Day By Day

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Martian Flyby

Really cool! Flying over the surface of the Red Planet.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Very Short Course in Contemporary Prestige Films

See how many references you can catch:

The Good President [continued]

Regarding Bush and Iraq, Jeff Jacoby writes:
RONALD REAGAN liked to say that there was no limit to what a man could accomplish if he didn’t mind who got the credit. The transformation of Iraq from a hellish tyranny into a functioning democracy will be recorded as a signal accomplishment of George W. Bush’s presidency, and he probably doesn’t mind in the least that the Obama administration would like to take the credit.

....

Over and over they were told that the war in Iraq was lost, that there was no military solution to the carnage there, and that invading Iraq had been the biggest mistake in US history. Bush’s decision in January 2007 to change strategy and “surge’’ an additional 20,000 additional troops into Iraq was scathingly denounced. Such a “fantasy-based escalation of the war,’’ wrote The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, “could only make sense in some parallel universe where pigs fly and fish commute on bicycles.’’ Senator John Kerry called the surge “a senseless decision.’’ Barack Obama, gearing up to run for president, warned that doubling down in Iraq was not “going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.’’

But the critics were wrong. The surge turned the war around, giving Iraq a new lease on life. Where Saddam once ruled a ghastly “republic of fear,’’ Iraqis live today in democratic freedom and relative peace, dispelling daily the canard that democracy and Arab culture cannot co-exist.

Of course there are no permanent guarantees, and it remains to be seen whether Iraq’s nascent democracy can sustain itself. For now, though, the news is very, very good. So good that even Vice President Joe Biden - who a few years ago was calling for Iraq to be partitioned, and who blasted Bush’s surge as “a tragic mistake’’ - now takes credit for Iraq’s rebirth.

Read the whole thing here.

Jacoby nails it, both on Bush's emphasis on achievement rather than credit, and on the Democrats' persistent wrongheadedness and cheap posturing. More and more it is becoming apparent to anyone who is willing to look objectively at our recent history as a nation that George Bush stands head and shoulders above any post-Reagan president. He was not just a good president, he was one of the best.

Toyota Hoax

Once again the MSM displays its incredible and impenetrable stupidity. That much-hyped Toyota out of control story that was ubiquitous last week turns out to have been a hoax [gee, how many of those have we had lately?] perpetrated by a guy who wanted to set up a profitable lawsuit.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the announcement from the pinnacles of professional journalism that they once again have been duped.

Predators

On Dec. 30, a Jordanian double agent blew himself up, killing seven CIA agents and a Jordanian military officer at a CIA base near Khost. One of the reasons the base was targeted was because it was involved in coordinating drone attacks.
Der Spiegel devotes an entire issue to the subject of predator drones, their effectiveness on the GWOT, and the ways in which Islamic radicals are reacting to, and developing countermeasures to their use.

Check the articles out here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

VDH on Tom Hanks

Victor Davis Hanson wonders if Tom Hanks is "unhinged" [here]. No, he's just a typical Hollywood liberal, convinced that history is monocausal, that the common folk are dangerous bigots, and that America is a force for evil in this world. That is indeed an unhinged [and as VDH says, "asinine"] perspective, but it is dramatically useful and, within the context of his work and social environment, quite unexceptional. There also is a difference of purpose on display here. Hanson is interested in providing a fair and reasonably accurate account of the past -- Hanks simply wants to construct an entertaining and morally gratifying film experience.

Iowahawk on Leaks

The funniest writer on the web strikes again. Go here to check out the latest from Iowahawk.

History Links

A massive compilation of links to information on historical subjects. The quality varies, but there are some real gems. Check it out here.

The Good President [continued]

A few days ago I noted Stanley Fish's observation that history is already beginning to look upon the Bush presidency with a great deal more affection than contemporary critics could imagine. Jules Crittenden chimes in to say that he, too, misses Bush:

I miss the deliberativeness. The plain talk and lack of B.S. The heart-on-his-sleeve values. The ability to tell, most of the time, what really mattered, and the determination to keep the caravan moving, no matter how loud the dogs barked. The bipartisanship … even when, like that immigration thing, it was flawed. Fish notes the emerging consensus that maybe something good has been accomplished in Iraq. I suspect that before too much more history plays out, he’ll emerge as a visionary. A tortured one, ironically enough. Even a great president, who when handed great challenges, didn’t flinch from them, was willing to fight and understood like great presidents past that surrender wasn’t an option. Who took a lot of bad situations, did what he could to turn them around, and was remarkably successful … to the betterment of generations alive now and yet unborn, here and elsewhere.

I started missing all of it a while ago.* Almost before he was gone … though unlike one president I could name, he never really had a lame-duck period, no matter how often all those commentators kept prematurely announcing it.

Read the whole thing here.

Well said! Few presidents in our history can look back upon a record of accomplishment to match that of which Dubya could boast, that is, if he was a boasting man.


This Day In History

Today is "Girl Scouts Day" commemorating Juliette Gordon Low's founding of the first Girl Scout group in Savannah, Georgia. There were only 18 girls in that first troop -- now there are millions, and they all sell cookies. I think we may have found the source of the childhood [and maybe the adult] obesity epidemic. There was an earlier group in Britain, founded in 1889, but they were called "Girl Guides" so the Savannah group counts as the first Girl Scouts. Today is also, "Plant A Flower Day" so while you munch on your cookies you can do a little early gardening.

