Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Did Not Know

...that a bagpiper landed at Normandy on D-Day.
Mr. Millin became part of Scottish folklore as soon as he jumped from the landing craft into the cold French waters off Sword Beach on June, 6, 1944, in Operation Overlord. He later came to be known as the "mad piper."...Mr. Millin played rousing renditions of "Highland Laddie" and "Road to the Isles," energizing the advancing troops and comforting the men whose last moments were spent on foreign soil.
Mr. Millin's unit eventually captured two German snipers whose pinpoint fire had wiped out many in the Allies' advance. When asked through an interpreter why the snipers hadn't aimed for Mr. Millin, whose blaring bagpipes would have made him an easy target, the prisoners had a simple answer.

The German snipers didn't bother, they said, because the man making all that noise seemed to be on a suicide mission and was clearly mad

Godspeed to ye, sir.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

BP of the Prisons

The murderous escapees captured Thursday were brought to you by a private company.

The reason the men were able to escape is rooted in a culture of complacency that developed at the prison in the six years it has been open, the report said, and those factors were complicated by opening a new unit and shuffling inmates around the complex this year.
The report released Thursday highlights problems at the Kingman facility that arose over time and led to indifference about behavior and indicators that would have caught the attention of administrators at state-run facilities. It found:

• False alarms were so frequent the staff learned to ignore them. ....

• Inmates at the facility did not groom themselves according to standards, and as many as 75 percent walked the complex without ID badges. ...

• Turnover at the facility was high, leading to a lack of training. The warden indicated nearly 80 percent of her staff was new or newly promoted.

A private company under contract to an anti-government Republican.

Say no more.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Our Gift to the Future

Chuck at Bad Attitudes asks the right question:
Seriously, what is the President’s top counterterrorism adviser doing talking about a multigenerational campaign? Has it occurred to anyone to ask why we might have an enemy so committed, so resolute, that they would be willing to engage in such a conflict with the world’s only superpower? Can we ask ourselves what we might have done to create such hatred, or are we still going on the old “they hate us because we’re free” bullshit? (If that were true terrorism would hit the Swiss and the Swedes.)

Unfortunately, he has the answer.
[W]ar in remote lands using high-tech equipment is the most effective concentrator of wealth we know of. That’s why we keep having such wars, that and the oil. Which is also a pretty decent wealth concentrator.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Double Velo Weekend News

This weekend past, during a record heat wave in Olympia, I rode two days consecutively for the first time in who knows when. All in the space of 24 hours but avoiding (mostly) the heat each day.

Saturday was longer and hotter. I started out mid morning riding north through the Bigelow Neighborhood to Gull Harbor Road, snaking my way up Lemon Road to the Chehalis Western trailhead, then across Woodard Bay to Libby Road and north around Fish Trap Loop. The route offers some challenging hills and nice views with not too much traffic and adds about 8 miles to the distance. Return is back the way I came, with the very steep climb out of Woodard Bay, and then home on the Chehalis Western Trail. I was in by 12:30. Twenty-six miles total.

Sunday, I rode southeast through neighborhoods to the CWT at Yelm Road and returned north. I was out by 8:30 on a wonderfully cool morning. Lots of shade in many places. The CWT is very much a green tunnel these days, dark and cool. I followed the Olympia Woodland Trail back to Eastside and, because the morning was still pleasant, I rode over to the capitol for a view of Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains.

And then I kicked ass home before the day got any hotter. Fifteen miles on the day.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Happened to Journalism

Reading a collection of Mark Twain's previously unpublished work, I found his essay, "The American Press". Now I know how we ended up with Faux News and all the chattering heads: the press lost its irreverence.

According to Twain,
Well, the charge is, that our press has but little of that old-world quality, reverence. Let us be candidly grateful that this is so. With its limited reverence it at least reveres the things which this nation reveres, as a rule, and that is sufficient: what other people revere is fairly and properly matter of light importance to us. Our press does not reverence kings, it does not reverence so-called nobilities, it does not reverence established ecclesiastical slaveries, it does not reverence laws which rob a younger son to fatten an elder one, it does not reverence any fraud or sham or infamy, howsoever old or rotten or holy, which sets one citizen above his neighbor by accident of birth; it does not reverence any law or custom, howsoever old or decayed or sacred, which shuts against the best man in the land the best place in the land and the divine right to prove property and go up and occupy it.
I believe it is our irreverent press which has laughed away, one by one, what remained of our inherited minor shams and delusions and serfages after the Revolution, and made us the only free people that has yet existed in the earth; and I believe we shall remain free, utterly free and unassailably free, until some alien critic with sugared speech shall persuade our journalism to forsake its scoffing ways and serve itself up on the innocuous European plan. Our press has done a worth work; is doing a worthy work; and so, though one should prove it to me...that its faults are abundant and overabundant, I should still say, no matter: so long as it still possesses that surpreme virtue in journalism, and active and discriminating, irreverence, it will be entitled to hold itself the most valuable press, the most wholesome press, and the most puissant force for the nurture and protection of human freedom that either hemishpere has yet produced since the printer's art set itself the tedious and disheartening task of righting the wrongs of men.

Imagine what an active and discriminating, irreverence could have done with the the "smoking gun mushroom cloud" in 2002. Or about Iran these days.

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Beat! Beat! Drums!

My reference to the drums of war in that last post reminded me that Walt Whitman said it best.

BEAT! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or gathering his grain;
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—Would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties;
Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump, O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.


When Two Wars are Not Enough

The drums of war are pounding for an attack on Iran. Iranian nuclear capabilities are an existential threat to Israel and must be stopped, say the warriors. Sanctions have failed! We must act now before it's too late! War plans are openly discussed. The atmosphere reminds me a lot of 2002-03 when Americans were stampeded to war in Iraq. Remember that one? Cakewalk, they said.

When it comes to Iran, though, war will be no cakewalk. The consequences will be as devastating as were the past nine years of American military interventions in that unstable region. An attack on Iran will not only solidify a strongly nationalist people behind their government, it will also give cause for militants around the world to attack Americans. I am dumbfounded that national leaders consider an armed attack to be a legitimate act. Or that think the results will be any different this time.

That's why Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett's "The Weak Case for War with Iran" is a good antidote to the Guns of August 2010. Their analysis presents the existential threat not in terms of nuclear annihilation but instead the loss of Israeli military autonomy which the Leveretts note is itself a source of instability. I especially like their alternative to war.
Regarding Iran, what constitutes "greatness" for Obama? Clearly, Obama will not achieve greatness by acquiescing to another fraudulently advocated and strategically damaging war in the Middle East. He could, however, achieve greatness by doing with Iran what Richard Nixon did with Egypt and China -- realigning previously antagonistic relations with important countries in ways that continue serving the interests of America and its allies more than three decades later.

America could use some of that kind of greatness.


When they describe the attack on Iran as a precision, surgigal strike, just remember that precision operations don't always work.

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