Monday, September 22, 2008

The sacrifices I make for my San Diego Chargers

To watch America's Team -- the San Diego Chargers play this Monday night, I actually have to endure the dreadful Tony Kornheiser. If there is a circle of hell for football fans, it has Kornheiser on the loudspeakers. The worst broadcaster in NFL history, and a contender with the horrible Ken Harrelson for worst sports announcer ever.

I think the Geneva Convention lists Kornheiser broadcasts as impermissible torture. Wasn't the V-chip supposed to protect us from garbage like his?

A mediocre addition to my book rotation

Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt, by Joyce Tyldesley. You know its bad when the author only gives a general description of the Battle of Actium. The friggin' Battle of Actium. You know, the that, like, ended Cleopatra's kingdom.

Ernle Bradford's Cleopatra devoted an entire chapter to the battle and its strategic context. Tyldesley gives four-and-a-half pages. With big type. Cleopatra and Antony go to Actium, Octavius' admiral Agrippa takes Methone, cutting off Antony's troops and navy, Antony and Cleopatra try to break out from Actium and lose their navy in the process. That's just about all the interest she gives it.

I do not have high hopes for this book.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ro must go

I hate to say this, because he is a nice and honorable man, but he is a terrible head coach: Romeo Crennel must be fired as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Every single week, the Browns come in unprepared and unmotivated. The litany is the same: boneheaded penalties, disorganization, poor click management, inability to make adjustments, lack of a clear game plan, little effort. And Romeo stands through it all like some grim-faced Buddha saying nothing and doing less.

There is considerable talent on the Browns, but Crennel manages to find ways to badly underachieve.

Ro must go.

Cawfee Tawlk

Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic:

Democrats want to make everyone poor. Republicans want to make only their friends rich.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ancient Bits

Since most other topics suck right now -- politics for obvious reasons, sports because my Browns, Chargers and Buckeyes suck and video games because I'm stuck on a boss in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed -- let's talks some ancient history, something I haven't blogged about for a while.

1. Just added to my book rotation: Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology and the Wrath of God, by Amos Nur and Dawn Burgess. The book argues that many of the archaeological sites of the Mediterranean such as Troy, Knossos, Jericho and Mycenae show evidence of earthquakes that may explain their demise.

I am most interested in reading this evidence, but I remain to be convinced in some cases. Earthquakes have long been among the major theories for the destruction of Troy and the fall of Jericho. It's the primary theory for the fall of Jericho.

For Troy, as with everything else regarding that particular city, you have to interpret and read between the lines. While there is definite evidence of war at about the time Troy is believed to have fallen to Mycenaean Greeks, there is a difference of opinion as to whether or not the powerful defensive walls of Troy collapsed before the legendary Trojan War. The references to the Olympian god Poseidon (whom Homer calls "Poseidon Earthshaker;" he was not just the god of the sea but the god of earthquakes) and the Trojan Horse (the horse was the animal of Poseidon) suggest the possibility of a major earthquake at Troy at around the time of the Trojan War.

However, Knossos and Mycenae are a tougher sell. In spite of the probability that the destruction of Knossos was caused directly or indirectly by the massive volcanic eruption at Santorini just 70 miles to the northeast in the Aegean, I have never heard earthquake (which could be related to the eruption) mentioned as a direct or proximate cause. As for Mycenae, I have never heard earthquake mentioned as a possibility there, either. Moreover, there is considerable evidence of major defensive preparations before its fall to forces unknown, which would seem to work against any earthquake theory.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating subject and I'll read every word of Nur's hypothesis.

2. As with other facets of ancient history, I enjoy looking at the Bible. As a Catholic (not just Catholic, but ROMAN Catholic!!! All the way back to the ROMAN EMPIRE!!! JULIUS CAESAR, baby!!!), I obviously consider the Catholic Bible as a sacred text. But I also believe it takes nothing away from the Bible's divine foundation to examine it as a historical and scientific document. It may actually reinforce the miracles and message revealed therein.

