Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama throws M. L. King under the bus

By Donald Sensing

The dream didn't make it to Denver.

In his acceptance speech Thursday night, Barack Obama said,

"One of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism."
BOTWT points out.
This is supposed to sound high-minded, but what Obama is really trying to do is pre-empt questions about his own character. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Obama campaign is trying to suppress criticism of Obama's friendship with Bill Ayers.
Seems likely. But it also means that Obama just threw Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., under the bus.

On Aug. 28, 1963 - 45 years to the day before Obama's speech - Dr. King spoke at the Lincoln Memorial and said this:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. [Italics added]
Now the new Democratic nominee says that "the content of his character" is precisely what he does not want to be judged; this from a man who until recently kept making the color of his skin a persistent theme of his rhetoric.

I'm sorry - in exactly what way is Barack Obama a breakthrough candidate? And, a hundred years from now, which man will historians judge to have been of better character and a greater man, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Barack Hussein Obama?

Well, the question answers itself.

Update: Well, Obama habitually throws his own staff under the bus, too.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A light the size of a Tic-Tac . . .

By Donald Sensing

... giving out as much light as a streetlight.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Biden v. Jesus

By Donald Sensing

Joe Biden at the Democrat convention offered this:

Joe Biden treated the Democratic audience to some of the pearls of working-class wisdom his dear mother passed on to him when he was growing up. [...]

"And when I got knocked down by guys bigger than me - and this is the God's truth - she sent me back out and said, ‘Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day.’ And that's what I did.” (To which Mama Biden nodded and said, “It’s true. It’s true.”)

For some reason the commentati think this was a wonderful thing for Biden to say. I demur. I was never going to vote for Obama/Biden anyway, but really, do we want a VP, one heartbeat away, as they say, who thinks that schoolyard swagger is a valuable lesson to bring into the administration of the most powerful nation on the planet?

And they called Bush a cowboy. What shall we call Joe Biden, who thinks kids should go around bloodying each other's noses?

Surely Joe was also taught there is a "more excellent way."
"You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:43-48)
Make your own call.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

TEOLAWKI is no new thing

By Donald Sensing

Just to show you how long The End Of Life As We Know It has been going on, here's report from 2004: "Giant tsunamis, super volcanoes and earthquakes could pose a greater threat than terrorism, scientists claim."

The potential threat that scientists currently have their eye on is an insecure rock - the size of the Isle of Man - in the Canary Island of La Palma.

The rock is in the process of slipping into the sea and Professor McGuire fears that when it finally collapses, the resulting tsunami will cause massive destruction along the coasts of countries like the USA, UK and many on the African continent, within a matter of hours.

"Eventually the whole rock will collapse into the water, and the collapse - when it happens - will devastate the Atlantic margin," said Professor McGuire.
But the threat of asteroid collisions "will be essentially 'abolished within 30 years'." But no matter: there are still scores of ways the universe will kill us all. First there was the supernova and galaxy-attack scenarios. Then the predicted return of the comet Genondahwayanung, which pretty much annihilated most life in North America when it came here the first time. And then the massive gas cloud speeding toward a collision with the Milky Way! Then we learn that the earth's atmosphere may detonate. And then the asteroids. Then the black hole death stars! Then we'll be swallowed whole by the sun. Then the intense beam of gamma rays coming our way. Then there was the fear that "human society is very quickly headed to a violent and disturbing end." Then the earth began to kill people for changing its climate. The there is the voracious, galactic Hoover in Switzerland that will suck the whole planet into a black hole.

I tell ya, I'm starting to think that sooner or later, every one of us is going to wind up dead.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Marine general to parents of a fallen Marine

By Donald Sensing

This was sent me by a Marine Reserve field grade officer serving in Iraq in a civilian capacity. He has also served there in combat in uniform. 
Major General John Kelly is the Commanding General of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) (Forward). He is the senior Marine in Iraq. I have known him since 1984, when he was a young captain and I was an even younger lieutenant and one of his platoon commanders. This was a letter he wrote to the parents of Sgt Michael Ferschke, who was buried yesterday in the Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in Knoxville, TN. 
Yesterday in a nameless spot in the Iraqi desert near the village of Ayn-al Faris east of Lake Tar-Tar, ...... was on patrol when they took fire from a seemingly abandoned house they were about to search.  With him at the time were several other Marines two of whom were wounded and are recovering.  They live and fight as a team, these young men, and his buddies did what Marines have done from the beginning of our history, something they do without thinking and always without hesitation—they risked their own lives to save his.  In spite of grave danger from the continuing firefight they struggled to save his life, but he was already gone to God.  They were with him when he died.  He was not alone and was surrounded by the finest men on earth...
               I did not know your son, but I am sure he was just like every Marine I have known in the three decades and more that I have served.  Like my own two sons who are Marines and have served here in this war, I bet he was a good looking young man, fun loving, into sports and a good son—but not perfect—boys never are.  He was also different Mr. and Mrs. ......, because he chose to leave the comfortable and safe confines of his home and walk a different path than all the rest.  The path he chose led him to be one of the nations finest, to be a Marine.  When he did not have to raise his right hand and swear before his God to serve and protect this nation and its people, he did just that.  We all owe him an eternal debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.  We also owe you and all who loved him a debt—one that can never be settled...
In my private moments I well up and come near to tears when I think of them.  They are not just tears of sorrow, but also of joy and hope that we still have men of substance who are not afraid to step forward and face our enemies without flinching or backing down.  I never had the privilege of knowing ......, but I will remember him, and pray for him and for all those who mourn his loss, for the rest of my life.

Pressing the flesh

By Daniel Jackson

Last night, NEFESH B'NEFESH, the Jewish organization that promotes and faciliates Anglo immigration to Israel, hosted the First International Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem. Two hundred Anglo bloggers came to the Nefesh B'Nefesh conference center with a live feed to over 1000 more bloggers in North American, South Africa, Australia, and Great Britain. There were two waves of panel discussions focussing on how to get started, get recognized, as well as a chance to meet other people blogging under the rubric Jewish Blogger.

There were several interesting aspects to the evening. First, the collective turnout was incredibly diverse politically and theologically but entirely representative of the Anglo world in general. Lefties and liberals mingled freely with righties and observants--they even talked together to say nothing of some serious disagreements. However, it was the underlying "market for ideas" cultural dynamic of an industrial mode of production (as opposed to an agrarian mode of production) that was so resoundingly clear. In short, it was clearly an Anglo event and evocative of the Anglo communities emerging political consciousness.

Second, it was no accident that the unannounced guest speaker was Bibi Netanyahu. He arrived midstream during the first panel surrounded by security and politely sat in the first row while the panel speakers completed their talk. Then, in his usual style, he took the stand joking and bantering with the panel and moderator.

Third, he asked in perfect English if everyone spoke Hebrew; when told that there was a larger audience in North America, he said, "well, I guess for the sake of the audience at home, we'll speak in English". It was the flawless American dialect of a native speaker. A stunning demonstration of the emerging political power of the dual national, dual voter, political constituency.

Netanyahu spoke at length of the power of the internet and the need to speak forcefully for truth with truth. He repeatly spoke of immigrants from the developed world to Israel as having a stake in the future of Israel as well as a chance to change the nature of the country for good. It was clear that he was pressing flesh.

"The odds are we will have elections soon and we will make every effort to win the elections and to change the direction of the country," as the questions turned from the role of bloggers to a clearly political agenda. Netanyahu's entire address can be seen on the Nefesh B'Nefesh website.

