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  • Archive for July, 2004

    Breakout: 60

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st July 2004 (All posts by )

    After D-Day, the Allies found themselves slugging it out with the Germans in a nearly static attrition battle, for weeks. The Germans were, as usual, displaying a horrendous capacity to defend, and to counter-attack if they found an opening, extracting a high blood-price for every bit of ground. The Allied lodgment was sealed off, bottled up by the Germans. Montgomery’s attempt to breakout, GOODWOOD, had only served to litter the field with the scorched wrecks of one third of Britain’s armored strength on the continent. The Americans got to try next. July 25 was a carpet bombing of the German positions in front of the Americans, followed by a ground attack. By 60 years ago today, the Americans had pushed aside the German resistance in their path and the German defensive position was beginning to unravel. Patton arrived to take command of Third Army, and his moment and his Army’s moment on the stage of history began in earnest. Third Army broke through at Avranches on August 1. The wild ride which followed pushed the Germans out of France. (Short summaries of events here and here. Good timeline here.)

    We celebrate D-Day, and rightly so. We should not forget that the weeks following were harsh and thankless and at times seemingly hopeless, and many feared that a stalemate was in the making. We should not forget those hard and bloody days endured by the Allied armies, nor the spectacular race across France which ensued when the Germans finally cracked.

    (A recent, brilliant book on the Normandy campaign is Clash of Arms: How the Allies Won in Normandy by Russell A. Hart. This book is so good I’d like to do a post just on it. But I’ll probably never get to it. Reviewed here, and here (scroll down) and here.) (I also recently read Military Power : Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle by Stephen Biddle, which is an extraordinary book, which I really must write about here at some point. It is not really on topic, though it does have a chapter on the GOODWOOD battle. While I’m digressing, see also Biddle’s Afghanistan and the Future of Warfare to get an idea of his intellectual approach and rigor.)

    Another Update

    A thought occurs to me. Has anyone considered the analogy of the failure to plan for the hedgerows, since everyone was focused on getting ashore on D-Day which they really should have known about, and which really was a terrible error, — and the failure of planning for postwar Iraq, since everyone was thinking of a harder campaign with many more civilian casualties, possible use of gas by Saddam, millions of refugees, protracted urban combat in Baghdad, etc.? Did anyone think the proper response was to fire Montgomery or Eisenhower, or for that matter to vote for Dewey instead of FDR in the November 1944 election as a result of this planning failure? I think there is an analogy here … .

    Update:

    The expert on the hedgerows and dealing with them is Michael D. Doubler. This is from his book Busting the Bocage: American Combined Arms Operations in France, 6 June–31 July 1944:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

    C-SPAN (all times est)

    Posted by Ginny on 31st July 2004 (All posts by )

    This Sunday’s Booknotes (8:00 p.m. and again 11:00) on C-SPAN 1 features John McCain, Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life. The Booknotes site notes:

    Courage, Winston Churchill explained, is the first of human qualities . . . because it guarantees all the others. As a naval officer, P.O.W., and one of Americas most admired political leaders, John McCain has seen countless acts of bravery and self-sacrifice. Now, in this inspiring meditation on courage, he shares his most cherished stories of ordinary individuals who have risked everything to defend the people and principles they hold most dear.

    The book was published by Random House.

    C-SPAN 2s BookTV features its monthly “in-depth” session; this month, the subject will be Simon Winchester. The 3-hour session weill be repeated throughout Sunday afternoon and night (Noon to 3, 5 to 8, and midnight to 3 in the moning). Winchester’s first book was published in 1974; he has often appeared on this channel, including discussions of Krakatoa and The Professor and the Madman.
    Winchester, trained as a geologist and then serving as a foreign correspondent, has often taken interesting perspectives on his subjects. His works reflect that variety.

