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  • Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

    Without Churchill, India’s Famine Would Have Been Worse

    Posted by Grurray on 12th February 2016 (All posts by )

    There’s been quite a bit of clamor going on the past week about Winston Churchill. First Marc Andreessen made a rather poorly received joke about Indian anti-colonialism on Twitter a few days ago. Then, in last night’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders referenced Churchill as a foreign leader to be emulated.

    I’m an avid follower of Andreeson. He tossed out a flippant comment, probably without giving it much thought, and inadvertently got caught in the middle of a hornet’s nest. I’m certainly no fan of Bernie Sanders’ socialist proposals, but I do appreciate his point of view. He made a good point about Winston Churchill. It’s something unfortunately not shared by others in his party.

    In response to these two events, the left wing camp has been working overtime to consign the legacy of Churchill to history’s dustbin, and one of their preferred vehicles has been the Bengal famine of 1943. The hipster-Jacobins at have written a piece documenting Churchill’s supposed war crimes including his alleged complicity in the famine. They’re all based on rumor, heresay, quotes taken out of context, and statements by political and personal rivals. If you feel like diving into the pseudo-journalistic dumpster you can go search for it, but I’m not going to give it any more attention than it deserves, which is very little.

    What I will provide is the Churchill Centre’s rebuttal.

    When the War Cabinet became fully aware of the extent of the famine, on 24 September 1943, it agreed to send 200,000 tons of grain to India by the end of the year. Far from seeking to starve India, Churchill and his cabinet sought every way to alleviate the suffering without undermining the war effort. The war—not starving Indians or beating them into submission—remained the principal concern.

    The greatest irony of all is that it was Churchill who appointed, in October 1943, the viceroy who would halt the famine in its tracks: General Archibald Wavell immediately commandeered the army to move rice and grain from areas where it was plentiful to where it was not, and begged Churchill to send what help he could. On 14 February 1944 Churchill called an emergency meeting of the War Cabinet to see if a way to send more aid could be found that would not wreck plans for the coming Normandy invasion. “I will certainly help you all I can,” Churchill telegraphed Wavell on the 14th, “but you must not ask the impossible.”

    I would hope that faith and reason would lead us to see through the falsehoods of leftist revisionists. Sadly, most people now are being fed the biases of the “Explainer Journalism” view of the world, so the record needs to be set straight.

    Posted in History, Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    Air and Space Reading

    Posted by Grurray on 3rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Some things I’ve been perusing lately concerning aeronautics and aerospace

    The WW2 flying wing decades ahead of it’s time

    Flying wing designs gained some credence in the 1950s, mostly due to the efforts of Jack Northrop, who had been inspired by seeing some of the Horten’s sports gliders in the 1930s. The captured Ho 229 may also have encouraged him. Northrop’s unsuccessful YB-35 flying wing bomber design of the late 1940s, was hamstrung by massive vibration problems caused by the propeller-driven engines, showing that the Hortens were right to have used jets in the Ho 229. Northrop’s later jet-propelled YB-49 design used jet engines, and while it never went into service, it paved the way for the company’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber decades later, a design which certainly shares some physical similarities with the Ho 229.

    When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages

    Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions. One pilot might have a longer-than-average arm length, but a shorter-than-average leg length. Another pilot might have a big chest but small hips. Even more astonishing, Daniels discovered that if you picked out just three of the ten dimensions of size — say, neck circumference, thigh circumference and wrist circumference — less than 3.5 per cent of pilots would be average sized on all three dimensions. Daniels’s findings were clear and incontrovertible. There was no such thing as an average pilot. If you’ve designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’ve actually designed it to fit no one.

    The A-10 lives to fly another day

    It’s a striking about-face from just a couple years ago when they were saying the A-10 was obsolete. Then again, they’ve been saying that for 30 years. The obsolescence of close air support in general has always been just around the corner for the past 70 years. Since now the A-10 won’t be allowed to phase out completely until a CAS replacement is ready, we need to start planning for the Warthog 2.0

    According to Sprey, the A-10 is by far the most survivable aircraft for the low-altitude, low-speed CAS mission. But almost every aspect of the A-10 can be vastly improved using modern materials and construction techniques. However, The key to producing a new warplane quickly, on time and to budget is to use the best existing technology rather than trying to invent entirely new hardware and software.

