia, between the Southern part of Kazakhstan and Northern Uzbekistan. Up until the third quarter of the 20th century it was the world?s fourth largest saline lake, and contained 10grams of salt per liter. The two rivers that feed it are the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, respectively reaching the Sea through the South and the North. The Soviet government decided in the 1960s to divert those rivers so that they could irrigate the desert region surrounding the Sea in order to favor agriculture rather than supply the Aral Sea basin. The reason why we decided to explore the implications up to today of this human alteration of the environment is precisely that certain characteristics of the region, from its geography to its population growth, account for dramatic consequences since the canals have been dug. Those consequences range from unexpected climate feedbacks to public health issues, affecting the lives of millions of people in and out of the region.

    By establishing a program to promote agriculture and especially that of cotton, Soviet government led by Khrouchtchev in the 1950s deliberately deprived the Aral Sea of its two main sources of water income, which almost immediately led to less water arriving to the sea. Not only was all this water being diverted into canals at the expense of the Aral Sea supply, but the majority of it was being soaked up by the desert and blatantly wasted (between 25% and 75% of it, depending on the time period). The water level in the Aral Sea started drastically decreasing from the 1960s onward. In normal conditions, the Aral Sea gets approximately one fifth of its water supply through rainfall, while the rest is delivered to it by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Evaporation causes the water level to decrease by the same amount that flows into the Sea, making it sustainable as long as inflow is equal to evaporation on average. Therefore the diversion of rivers is at the origin of the imbalance that caused the sea to slowly desiccate over the last 4 decades.
    It's an interesting read, if you don't mind getting a bit technical as to, say, levels of salinity. Though, remember, the salinity levelis why Egypt, once the granary of the Roman Empire, can no longer even feed itself.

    And for those who, like, me, want pretty pictures, take a look at the dramatic satellite photos of the disappearance of the Aral Sea:

    (source: http://www.envis.maharashtra.gov)
    This is pretty amazing stuff here. Worth a read.

    Friday, July 20, 2012

    ABC's other crime of the day

    A lot of people are talking about how, in its rush to blame the Aurora, CO shooting at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises on the Tea Party, ABC News fingered the wrong guy. Despicable and indicative of media bias, to be sure. But that is, in my opinion, not ABC's only crime of the day.

    I went to see The Dark Knight Rises myself today. (Highly recommend it, by the way.) Before the trailers the movie theater was running its normal loop of Entertainment Tonight-type promotions fro upcoming musical releases and new TV series.

    The TV series featured today was one ABC is producing for this fall's season. It is called Last Resort.

    The plot is this: the skipper of a US Navy nuclear submarine, the Colorado, receives an order to launch nuclear missiles at three cities in Pakistan. He refuses, on the grounds of, as far as I can tell, inability to confirm the identity of the person issuing that order. What happens next is not clear, but the Colorado is fired on by another US submarine. The promo hints at some sort of nefarious conspiracy within the US government but outside the chain of command. The Colorado is forced to hide near a tropical island where the skipper threatens to use his nuclear missiles on the US if anyone else comes after them.

    Question: am I the only one who find this plot line for Last Resort tremendously offensive?

    The end game in Syria

    It looks as repeatedly knocking out the legs of the Assad regime in Damascus is finally having the effect of putting it on the edge, as Walter Russell Mead calls it. The latest leg to be broken:

    The killing on Wednesday of President Bashar al-Assad’s key security aides in a brazen bombing attack, close to Mr. Assad’s own residence, called into question the ability of a government that depends on an insular group of loyalists to function effectively as it battles a strengthening opposition.

    The strike dealt a potent blow to the government, as much for where it took place as for the individuals who were targeted: the very cabinet ministers and intelligence chiefs who have coordinated the government’s iron-fisted approach to the uprising. The defense minister and the president’s brother-in-law were both killed, and others were seriously wounded.
    The attack on the leadership’s inner sanctum as fighting raged in sections of the city for the fourth day suggested that the uprising had reached a decisive moment in the overall struggle for Syria. The battle for the capital, the center of Assad family power, appears to have begun. Though there was no indication he was wounded, Mr. Assad stayed out of public view — unusual but not unprecedented in a secretive country where the government has long tried to present an image of quiet control.
    In Washington, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that Syria “is rapidly spinning out of control,” and warned Mr. Assad’s government to safeguard its large stockpile of chemical weapons. “It’s obvious what is happening in Syria is a real escalation,” he said at a joint news conference with the British defense minister, Philip Hammond.
    Wait! Wha-What? Syria has chemical weapons? A large stockpile of them? I wonder where they came from.