    Encore Booknotes repeats the interview with Richard Brookhiser on The Way of the Wasp: How It Made America at 7:00 Saturday evening and 11:00 Sunday morning ). . History on Book TV focuses on The First World War by Hew Strachan (11:00 Saturday evgening and 8:00 unday evening). The Public Lives choice is Fred Kaplan’s The Singular Mark Twain - an unusual literary subject for the channel , at 8:00 Saturday evening and 10:30 Sunday evening.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    A Partisan Cheap Shot

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Yeah, but I thought it was pretty darn funny.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Another Bush speech – Junod

    Posted by Ginny on 30th July 2004 (All posts by )

    InstaPundit pointed to Tom Junod’s Esquire piece, “The Case for George Bush” . This is blue state territory–journal, audience, writer. Junod contrasts his contempt for Bush with his respect for the principles in the president’s speech to the Air Force Academy. And he begins to doubt that cynicism, that dissing Bush really helps all that much. This is another good speech in which Bush lays out, if we want to see, the principles by which he acts. And I feel vindicated in my affection for Bush’s much earlier speech disussed in the post beow.

    Junod begins with the assumption that Bush is, well, pretty weak man. But, he has come to recognize it is Bush who noticed the tectonic shifts going on in our world. Of course, a red stater, I occasionally winced as I read the essay. But this is bracing. Because Junod appears honest with himself, we can talk. In the end, he discriminates between what is real and what is not. He also does a lot of historical analogies and betrays a nice sense of proportionality.

    Small criticism: He uses a final analogy that doesn’t work all that well. Bush hasn’t gone around crying wolf. In fact, he has been faulted for not crying wolf enough in the summer of 2001. The truth Junod is getting at isn’t all that well served here. But all of us do that at times, trying so hard to make our perspective real, grasp at comparisons that don’t work. Junod is clear and we see him thinking; that is important. If it is on the level of reality that the next months will be fought, we will all be better for it.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    Question for Senator Kerry

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 30th July 2004 (All posts by )

    I sat through most of your speech and did not hear anything new. We are used to the usual tactic of the challenger: contrast your glittering hypothetical to the incumbent’s messy reality. Maybe you can get Chirac, instead of Blair, to be your poodle. Maybe you would do all the same things as your opponent, but do them gracefully and to the applause of the world. I doubt it, but you are not the first to say it. I’m old enough to remember Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam War. I don’t think your secret plan to make the permanent members of the UN Security Council follow your enlightened leadership will work out much better. Let it go; you don’t believe it any more than I do.

    My question is this: if things are as badly awry as you say, what have you been doing about it? Senator Kerry, you have been in the senate for eighteen years. If health care were such an urgent issue, why did you never introduce a bill to reform it? If jobs are going overseas and American workers are not on that famous level playing field, what did you do about that? Every issue you raised in your speech is one that should have been addressed in the US Senate. Let’s stop talking about your Vietnam record. You have been in government for almost all of your life. Other than building your resume, what have you accomplished? Is there a major piece of legislation with your name on it? Please refresh my memory.

    And if you have been mailing it in for eighteen years, what makes you think you are the man for this job?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments »

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th July 2004 (All posts by )

    The Four Eggplants of the Apocalypse

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Better Get Some Plastic Covers on the Couch

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 29th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Phil is the co-worker who asked this question about aliens and double entry accounting. He just told me that he’s planning on calling in sick tonight.

    I asked what was up. Family coming into town and he wants to catch up? Birthday and he wants to celebrate? Does he have a problem with his eyesight ’cause he just can’t see himself coming in to work?

    No, he really expects to be as sick as a dog tomorrow. Kerry’s going to give his acceptance speech and Phil’s going to down a shot every time he mentions Vietnam.

    I told Phil that he shouldn’t do that. Alcohol poisoning kills people every so often, and I’d hate to lose him.

    Not to worry, he said. He had already thought of that. Instead of hard spirits he was going to be downing shot glasses full of beer.

    Smart guy, Phil.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Whatever Happened to “Laugh and the World Laughs With You”?

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 29th July 2004 (All posts by )

    I was just reading this post on Strategypage.com. (Scroll down to the post dated July 28, 2004.) Fantastic news from Afghanistan!