On this day in 1947 the Cold War began in earnest as President Harry Truman implemented his famous "Truman Doctrine". During World War II the United States and the Soviet Union had been temporarily allied, but that cooperation broke down rapidly after the war ended. From the standpoint of the United States the most disturbing Soviet postwar actions were the incorporation of large areas of Eastern Europe, the subversion of democratic regimes in other parts of the region replacing them with Soviet-style dictatorships, and attempts to subvert democratic regimes in Western Europe. Soviet influence was expanding rapidly in Asia too, and investigations showed that there were a number of Soviet agents operating in the United States, even reaching high government positions. George F. Kennan, Deputy Head of Mission in Moscow, reacting to these developments, sent in February 1946 his famous "Long Telegram" to the Secretary of State in which he argued that expansionism was a vital element of Soviet foreign policy and that it would continue indefinitely into the future. Several months later he followed this up with his even more famous anonymous article in Foreign Affairs titled, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" in which he argued for a policy of "containment" that would determinedly oppose the expansion of Soviet influence into areas of crucial concern to the United States.

Kennan's arguments had an enormous impact on the Truman administration and directly inspired the Truman Doctrine. In 1946 the Soviet Union was sponsoring a Marxist insurgency that was threatening to take over the government of Greece. It was also pressuring Turkey to grant it partial control of the sea links between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. If either Greece or Turkey fell to the pressures placed on them, Soviet influence would be projected into the Mediterranean. In December of 1946 Greek Prime Minister Tsaldaris visited Washington to plead for help in his fight against the communist insurgents. Two months later Truman and his advisers decided on a response. It would come to be known as the Truman Doctrine. They decided that Greece and Turkey were of such strategic importance that they must be defended against Soviet aggression. This would mean active intervention to contain Soviet expansionism. At the end of February Truman announced his new policy to the joint houses of Congress and two weeks later it went into effect. He declared that henceforth it would be "the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." The immediate result was to channel financial and military aid to Greece and Turkey. This was followed by the Marshall Plan by which financial aid poured into Western Europe, spurring economic recovery in that region and by the formation of NATO to coordinate military policies there.

The Truman Doctrine involved not just a local or regional commitment; it was open-ended. In 1950 it was expanded globally and in June of that year American forces in Korea were drawn into a major "hot" war. The Korean War exposed one of the consequences of the Truman Doctrine -- the possibility that the United States would be drawn into one after another war against Soviet proxies. Many scholars draw a direct line of influence between Truman's establishment of a doctrine of containment and the Vietnam debacle. The experience of Greece and Turkey illustrate another problem. In both countries the United States facilitated the rise to power of unpopular military regimes and this support of undemocratic governments became a problematic feature of America's Cold War policies. Finally, American military aid to Turkey ultimately involved the stationing of nuclear missiles in that country. That threat, coupled with absurdly incompetent policies pursued by the Kennedy administration, led to the most dangerous episode of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis -- but that is another story for another time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Tool Day", a celebration of those wonderful toys you can use to make things. It doesn't have to be a power tool -- a simple hammer or screwdriver will do -- but take a moment today to contemplate the many ways in which tool use informs our existence. So central are tools to our lives that at one time anthropologists defined humans as tool-using apes. That definition has fallen out of favor since studies have shown that chimpanzees and octopi and even crows can make and use simple tools, but it illustrates an important fact -- human beings use tools constantly to do just about everything. So hie thee to the nearest hardware store and browse the aisles contemplating the wonderful things on display there. You might even want to softly sing a few bars of "If I Had A Hammer"..., no..., on second thought, don't. Whatever.

On this date in 1861 delegates to the Montgomery Convention adopted a Constitution for the Confederate States of America. The standard historical interpretation of this document, as it emerged during the civil rights era, is that it was all about slavery. Historians rightly note that the bulk of the Confederate Constitution was a word-for-word copy of the Federal Constitution (including the first twelve amendments) but point out that the Confederate version contained a number of specific provisions that served to protect the institution of slavery. Certainly slavery was very much on the minds of the delegates to the Montgomery Convention, but the text of the constitution they produced shows that they were worried about much more than that.

A comparison of the texts of the two constitutions, federal and confederate, reveals that they differed on a number of issues. In addition to slavery, which was protected under the Confederate constitution, there were provisions limiting the political rights of immigrants [aimed mostly at people from the USA who might migrate into the CSA]; limiting the government's ability to control commerce [an attempt to restrict the influence of big business]; removing the wording in the federal constitution that suggests that the government has a duty to provide for the common welfare [thus restricting the legitimate scope of government interference in the private sector]; prohibiting the government from financing internal improvements or disbursing funds that would promote specific industries; prohibiting protectionist tariffs; a ban on omnibus bills; a permanent prohibition on the international slave trade; allowing a line item veto for the President; strict limitations on government spending and many other things. The general tenor was to limit the powers of the central authority over the States, to assert the ultimate sovereignty of the States, and to drastically limit the power of the government to interfere in the private sector. There is no space here to discuss the provisions in detail, however you can view an item by item comparison of the Federal and the Confederate Constitutions here. Check them out -- there's a lot of food for thought in the comparison.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Psycho

This Day In History

Today is "Middle Name Pride Day", a day on which we can celebrate those seldom mentioned appellations with which our parents saddled us. In my family names were recycled from generation to generation -- I was named after my father who was named after his great aunts [Grandma had a weird sense of humor]. My brother was named after his grandfathers. That sort of thing. The only acceptable alternative was "Biblical" names. Today, parents are far more imaginative. David Harsanyi notes that only a small minority of children today have "common" names [here]. In case you are interested, here is a site that allows you to find the history and etymology of names. Check it out, it's fun.