For instance:

  • The possibility that Noah's Ark may have beached on Mount Ararat, along with the element of a great flood not just in the Bible but in several other ancient Middle Eastern and Greek texts.
  • The plagues of Egypt may have been caused by the eruption at Santorini.
  • Possible chariot wheels have been found on an underwater ridge in the Red Sea.
  • Sodom and Gomorrah may have been destroyed by natural eruptions of bituminous matter.
  • The identification of the star or astronomical phenomenon that led the Magi to Christ.
  • The actual crucifixion of Christ and the events leading thereto.
So, it was with great interest that I watched History Channel's UFO Files when they discussed several of the stories of the Bible in the context of UFO's and aliens. Among the possibilities they mention:

  • The taking of the prophet Elijah to Heaven by "chariots of fire," an event that was very similar to the Transfiguration of Christ. The weaknesses in the translation of the King James Bible leave this subject open for interpretation, but many believe that "chariots of fire" is the best they could come up with to describe what we would call a UFO.
  • The Exodus, and specifically "the column of cloud by day and column of fire by night," which appeared to display intelligent behavior in leading the Israelites out of Egypt and across the desert, parting the Red Sea and even providing food and possibly the Ten Commandments.
  • The ability of God and His angels to communicate with figures in the Bible via dreams. Telepathy and mind-reading is often an element of alleged alien encounters.
  • The powers of the angels themselves. It was noted that the angel who freed St. Peter appeared in his locked cell, put his guards to sleep, made the chains fall from his wrists and even had doors open by themselves.
  • The "cloud" emitting fire witnessed by Ezekiel, which sounds like a UFO running its engines. Ezekiel even describes what might be landing gear for the craft.
  • The possible use of nuclear weapons to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
Yes, they sound far fetched, and I for one do not buy into the nuclear weapons at Sodom and Gomorrah theory. But if you believe in UFOs and extraterrestrial life as I do (and the Catholic Church has definitely left open the possibility of extraterrestrial life), it is fun to consider.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Military nuggets

Some military news that might have come in below your radar, in some cases literally:

1. Missile defense in the Persain Gulf?

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) wants to buy $7 billion worth of American THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile systems to protect itself against the growing arsenal of Iranian ballistic missiles. The UAE is a confederation of small Arab states at the southern end of the Persian Gulf. With a population of only 5.5 million, and large oil and gas deposits, the emirates have a per-capita income of $43,000. Thus the UAE has a lot to defend, and an increasingly belligerent neighbor just across the Gulf. The UAE controls one side the entrance to the Gulf (the Straits of Hormuz). Iran is on the other end, and both nations dispute ownership of some islands in the middle.

The U.S. has agreed to the sale, even though the U.S. Army just formed the first of four THAD anti-ballistic missile (ABM) batteries earlier this year. This unit will be ready for combat in two years, using the THAAD missile. The other three batteries will be in service within five years. Twenty months ago, there was a successful test of THAAD (a SCUD type target was destroyed in flight) using a crew of soldiers for the first time, and not manufacturer technicians, to operate the system.

Each THAAD battery will have 24 missiles, three launchers and a fire control communications system. This will include an X-Band radar. The gear for each battery will cost $310 million. The 18 foot long THAAD missiles weigh 1,400 pounds. This is about the same size as the Patriot anti-aircraft missile, but twice the weight of the anti-missile version of the Patriot. The range of THAAD is 200 kilometers, max altitude is 150 kilometers, and it is intended for short (like SCUD) or medium range (up to 2,000 kilometer) range ballistic missiles. This is what Iran has a lot of.


The UAE has already bought Patriot anti-missile and anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as dozens of new fighter interceptors, and tens of billions of dollars of new gear for their army and navy. The UAE armed forces has 60,000 troops, and they are armed to the teeth.
I'm never quite comfortable selling ur most advanced weapons to places like the UAE, becasue there is a possiibility they may wind up in the hands of the bad guys. Remember that Iran still has US-made F-14's from the Shah's regime, and Israel tried to sell US military technology to China.

Worse, this sale suggests a policy of containment of a nuclear-armed Iran, not a destruction of said program, which is preferable.