    Maybe it's time we re-examine those mysterious convoys observed leaving Saddam Hussein's Iraq for Syria just before our 2003 invasion. But I digress ...

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    A question for Joe Paterno

    I must admit I feel betrayed. I probably have no right to, but I feel betrayed nonetheless.

    Last fall, when the Jerry Sandusky Scandal at Penn State was getting white hot and the sharks were circling anyone who was seen as helping to cover up the crimes of Sandusky, including Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz, President Graham Spanier and Head Coach Joe Paterno, I wrote a piece called In Defense of Joe Paterno.

    The post described my own experience with people who had been accused falsely of child molestation, whose lives had been ruined beyond repair by what in at least one case was a blatant falsehood combined with a zealotry that makes any such accusation a case of guilty until proven innocent. Honest people have to be very careful in dealing with such charges in order to investigate them properly and fully while making certain innocent people are not harmed by false allegations.

    While I offered no defense for the actions of Curley or Schultz, who are now facing criminal charges, I did offer some for Joe Paterno (hence, curiously enough, the title In Defense of Joe Paterno). My position was, basically, that he may have been a powerful football coach, but allegations of child molestation were not in his area of expertise. His taking an active role in an investigation of child molestation would be the proverbial bull in the china shop.

    And, based on the information available at that time, it looked like Paterno took no active role in the investigation.

    It was because of that post that I spent this past weekend reading the Freeh Report. I wanted to see if my giving the benefit of the doubt to Joe Paterno was right. If I was wrong, the only honest thing to do is to not ignore it or sweep it under the rug but to admit it publicly.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Reading the Qur'an in its historical context

    To me one of the most interesting facets about the Bible, in both its King (not LeBron) James and proper Catholic formats, is its historical context. The Vatican has always had an odd, almost contradictory dichotomy in its analysis of the Bible in that it works very, very hard to understand and analyze its historical context (we get historical discussions in Sunday homilies very frequently) -- and then works equally hard to ignore it (for instance, Biblical prohibition on homosexuality is likely rooted in pagan worship and the need to expand the Judeo-Christian population; prohibition of women priests likely due to secondary place of women in ancient society, changing of which Christ thought was putting too much on his plate for one time; and, again, the need to expand the Judeo-Christian population). But contrary to the ideas of atheists, understanding the historical and scientific context of the Bible does not disprove it, but for me at least only deepens belief in it. The Bible, like the Iliad, the Epic of Gilgamesh and many other legends, may distort, it may exaggerate, it may mislead, it may omit, it may gloss over, it may evade, but it does not lie. For pretty much everything you read in the Bible, you can be certain that there is at least some basis in fact.

    Now, some brave souls are trying to apply that same historical scholarship to the Qur'an. Peter Berger explains:
    The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) was founded in 1880 as an association of Biblical scholars with a Protestant theological commitment. Since then it has developed into the largest professional association concerned with Biblical and related studies; it is now strongly committed to a theologically neutral methodology of modern historical scholarship. The SBL has just received a grant of $140,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation for a three-year consultation, which is to plan for a professional association of Koranic studies. [Note: The announcement uses throughout the spelling Qur’an/Qur’anic, which is a closer transliteration of the Arabic original. Since this blog is a most unlikely candidate for the planned organization, I use here the more conventional English spelling.]
    John Kutsko, a professor of Biblical studies at Emory University and executive director of the SBL, will head this initiative. The announcement pointed to the unprecedented interest in Islam both in Western academia and in the broader public, which makes the establishment of the planned organization very timely. Kutsko emphasized that the SBL will not direct or determine the agenda of the consultation (or, by implication, of the organization to result from it); its role is to be that of facilitator. I have no doubt that this is a sincere intention. However, it is fair to assume that what the aim here is modern scholarship, though presumably traditional Islamic scholars may be part of the conversation. I don’t think that what the SBL or the Luce Foundation wants to support is, say, the methodology of a fundamentalist madrassah in Pakistan. In its self-description the SBL says that it is “devoted to the critical investigation of the Bible”. A co-director of the consultation says that it would, among other things, seek to approach the Koran in the context in which the text arose, “as an historical, literary and religious text.” “Critical”, “context”, “historical” – these are words, used in connection with the Koran, that could get you killed in many parts of the Muslim world. But let me leave aside for the moment the question of the likelihood that such an approach could get a hearing among traditional Muslims. Rather I will ask a different question:  Given the core affirmations of Islamic faith, is this approach religiously plausible for believing Muslims? It goes without saying that only Muslims can decide what they can or cannot believe; a non-Muslim can be a historian of Islam, he cannot be an Islamic theologian. However, a sympathetic outsider can ask a question that does not presuppose belief: Are there intellectual resources for such an approach within the Muslim tradition?
    A short answer to this question is yes. This answer, though, needs to be explicated.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    Hong Kong realizes China is no friend