    The country is improving, with new construction all over the place and new schools for the children. The crushing oppression of women found under the Taliban has been greatly reduced, with many of them trading in their burkas for a simple headscarf. The 3.5 million Afghanis who fled the country have returned, trade with Pakistan has increased to 50 times it’s previous volume, and only 11 percent of the citizens still support the remnants of the Taliban.

    Not only that, but 2/3rds of the population support both the new government and the US!

    It’s only been 2 years since our invasion, and this is amazing progress. It couldn’t be going better by any reasonable criteria. Heck, it’s already exceeded just about any reasonable expectation I had.

    So let’s ask a rhetorical question. Why aren’t we hearing more of this in the press? (Heh. Like we don’t already know.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Blow Hard and Hope it Sounds Like Music

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 29th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Go out and find someone who was politically active in the 1960’s. Ask them if the political landscape has ever been as polarized as it is now.

    They’ll probably say that it was much worse in the 1960’s, but it’s worse now than it’s been since. After all, we have all those big protests and people are emotional and passionate, but we don’t have riots and violence.

    Not yet, anyway. (I doubt that we will, either.)

    So we have this Michael Moore guy making documentaries that are full of what professional journalists and movie critics call “misleading statements” and “intriguing polemics”. Being a simple self-defense instructor and college student I call them “lies”.

    This sort of thing plays well with people who want their opinions to be justified, but it’s not something that will last in the long run. Those that continue to use Moore’s work as a reference will come off sounding like idiots.

    In fact, that’s pretty much the opinion I have when someone refers to any of his books or films in a debate. It’s like that old adage about debates on the Internet lasting until someone calls their opponent a Nazi. Might as well pack it in, it’s not worth wasting your time talking to this ninny.

    So Moore is riding a wave of emotion. He’s rallying fellow travellers to the flag, getting people all fired up. But I wonder how long he’ll last once events evolve and he’s no longer needed.

    If Kerry wins I figure the Dems will distance themselves pretty quick from good ol’ Michael. If Bush is re-elected then Moore might have a chance to stay in the limelight for awhile longer as the Dems get even more shrill.

    But I could be wrong about this. As H.L. Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

    Moore’s living proof that you can make a tidy sum of cash as well as avoiding bankruptcy court.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    The Next Unavoidable Problem

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Lex pointed out this recent essay, on Iran, by Walter Russel Mead.

    The Bush administration, for its part, has treated Iran the way many of its critics wanted it to treat Iraq: It has supported a European Union initiative to resolve the nuclear issue in a peaceful way.

    So there’s a widespread U.S. consensus to engage Iran in peaceful negotiations in partnership with Europe. This strategy has one small flaw: So far, it isn’t working.

    Mead is more optimistic than I am about the possibility of defusing Iran without using force. I think we emboldened the mullahs by appeasing them, in our efforts to avoid having to open a new front in the war, and that confrontation is now inevitable unless we prepare seriously to attack. (And we should make our intentions clear; this enemy interprets subtlety and nuance as weakness.) Even then I think it may be too late to avoid confrontation.

    We need also to consider that Israel has long considered a nuclear Iran to be one of the main threats, if not the main threat that it faces, and is at more immediate risk than we are. I don’t think Israel will stand by indefinitely if we are indecisive.

    We may do better to force the situation. The mullahs are either bluffing, in which case we should call their bluff, or they are serious, in which case we should confront them on our own timetable rather than wait for them to get nukes and precipitate a crisis. Our current policy, consisting of a combination of appeasement and hoping that the Iranian government gets overthrown before we have to act, isn’t working.

    Posted in Middle East, National Security | 12 Comments »

    Follow-Up On “Terrorism: What Kerry Should (But Will Not) Say”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th July 2004 (All posts by )

    My response to commenter Herb Richter on this thread became so long that I decided to make it into a new post.

    ————–

    Herb wrote:

    Do you seriously believe that the terrorists would abandon months and months of planning because of a few statements by John Kerry saying that he would go after them as well?