    The audacious rescue plan that might have saved space shuttle Columbia

    As with every other task involved with the rescue, there was no room for error, and there would be no second chances. Atlantis would be launched with an all-veteran crew, with selection for the mission biased heavily toward astronauts who demonstrated fast adaptation to microgravity (there was no time to be space-sick) and high aptitude at EVA and rendezvous. The report names no names, but it does indicate that an assessment revealed a pool of nine EVA candidates, seven command candidates, and seven pilot candidates available in January 2003 whom NASA felt could have undertaken the mission.

    Which brings us to one of the all time great movies about the space program

    You’re damn right they are! Know what they accomplished living up there in a tin can for five months? Because of men like these, we’ve taken the first step off this little planet. The moon trip was a walk around the block. We’re going to the stars, to other worlds, other civilizations. Men will be killed in this effort just as they’re killed in cars and airplanes……and bars and…

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 20 Comments »

    Walter Russell Mead: Rethinking the Development of the Liberal, Capitalist World Order

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 2nd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Wherein he discusses America’s secret plan for global domination…

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 12 Comments »

    Breaking Things Down and Building Them Up

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 26th January 2016 (All posts by )

    First some demolition:

    There’s actually a lot more going here than meets the eye. First, a structural model of the building is created. Buildings and bridges are overbuilt, such that the structure is capable of supporting considerably more load than it’s actually required to hold. This allows for minor failures to occur during the construction and life of the building without it collapsing. Once the model is built, they determine what support members may be removed without collapsing the structure, taking it from a safety factor of 1.5 (50% stronger than necessary) to 1 (just strong enough to stand). The analysis is carried out or overseen by structural engineers.

    Next, charges are laid on some support members, like columns and beams, but not others. The idea is to leave parts of the building connected by steel girders to parts that will fall so they get pulled in that direction and fall on top of the pile. Gravity does the actual demolition, the charges just break the supports.

    Finally, the charges are detonated in a careful sequence. First are a series of weakening charges that remove the 50% of support safety margin, then the building is collapsed from bottom to top and (usually) from the center outwards to the periphery, with the back and sides being pulled into the center debris pile.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Miscellaneous, Tech | 11 Comments »

    Two Types of Law

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 25th January 2016 (All posts by )

    1. The law that applies you.
    2.The law that doesn’t apply to the politically connected.

    Interesting to me that despite breaking many federal laws regarding the removal and handling of fetuses, no one has brought charges against Planned Parenthood. However, those filming the breaking of the law are being charged.

    Grand jury indicts 2 behind Planned Parenthood videos

    I guess their political connection aren’t up to snuff.

    And this, from Glenn Reynolds:
    Forecast of distrust with a chance of revolution

    “Then there’s the official lawlessness. The IRS, hiding from investigations that it targeted Tea Party groups, keeps “accidentally” destroying hard drives. Hillary’s emails also keep mysteriously disappearing, and now the State Department has used the blizzard as an excuse for not producing court-ordered emails, though it’s known about the order for months. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, former attorney general Michael Mukasey says that Hillary should face criminal charges, but who really expects that? She’s politically untouchable, which says bad things about the rule of law.”

    The ‘elite’ break whatever laws they wish and laugh in your face, as do politically connected people and organizations like PP. Assuming a Republican wins the next presidential election, will there be an accounting? Should there be? Of what sort? What would reestablish the Rule of Law among the political elite?

    Related: Immigrant Mob Attacks French Family

    “The mob can be seen hurling objects at the family before one of the men within the house emerges with an air rifle to ward them off. The man was later taken into custody by police, but has been released while the regional prosecutor considers whether to pursue a case against him.”

    Note who got arrested and who did not.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 18 Comments »

    Amateur Astronomy

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 23rd January 2016 (All posts by )


    I first got interested in astronomy when I was a child. Visiting one of my father’s brothers and his wife one night with my family, I got bored and amused myself playing pool in their basement. Bored with even that, I rifled a bookcase and found a book on the Messier Objects. I remember being sprawled on the floor fascinated that such things even existed, much less we had photos of them taken through telescopes. Being prior to the Voyager missions, even the planets were still grainy, poorly resolved objects, so this was a great revelation to me. These days, anyone with access to the internet can view the photo catalogs from the HST, the Spitzer IR Telescope, as well as images from the great European and American observatories.

