Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The poison pill of social conservatism

I haven’t said much about the primary campaign for the Republican nomination for POTUS.  Not because I haven’t paid attention to it, but because there has been little for me to say.  Unless the GOP runs a completely insane moron like Ron Paul, I will vote for the GOP candidate over Barack Obama.  As a general rule, I don’t think any of the existing GOP candidates, again except for Ron Paul, are evil or destructive to the point where they can’t be trusted with running the country.  That doesn’t mean the Republican candidates are beyond objection.  In fact, there is plenty to which to object in every one of them.  This election is too important to make the perfect the enemy of the good.  We can’t afford another four years of Obama.

But now the GOP is down to three presidential candidates – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.  (I don’t count Ron Paul., because 1. he’s unelectable and B. if he is the GOP candidate, the GOP will have ceased to exist as a political party.)  And so the objections of the GOP faithful will become less important and the objections of the great political middle will become more important.

Which brings me to “social conservatism.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

New additions to the library

The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies, by Alan Taylor; and
Mr. and Mrs. Madison's War: America's First Couple and the Second War of Independence, by Hugh Howard.

My understanding of the War of 1812 is a bit soft.  I hope these new acquisitions will help fill that gap in my knowledge.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fatal Crossroads

On December 17, 1944, a convoy of unarmored trucks carrying Battery B of the US Army's 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion left Schevenhütte, Germany, near the dark and foreboding Hürtgen Forest that had been the focal point of such vicious combat, for Luxembourg and what was hoped would be some easier duty.

Most of them would never arrive.  In the Ardennes, just south of Malmédy, Belgium, at a crossroads called Baugnez, the column fell foul of the spearhead of the German offensive that would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.  By the end of the day, some eighty US soldiers would be dead, having surrendered to the improvised German task force known as Kampfgrüppe Peiper, and, unarmed and herded into a field, subsequently murdered by troops of the Waffen SS.  It was at least the second such massacre of Western Allied troops by the Waffen SS, the first being the murder of some 80 British POWs near Dunkerque (Dunkirk), France, in 1940.  This was also the only such large-scale massacre of American troops by the Germans in World War II.

The Malmédy Massacre, as this incident has become known, is the subject of a new book by Danny S. Parker called Fatal Crossroads: The Untold Story of the Malmédy Massacre at the Battle of the Bulge.  I discussed the book in passing earlier and highly recommended it.  Now I want to give some meat to that recommendation.

Kampfgrüppe Peiper was a group of elements of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, (the same unit that commited the 1940 massacre, with the same commanding officer, Wilhelm Mohnke) under the command of SS Lt. Col. (Obersturmbannführer) Joachim ("Jochen") Peiper.  In this desperate, stupidly-conceived and poorly-planned German offensive, Peiper's orders were simple: get to the Meuse River with one tank.  As fast as possible. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bye bye, Buddhas

Another reason why the Taliban should be treated as the barbaric bastards that they are:
Ten years ago, the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Taliban while the world watched.  These enormous statues had survived 1,500 years only to be blasted by dynamite.  When the face on one of the buddhas stubbornly clung to the cliffside despite the blasts, the Taliban shot it off with rockets.
The international community begged for the Taliban to not destroy the statues.  Other countries volunteered to care for the giant sculptures.  The pleas went unanswered.  One month after an announcement that they would be destroyed, they were.
It is said that the destruction was not only about “false idols” in the Islam faith (after all, they’d survived many centuries in this region), but instead was a response to the international community’s refusal to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.  There were also economic sanctions that had been imposed which were disfavored.

Don't get me started

on Obama's speech last night.  Didn't watch it.  Read the transcript.  Same old crap.  Calvin Woodard of, surprisingly, the Associated Press, did a pretty decent takedown (h/t: Wizbang).

Let me be perfectly clear.  By no means is Obama wrong about everything.  I think reasonable minds can disagree on ObamaCare, though the way it was passed through Congress was contemptible.  I think reasonable minds can disagree on new banking regs.  I myself hate US companies moving jobs overseas just because Pakistanis, for intance, will work for less money and under more unpleasant working conditions than Americans.  And Obama did take out Usama bin Laden, which many Democrats and even some self-styled Republicans (I'm looking at you, Ron Paul) would not have done.  And though I disagree vehemently with Justice Elena Kagan's politics, I think her intellect and temperament will make her a good addition to SCOTUS.