    I can’t prove that the terrorists would be deterred. However, I’d rather we didn’t run that risk, and it wouldn’t cost Kerry much to make such a statement. We are dealing with marginal effects here, not all-or-none. I think terrorists, on the margin, will be less likely to attack if we reduce the prospective payoff for an attack. One way to reduce that payoff is to eliminate any uncertainty about the harshness of our response.

    As for your second point, I think it’s clear that the terrorists understand us in some respects but not others. They were, as you correctly point out, smart enough to plan and implement a large and tactically innovative attack on 9/11, yet they completely misjudged our response. I do not believe that we can predict reliably that they won’t attempt a Madrid-type attack on us. Indeed I am not certain that such an attack on us before the elections wouldn’t be effective in shifting votes away from Bush. I hope that it wouldn’t be but who knows. Given that Kerry is the only person who could state with authority what a Kerry administration would do, I think it would be prudent for him to make clear that a Madrid-type attack would not be effective. Subtlety and ambiguity on our part are not helpful in deterring an enemy who understands only explicit statements and forceful actions.

    With respect to your third point:

    While Al Qaeda may indeed perceive the Spanish election results as vindication for their tactics, should a democracy really let the fear of future terrorist attacks in other countries keep its citizens from ousting a government that it no longer trusts? If we no longer vote our conscience in an election because of how we think terrorists might perceive the outcome, democracy becomes a futile exercise.

    The problem is that the terrorists are involved whether we want them to be or not. We no more have the option of ignoring how our domestic politics plays abroad than did Britons in 1940. Politics, as the famous aphorism puts it, is about the possible. Sometimes that means choosing the lesser evil. I don’t see why reelecting a flawed government that has a decent track record at waging war, as opposed to untested challengers whose alternative vision is, at best, indistinct, isn’t wise behavior for voters in a democracy.

    Democratic politics means lots of people have a say in major decisions. Often the choices that voters get are between bad and worse, but the fact that the options aren’t as good as some theoretical alternative doesn’t make democracy a “futile exercise.” Nowadays the enemy gets a vote, too. Ignoring that fact won’t make it go away.

    Posted in Politics | 11 Comments »

    Bush & Winthrop Choosing Life

    Posted by Ginny on 27th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Edgar Lee Masters gave us Lucinda Matlock almost a century ago. That plainswoman, dead at ninety-six and having outlived many of her twelve children, speaks to us from her grave: Degenerate sons and daughters, / Life is too strong for you– / It takes life to love Life. Masters Spoon River Anthology, published in 1916, arrived just a few years after the Education of Henry Adams , whose great power comes from his very listlessness, his lack of purpose. That we see as twentieth century. But that tough old broad, that wonderful character captured in but a few lines and spanning the nineteenth century she, too, has something to tell us in the twenty-first.

    It takes energy to love life; it takes life. Striding through the world, facing life is embracing what is. That requires a certain toughness, a certain honesty. But the cynicism of post-modernism doesnt face reality. It breeds the cynicism that deadens energy. It is cynicism that simplifies, that disengages. Cynicism pins the other, struggling pinned and wriggling on the wall. The cynics sometimes fancy themselves skeptics; would it were so. Skepticism notes complexity, asks questions. A skeptic is distinterested but intellectually engaged. A skeptic doesnt welcome despair but does ask us to doubt our illusions. A skeptic asks, Is it worth it? But to post-modernists, there is no worth, so nothing is “worth it.” So a young man’s response to the stoicism and heroism implied by the lines of firemen taking last rites as they entered the burning World Trade Center was that such men were “sick” and Michael Moore assumes no one could consider their lives – nor their child’s life – worth “saving Fallujah.” [Sorry about the mistake.] The assumption in both cases is not that of someone who asks, are the lives saved worth the loss? Nor is there a sense that loving life is loving another’s life – indeed, of loving the many others, the unnamed and even unknown others. No, such a choice only comes from greed or insanity or stupidity.