    Now, who did not see this coming?
    Just hours after Chinese President Hu Jintao swore-in Leung Chun-ying as Hong Kong’s new chief executive, tens of thousands of residents took to the streets on the 15thanniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule. Whether you believe the organizers, who claimed there were 400,000 marchers in the scorching heat, or the police, who estimated the crowd at 63,000 at its peak, the turnout for the annual demonstration was the biggest in eight years, much higher than expected. Protestors wanted Leung, in office just hours, to resign.
     
    That’s a bad sign for the territory’s new leader. “This is a political crisis for Leung,” said Ivan Choy of Chinese University in Hong Kong to the South China Morning Post. “I don’t see anywhere else in the world where so many have taken to the street on the first day a government comes into office.” A banner headline in the Chinese-language Apple Daily News blared, “Leung Chun-ying Becomes a Lame Duck.”
    Opinion polling conducted by Hong Kong University on the eve of his inauguration put Leung’s popularity at 51.5 percent, down 4.2 percent from the previous month. Almost 40 percent said they did not trust the Hong Kong government.

    Barbarians destroying historic treasures in Timbuktu

    Barbarians. There is no other way to describe Islamists who want to force adherence to Shar'ia law like the Taliban, al Qaida or, now, Ansar Dine:
    In the ongoing struggle between northern Mali’s secessionist Taureg fighters and a local Islamic jihadist group, Ansar Dine, the Islamists claim to have driven all remaining rebels from a third and final large town in the region. If the reports are accurate it would complete their control over a lawless area that may serve as a stronghold for al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the Maghreb.
    Strengthened by the return of experienced and well-armed Tuareg soldiers hired by Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi, the secessionists worked with Asnar Dine in January to beat back the feeble Malian national forces. Their alliance, however, was superficial – divided by fundamental tribal and religious differences, it took only a few weeks before the two groups violently turned on each other.
    [...]
    The Islamists, meanwhile, are celebrating their win by taking a leaf out of the Taliban’s Afghan playbook. Just as the Taliban destroyed ancient Buddhist sculptures in Afghanistan, the Ansar is going after the memorials and tombs of Sufi saints and other world heritage buildings in Timbuktu.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    It's the 4th of July

    And my Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place.

    It's time for the old scoreboard video known simply as "The Train:"



    The last time my Pittsburgh Pirates were good was in 1990-1992, when, I swear, I was the only Pirate fan on the Ohio State campus.

    That was just about the last time the Pirates used the Train, which the crowds always loved. They just brought the Train back. We just got good again. Coincidence? I think not.

    Friday, June 29, 2012

    A taste of Adrianople

    While we're all sweltering in 100-degree temperatures during this heat wave, just imagine doing the following in this heat ...

    Waking up in the predawn darkness in your tent.

    Having your breakfast by a fire.

    Marching for the next 8 hours.

    Without a break, even for lunch.

    In full chain or scale armor and helmets.

    And leggings.

    Carrying your shield, spear and big sword.

    All in this heat.

    Then, after all that, you have to fight a battle in which you're outnumbered.

    In this heat.

    Now you have some idea of the plight of the poor Roman soldiers at the Battle of Adrianople in AD 378.

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    Even God hates the Miami Heat

    Last week, the Miami Heat (aka the al Qaida of the NBA), who were assembled via dishonesty, arrogance, tampering and collusion in violation of NBA rules, won the NBA title.

    This week, Miami is being belted by a hurricane.

    Do the math.

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    Hey, kids! Wanna kill somebody?

    Then the US Supreme Court has good news for you! If you're convicted of murder, not only can you not be given the death penalty, you can't even be given life in prison without parole:
    Extending its ever-evolving, and ever less coherent, Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, the Supreme Court ruled today, by a 5-4 vote in Miller v. Alabama, that it is unconstitutional to establish a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for any category of murder committed by a person younger than 18 (otherwise known, if only in this context, as a “juvenile”). The Court’s ruling—majority opinion by Justice Kagan, joined by Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor—invalidated contrary aspects of sentencing regimes established by 28 States and the federal government.
    The majority declined to address the argument that the Eighth Amendment requires a categorical bar on the discretionary imposition on a juvenile of life without parole, but it volunteered that “appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty” (the death penalty already having been categorically deemed off limits) “will be uncommon.”
    The emphasis is in Ed Whelan's original, but that distinction will not stand. Just watch. With Miller, SCOTUS continues down its road from the 8th Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment to the 8th Amendment prohibiting any punishment. Justice Alito's dissent is epic:

    A logic puzzle with no solution?