    Charles Messier was 14 in 1744 when a six-tailed comet made an appearance in the skies over France. Fascinated, he spent the rest of his life searching for comets and in the process stumbled onto lots of objects that, in crude 18th century telescopes, might at first be mistaken for one, having that same hazy, glowing look that a comet has. Angry that he kept wasting valuable comet hunting time tracking fuzzy little clouds of light that never moved, all of which were then called nebula (cloud or mist), he resolved to start recording their positions on the sky and making the list, now known as Messier’s Catalog, available to others for their convenience.

    Ironically, the objects in Messier’s list of nebulae turned out to be far more interesting than comets. As telescopes improved in optical quality and got larger, those nebulae got resolved into spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies, faint open star clusters, globular star clusters now known to be in orbit around our galaxy, clouds of hydrogen and oxygen in which UV light from nearby stars excites them to fluoresce, and the glowing remnants of recent supernova explosions.

    For those interested in exploring the sky on their own, the first piece of equipment you should own is binoculars, preferably 7×50 or 10×50, and a book that teaches you to find your way around the sky. You cannot do better than start with 365 Starry Nights. The author, Chet Raymo, is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Stonehill College and the author of a dozen books. He is also an artist, a naturalist and a religious scientist who believes there’s both beauty and purpose to life and the universe. The book assumes it’s been received as a Christmas present, and begins with a view of the night sky as seen from the northern hemisphere on January 1st. He explains what you’re seeing through beautifully rendered diagrams of the stars, explains how to find other things in relation to those constellations, then describes some interesting objects inside each one. Each night a little more detail is added and the diagrams slowly change with the seasons. It’s probably the most beautiful, poetic, yet informed and useful book on navigating and understanding the night sky I’ve ever seen.

    A very nice set of basic but good quality binoculars can be purchased online at Orion Telescopes & Binoculars. This $100 pair of 7×50 binoculars have BAK-4 glass in their prisms and multicoated optics. They’re an excellent yet inexpensive instrument for going beyond naked-eye viewing but still offering wide field views of star clusters, the Milky Way, and brighter Messier Objects. Orion has a stellar reputation for customer service and, being owned and run by amatuer atronomers, will gladly work with a beginner and make recommendations or work to resolve equipment problems.

    Two other basic pieces of relatively high quality yet affordable entry level equipment are an 8″ or 10″ dobsonian reflector and/or a 3″-4″ refractor. Both are easy to set up, easy to use, and can provide hours of fun. Of the two, you will always get more bang for the buck with a reflector simply because they are easier to produce, both optically and mechanically. That said, a high quality refractor provides very crisp, high contrast images and are generally smaller and more portable. You milage may vary.

    10″ “Go-To” Dobsonian Telescope

    Celestron Omni XLT 102 Refractor Telescope

    Orion ED80T CF

    Some excellent books for a the backyard astronomer include Nightwatch, a general introduction to amatuer astronomy and equipment and Turn Left at Orion a book that concentrates on helping you locate objects for binoculars and small telescopes.

    Years ago, my youngest daughter and I traveled through Arizona and Utah together. If you never been under desert skies at night you’ve never seen a night sky in all its splendor. The Milky Way is a stream of stars from horizon to horizon, like a river of sparkling light overhead. In and around the Milky Way, stars are so dense it’s almost impossible to pick out constellations, simply because so many stars normally washed out into the background are brilliantly visible. Nebulae and star clusters are visible to the naked eye and are spectacular in binoculars. We spent several nights parked out in the wilderness sky watching from the back of our Jeep Cherokee while Jewel played on the CD player inside. That same daughter and I spent a wonderful night near Gettysburg watching a Perseid meteor shower from my Mustang convertible. Astronomy is something you can certainly enjoy alone, but it’s even better if you can find someone to share it with.

    The Deep Sky Videos channel from the astronomers at University of Nottingham.

    NASA’s Great Observatories

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 14 Comments »

    They Want the Establishment Burned to the Ground

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 10th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Tea Party 2.0…

    The GOP loathes both the leading Republican candidates. Republican voters, meanwhile, increasingly loathe the GOP.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 28 Comments »

    Tom Palmer’s “Update From the Field on Defending Liberty,” reported by B. F. Johnson, in Freedom Glow

    Posted by leifsmith on 9th January 2016 (All posts by )

    This is a good article – a contribution to realistic optimism about the future of liberty. It’s also an introduction to Barbara Johnson’s new venture: Freedom Glow. She attended Palmer’s Atlas Network event, and took along her 14 year old son, Jaycee, who made an impression. This is her report:

    With ten million or more doing the kind of work Tom Palmer is doing we have a chance to make liberty the common inheritance of everyone. It may take a thousand years to accomplish it, so it’s good to hear the work is underway. As Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey was fond of saying, “There’s not a moment to lose.”