Finally, the director of Brand Management of the Israeli Foreign Ministry addressed the conference about efforts to change Israel's brand image in the world market place. Very illuminating to say the least. However, what was also just as informative was the manner in which the information was delivered and the overall blogger reaction. In true old order style, the director informed the audience how the Foreign Ministry (the Super Kibbutz Committee) was going to pitch Israel in the future and how the bloggers could carry that message to the world.

Now, at this point, the audience reacted in a polite but predictable Anglo fashion--don't tell us what to say--give us the information and WE will decide what to say and how to say it was the general rumble throughout the hall. The FM flack ran out of time as the bloggers were just warming up.

The sentiment continued into the next panel when the moderator began with a predictable comment pointedly telling the Director the very point of the internet and blogging was to express personal insights openly without top-down direction, thank you. As participants began to speak up (shout is a modest description), the moderator called for order, announced the first speaker, and the hall settled down immediately. The thanked the moderator for the introduction and added parenthetically that only an Israeli moderator could get such a diverse Anglo crowd to settle down so quickly--maybe because he was also carrying a pistol.

In the last few weeks, Anglo interests have been more visible in the Israeli press. With elections around the corner in both countries, the Anglo vote is something that must be considered. Already Anglo consummers have been changing how Israelis shop and what they buy. It could be that during the coming months the Anglo voice and vote will make significant inroads into the Israeli political and economic scene.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Ice Age looms again

By Donald Sensing

Turns out that all those "looming ice age" doomsayers back in the 1970s were right after all: "Auguring brief era of ice in 2010."

An expert from the National Autonomous University of Mexico predicted that in about ten years the Earth will enter a "little ice age" which will last from 60 to 80 years and may be caused by the decrease in solar activity.

Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics of the UNAM, as argued earlier during a conference that teaches at the Centre for Applied Sciences and Technological Development. [...]

Velasco Herrera described as erroneous predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), pursuant to which the planet is experiencing a gradual increase in temperature, the so-called global warming.

The models and forecasts of the IPCC "is incorrect because only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity," said the specialist also in image processing and signs and prevention of natural disasters.

The phenomenon of climate change, he added, should include other kinds of factors, both internal, such as volcanoes and the very human activity, and external, such as solar activity.

"Curiously, the star never has been seen as a cooling agent, but warming, but has two roles", he said.

At present, assured the world is going through a transition phase where solar activity diminishes considerably, "so that in two years or so, there will be a small ice age that lasts from 60 to 80 years," and the immediate consequence of this He added, will be drought.
Which is worse than having an equivalent amount of warming. Solar activity, especially sunspots, is a major influence of earth's temperatures. As solar scientists have been point out for many months (maybe a couple of years), sunspot formations are low to non-existent.

The red line is sunspot activity. Note the far right; it's at the bottom and flat. This chart only goes back to May, but here's what was happening on the sun yesterday:

Science Daily reported in June, "The sun has been lying low for the past couple of years, producing no sunspots... ." Finally, here is a chart correlating global temperatures with solar activity since 1600:

New Zealand snow pack deepest ever

By Donald Sensing

Turoa claims largest snow base ever:

Mt Ruapehu is claiming the biggest snow base ever recorded for a New
Zealand skifield with over 4.5m of snow on the ground.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, operator of Mt Ruapehu ski area, was celebrating
what it called a major milestone today.

The snow measuring stake at Turoa previously only stood at 380cm so had
to be extended to measure today's 455cm snow base.

The Whakapapa side of the mountain also had 350cm of snow, the biggest
since 1995.

I blame global warming.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bigfoot was rubber suit; "discoverer" cop gets fired

By Donald Sensing

Ah, the 15 minutes of fame for finding a "Bigfoot" corpse turned out to be costly for Matt Whitton, an officer of the Clayton County, Ga., police department. The AP reports,

ATLANTA (AP) - Turns out Bigfoot was just a rubber suit. Two researchers on a quest to prove the existence of Bigfoot say that the carcass encased in a block of ice - handed over to them for an undisclosed sum by two men who claimed to have found it - was slowly thawed out, and discovered to be a rubber gorilla outfit. [...]

Steve Kulls, executive director of and host of Squatchdetective Radio, says in a posting on a Web site run by Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi that as the "evidence" was thawed, the claim began to unravel as a giant hoax. ...

Phone calls to Whitton and [co-"discoverer" Dick] Dyer went unreturned on Tuesday. But the voicemail recording for their Bigfoot Tip Line - which proclaims they search for leprechauns and the Loch Ness monster - has been updated and announcing they're also in search of "big cats and dinosaurs. If you see any of those, give us a call."

On Tuesday, Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said he has not spoken to Whitton but processed paperwork to fire him.

"Once he perpetrated a fraud, that goes into his credibility and integrity," Turner said. "He has violated the duty of a police officer."
Well, think about it - how could you believe a word he says on the stand?

Previous posts here.

10 French troops killed in Afghanistan

By Donald Sensing

French forces have suffered the largest single-combat death toll in Afghanistan in three years.

SUROBI, Afghanistan - Insurgents ambushed a group of elite French soldiers as they climbed a mountain pass, killing 10 troops in a militant stronghold outside the capital. In a separate coordinated attack, a team of suicide bombers tried unsuccessfully to storm a U.S. base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

French paratroopers and a Foreign Legion soldier were among the dead Monday... . 

The group was on a reconnaissance mission in the Surobi district, about 30 miles east of the Afghan capital, when they were ambushed Monday afternoon, officials said Tuesday. NATO sent backup and said a "large number" of the attackers were killed in the hours-long gunbattle.

France's top military official, Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, said most of the French casualties came in the minutes after the team was climbing a mountain pass. The fighting lasted into nightfall, he said.

"In its fight against terrorism, France has just been struck severely," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement.

But he added, "My determination remains intact."
Thirteen terrorists were reported killed.

Lunatic Fringe

By Daniel Jackson

Saturday night, there was an 80% lunar eclipse in Israel. Of course, I had to set up my telescope and take several hundred images of the event from begining to end. Attached is one of many.

There are also many cultural meanings attached to a lunar eclipse probably because during totality (80% turns the sky pretty dark), unlike a solar eciplse, the moon does not disappear--it is transformed to a dark or cherry red. The normal reflected light from the sun is bent around and through the earth's atmosphere removing the blue end of the visible light spectrum while the red passes on to be reflected from the moon. While this happens, the power of moon's luminence drops off and the stars that are usually obscured during a full moon return.

A neighbor who teaches astro physics at the Technion (Israel's version of MIT) told me that there is a Chinese satelite orbiting the moon right now and with the earth eclipsing the moon, it has to run off its batteries since it has lost its direct source of power.

This has to be the explanation for Olmert's source of power political acumen. There is no other way to explain the current short circuit to the man's rationality. For some time now, Olmert has been fighting to reduce military spending in order to further his benefit package (okay, his political agenda to increase social benefit spending over military defense).

Barak, the defense minister, has been outraged demanding to know if Olmert has taken leave of his senses--Israel is, afterall, in the middle of the front on the war on terror. There has been a battle of serious words (the kind that in any other country or historical time would have been settled with loaded pistols at 10 paces) for over a week.

This week, just after the lunar eclipse, Olmert announces that he intends to fire Barak over his insubordination and continued public outbursts against Olmert's position. Barak laughed and Olmert's party loyalists were scrambling to shut Olmert up and drag him back into the coat room for a "few words" of common sense.

"Ehud! Have you lost your marbles? Fire Barak? The guy who keeps you in power? Ehud! Ehud! Your Highness, are you there?"

