Archive for April, 2009
25 Apr 2009

Spartan Versus Ninja

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6:39 video

Hat tip to Right Wing News.

25 Apr 2009

A Real Oldie, In Fact the Oldest Oldie

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Tablet containing “Akkadian terms written in a Hurrianized manner and enscribed in Ugaritic Cuneiform script” thought to represent a hymn to Nikkal, Moon goddess and patroness of fruit and orchards

Ancient Music specialist Michael Levy performs Dr. Richard Dumbrill’s interpretation of the 3400 year old hymn on a replica lyre.

5:42 video

Hat tip to Roger de Hauteville, who “Got Phoenecian Pneumonia and the Ugaritic Flu.”

25 Apr 2009

Tuscarora, Nevada Loves Rock & Roll

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Mormon cricket, Anabrus simplex

Fortunately for residents of the remote Nevada village, Mormon crickets don’t, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The residents of this tiny town, anticipating an imminent attack, will be ready with a perimeter defense. They’ll position their best weapons at regular intervals, faced out toward the desert to repel the assault.

Then they’ll turn up the volume.

Rock music blaring from boomboxes has proved one of the best defenses against an annual invasion of Mormon crickets. The huge flightless insects are a fearsome sight as they advance across the desert in armies of millions that march over, under or into anything in their way.

But the crickets don’t much fancy Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, the townspeople figured out three years ago. So next month, Tuscarorans are preparing once again to get out their extension cords, array their stereos in a quarter-circle and tune them to rock station KHIX, full blast, from dawn to dusk. …

[Mormon] crickets are a serious matter. The critters hatch in April in the barren soil of northern Nevada, western Utah and other parts of the Great Basin, quickly growing into blood-red, ravenous insects more than 2 inches long.

Then they march. In columns that in peak years can be two miles long and a mile across, swarms move across the badlands in search of food. Starting in about May, they march through August or so, before stopping to lay eggs for next year and die.

In between, they make an awful mess. They destroy crops and lots of the other leafy vegetation. They crawl all over houses, and some get inside. “You’ll wake up and there’ll be one sitting on your forehead, looking at you,” says Ms. Moore.

They swarm on roads, where cars turn them into slicks that can cause accidents. So many dead ones piled up on a highway last year that Elko County, Nev., called in snowplows to scrape them off.

Squashed and dying crickets give off a sickening smell. “For us, it’s mostly the yuck factor,” says Ron Arthaud, a painter here.

Many springs, the infestation is negligible. But every few years, far bigger swarms hatch. From 2003 to 2006, armies of crickets went forth. They smothered the county seat, Elko, causing pandemonium as residents fled indoors. Realtor Jim Winer couldn’t, because he had to show homes. “I carried a little broom in my car,” he says, “and when I got out, I would sweep a path through the bugs to the house.”

Every half-century or so, plaguelike numbers hatch. The critters got their name in the 19th century after a throng of them ravaged the crops of a Mormon settlement. But “I don’t think they care about Mormons or Baptists,” says Lynn Forsberg, who runs Elko County’s public-works program. “I don’t think they care about anything.”

Including one another. Mormon crickets are programmed to march. Any cricket that falls by the wayside is eaten by others, ensuring that at least some cross the hot, barren stretches well-fed.

Following an unseasonably warm winter, some in Elko County fear a big crop this year.


Migrating crickets can be a road hazard

24 Apr 2009

Torture

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Torture

[adopted from the French torture (12th century Dictionnaire général de la langue français Hatzfeld & Darmesteter, 1890-1900), adaptation of Latin tortura twisting, wreathing, torment, torture; from torquēre, tort- to twist, to torment]

1. The infliction of excruciating pain, as practised by cruel tyrants, savages, brigands, etc. from a delight in watching the agony of a victim, in hatred or revenge, or as a means of extortion; specifically judicial torture, inflicted by a judicial or quasi-judicial authority, for the purpose of forcing an accused or suspected person to confess, or an unwilling witness to to give evidence or information; a form of this (often in plural). To put to (the) torture, to inflict torture upon, to torture. …

historical examples of usage omitted

2. Severe or excruciating pain or suffering of mind or body; anguish, agony, torment; the infliction of such. …

figurative meanings omitted

— Oxford English Dictionary, 1971, p. 3357.

