Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Short Primer on Camouflage

Anti-military types at were humiliated by their inability to tell British from American troops in their latest online ad (now removed), and they compounded their ignorance with a clumsy attempt to cover up their mistake with a photoshoped re-do. Didn't work. James Taranto at OpinionJournal busted them, as did Kevin Aylward at Wizbang, GOP and the City, and Michelle Malkin, et al.

Above and to the left are samples of British all purpose and desert camo. The essential element in Brit camo is messy arc-like daubs of color. This basic form is copied in lots of former Brit colonies. Below and to the right is American three color desert camo.
It's influence was German camouflage at the end of WWII called Leibermuster. See the difference? It's pretty freakin' obvious.

I can see someone who does not know anything about the military and the various uniforms mistaking Brit troops for American; I mean, camo is camo. Who would know the difference? What I can't understand is trying to cover it up. Did they think we wouldn't notice the difference after they put long pants on the shorts wearing soldier in the photo?


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 147 AD, Annia Galeria Faustina, the daughter of the emperor-to-be Marcus Aurelius is born. Never heard of her.


Thought of the Day

Semper inops quicumque cupit.

Claudius Claudianus in In Rufinium

Whoever desires is always without abundance.

Or put another way, those who only desire are blind to the bounty of the Earth.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The Duke Lets Us Down

I've watched gun camera footage of Randy "Duke" Cunningham shooting down a Mig-19 over Viet Nam about 300 times. Odds are you've seen the missile streak out and up and get the Mig too. How often are we going to have to see the Duke crying as he admits he took bribes as a Congressman from California? The Washington Post has the lead:

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) resigned from Congress yesterday after tearfully confessing to evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode.

He's a Republican, and he sold out for a commode. What is the world coming to? All I can say is:

Nice timing, Dukester.


New Recruit for the Forward Party

This is strange. Dyed in the wool lefty Israeli politician (and Nobel Peace laureate) Shimon Peres, who was in the liberal Labor Party for at least 60 years, strongly hinted today that he will quit that party and join the new party, the Forward Party, started by current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who recently left his conservative Likud Party after many decades in it. In addition, a TV journalist quit her job to hook up with Labor. A respected professor announced he's switching parties.

What's with current politics in Israel? Is everyone having a well past middle age crisis?


Chemical Explanation For Losing That Loving Feeling

I thought it was just what happened over time to love, but it turns out that there is a chemical, nerve growth factor (NGF), which is at higher levels in the brain when people have recently fallen madly in love and a year later is at the general (and much lower) level of people in long term relationships.

See, old girlfriends, I was right: It wasn't you; it was me.


Poem of the Month

Tear It Down

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of raccoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within that body.

Jack Gilbert

I have no idea what this means but I like how it sounds; and unlearning the constellations to see the stars is a cool thought.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 511 AD, Clovis, King of the Franks, died. Clovis became chief of the tribe called the Franks (named after one of their weapons, the throwing ax called the francisca) in 481 AD. He was a worshiper of the Norse Gods. He married the daughter of the King of Burgundy, Clothilde, a Christian, who converted her husband. Under his aggressive leadership, the Franks swept away the last remnants of Roman rule, took over most of present France as well as a lot of Germany and some of Spain. His legacy was a united Christian kingdom and the Merovingian Dynasty with other great leaders, such as Charles Martel and Charlemagne, to stop the spread of Islam a few centuries later.


Thought of the Day

It is only necessary to make war with five things; with the maladies of the body, the ignorances of the mind, with the passions of the body, with the seditions of the city and the discords of families.


Monday, November 28, 2005


Catholic Hagiolatry

I've been a Catholic for only about a decade now and there are plenty of lifelong Catholics who know more about the religion than I do. Just as many who don't, too. One thing that has always fascinated me is the huge number of Saints and statues the Church has and the vapors many of the faithful get when a pancake shows a likeness of Jesus or a statue of the Blessed Virgin shows a stain. Like the two on the left.

Many people believe that the tears we shed from time to time come from the tear ducts in the corner of the eye. Not true. The tears come from lachrimal tissue all around the eyes. The tear ducts drain the excess into the nose, which needs blowing when we cry. Gravity causes the tears to spill over and slide down the face. So what's with the stain above the midpoint of the Blessed Left Eye? I know it's a little much to ask for verisimilitude in a miracle involving a statue of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, but clearly this is not the statue, or Mary, crying.

It's either a fraud or it's some sort of weird seepage through the top of the graven image.

Others in Sacramento disagree.


Canadian Government Falls

Rocked by a corruption scandal it could not shake or outlast, the Liberal party, led by Prime Minister Paul Martin, had managed to avoid being thrown out of office, with a no-confidence vote, until now. The Parliament will dissolve tomorrow and new elections are slated for sometime in January, 2006.

Come on, Conservatives, do your best.


Friday Movie Review (early)

The new version of Pride and Prejudice, with Keira Knightly is terrific. Well reviewed, but dying at the box office, it is clearly the best movie based on a Jane Austen novel--it is a gift for the eye and a delight for the soul. It is also a major chick flick, but I'm not holding that against it.

The only people in it you recognize are Knightly, Donald Sutherland (surprisingly good), Brenda Blethyn and Dame Judi Dench. In an unforgiving role as the vain and fatuous Lydia, American rising star Jena Malone (most recently in the quiet The Ballad of Jack and Rose but also in Donnie Darko, Life as a House and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys) does a good job acting like the sister you love despite herself. Absolutely new to me was 31 year old Matthew McFadyen, the guy who played moody Mr. Darcy. He just kept getting better and better as the movie progressed. A rich snob for sure but a good guy. We begin to like him as Knightly begins to love him. For his part, he helps his friend and his enemy, and we strongly suspect that not only does he find Lydia, but he secures the officer post in the blue coats (Blue coats?) for her seducer and pays the guy to marry her.

I keep losing track of details in this film to my memory of Sense and Sensibility in 1995, with which it shares an amazingly similar plot, and with my comparing it to the Hollywood version of 1940 with Lord Olivier and Greer Garson (beautiful and witty--but 36 years old), which version it outclasses in every category: It is beautiful, the witty, polite banter is in fact witty, the characters seem age appropriate at last, and we get to see a ball where people are actually having fun. If only Keira Knightly had a big chest, but I quibble.

For the fifth time, the purpose of the chick flick is to reassure women that true, ennobling love exists in the World and is worth the struggle to find it. This is all the more true when the chick flick is based on a novel written by a woman two centuries ago, as the primary purpose of the late 18th early 19th century novel was to give literate women something to do when they got bored with needle point and to reassure women that true, ennobling love exists in the World and is worth the struggle to find it. The novel was written about Georgian England, at the end of the 1700s, and published in 1813. There is nothing in the movie to suggest a time in which it is taking place. There are no sub-titles announcing dates and places. The soldier's kit and uniforms give no real clue; the dresses suggest Empire style but are not in it. It is a timeless England of the past as clear of historical context as the Shire was in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not that I'm complaining. Before this movie my favorite movie of Austen'a work was Persuasion, with a Hollywood version of a plain lead woman (that is to say she is very pretty), Amanda Root, and the guy who played Caesar on Rome, Ciaran Hinds, as the male lead. The funny thing is that on the box for the VHS tape at the rental stores, there are two beautiful people embracing, like on the covers of romantic novels, but neither of them were in the movie. I see I'm digressing. In that film, I thought the protagonist was a form of Austen. Here the echo of Austen is the friend Charlotte Lucas, who marries the intolerable parson Mr. Collins. Her explanation to Knightly why she accepted his proposal is too heartfelt not to have touched the artist's core. Or so I believe.

Just as the details of daily life and worship in Rome are a great delight for me, so too is the verisimilitude surrounding Knightly's household--the geese and pigs, the washing and ribbons (what was it about young women and ribbons in Georgian England? It is a continuing mystery to me). The dialogue sounds authentic, but it's never the mystery that Shakespeare sometimes is, and it is to the point and funny, like:

Elizabeth Bennet (Knightly) on first seeing Mr. Darcy: He looks miserable, poor soul.
Charlotte Lucas: Miserable he may be, but poor he most certainly is not. He owns half of Derbyshire.
Elizabeth Bennet: The miserable half?


Elizabeth Bennet: I could more easily forgive his vanity had he not wounded mine.
(She has the lion's share of the good lines)

and finally,

Mr. Bennet: Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins... And I will never see you again if you do.
(Father knows best).