This morning, The Jerusalem Post tells us that Olmert will not fire Barak afterall.

Now, I have a sort of Pro-Am thing going with my neighbor, the Astrophysicist. It started when I wanted to replicate the work of some dead Greek guy, Aristarchus of Samos, who in the third or fourth century BCE estimated the relative size of the moon to the earth using the earth's shadow seen on the moon during a lunar eclipse. I mentioned this to my neighbor.

Says the Astrophysicist, "Ah, Aristarchus of Samos, you say? Interesting. You are going to have to specify the exact width of the earth's shadow because it is a statistical distribution from complete light to completely gone--more than likely, it will be larger that is apparent". Then, with true professorial delight, he adds, "now that's a good project for YOU". The added emphasis was his, not mine.

Got it. So this time, I made lots of images of the earth's shadow on the moon and detected that, sure enough, there was a significant decrease in the moon's reflective light even after the shadow had passed. What a wonderful demonstration of the normal distribution--there is some minor dimishing of light even after the bulk of the light has been restored.

In the case of the Chinese lunar orbiter, the loss of power was about three hours, my neighbor explained, even though the eclipse lasted about two hours.

However, in the case of Olmert's lunar brain link, the loss of whatever it is that runs that machine took three days. Scientifically, this places Olmert well beyond the Lunatic Fringe.

Our team would have won, except for . . .

By Donald Sensing

Anyone who's ever gone to, or played in, high school football for a couple of seasons has uttered these words after being smacked on the playing field by the other team:

  • The referees didn't call the game fair
  • We don't play as well in the rain. If it hadn't been raining, we would have won.
  • Remember, our quarterback was playing with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand.
  • All our field goal attempts were against a headwind. 
Blah, blah, blah, and so forth. Yeah, admit it, you've done that. Anything and any excuse except to admit, "we just got kicked up and down the field."

And that's what Barack Obama's campaign is doing after he got his hat handed to him at Saddleback Church by John McCain:  
McCain was supposed to be in a "cone of silence" (Warren's term) while Obama was on.

But he wasn't; he was in his limo on the way to the church. His staff says he didn't listen; maybe that's true. But nothing would have prevented a staff member from listening and calling McCain on his cell phone. (I believe that he does know how to use a cell phone.)

In fact, as Rush Limbaugh has pointed out, quoting Rick Warren, Obama was given the first three questions in advance while McCain was given only the first two. 

So now we know Obama's favorite wine whine: "Wah! Wah! Wah! Unfair!"

Well, man up, Barack. You think Ahbinawhackjob is going to play fair? You think that Vlad "Not Quite an Impaler" Putin is going to play fair? How 'bout al Qaeda? Think they are in the ring to play by Marquess of Queensberry rules?

Two well-known fair-play advocates who will be more considerate of President Obama than Senator McCain was. I guess.

Megan McArdle says that, "This was a serious misstep on the part of the Obama campaign, and his supporters could best help him by never mentioning it again." 

But let's turn attention to Candidate McCain. Myself, I hope that if he had the chance to hear Obama's answers offstage somewhere that he took it and heard every word. With Russia resurgent, Iran proceeding apace to nuke anybody it can, the Taliban pressing in Afghanistan and Pakistan and al Qaeda allies plotting to blow up Queen Elizabeth II, I don't want a president who plays fair. I want one who plays unfair against our nation's sworn enemies and never gives those suckers an even break. In my view, the explanation McCain needs to give is why he didn't listen in, if he didn't, rather than why he did, if he did. 

And yes, if McCain's and Obama's positions had been reversed, I'd say the same thing about Obama.

Hidden Constituency

By Daniel Jackson

The Jerusalem Post today carries a story about the goals of the emerging Anglo political party, the American Israeli Action Coalition, to represent the estimated 250,000 Israeli American citizens. With increasing aliyah from the US, there is widespread feeling among the Anglo community that a greater presense and voice in the Israeli political process is mandatory.

"It appeared to me and to a number of other people I've spoken to that Anglos, and particularly Americans, have always felt a bit underrepresented here. And so the coalition will be made up of a number of constituent organizations is to form something of a bloc to represent what we believe are the most prevalent positions that Americans living in Israel would take," explained founding member Jeff Daube, the director of the Israel office of the Zionist Organization of America.

AIAC's statement of principles includes "furthering the continued development of democracy and democratic ideals in the State of Israel;" "cultivating the unity of all members of the Jewish faith in Israel;" "securing the recognition of a united and undivided Jerusalem as the current and enternal capital of the state of Israel;" "promoting efforts for a true, effective and final peace between the Sate of Israel and the neighboring states based on safety and security;" and "furthering the non-discriminatory application of human and civil rights in the State of Israel to all members of her citizens."

Thus far, the group has held one significant protest - across the street from US presidential candidate Barak Obama's Jerusalem room in the King David Hotel. That protest, which members said they were satisfied attracted attention, called on Obama to stop what Daube called Obama's "flip-flopping" on the subject of Jerusalem as a divided or undivided city.

Bear in mind that many of the American segment of the Anglo community also votes in the US elections as well. It is no accident that the AIAC seeks to increase its political clout in both venues.
The group is now working to organize an event involving representatives of both Obama's and John McCain's campaigns to help local US absentee ballot voters get to know the candidates and their positions on key subjects involving Israel.

Now, by anybody's count, the Israeli Anglo community is a substantial chunk of change in the absentee ballot market. It is also a politically conservative constituency as well as theologically on the right of center. Furthermore, the political and social values of the Anglo community are also increasingly representative of the geo-political center of the country, especially among middle class Israelis in the business sector. In short, the Netanyahu crowd.

The attached image by Ariel Jerozolimski from the Jerusalem Post that accompanied the article on the AIAC is interesting from a variety of perspectives; chiefly, however, it is subtext of what is the acceptible dress code for religious, non ultra orthodox, Israelis. Israel is very much a country based on stereotypes, especially in dress and hair styles. Witness the response to the style of headcovering among visiting dignitaries to the Wailing Wall.

With this in mind, Mike Huckabee was in town. And yes, he was at the Wall; and yes, he wore the required head covering--a blue kippa sruga. But, he also showed up in his best Israeli go-to-shul-clothes as Ha'aretz was quick to document with an AP photo copied here. The sunglasses are a trip--but oh so Israeli. Over here, with all sorts of politicians saying this or that, it is the look and the cut of the cloth that tells the story.

They heard you loud and clear, Mikey. Good on ya!

I wonder if he'll press the flesh in Efrat or Beit Shemesh? Lots of voting votes there, too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Traffic safety

By Donald Sensing

Some further thoughts about interstate highway safety, impelled by Glenn Reynolds linking to a year-old post of mine on Winds of Change, thus:

HEATH SHULER WANTS TO BRING BACK THE 55 MPH SPEED LIMIT, but Donald Sensing has been agitating for triple-digit instead of double-nickel. How about we compromise on 80?

My WOC post was, in turn, linked to the lengthier post on my old site at, but I updated the WOC post to link to my repost of the old post on this site. Klar?

Anyway, my basic thesis of the post is this: Since an airliner emits gobs of GHGs into the atmosphere, and are more polluting per passenger miles that autos, wouldn't it make sense to raise speed limits on interstate highways to encourage more travel by auto than airliner?

Here are a couple of further thoughts. The first thing that many people will object is that driving faster is less safe and that raising the speed limits will cause more traffic deaths. I demur. I lived for three years in Germany (then West Germany) in the mid-1980s, where there was no speed limit on the autobahns except for certain section where terrain dictated, such as long, steep downhills. Of course there are accidents on the autobahnen, but there are a number of mitigating factors that hold the injury/fatality rate lower than the USA on a per-passenger-mile basis (3.8 ppm in Germany vs. 5.2 here, on equivalent roads).