    But this is the air through which we move; we have seen cynicism; we have seen Chicago. We arent surprised by the phenomenon Virginia Postrel noted, the last-ditch, crazy, projection if George Bush is the problem, then we dont need to deal with the real problem. Sometimes it seems as if a lot of grouchy teens were awakened by 9/11 and are irritated at the world for making them get up. And Bush, well, if we can pin him with a phrase, we dont need to deal with the facts his very presence reminds us are true.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Melanie Phillips on Andrew Sullivan:

    And this is surely why Bush is so hated by the left. For this hatred wildly exceeds the normal dislike of a political opponent. It is as visceral and obsessive as it is irrational. At root, this is surely because Bush has got under the skin of the post-moral left in a way no true conservative ever would. And this is because he has stolen their own clothes and revealed them to be morally naked. He has exposed the falseness of their own claim to be liberal. He has revealed them instead to be reactionaries, who want both to preserve the despotic and terrorist status quo abroad and to go with the flow of social and moral collapse at home, instead of fighting all these deformities and building a better society.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments »

    Maybe I Spoke Too Soon

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Here’s what I wrote June 10 about oil prices.

    Here’s how the market looks now.

    Time will tell.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Beyond Parody

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th July 2004 (All posts by )

    This must be true. Nobody could have made it up.

    Better these idiots should embrace “Kabbalah” than global warming, I suppose.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

    Terrorism: What Kerry Should (But Will Not) Say

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Whatever the precise odds that the U.S. will be hit by a Madrid-style terror attack before the November elections, the possibility of such an attack hangs over our public life like a cloud. Our leaders tiptoe around the specifics of the issue. Indeed there probably isn’t much that the Administration can do, beyond what it is already doing, at least in its foreign policy.

    But John Kerry can help to deter such an attack. A pre-election terror wave would likely be intended to get Kerry elected and therefore to shift U.S. policy toward accommodationism. That might not be what would actually happen after an attack, but it’s probably what the terrorists expect.

    Kerry could lessen the odds of an attack by reducing its expected payoff. He could do this by stating, unambiguously and repeatedly, that he rejects appeasement and that, if he is elected, he will redouble President Bush’s efforts to eradicate Islamist terrorists and the regimes that support them. Of course, to state the issue in this way is to make clear that Kerry is unlikely to follow through. (See Dick Morris’s analysis of Kerry’s political dilemma.)

    In this regard, the fact that Kerry has had his running mate state publicly that some of America’s more flaccid allies prefer Kerry to Bush is reckless. It encourages the terrorists to see a big payoff if, as they see it, they hit us hard enough to get Bush defeated. NATO is weak, Chirac is weak — our enemies see this even if some of us do not, and will correctly conclude that a country that chooses weak allies is itself weak. The kind of political posturing that Kerry and Edwards are doing is dangerous, and for this reason alone they are not qualified to be elected.

    Posted in Politics | 8 Comments »

    Infiltration of al Qaeda?

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Den Beste had a recent post in which he questioned whether CIA infiltration of al Qaeda is actually feasible, or merely desirable but practically unattainable. He seems to come down more on the latter. This is an unusual case where I am disagreement with him.

    I don’t think this is really a feasibility issue. It is more a deployment of assets issue and an institutional/legal issue. There is probably no organization in the world that cannot be penetrated given enough time, willpower and resources. You need to have lots of people who speak the language, who understand the culture, who can pick up in nuances, and who can get around in the appropriate areas without being obviously an American spy. Such people can be hired or trained or both. You need to have the patience to let them insinuate themselves and get involved in activities which will bring them in touch with promising contacts. You must have the resources to bribe or otherwise reward and protect those who help you. You need to maintain secrecy. All of this is feasible, though difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

    I heard a good talk by Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney in Chicago, who prosecuted the 1993 WTC terrorists in New York. He discussed the fact that terrorist organizations, like criminal organizations, have people with ordinary weaknesses like greed, jealousy, pride, laziness, loneliness, fear. For example, there were informants he worked with who were tired of living in hiding and justified their defection by claiming that the whole thing was unfair to them, because the Egyptian guys got all the money and good assignments. Even al Qaeda is not composed entirely of suicidal supermen. Any organization composed of human beings has its weak points. You have to do the grunt work so you have someone nearby who can find those weak points and exploit them.