On this day in 1876 Alexander Graham Bell said to his assistant, "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you." What was significant about this was that Bell spoke his words into a device and Thomas Watson plainly heard them through a receiver in another room. This has gone into the history books as the first successful demonstration of a new and important technology -- the telephone -- and Bell has been widely recognized as its inventor. There is no question that Bell and Watson were working on the concept of the telephone for many years, and had contributed significantly to its development. But, they were by no means the only people working on the idea. One in particular was Elisha Gray who filed for a patent on a telephonic device on the very same day as Bell did.

What Bell had patented was the concept of transmitting sound by having vibrations produce fluctuations in electric charges that would then produce similar vibrations in a receiving mechanism. At the time Bell was considering using reeds as the vibrating mechanisms. These didn't work very well. Gray's patent specified liquid vibrators. The famous message Bell sent Watson utilized liquids similar to Gray's device. For this reason many people consider Gray, rather than Bell to be the true inventor of the telephone. There was considerable discussion at the time with allegations of bribes, corrupt officials, and perjury thrown back and forth, but ultimately Bell's patent was recognized and a device utilizing vibrating carbon grains was successfully marketed. The rest, as they say, was history.

Happy Birthday to Chuck Norris. He is seventy (70!!!!) years old today.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rovian Wisdom

Asked about the future of the Tea Party movement, Karl Rove responded:
If the tea-party movement becomes a semi-formal auxiliary of the GOP, its influence will decline. If it becomes a third party, it will bring about the victory of its greatest adversaries. If it continues to style itself as a movement that holds the feet of all elected officials in both parties to the fire, then it will become — like the pro-life, Second Amendment, and civil-rights movements before it — a durable and influential part of the political landscape that has a particular force in drawing new people into political action and voting.
Read it here.

Eeeeewwww!

I have my differences with Michelle Malkin, but this time she is spot on:

Okay, this week is grossing me out. Can we hit the reset button?
Read it here.

Jihad Jane

Lives in suburban Philadelphia.

Colleen LaRose, a woman from suburban Philadelphia who was "desperate to do something" to help suffering Muslims, is also accused of agreeing to kill a Swedish citizen on orders from unnamed terrorists.

Miss LaRose, who is believed to be 47, is alleged to have travelled to Sweden to carry out the killing, but it is understood she was stopped by the authorities before she could do it.

A Justice Department statement said she was recruited over the internet by a contact who ordered her to kill the target in a way that would frighten "the whole Kufar [non-believer] world".

US prosecutors say Miss LaRose, who is also known as Fatima Rose, and five collaborators believed that her appearance and American citizenship would help her "blend in" while carrying out her plans.

Read the whole thing here.

Track Record

The Good President [continued]

Stanley Fish says, "I told you so"!
What I told you back on Sept. 28, 2008, was that within a year of the day he left office George W. Bush would come to be regarded with affection and a little nostalgia. The responses... to that prediction were overwhelmingly negative....

Well it’s a bit more than a year now and signs of Bush’s rehabilitation are beginning to pop up.

....

And the judgment of history? Well, I’m not that foolish, but I will venture to say that it will be more nuanced than anything the professional Bush-haters... are now able to imagine. He will not go to the top of the list, but neither will he be the figure of fun and derision he seemed destined to be only a year ago.
Read the whole thing here.

I agree. My only difference with Fish on this subject [although he and I disagree profoundly on others] is that I expected it to take a bit longer for people to start missing Dubya. As for the judgment of history, I agree that it will be a lot more nuanced than today's opinion and expect that it will tell us more about the interests of the historians of the future than about Bush himself.

Snowdrops


The first blooms we see each spring are these snowdrops. A few years ago we could count on seeing them in the first two weeks of February. Last year they didn't come out until the first week of March. This year we were into the second week of March before they bloomed. To me at least that seems to be conclusive proof of global cooling.

Pollution In China


Amazing pictures! Check them out here.

Having recently traveled in China I can testify that, while these scenes are exceptional, they illustrate a real problem with both air and water pollution. I remember Pittsburgh in the mid-twentieth century. This is worse, much worse.

This Day In History

It may be premature but considering the tenor of recent news reports, maybe not. Today is "Panic Day" [not to be confused with International Panic Day which always falls on June 18th]. It is a day to let yourself go and hew to the old advice: "When in trouble, when in doubt; run in circles, scream and shout". At least that's what I plan to do until they stop me.

