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Monthly Archives: July 2006

How Do We Fight?

July 30th, 2006 - 3:13 pm

One of the more pressing questions in the ongoing war against Islamofascism is, how do we fight these people?

It’s not just an academic question. The opponents of classical liberal civilization have become adept at using the West’s principles against us. The Geneva Conventions, for instance, were originally designed to protect both civilian populations and members of lawful armies from mistreatment. Terrorists from Lebanon to Somalia to Afghanistan, with no small amount of help from jurists and journalists in the West, have learned to turn those principles on their heads, regularly using civilian populations as shields from attack, only to turn and claim “atrocity” when attacks are carried out against terrorists hiding amist civilians. They have also used the West’s legal systems as defenses, claiming rights to which they are not entitled under the letters of prior treaties, but accepting no responsibility for their own barbaric treatment of captured Western soldiers or civilians.

These conditions are not likely to change. Gunmen in Mogadishu learned early that Americans do not attack women and children; they quite literally hid behind civilian women while shooting at US troops as a result. What then can the response be from the civilized world?

For the Israelis, when Hezbollah intentionally locates its forces within civilian neighborhoods and next to technically neutral “UN peacekeepers,” the answer is to attack anyway, albeit after sending warnings to the civilian population to flee (imagine for a moment the leadership of al Queda or Hezbollah even contemplating taking the same measures). In a world without many easy answers, their decision is understandable, if still terrible.

The question still remains for us: how do we fight? We don’t want to stoop to the enemy’s barbarism, but it’s even less palatable to consider acquiescing to that very same barbarism. They must be defeated, but how, and at what cost, both to us or to innocents in between?

In the end, I’m afraid the answer is still the terrible one: unwillingly harming innocents in the crossfire is still preferrable to surrender–especially when surrender means subjugation at best and annihilation at worst. It’s an awful, awful choice, but it’s one we’re going to have to make many times over during the harsh years of the Long War.

The Contest

July 28th, 2006 - 8:10 pm

I would be unspeakably remiss if I didn’t at least link to this story from Drudge:

On a congressional trip to Estonia, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton astonished her traveling companions by suggesting the group do what one does in the Baltics: hold a vodka-drinking contest!

Delighted, the leader of the overseas delegation, Sen. John McCain, quickly agreed, the NEW YORK TIMES is planning to report on Saturday.

Frankly, I have a hard time seeing myself ever voting for either of them, but hey, at least they have taste in spirits.

Now, the real question is: which brand? Hillary has to be an Absolut drinker–after all, it’s made in the socialist Disneyland of Sweden. McCain? If he’s out trolling for conservative votes, it sure as hell wouldn’t be French-made Gray Goose. I’m betting a nice bottle of staunchly anti-commie Polish Zubr

Ten Bucks For Hank

July 25th, 2006 - 9:30 am

Marc Danziger (aka Armed Liberal) at Winds Of Change is leading up a blog fundraising drive for Hank Johnson. Johnson is running for the Democratic nomination to Georgia’s 4th District House seat; he forced Cynthia McKinney into a run-off in this month’s primary. Marc’s plan is to raise $50,000 for Johnson’s run-off campaign in $10 increments.

In all honesty, I don’t expect to agree with Johnson on all that much. If elected he’ll probably vote the same way I would have maybe one time out of a hundred–but that’s still better than the “never” I can expect out of McKinney, and I’m reasonably sure Johnson won’t morph into a raving pro-terrorist nutbag while in office. Blogger Will Hinton, who seriously considered running against McKinney as a Republican an independent, is also supporting Johnson.

The argument that McKinney should be allowed to stay in office so she can continue being a living example of the crazy Left is tempting, but frankly, I’m sick of her. She’s an embarrasment to the state and the nation and yes, to her party, and it’s time she was out of office and off the front pages.

Since I don’t live in the 4th District and can’t vote against her directly, giving ten bucks to Hank looks like a pretty reasonable deal to me (the 4th is an overwhelmingly Democratic district; the general election will be little more than a formality). If you agree, you can contribute here. The run-off election will be on August 8.

The Man Who Sold LEO Strikes Back

July 19th, 2006 - 1:14 pm

Remember Robert Bigelow, the hotel magnate who set up an aerospace company to build a private space station for tourists?