    This is all old-fashioned stuff, really. Recruiting and training people to infiltrate in the Arab world, to eventually get in touch with al Qaeda or its equivalent, could begin tomorrow as far as feasibility goes. It is not like developing a dream-battery with capacities which are technically impossible, which den Beste uses by way of analogy.

    This article from Parameters is not exactly on point, but it gives a good flavor of dealing with “humint assets.” Note particularly the two paragraphs under the heading “An Asset Is Not a Commando or Hero”.

    Update

    Den Beste responds:

    The key word in there is “time-consuming”. Yes, the kind of things he describes can be done. And fifteen years from now, once we have actually done those things, we will finally have the resources required to permit us to insinuate moles into the top brass of al Qaeda.

    But if al Qaeda still exists by then and is still enough of a threat to be worth infiltrating, we’ll already have lost this war. Part of feasibility is timeliness. A solution which is too late is no solution. A solution which requires resources which don’t exist is a solution which relies on magic.

    I do understand him, actually. The figure “fifteen years” is a guess. I don’t know why he thinks we will have lost the war if we haven’t totally defeated al Qaeda by then. But, even assuming it is accurate, I disagree that this means what I have suggested becomes “not feasible.” “Al Qaeda” will long have mutated out of existence by then, even if any of its current members are alive, but that is not the point. The point is that Islamist terrorism is going to be with us for a long, long time. I’d guess more like decades than years. I’d be surprised if this problem were not around in 15 years if only because it has been developing in its current incarnation for decades already, since the late 1940s (e.g., Sayyid Qutb). And it will take any number of forms and go by any number of labels and have any number of new recruits in that period of time. Developing the intelligence capabilities to investigate, understand, infiltrate and then either manipulate or destroy the persons and groups which will develop does not require resources we don’t have. As I noted, these capabilities are actually something we already know how to do. We have done and continue to do things like spy, learn languages, do detective work, pay bribes, prey on human weaknesses, etc. I am assuming the current war will be decades in length, so we do have more time than SdB seems to think. We should start now to build the capabilities we will need for the long-term foreseeable future.

    We disagree on the time horizon involved. But what I am saying, given my assumptions, requires no magic.

    This could all be combined most effectively with the kind of cultural/intellectual “War of Ideology” which David Brooks refers to here. He notes that the 9/11 commission found that “We are facing … a loose confederation of people who believe in a perverted stream of Islam that stretches from Ibn Taimaya to Sayyid Qutb. Terrorism is just the means they use to win converts to their cause.” The enemy is “primarily an intellectual movement, not a terrorist army” so it is in “no hurry” but rather is operating from an “extensive indoctrination infrastructure of madrassas and mosques, they’re still building strength, laying the groundwork for decades of struggle.” That sounds about right. Decades. Not 15 years. We need to build deep capabilities to fight on all levels, to use a term from another context, we need full-spectrum dominance in the war against Islamic terrorism, and it will take much money, much effort and much time, and no magic to acquire these capabilities.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    My Two Cents

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 26th July 2004 (All posts by )

    I’m terribly interested in history. Just ask anyone who knows me.

    I take trips to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania from time to time. It’s best if a friend will come along, since then I can give a tour.

    They watch the 30 minutes of Ken Burns Civil War that concerns Gettysberg and the fight on Little Round Top. The first place we stop is on that hill.

    I explain what happened there, 358 men holding out against more than 800. They piled rocks up for cover and fought like crazy. The defenders were down to about 200 men when they ran out of ammo. So they fixed bayonets and charged….and by some miracle managed to win.

    At the end of the talk I pick a pebble up and hand it to whoever came along. “This might be part of that wall.” I say. Usually there’s a bunch of misty eyes all around, including my own.

    After that we always walk all over the battlefield. If the weather’s nice we hop a few fences and see parts of the park that no one except the forest rangers have visited for a century.

    The reason I’m writing this is due to this post, where Michael Hiteshew asks for history text suggestions. It seems that he wants to encourage his 24 year old daughter to develop an interest in history.