    Remember those old logic puzzles? Where you're, like, given the characteristics of four people and left to determine which of them did what? Usually you have to use a logic grid to solve it? Well, courtesy of Brad Plumer at the Washington Post and Walter Russell Mead, we now have a logic puzzle that describes the mess in the Euro Zone:


    I suppose the question is, does this logic puzzle even have a solution?

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    Too stupid for democracy?

    There is an old saying about the Communist version of democracy: one man, one vote, one time.

    I could not help but think about that saying when I read about the dissolution of the Egyptian parliament last week. The wailing and gnashing of gums was prevalent: a setback for democracy, a return to oppression.

    Except the choice in Egypt seems to be oppression and ... oppression. Either oppression by the secular Egyptian military or oppression by the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Barry Rubin is on it:
    The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court has just invalidated the parliamentary election there. The parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, is being dissolved. The military junta has taken over total authority. The presidential election is still scheduled for a few dozen hours from now.
    In short, everything is confused and everything is a mess. All calculations are thrown to the wind. What this appears to be is a new military coup. What is the underlying theme? The armed forces concluded that an Islamist takeover was so dangerous for Egypt and for its own interests that it is better to risk civil war, a bloodbath, and tremendous unpopularity than to remain passive and turn over power. I believe this decision was made very reluctantly and not out of some lust for power by the generals. They have decided that they had no choice.
    Agreed. Fortunately there have been no rumblings of a civil war yet, but better a civil war than the Muslim Brotherhood in power.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    An idea whose time is never

    The latest brilliant idea out of downtown Indianapolis: privatizing the City-County Building:
    It's now apparent that there is no city asset that is so sacred as to not be within the grasp of Mayor Greg Ballard's political cronies to turn into a profit center. The IBJ's Kathleen McLaughlin has a story in today's edition discussing the Ballard administration's plan to privatize the City-County Building, which is currently owned by a municipal corporation, the Indianapolis-Marion County Building Authority, and leased to city-county government for $4.85 million annually, or about $7.29 per square foot, which includes unlimited utilities. The Authority floated bonds to construct the original 28-story building in 1959 for $32 million.

    According to a Request for Information put out by the City, the administration thinks it would be better for it to exercise its option to assume ownership of the building at the end of its current 10-year lease with the Authority and then privatize it rather than continuing to make low lease payments to the Authority. The administration is hoping to shift cost of future repairs to the building to a third party without increasing the city's overall costs. Anyone with common sense knows that it's impossible to turn control of the building over to a private entity, expect that private entity to make necessary repairs to a 50-year old building and lease it back to the city for no more than the paltry $7.29 per square foot the City is now paying the Authority to use the space. The City is even anticipating an upfront payment from a private real estate manager as part of the deal to spend on infrastructure improvements. Apparently the City wants us to believe it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Let's not go banning any unions just yet (or "When is a stimulus not a stimulus?")

    The always-insightful Mickey Kaus sees one common denominator in the reasons why the stimulus package failed:
    1) The “shovel ready” jobs weren’t shovel ready (as Obama himself has admitted), leading to a delay in the stimulating effect;
    2) The money to save the jobs of  “firemen … and policemen … and … teachers” did not just go to firefighters and policemen and teachers. It also went to non-essential bureaucrats (e.g., headquarters paper shufflers, “diversity coordinators”);
    3) The money bailed out states that were paying unsustainable pensions and benefits, enabling them to keep paying those benefits, so that when the federal subsidy ran out the states couldn’t afford to keep workers on the payroll and laid them off. (Wisconsin, by cutting back on benefits and collective bargaining, could afford to avoid big layoffs, says Morrissey).
    Note that these criticisms apply even if you think countercyclical Keynesian spending helps (as I do) and that public jobs are a good way to do that (ditto). None of the objections would have applied to a Roosevelt-style WPA that immediately put the unemployed to work on useful construction jobs. They’re criticisms of BHO, not FDR. …

    P.S.: It would be reductive and predictable for me to point out that all three of these Obama-era problems have a single cause: public employee unions[.]
    Let me start by admitting something that many will find unforgivable: I supported the stimulus. I supported the federal government borrowing close to $1 trillion to try to jump start the economy. And even though Obama said it was going to go to “shovel-ready” projects like road construction, I knew at least some of that money was going to go to “rent-seekers” and political supporters of Obama. And I didn’t care. Why? Because even if some of the money was siphoned off to political allies (and at least some is in just about every federal appropriation, no matter the party in charge), it was still going into the economy. One way or another, it was going to be spent. And that would help the economy.