2. That said:

Over the past couple of years, there has been plenty of speculation about Iran acquiring the S-300 air defense system from Russia, or through a third party. So far, none of those reports--including some from supposedly "authoritative" sources--have panned out.

That's an important caveat, since the story is making the rounds (again). The latest version comes from "Necenzurirano," a web magazine published in Croatia. According to the Necenzurirano account--which was republished by the Jerusalem Post--Zagreb has agreed to sell S-300 equipment to Iran. Croatia acquired at least one SA-30/S-300 battery from Moscow more than a decade ago, but the system was never placed in operational service.

The Croat publication also reports that a Libyan freighter has arrived in the port city of Kraljevica, in preparation for the shipment to Iran. Israeli military sources could not confirm the account.

While some analysts claim that Tehran has already acquired the S-300, those claims have never been verified. While Iran is believed to be interested in the system, negotiations aimed at concluding a purchase have never been finalized. In years past, Iranian officials reportedly balked at the system's high price ($300 million per battery). But, with the recent spike in oil revenues (and the threat of a U.S. or Israeli strike against its nuclear facilities), Tehran may consider the system more affordable.

Buying used equipment from Croatia would be even cheaper, and provide a possible "bridge" until Iran could acquire new missiles and radar from Russia. Zagreb's S-300 battery is believed to be in good condition, having been maintained in operational storage since the mid-1990s.

The Croat military never explained why the system wasn't deployed, but the U.S. is believed to have pressured Zagreb to keep the S-300 out of service. Croatia's decision was also influenced by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, and a diminished air threat from arch-foe Serbia.

However, U.S. influence in Croatia is limited, and Tehran has worked tirelessly to build ties with the Zagreb regime. During the Balkans conflict of the 1990s, Iranian "aid" flights routinely landed at the Zagreb airport, providing a convenient conduit for funneling arms to Muslim fighters in neighboring Bosnia. Contacts established years ago provided a foundation for the reported S-300 deal.
Ah, the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The gift that keeps on giving.

As much as I bash the Dems for an inept foreign policy that makes no effort to protect US interests, this particular issue falls square at the feet of George H.W. Bush, who refused to support Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina against the murderous Milosevic regime in Serbia. This gave the Middle East mullahs an opening to expand their influence, which they have been using. There has been an expansion of Wahhabist madrassas in Bosnia, funded by the Saudis who used the goodwill they gained by supporting the Bosnian Muslims to now attempt to subvert the tolerant Balkan form of Islam.

As I said in 1992, this could have been all but solved by parking the battleship New Jersey off Dubrovnik.

3. Russian bombers in Venezuela:

Russia finally staged a much-anticipated bomber flight along our eastern seaboard on Wednesday. A pair of TU-160 Blackjacks flew across the North Atlantic, then paralleled the Canadian and U.S. coastlines before heading across the Caribbean, and landing in Venezuela.

It marked the first time that Russian bombers have operated in the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War. During that era, propeller-driven TU-95 "Bears" made occasional deployments to Cuba, following roughly the same route used by the Blackjacks. The TU-160 is a jet-powered strategic bomber, slightly larger--and faster--than the U.S. Air Force B-1 Lancer. Moscow has a total of 16 Blackjacks in its inventory.

As you might expect, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez was tickled pink by the deployment, part of expanding ties between his country and Russia. [...]


don't be surprised if the S-300 SAM system and Kilo-class subs show up in Venezuela somewhere down the road.

Over the near term, the Russian Navy will show the flag in the Caribbean later this fall. Earlier this week, Moscow announced that a naval squadron, headed by the Kirov-class cruiser Peter the Great, will visit Venezuela in November, part of a planned joint exercise with Venezuelan forces.

As a military show-of-force, the bomber deployment and the scheduled naval exercise are modest affairs--certainly nothing that compares with an U.S. carrier group showing up in your neighborhood, or the movement of entire bomber squadrons to Great Britain and Diego Garcia during Allied Force or the Gulf Wars.