On this day in 1945 Operation Meetinghouse began as 325 American B-29 planes took to the air. Their destination -- Tokyo. Their payloads, incendiary bombs. This was not the first bombing attack on Japan, but it was the most devastating. Before the night was over more than 1,700 tons of bombs had been dropped, approximately 13 square miles of the city had been destroyed, and approximately 100,000 Japanese civilians had been killed. The immediate devastation was greater than at either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Allied strategic bombing campaigns were carried on with devastating effectiveness against both Japan and Germany. They have recently come in for a great deal of criticism. Several scholars and authors, mostly European and British, have likened the civilian casualties resulting from these raids to the victims of the Holocaust. I think it is fair to say that in the last years of the war both sides engaged in actions that had horrific consequences that are difficult to justify. Some have argued that British and American strategic bombing campaigns, and the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Eastern Europe were nothing less than crimes against humanity as horrible as anything the Third Reich did. The best defense against such charges so far has been to assert that, however horrific the means employed, the policies carried out by the allied forces had a justifiable end -- hastening the end of the war -- while no such justification can apply to the Nazi atrocities.

For an overview of the strategic bombing campaigns against Japan and Germany in World War Two go here.

There is an excellent discussion of the moral arguments surrounding the strategic bombing campaign in Niall Ferguson's War of the World.


And a very Happy Birthday to Barbie. On this day in 1959 Mattel introduced her to the world at the American International Toy Fair in New York.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Potbelly Hill


I missed this when it first came out, mostly because I don't pay much attention to the weekly mags these days, but Newsweek has an interesting piece on Gobekli Tepe, an extremely important archaeological site in Turkey, not far from the Syrian border. The site is not new -- it was first described way back in 1994 -- but recent investigations have shown it to be of immense significance.

Let the experts explain why:

The new discoveries are finally beginning to reshape the slow-moving consensus of archeology. Göbekli Tepe is "unbelievably big and amazing, at a ridiculously early date," according to Ian Hodder, director of Stanford's archeology program. Enthusing over the "huge great stones and fantastic, highly refined art" at Göbekli, Hodder—who has spent decades on rival Neolithic sites—says: "Many people think that it changes everythingIt overturns the whole apple cart. All our theories were wrong."

[Klaus] Schmidt's thesis is simple and bold: it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life. The temple begat the city.

This theory reverses a standard chronology of human origins, in which primitive man went through a "Neolithic revolution" 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. In the old model, shepherds and farmers appeared first, and then created pottery, villages, cities, specialized labor, kings, writing, art, and—somewhere on the way to the airplane—organized religion. As far back as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, thinkers have argued that the social compact of cities came first, and only then the "high" religions with their great temples, a paradigm still taught in American high schools.

Religion now appears so early in civilized life—earlier than civilized life, if Schmidt is correct—that some think it may be less a product of culture than a cause of it, less a revelation than a genetic inheritance. The archeologist Jacques Cauvin once posited that "the beginning of the gods was the beginning of agriculture," and Göbekli may prove his case.

Read the whole thing here.

As with most stuff you read in the newsweeklies this account is somewhat sensationalized, but not by much. Professor Schmidt's thesis is more provocative than proven, but at the very least the existence of such a place as Gobekli Tepe seriously undermines the Marxist interpretation of the origins of complex cultures that has been the standard academic account for three quarters of a century.

I suspect that when this is all sorted out what will emerge is a serious re-evaluation of the hunting-gathering way of life, our understanding of which has been biased by the fact that the only hunter-gatherers available for study these days live in marginal environments. In resource-rich environments, as Gobekli Tepe seems to have been, population densities and internal differentiation might well have approached those characteristic of early agricultural communities. In other words, the "Neolithic Revolution" might not have been all that revolutionary.

This Day In History

Today is "International [Working] Women's Day". Yes, I know, it has dubious origins. In 1909 it was proclaimed by the Socialist Party of America and in the following year was picked up by the Socialist International and spread from there. It has even been endorsed by [shudder] the United Nations. Still, there's absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating the enormous positive contributions to our lives made by working women, or just women in general. Just forget all that lefty cant and give thanks for the women in your lives -- and that goes for you gals too.

On this day in 1917 the "February Revolution" [old calendar] broke out in Russia. There were many reasons for dissatisfaction in that unfortunate country. 1916-17 had been a particularly harsh winter, there was a severe food shortage and essential commodities were scarce, the First World War had been dragging on into its third year and the Russians had been losing. Troops were deserting, workers were protesting, there were battles between strikers and police. It was a mess. A series of demonstrations for International Women's Day in Petrograd turned into political rallies demanding the resignation of government leaders and an end to the war. Over succeeding days Police were unable to control the growing crowds of protesters and so the army was called in. Many demonstrators were killed, but the protests continued unabated. Eventually some of the troops put down their arms and joined the dissidents. These troops completely overwhelmed the police who, themselves, decided to join the demonstrators.

As the situation deteriorated Czar Nicholas met with his ministers and generals who, to a man, urged him to abdicate the throne. He did so, naming his brother Michael to succeed him. Michael, no fool he, declined the offer and so the Romanoff dynasty, which had ruled Russia since 1613, came to an end.

And on this day in 1965 3,500 U. S. Marines went ashore at the Da Nang Airfield in Vietnam. This is considered to be the first deployment of American combat troops in that country, but we should note that there were already 25,000 U. S. troops already in country serving as "advisors".

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Is Western Civilization a Meaningful Concept Anymore

Listen and learn. None of the concepts he develops are particularly new to professional historians, but laymen may have never considered them. You need not agree with his conclusions, but they give you something to think about.