    Many people have left comments, and after reading them I now want to go out and get several of the books that have been suggested. But just about everyone has missed the target.

    See, you don’t read a book about history and enjoy it until after you are already interested in history!

    This is very important, but it’s tough for people who are already passionate about our past to understand that there are those who don’t share our interest.

    The only person who understands the basics is Fuz. He suggested that Michael start with an old documentary entitled The Day the Universe Changed by James Burke. It’s very engaging, easy to watch, and it shows how decisions and events echo through the centuries.

    Hey, isn’t that why we’re interested in history? Because we want to see how we got here?

    Michael, forget the 1,000 page books. If she’s not interested before you give her a huge tome like that she’ll take one look at it and use it for a doorstop. Listen to Fuz and lay the groundwork before you saddle her with college level reading material.

    And if you’re every planning a trip to Gettysburg, I’ll meet you there.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    (Your) Recommended History Reading (List)

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 25th July 2004 (All posts by )

    I’m looking for recommendations and I need your help. I’m looking for two types of books: one type for me and one for my 24 year old daughter.

    For my daughter some explanation is order. She has a self confessed ‘mental block’ regarding history. It bores her to death, at least the history she’s read so far in school. She knows who George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were. She’s heard of FDR but can’t can’t quite place him. She can do calculus, but she’s always confused about when events happened; WWI was, umm, when? Was Hitler in WWI or WWII or Vietnam? So, I’m looking for a book on American history that is sweeping yet engaging. History as a story. Light on detail yet touching on all the important points. Something she’ll enjoy. Recommendations?

    I’m looking for a history of the revolutionary war. Something well written and engaging. Any favorites?

    Any history books that don’t fall into the above categories that you’d still recommend reading?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 26 Comments »

    Sometimes those pesky special interests neutralize each other

    Posted by ken on 25th July 2004 (All posts by )

    Just as our Founders told us they would under our system.

    If not for the enviro-nuts, I figure the safety nuts would have pushed through a law mandating that everyone drive SUV’s.

    Too bad they couldn’t convince people that airbags release something toxic into the air while they were at it…

    Update: According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the safest category of passenger vehicles for the driver is “Cargo and large passenger vans”; SUV’s were about average. Interestingly enough, pickup trucks had a very high rate of driver fatalities; small and large pickups had a rate that was surpassed only by “mini cars”. Cars from midsize on up are safer than SUV’s. The mini car, not surprisingly, does worst of all, and I’d place a high likelihood of it being banned if not for the enviro-nuts.

    Follow the link, look at “Driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, by crash type, 2002″, then under the “All crashes” heading for the total risk to the driver in various automobiles.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    The DNC

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 25th July 2004 (All posts by )

    I went into Boston today to see the preparations for the Democratic National Convention. I was hoping to see some giant puppet heads (am I the only one who wonders how flammable they are?), but I seem to have been too early. The anti-war protesters were gathering on the Common and apparently later marched to the Fleet Center, but it must have been a slow march. They were supposed to leave the Common at 2:00, but I left after 2:30 without seeing or hearing them. Since most of them are from out of town, it is quite possible that they got lost.

    There are photos, entirely without esthetic merit, on the continuation page.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

    Reverse Engineering – A Society

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 24th July 2004 (All posts by )

    There’s a fascinating article in the NYT about the attitudes, dreams and effects expatriates are having in India after returning from America.

    Drawn by a booming economy, in which outsourcing is playing a crucial role, and the money to buy the lifestyle they had in America, Indians are returning in large numbers.

    The technology hub of India, Bangalore, is being transformed by the Indian-American expats. First are the outward manifestations. Suburban communities are springing up that could have been transplanted directly from California.

    Many of them are returning to communities like Palm Meadows, whose developer, the Adarsh Group, advertises “beautiful homes for beautiful people.” The liberalization of India’s state-run economy over the last 13 years has spawned a suburban culture of luxury housing developments, malls and sport utility vehicles that is also enabling India to compete for its Americanized best and brightest.

    “It is amazing what you can get in terms of quality of life,” Subhash Dhar said of the India to which he and his family returned about two months ago.

