Assad Makes A Crucial Error

Revolutions start sometimes over items where they are least expected. The entire “Jasmine Revolution” which began in Tunisia was sparked by a vegetable vendor setting himself alight (poor pun there) and becoming a world wide sensation.

In Libya I believe that Gaddafi had the opposition on the ropes and his tanks and heavy weapons were about to take Benghazi when he made the critical error of telegraphing his plans for human rights abuses which I wrote about here.

In Syria, the government just made a horrendous tactical mistake that seems to be a combination of the two items listed above. While protests have rocked Syria, their brutal authorities have taken extreme measures to combat the protestors including sending tanks into cities and stationing snipers on rooftops to limit movement and terrorize the civilian population (I fear that the Arab dictators have seen the power of snipers through the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now turning this against their people).

The government tortured a 13 year old boy to death named Hamza al-Khateeb and then returned his mutilated body to his parents a week later. You can read the details here but they are very gruesome and apparently there is a video of this on the internet as well. It appears that the Syrian government gives back these tortured remains to their parents in order to show how vengeful that they can be and to intimidate the population, the term used in the article was to “advertise their crimes”.

“This is a campaign of mass terrorism and intimidation: Horribly tortured people sent back to communities by a regime not trying to cover up its crimes, but to advertise them.”

People apparently poured out into the streets and this has been picked up around the world. Syria now will have significant issues even attempting to re-integrate with other nations now that these sorts of crimes have been documented; they will likely be poison even among those normally willing to do business with barbarians.

I don’t know if it is related but it might be – the Syrian government has promised to release all political prisoners, which would be a significant move if in fact they follow through on this promise; on an analogous note the ruler of Yemen has been promising to step down for some time now but always finds a reason for delays.

When you really think about it these sorts of regimes are amazing; there are entire armies and paramilitary groups that are focused solely on keeping the ruling dictator in power; they think nothing of torturing, maiming and indiscriminately killing THEIR OWN PEOPLE en masse. Generally for this type of behavior there is some sort of political theory (fascism, communism, socialism, etc…) but for these types of thugs it is just to utilize every lever of the state to stay in control. I would be interested to hear what their rationale is for killing their own people. And at what point, if ever, they’d be willing to stop.

They may have gone too far with torturing and killing this 13 year old boy. This type of behavior emboldens protestors even those facing death. This event may lead to the eventual downfall of Assad. I certainly hope so.

On Memorial Day

The following is a Memorial Day post that I wrote last year for my old blog:

And so it rained two years in a row on Memorial Day, but this year the rain was less gentle and something more fierce. Hard silvery lines bouncing off the black pavement. Asphalt covered in puddles and rivulets and running water everywhere. The thunder and lightning were violent: windows shuddered, they shaked and rattled and car alarms went off. Everything just a little bit mad, a little bit wild, a little bit out-of-control. As the day went on the rain eased and slowed and stopped and the sun came out, a soggy late afternoon sun peering through a humid and blurry mist.

No parade for me today. I worked at home and waited for the on-call pager to go off, the cell to ring, the hospital to beckon, but it only rained and thundered and “lightning-ed”.

And how many years has it been now?

In 2003, I got an email message in my inbox. An ordinary work day for me, filled with trays and trays of biopsies and phone calls from aggrieved physicians. “The patient is calling. Is the biopsy result ready yet?”

There it was: the photo of a young man in uniform with a flag displayed behind him and a message written below the photograph:

“Our beloved….”

A woman that I’d met a few times – once while we both served as bridesmaids at the Los Angeles wedding of a mutual friend – had sent me an email, one in a long line of messages to everyone in an email list. He looked so young.

He was young.

It’s curious how often during the course of a normal day that I think of you, and of your sister, and of that small stylish wedding before the war where your sister and I helped our friend Kimberly with all the final little wedding details.

RIP, Joe. People that never even met you – never even knew you – miss you.


I have so much I should be doing I keep clamping down so I don’t have a panic attack.

But, its Memorial Day and I am taking it easy. I have been going to read Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities for a long, long time. And I finally bought the highly praised recent translation last year. As a devotee of all things literary pertaining to the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (e.g. the three masterpieces: The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, and The Snows of Yesteryear by Gregor von Rezzori and The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig), Musil is long overdue.

