Sunday, November 29, 2009

Senate Tora Bora report: A politically-timed hit piece

The Democrat-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to release a report [PDF format] tomorrow on the failure to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora in December 2001. The report aims to place blame for the failure directly on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and theater commander at the time, Gen. Tommy Franks. Indirectly, the clear intent is to implicate former President George Bush in the failure.

The report details events and command decisions made during the December 2001 battle at Tora Bora during which " was clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp" and criticizes the decision not to insert a massive force in the area to capture or kill bin Laden. I agree, to a large extent, with those criticisms, more for the psychological message killing or capturing Bin Laden would have sent than for the long-term strategic importance of doing so. I disagree completely with the reports conclusions of the consequences of that failure.

The final section of the report beginning on page 19, titled The Price of Failure claims that failing to close the book on bin Laden is the reason we're still in Afghanistan today.
Osama bin Laden’s demise would not have erased the worldwide threat from extremists. But the failure to kill or capture him has allowed bin Laden to exert a malign influence over events in the region and nearly 60 countries where his followers have established extremist groups. History shows that terrorist groups are invariably much stronger with their charismatic leaders than without them, and the ability of bin Laden and his terrorist organization to recover from the loss of their Afghan sanctuary reinforces the lesson.

Eight years after its expulsion from Afghanistan, Al Qaeda has reconstituted itself and bin Laden has survived to inspire a new generation of extremists who have adopted and adapted the Al Qaeda doctrine and are now capable of attacking from any number of places. The impact of this threat is greatest in Pakistan, where Al Qaeda’s continued presence and resources have emboldened domestic extremists waging an increasingly bloody insurrection that threatens the stability of the government and the region. Its training camps also have spawned new attacks outside the region—militants trained in Pakistan were tied to the July 2005 transit system bombings in London and several aborted plots elsewhere in Europe.
This is complete and utter hogwash. Islamist extremists of the Al Qaeda ilk don't need bin Laden to be alive in order to propagate their violent ideology within and outside their region. In fact, as much as I'd have liked to see bin Laden's head on a pike (and still would), I'll go so far as to say that bin Laden's current disposition is preferable to having him dead or in US custody.

There's no shortage of charismatic ideologues in the ranks of the Islamist jihad movement. A dead or captured bin Laden would clear the way for one of them to replace bin Laden, which hasn't happened yet. In death, bin Laden would be a martyr revered above his own idol, Sayyed Qutb, whose writings to this day inspires Islamist extremists all over the world long after his death in 1966.

This report, timed to coincide with President Obama's unveiling of his long-delayed Afghanistan strategy, is nothing more than a politically-timed hit piece on the previous administration designed to give Obama cover with the political left, which opposes continued involvement in Afghanistan. Look for Obama to cite this report extensively when he gives his inevitable speech on his Afghanistan strategy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yes, Climategate DOES discredit climate research

The files and e-mail exchanges from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at University of East Anglia are damning in several respects. What's readily apparent to anyone reading objectively is that CRU systematically engaged in a practice to stifle peer review of their work. This is a fact and not subject to dispute, and by itself ought to be sufficient to summarily dismiss any reports or recommendations coming from CRU.

Also readily apparent is advocacy for a specific outcome of their work. Take it away, AoSHQ:
> >From: Phil Jones []
> >Sent: 05 January 2009 16:18
> >To: Johns, Tim; Folland, Chris
> >Cc: Smith, Doug; Johns, Tim
> >Subject: Re: FW: Temperatures in 2009
> >
> >
> > Tim, Chris,
> > I hope you're not right about the lack of warming lasting
> > till about 2020. I'd rather hoped to see the earlier Met Office
> > press release with Doug's paper that said something like -
> > half the years to 2014 would exceed the warmest year currently on
> > record, 1998!
> > Still a way to go before 2014.
> >
> > I seem to be getting an email a week from skeptics saying
> > where's the warming gone. I know the warming is on the decadal
> > scale, but it would be nice to wear their smug grins away.
Dammit...curse this global cooling! I want to wipe some "smug grins" off people's faces! Oh, and never mind the fact that 1998 was NOT the hottest year on record. That was 1934, but that hardly fits the anthropogenic global warming narrative. This reveals an emotional investment in a desired conclusion which is incompatible with objective, honest scientific inquiry.