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The left has loudly and persistently accused the Bush Administration of violating International Law, the US Constitution, the Geneva Convention, and conventional standards of human decency by torturing detainees.

These accusations have been advanced by a large variety of allied voices at every level of print and electronic publication employing the same inflammatory characterizations, the same reliance on preassumed conclusions, and the same intimidating tone of exaggerated emotionalism.

The left’s punditocracy naturally avoids ever questioning whether modest forms of coercion, such as waterboarding, slaps to the face or abdomen, sleep deprivation, and deliberately-caused temperature discomfort, etc., carefully and deliberately calculated to stop short of inflicting any enduring harm to the subject, actually do rise to the level of meeting the normal (non-figurative) definition of torture.

A slap to the face may be painful, humiliating, and unpleasant, but it is really “excruciating” or “severe?” Most of us (of the older generation, at least) actually have been slapped in the face in childhood by other children and even by adults. My elementary school principal did not like an angry letter to the editor about her school policies I had composed in the 8th grade and slapped me across the face. I can’t say that I ever thought of myself as a torture victim or an appropriate case for an investigation by some International Committee on Human Rights.

When I read over the list of coercive measures sanctioned by the Bush Administration for use in extracting information from only three of the most important participants in a conspiracy which brought about the violent deaths of more than 3000 innocent American civilians and which was actively in the process attempting further such attacks on an even greater scale, most of them remind me of the ordinary cruelties inflicted on small children commonly by schoolyard bullies.

Waterboarding amounts to the victim being briefly deprived of breath by facial immersion in an attempt to use fear of drowning to compel cooperation. Is there really anyone in America who didn’t have his or her head held underwater at least once by a larger bully or childhood playmate?

Abu Zubaydah was placed by CIA interrogators into close propinquity with a caterpillar. I’m afraid that when I search my own conscience I can recall dropping a caterpillar down the back of at least one female classmate back in the third grade myself.

The controversial coercive interrogation methods were employed by the Bush Administration against, we must remember, only three spectacularly guilty murderers whose hands were dripping with innocent blood, and were clearly not excruciating. They were capable of, and intended to, induce discomfort, probably even anguish, but not agony.

Severe is a relative term, I suppose. But, in the context of forcible interrogation, surely a severe form of coercion would be a practice capable of producing permanent injury or death.

What traditionally defined real torture, more specifically than the OED’s definition, was the permanence of the result. Someone would not be refered to as “tortured,” who had been beaten up or simply slapped around. A person referred to as having been tortured would have to have suffered, at the very least, lasting serious injury.

Torture has always conceptually involved pieces of one’s anatomy being cut or burned, fingernails pulled out, bones broken, and joints dislocated. Having your head dunked or your face slapped or being confronted by a caterpillar may be unpleasant, but only in the context of figurative speech is it torture.

A common perspective on the subject is that real torture has to include an ultimate threat of ending with death. The audience finds credible this viewpoint as illustrated in the 1941 John Huston film version of The Maltese Falcon.

Sam Spade finding himself unarmed in the presence of Caspar Guttman and his criminal allies successfully defies threats of torture because his adversaries can’t afford to kill him.

Joel Cairo: You seem to forget that you are not in a position to insist upon anything.

Caspar Cuttman: Now, come, gentlemen. Let’s keep our discussion on a friendly basis.

There certainly is something in what Mr. Cairo said…

Sam Spade: If you kill me, how are you gonna get the bird? If I know you can’t afford to kill me, how’ll you scare me into giving it to you?

Caspar Guttman: Sir, there are other means of persuasion besides killing and threatening to kill.

Sam Spade: Yes, that’s…That’s true. But none of them are any good unless the threat of death is behind them.

You see what I mean?

If you start something, I’ll make it a matter of your having to kill me or call it off.

Caspar Guttman: That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgement on both sides. Because, as you know, in the heat of action, men are likely to forget where their best interests lie, and let their emotions carry them away.

