Archive for July, 2010
27 Jul 2010

Ancient Spear-Thrower Dart Found Near Yellowstone

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Craig Lee holding 10,000 year old atlatl dart

A University of Colorado research associate discovered a 3-foot-long (0.9 meter) birch atlatl dart in a melting ice patch somewhere in the mountains near Yellowstone National Park in 2007. Dating was completed recently. The dart is bowed from the impact of an avalanche and shows evidence of having been stepped on by an animal, possibly a big horn sheep.

4:36 video

Live Science story

National Parks Traveler story

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

27 Jul 2010

Agitprop, Not News

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Herschel Smith points out that the recent Wikileaks documents dump and associated coverage by The Guardian and others are not journalism at all.

There is no news here. So Pakistan’s ISI is complicit in assistance to the Taliban and even supportive of incidents within Afghanistan itself. Who doesn’t already know this? Again, there are unintended casualties in counterinsurgency campaigns. Is this really a surprise to anyone? War is messy. Did the British think otherwise?

The Guardian knows better, as does Julian Assange who defends his work by noting the “real nature of this war” and the need to hold those in power accountable. To anyone with a computer, some time and a little interest, none of this is news. The folks at the Guardian are either stupid (believing that war is bloodless) or they are lying (having followed the body count just like I have). Furthermore, they are either poor countrymen, holding that counterinsurgency is worth it as long as they sacrifice their own and no Afghans are killed, or ignorant, knowing nothing about the necessity to fight and kill the enemy.

The editors of the Guardian are not stupid or ignorant. They are ideologically motivated, just like Julian Assange. The embarrassing part for both of them is that, having admitted that “despite the opportunities provided by new technology, media groups with a global reach still cannot offer their public more than sporadic accounts of the most visible and controversial incidents, and glimpses of the background,” the literate among us know better. The media is preening and polishing their moral credentials. They shouldn’t be. More than anything else, this is a story about letting ideology get in the way of reporting, and about the failure of that same media to do the basic job of compiling information and analyzing it.

26 Jul 2010

Wikileaks’ Latest


The lefties are gasping and spinning furiously today over the Wikileaks Afghan revelations, but Wired‘s reaction speaks for a lot of informed observers who find most of this very old news.

Longtime Afghanistan watchers are diving into Wikileaks’ huge trove of unearthed U.S. military reports about the war. And they’re surfacing, as we initially did, with pearls of the obvious and long-revealed. Andrew Exum, an Afghanistan veteran and Center for a New American Security fellow, compared the quasi-revelations about (gasp!) Pakistani intelligence sponsorship of Afghan insurgents and (shock-horror!) Special Operations manhunts to news that the Yankees may have lost the 2004 American League pennant. …

Adds a former intelligence contractor who used to produce intelligence summaries, “There will be a lot of interesting tidbits but nothing earthshaking.” And it’s those “interesting tidbits” that makes the WikiLeaks trove significant. There’s a bias in journalism toward believing that what’s secret is inherently a hive of hidden truth. That operating principle animates reporters’ practice of breaking down governmental secrecy. But it can also create a misleading expectation that leaks represent huge new revelations.

26 Jul 2010

James Webb, Turncoat and Hypocrite

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James Webb and friend

Some friends have been sending me links to Senator Webb’s Friday editorial in the Wall Street Journal urging America to move beyond policies institutionalizing racial privileges.

Before anybody starts taking James Webb seriously as a leader qualified to help us to move beyond the politics of race, he ought to remember that this is the same James Webb who has a Senate seat today because the leftwing media establishment constructed a fraudulent narrative accusing his opponent, a very popular Republican governor and at that point a serious contender for Republican presidential nomination, of manifesting racial prejudice against Hindus by supposedly employing an obscure francophone pejorative from the long-forgotten Belgian Congo.

Moe Lane understandably hopes that Webb’s latest move will cause him problems with his new allies and his new base.

Senator Webb seems to have forgotten that he has a ‘D’ after his name these days, which effectively means that this entire article is thoughtcrime that will pretty much guarantee him a messy primary in 2012. Progressives do not appreciate thoughtcrime, particularly in their converts: they bought Jimmy Webb in 2006, and they expect their purchases to perform as expected.