    Portending a deeper and perhaps more profound impact for India are the Americanized attitudes they’ve brought back with them.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in International Affairs | 1 Comment »

    Order a Large Pepperoni for Freedom

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 23rd July 2004 (All posts by )

    Mark F. Pasquale, owner of Halftime Pizza, is a victim of a collectivist government program. The Democratic National Convention is being held at the Fleet Center, directly across from his shop. This would seem like a good thing, on the surface, but it has turned out to be a disaster for him. In their zeal to prove that there really is such a thing, the Democrats are providing a free lunch for the attendees. He will be closing his shop next week until the parasites leave and the free market is again permitted to operate on Causeway Street. He will be playing golf instead, but before leaving, he raised his banner of defiance against tyranny.

    Pretty good pies, too.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    This is News???

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 23rd July 2004 (All posts by )

    Just read a news report about a new poll from the U. of Maryland. Seems that most Americans are against torturing prisoners.

    Yeah, I know. Big freakin’ shock, huh?

    But there’s more for your government research grant dollars! They also asked if prisoners should have a hearing to answer charges brought against them, if they should be allowed to contact a family member, and if the people answering the poll were against a variety of physical and sexual tortures. The vast majority of the people who responded agreed with all of the above statements.

    So these idiots polled a group of Americans and found…..a group of Americans. With American attitudes.

    I’ve gotta get a PhD and start sucking up some of that sweet, sweet grant money. After reading about this poll I’m convinced that the Feds will pass it out to any moron with enough advanced degrees.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    I’m Waiting for the “DUH!!” Factor to Kick In

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 23rd July 2004 (All posts by )

    One of my co-workers subscribes to the WSJ and he allows me to read it after he’s done with them. Saves me some money, although I doubt the WSJ business staff would approve of this example of fiscal responsibility.

    There was an article on page A11 of the Thursday, July 22, 2004 edition of the paper. It was G. Thomas Sims, and it was entitled “Europe Sees Limits on Growth”. Nothing new here, just the same old same old that everyone’s been saying for the past few years. Everyone who’s not blinded by their own prejudices, that is.

    Back in 2000 the European Union saw a growth rate of 3.5%, which means that it was possible that the EU was about to do as well as the US. Unfortunately, that seems to have been the high water mark. This year, even the European Central Bank is pegging growth at 2.0% to 2.5%, which is wildly optimistic. J.P. Morgan says it’s 1.5% to 2% at best, while Credit Suisse First Boston says that it’s gonna be 1.4%.

    So how’s the US doing? Pretty good, I’d say. If I’m reading this chart right, we’re looking at about double the European rate. AND we’re doing it without fear of runaway inflation, which is what the Europeans might just have in store for them.

    But it’s just not GDP growth and inflation. In the 1980’s, Europe’s annual productivity was growing at 1.9%. It’s since dropped to 0.9% in the period from 1996 to 2003. And how is the US doing? Although it can always be better, compared to the EU we’re kicking hinder and taking names.

    Some of you are wondering why I’m comparing the EU and the US. Apples/oranges and all that. My reply is that the main motivating factor for forming the EU in the first place was to create an entity that could compete with the US. So far they aren’t doing all that great a job.

    Mr. Sims states that there’s a variety of reasons why the EU is having trouble. Some, like low birth rates, just have to be lived with without any clear way to improve them. But there are also a slew of “structural problems” that are hampering the Europeans. Mr. Sims doesn’t go into too much detail here, but he mentions the amazingly short work week that European workers enjoy, as well as fat unemployment benefits that don’t do much to encourage people to find a job.

    What’s my opinion? I’m just some guy who’s interested in history and certainly lacking in even the most basic skills to understand the economy, but even I can see that Europe has got to get it’s house in order. They rely on the US for their own defense, and they enjoy historically low military spending. Even so they’re having trouble? How come they’re not using the “Peace Dividend” provided by the US military to jump ahead?

    Someone’s screwing up big time. But don’t ask me who, or what can be done to fix it.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 48 Comments »