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Culture, Education, International Affairs, Libertarianism, Miscellaneous | No Comments »

    “Let’s throw rocks, bricks and bottles at the police”

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 3rd January 2016 (All posts by )

    In a sane world, this Mississippi councilman would be arrested and charged with inciting a riot. What is achieved by not arresting? We want to signal that threats like this are OK? That the behavior is endorsed by the society? What exactly?

    This the exact behavior we see in the French suburbs: The heat rises in France’s banlieues

    Mady Traoré is 24. Born in France, to Malian parents, he lives in Clichy-sous-Bois. About 15 miles north of Paris, Clichy is probably the most notorious of the French banlieues – the often rundown estates on the outskirts of the country’s big cities, inhabited largely by second- and third-generation immigrants from North and West African former colonies.
    Clichy gained its unenviable reputation in 2005, when the neighborhood saw weeks of rioting and firebombing – les flambées in street patois. Two youngsters had died from electrocution while hiding in a power sub-station. They had fled there after being chased by the police, in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity,.
    The deaths triggered a wave of violence. Across France, les banlieues have long been a powder keg of marginalization, poverty and resentment, not least among young men of African origin. Street battles with the police in Clichy unleashed turmoil in quartiers difficile from Paris to Lille, from Toulouse to Marseille. The 2005 riots were the worst in modern French history, resulting in 3,000 arrests, the burning of 10,000 vehicles and serious damage to hundreds of public buildings. A state of emergency was called, which lasted three months.

    “Since 2005, surveillance cameras have been installed right across Clichy and are now almost as ubiquitous as “F–k the Police” graffiti. Ominously, the district’s new police station, built after the riots, is surrounded by a 12-foot high solid steel wall, topped with metal grids to repel Molotov cocktails and other types of firebombs.

    The problem is the same in both places. Blacks and muslims (and black muslims) who can’t or won’t integrate in the wider society engage in destructive and violent behavior, have extremely high unemployment, and blame the society and government around them. Police and firemen are famously lured into the banlieues when cars or buildings or roadblocks are set alight, then attacked with rocks and bottles and even molotov cocktails. That accomplishes two things: it strikes out at the authorities, and it defines a mini nation state where outsiders are attacked if they dare enter. Where but in a Western country would this be tolerated? Do you think the Chinese would tolerate this? The Koreans? The Pakis? Egyptians? Peruvians? The problem here isn’t too much enforcement of the law, it’s too little.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 24 Comments »

    Free Webinar – A Better Model For Political Discussions, Presentation by Pat Wagner

    Posted by leifsmith on 29th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Tuesday, January 5, 2016, Noon–1 pm, Denver time

    We have all observed that political discussions tend to bring out the worst in everyone, including ourselves, but is there a way to approach these conversations that will contribute to friendship rather than build enmity? Pat will explore this idea in her free webinar on Tuesday, January 5th, noon to 1 pm Denver time. It will be recorded and archived (also available free). Please join us for an hour of constructive and practical good will. And please forward this invitation to anyone you think may be interested. Thanks!

    Pat writes, “Recent political campaigns destroyed lasting friendships, frayed family ties, and alienated neighbors and co-workers. Social media became a battleground of nasty diatribes, insults, and slurs. Is there a better way to talk about ideological differences? The Discovery Model is about listening and sharing with no intention to convince or win a debate. The point? To learn and grow while strengthening workplace, personal, and online relationships.”

    Full description & registration info:

    Leif Smith,
    PO Box 9100, Denver, CO 80209-0100
    303-778-0880 (main), 303-744-1855 (direct)


    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Destroying the American Idea

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 24th December 2015 (All posts by )


    From a post on the death toll from WWII at Bookworm…

    Danny Lemieux:
    But let’s call that “Long Peace” following WWII by its real name: “Pax Americana”, which is presently in the state of being systematically unraveled by our current White House occupant and his minions.

    Michael Hiteshew:
    They had plenty of help.
    The Europeans have been keen to dismantle American hegemony since they recovered from WWII, while getting ‘stupid Americans!’ to defend them. The EU, the single currency and single labor market was supposed to make them the dominant power on the planet. By the late 90’s they made no secret of the fact they fully intended to replace us and demonstrate how a world dominant civilization should be run. I’m still waiting for the demonstration to begin.

