Whose Horses Are They?

This blog has repeatedly called attention to the battle over the Kennewick man. A&L links to Edward Rothstein’s review of James Cuno’s Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage, which critiques the concept of “cultural property” underlying arguments that led to bulldozing Kennewick’s burial ground. The review (and Cuno) argue that that idea has been betrayed. The framers of the doctrine, he contends, had a “universalist stance”; they “would hardly recognize cultural property in its current guise. The concept is now being narrowly applied to assert possession, not to affirm value. It is used to stake claims on objects in museums, to prevent them from being displayed and to control the international trade of antiquities.” The writer finds this change “as troubling as Mr. Cuno suggests. It has been used not just to protect but also to restrict.” Rothstein concludes “But if cultural property really did exist, the Enlightenment museum would be an example of it: an institution that evolved, almost uniquely, out of Western civilization. And the cultural property movement could be seen as a persistent attempt to undermine it. And take illicit possession.”

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Abu Muqawama Retires

Abu Muqawama is an excellent blog that is on my daily blog reading list.  It focuses on counterinsurgency issues, as well as wider issues in military affairs.  I tend to favor it because of the humility of the authors.  Often they comment on issues, and are authoritative, yet allow for the fact that ladies and gentlemen may have legitimate disagreements.

Unfortunately, The Abu Muqawama has revealed his identity as Andrew Exum and has stated that he will no longer be blogging regularly.  Instead his co-bloggers, Erin “Charlie” Simpson, Dr. iRack, and Londonstani, among others, will continue where Abu Muqawama leaves off.

Andrew Exum will be missed, but the blog will continue.  Good luck to Andrew in is intellectual endeavors.

I nonetheless look forward to the new Abu Muqawama blog.

Zen comments as well.

Kissinger: Establishing Priorities, Tolerating Our SOBs

“Kissinger … was above all a revolutionary.” … [T]his may come as something of a surprise. Kissinger a revolutionary? The man who told the Argentine junta’s Foreign Minister, Cesar Guzzetti: “We wish [your] government well”? The man who promised his South African counterpart to “curb any missionary zeal of my officers in the State Department to harass you”? The man who told the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet: “We are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here”? Yet Suri has a case to make, even if he does not make it more than obliquely. An integral part of Kissinger’s grand strategy was always to establish priorities. In order to check Soviet ambitions in the Third World – the full extent of which we have only recently come to appreciate – some unpleasant regimes had to be tolerated, and indeed supported. Besides the various Latin American caudillos, the Saudi royal family, the Shah of Iran and the Pakistani military, these unpleasant regimes also included (though the Left seldom acknowledged it) the Maoist regime in Beijing, which was already guilty of many more violations of human rights than all the right-wing dictators put together when Kissinger flew there for the first time in July 1971.

Niall Ferguson, reviewing Henry Kissinger and the American Century in the TLS.

The book sounds good. The review is worth reading.

The Cold War was a bad time. It was a dangerous time. Victory was not assured. When Kissinger was in office, defeat seemed possible. When Nixon came to power in 1969, the country was in terrible shape, with only 1933 and 1861 being worse for a new president. American leaders made decisions under what they considered to be desperate conditions which we now question, or challenge, or repudiate. America allied itself with regimes which behaved very badly. Opposing and defeating the Soviet Union had many costs. We are too close to fully assess them.

Of the many books I have read about the Cold War, or events during the Cold War, the single best book covering the whole period which I have read is Norman Friedman, The Fifty-Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War.

Suggested favorite books about the Cold War would be appreciated, in the comments.

UPDATE: Good Zenpundit post about, inter alia, the Nixon White House. Zen suggests some Nixonian literature in the comments.

UPDATE II: Zen provides a Cold War reading list, in the comments. Check it out.

Skipping Science Class, Continued

Three years ago, I posted about some disturbing trends in UK science education:

Instead of learning science, pupils will “learn about the way science and scientists work within society”. They will “develop their ability to relate their understanding of science to their own and others’ decisions about lifestyles”, the QCA said. They will be taught to consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues, and about the “social, economic and environmental effects of such decisions”.