So, I managed to evade the rest of the family and get a few minutes on the front porch with Musil and a stiff glass of lime, ice, tonic water and Tanqueray gin — which was in the back of the cabinet and forgotten until a few days ago.

Chicken and grilled veggies up next.

God bless America.

Memorial Day

God bless our veterans, living and dead. God bless America.

Recessional, by Rudyard Kipling (1897)

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Here is a version of Recessional being sung by Leonard Warren.

(“Far-called, our navies melt away…” I have always found something very stirring about that phrase. I always imagine the shock of some final military disaster striking, and the news spreading, and weeping and numbed silence, the end of hope, the knowledge that the tide has turned against you at last and forever. May we never see such days. And this: “All valiant dust that builds on dust, and guarding calls not Thee to guard.” I think of that one all the time.)

The Moral Bankruptcy of International Organizations

In the category of “headlines so obvious that you can’t believe you haven’t seen them sooner” here is a BBC article titled

Qatar’s Bin Hammam accused of buying 2022 World Cup

While I am far from a football expert I wrote about it here in particular how the greens that protest everything under the sun didn’t seem to mind NOT using some of the dozens of world class stadiums already built for football (soccer) around the world and let Russia and Qatar win the next 2 world cups, which required the construction of many more stadiums, which strikes me as completely the opposite of being “green”, but I can’t follow their logic anyways.

Back to the Qatar bid which seemingly MUST have been based on bribery because no logical set of criteria would award this tournament to a bidder that

1) had a non-existent history of success and barely even participated in the sport on the global stage
2) had no facilities to utilize
3) would likely have to play games under the blazing sun in virtually a furnace
4) would have to truck all fans in from around the world to attend the games

But of course we know why they won as is stated in the article above.

Suspended Fifa vice-president Jack Warner has made public an e-mail that claims Mohamed Bin Hammam “bought” the 2022 World Cup finals for Qatar.

I do like Australia’s response to the final outing of this obvious outcome.

Meanwhile, independent Australian senator Nick Xenophon has demanded that Fifa refunds the Aus$45.6m (£29.6m) they spent on their unsuccessful bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Xenophon said: “It appears corrupt and highly questionable behaviour goes to the core of Fifa. “Australia spent almost $46m on a bid we were never in the running for.”Now we hear that bribes may have been made to fix the result for who will head up Fifa.”

Finally let’s just drop the pretense of these international organizations being for anything other than the interests of those that run them. That goes for the Olympics too. Want to reward Russia for their fine behavior in the international stage, including the invasion of Georgia and general meddling in all the states on their borders? Give them the winter Olympics, in a facility that isn’t even built (no bribery there, either).

She Is Like Us

Back when the “protests” were raging in Madison (I hesitate to call the protests anymore – they were staged political rallies, hence the quotation marks) one and only one politician came up here to wage war. Sarah Palin.

I had a short back and forth with Lex Green on the subject. When she was up here she ripped Obama a new one at a Tea Party rally. Sarah never backs away from a fight. She simply doesn’t care how much bad ink is spilled on her name. Have you ever seen such a violent reaction from the MSM and the left (as if there is a difference) over a person? At that time Lex and I agreed that we would, perhaps, vote for Palin in the Republican primary since it looked (and still looks to me) that she is the only on in the field that isn’t a squish. How about Cain/Palin? Palin/Cain?

I saw these photos today and they are absolutely fantastic. She seems to be gaining momentum. I wonder if she will run, or if she is just in it for the money. Looking at the photos, I think she is sincere. Right now, she has my vote. I don’t give a damn if she can’t win the R primary or the general election. She strikes a chord with me.

I could be wrong, of course.

A Great Article on Asset Allocation

In today’s Barron’s magazine there is an interview with Dennis Stattman of BlackRock Global Allocation called “Mixing It Up in an Uncertain World”. In this article he discusses his world view and his views on asset allocation. It is a great article and highly recommended.

Dennis starts by explaining that our current situation is odd.