    When the Russians aren’t taking aid from us, they are fully devoted to destroying us, using every means possible.

    Meanwhile, between taxes, unions and regulation, virtually all American manufacturing has been driven offshore, mostly to China. The Chinese are using their newfound wealth to build a modern society and also fully intend to replace us as the dominant world power.

    Islam is a backward, barbaric, totalitarian ideology that spends half its energy fighting each other and the other half attacking its neighbors. It should be destroyed and its practice outlawed. It’s worse than nazi-ism or communism and is wholly incompatible with any form of modern civilization. We are in its sights because we are still seen as the dominant power that must be defeated for islam to expand.

    The last remnants of the communists, both in Venezuela and the university lounge, also want the American Idea destroyed because freedom and capitalism are the polar opposites of what they wish to impose.

    So it’s been tough going. Only time will tell if we survive it.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 24 Comments »

    The Falcon Has Returned

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 22nd December 2015 (All posts by )

    Yesterday, Elon Musk wrote the following on the SpaceX website regarding their upcoming the ORBCOMM-2 mission and their first attempt to return a Falcon-9 booster from space and land it vertically near the launch pad.

    The Falcon 9 rocket we are about to launch has higher performance than the prior version due mostly to increased boost thrust, deep cryo oxidizer and a much larger upper stage engine bell. It also has a number of reliability enhancements, such as a redundant stage separation system and greater structural safety margins.
    This should, if all goes well, give us enough performance to deliver eleven satellites to orbit and bring the booster all the way back to Cape Canaveral to Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1).
    T-zero in 15 minutes, so have to sign off. Apologies for any typos in the above. — Elon

    SpaceX has done it. They returned the booster stage and landed at Cape Canaveral. They launched 11 satellites as well. I’ve set the video to begin at 30m23s, just as the booster stage begins its return burn and descent.

    Update: Just released helicopter footage:

    We are entering a new era of space access.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 9 Comments »

    Outdoor Adventures

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 20th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Jamal Green makes multi-day hikes across Utah and other interesting places, and then produces videos showing interesting moments along the way.

    (Image source.)

    His website Across Utah! is a good starting point for videos, maps, and recommendations for gear.

    During several of his hikes, Jamal crosses a spectacular feature called the Water Pocket fold, the edge of a monoclinal fold that eroded away across the crest leaving the edges as upturned rocks pointing into the sky. If you’re interested in a professional geological look, visit Written In Stone and travel along with Dr. Jack Share in a regional overflight, Flight Plan: Part II – Geology of the Circle Cliffs Uplift and the Waterpocket Fold at Capitol Reef National Park.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Photos, Science | 9 Comments »

    About That Omnibus Spending Bill…

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 18th December 2015 (All posts by )

    I guess we’ll need to keep replacing R’s and D’s with Tea Partiers until there’s too few of The Beholden to do this any longer. It’s gonna be a long fight.

    And after passing that bill yesterday, I received this email today:


    It included a link to this video:

    The email also links to Speaker Ryan’s website, where the email and video are posted, and where the comments appear uniformly negative. There exists the very same disconnect and denial of reality between what’s written at the top of this email, and the Omnibus Bill, as can be found in any speech by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

    It is a new day in the people’s House. ~Paul Ryan

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Politics, Tea Party | 23 Comments »

    Trump’s Dumb Muslim Plan

    Posted by TM Lutas on 9th December 2015 (All posts by )

    To do a valid Christian baptism requires some water, a Christian to administer it, and about 15 seconds. Licitness so that all the proper paperwork is done and the newly baptized Christian is properly educated could take a year but if you don’t give a hoot for the niceties or it’s an emergency, 15 seconds will do. That’s all that is required to get around Trump’s Muslim ban. This makes his plan a stupid plan. It is worse than useless. It is an anti-screen. Honest Muslims who want medical treatment or just to go shopping will be stopped. For a terrorist, it’s hardly a speed bump.

    That isn’t to say that there is no room to change our immigration system to improve things. It’s just not this one. Trump has the money to hire the best help in formulating a real plan and he came out with a stupid stinker instead.

    The better solution, and one that would be perfectly understood by Trump’s base would be a straightforward declaration that private courts including religious courts that issue judgments that call for the injury or death of americans are enemies of America. To aid them as a U.S. citizen is treason, and any of their agents or bailiffs are in an immigration-excludable category that gets put on the DS-156 right next to the item asking are you a Nazi.