Look at the first definition again. The coercive tactics employed by the Bush Administration did not produce “excruciating pain.” The US Administration was not a cruel tyranny (whatever the infantile left may chose to think). Our intelligence officers were not savages or brigands, though the three interrogation subjects certainly were. The discomforts inflicted on the three interrogation subjects were not done out of hatred or revenge, but to protect innocent lives. The only small portion of the Oxford Dictionary’s definition which fits is the purpose of causing unwilling witnesses to provide information. But that is only a descriptive portion of the definition, and the vital and key “excruciating pain” element of the definition is completely missing.

QED: The coercive tactics employed by the Bush Administration against three Al Qaeda detainees were not torture, not by the best dictionary definition of the word, and not by our conventional “ordinary language” understanding of the meaning of the word.

24 Apr 2009

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Subjected to 183 Drops of Water in March 2003

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Would you waterboard this worthy oriental gentleman?

Marcy Wheeler, who posts as “emptywheel” over at leftwing FireDogLake, last Saturday topped the Internet headlines blogging about a detail she read in the May 30, 2005 Brabury Memo: Poor little Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003.

All over Europe and America the hearts of the bien pensant community stirred with outrage at the thought of just how pruney and wrinkled poor KSM must have been after so much immersion back during that dreadful March.

Well, it turns out that Marcy Wheeler’s agita was derived from a basic misunderstanding.

Inside anonymous sources leaked (as it were) an explanation of the basis of that 180-plus figure to NR’s Cliff May:

According to two sources, both of them very well-informed and reliable (but preferring to remain anonymous), the 180-plus times refers not to sessions of waterboarding, but to “pours” — that is, to instances of water being poured on the subject.

Under a strict set of rules, every pour of water had to be counted — and the number of pours was limited.

Also: Waterboarding interrogation sessions were permitted on no more than five days within any 30-day period.

No more than two sessions were permitted in any 24-hour period.

A session could last no longer than two hours.

There could be at most six pours of water lasting ten seconds or longer — and never longer than 40 seconds — during any individual session.

Water could be poured on a subject for a combined total of no more than 12 minutes during any 24 hour period.

You do the math.

It’s as if censorious Marcy Wheeler had accused my old drinking buddy Pat of having downed 183 beers the previous evening, and Pat assured her that he’d been dieting and confined himself to only 183 sips.

23 Apr 2009

New Guinea Tribesmen Sue New Yorker

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Wouldn’t a poison dart from a blow gun be more to the point? Shouldn’t they be asking to be allowed to shrink Jared Diamond’s head?

New York Post:

Two New Guinea tribesmen described by The New Yorker magazine as vengeful, bloodthirsty killers are settling their score with the venerable publication the nonviolent, American way: with a lawsuit. …

In an April 21, 2008, article on blood feuds by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond… a hired thug shot Isum Mandingo… in the back with an arrow, leaving him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. …

When media watchdog group stinkyjournalism.org sent a team of fact-checkers to New Guinea to check the article’s veracity, they found Mandingo, who disputed reports of his paralysis by walking on his own two feet.

“No matter what The New Yorker says and what Diamond says, the fact is that he is not paralyzed and is not confined to a wheelchair,” said Rhonda Shearer, the site’s founder.

“It seems The New Yorker was so naive as to think that this article would not reach these supposedly primitive people in New Guinea.” …

Mandingo told the researchers he had no involvement in any blood feuds. In fact, he’s a peace officer in his village. Neither Diamond nor the magazine reached out to him for confirmation, he said.

The entire article is “untrue,” Mandingo told the group.

23 Apr 2009

Criminalizing Policy Differences

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The Wall Street Journal correctly observes that Obama has moved the United States one long step in a very dangerous direction by pandering to his radical base with hints of possible prosecutions of Bush Administration attorneys simply for writing legal opinions.

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

Policy disputes, often bitter, are the stuff of democratic politics. Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama’s victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

Our political system relies on the voluntary surrender of power to a newly elected government. If new administrations are going to prove dissatisfied with the power to set current and ongoing policy, and are going to make a practice of criminalizing and punishing the decisions of their predecessors, voluntary surrender of power is, to say the least, significantly disincentivized.