Do I sound entertained? It’s because I am: and I will enjoy every second that Jimmy Webb is broken on the wheel for relapsing into error like this. And do you know why I will enjoy every second? Because of ‘macaca,’ that’s why. Jimmy Webb stood by and calmly, disinterestedly watched as his new owners flash-mobbed his opponent for supposed racism in the 2006 Senatorial election. He did that because Jimmy Webb wanted to be Senator so badly that he was willing to overlook precisely the hyper-emphasis of race that he complains about now; after all, it put him in office, and that was the important thing, right?

Smitty, at The Other McCain, additionally commented on Webb’s hypocrisy.

If you want to ensure artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes, Senator, remove the wrongheaded bureaucracy attempting to legislate fairness, and let the legal system handle the legitimate cases of illegal activity. The Oedipal drive for the nanny state teat will always drive Procrustean, bureaucratic outcomes until the Federalist mastectomy utterly nips the collectivist funbag from the body politic.

The tell in the editorial came earlier, as far as I could observe:

    I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America’s economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.

Do we need to get into your voting record, Senator? Have you not essentially been a rubber stamp for every crypto-Marxist idea that Pelosi and Reid have excreted in this atrocious 111th Congress, unless I’ve missed something. Where is your editorial promising to caucus with the GOP, if necessary, to prevent some zombie Congress from going on a brain-eating Card Check, Cap-N-Trade, &c rampage after the election in November? Where are you on making sure we’re approving Supreme Court justices who support and defend the Constitution, and don’t feel some urge to treat it as free verse about which to emote? …

When you think of fairness, Senator Webb, does the macaca incident enter you conscience? In particular, was Ezra Klein and JournoList, or some equally spin-tastic predecessor, involved? Do you really think the whole mish-mash honorable, or was the macaca thing in the Washington Post just a cost of doing business to advance your ambitions?

But, no, your ‘political career’ is what it’s all about, yes? Reform in this country will take root when almost all have such, elected or otherwise, to the point the phrase is oxymoronic. Here’s the book: your thumb wrestling match with George Allen for the seat led you to run on the Democratic ticket. Fine. I hoped you might be a voice of reason to the Democratic caucus, USNA grad and Vietnam veteran and all. But, in the main, you’ve consistently been a tool. Perhaps these strange masters of yours have subverted you totally.

James Webb comes from the South, served in the Marine Corps, and used to be a Republican. Ronald Reagan appointed him Assistant Secretary of Defense and later Secretary of the Navy. Nonetheless, when the Republican nomination to the Senate for Virginia was not available, Webb changed parties and ran as a democrat.

James Webb was on the boxing team at Annapolis. He understands the concept of fair play and why gentlemen in fair contests refrain from striking below the belt.

Some of us thought that, though he had acquired that Senate seat by unhanded means, Webb’s political manifesto, Born Fighting, signaled his ruthless determination to advance a new Jacksonian kind of politics, and thought Webb might find a way to redeem himself in office by defending the kind of ordinary Americans he proposed to represent in that book against Big Government, elitist rule, and special interests.

Well, that certainly didn’t happen.

In every case of the democrat Congress advancing the agenda of the extreme left, Jim Webb was there making up one of the necessary 60 Senate votes. When he voted for Obamacare, somebody should have sent him $3 worth of dimes.

Webb wrote an editorial expressing principles he conspicuously did not live, and any principles Webb may have are obviously for sale.

26 Jul 2010

“The Best and the Brightest” 2.0

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Conservatives’ favorite metaphor is Munich; liberals’ is Vietnam.

As the Obama Administration continues sinking into disrepute, Neal Gabler, in the Boston Globe, points to the same kind of smug Ivy League hubris that persistently failed in Vietnam as being responsible for the current administration’s woes.

Just like the New Frontiersmen so thoroughly trashed in David Halberstam’s book, Team Obama has demonstrated a “we know better” approach to policy which is distancing them farther and farther from the general perspective of the country.

[According to David Halberstam, the Kennedy and Johnson administration Brahminate] “were men more linked to one another, their schools, their own social class and their own concerns than they were linked to the country,’’ which meant that their sense of the public good was always subordinate to their sense of their own brilliance.

Above all, the best and the brightest believed in their own infallibility. They distrusted politics almost as much as they distrusted the proletariat because politics was about compromise and satisfying ninnies (us) who they felt were much beneath them. They were cold, logical, bloodless, and deeply pragmatic. They considered liberal idealists fools, and emotion a weakness. They knew best, which made them extremely intimidating. They failed because they didn’t think they could possibly be wrong.