As for CRU researchers deliberately manipulating data to fit their needs, it certainly appears that happened, but the evidence is - for now - less than conclusive. But what may be even worse than fudging the data is that...CRU evidently has no idea what their datasets represent.

First, a few things about that Fortran source code you've probably heard about. For the uninitiated, "source code" is the program code that a programmer actually types into a computer. It might look funny to someone who's not a programmer, but it's still readable by humans. The source code is then run through a compiler which converts the source code to machine-readable form for execution.

Fortran is a programming language whose name comes from "FORmula TRANslator". It's been around for a long time (I did a little bit of Fortran work in the mid-1980s back in my programming days when I had to do some complex life insurance rate calculations), and it's still commonly used by scientists in number-crunching applications. Unlike other programming languages, Fortran source code can be pretty cryptic, even to an experienced programmer. For this reason, it's common practice to extensively comment the source code (comments are ignored by the compiler) so that someone coming along later to make changes to the code can understand what the hell's going on. This is why the Fortran source code from CRU has those long-running comments sections. Like this one:
7. Removed 4-line header from a couple of .glo files and loaded them into Matlab. Reshaped to 360r x 720c and plotted; looks OK for global temp (anomalies) data. Deduce that .glo files, after the header, contain data taken row-by-row starting with the Northernmost, and presented as '8E12.4'. The grid is from -180 to +180 rather than 0 to 360. This should allow us to deduce the meaning of the co-ordinate pairs used to
describe each cell in a .grim file (we know the first number is the lon or column, the second the lat or row - but which way up are the latitudes? And where do the longitudes break? There is another problem: the values are anomalies, wheras the 'public' .grim files are actual values. So Tim's explanations (in _READ_ME.txt) are incorrect..

8. Had a hunt and found an identically-named temperature database file which did include normals lines at the start of every station. How handy - naming two different files with exactly the same name and relying on their location to differentiate! Aaarrgghh!! Re-ran anomdtb:
It doesn't take a programmer to read this and realize that the guy writing the code was faced with a bunch of climate data files, the structure of which was unknown. Picture opening up an Excel spreadsheet with column after column of numbers, and no column headers telling you what each column contains.

Think about all this as President Obama jets off to Copenhagen to discuss a global climate change treaty with other world leaders, and think about what Obama's climate czar, Carol Browner, had to say about the appalling evidence coming out of CRU:
Ms. Browner initially shrugged when asked about the e-mails, saying she didn't have a reaction. But when a reporter followed up, she said she will stick with the consensus of the 2,500 climate scientists on the International Panel on Climate Change who concluded global warming is happening and is most likely being pushed by human actions.
Wow. I'm sure glad that science is being returned to its rightful place in this administration.

Update: I can't believe I forgot to mention the conspiracy to circumvent FOIA requests.

Hot Air links. Thanks!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Retailers: "Won't you please help?"

Just an observation on this Black Friday in the midst of the depression recession recovery.

It hasn't always been the case that the news media obsessively covered the Christmas shopping season. I'm thinking maybe for the past 15-20 years or so. But in all that time, I don't think I ever heard someone say "Wow! We're selling crap like there's no tomorrow and we expect a record year!". Not once. Instead, every report is all doom and gloom with retailers seeing anything from "disappointing results" to "the worst Christmas retail season ever".

Now why do you think that might be?

Social climbers

If you've seen the story about White House party-crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi, you've probably already seen this picture of the couple with VP Joe Biden. It's usually the one that accompanies the story. But the overreaching Washington socialites have a joint Facebook page (how weird is that?) with many more pictures from their illicit night at the White House.

Not satisfied to be seen schmoozing with the veep, they skipped right over his boss and went straight to the top for this picture with Rahm Emanuel, the real top dog in the White House.

Oh, wait...did I say Rahm Emanuel? Sorry. It was apparently some look-alike named Ron Emanuel. My bad.

Michaele's such an important figure, a few good men took time out from their duties to personally welcome her. Or so her Facebook page would have you believe.

Women of real substance and import have to stick together, you know. And a trend emerges...what does the right side of Michaele's face look like?

Later in the evening, Michaele and Joe got cozy.

The story was at first interesting only from a security perspective - how did two uninvited guests manage to crash a state dinner at the White House? - and I'm sure that between this episode and Biden's recent motorcade demolition derby, some folks over at the Secret Service are sweating bullets. But it keeps getting weirder.