But in terms of defense and foreign policy, the raison d'etre of the federal government, and in environmental policy, which has become increasingly irrational and even malevolent, Obama has been an utter disaster (see, e.g., Iran and the Keystone XL pipeline, respectively).  Plus, two words: Eric Holder.  Two more: Timothy Geithner.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Representative Gabrielle Giffords is stepping down.

Her retirement is understandable, but, still, this is sad on so many levels.  A very good representative, a very good person, giving her all for her constituents.  And she gets cut down by a nut case.  The US government in general and Congress in particular will be worse for the loss of Representative Giffords.

It does highlight the dangerous situation in which our country finds itself.  Elected officials, regardless of political affiliation, should not be physically attacked or threatened because of their political positions.  We have elections to change policies.  That's what civilized countries do.  Physically harming or even just threatening a legislator because of their policies is absolutely unacceptable, and is a bad sign for the deterioration of public institutions.

Godspeed, Representative Giffords.  Can't say I agreed with you, but you didn't deserve this.  May you be restored to full health in short order.

Monday, January 23, 2012


to the family of Joe Paterno, and all his fans at Penn State and elsewhere.  My father had a theory for years that the reason Paterno did not retire was because his wife would not let him, fearing that without football he would quickly pass on like Bear Bryant did.  I can't say if that happened here, but there do seem to be parallels.

Paterno certainly made some mistakes (some larger than others), but at heart he was a good man who demonstrably cared for his players and his university.  The world has lost a good man.  May God be with him and his family during this time of sadness.

Penguin Awareness Day

Hat Tip to Ace of Spades; I can't believe I missed this:
Penguin Awareness Day: Always January 20
World Penguin Day: Always April 25th

About Penguin Awareness Day, and World Penguin Day:
Penguin Awareness Day, and World Penguin Day are great opportunities to learn about and appreciate one of the few natives of Antarctica. On these days, spend a little time learning about them.... a pictorial book or internet site is fun. You can also watch a documentary of these cute and popular, grounded birds.
These days are also a time to wear black and white---penguin colors. However, wearing a tuxedo in their honor is optional. It is also popular today to tell a penguin joke or two.
Leave it to Ace of Spades to dig up a great penguin picture:

Pretty much all penguins are amazing and wonderful creatures.  But, by now, everyone should know the penguin that matters most, on whom all of Western Civilization depends for its survival:

I hope you like long ... -ish

I just turned in "Cascading Failure: The Roman Disaster at Adrianople AD 378" for the first round of editing.  It's a long 'un, but I think it will be well worth the read.

Friday, January 20, 2012

More Pantheon party

Until Adrianople is done, how 'bout enjoying some more of the amazing ongoing party at the Pantheon:

From March 2011, my own photograph of the amazingness that is the Pantheon and the fun atmosphere in the Piazza Rotunda.

Light posting for the weekend

I've finished Fatal Crossroads and will review it soon, but right now I am in my final push to get the final cite checks for Adrianople article done and get the piece off for two rounds of editing before it's posted.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blame my light posting on Kampfgruppe Peiper

Work has gotten in the way a bit but I also can NOT put down, to blog or even to complete Adrianople, the book Fatal Crossroads: The Untold Story of the Malmedy Massacre at the Battle of the Bulge, by Danny S. Parker.  I'll give a full review of it later, but for now I will just say that Parker has created a military history investigative masterpiece along the lines of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, by Jonathan Parshall and Tony Tully; The Battle of  Surigao Strait, also by Tully; and Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg, by Timothy B. Smith.  Part World War II, part true crime, part detective work, part archaeology.  If you are interested in World War II and especially the war in Europe, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More on the Major Maritime Mishap in the Mediterranean (or "Andrea Doria II")

Since my first post on the unfortunate Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia, there have been some new developments:

First, the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, seems to be a real piece o' work.  He was among the first to abandon ship, in the process abandoning the passengers and crew who depended on him.  He was seen leaving the ship early in the crisis:
Maritime authorities, passengers and mounting evidence pointed Sunday toward the captain of a cruise liner that ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan coast, amid accusations that he abandoned ship before everyone was safely evacuated and was showing off when he steered the vessel far too close to shore.