It is 127 minutes long but never drags. If you've ever suffered though reading an Austen book you were not particularly fond of in school, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. Think of it as a grand reward for your efforts. It is.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 66 (or 67) AD, the emperor Nero proclaims the "freedom of the Greeks." The Greeks knew what side of the toast the butter went on, however, and acted like a typical eastern Roman province even after being freed. Clever Greeks.


Thought of the Day

Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects.

Lester B. Pearson

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Ramsey Clark Enters His Appearance for Saddam Hussein

Former Attorney General under President Johnson in the 1960s Ramsey Clark has gotten his wish and will serve on Saddam Hussein's defense team as the trial starts for real tomorrow. Clark is a barking moonbat, of course, whose recent resume (from Wikipedia) reads as follows:

Following his term he worked as a law professor and was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. He visited North Vietnam in 1972. In 1974 he was the Democratic Party's candidate for the United States Senate from New York, losing to Jacob Javits.
More recently, Clark has become notorious for his outspoken political views. He has also provided legal counsel and advice to controversial figures in conflict with the US or
Western governments, including:
NORML Advisory Board during late 1970s and early 1980s
Branch Davidian leader David Koresh
Antiwar activist Father
Philip Berrigan
American Indian prisoner Leonard Peltier
Crimes of America conference in Teheran in 1980
Liberian political figure Charles Taylor during his 1985 fight against extradition from the United States to Liberia
Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, a leader of the Rwandan genocide
PLO leaders in a lawsuit brought by the family of Leon Klinghoffer, the wheelchair bound elderly tourist who was shot and tossed overboard from the hijacked Achille Lauro cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists in 1986
Camilo Mejia, a US soldier who deserted his post claiming he did not want any part of an "oil-driven war"
Slobodan Milosevic, former president of Yugoslavia and accused war criminal
December 2004, Clark went to Iraq to try to join the legal team defending Saddam Hussein before the Iraqi Special Tribunal, and now acts as an advisor to.
Clark is affiliated with
VoteToImpeach, an organization advocating the impeachment of President George W. Bush. He has been an opponent of both Gulf Wars. He is the founder of the International Action Center, which has much overlapping membership with the Workers' World Party. Clark and the IAC helped found the anti-war group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).

My question is whether this latest support of our enemy will get him a seat with Jimmy Carter at the Democrat convention in '08 or keep him out of the Carter box.


Glam on to This

Every time the Avalanche score a goal, or the Broncos score a touchdown, they play part of the old '70s song by glam rocker Gary Glitter, Rock and Roll part 2. You've heard it. Daaa DA da da da da HEY! Da da da da. Maybe they still play it in your town for sports achievement. I have to admit that I still like the song after, what? its 1000th repetition.

Not too high about Gary Glitter though. About 8 years ago he brought his computer into the local shop for repair and there on the hard drive was a ton of child pornography. (The only child pornography I have seen were pictures a pedophile, whom Diomedes was prosecuting, took during sex with a 6 year old--they were disgusting. Diomedes put that guy in prison for a long time). Glitter did a full two months.

Now Mr. Glitter, 61, (real name Paul Francis Gadd) is being held in Viet Nam on charges he had sex with two underaged girls (one was 12). He faces at least four months in pre-charge detention and up to twelve years if convicted. I don't know, but it's beginning to look like the psychiatric help for his wanting to have sex with very young girls, which he promised to get when he got the wrist slap in England, might not have lasted. HEY!


OOPS, Wrong Brit

Yesterday, the combined paper (Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post) ran an AP story about the sad death of Manchester United star of the '60s and '70s GEORGE Best, who couldn't stop drinking even after he received a second liver. The story got all the details of his life right but the headline, 'Fifth Beatle' Best dies after alcoholism battle, is a laugher. The fifth Beatle is PETE Best, ya' simpleton.

I watched George Best play soccer here in America in the '70s when he was well past his prime. Nothing about his play here comes back in memory. On the other hand, I still remember seeing Pele get into and win a fight at RFK Stadium in Washington one night in 1978.


Andy's Time Limit

As these pictures clearly show, it's difficult to keep yourself, without some renewing talent, interesting to the public over a long period of time. What anti-Sheehan person allowed these photos to get to the media?


Not Your Father's Gun

Except for the triangular front site, the old M-16 origins of the soldier's weapon to the left are getting harder and harder to see. The gun is, I believe, an M-4 carbine. The shell casing floating above the receiver has been ejected as the bolt travels back and then returns to load a new cartridge.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 8 BC, the great Roman poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) dies.


Thought of the Day

Science is facts; just as houses are made of stones, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.

Henri Poincare

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Friday Movie Review

Went to see the new Harry Potter movie, made from the fourth book, my favorite of the series, HP and the Goblet of Fire. It was pretty good. All the regulars from the first three movies were back, looking much older than their stated ages, except for Richard Harris, who died a few years ago. The new Dumbledore is played by Michael Gambon, as fine an actor as treads the boards these days, but he's so different from Harris, even in a huge beard, that it's a little disconcerting. It was worse in the last movie when the death of Harris was fresh, but it's still like the new Darrin on Bewitched. The main ingredient missing in the Gambon version is Dumbledore's calm benevolence. The good new addition this time is Brendan Gleeson as Alastor 'MadEye' Moody. He's terrific And in the not getting any prettier with age category is Frances de la Tour (the female lead in the British TV show of the late '70s, Rising Damp) as the giant headmistress of the skyblue uniformed French witch academy.

The book is over 700 pages long and the movie just over 2 and a half hours, so there is a headlong, breathless, show it, don't bother to explain it, pace to it all. I was rather disappointed with Ralph Fiennes portrayal of he who is not to be named (the quintessence of evil Lord Voldemort--oops, I said it). British filmmakers learned early on that the monster is always scarier in the mind so what ever you do don't show it clearly. Same goes for book villains. Once it's on the screen, it's just a man (or woman) and half the dread is instantly gone. And what was with the slits for a nose?--almost all reptiles I've seen have holes for nostrils, not slits.

Regarding one of the main mysteries of the film (which I had clean forgotten from the book) they were dropping hints left and right about it and I didn't even come close to picking up on it. Well done! The tasks that Harry has to do (except for the maze--what a let down) are pretty daunting and the death at the end is shocking still and painful. I think I got a little misty thinking about the 18 year old casualties we're taking against militant Islamicists.

The young lady playing Hermione (Emma Watson) is indeed budding into a real beauty, but she has lines on her forehead which make-up could not erase. Little early for that, I think, at just 15. What will she be like at 40? The puppy love going around among the 14 year olds is pretty tame and not detailed enough for us to nod our heads in remembrance of our early High School flirtations. Neville Longbottom is getting uglier and more awkward with age, but he plays a complete character and is on the edge of interesting. He danced the night away though while the handsomer leads just sat around kvetching and boring their dates to tears. The younger Malfoy sure has changed over the past four years--you can tell it's the same boy but, man, what a difference. I still kind of like his old man, but can't wait for him to get killed in book 7.

The dragon part was pretty darn good as was the demonstration of the unforgivable curses by Moody. I can't think of a part where it actually dragged. Kids will like this a lot, as will true fans; it's a little intense for 5 year olds or younger. They say Gary Oldman was in it as Sirius Black, but I didn't see him. The Weasley twins (Fred and George) were terrific and, at 19, they tower over the other players. The new bad guy Barty something is played by the guy (David Tennant) who is the new Dr. Who. Just thought you wanted to know. This is one of the better movies out there and I think by far the best of the series. It's like everyone became old enough to act well or something. The director, Mike Newell, actually British, might have had a little to do with it as well. He directed Pushing Tin, Donnie Brasco and Four Weddings and a Funeral, so he knows what he's doing. Go see this movie.


When Did the Canadians Go All Looney?

In the past, I have made fun of the Canadian armed forces because they are absurdly small for such a large country. Clearly the Canadians have hitched a free ride on the sacrifice of the American people to have barely enough forces to face big threats on and over the horizon. But I never knew the extent that some Canadians involved in the military had become moon-baying nut-cases until I read this. Money quote:

A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister...Paul Hellyer, publicly stated [in September]: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."
Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

We haven't been to the moon since the early 70s. This is crackpot stuff, but here's the kicker:

Hellyer’s speech ended with a standing ovation.

A standing ovation? So likely the rest of Canada is as crazy as Hellyer. This is so silly and sad, that you just have to laugh.

Hellyer was part of the very liberal administrations in the 60s and 70s. If the conservative party doesn't kick butt in the next elections, there is little hope for our neighbor to the north.