But the Russian moves served their purpose--providing a tit-for-tat response to recent American naval missions in the Black Sea (a result of Moscow's invasion of Georgia), and our planned deployment of ballistic missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. Sending nuclear-capable bombers and a naval squadron to our hemisphere is a reminder that Russia remains a military power, even if its power projection capabilities are a shadow of what they once were. As Douglas Barrie of Aviation Week reminds us, the two bombers now in Venezuela represent 1/8 of Russia's TU-160 inventory.


Hugo Chavez practically telegraphed the bomber deployment with recent comments on his television show. Now, if Mr. Chavez is to be believed, he will receive an orientation flight in a Blackjack during their deployment. We don't envy the Russian IP with the misfortune of having Chavez along for the ride.

We should also note that the flight was not a surprise to U.S. and NATO air defense forces. Thanks to intelligence cueing, our fighters were literally waiting for the TU-160s, escorting them across the North Atlantic and along our east coast.
Don't forget that the Fat Paratrooper just tossed out the US ambassador. Well, told him he wouldn't be returning to Caracas from his visit to DC.

There is a part of me that wonders if this is not a ploy by Chavez to bump up the price of oil.

On the other hand, stories like this make you wonder about the capabilities of their pilots.

4. Finally, a bit of a mystery:

The Japanese destroyer JMSDF Atago (DDG 177) spotted a periscope over the weekend, and with active sonar found itself a submarine. What is very interesting is where the submarine was spotted.

The submarine was detected at 6:56 a.m. south of the Bungo Strait, 7 km inside the territorial sea line and some 60 km southwest of Cape Ashizuri in Kochi Prefecture.

The nationality of the submarine was unknown, but the defense officials said it likely did not belong to the United States, Japan's closest security ally.

"It was very regrettable," Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said. "We need to do our utmost tracking down the submarine and getting to the bottom of the incident."

Hayashi suggested he did not consider the incident serious enough to order the Maritime Self-Defense Force to take maritime security operations, an operation the MSDF has taken only twice in the postwar era.
Galrahn comments:

The article rules out a US Navy submarine, which only leaves 4 possible options: South Korea, North Korea, Russia, or China. It will be interesting if the media keeps asking who the submarine belongs to. If it was the port of Long Beach, the US media would keep asking until an answer was given.

We all know which country the submarine belongs to, but the question is which submarine class was able to get so close undetected?
As a World War II buff, it's nice to see old names like Atago still in service in the Japanese navy, and in this case investigating a violation of Japan's territorial integrity.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughts on September 11

Just a few random thoughts on this 7th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

1. I get furious when people call the events of September 11, 2001 a "tragedy." The use of the term "tragedy" with respect to the al Qaida attacks is both inaccurate and insulting.

First, in its modern usage, "tragedy" usually refers to a significantly negative event or result arising from either a natural occurrence or unintentional conduct. A fatal auto accident is normally considered a tragedy. Contracting a fatal disease can be considered a tragedy.

By contrast, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not a "tragedy" and has rarely if ever been described as such. The attack involved willful, intentional conduct with malice aforethought. Legally, it was an act of war.

September 11, 2001 also involved willful, intentional conduct with malice aforethought -- an act of war. True, it was not launched by a nation state, but by a multinational organization intent on imposing an alien and evil ideology by force. September 11 also involved attackers disguised as civilians deliberately targeting civilians. Nihon Kaigun was far more honorable than al Qaida. None of these distinctions do anything to change the fact that this was willful, intentional conduct with malice aforethought. It was not a "tragedy." Calling it an "atrocity," a "massacre" or "murder" would be far more accurate.

Moreover, in its original Greek, "tragedy" referred to a play in which the protagonist would be brought down by his own shortcomings, that fall usually foreshadowed throughout the play. If you apply that definition of "tragedy" to September 11, it becomes a veiled knock on the victim -- the United States and its people. The inference here would be that the US was brought down on September 11 by its own shortcomings.

Such an interpretation sounds outrageous and insulting to most people not named Ward Churchill, but that is technically what "tragedy" means.

2. My parents spent their vacation in Poland. They visited Zakopane, Krakow, Auschwitz and Warsaw and they enjoyed them all thoroughly.