Today's reports are that Michaele was being considered for an upcoming reality TV show "Housewives of Washington" on the Bravo channel and was followed around by a film crew all day while preparing for her big night out. I don't know about you, but whenever I hear about someone trying to get on a reality show, my immediate thought is "publicity whore".

As for their motivation for crashing this particular event, there's a clue on their Facebook page:
The America's Polo Cup & the United States Polo Team is looking forward to welcoming India in 2010 in the world championship polo matches on the DC National Mall
The Salahis are active in polo events and their Facebook page lists the Americas Polo Club as one of their employers. Wouldn't hurt to schmooze with some official representatives of India in advance of this event.

And what is wrong with Michaele's right side?

Update: I was looking for an article that gave the ages of these two, because one I saw yesterday (and can't find now) said that Tareq's age is variously given as 39 or 41. Sorry, folks, but I'm turning 50 next month, and there's no way I'm 8 or 10 years older than this guy. But CNN has this piece detailing some of their legal woes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Too Jive CRU

jive –noun
1. swing music or early jazz.
2. the jargon associated with swing music and early jazz.
3. Slang. deceptive, exaggerated, or meaningless talk: Don't give me any of that jive!

Too Jive CRU...2 Live Crew...see what I did there? Yeah, I know...lame. I doubt anyone even remembers today what 2 Live Crew was. Anyhoo...

When I first heard that someone had hacked into the University of East Anglia (UK) Climate Research Unit (CRU) and posted something north of 60MB worth of files and e-mails, I thought it was no big deal...there'd probably be a bunch of indecipherable climate data files and incomprehensible e-mails talking about the indecipherable climate data. But the e-mails between Phil Jones discussing "tricks" for cooking the books and - worse - conspiring to conceal their methods and data from prying eyes and FOI requests were in plain enough English.

Ace has a great post up today summarizing the chronology to date, but his addendum at the end about climate models, to me, is one of the most damning things I've seen yet on the charlatanism that is climate research. It seems that the models used to predict future climate trends - yes, those models which politicians world wide are citing to tax the living shit out of everyone and reduce us to a hunter-gatherer society - can't even properly predict the past, which, as Ace quips: unfortunately quite knowable, and so we can check their "predictions" against actual records.

They all fail. They all fail.
I'll just quote from the link the same part Ace quoted, because I'm lazy like that:
None of the multiple computer simulations used by a UN climate-change agency for assessments of global warming appears good enough to predict how India’s monsoon will behave, two Indian scientists have said.

The researchers examined 10 simulations of future climate scenarios used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and found none could reproduce correctly the behaviour of even 20th-century rainfall.

Not a single model could simulate realistically key features of the Indian monsoon...

In attempts to assess impacts of global warming, the IPCC considered 17 models of how climate would evolve as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rose. Some models predict more rainfall over India, but with great uncertainty.

“The models have very serious problems in simulating even 20th century monsoon patterns,” said Madhavan Rajeevan, a senior scientist at the National Atmospheric Research Laboratory, Tirupati, and a co-author of the paper.

“When a model (computer simulation) cannot even show with reasonable accuracy monsoon behaviour in the past, there’s a big question mark over its ability to predict future patterns,” Rajeevan told The Telegraph.
CRU is just too jive to be believed, too jive to get further grant money, too jive to continue operating.

Update: My reply to Charles in the comments about the programmer's remarks in the source code, because I think it's an important point:
Here's the scandal:
The guys writing the software to produce the climate prediction models don't know the structure of the data sets they're dealing with.

When taxes become punitive

This is sort of a repost of something I posted last year a few weeks before Barack Obama got elected. I usually don't repost old material, but I thought it timely given the Democrats' plans to levy punitive taxes on the wealthy to help fund ObamaCare. Here's the original:
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers", he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20". Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"
"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
Of course, the idea that Obama the bartender would lower the cost of our beer is laughable, but the point about the "tenth man" remains. And as I've previously pointed out, when the tenth man gets sick of getting his ass kicked and quits the game, or there aren't enough tenth men to go around, the tax bill will start trickling down.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Clay Jones, the editorial cartoonist at our local paper The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, runs a weekly caption contest in which he supplies a cartoon with an empty word balloon and readers submit caption suggestions. Readers vote on the top four or five entries, and the winner receives the completed original. This was my third winning entry this year.