This Day in Ancient History (kinda)

On this day in 1922, in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first living souls to enter King Tutankhamen's tomb in more than 3,000 years. Grave robbers had never broken into the inner tomb and inside was a collection of several thousand priceless objects, including a gold coffin containing the mummy of the teenage king.

In the outer room there was evidence the tomb had been looted but when they broke through another door, and Carter leaned in with a candle to take a look, Lord Carnarvon, who was behind him, asked, "Can you see anything?" Carter replied, "Yes, wonderful things."

Wonderful things indeed. The Romans looked back on the Egyptians at the height of their civilization the way we look back on the Romans during their Empire period.


Thought of the Day

Fas est et ab hoste doceri.


It's proper to learn even from an enemy.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Another Good Movie for Insomniacs

Couldn't sleep the other night and watched 99% of LA Confidential. I liked this movie a lot when it first came out (8 years ago) and it's only improved with time. It's an action flick for thinking types. There is little doubt that Russell Crowe is a big star now because of this movie. His portrayal of the blunt cop Wendell "Bud" White is subtle, thrilling and explosive. He could do everything that Brando in his prime could do. I had seen him and liked him in some of his smaller movies (like Romper Stomper and Virtuosity) but after this role, you knew he was going places. Crowe was born in New Zealand but lived most his life in Australia.

The other guy in it on the brink of stardom was another Aussie emigre, Guy Pearce (are there no American born actors who can play Americans?), who went on to play in the extraordinary Memento and very good The Count of Monte Cristo. Pierce was Sgt. Edmund Jennings 'Ed' Exley in LA Confidential, who starts straight as an arrow and is seduced into a sort of just corruption. These guys are good, but the glue that holds the production together, the older pro at the top of his game, is Kevin Spacey as Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes.

Spacey's role as Vincennes, who starts off corrupt and self centered but seeks to redeem himself in the turning point of the movie's morality, is nearly the high water mark for Spacey's pretty distinguished career. I first noticed Spacey on TV as Mel Profitt in Wiseguy in 1987. The toes knows. Other great roles were in Henry and June, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Usual Suspects and Se7en. After LA Confidential, however, except for American Beauty, Spacey has not regained the edge or grown really as an actor, his imitation of Bobby Darin notwithstanding.

The end shoot out between the good cops and really corrupt cops is still thrilling while remaining in the realm of the possible. I could watch that scene as often as the movie comes on TV. Oh, and for trivia buffs, the movie Kim Basinger and the councilman are watching when Crowe comes to call is not the famous one with the actress Basinger looks a little like, Veronica Lake, or the famous ones with Alan Ladd, but one of Ladd's first credited film roles, This Gun for Hire, which really is not that good. Just thought I'd tell you.

I read the book the movie is based on and the movie is way better. That doesn't often happen. This is the second movie (Mulholland Falls is the other) that tells me LA cops used to beat up any organized crime figure who moved out to LA in the 1950s. Does that mean it really happened?


What's Old is New Again

Since Ariel Sharon has quit the conservative party, called the Likud party, in Israel and started his own (called the Forward party), the Likudites need a new leader and will have an election for one on December 19, 2005. In this story, Benjamin "Bebe" Netanyahu is mentioned as the early favorite for the post. Back when my political outlook was murky and coalescing, I didn't like Netanyahu very much as Prime Minister; but ever since he left that post, he's been very impressive every time I've seem him talk. Israel could do worse.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz will almost certainly run against Netanyahu to lead Likud.


This Day in Really Ancient History

On this day in 2348 B.C. the Great Flood begins. [How do they know this, down to the day?]


Thought of the Day

Aliena nobis, nostra plus aliis placent.

Publilius Syrus

Other people's things are more pleasing to us, and ours to other people.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


How to Make Great Pumpkin Pie

Semi-local blogger, Stephen Green, down in Colorado Springs, does a Friday Recipe at Vodkapundit, which is often just excellent. And he explains how to proceed so well. In tribute to him, here is a recipe I believe is good. Pumpkin pie.

This is designed to make two pies an inch deep or one pie about an inch and a half thick. There's less spilling with 2 pies.

In October, buy a medium to big Halloween pumpkin or three of the smaller pumpkins often called pie pumpkins. Just before you make the pies, buy two empty aluminum pie pans of around 9" diameter and two prepared pie crusts (Pillsbury has two in one package all rolled up--these are good). You should have the rest of the stuff in your kitchen.

[Purists can make pie crusts by hand but I can never taste any difference between hand made and store bought crusts, so why bother? Go to a purist cooking web site if you need a crust recipe. While the frozen pie crust already in disposable tins will do, its edges are too perfect and do not have the homemade look my method gives them. Remember, you're always baking for the eye as well.]

Cut the pumpkins soon after purchase into long sections that look like smiles and cut off the middle (seeds and fibers) and the rind (be careful about the rind, it's tougher than you think and dulls your knife blade as you go along). Then cut the sections into smaller pieces (it really doesn't matter how big). Boil the pieces in a big pot for about two hours, then plop them into a colander in the sink to drain for a minute or so and then into a big storage container and into the freezer. I'm not kidding about freezing them.

Or you could cut the raw pumpkins in half (don't bother to scoop out the seeds) put them face down on cookie sheets (with a little water if your cookie sheets have raised edges) and bake them for about an hour and a half at 400 degrees or more. Once they've cooled, scoop away the seeds and strands into the trash, then with a big spoon scoop out the mush down to the hard rind (but not including it) into a bowl and mash with a fork or a potato masher, if those still exist. With baking you have the pumpkin mush right then but if you don't use it until Thanksgiving or Christmas, you risk having the October pumpkins rot during the wait. With boiling, you have to thaw for about a day to have the mush but the freezing separates out the water well so the mush is about the same density of pumpkin with either baking or with boiling and freezing.

The day you are to bake, put the pumpkin mush or boiled pieces in a cuisinart with the blade and chop it up to even finer mush (about a minute and a half).

[I know this pumpkin preparation is kind of a pain, but canned pumpkin, although easy, is not a good substitute and has a distinctive taste so that everyone knows you used store bought and they won't consider you a good cook. With boiling and freezing, you can make two pies for Thanksgiving and another two at Christmas without risk of rot.]

Then, in a small bowl, put:

1/8 teaspoon salt;

2/3 cups sugar;

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon (tough to have too much cinnamon);

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (I grate little nutmegs on a microplane but preground is just about as good --don't use too much of this as its taste is pretty overpowering);

1/4 teaspoon cardamom; and,

1/2 teaspoon ginger.

Mix them up with a spoon or a fork.

Roll out the crusts into the empty pie tins and put them on separate cookie sheets. Let the unrolled crusts warm up for a half hour then push them down into the tins and make sure the edge is not regualr. Get your oven to 450 degrees and bake the empty crusts for about 3 minutes. Pull them out to cool and turn down the oven to 375 degrees.

In a big bowl, beat two large eggs some (20 seconds with a whip, 40 seconds with a fork) and pour in the sugar and spices and stir for 20 seconds. It should turn pretty dark. Add the cuisinarted cooked pumpkin mush (2 cups of it) and mix well. Add at least 1 and 1/2 cups milk (or half and half or straight cream if you want) to the mixture and stir until smooth (30 seconds tops). You can use up to two cups of milk etc., if you want, but the baking time will increase with the more milk, etc. in the filling.

Fill the empty, slightly baked crusts with the filling not quite to the top. Put the filled crusts still on the cookie sheets into the now 375 degree oven and bake for about an hour and a half (two hours or even longer if more milk is in). The pie is done when it doesn't jiggle at all when shaken and a knife blade to the center comes out clean.

Cool Whip goes well with this, as does real whipped cream.


This Day in Science History

On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published in England On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, the seminal work in Natural History, a system of knowledge now called biology. Notice please, you Bible literalists, that it is not titled On the Origin of Life. Charles Darwin believed in the Divine creation of life on earth; his study in evolution was merely about how that life changed over time through differential reproduction.

There is absolutely no reason that Christianity or any other religion and the truth of Evolution theory (started by Darwin with this book) cannot co-exist on this planet. It does require seeing the first part of Genesis as a sort of parable (but didn't Christ use parables for teaching all the time?), but to see evolution and notice the changes that exist in the fossil record and how the rules of evolution fit like a glove with almost all animal behavior and evolutionary principals are completely upheld by our knowledge of genetics and more recently by the structures of DNA, is not to reject the belief that God created life, just as he created everything else.

I have said since college that I believe in the theory of Evolution as I believe in the theory of Gravity and I am very careful where I step in high, steep places.


Thought of the Day

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace...