But on returning my parents explained the Poles of Warsaw very much remember the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, during which they took control of the city from the Nazis and were only crushed because the Soviets would not support them or allow the Western Allies to support them with weapons and supplies. Upon taking back the city, Hitler ordered its complete demolition. Warsaw was leveled with explosives and bulldozers.

When the war ended and Hitler was defeated -- and though they were stuck with a Soviet-baked government that wasn't much better than Hitler -- the Poles decided they weren't going to let their ancient capital stay ruined, but would instead return it to its former splendor -- exactly as it was before the Hermann Göring Parachute Panzer Division was sent in.

(Aside: What the hell is a "parachute panzer" division anyway? Did Hitler expect to drop Tiger tanks from airplanes? No wonder Hitler lost the war ...)

So, using salvaged building plans and old photographs, the Poles rebuilt Warsaw -- the entire city of Warsaw -- exactly as it was before Hitler destroyed it. Rebuilt the medieval castles and palaces. Everything.

They gave no thought to turning the site of Warsaw into a park. They didn't whine about how rebuilding Warsaw was disrespectful of the victims, or that it would just invite another attack.

Hitler was not going to defeat them. Hitler was not going to destroy them. Warsaw stands today as proof.

So how come the Poles can rebuild a levelled Warsaw and we can't even rebuild the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center?


3. Michelle Malkin keeps running this graphic:

Lan astaslem: Arabic for “I will not submit/surrender”

It is something we should all take to heart, something we should live every day and something we should saw to our Islamist enemies every chance we get.

On that last point, I might have a better idea, though.

What's the Arabic expression for "Bite me!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You asked for it

One of my (very, very few) Obama supporter friends likes to refer to John McCain as "McPain." All right, we'll take you up on it.

Just when Barack Obama and his fawning acolytes in the MSM thought they had this election sewn up here comes:

Coming this November to an election near you. Check local listings for details.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Ayers and Dohrn

are they the exceptions in academe or the norm? This story out of Mineapolis makes me wonder:

University of Minnesota staff were key coordinators of the recent violent protests at the Republican National Convention (RNC). The university employees are also members of the local clerical union of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. The AFSCME is part of the AFL-CIO union.
Protests turned violent at the 2008 RNC located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Police have arrested hundreds of demonstrators for violent attacks on police officers and bystanders and other more nuisance crimes. The Saint Paul Police have identified an anarchist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee as being at the center of the violence. …
The website carries a press release which sheds light on the activities of the RNC Welcoming Committee. The online notification posted June 8th, 2007 by a woman named Jessica Sundin calls for a meeting at the University of Minnesota Student Union Center co-hosted by the RNC Welcoming Committee. Sundin is a clerk at the University of Minnesota. Another press release was posted by Sundin in the name of the RNC Welcoming Committee after the convention began.
Hot Air has more:

The Examiner has speeched by both Sundin and AFSCME/AFL-CIO leader Phyllis Walker addressing the groups that comprised the RNC Welcoming Committee. Sundin in particular appears to have had extensive coordination with anarchists, who turned the protests violent in St. Paul. Her U of M website has paeans to terrorist groups like FARC and the Islamic Jihad Army, a group in Iraq targeting and killing American troops at the time. Sundin also commented in a separate interview that she used as a model the anarchist attacks on the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, which were particularly violent.
Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies did a marvelous job in keeping the convention safe while protecting the right to peaceful protest. None of us inside the River Center ever felt under siege or even particularly inconvenienced, even though we knew that radicals had pledged to disrupt the convention through any means at their disposal. Police and state troopers from all over Minnesota came to provide security, as well as members of Minnesota’s National Guard, and they deserve our thanks and appreciation for their fine work.
However, they are owed something else as well — a probe into how state resources were used to undermine their work. If the U of M hosted a conference in which people openly conspired to break the law, then the school has to be held accountable for it. If Sundin and others used university resources instead of their own time and money to coordinate political action, they should be fired regardless of their connection to anarchist violence. The legislature should ask for an investigation immediately.

Latest addiction

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Hugo Chavez was angry about the game supposedly mocking him. It does, and is hilarious in doing so. Good.

Mercenaries 2 is getting mediocre reviews, but I am thoroughly enjoying it.