Sooner or later, as in Ancient Rome, a leader, like Julius Caesar, facing proscription by his political adversaries will cross the Rubicon to defend himself and his supporters, and the political system will be permanently changed.

23 Apr 2009

“Like a Car Bomb in the Driveway”

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David Ignatius predicts that US counter-terrorism operations will be focused on the avoidance of domestic political jeopardy rather than serious results for a long time to come. The CIA is going into into self defense mode again, as once again democrats politicize Intelligence and threats of investigations and prosecutions are in the air.

At the Central Intelligence Agency, it’s known as “slow rolling.” That’s what agency officers sometimes do on politically sensitive assignments. They go through the motions; they pass cables back and forth; they take other jobs out of the danger zone; they cover their backsides.

Sad to say, it’s slow roll time at Langley after the release of interrogation memos that, in the words of one veteran officer, “hit the agency like a car bomb in the driveway.” President Obama promised CIA officers that they won’t be prosecuted for carrying out lawful orders, but the people on the firing line don’t believe him. They think the memos have opened a new season of investigation and retribution.

The lesson for younger officers is obvious: Keep your head down. Duck the assignments that carry political risk. Stay away from a counterterrorism program that has become a career hazard.

22 Apr 2009

CIA: Waterboarding KSM Saved LA

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Still there

CNS:

After KSM was captured by the United States, he was not initially cooperative with CIA interrogators. …

After he was subjected to the “waterboard” technique, KSM became cooperative, providing intelligence that led to the capture of key al Qaeda allies and, eventually, the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that had been tasked with carrying out the 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.

22 Apr 2009

An Ultra-Left Appointment for Defense

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Rosa Brooks, talking head

Not only has the Obama administration ruled out forceful interrogations of captured terrorists, his latest highly controversial appointment to the Department of Defense of all places is likely a strong signal that radical policy changes will not be stopping there.

Newsmax:

A liberal newspaper columnist and former counsel to billionaire George Soros’ Open Societies Institute has been tapped for a key Defense Department position despite what Washington insiders have termed her “extremist,” Bush-bashing views.

Rosa Brooks will serve as principal adviser to Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy. … In that substantial insider position, Brooks, who once famously penned that the Bush administration’s “big legal lies paved the way for some of the most shameful episodes in our history,” will have constant contact with DOD policy chief Flournoy, who reports directly to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and eyeballs every major defense department decision.

Gates, a holdover from the Bush era, hasn’t exactly embraced the controversial Brooks. One anonymous staffer characterized Brooks as an “extremist,” noting that her coming onboard was Flournoy’s doing, not his leader’s, according to a report in HumanEvents.com.

“Gates did not hire her,” the official emphasized.

In 2007, Brooks wrote: “Thanks to U.S. policies, al-Qaida has become the vast global threat the administration imagined it to be in 2001.”

That sort of attitude, along with Brooks’ apparent lack of military or policy experience, has many pundits scratching their heads over the hiring.

“It is hard to think of a more inappropriate political appointment at a time when America needs a hard-headed approach to winning a global war instead of defeatist, far-left rhetoric,” wrote the U.K.’s Telegraph.

21 Apr 2009

China Hacks Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter Project

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Bad news at the Pentagon, and especially bad news at the corporate headquarters of certain defense contractors.

Wall Street Journal:

Computer spies have broken into the Pentagon’s $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project — the Defense Department’s costliest weapons program ever — according to current and former government officials familiar with the attacks.

Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force’s air-traffic-control system in recent months, these people say. In the case of the fighter-jet program, the intruders were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems, officials say, potentially making it easier to defend against the craft.

The latest intrusions provide new evidence that a battle is heating up between the U.S. and potential adversaries over the data networks that tie the world together. The revelations follow a recent Wall Street Journal report that computers used to control the U.S. electrical-distribution system, as well as other infrastructure, have also been infiltrated by spies abroad.

Attacks like these — or U.S. awareness of them — appear to have escalated in the past six months, said one former official briefed on the matter. “There’s never been anything like it,” this person said, adding that other military and civilian agencies as well as private companies are affected. “It’s everything that keeps this country going. …

The intruders compromised the system responsible for diagnosing a plane’s maintenance problems during flight, according to officials familiar with the matter. However, the plane’s most vital systems — such as flight controls and sensors — are physically isolated from the publicly accessible Internet, they said.