Iraq Votes


From the BBC:

Iraq's second parliamentary election since the 2003 invasion has been hit by multiple attacks, with at least 24 people being killed.

Two buildings were destroyed in the capital and dozens of mortars were fired across Baghdad and elsewhere.

....

Despite the violence, turnout appears to be strong in several cities, with healthy queues at polling stations.

Read about it here.

One has to admire the determination of these people to exercise their franchise despite Islamist violence. Their ardor gives the lie to those who would say that the Muslim world is not "ready" for democracy.

UPDATE:

CBS News notes two important things about this election. First, the level of violence has dropped dramatically since the last round of nationwide elections. This year's death toll was only 36 people. Second, women participated in this election to a much greater extent than before, as candidates, as election officials, and most importantly as candidates for high office.

Check out the report here.

Obama the Terrorist?


Time and again we were told that people around the world hated us because of George Bush and his policies and that electing Barak Obama would change all that. Well, how has that worked out? Here Muslim protesters in Indonesia throw shoes at Obie's image and brand him a "terrorist".

See here.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Environmentalists Unholy Alliance

Over at the American Thinker Dr. Jeffrey Folks chronicles the rise of a malignant alliance of "scientists on the one side and politicians, bureaucratic instititions, investigative journalists, and partisan non-profit agencies on the other" to promote "the anti-growth agenda of environmental regulation... at the expense of scientific truth."

He concludes:

The earth's inhabitants are asked to forgo their prosperity, security, and even survival on the basis of an inconclusive and doubtful scientific "consensus." The public is now aware of the fact that it has been conned, and it is time to move toward the next logical step: the undoing of millions of pages of laws, regulations, and restrictions on those industries upon which life and well-being depend.
Read the whole thing here.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bush Was Right [continued]

British PM Brown responding to questions about the decision to invade Iraq:

"I believe we made the right decision for the right reasons," Brown told the five-person inquiry that he set up last year to learn lessons from the conflict following the withdrawal of British troops.

Brown said that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a "serial violator" of international law and that tackling him had been an important test for world powers after the Cold War.

Read it here.

Happy Sea Creatures At Play

A Popular Liberal Libel -- Homosexual Hoover

In the mythic narrative liberals have constructed about conservatism in the Twentieth Century, few elements have been as widely and unfairly asserted as the idea that J. Edgar Hoover was an active homosexual and transvestite. As Drexel's Smart Set notes, the entire story is based on almost no positive evidence and ignores a substantial body of evidence to the contrary. Hoover may have had homosexual tendencies, but he almost certainly never allowed them expression, and it is absurd to suggest that, given his sensitive political situation, he would ever have cross-dressed.

Read about it here.

Holden On the Hotspot

From the Lebanon Daily News:

Pennsylvania's Republican committee is criticizing 17th District Congressman Tim Holden for not returning campaign money he received from embattled New York Congressman Charlie Rangel.

On Thursday, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania blasted Holden and five other of the state's congressional Democrats for not returning campaign contributions from Rangel.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee rebuked Rangel....

Since the Ethics Committee's ruling, recipients have donated to charity $383,000 of the nearly $800,000 Rangel contributed to their congressional campaigns in 2008, the National Journal reported Friday. Holden was not listed among them. A call to his office was not returned.

Luke Bernstein, executive director of the state Republican Party, lambasted Holden for holding on to the money.

"For the sake of Congressman Holden's constituents, it's time for Tim Holden to step out of the shadows and return every last penny of Charlie Rangel's 'dirty money'," he said Thursday.

And it's not just the Republicans:

Holden also faces pressure from Democratic leaders who want him to vote for health-care reform. In November, Holden was one of 39 Democrats to vote against the House version of the bill, which passed 220-215.

An article in Allentown's The Morning Call Friday said Holden was noncommittal when asked if he would support the bill being pushed by President Barack Obama.


Read the whole thing here.

I'm not sure the Republicans will get far in trying to tie Tim to Rangel. There has to be more substance than that, but the health-care vote is a potential killer. It's not good enough to be "noncommittal" on this thing. It gives the impression that he can be bought. Tim has to take a strong stand against Obamacare and do so soon.

Friday, March 05, 2010

There They Go Again!

Reuters reports:

A giant asteroid smashing into Earth is the only plausible explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global scientific team said on Thursday, hoping to settle a row that has divided experts for decades.

A panel of 41 scientists from across the world reviewed 20 years' worth of research to try to confirm the cause of the so-called Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) extinction, which created a "hellish environment" around 65 million years ago and wiped out more than half of all species on the planet.

Scientific opinion was split over whether the extinction was caused by an asteroid or by volcanic activity in the Deccan Traps in what is now India, where there were a series of super volcanic eruptions that lasted around 1.5 million years.

The new study, conducted by scientists from Europe, the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan and published in the journal Science, found that a 15-kilometre (9 miles) wide asteroid slamming into Earth at Chicxulub in what is now Mexico was the culprit.

Read it here.

This is terrible! It is institutionalized "Science" at its worst.

Science is a never-ending dialogue, a discourse in which many voices and perspectives and constantly being heard. It is not an authoritative pronouncement from a blue-ribbon panel of experts that settles things once and for all. That is religion or government, not science. We saw where this kind of perversion can lead in the case of the global warming boondoggle. We should have learned a lesson from that, but apparently we haven't.