Joni Mitchell in River

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Breaking Bread

Despite the snarky spin Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank puts on this story, he can't disguise the generous spirit of the current administration to praise the accomplishments of the Clinton era. Here's the lead:

This is the season for memorable banquets. In 1621, the Pilgrims sat down with the Indians in Plymouth. Yesterday, the Bushies broke bread with the Clintonites at the State Department.

Present at the Republican luncheon were at least a dozen Democrats of the Clinton Administration including former NSA Sandy Berger and former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the latter one of the sharper critics of President Bush during the last election. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised their work in helping to contain genocide in the Yugoslavia break-up.

I guess the mean Republican smear machine wasn't invited.

My main problem with the lead of the story is the continuation of the myth of Pilgrim origin of Thanksgiving, which, oh my gosh, is tomorrow (where has this year gone?). I know this reveals my pride in the state of my origin, a provincial pride, as a good friend once said, but Virginia was having Thanksgiving before Massachusetts had Pilgrims.


Bull Moose Ariel Sharon

In this story from Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has quit the Likud party and plans to create a new one in time for March elections in Israel. I am no expert in Israeli politics, but this doesn't look good, based on my memory of American history. Is this more like the end of the Whigs and the rise of the Republicans or is this more like Theodore Roosevelt and his split with the Republicans and creation of a third party which put a Democrat (Virginian Woodrow Wilson) in the White House? I know Israel has elections with many parties and a coalition comes afterwards so that the comparison is not exact, but it still is a fair question.

UPDATE: Sharon was somehow able to resist the temptation to name his new party a bisl amuzirn and today registered it as the "Forward" party.


This Day in Medieval History

On this day in 1499, Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the throne of England during the reign of Henry VII, died. Warbeck, one of those guys in history who is able to pull off pretending to be someone else, until he tries to accomplish what the person he pretends to be would accomplish, led several feeble attempts against Henry VII. He was finally captured and hanged after trying to escape from the Tower of London.


Thought of the Day

It is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


All Steyn, all the Time

Mark Steyn in the Telegraph today is astonishingly good, again, here. Read it all, right now. Here's a teaser:

In war, there are usually only two exit strategies: victory or defeat. The latter's easier. Just say, whoa, we're the world's pre-eminent power but we can't handle an unprecedently low level of casualties, so if you don't mind we'd just as soon get off at the next stop.

Typical that I would like the sarcasm.

OK, one more:

So, just as things are looking up on the distant, eastern front, they're wobbling badly on the home front. Anti-Bush Continentals who would welcome a perceived American defeat in Iraq ought to remember the third front in this war: Europe is both a home front and a foreign battleground - as the Dutch have learnt, watching the land of the bicycling Queen transformed into 24-hour armed security for even minor municipal officials. In this war, for Europeans the faraway country of which they know little turns out to be their own. Much as the Guardian and Le Monde would enjoy it, an America that turns its back on the world is the last thing you need.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 117 A.D. St. Cecilia was martyred. During the persecution of Christians in Rome, it was illegal to bury those killed by the government persecutors. Celia did and suffered the consequences: Suffocated for a while, and when that didn't kill her, she was beheaded.

Her grave was discovered in 817, and her body removed to the church of Saint Cecilia in Rome. Her tomb was opened in 1599, and her body found to be incorrupted.

She is the patron of music makers in all forms and martyrs.


Thought of the Day

Quem amat, amat; quem non amat, non amat.

(Petronius in the Satyricon

Whom she loves, she loves; whom she does not love, she does not love.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Light Posting Excuse

I'm in a three day trial to the court on a Whistleblowers' statute violation claim. After a slow start, I'm making some progress. Diomedes has been doing great work though and we still haven't had the Tull review. Keep your fingers crossed.


Thought of the Day

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

P. J. O'Rourke

Sunday, November 20, 2005


The Vice President's Answer to the Democrat's Big Lie

On November 16, 2005, at the beginning of planned remarks about someone I'm sure I'd respect if I cared enough to get to know him, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a pretty forceful answer to the Big Lie tactic the Democrats have been using these last two years. Here's what he said:

Most of you know, I have spent a lot of years in public service, and first came to work in Washington back in the late 1960s. I know what it’s like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city. (Applause.)
Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence, and were free to draw their own conclusions. They arrived at the same judgment about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions that -- made by this Administration and by the previous administration. There was broad-based, bipartisan agreement that Saddam Hussein was a threat, that he had violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and that, in a post-9/11 world, we could not afford to take the word of a dictator who had a history of weapons of mass destruction programs, who had excluded weapons inspectors, who had defied the demands of the international community, whose nation had been designated an official state sponsor of terror, and who had committed mass murder. Those are the facts. (Applause.)
What we’re hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war. The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures –- conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers –- and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.
The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -– but we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. (Applause.)
We’re going to continue throwing their own words back at them. And far more important, we’re going to continue sending a consistent message to the men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other fronts. We can never say enough how much we appreciate them, and how proud they make us. (Applause.)
They and their families can be certain that this cause is right and just, and the performance of our military has been brave and honorable. And this nation will stand behind our fighting forces with pride and without wavering until the day of victory. (Applause

There's just no other rational way to look at this. We were right to depose Saddam. We are making a painful but noble sacrifice to help Iraq become a free nation. And since we know that the less than loyal opposition is afraid to vote for immediate withdrawal (Murtha's bill went down 403 to 3), their anti-war maneuvers and sound-bites are not only unpatriotic, but the worst form of politics.

Keep this sort of talk coming, Mr. Vice President.


Thought of the Day

The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.

George Orwell (Eric Blair), in Polemic, May 1946, "Second Thoughts on James Burnham"

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Hunting Report

Didn't take a shot for various reasons but had a good time. I'm beat.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 461, AD, shortly before Rome fell as center of an empire, Severus III became Emperor.


Thought of the Day

Qualis dominus, talis et servus,

Petronius in the Satyricon

Whatever kind of master, that is the kind of slave (resulting).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Light Posting Excuse (again)

Diomedes is to Jethro Tull (playing tonight and tomorrow at the Paramount in downtown Denver) what Ann Coulter was to the Grateful Dead--a rabid fan. He's going both nights. If we're lucky, he'll post a long review of their musical prowess and the subtle but noticeable differences in the two shows. I'm going hunting. Hope to be back soon.


RNC Music Video

I like this video over at the RNC website which devastates the Democrat's near treasonous meme Bush lied or the corollary Bush manipulated the intelligence to fool the Democrats. Tough to pull off when you're just governor of Texas. Succinct and to the point. The background music is Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys by Traffic (I greatly prefer the late Jim Capaldi's version of the song on his album Let the Thunder Cry). Here are the words to that song:

If you see something that looks like a star
and it's shooting up out of the ground
and your head is spinning from a loud guitar.
And you just can't escape from the sound
don't worry too much, it'll happen to you
We were children once, playing with toys.

And the thing that you're hearing is only the sound
of the low spark of high-heeled boys.

The percentage you're paying is too high priced
while you're living beyond all your means.
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
from the profit he's made on your dreams.
But today you just read that the man was shot dead
by a gun that didn't make any noise.
But it wasn't the bullet that laid him to rest
was the low spark of high-heeled boys.

If you had just a minute to breathe
and they granted you one final wish
would you ask for something, like another chance.
Or something similar as this
don't worry too much, it'll happen to you
as sure as your sorrows are joys.
And the thing that disturbs you is only the sound
of the low spark of high-heeled boys.

If I gave you everything that I own
and asked for nothing in return
Would you do the same for me, as I would for you?
Or take me for a ride
and strip me of everything, including my pride
But spirit is something no one can destroy.
And the thing that your're hearing is only the sound
of the low spark of high-heeled boys....high-heeled boys.

Good choice.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 42 BC, the bad Emperor Tiberius was born. A strange, unhappy man who never wanted to be Emperor (if only they had listened) he began to take out his psychotic melancholy on the citizens of Rome with a singularly cruel sadism and the slaughter of innocents. And those were the good times.


Thought of the Day

Quidquid fit cum virtute, fit cum gloria.

Publilius Syrus

Whatever is done with courage is also done with glory.


More Fallout From Shooting the Wrong Guy

Shortly after the July bus and tube bombings in London, on July 22, 2005, Scotland Yard policemen tragically shot Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, believing him to be another bomber. He wasn't. Over the next days and weeks, the original details of the reason for the shooting came under real doubt. By the time we were seriously wondering why then the police killed this guy, the story disappeared.