One is that all vehicles classified as lastkraftwagen, meaning cargo trucks, are speed limited. When I lived there trucks were limited to about 75 mph (120 kph). And trucks could not pass other vehicles and had to remain in the right-hand lane all the time.

That meant that you never encountered in Germany what is routine on the interstate: a passenger car driving approx. 1 mph faster than a truck, trying to pass it, but its driver deeply fearful that if he gooses the car to 80 mph to pass quickly, a patrol car will be just ahead waiting for him.

Meanwhile, other cars and trucks stack up behind Mr. Timid while he takes 10 miles or more just to pass a truck. And congestion at interstate speeds is unsafe. We're not NASCAR drivers.

Two major causes of un-safety on the interstate are no speed differentials between cars and trucks, especially heavy trucks, and the attention drivers of both cars and trucks give to scanning and worrying about where the cops are rather than piloting their vehicles.

So here is what I would do about interstate speeds if I were King:
  1. Speed limit multi-axle trucks and buses to 75 mph.
  2. For autos, crossovers and SUVs, raise speed limits to 100 mph except for sections where, as in Germany, the road is inherently unsafe for that speed because of its terrain path and, naturally, construction zones (which are also speed limited in Germany).
  3. Direct that law enforcers concentrate mainly on unsafe driving such as cutting and weaving, rushing up (zooming to a car ahead and cramming the brakes just behind) and not consider the speed, per se, of a car a reason to cite.

Okay, why not go whole hog and remove speed limits altogether for autos? Well, because German autobahns are immaculately built and maintained. They are ripple free and mostly smooth as glass. They are constructed more like a race track than an American highway. Comparatively, our interstates are in poor condition. I think they'll take 100 mph without much problem, but 120? Nope.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hello? Hello? Is anybody home?

By Daniel Jackson

Where I sit during Shabbat services, there is an IDF Lt. Colonel behind me and a full bird in front of me. This last weekend, both were shaking their heads--this is the price of delay. Putting off the inevitable strike on Gaza, Iran, whatever, to say nothing of the mismanagement of the 2006 skirmish has left both Israel and the US with a weak hand. The old Cold War dictum of MAD--mutual assured destruction--in dealing with the Soviets is gone from the belly of US policy. The US is not just perceived to be weak, it has lost its ability to deter its enemies. In a nuclear world, it is weak.

Is anyone on watch over at Foggy Bottom? The Russians invade Georgia, dispatch nuclear armed gunboats in the Black Sea and Condi expresses her displeasure? Ooo. I bet Putin is quaking in his boots. While American pundits wring hands and preach restraint and dialogue, the ensuing hot air must have created a serious low pressure in eastern Europe because here are Russian troops filling the vacuum.

Mandatory reading on this total Western Policy fiasco is an excellent piece by Ariel Cohen at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the implications of the Russian-Georgian war for the Middle East. Here are the main points of his article:

Moscow formulated far-reaching goals when it carefully prepared - over a period of at least two and a half years - for a land invasion of Georgia. These goals included: expelling Georgian troops and effectively terminating Georgian sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; bringing down President Mikheil Saakashvili and installing a more pro-Russian leadership in Tbilisi; and preventing Georgia from joining NATO.

Russia's long-term strategic goals include increasing its control of the Caucasus, especially over strategic energy pipelines. If a pro-Russian regime is established in Georgia, it will bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline under Moscow's control.

In recent years, Moscow granted the majority of Abkhazs and South Ossetians Russian citizenship. Use of Russian citizenship to create a "protected" population residing in a neighboring state to undermine its sovereignty is a slippery slope which is now leading to a redrawing of the former Soviet borders.

Russian continental power is on the rise. Israel should understand it and not provoke Moscow unnecessarily, while defending its own national security interests staunchly. Small states need to treat nuclear armed great powers with respect.

U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Russian threat to Georgia failed. So did U.S. military assistance to Georgia, worth around $2 billion over the last 15 years. This is something to remember when looking at recent American intelligence assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat or the unsuccessful training of Palestinian Authority security forces against Hamas.

The long-term outcomes of the current Russian-Georgian war will be felt far and wide, from Afghanistan to Iran, and from the Caspian to the Mediterranean. The war is a mid-sized earthquake which indicates that the geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting, and nations in the Middle East, including Israel, need to take notice.

What Cohen is not saying directly but everyone in my neck of the woods is saying is that Washington has totally dropped the ball on two critical fronts. First, it has assumed that the Russian "imperial" drive was silenced with the break up of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Second, its refusal to develop a responsible and intelligent energy development and exploration program has hobbled its ability to maintain any semblence of resource independence and economic autonomy.

For some time now, Israelis have fully expected the US to throw Israel's security and survival under the bus of expedience bowing to the pressure of oil exporters of the Persian Gulf. Given the perception of the current mood swings of the US electorate, many wonder if the US will throw Europe, especially Eastern Europe, under the bus as well. Last week, the Russians made an explicit nuclear threat to Poland that sounded almost as blunt as Iran's promises to Israel.

The vogue of using divorce mediation as a poliical model for resolving international disputes is over. It has been for a decade and Israelis have been warning that the time would come when finding common ground would prove useless against rolling tanks.

The Russians have opened their chess game with a strong attack. The world is watching for the American counter attack that will restore the MAD balance. The Russians, and everyone else, will never respect anything less.

Are people "basically good?"

By Donald Sensing

Dissecting Leftism

Dennis Prager makes a point about Left/Right differences that we often hear: "At the heart of liberalism is the naive belief that people are basically good. As a result of this belief, liberals rarely blame people for the evil they do. Instead, they blame economics, parents, capitalism, racism, and anything else that can let the individual off the hook.” [...]

Rather surprisingly, my survey showed no relationship at all between a cynical view of man and whether or not you are conservative. ... Leftists as well as Rightists realize that man is basically selfish but only conservatives try to take realistic account of that in the policies they frame.

Germans in America respond

By Donald Sensing

Spiegel Online has a fascinating post of the emails it has received from Germans living in America. Example,

There is nothing really that the European Union has left to debate regarding the Georgian misadventure. EU leaders and Europeans have chosen to be doggedly blind in their embrace of pacifism -- thinking every geo-political issue can be negotiated until the machetes start cutting up the victim or the tanks blow up apartment buildings or snipers start picking off innocents.

The George W. Bush version of shoot before you think is also not the answer. At issue is how the EU has made Russia an energy giant that it is now dependent upon when the EU should have known that a humiliated ex-superpower wanted to roar again.
Putin will tweak at European interests for the next decade and there is little the EU can do. Mark my words: Europe has again entered another dismal period of mini-wars now taking place on its fringes; but soon to come to its front gates. -- P. Achydus, US

Friday, August 15, 2008

That's not a bug . . .

By Donald Sensing

... it's a feature.

Russian general threatens to nuke Poland

By Donald Sensing

MOSCOW (AP) - A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported.

Saber-rattling Russian General Anatoly Nogovitsyn

The statement by Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn is the strongest threat that Russia has issued against the plans to put missile defense elements in former Soviet satellite nations.

Poland and the United States on Thursday signed a deal for Poland to accept a missile interceptor base as part of a system the United States says is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations. Moscow, however, feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force.

"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike—100 percent," Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.

He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia's military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them." Nogovitsyn that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, according to Interfax. [...]