Incidentally, Clay is also lead guitarist and front man for the local rock/punk/post-grunge/garage band Corporate T-shirt. Their debut album No Thanks To Hancock is available for purchase at the link. It rocks righteously and if you don't get it, you're a Commie. It's rumored that chicks swoon over him, but I've yet to see it for myself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sex toys of the deep

Deep-sea researchers claim to have discovered a treasure trove of sex toys, perhaps left behind by citizens of the lost city of Atlantis. Or maybe they just fell overboard from a Kennedy family yacht. We attempt to identify and catalog them here.

The Spade

"The Spade"
is believed to have been intended for the beginner in sexual self-gratification. This device is "reversible" in that either end could be employed, depending on the experience level of the user, or the amount of stimulation desired.

The Day Tripper

"The Day Tripper" is thought to be a "fire and forget" type of self-gratification device. We believe the wing-like protuberances hold the device in place and the motion of the wearer throughout the day takes care of the rest.

His And Hers

"The His And Hers"
is clearly intended for both men and women to enjoy (but probably not at the same time, unfortunately).

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
is apparently meant for only the most experienced user. Another reversible device, the user can choose which end to employ depending on the level of pleasure - or pain - desired. It can also be enjoyed (or endured, depending on the rock/paper/scissors outcome) by two at the same time.

OK, maybe I just made all that stuff up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ideological purity? No thanks. But...

Allahpundit at Hot Air reports on a recent poll which shows that 51% of Republicans would rather lose elections than win with party members who are less than ideological purists. Allah makes the fair point that this thinking could lead to long-term Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches:
The only way the right wins a majority is if the left screws things up so egregiously that even staunch conservatives are apt to beat centrist Democrats head to head. It’s a passive strategy, but it’s a strategy, I guess.
Like I said, it's a fair point. But what good is a Congress ruled by a Republican majority if that Congress is still passing craptastic legislation? Who cares if Republicans have an overwhelming majority if Congress is still pursuing cap & trade, government-run health care and excessive spending?

If one truly believes that conservative/libertarian policies are better for the country, then damn it, support candidates who advance those policies. This was the thrust of a brief exchange last night on Twitter between Allahpundit and Caleb Howe, who kicked it off with this Tweet linking to Allah's post:
Believing in things is stupid and you should stop it right away: @allahpundit
To which Allah responded via re-tweet:
Lose with honor, conservatives RT @CalebHowe: Believing in things is stupid and you should stop it right away:
That set Caleb off on this mini rant:
Principles. Petty pride. What's the difference. As long as there are more people with an R than a D, who cares how they vote? @allahpundit

The most important part of a ruling majority is the little letter in parentheses. Consensus on issues is a passé concern. Right, Dede?

Honestly, why do parties go to all this trouble of "planks" and "issues"? It's silly. Obviously the little parenthetical ID is what matters.

Cap and trade? Sure! Obamacare? Fine! Caucus with Dems? No problemo. Could you just use this little R logo? Sweet. We're solid. @allahpundit
My own ideology is closer to Allahpundit's (I think), but I have to agree with Howe on this. It does the "conservatarian" cause - and the country - no good if Republicans hold a majority but push legislation only a Democrat could love.

If we're right, and the Democrats' policies are in fact as bad as we say they are, Democrats will eventually succumb to a sort of political Darwinian process of natural deselection. The big question is what the extent of damage will be in the meantime.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Biden creating or saving lots of auto body repair jobs

A brief exchange on Twitter today with @VRWCTexan revealed that it may have been dangerous to hunt with Dick Cheney, but if Joe Biden ever invites you on a road trip, you might consider politely declining.
November 11:
Two Secret Service vehicles used by Vice President Joe Biden allegedly struck and killed a pedestrian at an intersection on Washington, DC's Suitland Parkway in the early morning hours of Wednesday, news reports say.

November 16:
A sheriff's deputy was taken to an Albuquerque hospital after being involved in an accident while working the motorcade for Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke at a campaign fundraiser to benefit two New Mexico Democrats.

November 17:
A car responsible for clearing a path for Vice President Biden’s motorcade was involved in a West Side collision that sent three people to the hospital today, sources said.
How many more, Joe? How many more?

Government not waiting for health care bill to pass to start messin' with you

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government panel that makes influential recommendations on medical care practices, is now recommending that women not get mammogram breast cancer screening until age 50, and then only every two years. The current practice is to start at age 40 and then test annually thereafter.
"We're not saying women shouldn't get screened. Screening does saves lives," said Diana B. Petitti, vice chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which released the recommendations Monday in a paper being published in Tuesday's Annals of Internal Medicine. "But we are recommending against routine screening. There are important and serious negatives or harms that need to be considered carefully."