The first thing you have to realize… is that it is an artificial environment because of extraordinary government measures, both on the fiscal and monetary side… but our portfolio strategy has to take into account with what is going on with our unit of account, the US dollar.

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Academic Research on Insider Trading

In today’s Barron’s magazine there is an article titled “Keeping One Step Ahead of the News“. The article summarizes an academic study by Nitesh Sinha (University of Illinois at Chicago). Barron’s tagline was:

A provocative new academic study suggests the government should scrutinize options trading for hints of insider trading. Volume seems to arrive before the news does.

The study took researched how the options market behave before “surprise” news came out. They took two incidents involving Baxter International and Bank of America and showed that option volume increased by a factor of more than 500 prior to the news coming out, which was obviously sign of something interesting occurring (if it can be replicated on a larger scale). Generally the SEC seems to go after stock trading rather than the options market for insider trading, but per the authors there are a lot more ways to trade on information in the options market and it is also easier to “short” bad news (just buy a put) when for the cash market you actually need to “short” the stock which is more complex.

It is important to realize that these sorts of researchers actually DO find major items that the SEC misses from time to time; the “options backdating” scandal (where executives chose the most advantageous day where the price was lowest as the date of issuance for their options) was broken by researchers and not the SEC itself. It will be interesting to see if this study can be extended or similar ones launched and how far these investigations go. Unlike the options dating scandal where the companies themselves were charged in this case if you see an strange event like a bump in trading they would have a lot of work to do in order to determine who profited and why and whether or not it was based on insider information.

Book Bleg – The American Revolution

One of the goals I have set for myself for the summer is to educate myself on the American Revolution. I have basic knowledge, but need to dig deeper.

My challenge for you, our smart Chicago Boyz commenters and authors, is to suggest a book or two that would be absolutely essential for me to read. To narrow this broad topic a bit, I don’t need suggestions about the Revolutionary War itself – I am treating the War as a separtate topic to be addressed at a later date. Obviously the War will need to be gone over in basics , but I am not looking for detailed campaign and battle information at this point.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

TSA Patdowns

Took a flight recently and in my security line they were putting everyone through the scanner. I didn’t want to be scanned so I asked for a patdown instead. Interesting experience. I don’t recommend it except that I sort of do (keep reading). It’s no fun having some gruff fellow with a shaved head run his hands up your legs and under your waistband. My impression is that the screeners do not enjoy this work, and that their attitude is that if you are dumb enough to ask for a hand search they are going to take some satisfaction in giving you what you asked for, good and hard. Or maybe they just don’t like it when passengers make work for them. Much easier to run everyone through scanners.

Perhaps more travelers should ask for patdowns, to slow down the system and pressure Congress to junk it or at least eliminate its worst features.

A while ago I traveled to Israel. On the way back an American guy in the security line started taking off his shoes, and a screener told him to keep them on because this isn’t America (unspoken: and here we do things rationally). Why is it so institutionally and politically difficult for us to treat airport security (and other issues) rationally?

Wolseley’s Red River Expedition of 1870

As I previously mentioned, my favorite book from last year was the memoirs of Lord Wolseley. I am currently reading a decent biography of Wolseley, The Model Major General, A Biography of Field-Marshall Lord Wolseley by Joseph H. Lehmann (1964). Lehmann’s book fills in many interesting details, but it cannot possibly capture the verve and excitement and unrefined Victorian era honesty and cultural confidence of the memoir, which is in Wolseley’s own words. I remember picking up the Lehmann book years ago, it was marked as $6, but it was half off because it had sat on the shelf at Bookman’s Corner for over a year. It is amazing that a man as world-renowned, powerful and influential as Wolseley should have fallen into such absolute obscurity. In 1890 literally anyone in the world who could read a newspaper would have known who he was. Now it may be the case that not one person in a million has heard of him, i.e. that maybe fewer than 7,000 people in the world know who he was. Such is the fleetingness of fame and human greatness.

One of the most stirring parts of Wolseley’s altogether thrilling memoir is his account of the Red River Expedition of 1870.

Two snippets will give a flavor.