In an interview on Poland's news channel TVN24, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the United States agreed to help augment Poland's defenses with Patriot missiles in exchange for placing 10 missile defense interceptors in the Eastern European country.

He said the deal also includes a "mutual commitment" between the two nations to come to each other's assistance "in case of trouble."

That clause appeared to be a direct reference to Russia.
In 2004, the US theorized stationing US Army formations in Poland and other former East Bloc countries, but ruled our Georgia because the logistic train would have been too long.
American and British troops have been conducting exercises on the Drawsko Pomorskiy and Wedrzyn training areas since 1996. Use of the Krzesiny airbase outside Poznan, Poland, is also anticipated. In January 2004 Poland's Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski announced that Poland had begun negotiations on hosting US military bases on its territory.
However, those negotiations came to naught, and really never got seriously under way. It must be noted that unlike hapless Georgia, Poland is a NATO member, which means that the rest of NATO's member nations are obligated to come to Poland's aid if it is attacked and asks for the NATO charter provisions for assistance to be tripped. Without question Poland will make the demand if Russia attacks it. Nogovitsyn certainly knows it. So why his warlike rhetoric?

Nothing like this in the Soviet Union Russia happens by accident. This is a carefully crafted statement from the heart of the Russian government that is serving as a trial balloon to see how NATO's member states respond.

Nogovitsyn's atomic threat is quite empty since Russia will not risk nuclear retaliatory immolation just because a few defensive missile systems are being deployed to Poland. Nogovitsyn was, on behalf of his government, pushing the envelope to invoke a NATO response, or its lack.

This is a time for NATO, and not just the United States, to speak in return with deeds, not words. With Russia feeling so expansive at the moment, we need to put the brakes on the Putin government and let him and his apparatchiks have some time to ponder what they have wrought. Such breather time will not be gained by passivity, inactivity or appeasement. It can only be gained by decisive action on NATO's part.

Step one: Deploy NATO tactical anti-aircraft units immediately to Poland and to the Czech Republic, also a NATO member and also under (less obvious, but genuine) Russian threat. Push NATO AWACS aircraft eastward.

Step Two: Deploy to Poland a squadron of NATO-member air superiority fighters.

Step Three: Deploy to both Poland and the Czech Republic a battalion apiece of heavy armored ground forces, preferably German ones. Why? Because the Germans, more than any other NATO member, have been focused on fighting the Russians (again) since Germany regained sovereignty in 1954. Their entire military is established, designed and equipped for that purpose. And German armor is world class. Also, there probably breathes not a German man or woman today, of any political stripe, who would be indifferent to the re-entry of Russian forces into Poland, which neighbors Germany. A pre-emptive action by the Merkel government to avoid that eventuality would draw widespread popular support.

It isn't necessary to sequence these steps in just that manner. They could be carried out nearly simultaneously. In fact, step three alone would be the best symbol of NATO resolve and so would be a truly strategic move, but the other steps have a great deal of tactical utility.

We must shoot down in shreds Nogovitsyn's trial balloon. "Deeds, not words," must be the unified NATO response now, and the deeds must come soon.

Bigfoot press conference as predicted

By Donald Sensing

Inquistr reports,

A team of Bigfoot hunters has presented its “evidence” to try to prove it found Bigfoot in the woods of Georgia. Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer just wrapped up a press conference at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto, California. The two showed some small photos but delivered no physical proof of their alleged discovery.

Tom Biscardi — CEO of Searching for Bigfoot, Inc, who also spoke at the event — said DNA tests had been conducted by Dr. Curt Nelson, a biologist at the University of Minnesota. The tests, he said, came back with three results: one showing inconclusive data, another indicating the creature was human, and another indicating it was a possum. That, Biscardi said, was probably because it had eaten a possum.

No further DNA evidence outside of Biscardi’s verbal claims were presented. Biscardi mentioned that he was waiting for a friend of his — a scientist at Stanford — to get back from vacation before releasing any further proof.
That is to say, there's nothing to all this hoopla.

The Bigfoot press conference hoax

By Donald Sensing

ABC News had a prep story about the Bigfoot press conference, under way as I type this (apparently, since there are no stories about it online yet.). ABC is pretty straightforward about where it stands, titling its story, "Legend of Bigfoot: Discovery? Try Hoax." A major red flag? The involvement of Tom Biscardi, of whom Jeff Meldrum, a leading Sasquatch researcher and Idaho State University professor of anatomy and anthropology, said, "He does not carry a reputation of credibility."

And then there's this:

Biscardi said he gave tissue from the body to Curt Nelson, a research scientist at the University of Minnesota with a personal interest in Bigfoot. Biscardi said he and his colleagues will present Nelson's findings this afternoon's press conference.

But on Thursday, Nelson told that he's not certain he'll have anything to present at the conference.

For the world to really believe the existence of bigfoot, Nelson said, teams of unbiased scientists would have to collect and analyze DNA and thoroughly inspect the body.

"It would take a lot more than I'm doing," he said, noting that people will want to see an actual body rather than just tissue samples. "If the guy claims to have a body, he really should produce one," Nelson said.

Instead, Biscardi said he plans to keep the body at an undisclosed location while scientists, including two Russian hominid specialists, study the creature. Biscardi said the entire process will be filmed and then released as a documentary.
And that will rank right up there with Alien Autopsy at Area 51.

Obama to pick Michael Phelps as running mate

By Donald Sensing

This just in: Presumptive Democrat nominee Barack Obama will name Olympic swimmer and gold medal record holder Michael Phelps as his running mate, despite the fact that Phelps is still only in his twenties and therefore Consitutionally unqualified to to succeed to the presidency should that become necessary.

"The Consitution says you have to be at least thirty-five to become president," said an Obama campaign spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. "But it doesn't set a minimum age for the veep. So Phelps is our man, uh, I mean, our person."

Apparently the choice was made because the media adulation, indeed, deification, of both men:

Yes, it's a match made in heaven.

Is the Bigfoot corpse for real?

By Donald Sensing

I offered my thoughts here.

Is the Bigfoot corpse for real?
Yes, it is a real Bigfoot creature
No, it's a fake
Inconclusive, and today's press conference won't clear things up
Today's press conference will be a fraud, too. free polls

There's hope yet

By Donald Sensing

The Guardian has a columnist named Muhammed Cohen. Think that name over for awhile.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Has Bigfoot been found? Update 1

By Donald Sensing

The back story: Two Georgia (USA, not the country Russia is raping) men claim to have found the corpse of a Bigfoot creature in the north Georgia woods. Later today they and "Veteran Bigfoot tracker Tom Biscardi" will hold a presser to make their case.

But not so fast, all you cryptid crowd. Let's turn to Scientific American's interview with "Jeffrey Meldrum, a prominent researcher on Sasquatch and professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University in Pocatello." Meldrum is no scoffer - he says, "the evidence that exists fully justifies the investigation and the pursuit of this question" of whether Bigfoot actually exists. A key problem with the claim:

I've had interactions with Tom Biscardi [the Bigfoot hunter holding the press conference] in the past, and based on that history, I would say that anything he is involved in is suspect. The fact that the two Georgian men [who said they found the body] turned to him and not anyone with scientific credentials is very questionable. [...]

Why would anyone stake such an outrageous claim without proof?

I don't know what their motivation would be. I don't see how they think they can perpetuate such a hoax in this day and age. You hold out hope that Bigfoot will be found one day, and to some extent this is probably what that event would be like. But assuming that this kind of scenario transpires at some point, hopefully it wouldn't unfold in such a carnival atmosphere and the proper authorities and scientists would be involved.
I would almost be willing to predict that we will learn today that the press conference will be postponed, and then we may never hear about this again.

CNN adds,
According to a written release, the two announced the discovery on an Internet radio show, "Squatch Detective," several weeks ago.

"The only person we would allow to come down and verify the body was 'the Real Bigfoot Hunter,' Tom Biscardi," Dyer said, referring to Searching for Bigfoot's CEO, who has been looking for the elusive, legendary creature in the United States and Canada since 1971.
Now, how about that? Have you ever heard of Tom Biscardi before? Or the Internet radio show, "Squatch Detective?" Or Searching for Bigfoot, Inc.? And yet, just by coincidence, understand, two men who just happened to have stumbled upon this corpse turned first thing to Biscardi and the obscure radio show. Funny how all that just fell into place.

Update: The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has a comprehensive takedown about "this ongoing hoax," with a lot more information about Biscardi, none of it good. BFRO is equally skeptical about the noon Palo Alto press conference as I am:

If Biscardi actually brings the "body" itself (i.e. more than just stories, photos, and 'DNA samples') to the press conference, and he hands the "body" over to the anthropology department of the nearest respectable university (e.g. Standford) [sic] ... and THEY declare that it's a real bigfoot ... then we shall admit we were wrong about the whole thing.

But instead, here's what you might expect from the "press conference': Biscardi will waltz into the room with two smiling impostor Russian "scientists" ... who will say whatever Biscardi has paid them to say about the "body" that he will never allow the press to examine in the flesh, because it will be "held elsewhere at a secure location pending further study".

Yep, that sounds about right. But I still say there's just as good a chance that it won't take place at all.

Update: Now the buzz is that the "corpse" will not be brought to the Bigfoot press conference at all, but that Biscardi, et. al., will present only more photos and results of various "tests." Yes, the scare quotes are intentional.

All time low expected for Denver

By Donald Sensing

No, I'm not referring to the upcoming DNC convention. It's the temperature.

Around the metro area, Friday may be rainy with a high predicted to plummet to a
record-low high of 61 degrees — that’s 26 degrees below the normal high of 87 degrees for mid-August.

The previous record minimum high temperature for Aug. 15 was 69 degrees in 1933, according to the National Weather Service.

“That will be a significant cool-off,” said Bob Koopmeiners of the National Weather
Service in Boulder.

I blame global warming.

More: "... over the next two decades, global temperatures may fall by about 2 degrees C — that is, to a level lower than any we have seen in the last 100 years."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Colin Powell to endorse Obama?

By Donald Sensing

Bill Kristol said on FNC just now that he has been told that G. W. Bush's former SecState, Colin Powell, will give a headline speech at the Democrat's national convention, in which he will endorce Barack Obama for the presidency.

McCain blows it on Russia-Georgia

By Donald Sensing

I am listening to John McCain's press brief about the Russia-Georgia situation. Sorry to say, he gives me only a little more confidence on this issue than his opponent, Barack Obama.

McCain comprehensively described the nature of the Russian bear and the stakes of the conflict. All very fine and well said. And he refused to get sucked into partisan rebuttals of the cheap shots that the Obama campaign has already made at his earlier comments.

But, like retired general and former NATO commander Wesley Clark, interviewed earlier on talk radio, McCain made a fundamental error: thinking that NATO has any teeth. Clark said that NATO should immediately bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO membership. I don't recall McCain saying exactly that, but he came close to it at minimum.

However, NATO doesn't do anything "immediately," especially decisions dripping with irreversible political implications. So even if the European NATO nations were inclined to take the suggestion (which they aren't), it would not happen quickly.

But as I explained here, Russia is acting so far inside NATO's and the EU's decision cycle (the OODA Loop) that NATO/EU will continually be reacting to events that have been superseded. Unless Russia slows down, of course, which is still possible. Putin, Medvedev et al. may yet discover that "starting a war is like entering a dark room blindfolded."

Asked directly whether he would include the use of force to frustrate Russia's plans, McCain replied directly, too: "No." (Clark: "No one is talking about dropping a brigade of the 82d Airborne into Georgia.") That's the right answer, but it also shows why other Allied measures will be ineffectual. At bottom, when resisting naked aggression like this, non-military measures don't work because the other side, Russia, has already made the decision that attaining a military decision is more important than good relations or bearing economic sanctions. Absent a credible threat of meeting their force with our force, then all other responses are empty.

McCain must know this, but he gamely, fluently foundered about sounding tough when there is no way to disguise the fact that our boxing gloves are filled with marshmallows.

And that is exactly why the idea of bringing Georgia into NATO will go nowhere. NATO's members, including the US, simply will not risk Georgia invoking the Charter to demand military opposition to future Russian actions. The plain fact is that we are not going to war over Georgia. We simply will not do it (nor should we, let me be clear).

What about Ukraine, since so many commentators say that it's next in Russia' quest to reconstitute the Soviet empire by another name? Should it be offered NATO membership?

Again, the question of "should" doesn't enter into it. Yes, the heads of NATO's European states understand the consequences of Russian satrapy over Ukraine (well, they probably do), but it's not clear, IMO, they they believe there would be a military threat against western Europe from it, and that puts us back to square one: Will NATO, including the US, be willing to send forces to oppose Soviet forces invading Ukraine?

Again, no. Here's why, in a nutshell.

Europe and the US do not have the money to fight such a war.

Europe and the US do not have the forces to fight such a war.

Europe and the US do not have the will to fight such a war.

Europe does not have the population reserves to fight such a war, although the US does.

Like I said in the earlier post, the balance of power is tipping, and unless Russia's will is much less firm than I think, there pretty much nothing we can do about it.

Update: Stratfor:

By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin
re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.

The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.

Quite so.

Sandy Allen dies, was world's tallest woman

By Donald Sensing

Sandy Allen, the world's tallest woman, has died.

She was 53 and had been ill for several months, said Rita Rose, a family friend for 30 years. ...

Allen, who is 7-foot-7 1/4, is listed by the Guiness World Records as the tallest living woman.
The Indy Star has a photo gallery.

Has Bigfoot been found?

By Donald Sensing

Will scientists get a chance to examine the corpse of a Bigfoot creature? Four men claim to have one.

Two Northern California men and two Georgians say they've got a body, a photo and DNA evidence pertaining to the elusive forest-dwelling man-ape — and that they'll reveal all at a press conference in Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday.

"I think you'll find that this is the real deal," Robert Barrows of Redwood City, Calif., told the Bay City News local wire service.

Matthew Whitton, a cop in Clayton County, Ga., and his friend Rick Dyer, a former corrections officer, say they recently found the body in the woods of northern Georgia.

Veteran Bigfoot tracker Tom Biscardi said he's examined the body, and that scientists will get their chance soon.
The Inquisitr web site has posted what are claimed to be photos of the creature. Me personally, I always thought that Bigfoot lived in the northwest USA, where it is usually referred to as Sasquatch. I've never heard of such a legend in north Georgia.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Victor Hanson reinforces my thesis

By Donald Sensing

On Monday I wrote what Russia's Georgia gambit has done. It was a short post and so here is the whole thing except the first two sentences.

Russia can move its forces on the ground faster than diplomats can move themselves to conferences. So Russia blitzes Georgia while the rest of the world tries to figure out what is happening.

Security Council resolution? Not a chance. Russia will veto it. And if the Russian delegate got drunk and missed the vote, China will.

Bring Georgia into NATO? Nope, not a chance there, either. Some American commentators think that this is a good idea because it will bring Georgia under NATO's protective umbrella. Let two things be noted here. First, no European commentators or politicians are saying this, which should give you a good idea of how they regard the notion. Second, there is no such thing as NATO's protective umbrella. If there was, NATO contingents other than Britain's would be conducting actual combat operations in Afghanistan. Absent American military power, there is no NATO military power.

Russia will have its way, whatever its way actually is, and the US and the West will do exactly nothing. The US will not go to war to turn Russia back (nor would the US be able to do so even if it wanted), and Europe can't go to war without the US. Absent a credible threat of force, the protestations of diplomats mean precisely zilch because there are no sanctions that are remotely possible that Vladimir Putin et. al. will think more painful than the benefits of enforcing their will against Georgia.

The balance of power just tipped, folks, and there is not one darn thing we can do about it.
I wrote that just before the ceasefire agreement, which has of course turned out to be not much of a ceasefire. Yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson posted a longer essay that pretty much said the same thing I did, and added a little more.
Military intervention is out of the question. Economic sanctions, given Russia’s oil and Europe’s need for it, are a pipe dream. Diplomatic ostracism and moral stricture won’t even save face.

Instead, Europe — both western and eastern — along with the United States and the concerned former Soviet Republics need to sit down, conference, and plot exactly how these new democracies are to maintain their independence and autonomy in the next decade. Hopefully, they will reach the Franklinesque conclusion that “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Read the whole thing.

Atom bombings and contemporary context

By Donald Sensing

Reposted from Aug. 10, 2005

Bill Quick cites the Japan Times' claim that there was "No rationalization for Nagasaki attack." Says the Times,

If the incineration of Hiroshima was justifiable as a means to end the war and save American lives -- a thesis that even most liberal Americans accept -- what was the justification for the destruction of Nagasaki three days later before Japan had a chance to grasp the message from the first nuclear attack?
First, it is not true that most American liberals (an inapt term for the topic at hand, but let it pass) accept that even the Hiroshima bombing was justified. Even so, it would be helpful to examine the context the two atom bombings took place in, especially from the Japanese perspective.

At the time of the bombing, Japan was ruled by a cabinet consisting of nine men, most of whom were members of the Army or Navy (there was no independent Japanese air force or marine corps). Emperor Hirohito's role in the workings and edicts of the cabinet was strictly prescribed by ancient tradition plus severe restraints emplaced on royal authority as Japan had westernized in the latter half of the 19th century. Hirohito attended cabinet meetings but did not speak. The emperor's real role was to approve the decisions taken by the cabinet, and the decisions of the cabinet had to be unanimous by law and tradition.

Militarists dominated the cabinet in 1945 although there were civilian members who wanted to sue for a negotiated peace. However, all cabinet members were concretely agreed that no peace could be acceptable that did not leave intact the office and symbols of the emperor. Unless that guarantee could be given by the Allies, even the peace-inclined cabinet members were agreed the war should continue. (However, there was never any agreement in the cabinet what other acceptable terms should be.)

It didn't take long for the cabinet to learn what type of weapon had destroyed Hiroshima on Aug. 6. Japanese physicists realized before Nagasaki's destruction that an atom bomb had been used and had informed the cabinet. Although the cabinet realized the bomb added a new dimension to the war, they did not change their basic perceptions on whether or how to continue the war simply because America possessed and used atomic bombs.

One reason was that the destruction of the two cities, while horrific, was by that stage of the war not unusual. As the Times article points out, mass destruction of cities had already become the norm in the war:
Before the nuclear genie was let loose, mass killings had already become a feature of the war for all sides.

On a single night, for example, nearly 200,000 citizens burned to death when U.S. bombers doused Tokyo with jellied petroleum in March 1945. Indeed, in the months before the nuclear bombings, half a million Japanese had already died and 14 million rendered homeless in U.S. firebombing raids on cities.

The Anglo-American firebombing of Dresden in February 1945 left some 39,000 Germans dead in an air campaign Churchill acknowledged amounted to "terror bombing." Hitler's massacres of Jews, and Japanese atrocities in China, reflected a similar disdain for civilian life.

By the time Hiroshima and Nagasaki were reduced to smoldering ruins, 50 million people in the world had already been killed in conflict since 1939.
The point about Japanese atrocities in China is well taken. When Japanese forces conquered Nanking, for example, they killed at least 200,000 civilians and probably as many as 300,000 over a six-week period (or so) beginning in mid-December 1937. The scale of the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not exceptional by that time of the war. The cabinet already realized that atom bomb or not, Japan's cities would be reduced to ash by American bombers. The atom bombs made the task easier but not more certain.

But the threat to the integrity of the emperor and his office was not simply from the Allies. Japan's security arm, the Kempei Tai, had a domestic enforcement arm very similar to that of the Nazi Gestapo. Kempei Tai intelligence had for months been assessing that there was a real and growing threat of revolution in Japan because of worsening subsistence of the people. American submarines and B-29s emplaced and enforced a ruthless blockade of Japanese ports, cutting off access by sea from Japanese holdings in mainland Asia. Bombers also devoted thousands of sorties to the destruction of rail and road egress from Japanese port cities to the country's interior.

These operations made Japan's populace suffer terribly from the interdiction of foodstuffs from Asia. The main effort was actually named "Operation Starvation" and was begun in April 1945. So severe were its effects that,
After the war, the commander of Japan's minesweeping operations noted that he thought this mining campaign could have directly led to the defeat of Japan on its own had it began earlier.
By the time of the atom bombings, actual starvation had not begun in Japan, but the population was experiencing the same privation as if from severe famine. Adults in some parts of the country were consuming fewer than 1,000 calories per day; on July 30, 1945,
Food shortages lead the government to call on the civilian population of Japan to collect 2.5 million bushels of acorns to be converted into eating material. The average Japanese is presently surviving on a daily intake of about 1680 calories, or 78 percent of what is considered the minimum necessary to survive.
. The Kempei Tai was well aware that more than a few revolutions in world history had begun from lack of food and was concerned that the emperor might become personally at risk when children and infants started dying and adults became desperate. The cabinet was regularly briefed by the Kepei Tai on this concern.

What the atom bombings did more than anything was provide the Japanese cabinet - and not all of them - with the excuse to surrender rather than the direct reason. Although American and Japanese historians continue to debate the issue, my readings lead me to conclude that the bombings were seized on by Hirohito and like-minded cabinet members as the handle to end the war to avoid revolution. According to Mitsumasa Yonai, Japan's civilian navy minister,
“It may be inappropriate to put it in this way, but the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war are, in a sense, God’s gifts,” Yonai said nearly a week after an American B-29 dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. ...

“Now we can end the war without making it clear that we have to end the war because of the domestic situation,” said Yonai, who was among the six-member inner Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki.

“I have long been advocating the conclusion [of the war], not because I am afraid of the enemy’s attacks or because of the atomic bombs or the Soviet participation in the war,” he said. “The most important reason is my concern over the domestic situation.”
This statement was uttered before Hirohito directed the cabinet to end the war on Aug. 14. Hirohito took the unprecedented and then-shocking step of personally speaking to the cabinet, rather than sending written communications, and directing the cabinet to end the war. Hirohito made recordings to be broadcast to the nation on Aug. 15. During the evening of Aug. 14, some militarist generals attempted a coup to seize the recordings and take the emperor into what they termed protective custody, convinced that he had fallen under sway of traitors in the government.

(Hirohito's reputation was remade after the war as the savior of his nation but there is little reason to believe he was neutral between the peace advocates and war advocates. Hirohito was a staunch militarist, who along with other militarists in the government,
... waited, instead, until the foreign enemies gave them a face-saving excuse to surrender in order to prevent the kokutai from being destroyed by antimilitary, antiwar pressure from within Japan. ... It didn’t matter how many hundreds of thousands died as long as the monarchy remained intact.
Hirohito was just as concerned about revolution as anyone, maybe more so since his neck was literally on the line in the question.)

It may still be reasonably debated whether the Nagasaki bombing was too hasty. But it isn't clear that without a second atomic bombing fairly soon that the Japanese would have capitulated as readily as they did. In fact, one reason the American authorities hit Nagasaki only three days after Hiroshima was to deceive Japan that there was no shortage of atomic bombs. In fact, the two dropped were the only two that existed. Additional atom bombs would not be ready until September, but then would be produced rapidly enough to support the Air Force's regular use of them through most of the fall.

In 20-20 hindsight it can be reasonably argued that Japan would have surrendered without the bombings, but many crucial facts we know now were opaque to both sides at the time. There is no doubt that many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of solders and civilians across the Pacific and Asian areas would have died from the war had it continued; discussion of prospective American and Japanese casualties from an invasion of Japan don't consider that hundreds of thousands of other nationalities were perishing every month at Japanese hands in lands still under Japanese control.

However the war would have ended absent the second bombing, or absent it coming so soon, I don't see how it could have ended as quickly or cleanly as it did and it probably would not have ended so absolutely or bloodlessly. The bombings left intact the organs of the Japanese government, which alone were able to order the far-flung Japanese forces to lay down their arms. Had either invasion or domestic uprising or their combination fractured the unity of the central government, America might have been forced to fight each Japanese unit across the Pacific and Asia to neutralize them and there may have been Japanese guerrilla wars for years in Japan and elsewhere by Japanese soldiers. We'll never know, of course.
See also my post of Aug. 9, 2005, "The Bomb."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Russia's the hare, the UN's the tortoise

By Donald Sensing

But unlike the Aesop's fable, the tortoise won't win this one. It will be permanently outrun by the hare.

Russia can move its forces on the ground faster than diplomats can move themselves to conferences. So Russia blitzes Georgia while the rest of the world tries to figure out what is happening.

Security Council resolution? Not a chance. Russia will veto it. And if the Russian delegate got drunk and missed the vote, China will.

Bring Georgia into NATO? Nope, not a chance there, either. Some American commentators think that this is a good idea because it will bring Georgia under NATO's protective umbrella. Let two things be noted here. First, no European commentators or politicians are saying this, which should give you a good idea of how they regard the notion. Second, there is no such thing as NATO's protective umbrella. If there was, NATO contingents other than Britain's would be conducting actual combat operations in Afghanistan. Absent American military power, there is no NATO military power.

Russia will have its way, whatever its way actually is, and the US and the West will do exactly nothing. The US will not go to war to turn Russia back (nor would the US be able to do so even if it wanted), and Europe can't go to war without the US. Absent a credible threat of force, the protestations of diplomats mean precisely zilch because there are no sanctions that are remotely possible that Vladimir Putin et. al. will think more painful than the benefits of enforcing their will against Georgia.

The balance of power just tipped, folks, and there is not one darn thing we can do about it.

Update: my further thoughts here.

TEOLAWKI coming to Switzerland!

By Donald Sensing

The End Of Life As We Know It looms yet again

One of the actual objectives of the Large Hadron Supercollider nearing completion in Switzerland is to make black holes. Yes, you read right! Scientists actually want to make those galaxy-devouring singularities of irresistible gravity that suck in everything in sight until it's not in sight, because not even light can escape such a voracious, galactic Hoover.

So when they flip the switch, this is what will happen. So BOAKYAG:

First there was the supernova and galaxy-attack scenarios. Then the predicted return of the comet Genondahwayanung, which pretty much annihilated most life in North America when it came here the first time. And then the massive gas cloud speeding toward a collision with the Milky Way! Then we learn that the earth's atmosphere may detonate. And then the asteroids. Then the black hole death stars! Then we'll be swallowed whole by the sun. Then the intense beam of gamma rays coming our way. Then there was the fear that "human society is very quickly headed to a violent and disturbing end." Then the earth began to kill people for changing its climate.

I tell ya, I'm starting to think that sooner or later, every one of us is going to wind up dead.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Stupid is as stupid does: iPhone apps

By Donald Sensing

Fortune on the ongoing problems with iPhones' and 3Gs' applications, sold by Apple. like this one:

I Am Rich: This one is a little easier to understand. The priciest app in the store — it sold for $999.99 — was also the most useless: it did nothing but take your money and display a red gem on your screen. “The red icon on your iPhone or iPod touch always reminds you (and others when you show it to them) that you were rich enough to afford this,” the information page on iTunes warned. “It’s a work of art with no hidden function at all.” Apple, which was collecting $300 for every copy that sold (and at least eight did, developer Armin Heinrich told Silicon Alley News), may well have received complaints and felt obliged to protect unwitting customers. But what kind of screening process approved I Am Rich in the first place?
And, of course, the fact that OS 2.0 self checks with an Apple web site to see whether it should delete some apps from itself, without the customer's knowledge or consent.

Friday, August 8, 2008

John Edwards had affair and lied about it - yawn

By Donald Sensing

So John Edwards, pinned to the mat by the National Enquirer, has coughed up a confession that, yeah, while his wife Elizabeth was battling cancer, he really was, uh, "carrying on" with Rielle (not "Reille") Hunter, "but said that he did not love her."

Oh, well, that makes it quite okay then! It wasn't love, it was simply lust! Don't we all feel better? This is also known as throwing your mistress under the bus when the affair is exposed. Which, of course, any mistress with an IQ above a, well, mink's, would expect.

ABC News reports,

Edwards made a point of telling Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission
when he began the affair with Hunter. Elizabeth Edwards has since been diagnosed
with an incurable form of the disease.
How kind of John to remain faithful to Elizabeth as long as she wasn't dying. That makes it just a, you know, routine violation of the seventh Commandment rather than a really bad one, right?
When certain questions about John's personal relationship with another woman surfaced during his primary campaign, Edwards denied the affair and so did his campaign spokespersons. But, say today's new reports, those people knew they were lying, too.

Did Edwards pay Rielle hush money?
Edwards denied paying any money to Hunter to keep her from going public but said
it was possible some of his friends or supporters may have made payments without
telling him.
"He said he would ask questions about any possible arrangement" having been made for payments. Yes, John Edwards is going to track down the people who paid off his horizontal friend (remember, he "didn't love her") in order to keep her quiet. Sort of reminds me of someone else's pledge to "find the real killers."

Finally, Edwards denies being the father of Rielle's baby. If true (coff), then while Edwards was cheating on Elizabeth, Rielle was cheating on him. You just can't make this stuff up.

Here's a photo of John Edward's political future.

But wait, you say. Other politicos - a lot of them, in fact - have treated their wives like yesterday's news and gone on to thrive politically. Let's see, the name of "John McCain" comes to mind. But there is one difference between McCain and, I would guess, all the others. McCain et. al. also had a lot of prior experience in the political world, with significant records of accomplishments, that Edwards entirely lacks.

McCain, it should also be noted, ditched his first wife well before he entered politics. Generally, the American people have been pretty forgiving of men's sins before they entered politics, unless the sins were very severe. Remember, Bill Clinton even admitted he had smoked dope in college and no one really cared. But John Edwards ditched his wife while he was actually running for president. And that fact will matter in a determinative fashion for his political future.