Several patient advocacy groups and many breast cancer experts welcomed the new guidelines, saying they represent a growing recognition that more testing, exams and treatment are not always beneficial and, in fact, can harm patients. Mammograms produce false-positive results in about 10 percent of cases, causing anxiety and often prompting women to undergo unnecessary follow-up tests, sometimes-disfiguring biopsies and unneeded treatment, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Not everybody is so excited about the new guidelines. Such as people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about:
But the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and other experts condemned the change, saying the benefits of routine mammography have been clearly demonstrated and play a key role in reducing the number of mastectomies and the death toll from one of the most common cancers.

"Tens of thousands of lives are being saved by mammography screening, and these idiots want to do away with it," said Daniel B. Kopans, a radiology professor at Harvard Medical School. "It's crazy -- unethical, really."
And just in case you don't think that this is the Democrats' idea of the future of health care:
The new recommendations took on added significance because under health-care reform legislation pending in Congress, the conclusions of the 16-member task force would set standards for what preventive services insurance plans would be required to cover at little or no cost.
A favorite cry of the Left in the abortion debate is "Hands off my body!", but I guess that doesn't apply here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

9/11 mastermind to be tried in NYC

As insane as this sounds, you can't say Candidate Barack Obama didn't say he wouldn't do this. In fact, it was a central issue in his campaign.
Self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be sent to New York to face trial in a civilian federal court, an Obama administration official said Friday.

The official said Attorney General Eric Holder plans to announce the decision later in the morning.

The official is not authorized to discuss the decision before the announcement, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bringing such notorious suspects to U.S. soil to face trial is a key step in President Barack Obama's plan to close the terror suspect detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama initially planned to close the detention center by Jan. 22, but the administration is no longer expected to meet that deadline.

It is also a major legal and political test of Obama's overall approach to terrorism. If the case suffers legal setbacks, the administration will face second-guessing from those who never wanted it in a civilian courtroom. And if lawmakers get upset about notorious terrorists being brought to their home regions, they may fight back against other parts of Obama's agenda.
It's been pointed out elsewhere by legal experts all around the blogosphere that this is a manifestly bad idea.

Once introduced into the US criminal justice system, these jokers will receive full protection under the Constitution, and at trial, anything can happen.

I'm not a lawyer, but I suspect that for the purposes of a criminal trial in a civilian court, little to no evidence already collected by the military will be admissible. Certainly, no information obtained from KSM while being waterboarded will be admissible. Once he's in New York, prosecutors will effectively have to build a case from scratch.

I'm eager to see what legal experts have to say about this today. There must be scores of scenarios in which a judge might be forced to dismiss the charges and kick him loose.

Consequences. Elections have consequences.

Update: A few hours ago on Twitter I said, "If ANY of these trials go sideways for the prosecution, Obama's done in 2012.", and it occurred to me that Obama clearly knows this. So why, exactly, is he taking such a political gamble by shipping five terrorists from Gitmo to New York for trial? One thing it suggests is that the evidence the prosecution will submit makes it a slam dunk in all five of the cases. That seems unlikely, but not beyond the realm of possibility. Another way Obama can avoid catastrophic political blowback is if the trials are delayed until after the 2012 elections, but that's three whole years away, and the Obama administration would come under fire from all sides if it appeared the trials were being delayed for political convenience. If all five are brought to trial very swiftly and something goes bad for the prosecution in just one and one of these guys walks, then those three years aren't going to be long enough for Obama to get over the backlash. In fact, under those circumstances, the only thing that would prevent impeachment proceedings before 2012 is the Democrats' majority in Congress.

So aside from appeasing the lunatic fringe of the loony left, is there any upside in doing this?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Afghanistan: No policy, no strategy, no decision

Barack Obama has left Gen. McChrystal and his troops in Afghanistan hanging for better than 70 days without a decision on the strategic direction in Afghanistan. Strategic decisions, though, can only be made once a coherent policy has been articulated, and while Candidate Obama was pretty unambiguous in his campaign rhetoric that victory in Afghanistan was essential, President Obama won't even use the word "victory" in the context of Afghanistan. He's failed thus far to even articulate a policy on Afghanistan, and without a policy, formulation of a strategy isn't possible.