In many ways, Obama was a sucker for this kind of coldblooded, upper-crust approach to policy and the elitism that went with it. Half-white, half-black, half-American, half-African, part Kansan, part Hawaiian, middle class and transient, Obama made the primary plaint and question of his book, “Dreams From My Father’’: Where do I belong? That question was posed as one of racial identity, but in the end, whether he fully realized it or not, Obama found himself not in black culture or white culture but in the culture of the best and the brightest. That’s where he belonged. That’s where he seemed to feel most comfortable.

So it is really no surprise that he has packed his administration with what one might call The Best and the Brightest 2.0 — people who are as dispassionate and rational and suspicious of emotion as the president prides himself as being: a bunch of cool, unflappable customers. (The exceptions are Vice President Joe Biden and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.) Like The Best and the Brightest 1.0, these folks — guys like Larry Summers, outgoing budget director Peter Orszag, and Tim Geithner, on the economic side; and William J. Lynn 3d, deputy secretary of defense, and James Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, on the foreign side — are Ivy-educated, confident, and implacable realists and rationalists. Like their forebears, they have all the answers, which is why they have been so unaccommodating of other suggestions on the economy, where economists have been pressing them for more stimulus, or on Afghanistan, where the president keeps doubling down his bets.

The difference between 1.0 and 2.0 is that 2.0 are not all Protestant, white males sprung full-blown from the Establishment as 1.0’s fathers and their fathers’ fathers were. Like Obama himself, they are by and large onetime middle-class overachievers who made their way into the Ivy League and then catapulted to the top levels of class and power by being . . . well, the best and the brightest. But in elitism as in religion, no one is more devout than a convert, and these people, again like Obama, all having been blessed by the Ivy League, also embrace Ivy League arrogance and condescension. On this, the Republican critics are right: The administration exudes a sense of superiority.

So what difference does it make if our policy-makers think they are above criticism? As Halberstam shows in “The Best and the Brightest,’’ people who are concerned not with the fundamental rightness of something but with its execution, because the rightness is assumed; people who see what they want to see rather than what is; people who see things in terms of preconceptions rather than of human conduct; people who are incapable of admitting error; people who lack skepticism and the capacity to grow beyond their certainties are the sorts of people who are likely to get us in trouble — whether it is an ever-lengthening war in Afghanistan or ever-deepening economic distress here at home. After all, we’ve been there once before.

I think the similarity Gabler identifies of a dogged advance into political destruction on the basis of a mistaken sense of Ivy League superiority is dead on, but there is the difference that those establishment experts of nearly 50 years ago were merely conventionally liberal in the same basically empty and purely formal way that they were also Episcopalians or Congregationalists or Presbyterians.

The Obama Administration’s determination to pursue a massive expansion of spending and of governmental expansion in defiance of an economic crisis represents the opposite of 1960s liberal pragmatism. Its hubris is not merely the hubris of the well born, the well-connected, and the talented. Theirs is the hubris of the enlightened initiate of the left’s theory of History, of the committed believer in the ideology of socialism and statism which is today more radical, and even more deeply entrenched in America’s elite universities, than it was so long ago.

Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy believed their policies would succeed and they would win. The Obama Administration is willing to die on the barricades in order to leave behind socialized American health care.

25 Jul 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

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Texas ranches invasion story is a hoax. (Confederate Yankee).


Get your free Rod Blagojevich ringtone.

Top favorites:

“I’ve got this thing and it’s (expletive) golden.”

“I’m stuck in this (expletive) job as governor now.”

“Only thirteen percent of you all out there think I’m doing a good job. So (expletive) all of you.”


Unmarried ladies with attitude: Jane Austen’s Fight Club 3:22 video

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

25 Jul 2010

Legal Contest Over Jim Thorpe’s Remains

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At the eastern edge of the Anthracite Coal Region, just west of the Poconos, lies the county seat of Carbon County, a town founded in 1818 with the colorful Indian name of Mauch Chunk (Delaware Indian: “Bear Mountain”).

Mauch Chunk has a scenic location in a mountain gap along the Lehigh River, and its higher-than-usual in the neighborhood surrounding mountains led to the town being referred to in tourist slogans as the “Switzerland of Pennsylvania.”

Mauch Chunk was prominent in the 19th century industrial development of the country. It became an important railroad and canal transportation center, shipping coal mined in the nearby mountains to the cities and manufacturing centers of the East. The industrialist Asa Packer, founder of the Lehigh Railroad and Lehigh University, had his mansion there, and his family built and endowed the architecturally impressive Episcopal Church. One group of Molly Maguire terrorist bandits was hanged at the local courthouse in the 1870s.