Left-Wing Truther Shoots Up Pentagon

From FOX News:

Resentment of the U.S. government and suspicions over the 9/11 attacks have surfaced in writings by the Californian identified as the gunman who shot two Pentagon police officers before he was mortally wounded in a hail of return fire.

....

Signs emerged that Bedell harbored ill feelings toward the government and the armed forces, and had questioned the circumstances behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In an Internet posting, a user by the name JPatrickBedell wrote that he was "determined to see that justice is served" in the death of Marine Col. James Sabow, who was found dead in the backyard of his California home in 1991. The death was ruled a suicide but the case has long been the source of theories of a cover up.

The user named JPatrickBedell wrote the Sabow case was "a step toward establishing the truth of events such as the September 11 demolitions."

That same posting railed against the government's enforcement of marijuana laws and included links to the author's 2006 court case in Orange County, Calif., for cultivating marijuana and resisting a police officer. Court records available online show the date of birth on the case mentioned by the user JPatrickBedell matches that of the John Patrick Bedell suspected in the shooting.

Read the whole thing here.

Using the same logic as that deployed by the Obama administration and prominent Democrats against participants in the Tea Parties we should, as a result of this incident, view dope-smoking lefties, especially "truthers" [those who believe that the Bush administration "covered up the truth" about 9/11], as a major threat to this nation's security and should insistently inform the public as to this terrorist threat in their midst.

This Day In History

Today is "Employee Appreciation Day". So if you have employees try to show them that they are appreciated. If you are self-employed, pat yourself on the back and say "Good job!" If you are in neither situation, just go ahead and appreciate yourself for all the wonderful things you are.

On this day in 1770 tensions were running high in Boston. Two years earlier the British Parliament, in an attempt to raise revenues to pay the expenses of maintaining colonies in North America, had passed a series of laws collectively called the "Townshend Acts" which established duties on a number of imports into the colonies and directed those revenues to paying the salaries of British officials in the colonies. The unpopularity of these taxes led to protests and attempts to intimidate and even injure customs officials charged with collecting them. In response the British government decided to get tough on Boston, which was a center of protest -- they sent in the British army.

The arrival of British troops in the Fall on 1768 only made things worse and so, after several months, the British removed all but two regiments. That hardly solved things and confrontations between British soldiers and colonials continued. Then on March 5, 1770 the long-simmering tension exploded into open violence.

Early in the evening an altercation broke out between an apprentice wig-maker and a British officer. The issue was whether or not the officer had paid for a wig he had received [he had]. When the apprentice and his friends began to throw snowballs at the officer a sentry posted at the nearby customs house entered the fray, striking the apprentice with his musket. This attracted the attention of passers-by and soon a crowd assembled. As the disturbance escalated a relief column of troops was sent to the customs house.

This did nothing to quell the confrontation. Soon a crowd of several hundred civilians surrounded the troops and began pelting them with anything they could find to throw. One soldier was clubbed to the ground and, when he got back on his feet, he called upon his comrades to fire on the rioters. The crowd responded by chanting "Fire, Fire, Fire!" In the confusion the soldiers did loose a volley, wounding eleven of the rioters and killing five. This was the Boston Massacre, a major incident inflaming passions throughout the colonies in the runup to the American Revolution.

In the aftermath of the massacre patriots made good propaganda use of the incident. The British government responded by publicly trying some of the soldiers and their commander for murder. You can read about the massacre and trial here.

Louisiana -- A State of Paranoia?


From the "Dead Pelican",
The office of the Louisiana sheriff who's forming a citizen militia to defend the parish in the event of a terrorist attack says it has information about possible Islamic terrorist activity in its midst.

"We understand, based on some intelligence that we've collected over the last year, year and a half, that there have been cells and people operating even within our parish that have been trained as terrorists or went overseas to be trained as terrorists," Ed Baswell, a spokesman for the Bossier Parrish Sheriff's Office, told TPMmuckraker this morning.

....

Baswell was eager to make a larger point. "It tells us that these are the kinds of thing we can't assume are happening far, far away," he said. "Terrorists can tend to strike anywhere and everywhere."

"There's not a state of paranoia, or anything like that," he added.

Read the whole thing here.

Of course not Ed, nothing like that at all.

Check out the picture above of the citizen's militia being trained to deal with terrorists.



Thursday, March 04, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Hug a GI Day", so go out there and show a GI just how much you appreciate all that he or she has done for all of us. Of course, this is assuming that "GI" does not refer to the medical abbreviation for "gastro-intestinal".

On this day in 1789 the first Federal Congress met in New York and immediately adjourned because not enough members were present to constitute a quorum. However the meeting marks the moment when the Federal Constitution first went into effect.


And on this day in 1861 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the United States [photo above]. Seven States had already seceded from the Federal Union in protest against his election. For weeks rumors of assassination plots had been rife and threats had been issued not just against Lincoln, but against anyone (including military personnel) who dared to protect him. As he proceeded to the Capitol to be sworn in, Lincoln's carriage was surrounded by marshals and cavalrymen and buildings along the route were lined with sharpshooters with orders to fire on anyone heading toward the carriage. Julia Taft, watching the procession passed by heard a woman say "There goes the Illinois ape... he will not come back alive".