They will learn to “question scientific information or ideas” and be taught that “uncertainties in scientific knowledge and ideas change over time”, and “there are some questions that science cannot answer, and some that science cannot address”. Science content of the curriculum will be kept “lite”. Under “energy and electricity”, pupils will be taught that “energy transfers can be measured and their efficiency calculated, which is important in considering the economic costs and environmental effects of energy use”. (The above is from John Clare’s article in the Telegraph.)

A couple of days ago, the Telegraph had an article about the Government’s new national science test and the unbelievably simplistic questions it contains. For example:

In a multiple choice question, teenagers were asked why electric wires are made from copper. The four possible answers were that copper was brown, was not magnetic, conducted electricity, or that it conducted heat.

This question can of course be answered without knowing anything at all about either electricity or copper. Demonstration:

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ChicagoBoyz Wildlife Series IV

Click photo for larger.

Jonathan has shown his courage in capturing pictures of some of the wild and more vicious animals lurking around Southern Florida as of late, so I thought I would do the same for the continuing education of our readers.  And what an opportunity I recently had!  On a bike ride last Sunday here in Southern Wisconsin, I saw the fear inspiring and very rare in the wild miniature donkey!  These creatures are extremely dangerous and need to be photographed and observed with great care.  Here you can see them stalking me, using their camouflage almost perfectly.  Fortunately for me, I have experience dealing with these “kings of the woods”, and was able to make good my escape.  Be extremely cautious around them at all times and never turn your back on them or they will consider you prey, much like the cougars we have been reading about as of late.

Beware the mini donks!

Related posts:

ChicagoBoyz Wildlife Series Three, Two, and One.

They Like to Watch

I used to admire watches, little nuggets of technology that rode along on your wrist. I loved the digital watches that had games built into them that came out in the 1980’s…..

1980's game watch

…but eventually gravitated to rugged, military style, mechanical watches with Tritium inserts so they would always glow in the dark.

Radium watch face

This changed four or five years ago when I finally decided to buy a cell phone. Even though it was a cheap giveaway model that was passed out when I signed a 2 year contract with my service provider, it was still laden with enough gadgets and features to make my geeky heart sing. It had a calculator, a calender, an alarm clock, a stop watch, an international time function, and a note pad so I could write stuff down. I could even download and play games on my phone, even though I have never bothered.

You would have to buy an array of watches to enjoy all those functions way back when, and now they were included in my cell phone as a minor selling point. Pretty cool, but there is also a crappy VGA camera as well. Not many watches also had a camera built in.

Don’t forget that this is a four year old phone that was given away for free even back then. Nowadays you can spring for a phone that is a media center, allowing you to access the Internet, watch TV or movies, and play music. It would take far more free time than I have to use all those functions, so I have deliberately avoided upgrading. But I will probably get a phone with a better camera when the one I have now eventually succumbs to all the weather to which I keep subjecting the poor thing.

Chris has found that a watch is so much more convenient than a cell phone when he is filling out incident reports. Just glance at your wrist instead of pulling your phone out of the belt pouch, press the button to get the face to light up, look at it to determine the time, and put it back. He is more interested in pure function than anything else, though. The time is the only thing he really needs from his watch.

Milo is a watch enthusiast of sorts. He likes Soviet style watches, something with a 24-hour face. He ordered one online, but it never was mailed off. Disappointing.

This is sort of ironic to me. I remember that there was a brisk trade in all things Soviet amongst collectors back in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s before Glasnost. Now you order up what you want from a website, but it seems they still are having a problem delivering the goods even though they aren’t Communists any more. Proof we won the previous Great Clash of Civilizations, and that the losers are still struggling to get with the program.

Soviet Military Watch

Sevesteen is also a watch enthusiast, although his passion are American made watches which use mechanical movement. He has even bought a Timex watch display stand which graced store counters around 1970, so he can show off his collection in the proper soft focus glory.

Sevesteen has even perfectly articulated how technology has leveled the playing field so far as personal time pieces are concerned. In the quote below, he explains why he is fascinated with watches that were made in the 1970’s.