    We don’t need anything complicated. Nobody reasonable is going to get bent out of shape over the declaration of our enemy being people who seek to kill or hurt us. The ones who do protest it will be doing us all a service. Hardly any administrative procedures have to be changed, only one form.

    Trump wouldn’t have had to break a sweat selling this. But he didn’t. Why did he push his dumb plan instead?

    Posted in Islam, Miscellaneous, Politics, Religion, Terrorism | 44 Comments »

    Marble Sculptures & Toys

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 6th December 2015 (All posts by )

    This is amazing…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »


    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th November 2015 (All posts by )

    signing of the Mayflower Compact

    Thank God for our ancestors of blood and spirit who built this country, dedicated to freedom, equality and the rule of law. The Plymouth pilgrims wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact before landing. They faced a barren wilderness, no shelter, with winter coming on, and a hard and dangerous future. They had a lot to plan for. Yet the first thing they did is clarify the legal and political foundation of their colony. Liberty under law came first, and if that prevailed, prosperity would follow.

    God bless America.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Posted by Helen on 25th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Happy Thanksgiving to all from this side of the Pond.

    Posted in Holidays, Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    Merging Memories – NPR, Fox & the memories they create

    Posted by Ginny on 25th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Our family has trouble with memories, mine is beginning. I figured Trump had exaggerated (as usual) but I, too, remembered,  celebrations (it was all foggy – I couldn’t remember if it was New York or New Jersey – they are all east).  Apparently, my memory has failed- probably merging reports of alleged “tailgate parties” with film from Palestine, as some have suggested he did, Carson did.  But I do remember listening to NPR in my office, leaving to teach and coming back to hear more of what had happened.  Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 25 Comments »

    Beslan in Paris

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th November 2015 (All posts by )

    David Brooks’ Beslan column in the New York Times seems appropriate for this Paris Attack:

    “Dissertations will be written about the euphemisms the media used to describe these murderers. They were called “separatists” and “hostage-takers.” Three years after Sept. 11, many are still apparently unable to talk about this evil. They still try to rationalize terror. What drives the terrorists to do this? What are they trying to achieve?
    They’re still victims of the delusion that Paul Berman diagnosed after Sept. 11: “It was the belief that, in the modern world, even the enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable.”
    This death cult has no reason and is beyond negotiation. This is what makes it so frightening. This is what causes so many to engage in a sort of mental diversion. They don’t want to confront this horror. So they rush off in search of more comprehensible things to hate.”


    The morgue filled with the Victims of the  Beslan Terrorist Attack..

    The morgue filled with the Victims of the Beslan Terrorist Attack..

    The Reality of Beslan is here again…and it is not going away.

    Posted in Europe, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, Terrorism | 54 Comments »

    Dead Candidate Walking

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 30th October 2015 (All posts by )

    How you spot a "Dead Candidate Walking

    How you spot a “Dead Candidate Walking”.

    When his incompetent political consultants miss this deadly connection to their candidate’s political image…and the candidate does too.

    Posted in Humor, Miscellaneous, Politics | 10 Comments »

    The other state without a budget

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 24th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article (behind paywall) by Andrew Staub on the budget stalemate in Pennsylvania. While the overall fiscal situation is less dire than Illinois (lottery winners are still being paid), the personalities less dramatic and the politics more genteel, the problems both states are confronting are ones the Federal government is ignoring courtesy of the Federal Reserve and central bankers world wide who tolerate the expansion of American debt.

    One interesting aspect of the situation Staub passes over is the split in the Republican party. While the Republicans hold a majority in both houses, they are really composed of two factions, liberal leaning Rockefeller Republicans from the eastern side of the state and more conservative members from the west. They are not so far apart that they could be described as RINOs and Tea Partiers, but their inability to consistently act in concert has weakened their numerical majority in the past. However, they recently united to pass a sure to be vetoed paycheck protection bill that had foundered under the previous Republican governor because of resistance from the easterners. This is an indication that, at least in opposition to a Democrat governor the Westerners are starting to prevail.

    On the other hand, Governor Wolf sent a tax increase bill to the House, forcing Democrat members to vote on it and the Republicans were happy to accommodate him. 73 Democrats walked the plank for their leader and 9 refused, creating division in the usually solid Democrat ranks. It will be interesting to see the electoral consequences for them.