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To The Queen II: A More Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Time

Grandma Croizet
Grandmother Croizet

Grandmother Croizet was far more regal than any descendent of Georg, Elector of Hanover. She had far more personal qualifications for the title of queen than the ability to produce an heir to secure the Protestant succession of occupied Britain.

She was warm but correct when pleased and wrathful with flashing eyes when displeased. When she was not amused, she was not amused. I was never around when she ordered heads to roll but roll they must have.

I was looking through an online newspaper archive for family history when I came across this photo. The headline beneath says PISTOL-PACKING POLICE WIVES AIM FOR SHOOTING TITLE. The lede reeks of 1951 period charm: The term “weaker sex” certainly is a misnomer for five eagle-eyed ladies who will represent the Nantes police department at the Brittany Peace Officers convention in Meissen next Friday.

Grandpa Croizet was a police officer who enjoyed all the perks of a pre-Miranda era, including the option of driving drunks home in the trunk of his squad car in order to preserve the taxpayers of Nantes’ upholstery from alcohol-induced ejecta. Grandma, referred to in the article in the style of the day as “Madam Jean Croizet”, participated in local police auxiliaries as a pistol-packing society matron.

Three of the police wives in the photos are obviously being campy for the camera. Grandmother, second from the right, looks every part the royal slumming it with the commoners. She is in the photo but not of the photo. She is bemused by the antics of the rabble but she retains the shroud of majesty and mystery as she hovers above them on a higher plain.

If the hapless son of a former subject had come from across the sea and tried to upstage her, she would have had them drawn and quartered and their viscera draped over the gallows at Tyburn as a warning to other presumptuous fresh fellows. But she was a ruler of a different age, a rare creature not of the same common matter of today’s pale shrunken Disneyland monarchs or Urkelesque presidents.

16 Years

Lex’s post about the couple who played the Damned at their wedding was pretty timely for me. You see, today is my 16th anniversary.

I started to talk about weddings in general in that comment thread, and as I typically do, I began to think about my wedding. There were a total of four people in attendance. Myself, my wife, a photographer, and a Lutheran pastor. What follows is how we got there and is a personal love story so click below the fold if that is what you want.

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Baffled “Experts”

Today’s New York Times had an article titled “Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts“. The article describes how crime has fallen across the country at a time when the crime “experts” thought it would increase.

There was no immediate consensus to explain the drop. But some experts said the figures collided with theories about correlations between crime, unemployment and the number of people in prison. Take robbery: The nation has endured a devastating economic crisis, but robberies fell 9.5 percent last year, after dropping 8 percent the year before.

Interesting – you can see the key elements of the “expert” model:

1) unemployment
2) number of persons in prison

Not mentioned above but likely another key variable in their model is the number of male individuals in the key age range for committing crimes – I don’t know exactly what that is but I would guess it is something like 18-25.

Throughout the article, as is the norm in the New York Times, there is no mention of ANOTHER key variable that has been added to the equation over the last few decades – gun owner rights. The only time guns come up in the paper is when 1) there is some sort of sensational murder of multiple individuals and they want to blame the type of weapon used 2) someone who clearly should not have a gun like someone who should have been committed to a mental institution uses one to hurt someone.

But while it is not even a variable to consider to these experts OBVIOUSLY gun owner rights deter criminals. The presence of armed civilians who are able to defend their homes and now their persons in most states (only Wisconsin and Illinois have no form of concealed carry) is a form of deterrence that criminals would be aware of, since it is a factor for THEM to consider on the types of crimes that they commit. For example anyone doing home invasions in Texas would have to be insane; you’d need to be armed to the teeth and willing to kill the home owner in cold blood and face a death sentence for the chance to walk away with some home electronics?

The saddest part for me is that either all of their journalists have been actively trained NEVER to mention guns as a source of positive outcomes or, more likely, the journalists are all selected from the same pool of people that actually THINK that way. Certainly if you went to a private school out east somewhere or were educated in England it would never occur to you that guns could impact crime favorably, because these sorts of stories never occur in print.