The first module is in orbit, and sending back pictures. It’s just a demonstrator, but…

Take it from somebody who works in the business, getting a working platform up in orbit when you started with nothing but an idea in that short a time (Bigelow Aerospace was founded in 1999) is… well, “remarkable” is a major understatement. And “cool” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

A Prediction

July 19th, 2006 - 8:01 am

Lileks is going to go into jealousy-induced shock when he sees this site.

Early Returns

July 19th, 2006 - 4:51 am

We had primary elections here in Georgia yesterday. It was a very quiet, low turnout election, particularly compared to 2004.

Ralph Reed, who was running for lieutenant governor, got clobbered, and Cynthia McKinney was forced into a run-off. So I’d say it was a pretty good day all around.

Zombie Bleg

July 18th, 2006 - 5:11 pm

Need a little help here.

My wife works with sick kids here in Atlanta. One of her patients is a teenage guy who’s recovering from a really bad car crash. He’s still in the hospital doing rehab right now, but he could be ready to go home by the end of the summer.

He’s a huge fan of Rob Zombie, who is playing a show in Atlanta about the time the kid will be ready to leave the hospital. We’d like to see if we can arrange for the kid to either meet Zombie, or just get into the show. If anybody out there has a Zombie album, and could look up the name of his management company in the liner notes (I’ve had no luck Googling), I’d really appreciate it if you’d post that information in the comments, or send me an email (blog -at- willcollier.com).

Hammer And Anvil

July 18th, 2006 - 6:19 am

Not too long ago, Jonah Goldberg at NRO and Kevin Drum had a brief squabble over ‘unsolvable problems.’ I’m paraphrasing recklessly here, but Drum’s position was basically that the Left has a morally and practically superior position over the Right because the Left doesn’t believe that problems are unsolvable, while the Right will metaphorically throw up its hand and not try to fix things it perceives as permanently unfixable. Goldberg responded that liberals unrealistically expect the “next” government program or initiative to fix problems that just don’t have reasonable real-world solutions.

That discussion was largely on a philosophical level, and to be fair to both participants, dealt with issues related to the human condition, as opposed to specifics of geography and warfare, but it still sprang to my mind when I look at news reports from the last week. Right now we’re all looking at a textbook definition of an unsolvable problem in Lebanon, and whether you believe in a “fixable” human condition or not, it’s hard to see how the issues on the ground are going to be settled in any kind of ‘best’ ending.

On the one hand, you’ve got the Israelis, who have had enough of being attacked by Iranian-funded and Syrian-supported Hezbollah terrorists acting from Lebanese territory. They’re apparently finished dealing with a “peace process” that has produced no peace, and it’s hard to blame them for that. Certainly, Hezbollah is a barbaric terrorist army that deserves to be destroyed, but the problem is, Hezbollah lives in somebody else’s neighborhood.

The non-Hezbollah Lebanese, who like Syria and Iran only microscopically more than they like Israel, are caught in the middle and getting clobbered. The Lebanese army is outgunned and hugely outfinanced by Hezbollah, and the Lebanese people are understandably horrified at the idea of fighting another civil war.

It’s a terrible situation. If the current war (and let’s not kid ourselves with proxies, that’s what it is) pitting Israel on one side with Syria and Iran on the other destroys the nascent Lebanese democracy along the way, that’s an awful, awful outcome–but it’s also an awful outcome if Iran is able to maintain its proxy terrorist army attacking Israel from Lebanese soil. Maybe worst of all for the Lebanese, it looks like this one is going to be fought out to a military conclusion. “Diplomacy” is a joke in this case. The Israelis don’t trust any of the international organizations, and for good reason. Iran holds those organizations (and the non-radicalized Lebanese) in contempt, and is only interested in using them to further the mullahs’ various ends.

Hammer and anvil, and the Lebanese in between. There is not a good solution.

Site Update

July 18th, 2006 - 5:52 am

Very briefly: to what I expect will be the relief of most regular readers, the flurry of the last few days should be “it” for college football content at VodkaPundit. Not only have I had my say (and then some) on recent events, but I’d already planned to start up a football blog this summer separate from VP. With luck and a little design help, it ought to be up before the end of this month. I’ll post a link when it’s ready.

In the meantime, I’d like to welcome all the new readers who’ve found VodkaPundit thanks to the sports-related stories, and invite you all to stick around. It’s kind of a weird bar, but we do try to keep the martini menus updated with new and interesting options–but no girly drinks.

Oh, and for those who’ve asked, I’m assured that Steve is still fine and still busy. He’ll be back when he’s less of one or the other.

If you ever needed proof that summer is indeed the silly season for college sports, watching the newspapers in Alabama and a few points north over the last few would have settled your mind. After weeks of rumor and speculation, and shortly following a post of mine right here at VP, Pete Thamel of the New York Times rushed in his story on

… well, on not much. But it’s July, and there’s nothing else for sportswriters to talk about, so Thamel’s overheated article has been causing quite a stir in print and one the air since late Thursday. As for the realities of the piece, without further ado, a Fisking. My comments are in bold.

For Some Athletes, Courses With No Classes
The New York Times
Published: July 13, 2006

A graphic popped up on James Gundlach


July 14th, 2006 - 7:50 am

The NY Times rushed Pete Thamel’s story on Auburn up onto their website late yesterday, after the university’s press release and my post on the subject went up. Here’s the link (registration required).

Here’s another link to a Huntsville Times article pointing out a few pertinent facts about the case that Thamel didn’t deign to mention.

At this point I’m basically watching the volleys like everybody else. I will say that accusations from “feuding professors” in the sociology department is easily the least-surprising element of the whole story…

Auburn, Rumors, and the New York Times

July 13th, 2006 - 3:39 pm

Summer is the

Shine On

July 11th, 2006 - 8:56 am

I hadn’t intended to give today a Pink Floyd theme, but sometimes reality has its own ideas.

Syd Barrett, the band’s founder, has died at age 60. Barrett retired from performing over 35 years ago due to drug abuse and mental illness, and had lived very quietly in the care of his mother for most of his life. Ironically, he is perhaps best known today not for his own work, but rather for the 1975 Floyd album “Wish You Were Here,” which was inspired by his brief time in the limelight and subsequent descent into madness.

Don’t Give Me That Do Good Goody Bull…

July 11th, 2006 - 6:05 am

I’m hardly the only one to point it out, but Claudia Rosett’s ongoing blog of the federal criminal trial of Tongsun Park, who was a player in the U.N. Oil For Food scandal, is the must-read of the moment. The sheer mass of the cash being slathered around is jaw-dropping, and well worth remembering the next time a politician, pundit or reporter holds forth on the usefulness and/or reliability of the U.N.

The only real question in my mind is why Rosett is the only national reporter even mentioning this stuff… but then again, I know why, and I imagine you do, too.

Two words

July 11th, 2006 - 5:22 am

I scoff.

Keeping Up With Current Events

July 11th, 2006 - 4:40 am

John Noonan looks at a new ride for Private Hudson and company.

Incredibly Dorky Tech Bleg

July 10th, 2006 - 7:27 am

First off, I apologize for leading off with this. I’ve been AWOL from blogging for the better part of a week, and I doubt most of you clicked over today to read about my computer problems. So fair warning, if you keep reading, you’re going to learn a lot more about them than you wanted to know.

I’m in the process of building up a home server. It’ll be used primarily to store and serve up audio and video files to the main entertainment center downstairs. I’ve been building it on the uber-cheap, which (as I’m sure I’ll be reminded) is probably the source of many of my problems.

The hardware centers around a generic white-box PC bought on eBay (here come the catcalls already) for $50. The mainboard is a Shuttle AK12, Award BIOS AK12S013, with an AMD Duron 850MHz CPU and 512MB of PC100 RAM. The operating system is FreeNAS, which is basically a stripped-down version of FreeBSD 6 optimized for small servers, including a very nice browser-based GUI for remote setup and administration. FreeNAS installed painlessly on a small hard drive attached to the board’s main IDE bus.

I collected up a six 300GB hard drives, four IDE and two SATA, with the intention of setting up a RAID 5 array for 1.5TB of storage with at least some possibility of recovery in case of a single drive failure. I’d intended to hook all of these in using three PCI cards, but as the saying goes, then my troubles began. The cards are two Rosewill RC-200′s for IDE (Sil 3114 chipset) and one RC-209 for SATA (Sil 0608 chipset), ideally with two drives attached to each card.

The box refuses to boot with any of the PCI cards installed and attached to a drive. It will boot up with just the RC-209 SATA card installed, but just repeats the initial startup process over and over if I actually attach a drive to the card. It will also boot up (very, very slowly) with just one of the RC-200 IDE cards installed, but freezes completely at the end of the BIOS startup with any IDE drive attached to the card.

Now, in all the vastness of the VodkaSphere, there have to be at least one or two wizards out there who can offer up some suggestions. I have tried all of the following: replacing the power supply (no effect, brand-new 400W unit), swapping around the PCI cards (no effect), flashing in an updated BIOS (the box doesn’t like any boot floppy I’ve made to date), unplugging various drives (no effect, doesn’t work even with just one drive attached), booting to a USB thumb drive (BIOS no hablo USB boot drive).

So, for the geniuses, what say you? At this point, the only options I can see myself are getting either a new box/motherboard or trying different PCI cards–although the chipsets and cards that I already have are listed as supported by FreeBSD 6, and they have all been reported as working with FreeNAS by other users.

For anybody who can help, as they say in the Kentucky Fried Movie, you haff my gwatitude.

Cool Alert

July 5th, 2006 - 9:22 am

The design and operational concept for the Jeff Bezos-funded Blue Origin private spacecraft has been announced:

Blue Origin’s spaceship is patterned after Department of Defense/NASA work on the single-stage vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing Delta Clipper Experimental (DC-X) and Delta Clipper Experimental Advanced (DC-XA). It was repeatedly flown in 1993-1996 at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Among a list of distinctions, a 26-hour turnaround was achieved between the DC-XA’s second and third flights – a first for any rocket. The flight program ended in July 1996 with the DC-XA suffering severe damage due to a landing strut

Orbiting New Jersey Newark, Redux

July 2nd, 2006 - 2:01 pm

The Blogfaddah links to a study that suggests the U.S. could convert entirely to solar energy by laying down newfangled nanotech solar panels over 2% of the continental land mass. As N.Z. Bear notes, even 2% is an awful lot of land:

According to this page, the total land area of the U.S. is 3,537,379 square miles. Take away Alaska and Hawaii to get the continental U.S., and you are left with 2,959,005 square miles. Two percent of that is…

Fifty-nine thousand, one hundred and eighty square miles. That’s 59,180.

For perspective: Over half of the fifty states are smaller in area than 59,180 square miles. The closest in size to that number are Iowa (55,869), Michigan (56,804), and Georgia (57,906).

So: who’s for paving over Georgia?

Since I er, live there, allow me to be the first to say, “Not on my back yard.” More to the point, that kind of study is one of the reasons why engineers refer to solar power as “alternative energy for people who never had to take a physics class.”

Several years back, I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations on how many solar panels it would take to replicate a single nuclear plant. I assumed an orbiting platform using panels equivalent to the ones on the International Space Station, and 100% collection and transmission efficiency–even though the latter is physically impossible. Here’s what I came up with, at my old proto-blog:

[T[he Space Station solar panels are fairly large as such things go, about 8,740 square feet in area. At 64 kilowatts of power for every 8,740 square feet of solar panel, you'd need about 136 million square feet of panels to generate a single megawatt of electricity. Just for comparison's sake, the Farley Nuclear Power Plant near Dothan, Alabama, can produce as much as 1,776 megawatts of power. That kind of output would require approximately 242 billion square feet of orbiting solar cells--about 8,700 square miles, an area larger than the state of New Jersey.

Bear in mind, terrestrial solar plants would receive far less energy than any orbiting platform, you're getting into Monty-Python-very-silly territory by suggesting that the current state of solar technology is anywhere near capable of providing electrical power at any reasonable scale. I'm not saying they can't be improved, or that it isn't worth doing research on better collection methods, but right now, counting on solar power is as crazy as deciding to pave over Georgia... or orbit New Jersey.

UPDATE: In a comment, Lee Valentine of the Space Studies Institute at Princeton corrects my math:

[Y]ou have made an error of a factor of one thousand in your BOTE calculation. The area required to deliver one magawatt (10^6 watts) is 136,000 square feet. That would be a square about 370 feet on a side.

It appears the mistake was in confusing megawatts with gigawatts. A megawatt is one thousand kilowatts, NOT one million Kilowatts. (kilo=10^3, mega=10^6, giga=10^9) One million kilowatts (1 Gigawatt) is enough to run a moderate sized city. Unfortunately, the error means that the estimate of the area required for a 1.778 gigawatt plant is too large by a factor of 1,000. The area is actually about 8.7 square miles, while the sun shines. In actuality, you would need several times that area to compensate for clouds and haze and night. The correction factor for New Jersey is about eight, so about seventy square miles of solar cells would be required. Just the size of Newark, not the whole state.

Dr. Valentine is right, of course, and I both thank him for the correction and humbly apologize for never going back and checking my five-year-old calculations (damn those envelopes!). I should note that orbiting Newark would still be a rather significant effort.