My latest appearance

on Civil Discourse Now is here.  This week's episode features co-hosts Mark Small and Paul Ogden, along with guests labor lawyer William Groth and myself.  We discuss the so-called "Right to Work" legislation, which is coming up in the Indiana General Assembly.  In light of my history, you might be surprised that I actually oppose "Right to Work."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Major maritime mishap in the Mediterranean.

The Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground on a sand bar near the island of Giglio, off Italy's Tuscan coast, in one of the most dramatic accidents on the sea in recent memory.  Wizbang suspects the cause was "some sort of serious lapse in navigational competence."  And, indeed, the investigations have already begun:
Italian authorities are holding the captain of a 3,200-passenger cruise ship that ran aground and tipped over late Friday, killing at least three people, injuring 30 and leaving up to 40 others still missing. Survivors, meanwhile, described a chaotic evacuation as plates and glasses crashed, and they crawled along upended hallways trying to reach safety.
Several media outlets citing Italian television reported that two survivors had been found inside the ship and firefighters were working early Sunday morning to rescue them. The ship's Italian captain, Francesco Schettino, was detained late Saturday and is being investigated for manslaughter and abandoning ship. The Associated Press reports Schettino is being held in a jail in Grosseto, Italy, until next week, when a judge will decide whether he should be released or formally put under arrest. In Italy, suspects can be held without charge for a few days for investigation.
The chief prosecutor in the Tuscan city of Grosseto, Francesco Verusio, was quoted by the ANSA news agency as telling reporters that the captain "very ineptly got close to Giglio," the AP reports.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Amazing Exploding Nuclear Scientist

It's hard to say for certain what's happening in the mullahs' madland of Iran, but it does seem as if the medical condition known as "Exploding Nuclear Scientist" has become contagious:
According to press reports, another Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in a bomb attack:
The bomb assassination of an Iranian atomic scientist on Wednesday will not stop “progress” in Iran’s nuclear programme, Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi told state television. “Today (Wednesday) those who claim to be combatting terrorism have targeted Iranian scientists. They should know that Iranian scientists are more determined than ever in striding towards Iran’s progress,” he said. He called Wednesday’s killing of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility, “evidence of (foreign) government-sponsored terrorism.”
Sometimes, assassination can forestall far bloodier conflict. As for Roshan, good riddance.

I must say, though, that if anyone knows government-sponsored terrorist, it's the Iranian mullahs.

Ottomans blame Jews for their downfall

You have got to be kidding me:
In one of the stranger pieces of news to come our way here at Via Meadia lately, Prince Orhan Aal Othman, a descendant of the former ruling dynasty of the Ottoman Empire, is quoted in an interview blaming Theodor Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism, for the collapse of his family firm.  As the Prince expresses himself,
“The Ottoman state did not collapse in a year or two, or even ten or twenty years. It began when Sultan Abdulhamid made his decision in his meeting with Dr. Herzl. Herzl made several requests to meet Sultan Abdulhamid, and he was refused – once, twice, and three times. The fourth time, he met him, and [Herzl] prepared the ground… he asked him for land in Palestine, to serve as a place for settlement of the Jews. When the Sultan rejected this request – that was the beginning of the fall of the Ottoman state. A decision was made that there should no longer be an Ottoman state, a caliphate, or a sultanate.”
Check out the clip from MEMRI. Really, watch it.  It’s worth the time.  Who knew that the fall of the Ottoman Empire, also, was due to the schemes and machinations of those cunning, scheming, omnipotent and all-seeing Jews?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My latest appearance

on Civil Discourse Now is here.  This week's episode features co-hosts Mark Small and Paul Ogden, along with guests Nicholas Martin and myself.  We discuss the effects of the Citizen's United case.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New addition to the library

The Frontiers of Imperial Rome, by David J. Breeze.

The Frontiers of Imperial Rome, I thought, was supposed to be the first analysis of Roman border policy since David Luttwak's classic The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire.  Based on my first skim, that is not the case, which is somewhat disappointing.  Breeze's book is not on border policy per se, but on the borders themselves, as in the fortifications. 