The reason this is moving so slow is because he can't foist the policy and strategy decisions on Congress; they're his decisions to make, and his alone. So while Obama scurries about trying to rush Congress into passing health care reform, cap & trade and card check legislation, he agonizes over the political ramifications of his Afghanistan policy.

Happy Veteran's Day.

Update: In the immortal words of John McEnroe, "You can not be serious!"...Obama votes "present".

Update 2: Uncle Jimbo rang the bell on this back in February.

Beltway sniper lessons learned: None

It's hard to believe that it's been seven years since John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo cruised the Washington, DC area picking off people at random from their car. Muhammad was put to death by lethal injection last night here in Virginia.

Their three-week murder binge during October of 2002 claimed 10 lives, and struck close to home for me personally when two of them occurred just a short drive from my house. The second of those shootings occurred on Route 1 here in Spotsylvania County as Mrs. Pool Bar and I were on our way from out having breakfast. We were passed by a county Sheriff's car at high speed which pulled into an Exxon station ahead of us where a couple of other Sheriff's cars had just arrived. We got the news when we returned home that 53-year-old Kenneth Bridges had been shot dead while pumping gas at the station.

The shootings took place just a year after the 9/11 terror attacks, and law enforcement authorities moved swiftly to disassociate Muhammad's acts of terrorism from his Muslim religion in exactly the same way authorities today are disassociating Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's shooting spree from his Muslim religion. Law enforcement authorities have become conditioned by our excessively politically correct culture to not consider Islamist fundamentalism as a possible motivator in violent acts.

This kind of political correctness amounts to malpractice on a grand scale and it must be stopped.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Obama, the political science project

Whether Barack Obama's occupation of the White House ends in 2012 or 2016 remains to be seen, but one thing's certain...he'll be studied in political science classes for generations to come. How a man viewed by supporters and detractors alike as an extraordinarily adept political figure could turn out to be so inept defies logical explanation.

Unless one's been obsessively keeping a daily diary since his inauguration in January, it's become impossible to catalog all the major and minor blunders of the charlatan Obama. When he's not giving the Queen of England an iPod (a fucking iPod!) as a state gift, holding beer summits on the White House lawn, or bantering aimlessly for two or three minutes before getting around to addressing the murder of 13 Americans by an Islamist extremist US soldier, he's bungling one foreign policy issue after another...Russia (scrapping Eastern Europe missile defense with nothing in return), Iran (nuclear program and fraudulent elections), Honduras (backing Marxist thug legally removed from office), Afghanistan (can't formulate policy, never mind strategy)...the list is already endless after just 10 months in office.

Most recently, he's decided that Berlin, Germany is a fine city in which to deliver a presidential campaign speech, but can't be bothered to visit to observe the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He resorts to making lurid sexual references to the millions of Americans who oppose the current health care reform proposals.

And the son of a bitch hovers around 50% approval rating. How did America get so fucking stupid? Maybe political science majors fifty years from now will figure it out.

One man's terrorist...

We may assume that Christopher Monfort, the accused Seattle cop-killer, isn't a Muslim. Why? Because law enforcement authorities have branded him a "lone domestic terrorist", unlike Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan who gunned down 13 people while reportedly yelling "Allahu Akhbar".
A man shot by police as he was sought in connection with the Halloween killing of a Seattle police officer has been identified as 41-year-old Christopher Monfort.

At a news conference Saturday, Seattle assistant police chief Jim Pugel called Monfort "a lone domestic terrorist."
So while everyone responsible for protecting US citizens from terrorist attack, from the President on down, ties themselves into knots not to call Hasan a terrorist, Monfort gets the label pretty easily.*

One man's terrorist is the same man's poor, suffering stress puppy.

* I should note that I don't have a real problem categorizing Monfort as a domestic terrorist, given the information in the article. But it seems there's an irrational fear of doing so when the perpetrator may have been motivated by Islamist ideology.

Like thieves in the night

Late on a Saturday night, while most of America slept or was out for a night on the town, the most ethical Congress ever, under the most transparent administration ever, passed a health care reform bill that was devised in secret closed-door meetings and was opposed by a majority of their constituents. If it's any consolation, the final vote was 220-215, which doesn't bode well for passage by the Senate in its current form.