The swearing-in ceremony was extremely awkward. Defeated Democrat candidate, Stephen Douglas, sat on the platform next to Lincoln and, when the President-elect rose to speak and could find no place to put his top hat, came forward like an attendant to take it. He held it through the rest of the ceremony. Outgoing President James Buchanan sat stiffly on the stage staring fixedly at the ground through the entire ceremony. Some feared he had fallen asleep. Horace Greeley, who had the misfortune to be sitting directly behind Lincoln was in a constant state of anxiety convinced that at any second he might hear the crack of an assassin's rifle.

At last Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney administered the oath of office. Lincoln then bent and kissed the Bible, and a loud cheer rose from the crowd. Lincoln was President.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

This Day In History

On this day in 1931 "The Star Spangled Banner" became our national anthem by Congressional resolution, and ever since March 3rd has been "National Anthem Day". The lyrics for the anthem are taken from a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 titled "The Defence [sic] of Fort McHenry". If you visit the fort today in Baltimore you can view the original star spangled banner that flew over the fort during the British bombardment. The tune was a British drinking song titled "To Anacreon in Heaven" which was at that time popular in the United States. The song was an instant hit and was regularly performed at public events through the Nineteenth Century. The Navy adopted the song during the Spanish-American War and in 1916 President Wilson ordered that it be played at all military ceremonies. As early as 1897 it was performed on opening day of the baseball season in Philadelphia. Finally, in 1931 Congress got around to naming it as our national anthem. There were a number of other songs that could have been chosen. I personally prefer "God Bless America"; it's easier to sing.

Usually only the first stanza is performed; occasionally the fourth stanza is added. The second, and particularly the third, stanzas are only rarely performed. Here, for your consideration, are all four stanzas.

Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
"Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps pollution." Hmmmm.... I'm starting to see why it isn't performed.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Evidence on the Peopling of the World

In recent decades prehistorians [scholars who investigate the human past before the invention of writing] have had access to a powerful new investigatory tool -- the science of genomics [the study of the human genome]. Through analysis of variations in the DNA of current populations it is possible to infer population movements in the distant past as well as their timing. As with all new technologies scholarly discussions tend to be arcane and jargon ridden and thus inaccessible to the lay reader. And, of course, researchers stretching for significance have a disturbing tendency to overstate the implications of what they have found. How to make sense of it all?

Well, a good place to start is with the latest issue of Current Biology [available online here]. It is one of those special issues dedicated to surveying the latest developments in a specialized field of scholarship. What makes this one particularly interesting to me is that it is edited by one of my personal heroes, Colin Renfrew, one of the most eminent figures in the field of archaeology who for decades now has been attempting to integrate information from genomic studies into our understanding of the archaeological record.

So, if you have any interest in the subject, check this one out. It makes for great bedside reading and it stands as an excellent corrective to some of the more lunatic theories that have been plaguing the popular literature.

Another Wonderful Night on TCM

TCM has done it again. Tonight's lineup:

First the dancing:

"Royal Wedding" with Fred Astaire and Jane Powell [if only it were Eleanor Powell!]

and

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" with Jane and a young Howard Keel.

and

"West Side Story" with Lana Wood's sister and Amber Tamblyn's dad.

Then it's James Dean to carry us through the rest of the night:

"Rebel Without A Cause" a surprisingly conservative film once you look at it carefully. A great, great performance by Jim "Mr. Magoo" Backus.

followed by

"Giant" James with Liz and Rock

That will take us through to 4:30 am and by that time we should all be in bed.

Ted Turner is a loon, but at least he has given us this wonderful national treasure. Thanks Ted!

This Day In History

Today is "Old Stuff Day". I took this to mean that you should dig into your closets and garages to clean out all that old stuff that has been accumulating since God knows when. But then I thought it was possibly a time to get nostalgic about all that old stuff you used to do, but don't any more. One of the sites I visited while checking this out said that it was a day to re-evaluate your life and to recognized that you are in a rut, doing the same old stuff over and over again -- a time to channel your efforts in new and less boring directions. That sounds kinda harsh to me. I dunno, take your choice.

On this day in 1836 the Republic of Texas formally declared its independence from Mexico. Coincidentally, today is also the birthday of Sam Houston, the first President of Texas.

And on this day in 1877 Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was declared President of the United States, bringing to an end one of the most contentious election fights in the nation's history.

Hayes was a bright young man. Born in 1822 to a widow, he was raised by his uncle who sent him to common school, and then Kenyon College where he graduated at the top of his class. He also attended Harvard Law School, graduating in two years, after which he had a unremarkable career as a lawyer in Ohio. He did, however, join several fraternal organizations and through them made some influential friends. His big chance came in the Civil War in which he served with distinction, rising to the rank of General after being wounded five times and having four horses shot from under him. On the strength of his wartime heroism Hayes was elected to Congress and then to the Governorship of Ohio. In 1876 the Republicans chose him as their Presidential candidate, mostly because he had lots of friends and no enemies in the Party. His opponent was Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic Governor of New York.

The election took place against the background of several spectacular scandals involving members of the incumbent Grant administration and the continuing guerrilla warfarebtaking place in the Southern States. By 1876 Democrat terrorist "redeemers" had succeeded in driving Blacks and Republicans from office in all but three States of the old Confederacy [Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana]. In those States Republicans were hanging onto power backed by the U. S. Army which was overseeing elections and protecting Republican officeholders.