The intruders entered through vulnerabilities in the networks of two or three contractors helping to build the high-tech fighter jet, according to people who have been briefed on the matter. Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor on the program, and Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems PLC also play major roles in its development. …

Investigators traced the penetrations back with a “high level of certainty” to known Chinese Internet protocol, or IP, addresses and digital fingerprints that had been used for attacks in the past, said a person briefed on the matter.

21 Apr 2009

CIA Goes Only Formally Under the Bus

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Barack Obama resisted the pressure of his party’s radical leftwing base for show trials of CIA counter-terrorism officers, and made a point of actually visiting the Agency’s Langley Headquarters to assure Agency employees that he intends to stop with public censure. No one is actually going to be indicted and prosecuted.

New York Times:

Don’t be discouraged by what’s happened in the last few weeks,” he told employees. “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be president of the United States and that’s why you should be proud to be members of the C.I.A.”

Of course, any CIA employees involved would be well advised to stay at home. If they go abroad, they may be arrested and hauled before a leftwing war crimes tribunal in some place like Spain, where Baltasar Garzon has already initiated prosecution of six former senior Bush Administration officials.

21 Apr 2009

Let’s Look at the Rest of the Evidence

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Interrogation tactics used on captured terrorists are hardly a suitable matter to be decided by millions of members of the general public in a partisan debate, but the left is never inhibited by either national security or common sense, and how US authorities dealt with 3 major Al Qaeda prisoners was turned into a weapon used to blacken the reputation of the Bush Administration and to undermine the legitimacy of American counter-terrorism operations long ago.

Barack Obama is not content with having gained an underhanded election victory in significant part based upon demagoguery on that issue, he is still trying to score political points by attacking the previous administration for mildly coercive interrogation tactics applied only in three cases of major terrorist figures believed to possess particularly vital information.

Dick Cheney is rightly calling Obama’s bluff. If the democrats want to keep debating coercive interrogation of terrorists, let’s have a full debate. Put the rest of the story on the table. We’ve heard all about how unjustified and ineffective coercion is for several years now. Let’s look at exactly what was learned and what Al Qaeda attacks were prevented.

The Politico:

Researching his memoirs, former Vice President Dick Cheney is pushing the CIA to declassify files that he claims would vindicate the CIA’s use of coercive interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama has banned.

The request, which the CIA has not yet answered, sets up a showdown between the past and current administrations. Cheney can be expected to argue that the Obama administration’s publication of other files last week is a precedent for release of the reports he wants. Cheney contends that the information he seeks does not pose a threat to anyone, nor to intelligence sources and methods.

Cheney originally requested the reports in late March as he worked on his book, but now thinks the documents should be made public immediately as evidence that waterboarding and other controversial practices deterred terrorist attacks and therefore saved American lives.

20 Apr 2009

Michelle Obama Earned $63K Last Year From No-Show Job

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Debra Moore reminds us:

After Barack Obama became an Illinois state legislator, his wife moved up as well, scoring a job as ‘vice president of community relations’ at the University Of Chicago Hospital for a very generous salary of $121,910. When Obama became a senator in 2005, her ‘salary’ leapfrogged to $$316,962 for the same job…and one of Senator Obama’s first acts in office was to see to it that the hospital received over a million dollars of your tax dollars as an earmark.

And Steve Gilbert notes Michelle Obama recently resigned her job to take on the role of First Lady, having been on a leave of absence since May of 2007 to participate in the presidential campaign.

Despite being on leave of absence, Michelle Obama received $62,709 in compensation from University of Chicago Hospitals last year. Less than her full salary, but not bad for a no-show job.

Now that Michelle has moved on to bigger things, the University of Chicago Hospitals has found that it doesn’t really need a vice president of community relations after all, and has simply eliminated the position.

Isn’t it wonderful that we have such noble and disinterested people rising to the top in American public life?

Hat tip to Gateway Pundit.

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