And on that, it looks impressive.  Oodles of diagrams, charts, maps and plans.  Lotsa technical stuff.  Should be a fun read.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Islamists want to destroy Egyptian pyramids

After the crime against humanity the Islamist Taliban committed by destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas, we should have expected that Islamist control of Egypt would threaten its pre-Islamic historic sites, including the Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings and the various other ancient pyramids across the country.  And, those pre-Islamic sites are now in danger:
The pyramids at Giza are the most stunning sight I have ever seen.
True, their lonely eminence is threatened by Cairo's unlicensed building sprawl, with half completed houses inching their way towards them.
Surveying them at night as the calls to prayer multiplied into a thunder of sound from central Cairo already told me a few years back what was coming.
For now members of the Nour (The Light) Salafist party, which won 20 per cent of the vote in recent elections, are talking about putting an end to the 'idolatry' represented by the pyramids.
This means destruction - along the lines essayed by the Afghan Taliban who blew up the Banyam Buddhas - or 'concealment' by covering them with wax. Tourists would presumably see great blobs rather than the perfectly carved steps.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Skyrim warning

If you have a life and want to keep it, do not repeat do NOT play Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  I swear Skyrim qualifies as video game crack.  Extremely addictive.  Great story, huge open world, more missions than I can count, interesting characters.  Like great books, the best games invite you to lose yourself in them.  Skyrim definitely qualifies.  Even though it's the middle of winter, you always come back wanting more of the icy, torn province of Skyrim.  Game of the Year material.

New additions to the library

The Second Bull Run Campaign, July-August 1862, by David G. Martin
Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas, by John J. Hennessy.

I've always found the Second Battle of Bull Run to be more interesting than the First.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's going on in Iran?

Some interesting things could be happening in Iran right now; it's always hard to tell with those malevolent mullahs.  But they seem to be quite angry about ... something:
Iran is rolling out one defiant step after another these days.  In recent days it has begun ten days of naval games in the Straits of Hormuz while warning that it would close those straits to oil shipments if it is attacked.  It has warned Turkey that, if attacked, it will respond by attacking NATO facilities on Turkish soil.  It has announced the successful construction of its first nuclear fuel rod.  It has tested a medium range missile. The recent upsurge in sectarian violence and polarization in Iraq seems to reflect in part Iranian efforts to deepen relations with militant Shiites next door.
Iran also seems to be stepping up its efforts to forge relationships with some Latin American countries whose leaders are not overly fond of the United States. The great A-jad has a four country tour planned this month as Iran looks to build economic and security relationships that might help it evade sanctions.
Close the Strait of Hormuz if attacked? Or merely inconvenienced?

Did Russia murder the Polish government?

In April 2010, senior members of the Polish government, including the Polish president and first lady, got on a plane to head to Smolensk, Russia, to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Katyn Massacre, in which Josef Stalin ordered the murder of 20,000 Polish army officers and other intelligentsia and had them buried in the Katyn Forest, outside Smolensk, in an attempt to decapitate Poland in preparation for installing a post-war communist regime.

This was one massacre for which the Nazis, who discovered the mass graves in the Katyn Forest, were not responsible, though they, too tried to decapitate Poland by killing its intellectuals.  The Nazis conducted a very public investigation, witnessed and vouched for by the Red Cross, that fixed guilt for the massacre on the Soviet Union.  Stalin denied in, blaming Germany.  Roosevelt and Churchill stayed silent, not wanting to alienate their ally.  Arguably no country suffered more in World War II than Poland.

The 70th Anniversary was to witness a very public admission by the Russians (they had only admitted responsibility in 1995) for the massacre.  A very, very big step for them, though, one might say, out of character for Vladimir Putin.

But the Polish plane never arrived.  Instead, it crashed under mysterious circumstances outside Smolensk.

Sound suspicious to you? It did to me at the time.  And Russia's behavior in "investigating" the crash has only added to those suspicions.  The Washington Examiner's Diana West:

What really happened in the forests at Smolensk, Russia, when a Polish aircraft carrying Poland's national leadership crashed in April 2010, killing all 96 people on board, including Poland's president and first lady?
The answers Russia presented to the world in its official 2011 crash report are wholly unsatisfactory. Indeed, the Moscow-controlled crash investigation seems to have been designed to suppress or tamper with evidence to exonerate Russia of all responsibility for an accident -- or guilt for a crime.