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Rising Sun, Falling Skies

    It is my pleasure to be able to announce that a long-time dream of mine is coming true.

    Japanese naval flag. From Wikipedia/David Newton.
    In Summer 2013, my first book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II will be published by Osprey Publishing, Ltd. of England. The book will cover the heroic efforts of US naval forces trapped and isolated in the Far East after Pearl Harbor, who joined with British, Dutch and Australians in a desperate effort to halt the overwhelming Japanese onslaught. The campaign started badly with the Japanese destroying US aircraft on the ground in the Philippines and sinking the British battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse and ended even worse with the disastrous Allied defeat in the Battle of the Java Sea that led to the Japanese conquest of the oil-rich Netherlands East Indies, what is today Indonesia, and the achievement of the Japanese objectives in going to war.

    In the middle, American, British, Dutch and Australian fighting men were done in by factors almost too numerous to list: ambivalent leaders, incompetent generals, indefensible positions, old, worn-out ships; almost no air support, badly outnumbered fighting men, outclassed and outnumbered aircraft, no hope for reinforcement, no hope even for replacements, no chance to rest, no chance to maintain their equipment, constantly low on supplies, especially oil and munitions; poor communications and bickering governments. In the face of these crushing odds, the only hope the Allied forces had was to delay the Japanese, buy time for the new warships and aircraft under construction in US shipyards and factories to enter the war. Every day counted. This was a modern-day Thermopylae, with a stand every bit as heroic, every bit as desperate, every bit as memorable as Leonidas and his 300 Spartans.

    Rising Sun, Falling Skies will take more American perspective on the naval campaign, including the efforts of the cruisers Houston and Marblehead, our submarines and ancient-but-game "four piper" destroyers, both crippled by criminally defective torpedoes; the desperation that doomed the USS Langley and the hunted Patrol Wing Ten, who performed reconnaissance work that was borderline suicide. But our faithful and equally heroic allies will receive their due as well: the last stands of the British cruiser Exeter and the Australian cruiser Perth, the little-known British repulse of a Japanese invasion force an hour before Pearl Harbor, and the mountains of unfair abuse heaped on the gallant, humane Dutch commander Karel Doorman, who went down with his ship in the Battle of the Java Sea.

    The Japanese, too, will come in for examination. Their navy was a bizarre contradiction of very modern, very powerful ships with capable officers that achieved victory using a doctrine rejected by their own superiors and tactics that did not work. They would succeed in a conquest so vast, so complete that it would rival the German blitzkrieg, but would also sow the seeds for their own defeat in the war.

    Rising Sun, Falling Skies has literally been 30 years in the making. All the books, reports and other materials I've acquired and reviewed over the years have been to this end. I first came across Osprey Publishing working on my article on the Battle of Adrianople, when I reviewed quite a few of their works in piecing the battle together. I am ecstatic not only that my dream of writing a book on the Battle of the Java Sea is coming true, but that in doing so I am working with a publisher that is highly skilled and very well respected in producing quality works of military history.

    Thursday, June 7, 2012

    Shattered Sword

    My day job kept me from celebrating the 70th Annoversary of the Battle of Midway and the 68th Anniversary of D-Day with y'all, but I certainly did not forget, either. Midway and Longest Day have sacred places on my DVD shelf, along with Tora Tora Tora! and A Bridge Too Far.

    I must repeat, however, that while there are many, many books on the Battle of Midway, there is but one that I consider to be the "Bible" of the Battle of Midway: Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully, two of the people behind The Imperial Japanese Navy Page. Has a sacred spot in my ever-growing library. The best book on the Battle of Midway, one of the best books on World War II and one of the best military history books ever. Just chock full of information.

    If you want to learn everything about Midway, check it out.

    The gift that keeps on giving

    In the history of Egypt, no one -- not the Hyksos, not the Hittites, not the "Sea Peoples," not the Achaemenid Persians, not the Macedonians, not the Romans, not the Muslim caliphates, not the Ottomans, not the British -- have done more damage to the country than Gamal abd al-Nasser. Once the granary of the Roman Empire, the country's ability to feed even just itself was destroyed by Nasser's construction of the Aswan High Dam on the upper Nile.