For me the most disturbing thing about this bill from a civil liberties point of view is the individual mandates provision, which mandates that all citizens carry medical insurance. Failure to do so results in heavy fines or imprisonment for up to five years (if I understand the current version correctly). I'm hoping there are libertarian legal groups with court filings already drafted ready to challenge this provision if and when it becomes law. It'll be fun to see the Supreme Court take up the question of limits to Congressional power over individual rights, especially in an election year with many House and Senate seats up for grabs.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The death of statesmanship

Un-fucking-believable. Barney Frank demonstrates his class and statesmanship in the health care debate by mocking and insulting the intelligence of Americans protesting the health care bill.
Frank, a Massachusetts liberal, told an audience: "Some of the people (at the rally) that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'."

Rep. Bachmann, R-Minn., had organized Thursday's rally attended by thousands of conservatives critical of the Democrats' health care plan. Her spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. Frank, who recently compared arguing with an angry voter to conversing with a dining room table, said this week's protest was like being trapped inside a furniture warehouse.
One thing I've learned about liberals is that they invariably believe themselves the intellectual superior of everybody else. That's fine if you're a coffee house poet or even a lefty columnist, but for a senior member of Congress to be smearing the intelligence of the 50% or so of Americans who disagree with him politically is outrageous. C'mon,'s time to vote this cretin out of office.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Were elections a referendum on Obama? Kinda

A day after Virginia and (gasp!) New Jersey elected Republican governors, the Obama-loving media is eager to spin the results as being anything but a referendum on Barack Obama. Actually, they were so eager, the spin started the day before the election. this morning has an analysis piece by Mark Preston titled "Elections not a referendum on Obama". Well, I guess that settles it. Preston does provide some polling data to support his assertion:
While the economy and jobs were the chief concern for voters in both states, 26 percent of New Jersey residents said property taxes was also a major issue, while another 20 percent mentioned corruption, according to CNN exit polling. In a similar CNN survey taken in Virginia, health care was the most important issue for 24 percent of the voters, while 15 percent named taxes and transportation was mentioned by 7 percent.

Further proof that this election was not solely focused on Obama, 56 percent of Virginians said that the president was not a factor when it came down to their vote. In New Jersey, that number increased to 60 percent of the people who went to the polls on Tuesday.
But who does Preston quote when it comes time to lay out a winning 2010 strategy for Democrats? Veteran political mastermind Former movie producer and far-left blogger Jane Hamsher.
"I would suggest that appealing to Republican interests is not the best way to turn out Democrats," Hamsher said. "It is just a fact of life. They have to turn out Democrats."
Wow, thanks for the keen insight, Jane.

I'm in no way a political strategist, but I know a thing or two about human nature. The average voter - that is to say the non-partisan who doesn't spend every waking hour consuming political news and tends to vote from the gut - isn't happy. At an emotional, adolescent level he still might be infatuated with Barack Obama, but on a less conscious (and perhaps more intellectual level) he knows Democratic policies are not improving things and may in fact be making things worse.

Young voters turned out overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. But as Preston notes:
On Tuesday, the Obama magic did not rub off on Corzine or Deeds.

In New Jersey, while Corzine overwhelmingly won among African-Americans, only 14 percent of the vote was black; young people, age 18 to 29, made up 9 percent of the vote and 36 percent of them backed Republican Chris Christie. Meanwhile, 60 percent of independents supported Christie as well.

The numbers were worse for Deeds in Virginia. Ten percent of the electorate was age 18 to 29 and Republican Bob McDonnell captured 54 percent of this voting bloc. Deeds overwhelmingly carried the African-American vote that made up16 percent of people who turned out on Tuesday, while 66 percent of voters who identified themselves as independents backed McDonnell.
The black vote might be lost in perpetuity to the GOP, but young voters can often swing either way. In New Jersey, they simply failed to show up in enough numbers to change the outcome. In Virginia, they also failed to show up in significant numbers, but those that did voted heavily for McDonnell. That does not bode well for Virginia Democrats in 2010.

So while Obama may not have been a specific target for voter backlash, he's losing his influence over a key voting bloc...he's losing his mojo. And even if last night's elections weren't specifically a referendum on Obama, they might have been more generally a referendum on Democratic policies.

The odd outcome of this is that if the trend continues into the 2010 mid-term elections and Democrats lose the significant majority they now hold in Congress, Democratic policies will either be tabled or seriously diluted going forward. That could set the stage for another Obama win in 2012 if a more sound fiscal policy returns to Washington.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Ms. Beckham, Joan Collins called...she wants her clothes back.