    But there is insufficient power on either side to prevail in the budget impasse. Until the schools start closing, probably after Christmas, there is little pressure on either side to move.

    In addition to all this, Kathleen Kane, the Commonwealth’s attorney general has lost her law license as a result of her actions in disclosing sealed information from an investigation into pornographic emails circulating among, allegedly, PA Supreme Court staff and personnel in the AG’s department. She then accused a member of the court of sending and receiving racial, misogynistic pornography. She is under investigation for releasing the materials and the Supreme Court has suspended her license to practice law. The post of AG is frequently a stepping stone to the governorship in PA and the Democrats have lost an attractive potential candidate and leader.

    Pennsylvania has been a solid Democrat state in presidential elections. But with the party torn apart, the deceased in Philadelphia may not be able to turn out in sufficient numbers next November to assure the result, if the Republicans can provide an acceptable alternative to HRM. But then PA always finds a way to leave the Republican candidate standing alone at the altar.

    Posted in Humor, Illinois Politics, Miscellaneous, Politics, Predictions | 2 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Bookworm attended an awards dinner for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and reports at length on the honoree’s speech.  For those not familiar with Hirsi Ali:  raised as a Muslim in Somalia, she eventually moved to Holland, where she became of member of Parliament and collaborated on a film about Islam with Theo van Gogh, who was murdered.  Although she has been the target of many death threats, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has refused to be silenced.  Be sure to read Book’s well-written post.

    BBC has a new documentary about Ada, countess of Lovelace…computer pioneer of the 1840s, daughter of the “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” poet, Lord Byron, and aficionado of gambling on the horses.

    Once, there was an unpleasant political movement called the “Know-Nothings.”  Today, we have the Know-Betters,

    Claire Berlinski writes about the growing phenomenon of ritual humiliations and denunciations.

    Related to the above, a very interesting analysis of the evolution of society from Cultures of Honor–in which the individual must personally avenge wrongs and insults…to Cultures of Dignity–in which people are assumed to have dignity, foreswear individual violence, rely on the judicial system to to respond to major transgressions and sometime simply ignore minor transgressions (there’s no more dueling)…and now to a Culture of Victimhood, in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture–but they must not obtain redress on their own, rather, they must appeal to powerful others or administrative bodies.

    Renowned physicist Freeman Dyson says that Obama “chose the wrong side” on the climate-change debate.  His thoughts on the psychology behind apocalyptic climate thinking are interesting,

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Tech | 11 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed from a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on 19th October 2015 (All posts by )


    This month marks the 53rd anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Several years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Miscellaneous, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    October at the Wall

    Posted by Grurray on 17th October 2015 (All posts by )

    All over the city people are coming out of their houses. This is the nature of Thomson’s homer. It makes people want to be in the streets, joined with others, telling others what has happened, those few who haven’t heard — comparing faces and states of mind.
    And Russ has a hot mike in front of him and has to find someone to take it and talk so he can get down to the field and find a way to pass intact through all that mangle.
    Russ thinks this is another kind of history. He thinks they will carry something out of here that joins them all in a rare way, that binds them to a memory with protective power. People are climbing lampposts on Amsterdam Avenue, tooting car horns in Little Italy. Isn’t it possible that this midcentury moment enters the skin more lastingly than the vast shaping strategies of eminent leaders, generals steely in their sunglasses — the mapped visions that pierce our dreams? Russ wants to believe a thing like this keeps us safe in some undetermined way. This is the thing that will pulse in his brain come old age and double vision and dizzy spells — the surge sensation, the leap of people already standing, that bolt of noise and joy when the ball went in. This is the people’s history and it has flesh and breath that quicken to the force of this old safe game of ours. And fans at the Polo Grounds today will be able to tell their grandchildren — they’ll be gassy old men leaning into the next century and trying to convince anyone willing to listen, pressing in with medicine breath, that they were here when it happened.
    “Pafko at the Wall” by Don DeLillo

    Organized sports have a hold on us unlike other cultural institutions. With precise rules, boundaries, and metrics, these various games of skillful competition provide dependable amusements and diversions. Just as sure as the seasons change, baseball starts up in the spring and football in the autumn. We can’t be certain what our schools will be teaching our children from year to year or which government agency will stomp on our individual rights next, but we do know that three strikes will always result in an out and ten yards a first down.