    But the damage was more than just physical. As Michael J. Totten notes:
    Egypt used to be a much more liberal place than it is now. That era was ended by Nasser. History has no rewind button. Post-Nasserism will not restore the status quo ante. Political liberalism may well be in the country’s future, but Egypt will first have to pass through an era of Islamism. It may not be Iranian-style Islamism, but Cairo ain’t Prague.
    He links to an article in Al-Ahram Weekly that gets into just how bad the situation is in Egypt for classical liberals:

    I can sympathize

    The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the NBA Finals with a great crop of young talent led by the classy Kevin Durant, and the basketball fans of Seattle are not happy:

    The Oklahoma City Thunder reached the NBA Finals on Wednesday night.
    The city of Seattle feels cheated.
    Following the 2007-08 season, the Seattle Supersonics controversially relocated to Oklahoma City and rebranded the franchise as the “Thunder”.
    Sonics fans have been angry and in denial ever since, bouncing back and forth between the first two stages of grief. The loss of their beloved franchise is going to take years to overcome.
    Oklahoma City defeated the San Antonio Spurs 107-99, coming back from a 2-0 series deficit and winning four straight games. Seeing the Thunder reach the Finals with Kevin Durant (a player they drafted) stings more than most fans can imagine.
    Oh, I can imagine. All Cleveland Browns fans can imagine.

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Has Amelia Earhart been found?

    An older but always interesting story resurfaced over the weekend: the final fate of the legendary pilot Amelia Earhart:
    For decades, pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart was said to have “disappeared” over the Pacific on her quest to circle the globe along a 29,000-mile equatorial route.

    Now, new information gives a clearer picture of what happened 75 years ago to Ms. Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, where they came down and how they likely survived – for a while, at least – as castaways on a remote island, catching rainwater and eating fish, shellfish, and turtles to survive.
    The tale hints at lost opportunities to locate and rescue the pair in the first crucial days after they went down, vital information dismissed as inconsequential or a hoax, the failure to connect important dots regarding physical evidence.

    The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, reported new details Friday leading researchers to this conclusion: Earhart and Noonan, low on fuel and unable to find their next scheduled stopping point – Howland Island – radioed their position, then landed on a reef at uninhabited Gardner Island, a small coral atoll now known as Nikumaroro Island.
    Using what fuel remained to turn up the engines to recharge the batteries, they continued to radio distress signals for several days until Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed Electra aircraft was swept off the reef by rising tides and surf. Using equipment not available in 1937 – digitized information management systems, antenna modeling software, and radio wave propagation analysis programs, TIGHAR concluded that 57 of the 120 signals reported at the time are credible, triangulating Earhart’s position to have been Nikumaroro Island.

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    If you want to learn how to alienate an ally, Part 2

    Insulting our ally Poland by referring to the Nazi death camps as "Polish death camps" apparently was not enough for Obama:
    Lech Walesa was once a trade-union activist. He was often arrested for speaking his mind against Communist oppression behind the Iron Curtain in Poland and for defying the Soviet Union. He was an electrician who, with no higher education, led one of the most profound freedom movements of the 20th century — Solidarity. He became president of Poland and swept in reforms, pushing the Soviet Union out of his homeland and moving the country toward a free-market economy and individual liberty. And President Obama doesn’t want him to set foot in the White House.
    According to the Wall Street Journal, Polish officials requested that Walesa accept the Medal of Freedom on behalf of Jan Karski, a member of the Polish Underground during World War II who was being honored posthumously this week. The request makes sense. Walesa and Karski shared a burning desire to rid Poland of tyrannical subjugation. But President Obama said no.
    Administration officials told the Journal that Walesa is too “political.” A man who was arrested by Soviet officials for dissenting against the government for being “political” is being shunned by the United States of America for the same reason 30 years later.

    Thursday, May 31, 2012

    If you want to learn how to alienate an ally

    look no further than Obama's treatment of Poland. ABC's Jake Tapper gives the details of Obama's latest insult to our most loyal Eastern European ally:

    Poles and Polish-Americans expressed outrage today at President Obama’s reference earlier to “a Polish death camp” — as opposed to a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland.
    “The White House will apologize for this outrageous error,” Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted.  Sikorski said that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk “will make a statement in the morning. It’s a pity that this important ceremony was upstaged by ignorance and incompetence.”
    "Ignorance and incompetence" sounds like the general theme of the Obama administration.
    The president had been trying to honor a famous Pole, awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter who sneaked behind enemy lines to bear witness to the atrocities being committed against Jews. President Obama referred to him being smuggled “into the Warsaw ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.”
    Sikorski also tonight tweeted a link to an Economist story noting that “few things annoy Poles more than being blamed for the crimes committed by the Nazi occupiers of their homeland. For many years, Polish media, diplomats and politicians have tried to persuade outsiders to stop using the phrase ‘Polish death camps’ as a shorthand description of Auschwitz and other exemplars of Nazi brutality and mass murder. Unfortunately this seems to have escaped Barack Obama’s staff seem not to have noticed this.”
    National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement, “The President was referring to Nazi death camps operated in Poland. The President has demonstrated in word and deed his rock-solid commitment to our close alliance with Poland.”
    Oh, really? Nile Gardiner of the Telegraph gives part of the long list of Obama insults to Poland:

    A totally expected surprise from the Muslim Brotherhood

    Come now. Who (besides Obama and his brilliant foreign policy advisors) did not see this coming?
    According to the popular Egyptian website, El Bashayer, Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, just declared that he will "achieve the Islamic conquest (fath) of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya," the additional Islamic tax, or financial tribute, required of non-Muslims, or financial tribute.
    In a brief report written by Samuel al-Ashay and published by El Bashayer on May 27, Morsi allegedly made these comments while speaking with a journalist at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, adding "We will not allow Ahmed Shafiq [his contending presidential candidate] or anyone else to impede our second Islamic conquest of Egypt."
    After his interviewer pointed out that the first Muslim conquest of Egypt was "carried out at the hands of Amr bin al-As [in 641]," he asked Morsi, "Who will the second Islamic conqueror be?" Morsi, replied, "The second Muslim conqueror will be Muhammad Morsi," referring to himself, "and history will record it."

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Winning friends and influencing people -- the Chinese way

    The communists in Beijing are following the "Like a good neighbor, China is there" policy:
    If there were ever any doubts about China's aggressive military intentions in the Pacific, its warning to Australia last week to choose itself a U.S. or Chinese "godfather" ought to remove all of them.
    In what can only be construed as a direct threat to a top U.S. ally, Song Xiaojun, a "retired" Chinese general, told the Sydney Morning Herald that "Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later."
    "Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the 'son' of the U.S. or 'son' of China," Song said, adding that Australia had best choose China because it all "depends on who is more powerful and based on the strategic environment."
    The Chinese statement — which implied Australia is so weak it can't make its own decisions — is false, arrogant and insulting. But above all, it's an effort to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Australia. And it isn't the first time.
    Just as Song was implying that China's trading relationship with Australia would now be used as leverage, China's foreign minister told Australia's foreign minister in Beijing that "the time for Cold War alliances has ended."
    At the heart of this crude threat is China's fury over the 61-year-old U.S.-Australia alliance and a renewed U.S. effort to focus its naval strength on the Asia-Pacific region to counter a Chinese military buildup that is unsettling the nations of the Pacific Rim.

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Our "friends" in Pakistan strike again

    A doctor who helped the US locate Usama bin Laden has been convicted of treason by a Pakistani court:
    A Pakistani court imposed a 33-year sentence Wednesday on a doctor who assisted the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, prompting dismay among U.S. officials and warnings that the punishment will exacerbate strained relations and could lead to cuts in aid.
    Shakil Afridi, 48, a government surgeon in the semiautonomous Khyber Agency along the border with Afghanistan, was convicted of treason for using a vaccination drive to try to gather DNA samples from the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was in hiding.

    Afridi failed to obtain the samples and didn’t know the target of the program, but U.S. officials said he nonetheless contributed to an intelligence operation that culminated in the May 2, 2011, killing of bin Laden by a Navy SEAL team.
    U.S. officials depicted Afridi as a patriot and said his actions saved both Pakistani and American lives. But in Pakistan, where the U.S. incursion deep into the country led to national hand-wringing and anger, Afridi was widely excoriated as a traitor.
    The CIA declined to comment Wednesday on Afridi’s sentence. But a senior U.S. official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations in Pakistan said the surgeon “was never asked to spy on Pakistan.”

    Oh, sure, NOW they want our help ...

    After years of denouncing the West, making nicey-nicey with the mullahs of Iran and threatening Israel, Turkey's Islamist government now wants our help: An unnamed senior Turkish official claimed that Turkey plans to invoke Article V of the NATO Charter if it is attacked by Syria.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    The mullahs are not going to voluntarily give up their nukes

    The Week asks "Is Iran finally backing down?"
    The top United Nations nuclear watchdog said Tuesday that Iran had tentatively agreed to allow international inspections of sites believed to be connected to nuclear weapons research. The potentially significant breakthrough, on the eve of the opening of new Iran nuclear negotiations being held in Baghdad, come after the U.S. and Europe imposed harsh sanctions aimed at drying up income from oil sales that Tehran desperately needs. Is this a sign that the increased pressure is causing the Iranian regime to buckle?

    In a word, no. As The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg explains:
    What does this mean? It means that Iran has found an easy way to create the appearance of progress so that it may pursue its main goal of the moment, which is to forestall an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities by convincing President Obama and other Western leaders that it is serious about compromise. If Obama and other leaders are convinced they are making genuine progress with Iran, the pressure on Israel to postpone military action will become overwhelming. When Iran agrees to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, or agrees to shutter its centrifuge facility near Qom, that's when you can start paying attention.
    Goldberg hits the nail on the head here. Unfortunately, he hits his thumb with this next paragraph:

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    America can't survive with a foreign policy record like this

    Obama has had some successes on the foreign policy front. I mean, some successes that actually benefit the US instead of another crappy, idiotic global warming climate change treaty. He did take out Usama bin Laden, although apparently he and his incompetent Rasputin, Valerie Jarrett, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do it. And the East Asia desk at the State Department has been working overtime and coming up with some major accomplishments, including a budding alliance against a belligerent China and somehow getting a dissident out of that country.

    But on the whole? Obama’s foreign policy has been disastrous. Jed Babbin at American Spectator gives the sickening rundown in an essay appropriately titled “Losing the World to Win Reelection”:
    The greatest irony of the year is that Obama is touted as a master of national security and foreign policy. Yes, an operation he approved killed bin Laden. But the only other evidence of that mastery is the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 2009, apparently in anticipation of his great deeds. His record is, simply, appalling.
    Remember Honduras? In 2009, after the Honduran supreme court removed dictator wannabe Manuel Zelaya, who was constitutionally precluded from succeeding himself, the Obama administration labeled it a "coup d'├ętat" and refused to stand behind the democratic temporary government. (Zelaya's successor was later chosen in a national election.)

    Damned if we do, damned if we don't, damned whatever we do or don't

    Victor Davis Hanson, in another must-read column, asks, "Can we still win wars?" It is another discussion (if far more eloquent than I or most others could do) of the irresistible force of American military power versus the movable object of American political will. The professor gives some historical interpretation that may surprise quite a few but is nevertheless very accurate. He then gives a hard, very obvious, very unpleasant truth about the Middle East:
    Remember, there is also an ironclad law about the Middle East, one we keep forgetting: Arab intellectuals (many of them educated or residing in Western universities) hate the U.S. for backing dictators; they hate the U.S. for intervening to remove them; they hate the U.S. for trying to impose postbellum democracy upon them; and they hate the U.S. for staying clear and letting Arabs be Arabs on their own.
    Re-read that paragraph. Multiple times. Memorize it. Any time there is a story involving US policy in the Middle East, remember it. Apply it.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Cascading Failure: The Roman Disaster at Adrianople AD 378

    After an incredible amount of work, my latest history article Cascading Failure: The Roman Disaster at Adrianople AD 378 is finally up at Military History Online. The gist of the piece is that a failure cascade led to the Roman defeat; hence the title. That cascade can be arranged as follows:
    1. The erroneous estimate of the Gothic forces led to …
    2. The Roman decision to force march their troops to the Gothic horde’s location, which …
    3. Left the Roman troops thirsty, hungry and tired once they arrived at the battlefield, which …
    4. Caused the Emperor Valens to agree to delay the start of hostilities by negotiating with the Gothic Chieftain Fritigern, which …
    5. Caused Valens to summon his senior officers to assist with the negotiations, which …
    6. Left the fighting troops without senior leadership immediately available, which …
    7. Allowed the right wing Roman cavalry, operating without senior officers, to “attack” before the Romans were ready for battle and while Valens was even negotiating a truce with no intention of attacking, which …
    8. Caused the Roman defeat.
    It's a very long piece, some of which is background on Roman politics and military organization in the late Empire, but the vast majority of which is focused on a close examination of the critical factors in this decisive battle of Western history.
    1. The decision to attack;
    2. The march to the battlefield;
    3. The whereabouts of the senior officers; and
    4. The “attack” of the right wing cavalry.
    Like I said, it's very long, but I certainly enjoyed writing it. If you like Roman or ancient history, or even just want to learn more about it, check it out.