The Anthracite mining industry was in the process of being destroyed by post-WWII water pollution regulations as the country switched over from coal to oil for domestic heating, when the state of Oklahoma declined to erect a memorial to the famous athlete and Olympian Jim Thorpe in the immediate aftermath of his death in 1953.

Hoping to promote tourism at a time when the regional economy was sinking fast, the town fathers of Mauch Chunk approached the family offering to build a monument and rename the town after Jim Thorpe, if the great athlete would be buried there. Thorpe’s third wife agreed to the deal, and despite the fact that Jim Thorpe probably never even visited Mauch Chunk, the town assumed his name.

In 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated, the former borough of Mauch Chuck offered the same deal to Jacqueline Kennedy, who declined in favor of burial in Arlington.

In the latest development in the saga, Jim Thorpe’s son is suing the borough of Jim Thorpe via the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 for repatriation of his father’s body to Oklahoma.

I’m on Jack Thorpe’s side. I’ve always like the name Mauch Chunk better, and I thought the name change deal was ridiculous. Jim Thorpe had not actually lived in Oklahoma for many decades at the time of his death, but he was born there, his family is buried there, and he never had the slightest real connection to Mauch Chunk.

25 Jul 2010

Sharia Law Comes To New Jersey

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Eugene Volokh quotes a New Jersey case in which a Judge Payne of the Superior Court, in the course of rejecting a restraining order against a Moroccan husband, adopted the interesting viewpoint that the husband’s cultural opinions immunized him from the laws of the state of New Jersey, allowing him to inflict non-consensual sex upon his wife.

While recognizing that defendant had engaged in sexual relations with plaintiff against her expressed wishes in November 2008 and on the night of January 15 to 16, 2009, the judge did not find sexual assault or criminal sexual conduct to have been proven. He stated:

    This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.

After acknowledging that this was a case in which religious custom clashed with the law, and that under the law, plaintiff had a right to refuse defendant’s advances, the judge found that defendant did not act with a criminal intent when he repeatedly insisted upon intercourse, despite plaintiff’s contrary wishes.

Happily, the Appellate Court reversed, but this judicial incident is undoubtedly only the first of what will become a trend of multicultural rulings from American benches.

The correct legal precedent, IMHO, is that expressed by General Charles Napier in connection with the custom of suttee in India. Napier told the Hindoos:

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

24 Jul 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

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“End of History” beer made in a limited edition of twelve bottles was the world’s strongest beer (55 proof), came in taxidermy mounts of road-killed animals (four squirrels, seven weasels and a hare), cost $765 a bottle, and sold out immediately upon release by the Scottish BrewDog Brewery. (MSNBC)

BrewDog Blog article


Budget cuts force British government to close top secret sea-side resort village operated since 1967. (The Onion)

In light of the current economic downturn, it is unwise to maintain this secret locale any longer,” said a man identified only as Number Two, referring to the bucolic village whose sole aim appeared to be the recovery of desirable information from former intelligence agents. “Plus, the cost of maintaining human chessboards, outdated penny- farthings, and our state-of-the-art escapee- retrieval sphere just proved too much. We would have closed this whole place down years ago had it not been for one particularly uncooperative resident.”

Hat tip to Walter Olson.


“Robin Sage”

Robin Sage is the name of a 19 day Special Forces problem-solving field training exercise, conducted four times a year, in which students train and lead a guerrilla force in an imaginary hostile country known as “Pineland.”

Tom Ryan of Provide Security recently conducted his own Robin Sage tactical field exercise on the Internet. He created fake Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles under the alias, “Robin Sage,” accompanied by a photograph of a cute girl (borrowed from an adult website). Robin Sage claimed to be a 24-year-old MIT graduate, employed by Naval Network Warfare Command as a “Cyber Threat Analyst.”

“Robin” quickly established social network connections with more than 300 professionals in the National Security Agency, DoD, and Global 500 corporations.

Robin received employment approaches from Google and Lockheed Martin, and Robin’s new friends in the Intelligence Community shared information with her that violated military operational security and personal security restrictions.

ComputerWorld interview

23 Jul 2010

This System Is Worth Enforcing?


We hear a lot of talk from people on the right about how important it is to enforce immigration laws.

Ilya Shapiro offers up an illustrative example of why we would do a lot better to drastically reform our immigration system rather than enforce it.