    Aside from satisfying leisurely pursuits and expectations, there are also other things sports provide. For the athlete, when skills, training, discipline, and focus all come together and reach a certain threshold, the state of optimal experience is said to occur. The best example I always think of for this is Michael Jordan in his prime playing the game on some seemingly subconscious level. At his peak Jordan could be counted on to perform “in the zone” to carry the whole team, often all the way to championships. He hit several game winning shots with the most notable being his last game with the Bulls to win the title in 1998.

    The baseball equivalent of this particular rare quality of being able to elevate your team to victory at the crucial decisive moment is the clutch hitter. Except the statisticians would tell us that they can’t find any statistical significance between performance in the “clutch” and at other times. They say consistency in the regular season simply carries over to important times in games which brings the associative positive expectancy.

    Of course, fans watching and players participating would find the significance of it was not any statistical frequency or probability but that the big play occurred at the appropriate moment. Rising to the occasion when the occasion presents the ultimate trial and pressure. Seizing the day when all involved are maximally invested in the outcome, whether it be facilitating or preventing it. In the context of the aforementioned flow experience, there’s a paradox of simultaneously living in the moment by being mentally outside the moment in order to dominate the moment.

    It’s impossible to quantify situations like that, and that’s why we see them as transcending numbers or rules or frames of reference. All the participants – players, fans, officials – are witnessing something outside normative behaviors. It’s a transcendence of outward conventional description but still operating in immanent territory that’s opaque and obscured to the rules-givers, stat compilers, and deciders,

    Where I’m going with all this is that if you’ve been following baseball lately then you’ve probably noticed that the Chicago Cubs have entered the playoffs. They aren’t just playing in the postseason, but they are looking pretty good, maybe even good enough to go all the way. Now to some this may seem like we’re really tempting fate even talking about it here because the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in over a century. I’m not going to mention it specifically because I think it’s too silly, but if you even have just a casual awareness of the Cubs history then you know why many believe the Cubs can’t win.

    Again the statisticians would just tell us about numbers or probabilities or splits, but the rest of us who’ve been following the team through thick and thin for our entire lives know that there’s just a bit more that goes into either winning or, far too often in the Cubs history, losing.

    For one thing, the matchups in the playoffs really are significant this time. If you remember when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls went on their historic string of championships in the ’90s, they first had to overcome and surpass a bitter rival, the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons had won two years in a row, roughing the Bulls up in the process. When the Bulls finally beat them to advance into the finals, it felt like an immense hurdle was overcome on the path to a championship.

    The Cubs have seemed to be on a similar track so far in the playoffs. They just faced and defeated their historic rival, the St. Louis Cardinals in the division playoffs. Their rivalry is another example of transcending the evident situation or matchup. The Cardinals have hall of fame players and managers come and go but still always seem to finish in first place. Last season, the New York Times mapped out fan boundaries for all the major league teams. The boundary between the Cubs and the Cardinals also closely follows the voting pattern for the 1860 presidential election between Lincoln and Douglas. There’s an ancient demarcation between these two teams, and for the Cubs to beat them now feels like we just overcame a big obstacle, perhaps on the level of the Bulls and the Pistons. Perhaps it was an even bigger test.

    This next series is now for the National League Championship, and it’s against the New York Mets. Many long time fans of the game may recall that the Mets were an unlikely Cinderella story in 1969 when they went on a historic run to win the World Series. They’ve since been dubbed the “Amazins” or the “Miracle” Mets or other such obnoxious monikers. Unfortunately, in Chicago that season is known for the opposite because the Cubs were the team that they overtook late in the season to win the Pennant.

    The Cubs team of the late ’60s may be the most beloved of any, mostly because of its connections with baby boomer fans coming of age but also because of its many terrific players, notably the great Ernie Banks who just passed away this summer. Despite being loaded with talent, the team never made the playoffs, and their collapse in 1969 has always been the nexus of the fans’ bittersweet love for the team.

    I’m sure the current team doesn’t care about it or shouldn’t care about it, but for many fans this next test is a chance to finally come to terms with their complicated fandom for the Chicago Cubs.

    We don’t even want to think about what might come after that. The Cubs have a great team this year performing at its peak just at the right time. Matchups and stats and metrics confirm it, but to get over the ultimate hurdle will require intangible and unquantifiable efforts. And in turn, this “old safe game” of ours that we’ve been playing and watching for so long that it’s become a part of us will give back unsaid reward and maybe a little redemption for those efforts.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »