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Sunday, July 31, 2005

To Kill the Potemkin

A couple of posts ago, I reviewed a book by Mark Joseph entitled Typhoon. is even better. Set during the height of the Cold and Vietnam Wars when nuclear tensions were at their peak, it tells the very realistic and frightening story of a collision between the Barracuda, an American nuclear attack submarine, and a super secret Russian nuclear sub that has very new and sophisticated capabilities.

The Barracuda has been assigned the task of hunting an American aircraft carrier during war game exercises. The Russian sub has been shadowing the task force pretending to be another American sub by masking her own noises by simulating those of a known sub. The Russian sub driver, after realizing he has been "outed" by the Barracuda wants to leave the area before more can be learned about his sub's secret capabilities. The political officer disagrees and takes over command He reverses the prop grazing the Barracuda, which had been following in the Russian sub's baffles. The Barracuda is forced to surface but not before its sonar operator hears sounds of the Russian sub descending way past nominal test depth and breaking up. At least that's what they think.

Collisions between submarines is not fanciful idea. In 1998 two U.S. nuclear subs collided off Long Island. (link) Blind Man's Bluff, by Peter Huchthausen, a book I read several years ago, is the non-fictional account of U.S. submarine espionage. Huchthausen reports several incidents of cold war submarines colliding, one that may have even resulted in the loss of a U.S. sub. Huchthausen, by the way, also wrote a fascinating account of the Cuban Missile Crisis from the decks of a U.S. destroyer where he was a junior officer. (October Fury) It's combination a thrilling memoir/history of Russian submarine actions and U.S. counter measures during that frightening October, 1962.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nice to know where the Republican's REAL priorities lie...

Senate Moves to Shield Gun Industry

Too good to pass up....

Author unknown:

Dear Red States...

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon,Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.

We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100! percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties.


Author Unknown in New California

Sunday, July 24, 2005

New Rules and Typhoon

If you are looking for a funny, sarcastic, and solid cultural commentary, pick up a copy of Bill Maher's new Book, New Rules. It's very funny. He makes fun of just about everything from Bush to parents and parenting coaches -- even though it's obvious he has no kids of his own, because just suggesting you can make kids do something. . . . The scary thing is that we are watching the rise of the post 9/11 generation of kids who are accepting the idea that you need to watch what you say, that anything that could conceivably be construed as criticism of the government might be unpatriotic, and if you're not careful you could go to jail, or at the very least lose access to your favorite reality show. President Bush has posed the question, "Is our children learning?" Obviously, they isn't. You can teach sign language to a gorilla in four years; why is it taking so long for George W. to learn? And by the way George, by definition, being a Washington insider relates to how close you are to the president so quit whining about all the Wahington insiders and politicians and look in the mirror. Everything that happened after 2000 is your fault, not the Clintons, not the Democrats. Take some responsibility for God's sake. And what is it with all these shows like Desperate Housewives. "If I had any interest in other people's sex lives, I'd be a Republican."

If you enjoyed The Hunt for Red October you'll like Typhoon by Mark Joseph. It's the late nineties and a few naval officers, fearing the implosion of the Soviet Union and loss of Soviet satellites, have hatched a plan to force a military coup by faking a rebellion and threatening to launch an atomic missile at the capitol of Georgia. Admiral Zenko, in charge of the Soviet Typhoon class submarine base at Gremikha is determined to thwart the rebellion. A Los Angeles class American sub gets caught in the middle and a cat-and-mouse game results. A very entertaining read.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

When You Ride Alone...

What ever happened to the Americans of World War II who were willing to sacrifice for their country, Bill Maher asks in When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden. The attitude today seems to be, "I'll use as much gas as I want, screw you and your Victory Garden, too." Not one person in a leadership position has asked that we sacrifice something. Jimmy Carter was practically crucified when he asked people to turn down their thermostats. The attitude seems to be, "Shop till you drop," and "Thanks for traveling." Self-promotion and greed rule the day. In the meantime we become more and more indebted to the Middle East and a slave to foreign oil. We ask nothing of our leaders and in return ask that they return the favor.

The book is now a little dated -- it was published before the invasion of Iraq, but many of his comments are worthy of serious thought. Labeling him a liberal is perhaps misguided as he's really more of a progressive libertarian, but most labels are balderdash anyway. Maher is a funny satirist who needs to be taken seriously.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Noteworthy quotes

"Fox News nearly herniates itself straining for a silver lining to each bolt of bad news (watching Ollie North interview the troops makes North Korean propaganda look sophisticated.)"
James Wolcott, Vanity Fair , August 2005

"Ladies and gentleman, I am a desperate housewife." and "George's answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chain saw -- which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well."
Laura Bush at the annual White House correspondents' dinner. No mention was made by anyone of the carnage and sacrifice in Iraq even though the weekend death toll was 120 dead.

"Iraq is Vietnam on crack."

"I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."
"You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any contact with me whatsoever and you call that justice."
"Senator [Coleman], in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies."
British member George Galloway of Parliament appearing before Senator Coleman's investigation committee. He left all the Senators, who had not done their homework, speechless. See link for more details.

Ellsberg and Kissinger

A new bumper sticker seen in Madison, WI:

"Focus on your own damn family." I concur.

I was listening to an excellent Justice Talking program featuring Ken Starr and John Dean. (Available for MP3 download here.)

The discussion surrounded the ethics, constitutionality, and judiciousness of the special prosecutor laws. It provided me with some new insights into Ken Starr whom we liberals have disdained since the Lewinsky business. It also provided new information on the role Henry Kissinger played in prodding Nixon into a deeper state of paranoia following the release of the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg.

The whole concept of a special prosecutor has fallen on hard times as both Democrats and Republicans have begun to see Justice Scalia's dissent as rather prescient. (Justice Scalia's fear that the law allows for the appointment of a "prosecutor antagonistic to the administration, or even to the particular individual who has been selected for this special treatment.") Both Starr and Dean concur that things can easily get out of hand.

Discussing impeachment, John Dean believes George Bush has committed impeachable offenses, since the misdemeanors of "high crimes and misdemeanors" includes making false statements to Congress. In any case, since impeachment is clearly a political maneuver, it won't happen with the current Congress.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Exorcism and some subversive quotes

"From a religious point of view we did the right thing."

--Daniel Corogeanu, abbot of the Holy Trinity monastery, Tanacu, Romania, after an apparently possessed 23-year old nun died after being crucified during an exorcism.
Die Zeit 23.06.05, p. 2

"If we let people see that kind of thing, there would never again be any war. "
- Pentagon official,
on why US military censored graphic footage from the Gulf War.

"Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset"
Pope Innocent III responding to soldiers he had unleashed in the crusade against the Cathars when asked how they were to tell the heretics from the good Catholics in the city of Beziers in 1210. Translated it means, "Kill them all, God can recognize the believers." The marines have since adopted something similar, "Kill them all, let God sort it out," a particularly heinous motto if there ever was one.

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."
An unnamed major in the U.S. Army said this about the decision to bomb and shell the town of Bentre, according to an Associated Press dispatch.
—The New York Times, February 8, 1968

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Should we all be learning Chinese?

"Twelfth graders [in the United States] rank in the 10th percentile in math globally [for the mathematically challenged that means 90% are better than us,] but first in their opinion of their own math skills." I continue to marvel at our capacity for self-delusion.

That, suggests Clyde Prestowitz in his recent book, Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East, is symptomatic of problems endemic to the United States. The United States will survive as a world leader only if it can replace job that are being lost by equivalent or better ones. Innovation and creativity will be the only ways to improve. Education is critical to betterment and it is becoming clear that education in India, China, Japan and Europe is increasingly better than in the United States where the main emphasis seems to be on whether the football team can beat the crap out of the neighboring community's team.

Some of his other suggestions:
Increase teacher salaries, offer portable wage and health insurance, reduce oil consumption, reduce the trade-deficit, and tax spending, not saving. Hardly provocative.

Note that if John B. Anderson had been elected years ago and had been able to implement his 50 cent per gallon gas tax we would be in much better shape from an energy standpoint.

Pet peeve of the week:

I recently attended some meetings in Springfield, Illinois, the state capitol. They should be ashamed of their inability to spell the word correctly. There is a Capital Street; I attended meetings at the Capital City Center (run by a community college, tsk, tsk) and saw numerous other instances of the word that I suspect were mispelled [pun intended] out of ignorance, not cleverness.

And you thought Social Security was in trouble.

The increasingly large numbers of injured veterans returning from Iraq (an average of 472 are injured, wounded or become sick during each month according to the Christian Science Monitor) is beginning to place a huge strain on a Veterans Administration that did not have enough money to provide care for 7.5 million vets already in the system, and has a $1,000,000,000 shortfall this year. (Interesting factoid: 33% of the homeless men in this country are vets.)

Unlike earlier wars, more soldiers injured in combat are surviving. Because transportation to hospitals is faster and more reliable, soldiers now survive but with debilitating injuries. It's the VA's responsibility to provide health care for these injured. Another concern is the use of depleted uranium in shells. There is rising suspicion that this material is causing illnesses among the troops.

Critics point to waste problems, including an Inspector General report that there were $800 million in overpayments per year. When presented as a percentage of the total annual budget (slightly more than 1%,) it seems to me they are remarkably careful. I doubt if there is a company around that could have a better record than that.

New Meaning Behind "No Child Left Behind"

There is a new debate brewing regarding language written in to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Apparently, a clause requires high schools to deliver students' names and address and phone numbers to military recruiters if the schools wish to receive any federal aid.

Aside from the fact that this often conflicts with other privacy rights laws, several school districts have decided this is an inappropriate way for recruiters to access school records.

Link for additional information.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Barnes and Noble produces an excellent series of lectures similar to The Teaching Company. One, entitled The Patriots, (Joseph Ellis) is an examination of those extraordinary individuals who were responsible for the revolution. It's part hagiography, part myth buster.

We use the term "insurgents" in such a pejorative manner when speaking of the rebels in Iraq, yet that's precisely what the Founding Fathers were. The Sons of Liberty, supported by such icons as Paul Revere and Samuel and John Adams, in their antipathy to the Stamp Act of 1765, decided that recalcitrant citizens who were not eager enough in their support of the anti-monarch movement needed violent persuasion. Although they avoided personal violence, they were not averse to destroying the property of those who opposed them.

John Adams played an unusual role in that he feared mob action, no matter how democratic. In fact, he went out of his way to defend the British officers who had been accused of malfeasance during the so-called Boston Massacre (so named by Samuel Adams who used it as propaganda.) Thomas Preston, the officer in charge, commanded the soldiers not to fire, but they did, five people died, and Adams persuaded the jury that the soldiers had responded with justifiable force given the threats from the crowd.

Interesting sidenote that "Massacre Day," which Adams remarked to be the beginning of the American Revolution, was celebrated for many years until it was replaced by July 4th. Paul Revere's illustration of the event was notable mostly for the errors it contained: it was not during the day and Crispus Attacus, the first American to be killed in the Revolution, was black not white.