It reappeared today in the Daily Telegraph, with revelation that the police used hollowpoint bullets. Here in the states, we go "ho hum" because nearly all our police forces and certainly the elite anti-terrorist units use hollowpoints (indeed, they use a modified black talon round--but more on that below). The Brits point out that such bullets are banned in warfare by the Hague Declaration of 1899. OK, we Yanks say, the police aren't soldiers. But the paper has a slight case of the vapors over use of these specialized bullets, saying:

The firing of hollow point ammunition into the head of Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, is believed to be the first use of the bullets by British police. It will re-ignite controversy around the shooting, at Stockwell Underground station, south London, on July 22.
Modern hollow point bullets are descendants of the expanding "dum dum" ammunition created by the British in an arsenal of the same name near Calcutta, in India, at the end of the 19th century and outlawed under the Hague Declaration of 1899.
The bullets, which expand and splinter on impact, were available to officers taking part in Operation Kratos, the national police drive against suspected suicide bombers which has been described as a "shoot to kill" policy.

There is no doubt that anything other than fully jacketed rounds are illegal for soldiers under the 106 year old international convention which states, in pertinent part:

The Contracting Parties agree to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core or is pierced with incisions.

For the entire early history of the firearm, the usual projectile was the relatively soft and heavy metal lead. However, after the development of improved gunpowder, often called smokeless powder, the bullet was sent down the grooved (or rifled) barrel at too great a speed for the soft lead to "take" the groves and come out the end of the barrel spinning. The solution was to encase the soft lead in a harder metal, usually copper of some alloy of copper. A fully copper jacketed bullet, a "ball" round, goes into flesh and neither expands or fragments and one channel the width of the bullet is created. Ball ammunition is called a humane round, which is kind of ironic, upon reflection. I'm trying to kill you, but in a humane way. Silly.

If you have the the copper jacket (the "hard envelope" in the international document) not go over the tip of the lead core, you create a 'soft-point' which expands as it hits flesh and creates a mushroom shaped bullet within a few centimeters and a much bigger channel through the flesh. You can make the bullet expand even more with a hole in the unclad front of the bullet, a hollow point. You can also cut (or "incise") the incomplete copper jacket so that either the bullet fragments in flesh (and creates multiple channels there) or the expansion of the lead core pushes out the cladding so that it creates a ring of cutting surfaces around the edge of the bullet. That's what happens with the black talon, the bullet expands to more than twice its original size and the cladding becomes a ring of sharp, talon-like cutting edges. Thus, the name. Oh yea and the cladding metal is dark, nearly black, so black talon.

The idea behind the black talon and other such rounds is to make it much more lethal, so that it kills the person hit right then and he (or she, I guess) doesn't shoot back or even have the strength to push the button on the suicide belt or other explosive device. It is the right round to use against a terrorist out to bomb citizens of our nation. We right thinking Yanks don't understand the problem at all, there's not even enough controversy to generate even the steam from a teapot. Only a bleeding heart, nancy boy, terrorist lover, would oppose the use of a bullet which is designed to stop someone immediately so that he (or she, I guess) can't trigger the explosives and kill innocents. Who could be for allowing the terrorist a last, dying chance to kill our citizens?

And if the terrorist is a suicide bomber, he (or she, I guess) wants to die, so by shooting him with a black talon or indeed any other bullet, we're not going against his wishes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A Good Report from Iraq

Here is the text of a e-mail from a friend of a friend of a friend. I think I agree with pretty much every word.

Hello to all my fellow gunners, military buffs, veterans and interested guys. A couple of weekends ago I got to spend time with my son ......., who was on his first leave since returning from Iraq. He is well (a little thin), and already bored. He will be returning to Iraq for a second tour in early 06 and has already re-enlisted early for 4 more years. He loves the Marine Corps and is actually looking forward to returning to Iraq. ........ spent 7 months at Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi, aka Fort Apache. He saw and did a lot and the following is what he told me about weapons, equipment, tactics and other miscellaneous info which may be of interest to you. Nothing is by any means classified. No politic here, just a Marine with a birds eye views opinions:

1) The M-16 rifle : Thumbs down. Chronic jamming problems with the talcum powder like sand over there. The sand is everywhere. ........... says you feel filthy 2 minutes after coming out of the shower. The M-4 carbine version is more popular because its lighter and shorter, but it has jamming problems also. They like the ability to mount the various optical gun sights and weapons lights on the picattiny rails, but the weapon itself is not great in a desert environment. They all hate the 5.56mm (.223) round. Poor penetration on the cinderblock structure common over there and even torso hits cant be reliably counted on to put the enemy down. Fun fact: Random autopsies on dead insurgents shows a high level of opiate use.

2) The M243 SAW (squad assault weapon): .223 cal. Drum fed light machine gun. Big thumbs down. Universally considered a piece of shit. Chronic jamming problems, most of which require partial disassembly. (that's fun in the middle of a firefight).

3) The M9 Beretta 9mm: Mixed bag. Good gun, performs well in desert environment; but they all hate the 9mm cartridge. The use of handguns for self-defense is actually fairly common. Same old story on the 9mm: Bad guys hit multiple times and still in the fight.

4) Mossberg 12ga. Military shotgun: Works well, used frequently for clearing houses to good effect.

5) The M240 Machine Gun: 7.62 Nato (.308) cal. belt fed machine gun, developed to replace the old M-60 (what a beautiful weapon that was!!). Thumbs up. Accurate, reliable, and the 7.62 round puts em down. Originally developed as a vehicle mounted weapon, more and more are being dismounted and taken into the field by infantry. The 7.62 round chews up the structure over there.

6) The M2 ..50 cal heavy machine gun: Thumbs way, way up. Ma deuce is still worth her considerable weight in gold. The ultimate fight stopper, puts their dicks in the dirt every time. The most coveted weapon in-theater.

7) The .45 pistol: Thumbs up. Still the best pistol round out there. Everybody authorized to carry a sidearm is trying to get their hands onone. With few exceptions, can reliably be expected to put em down with a torso hit. The special ops guys (who are doing most of the pistol work) use the HK military model and supposedly love it. The old government model .45s are being re-issued en masse.

8) The M-14: Thumbs up. They are being re-issued in bulk, mostly in a modified version to special ops guys. Modifications include lightweight Kevlar stocks and low power red dot or ACOG sights. Very reliable in the sandy environment, and they love the 7.62 round.

9) The Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle: Thumbs way up. Spectacular range and accuracy and hits like a freight train. Used frequently to take out vehicle suicide bombers ( we actually stop a lot of them) and barricaded enemy. Definitely here to stay.

10) The M24 sniper rifle: Thumbs up. Mostly in .308 but some in 300 win mag. Heavily modified Remington 700s. Great performance. Snipers have been used heavily to great effect. Rumor has it that a marine sniper on his third tour in Anbar province has actually exceeded Carlos Hathcocks record for confirmed kills with OVER 100.

11) The new body armor: Thumbs up. Relatively light at approx. 6 lbs. and can reliably be expected to soak up small shrapnel and even will stop an AK-47 round. The bad news: Hot as shit to wear, almost unbearable in the summer heat (which averages over 120 degrees). Also, the enemy now goes for head shots whenever possible. All the bullshit about the old body armor making our guys vulnerable to the IEDs was a non-starter. The IED explosions are enormous and body armor doesn't make any difference at all in most cases.

12) Night Vision and Infrared Equipment: Thumbs way up. Spectacular performance. Our guys see in the dark and own the night, period. Very little enemy action after evening prayers. More and more enemy being whacked at night during movement by our hunter-killer teams. Weve all seen the videos.

13) Lights: Thumbs up. Most of the weapon mounted and personal lights are Surefires, and the troops love em. Invaluable for night urban operations. ........ carried a $34 Surefire G2 on a neck lanyard and loved it.

I cant help but notice that most of the good fighting weapons and ordnance are 50 or more years old!!!!!!!!! With all our technology, its the WWII and Vietnam era weapons that everybody wants!!!!The infantry fighting is frequent, up close and brutal. No quarter is given or shown.

Bad guy weapons:

1) Mostly AK47s . The entire country is an arsenal. Works better in the desert than the M16 and the .308 Russian round kills reliably. PKM belt fed light machine guns are also common and effective. Luckily, the enemy mostly shoots like shit. Undisciplined spray and pray type fire. However,> they are seeing more and more precision weapons, especially sniper rifles. (Iran, again)

Fun fact: Captured enemy have apparently marveled at the marksmanship of our guys and how hard they fight. They are apparently told in Jihad school that the Americans rely solely on technology, and can be easily beaten in close quarters combat for their lack of toughness. Let's just say they know better now.