And now another story about the inanities of our immigration non-system. Two Britons, Dean and Laura Franks, have run a restaurant in Maine for nearly ten years. Fine, upstanding people who contribute to the economy and whose business is apparently much beloved in their town.

The problem is that the economic downturn decreased the restaurant’s profits, to a level where the “investment” they’re making in the country is too “marginal” to warrant renewal of their E-2 visa (one of the few immigration statuses I have not had). Yes, that’s right, the business is making a profit, employing people, creating wealth, nobody’s a drag on the welfare state or law enforcement, but… not enough. The feds say shut it down.

The United States had no restrictions on immigration of any kind before 1875, when they prohibited immigration from China. There were no quotas on any kind of non-Asian immigration before 1921. (History of US Immigration Laws link)

Today’s complicated, occult and bizarre system of economic and national quotas negotiated behind closed doors represents a weird evolution of a momentary legislative triumph of nativism (1921) in response to post-WWI fears of the arrival of a flood of Bolshevik radicals.

The racial, eugenicist, and anti-Bolshevik phobias that created the current law are all totally out-dated and passé. We have plenty of bolsheviks of our own and theories of the desirability of preserving any kind of specific national ethnic character are in complete disrepute.

If history teaches anything, it teaches us that the massive wave of typically poor, ill-educated and culturally exotic immigration around the turn of the last century from Eastern and Southern Europe was a blessing. Those immigrants proved totally assimilable and and their descendants made tremendous economic and cultural contributions to the the United States.

The United States rose to its current position of international leadership precisely because of the turn of the century wave of immigration. All that immigration made it possible for the United States to become the greatest industrial power in the world, and it was the children of those 1900-era immigrants who filled the enlisted ranks of the US Armed Forces that won the victory in the Second World War.

It is not a proper function of the government of the United States to come between persons who want to participate in voluntary exchanges of payment for labor. Immigrants arrive here seeking opportunity because there are Americans who want to hire them. The American economy needs more of both low skilled and high skilled labor. Government should get out of the way of the free market.

23 Jul 2010

“Never Insolvent”

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A song celebrating the Greek debt crisis by Merle Hazzard. 3:24 video.

(Isn’t that Iris standing on Athena’s palm?)

From Greg Mankiw via Bird Dog.

23 Jul 2010

Top Secret America Graded By A Professional

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Thomas G. Mahnken, Professor of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning, harshly criticizes the Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” in Foreign Policy.

I’ve just finished Dana Priest and William Arkin’s “Top Secret America,” The Washington Post’s two-year, three-part “investigation” into U.S. classified activities. If one of my graduate students handed this in as a term paper, I’d have a hard time giving it a passing grade. …

[T]he authors have, at best, a weak thesis. That’s actually giving them the benefit of the doubt, because the series as a whole doesn’t really have a thesis. Instead, it is a series of strung-together facts and assertions. Many of these facts are misleading. For example, the authors point to the fact that large numbers of Americans hold top-secret security clearances, but fail to distinguish between those who are genuinely involved in intelligence work and those who require the clearances for other reasons — such as maintaining classified computer equipment or, for that matter, serving as janitors or food service workers in organizations that do classified work. Similarly, they point to the large number of contractors involved in top-secret work without differentiating those who actually perform analysis and those who develop hardware and software.

Second, the authors fail to provide context. They make much of the fact that the U.S. intelligence community consists of many organizations with overlapping jurisdiction. True enough. But what they fail to point out is that this has been a key design feature of the U.S. intelligence community since its founding in the wake of World War II. The architects of the U.S. intelligence system wanted different eyes to look at the same data from diverse perspectives because they wanted to avoid another surprise attack like Pearl Harbor. …

In emphasizing the growth of the intelligence community since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the authors are at the same time accurate and misleading. They accurately note that the size of intelligence agencies grew rapidly after 9/11, but that’s like saying that the scale of U.S. warship construction ballooned in the months after Pearl Harbor. It’s true but misses the larger point. …

During the 1990s the size of the U.S. intelligence community declined significantly because both the Clinton administration and leaders in Congress believed that we were headed for a more peaceful world. Indeed, the Clinton administration made trimming the size of the intelligence community a priority through its Reinventing Government initiative. Many intelligence analysts took offers of early retirement and became contractors — contractors that the U.S. government hired back after 9/11. A good deal of the post-9/11 intelligence buildup thus involved trying to buy back capacity and capability that had been eliminated during the 1990s.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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