When the election returns came in Tilden had won the popular vote decisively, but the votes in the Electoral College were disputed in four States which had sent in two "official" returns, one saying that Tilden had won, the other saying Hayes had won. Altogether there were forty votes in dispute and Tilden was thirty nine votes ahead. All he had to do to win the election was to have one of the disputed electoral votes come out his way. An Election Commission, consisting of seven Republicans, seven Democrats and one non-partisan member, was set up to figure out which returns were authentic. While the Commission met politicians were frantically making deals.

Finally a deal was struck. The Democrats would withdraw their set of returns, allowing Hayes to win the presidency by one vote. In return Hayes promised to withdraw federal troops from Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana opening the way for Democrat "Redeemers" to take charge of the State governments. Hayes also agreed to appoint Democrats to high positions in his administration and there was an agreement [later broken] to use federal funds to build a transcontinental railroad through the deep South to boost the region's economy. This "Compromise of 1877" brought Reconstruction to an end. In its wake Republicans and Blacks were disenfranchised throughout the South, which remained a solid Democratic political bloc for a century thereafter, and the way was opened for the imposition of racial segregation and a white supremacy regime throughout the region. Moralistic historians have charged that 1877 was the year in which Republicans abandoned their commitment to African-Americans and to the ideal of a racially just society. Others respond that twelve years of federal presence had failed to achieve much in the way of progress and by 1877, the American people were willing to close the book on the Civil War and to move on to other things. Eric Foner has argued that what ended in 1877 was just the first phase of a reconstruction movement that would not be complete until the civil rights reforms of the 1960's and 70's.

If you want to read more, Richard Jensen has a nice set of links to materials here.

And a very Happy Birthday to Big Ben Roethlisberger -- he's 28 today. Next year, big guy..., next year.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bush Was Right [continued]

Well, whaddaya know! Guess who has belatedly discovered that Bush was right about Iraq? The editors of Newsweek, that's who!

This week's issue features a story, "Rebirth of a Nation", that admits that Iraq is finally on the road toward becoming the region's first functioning democratic Islamic state. To be sure, this is Newsweek so they have to get in a few shots at Bush and judge the outcome in Iraq to be a "Dark Victory" but, however grudging and hedged about with qualifiers, this article is (like the Obama administration's continuation of Bush-era policies and judgments) a striking major admission of the rightness of Bush's approach to Iraq.

Read the article here.

It's the Economy Stupid

Joel Kotkin notes that Obama's training in academia and the activist community has left him woefully unprepared to assume the office of President. The problem is that there is a radical disconnect between the values he and his associates held and those of the vast majority of middle-class Americans. As this disconnect becomes more and more apparent voters are rejecting Obama and the Democrats, but [and this is important] rejection of the Democrats' agenda does not necessarily translate into Republican gains. He writes:
Ultimately, the party that wins in 2010 and beyond will be the one that addresses the real issues of this age—the battle for private sector jobs and upward mobility—that matter to the vast majority of Americans. It is on those issues, not global warming, ethnic purity or gay marriage that the political future will now turn.
Amen.

Read the whole thing here.

This Day In History

Today is "National Pig Day" and I'm not sure just how to celebrate it? Should I purchase a pig? Seek one out and feed it some truffles? Should I act like a pig and leave my stuff lying around the house? Should I just "pig out" on something? I asked my wife and she said "today's the day you men get to be nice to yourselves".

On this day in 1932 the infant son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh was kidnapped. At the time the Lindberghs were the most famous celebrities in America and the kidnapping was a huge story. More than two months later the child's body was found. He had been bludgeoned to death. The subsequent investigation into the crime covered more than two years and resulted in the arrest of Bruno Hauptmann, a German immigrant carpenter. Hauptmann's arrest, trial, and execution in the electric chair were the biggest story of the age, and at various times involved such prominent and controversial figures as Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf [Chief of the New Jersey State Police and father of General "Stormin Norman" Schwarzkopf], President Herbert Hoover, "Wild Bill" Donovan [founder of the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA] Al Capone, and J. Edgar Hoover. The federal government was mobilized as never before. Congress passed the "Lindbergh Law" making kidnapping across State lines a federal offence, thus allowing federal agencies such as the Immigration Service, the Coast Guard, the "Bureau of Investigation" [the early FBI] and others to get involved. The arrest of Hauptmann sparked a huge wave of anti-German and anti-immigrant emotion. Conspiracy theories abounded, most of them involving organized crime, Nazis, or high government officials and supposed police cover-ups. The case spawned stories, novels, films and TV productions. It was the "Crime of the Century" [well..., one of them]. Some people are still obsessed with it. You can read more here and here.

On this day in 1954 four Puerto Rican nationalists entered the visitor's gallery of the House of Representatives while it was in session and opened fire on the congresscritters below. Five of them were wounded. The terrorists were immediately arrested, tried and sentenced to death. President Eisenhower commuted the death sentence and they all were then sentenced to 70 years in prison. In 1978-79 Jimmy Carter freed them all in exchange for Cuba releasing several CIA agents that had been captured there over the years.

A personal note: When I was in grad school I taught evening courses at Rutgers. Some of my students still regarded these terrorists as heroes.