2) The RPG: Probably the infantry weapon most feared by our guys. Simple, reliable and as common as dogshit. The enemy responded to our up- armored humvees by aiming at the windshields, often at point blank range. Still killing a lot of our guys.

3) The IED: The biggest killer of all. Can be anything from old Soviet anti-armor mines to jury rigged artillery shells. A lot found in ........area were in abandoned cars. The enemy would take 2 or 3 155mm artillery shells and wire them together. Most were detonated by cell phone, and the explosions are enormous. You're not safe in any vehicle, even an M1 tank. Driving is by far the most dangerous thing our guys do over there. Lately, they are much more sophisticated shape charges (Iranian) specifically designed to penetrate armor. Fact: Most of the ready made IEDs are supplied by Iran, who is also providing terrorists (Hezbollah types) to train the insurgents in their use and tactics. Thats why the attacks have been so deadly lately. Their concealment methods are ingenious, the latest being shape charges in Styrofoam containers spray painted to look like the cinderblocks that litter all Iraqi roads. We find about 40% before they detonate, and the bomb disposal guys are unsung heroes of this war.

4) Mortars and rockets: Very prevalent. The soviet era 122mm rockets (with an 18km range) are becoming more prevalent. One of ........ NCOs lost a leg to one. These weapons cause a lot of damage inside the wire. ........base was hit almost daily his entire time there by mortar and rocket fire, often at night to disrupt sleep patterns and cause fatigue (It did). More of a psychological weapon than anything else. The enemy mortar teams would jump out of vehicles, fire a few rounds, and then haul ass in a matter of seconds.

5) Bad guy technology: Simple yet effective. Most communication is by cell and satellite phones, and also by email on laptops. They use handheld GPS units for navigation and Google earth for overhead views of our positions. Their weapons are good, if not fancy, and prevalent. Their explosives and bomb technology is TOP OF THE LINE. Night vision is rare. They are very careless with their equipment and the captured GPS units and laptops are treasure troves of Intel when captured. Who are the bad guys?:

Most of the carnage is caused by the Zarqawi Al Qaeda group. They operate mostly in Anbar province (Fallujah and Ramadi). These are mostly foreigners, non-Iraqi Sunni Arab Jihadists from all over the Muslim world (and Europe). Most enter Iraq through Syria (with, of course, the knowledge and complicity of the Syrian govt.) , and then travel down the at line which is the trail of towns along the Euphrates River that we've been hitting hard for the last few months. Some are virtually untrained young Jihadists that often end up as suicide bombers or in sacrifice squads. Most, however, are hard core terrorists from all the usual suspects (Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.) These are the guys running around murdering civilians en masse and cutting heads off. The Chechens (many of whom are Caucasian), are supposedly the most ruthless and the best fighters. (they have been fighting the Russians for years). In the Baghdad area and south, most of the insurgents are Iranian inspired (and led) Iraqi Shiites. The Iranian Shiia have been very adept at infiltrating the Iraqi local govt., the police forces and the Army. The have had a massive spy and agitator network there since the Iran- Iraq war in the early 80s. Most of the Saddam loyalists were killed, captured or gave up long ago.

Bad Guy Tactics:

When they are engaged on an infantry level they get their asses kicked every time. Brave, but stupid. Suicidal Banzai-type charges were very common earlier in the war and still occur. They will literally sacrifice 8-10 man teams in suicide squads by sending them screaming and firing Aks and RPGs directly at our bases just to probe the defenses. They get mowed down like grass every time. ( see the M2 and M240 above).

......... base was hit like this often. When engaged, they have a tendency to flee to the same building, probably for what they think will be a glorious last stand. Instead, we call in air and that's the end of that more often than not. These hole-ups are referred to as Alpha Whiskey Romeos (Allah's Waiting Room). We have the laser guided ground-air thing down to a science. The fast movers, mostly Marine F-18s, are taking an ever increasing toll on the enemy. When caught out in the open, the helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre gunships cut them to ribbons with cannon and rocket fire, especially at night. Interestingly, artillery is hardly used at all.

Fun fact: The enemy death toll is supposedly between 45-50 thousand. That is why were seeing less and less infantry attacks and more IED, suicide bomber shit. The new strategy is simple: attrition.

The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties and therefore schools, hospitals and (especially). Mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi govt. Kidnapping of family members (especially children) is common to influence people they are trying to influence but cant reach, such as local govt. officials, clerics, tribal leaders, etc.).

The first thing our guys are told is don't get captured. They know that if captured they will be tortured and beheaded on the internet. Zarqawi openly offers bounties for anyone who brings him a live American serviceman. This motivates the criminal element who otherwise don't give a shit about the war. A lot of the beheading victims were actually kidnapped by common criminals and sold to Zarqawi. As such, for our guys, every fight is to the death. Surrender is not an option. The Iraqis are a mixed bag. Some fight well; others aren't worth a shit. Most do okay with American support. Finding leaders is hard, but they are getting better. It is widely viewed that Zarqawis use of suicide bombers, en masse, against the civilian population was a serious tactical mistake. Many Iraqis were galvanized and the caliber of recruits in the Army and the police forces went up, along with their motivation. It also led to an exponential increase in good intel because the Iraqis are sick of the insurgent attacks against civilians. The Kurds are solidly pro- American and fearless fighters.

According to ......, morale among our guys is very high. They not only believe they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see shit like Are we losing in Iraq on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren't enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria. The Iranians and the Syrians just cant stand the thought of Iraq being an American ally (with, of course, permanent US bases there).

Anyway guys, that's it, hope you found it interesting, I sure did.

So did I. (Emphsis added).

I've been advocating returning to a heavier round than the .223 for, what?, I don't know, several weeks now. The Pentagon is looking at 6.4mm, but I say hold out for the .30 caliber, (7.62mm). 7.62 or fight.


Short TV Blog

The second to last Rome of the season was pretty darn good. I hope I get to see the season finale. It can't be a surprise to you all that Caesar will be knifed to death by Brutus, Cassius and others in the Senate next to the statue of Pompeii Magnus. The only real question is whether the conspirators were right to do it? We see Brutus moving slowly towards it with Cassius' prompting and because of Caesar's otherwise prudent move in self-defense ( sending Brutus to Macedonia). Brutus won't go.

Atia and Mark Anthony are reunited after a rather strange Roman mating dance. I still like Atia or at least I still find her very interesting. She's the smiler with a knife, to use Chaucer's term. She criticizes beautiful Niobe's unsubtle dress out of her hearing and then seems to praise it in her presence. I'm still trying to figure out how Mark Anthony will be able to wed Atia's daughter, the poor Octavia, by the end of next year's episodes. Would she willingly give up Mark Antony?

In our time, war is politics carried out by other means, to paraphrase von Clauswitz. It appears that in Rome, politics was war carried out by other means. And one of the casualties of the Roman style of politics is straight-laced Vorenus, who must obey Caesar and bribe an old friend from the 13th legion into leading other ex-soldiers into accepting land in a rough and inhospitable place on the edge of the Empire. He must also obey Caesar and do nothing to help his old friend Pullo who has become a murderer for hire; and Vorenus even prevents an attempt to break Pullo out by old 13th mates.

What happens to Pullo is one reason I think most people could never become murderers--overcome with the weight of his guilt, he collapses under imagined 'harpy' attack and just sits waiting for arrest (like Ziggy in the second season of The Wire). We still like him though with his prayer for Eirene and Vorenus' family before he sacrifices the giant cockroach and his pathetic defense counsel (what sort of trials did they have? it was like a High School debate); and we root for him in a big way as he snaps out of it and fights and beats the swordsmen (gladiators) in the sand of a space far less impressive than the not yet built Coliseum. The guilt is too much for Vorenus too and he comes to his friend's defense at the last moment. I think you can see why the execution of criminals by sword fight with big slaves was a popular thing in Rome. I loved the reactions Timon (the Jew) had to the fight--eager worry to joyful triumph back to apprehension. As popular as the sword fights were, the chariot races were even more popular (like pro-wrestling versus NASCAR nowadays), but that's a blog for another day.

The end scene was the kicker. Although we strongly suspected it, the payment to Vorenus' nemesis Erastes Fullmen by Caesar's brilliant slave Posca confirms that Caesar is, despite his denials, becoming a tyrant who pays to have his enemies killed and smiles and smiles and still is a villain. I'm still going to miss the old guy, though.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 50 BC, Pompey the Great is again appointed sole consul of Rome in order to save it from civil war. Those of us watching Rome on HBO know how well that worked.


Thought of the Day

The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people cruel and bitter.