Of the things I hated about the 1980s, shoulder pads on womens' clothes tops the list. I thought that a quarter century on, safely ensconced in the 21st century, we were safe from this assault on the eyes, but we can never drop our guard.
They are regarded as one of the more unfortunate style trends of the Eighties.

But it seems that shoulder pads are not only making a comeback - they are actually selling out.

John Lewis said it has had to reorder its stock of £1.35 pads after fashion-conscious shoppers ransacked its haberdashery shelves.
The complacent will say "But that's Britain. It can't happen here." I hate to break it to you...Yes. It. Can.

If "Flock Of Seagulls" come back, I'm going to go live on an island somewhere for the next five or ten years.

Monday, November 02, 2009

War as a 9-to-5 job

Picture this: You're at the controls of a Predator drone in a trailer somewhere, remotely piloting the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over a suspected al Qaeda hideout. You watch on the monitor as a few dozen US Marines close on the bad guys. Out of nowhere, a group of al Quaeda jihadis opens fire on the Marines with AK-47s and RPGs. You watch a couple of friendlies go down and you hear the frantic calls for air support on the radio. Your sensor operator has locked his laser on the bad guys' position and you wait for permission to engage. After a few tense minutes of listening to the radio chatter you're cleared in, and you launch a Hellfire missile on the target. The image on your screen is heat-sensitive, and you see a big plume of white blossom and after it clears, you can pick out the body parts - still warm against the relatively cool background - glowing on the screen. With little time to reflect on the carnage, you receive the order to fire on the building al Qaeda is using for a hideout. You release a second Hellfire aimed at the building. After performing battle damage assessment and post-mission debrief, you exit the trailer and drive home, where your wife meets you at the door to discuss little Johnny's disappointing report card.

A lot of people don't know that many of the pilotless drone missions flown in Iraq and the Af-Pak theatres are actually piloted not from a ground station in the theatre itself, but from an Air Force Base in Nevada. Creech AFB is home of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing which operates many of the Predator and Reaper drones over targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Stars and Stripes has an interesting article about the unforeseen problems this can bring upon families.
Call it combat as shift work, a new paradigm of commuter warfare that is blurring the historical understanding of what it means to go off to battle. And the strain of the daily whiplash transition between bombs and bedtime stories, coupled with the fast-increasing workload to meet relentlessly expanding demand, is leading to fatigue and burnout for the ground-based controllers who drive the drones.

“We have 5,000 years of one type of warfare and only a couple of years of this new kind,” said P.W. Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.” “These guys are simultaneously at home and at war. It may be that human psychology isn’t designed for that. We don’t know yet.”
The Air Force is working on programs now to help families deal with this odd new kind of combat stress, but this isn't as new as it sounds.

During the Yugoslavian conflicts of the 1990s, combat air missions were flown over the Balkans from Aviano Air Base in Italy. Many of those missions were flown by pilots who weren't deployed, but were "permanent party" - stationed at Aviano and accompanied by their families on their tour of duty there. I recall reading articles back then about the unique type of stress faced by those pilots.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but it's often a double-edged sword.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

L'Affaire Scozzafava

The Dede Scozzafava affair in New York's 23rd district is a perfect example of how political parties no longer build political platforms based on ideology and instead serve only to keep loyal party apparatchiks in power. The obvious questions in the aftermath of Scozzafava's political meltdown are (1) why did the local Republican committee pick someone to run for the special election whose every position is diametrically opposed to just about every mainstream Republican, and (2) why did she even identify herself as a Republican in the first place?

I'm not familiar with the area or the recent history there, so I obviously don't know the answers to those questions. But these things generally happen when a party completely loses sight of any foundational beliefs and views its mission as one of simply gaining and maintaining power. The same is true of individuals, and Scozzafava likely enrolled as a Republican as a matter of convenience; it was the easiest path to election. This is what happens when we have a political class whose sole interest is continued employment as elected officials.

But the GOP bit off more than it could chew with Scozzafava. In years past, she'd have encountered little resistance from an under-informed electorate, and the majority of Republican voters in a majority Republican district would have sent her to Capitol Hill just by virtue of having an (R) after her name. Not so any more. In the wake of last year's general elections in which legions of star-struck voters bought a pig in a poke in the form of Barack Obama, voters are taking a harder look at their candidates. They want to know how they've voted in the past and what their positions are now.

There's a new game afoot, and Doug Hoffman - and the citizens of NY-23 - just may be the first winners in the game.