“Go back 10 years, and watches were tiny by todays’ standards. Forward 10 years, and they are mostly quartz–Superior timekeepers, but it isn’t nearly as interesting when even a basic department store watch is equal (or superior) in performance to an expensive luxury brand.”

I remember reading Larry Niven in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He did a pretty good job of predicting the future course of technology in some of his Known Space stories by having people rely on their portable phones for just about everything, at least on technologically advanced Earth. Pretty similar to the way cell phones are evolving today.

The protagonist in one short story has a surgically implanted watch. The dial is seen glowing through the skin on one wrist, a neat little detail to prove to the reader that the story was taking place in The Future.

Some people have predicted the ultimate demise of the wristwatch. I doubt that will happen, but I think it is undeniable that the sales of that once indispensable item have suffered with the growing popularity of cell phones. I think that the only way to turn the trend around is to offer a watch with limited cell phone functions built in, or to come up with some sort of snobbish gee-whiz technical application like the implanted glow watch mentioned in the previous paragraph.

(Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

Happy Memorial Day

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” (Kenneth Branagh, from Henry V.)

On Memorial Day: Respect, admiration and gratitude for America’s warriors, from the beginning, to today, and into the future. God bless America.

Quote of the Day

The Russians, Chinese and Indians aren’t just a new collections of fools. They will no more drive humanity off a cliff than we did. With 3 billion new capitalists come 3 billion new answers.
Many will only see needs and demands. Some will see innovation and vision.
One point history makes clear: when markets are allowed to operate, efficiencies emerge. When markets are prevented or perverted (like in the socialist bloc), disaster triumphs.

Thomas P.M. Barnett

“No Sign until the Burst of Fire”

This brilliant article from International Security, subtitled “Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier”, is one of the best things I have read about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and astride the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The main point of the article is that our problems in the region boil down to one troublesome community:

The Taliban and the other Islamic extremist insurgent elements operating on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are almost exclusively Pashtuns, with a sprinkling of radicals from nonborder ethnicities. The implications of this salient fact—that most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s violent religious extremism, and with it much of the United States’ counterterrorism challenge, are centered within a single ethnolinguistic group—have not been fully grasped by a governmental policy community that has long downplayed cultural dynamics.

The British called these folks “Pathans”. The British were not notably successful in fighting them, though they did somewhat better recruiting them and bringing them into their employ.

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Stupidity Kills

The headline reads….

NYC issues warning after aphrodisiac kills man

Why in the world would anyone need to be warned that taking the product was a bad idea? Or that they would think that sucking down something made from toad venom will get you in the mood for a romantic romp? The very last thing I would do to get all hot and bothered is to ingest something with the word “Venom” in the list of ingredients.

I think we’ll have to chalk this one up to evolution in action.

(Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

Guns For Me, But Not For Thee

Via Annie comes this gem from the Sun Times.  Here is the money:

Mell forgot to re-register the weapons as required every year by the ordinance that he helped to pass as one of the City Council’s most senior members.

So, what does an alderman do when he finds himself in violation of the law? He writes a new law. Mell has quietly introduced an ordinance that would reopen gun registration in Chicago and create a one-month amnesty for himself and other gun owners in the same predicament.

During the monthlong window, gun owners who attempted to re-register their guns between May 1, 2007, and April 1, 2008, only to be rejected on grounds the registrations had lapsed would be allowed to re-register without penalty.

Some things in Chicago change, some things stay the same.

I have a feeling that after the Heller decision, the Honorable Richard Daley and other municipal leaders in the state of Illinois will be the next in line with lawsuits to defend…and hopefully lose.


I learned a new word today, perusing this article that I found at Drudge (do I really need to give Drudge a hat tip?).

I don’t know a lot about the futures markets, but the article states that some contracts have become more expensive than the spot price for oil, and that this is a rare event called a contango.  The article also states that this means that either the futures markets are unhinged, or that participants in this market are wagering that there will be a supply issue in the coming years.

I would be interested to hear what our commenters and blogmates (who know a lot more about these types of things than myself) have to say about this.