Somerset Maugham

Monday, November 14, 2005


Bonus Movie Review

I try to be as cynical as the action flick comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (which is a silly title, despite its pedigree), but I can't keep up. This neo-noir movie by Shane Black, one of the founders of the modern action film (the unlikely buddy version, as he was author in whole or part of all the Lethal Weapon movies as well as The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight) pulled out all the stops in an effort to be hip, jaded and innocent all at the same time. The snarky narrator is not only omniscient (as all narrators appear to be), but he is omnipotent as well with a tivo like ability to stop and rewind the movie and to yell at extras in the scene to get the heck out of the way (I don't think he said heck). It has incredible coincidence, memorable action, superior banter and lots of good looking women. Oh, and a gay male lead, Val Kilmer. Despite some major flaws, I liked this movie quite a bit and had a good time watching it.

In a sense, you could call this the come-back vehicle for Robert Downy Jr., but I'm sure other movies have already been called that and he still has plenty of time to relapse to uncontrollable drug use and ruin his career again. The lead girl, Michelle Monaghan, was great and she is a relative new comer. I last saw her as the very young and slutish girl miner in North Country, the one in the portable toilet they tip over. They also bring fast aging Corbin Bernson out of mothballs, I think because he has 20 year old cheesy movie footage (back when he had hair) which they could recycle as integral to the plot. Everything was integral to the plot. Even the smallest detail, like not wearing underpants. If you don't immediately connect underpantslessness with psychiatric hospital (rather than not wanting to have panty lines--as a lot of women desire) you are a middle American yokle. The narrator flat out tells us that. I think it was one of the plot problems, myself, but, of course, I am a middle American yokle. The other thing I liked is that Kilmer is constantly having to try to shut up the blabbering Downy. Then there is a more poingnant echo of that as Downy hushes a dying woman so that his position, under the bed, is not revealed. Pretty good.

There were, I believe, a lot of inside jokes and obscure and blatant Hollywood references. I'll tell you the ones I recognized. All the titles of the episodes of the movie are Raymond Chandler book titles. When Robert Downy Jr. speaks his deepest desire, it's for more demerol. There may be more. The pulp novels that nearly everyone in the movie are fans of (and which in a way are lame McGuffins) don't actually exist, but the propmaster got the covers just right. Another huge plot hole is the love affair between Downy and Michelle Monaghan. He's the highly moral crook (more cynicism) who only burgles businesses and carries an empty gun. He has had the hots for the girl lead since at least High School (where she slept with every boy but him and his best friend) and he's begged and pleaded and finally persuaded her to come up to his room drunk and she strips down to her lower undies (please notice--it could be an important clue) and gets into bed and she invites Downy in (just to sleep--they always say that) and, once he's in bed, she curls up all sleepy and sexy with her head on his chest and notices that he has an erection (and seems OK with it) and they kiss and it's about to happen, what Downy has longed for all his adult life and... She reveals that she slept with his best friend and he throws her out. Yea, right. I buy his hitting the driver of a speeding car with a pistol one handed and dangling from about 75 yards before I buy that fiction. "Oh you slept with my friend 17 years ago? Oh well, by-gones." And you have sex with your heart's desire, your one true love. Silly.

Lets talk about Shane Black more. This is his first director gig. He's like a kid with a train set, but ultimately most of it works. One other thing he wrote is The Last Action Hero where he used the device of a movie within a movie (magic ticket, my ass) to expose, ridicule yet rely on all the action movie cliches (just like Scream revealed, reviled yet had an affection for teenage slasher movie cliches). He continues with that leitmotiv in this film but on stilts and steroids. Another leitmotiv is incredible marksmanship (with a South African Vector pistol this time rather than the Baretta F 92 Mel Gibson used to put a smiley face on a target at 25 yards--a near impossible task). Kilmer calls it a $2000 ceramic gun. Yea, right. It's a CP-1 compact worth less than $500. And how does it reappear at the end? Another mystery/plot hole. Downy does Mel one better than the smiley face, he shoots everyone while suspended over a highway holding on to a corpse hand (don't ask). There really is no evolution in Black's buddy pairings--the unlikeliness of the black family man (Glover) with the grief/guilt crazy white single (Gibson)--but both cops--in Lethal Weapons became the unlikely pairing of a black disgraced football player (Damon Wayons) with dysfunctional family man and competent private detective (Bruce Willis) in Boy Scout and then the black single incompetent private detective (Samuel L. Jackson) with faux mom amnesiac secret agent (Gina Davis) in Long Kiss. Now the unlikely pairing becomes straight fraud actor/private eye with gay competent private eye. Except for the black white thing being used up, it's the same pairing. Why drop a good thing?

The movie is 103 minutes long, and went by fast. It has everything you want in an unlikely buddy action film and provides pretty good social commentary to boot. That is, it makes constant fun of the pretense and petty meanness of the people in LA. Also it provides some grammar pointers. Go see it. Oh, and stick around for the credits (not that it has outtakes or a final funny scene but something cool is revealed in the last song listing).


Thought of the Day

Be discreet in all things, and so render it unnecessary to be mysterious about any.

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

Sunday, November 13, 2005


A Close Look at a Single Paragraph

Not all of the New York Time's editorials online are trapped, largely unread, behind the Times Select wall. Here is an example of a free one that reveals a lot of the NYT mindset. To that end, I want to focus on the editorial's closing paragraph, below:

The Alito nomination comes at a critical moment for the Democratic Party. With President Bush's poll numbers plummeting, Democrats are finding a new optimism about their chances in 2006 and 2008. But to capitalize on the Republicans' weakness, the party needs to show that it has an alternative vision for the country. As the Democrats refine their message for next year's elections, the first thing they need to be able to say to the American people is that they did not sit by idly while the far right took over the Supreme Court and began dismantling fundamental rights and freedoms.

The first sentences are largely true and present a balanced portrayal of what's happening. (I quibble about "critical moment"--when is it not a critical moment?) It is absolutely clear that the Democrats must develop an "alternative vision," they must develop some vision, because no one can doubt that they have none now (Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the Democrats are working on discovering what they believe in and want to happen for our country and will announce it in January or February of next year). Two to three months away--don't they already know?

The use of the word "refine" in the start of the last sentence is charitable; "concoct" might be more accurate. But the rest of the sentence is the editorial driving over a cliff. ...they did not sit by idly while the far right took over the Supreme Court and began dismantling fundamental rights and freedoms. Wow. The "far right." Who is that exactly? Neo-Nazis? Camouflaged militiamen? Tough to tell in the context of this editorial, but I can tell you who it isn't, well-respected, brilliant federal appellate judge Sam Alito. If we googled "far left" and the New York Times would we get a hit on even one article or editorial regarding Justice Ginsberg or any of the judges on the 9th Circuit. Of course not.

But it's the very last part that increases my blood pressure and reinforces my belief that the editorial board of the NYT is hopelessly left biased and terminally clueless--"dismantling fundamental rights and freedoms." You mean like the fundamental right of the fetus to life; you mean like the freedom for our citizens to worship when and where they like; you mean like the fundamental right of the citizen to own property without fear that the Government will take it away on a whim for any reason it declares is somehow helpful? Are these the fundamental rights and freedoms which the NYT is stating that Alito and the right are taking away? No, it's the left that accomplished those dismantlings. It is the hope of the right thinking citizens that Alito can restore a fundamental freedom, our freedom from a judiciary that acts like a legislature but does not have to stand for election. Our hope is that Alito can help dismantle the last way the Democrats have of imposing their failed and otherwise rejected ideology on the country.

There. I feel better now.


Real Men Hunt with Spears

There has been a steady movement towards purposeful anachronisms in hunting. Knocking them off with a modern rifle (which I find somewhat challenging) is viewed by many as too easy. To create a greater handicap for the hunters, many use the rifle technology of the century before the last (muzzle loading weapons with percussion cap and even flintlock ignition). Many use bow and arrow and the new trend is towards a plain wooden bow and away from the complicated, high tech compound bows. The next step back is to use a spear.

I've advocated for at least a half decade the use of the atlatl, a wooden throwing board, and spears. It's really not that difficult to get within atlatl assisted spear range with deer, even giant deer. I even had in mind a name for a new organization of atlatl using hunters: SCA, Spear Chuckers of America (although I might have to rethink that due to a history of racial epithet for part of that term). Good to hear that I wasn't just imagining this trend as this story makes clear.
I'm not sure my shoulder will stand the strain of throwing spears and I love my beautiful rifle, but there is no reason not to experiment. Bows are for sissies, after all.