When I am overseas I have fun talking to people about Indiana, a state bordering Chicago which is actually part of the metropolitan area, where you should assume that many people have concealed carry and the background checks are reasonable and yet it isn’t the “wild west” at all. They really don’t believe me, and part of it is that those stories just aren’t told. Of course they don’t even know that they are in a concealed carry state unless someone tells them. And from their perspective, the most dangerous places to be are those that have the MOST RESTRICTIVE gun laws, which also seems counter-intuitive to them but since no one explains this in more depth they just drop it and assume Americans are “gun crazy”.

I don’t mind newspapers having an opinion, even an opinion that I disagree with. What irks me is the fact that I genuinely believe that they have ruled out guns having a positive impact in all scenarios without questioning that belief and frankly it is sad. Whether it is stated policy or just something that comes with hiring the staff it is a clear fact.

Cross posted at LITGM

AQ Merch

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — AQ tech savvy, impact of visuals ]
Jarret Brachman told us a while back:

Jihadi movement participants, he [al-Awlaki] argues, should also use computers, CD-ROMs, and DVDs to circulate large quantities of jihadi information—in the form of books, essays, brochures, photographs, and videos—in a highly compressed fashion.

I know that in theory, it doesn’t surprise me too much — but visuals like these bring it home to me in a way that reading words never will:



Merchandise — CDs and DVDs, the coin of the info-realm.

BTW, that Brachman article, High-Tech Terror: Al-Qaeda’s Use of New Technology, will be familiar to some who read here, but is worth reading if you don’t already know it.

Skulls & Human Sacrifice: Bunker and Sullivan on Mexico’s Societal War

[cross-posted from]

Altars to Santa Muerte, “Saint Death” to the poor and the narcocultos

SWJ has been en fuego the last few days and this is the first of several that I recommend that readers give close attention.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker and Lt. John Sullivan are indicating that the canary in the coal mine phase of Mexico’s narco-insurgency has passed. Mexican society is entering a new and more dangerous period of accelerating cultural devolution. Narco-insurgent violence has shifted from the economically motivated and brutally instrumental of organized crime syndicates everywhere to culturally totemic and ghastly ceremonials out of tribal prehistory:

Extreme Barbarism, a Death Cult, and Holy Warriors in Mexico: Societal Warfare South of the Border? by Dr. Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan

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New Rose, The Damned (1976)

I went to a hipster wedding on Saturday. The bride was once in a band with my wife. The groom is into what might be called “vintage punk” — i.e. the stuff I grew up on, while he was probably learning his A B Cs or even how to go potty. I don’t think I will ever again be at a wedding where the bride comes down the aisle to New Rose. Groovy stuff. The first punk rock single ever.

Good luck, kids. We love ya.

(I used to have a copy of this single on colored vinyl, bought circa 1979. I wonder what happened to it?)


Picked up the March 1939 issue of Aviation magazine at a used book store. There is a lot of interesting content; here are some highlights…

(1)The big story was the delivery to Pan American Airways of the new Boeing 314 flying boats, intended to support Pan Am’s first transatlantic service, as well as for expansion of its existing transpacific service. (Atlantic service came 4 years later than the Pacific service due to strictly political reasons.)

The Boeing 314 (“Clipper”) could carry 74 passengers, but configured for overnight service, as it was for the transoceanic runs, the number of passengers was limited to 40. There was a 14-seat dining room, davenports convertible into upper and lower berths for the passengers, and a special private suite (“honeymoon suite”) in the tail of the plane.

There are several wonderful web sites about the Clippers. The Pan Am Clipper Flying Boats site covers several models operated by Pan Am, with the B-314-specific information here, including exterior and interior pictures. This image-rich site is also great, as is this one.

One-way fare, New York to Marseilles, was $375. According to the BLS Inflation Calculator, this would be equivalent to about $6000 in today’s money. I imagine the Private Suite was quite a bit more.

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It is this single-minded pursuit of the irrelevant by the self-important that constitutes the greatest catastrophe of our time.

Of course, this week, the phrase “It’s not going to happen” clarified.

Jethro Gibbs’ laconic “Yah think.” (Foreign policy, domestic policy, life) works, too.

But the obvious may need saying – before it’s swamped by the irrelevant.