Number Gut Update

Sugar producers also make out like Beltway bandits, receiving the difference between the world price of sugar, which is now $12 per pound, and the guaranteed price of about $21 per pound.


(Let’s see how long they take to correct it.)

The Warrior-Scholar

@ SmallWarsJournal Blog.

To service the warrior scholar and the future warrior society needs to provide an educational framework of humanities and liberal arts that provide the essence of classical philosophy. Less, we create Ludites a good understanding of engineering and technology is of special importance. The officer cadre must have at least a passing understanding and awareness of the classical literature of conflict. The enlisted men should have a vocational understanding of the world prior to today and how it shaped whatever they are looking at.

I certainly agree.


Iran: Not a Serious Threat?

Barack Obama gave an interesting description of Iran and the threat it poses to the United States and our national interests at an appearance in Oregon last night. “They don’t pose a serious threat to us in the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us,” Obama told a cheering audience, explaining why he doesn’t think we need to worry about “tiny” countries like Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.

(from HotAir)

People often underestimate new kinds of threats because they don’t look like the old threats. In the early 1920s and early 1930s, military aircraft didn’t look very impressive when compared with the warships of the day. It was hard to believe that a flimsy-looking biplane could really be a threat to a battleship of ten thousand times its own weight. Only real visionaries could see what was coming.

But after 9/11…indeed, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki…the danger of rogue states, in league with terrorists and motivated by apocalyptic beliefs…should be obvious to all. Downplaying this threat in 2008 is not like failing to understand the threat of the torpedo bomber in 1930. It is like failing to understand the threat of the torpedo bomber after December 10, 1941. (The date marking the sinking of the British warships Prince of Wales and Repulse, following quickly after the Pearl Harbor attack.)

The Music Industry

\"TV Ad For Mars Volta\"

A while back I was watching a television show that I enjoy called “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain when he traveled to Crete and Greece when I saw something completely astounding on television – an advertisement for the band “The Mars Volta” and their new disc, a CD that I actually went out and purchased (still don’t understand it yet).

Why was this astounding… because despite being a semi-avid disc buyer for decades the advertisements that I have seen were usually useless and not directed at me; but for once the record business actually targeted a show I’d watch with an ad that I would have responded to. So for a brief glimmer, an instant, I could see what some of these thousands of non-musicians that make up the music industry do and how it could add value.


Over the last several years the major record labels have been undergoing constant layoffs, restructuring, and mergers in an attempt to re-invent themselves in the digital age. There are four “major labels” today which control about 80% of the industry, with independent labels covering the rest.

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P.J. O’Rourke (and others) on China

Just read his excellent piece entitled The Cleveland of Asia: A Journey Through China’s Rust Belt. Funny, with many good insights.

I mentioned to Tom that the whole time we’d been on the mainland I’d hardly heard the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 mentioned.
“That’s no surprise,” Tom said. “Tiananmen Square is where the abdication of the last emperor was proclaimed in 1912. It’s where the student demonstrations, which led to the formation of the Chinese Communist Party, were held in 1919. It’s where the Japanese occupation government announced its East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, where Mao declared victory over the Kuomintang in 1949, and where a million Red Guards swore loyalty to Mao during the Cultural Revolution. When the Chinese see a bunch of people gathering in Tiananmen Square, they don’t go all warm and fuzzy the way we do. The Chinese think, ‘Here we go again.’”


I also recently read a very good review in Quadrant Magazine, which makes much the same point: China is big and complicated. Do not accept simplistic explanations.

In response to the Quadrant piece, I got a good response from my old pal Singapore Pundit.

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They Lead By Example

Laura Washington is a journalism teacher at DePaul University and wrote this article in September of 2007, that I was pointed to by a link at Brillianter. Before doing a mini fisking on this, just a few words about technique.

It is easy to see why newspaper articles and articles in many online publications and magazines are poorly researched and hard to understand. When you have a teacher of journalism writing about something she clearly knows nothing about and provides no evidence to support her opinions, what does she expect her students to do?

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