Thought of the Day

I have nothing but contempt for the kind of governor who is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows is best for the State; and as for the man who sets private friendship above the public welfare - I have no use for him either.

Sophocles in Antigone

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Friday Movie Review (late again)

Went to see the Capote biopic with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Little slow but generally pretty good. The neat thing was Capote's companion Jack (played by Bruce Greenwood, an actor I have never really liked) was so interesting and mysterious that half the audience stayed to see who Bruce Greenwood had played; Jack Dunphy, said the credits and the theater emptied out. For people who want more, here's a thumbnail biography of Capote's long time lover:

Born in a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia, Jack Dunphy began his career as a dancer, and was one of the cowboys in the original Broadway production of "Oklahoma!" When he met Capote in 1948 he had written a well-received novel, "John Fury," and was just getting over a painful divorce from musical comedy star Joan McCracken.
Ten years older than Capote, Dunphy was in many ways Capote's opposite, as solitary as Truman was exuberantly social. Though they drifted more and more apart in the later years, the couple stayed together until the end. Other books include "Friends and Vague Loves," "Nightmovers," and the plays "Light a Penny Candle," "Cafe Moon" and "Too Close for Comfort." Although his work consistently received good notices from critics, he never had a bestseller. In 1987, he published "Dear Genius: A Memoir of My Life with Truman Capote."

(h/t) Emanuel Levy

The director was Bennett Miller, whose only other work appears to have been an 87 minute black and white documentary seven years ago called The Cruise about Timothy "Speed" Levitch, a twentysomething New York City Bus Tour Guide who talks and talks and talks. Sorry I missed it. The screenplay was done by Dan Futterman, a long time B list actor (mainly on TV) based on the book Capote by Gerald Clark. Futterman and Miller both graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 1985. My sister lived in Mamaroneck about that time, but I see I'm digressing.

It's all about Capote writing In Cold Blood and that would be the time I would choose to make a movie about Truman Capote as well. I grew up watching squirming, out-of-it Truman Capote on television talk shows after he finished this book, which really is quite extraordinary. With a voice even more nasally than local radio personality Craig Silverman's, Capote always struck me as weird and affected. By the time I read In Cold Blood, they quit having him on TV. It's good to see the early 60's (before I was a teen) recaptured. I can recall the fashions and millieu but vaguely. And it's particularly good to see Truman Capote when he was able to connect with normal people and get things done. It is a much more human side and I'm glad I got to see it. Along with the respect I have for his outstanding 'nonfiction novel' and a clearer (or at least a multifaceted) view of the author, I have now what I feel is a better understanding of the man. Thank you, movie.

A lot of it was supposed to take place in western Kansas where the 1959 murders took place. It didn't really seem like western Kansas to me though, and it wasn't. It was Manitoba. Funny that the movie centered on the Perry Smith character/murderer and didn't even bother to show the execution of the other murderer, Richard Hickock, because he was always more interesting to me than Smith. Little bit of an irony alert that Robert Blake played Perry Smith in the pretty good film version of Capote's book, particularly if the civil jury says he shot his wife.

It's a 110 minutes long, seemed a little longer; there is no sex (Thank God), little action and realistic, that is to say, very off-putting violence--a throat cut and four face shots with a shotgun. You have to see it just to watch Hoffman, always a gifted actor, nail (forgive the image) Truman Capote and recreate all his annoying manerism without mocking him. More solid, indeed, steller work from Hoffman.


Running the Numbers (part 2)

Back when I was a deputy district attorney in Denver (which is getting to be a long, long time ago), one of the sayings the Public Defenders threw around was: "Better that a hundred guilty go free than one innocent man be convicted." I didn't buy it. It seemed to me that justice would be equally offended by the guilty going free as by the innocent being convicted. Another reason is recidivism. Of the 100 guilty let free, how many would murder, rape or rob again? How many innocent victims are created by the release of 100 criminals? 100? 500? It's a terrible trade.

I bring it up because of this story in the Rocky Mountain News today, that a man, Steven Avery, released (after 18 years) in 2003 as innocent of a sexual assault, has been arrested for first degree murder of Teresa Halbach, 25, whose burned body (we believe) was discovered, along with her vehicle, in the Avery family salvage yard. Halbach's car had Avery's blood in it, and blood (as yet unidentified), spent casings, guns and Halbach's car keys were found in Avery's trailer. It don't look too good for Avery. If there are bullets in her burned body which match the guns and it's her blood in the trailer, Avery should be pretty much toast. This is Wisconsin though, which I don't believe has the death penalty, so it's merely a long time out for Avery if he's convicted.

Here is an incomplete list of the court records of this wrongfully convicted man.

1979-1980: Stopped for reckless driving, speeding and being a minor transporting an intoxicant. Accused of breaking into a bar in the town of Gibson and stealing two cases of beer, two sandwiches, a toolbox and $14 in quarters.

1981: Convicted of the two felony burglary charges, sentenced to two years in prison but sentence is stayed and he is placed on five years probation and ordered to spend 10 months in the Manitowoc County Jail and pay $1,399.85 in restitution.

1982: Allegedly pours gas and oil on a cat and throws it into a bonfire. Charged with cruelty to animals, resulting in revocation of probation on burglary case. Ordered to serve the two-year prison sentence that had been stayed.

1982: Convicted and sentenced to nine months in jail in cat-burning case.

January 1985: Allegedly forces the wife of a part-time Manitowoc County sheriff's deputy off the road, points a rifle at her but stops when he sees her infant daughter in the car. Convicted of endangering safety and a felon possessing a firearm. Sentenced to six years in prison.

July 29, 1985: A 36-year-old Manitowoc woman is beaten and sexually assaulted as she jogs along the Lake Michigan shore north of Two Rivers. She later identifies Avery as the assailant through photographs and a live lineup.

Dec. 14, 1985: Avery is convicted of attempted first-degree homicide, first-degree sexual assault and false imprisonment, despite testimony of numerous witnesses that he was at his parents' home and with his wife and five children in Green Bay at the time of the crime.March 10, 1986: Sentenced to 32 years in prison by Circuit Judge Fred Hazlewood, with the previous six-year term to run concurrently.

1987: His wife files for divorce.

1996: Hazlewood denies request for a new trial based on new tests showing scrapings under the victim's fingernails do not contain Avery's DNA.

1997: The 2nd District Court of Appeals upholds Hazlewood's decision.

2002: Hazlewood grants a request from the Wisconsin Innocence Project for new DNA testing, citing advances in the technology.

Sept. 10, 2003: State Crime Lab tests on 13 hairs recovered from the rape victim find that one is a match implicating a man already imprisoned in a Brown County rape case. Hazlewood orders Avery's release.

Sept. 11, 2003: Avery is freed from prison.

Dec. 19, 2003: State Department of Justice report on handling of the Avery case concludes breakdown in communication between Manitowoc law enforcement departments contributed to Avery's 1985 conviction. It finds no basis to bring criminal charges or ethics violations against those involved.

Early 2004: Avery files $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County officials for wrongful conviction.

June 20, 2004: Stopped for speeding, Avery writes in letter to district attorney, "I spent 18 years of my life in prison for a crime I didn't commit and I can't even get a warning the first time I get pulled over?" Speeding charge reduced to speedometer violation; pays $193.40 fine.

Sept. 9, 2004: Charged with disorderly conduct.

Dec. 2, 2004: Awarded $25,000, the maximum financial compensation allowed under state law, and legal fees by the Wisconsin Claims Board.

March 2, 2005: Pleads no contest to disorderly conduct; pays $243 fine.

Nov. 9, 2005: Charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. Authorities say two guns were found during search of his residence regarding the disappearance Oct. 31 of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Marie Halbach, who had a business appointment with Avery that afternoon. Her vehicle was found Nov. 5 on his family's land west of Mishicot.

Nov. 10, 2005: Authorities say the remains of an unidentified adult woman were found on the land owned by Avery's family.


Running the Numbers

If my math is correct, and there's no reason to believe it is, the deaths (each one tragic) of our brave soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 30 months represents .000012% of the American population per year. You lose more than that of your body mass when you get your hair trimmed. The numbers don't make the casualties over there a big deal, it's that the dead there represent some of the best of us which makes it a big deal.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day, in 109 A.D. -- the Emperor Trajan stages a naumachia, or staged sea-fight. Taking place three day before the ides, it is unclear, to me at least, if this was a part of the Dacian triumph or part of the festival of the Plebian games or just something Trajan wanted to do.


Thought of the Day

Omnia habet qui nihil concupiscit.

Maximus Valerius

He has everything who desires nothing.

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