Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More on Huntington...

Here's another ode to Samuel Huntington. His passing along with yesterday's and today's articles sparked several commentaries from within my circle of friends.

December 31, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

Samuel Huntington’s True VisionThe fruits of tolerance need roots in the soil of culture and identity.

By Jonah Goldberg

This time of year, newspapers and magazines swell with retrospectives on the year that was, predictions for the year to come, and cogitations on meaningless trends and contrived fads.Against this backdrop, there’s an added poignancy to the death of Samuel P. Huntington, who died Christmas Eve at the age of 81. A decent, profound, and profoundly consequential man, the Harvard professor was one of the lions of 20th century social science. He spotted trends and made predictions, too. But he did so not with a wet finger to the air but with his nose in the books, his hands on the facts, and his eyes fixated on the Big Picture.His 1993 essay “The Clash of Civilizations” (and subsequent book) argued that the hoopla over a New World Order was deeply misguided. Indeed, he spotted one of the most consequential trends of the post-Cold War world: Most societies were intensifying, often radically, their cultural identities, not shedding them. Disharmony, not some U.N.-led Parliament of Man, lay in our future.

The book was deeply, and often willfully, misunderstood and mischaracterized by those who didn’t want it to be true. But after 9/11, it largely set the terms for how we look at the world. In it, he argued that culture, religion, and tradition are not background noise, as materialists of the left and the right often argue. Rather, they constitute the drumbeat to which whole civilizations march.This view ran counter to important constituencies. The idea that man can be reduced to homo economicus has adherents among some free-market economists, most Marxists, and others. But it’s nonsense on stilts. Most of the globe’s intractable conflicts are more clearly viewed through the prisms of culture and history than that of the green eyeshade. Tensions between India and Pakistan or Israel and the Arab world have little to do with GDP.

Even in America, the notion that economics drives our politics cannot stand scrutiny. For instance, gay-marriage advocates might decry the tax code’s unfairness to same-sex couples, but if all they wanted was to file joint returns, they’d settle for domestic partnerships. Gays desire respect and acceptance more than tax deductions. Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage don’t even bother with economic arguments, nor should they. Abortion, race, drugs, gun control, political correctness, public-school curricula: The list of cultural issues driving our political conflicts is endless.And yet for Marx and his modern heirs, class interests are all that matter. And for a certain breed of capitalist rationalist, financial self-interest is all that motivates.Barack Obama articulated a watered-down version of this nonsense when he lamented that western Pennsylvanians cling to religion and guns out of unrecognized economic frustration. If they’d only seen how their financial interests were bound up with his candidacy, they would’ve discarded such concerns.

This isn’t to say Obama is a crass materialist; he’s not, as his memoirs make clear. Rather, it’s to note that the role of culture is not only powerful but often powerfully confusing.If I had one book recommendation — another journalistic fad at this time of year — it would be Huntington’s last, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. In it, Huntington argued that American culture needed to be nurtured, not rejected in the name of a “multiculturalism” that too often serves as a stalking horse for anti-Americanism. He recognized that tolerance and pluralism are not modern inventions intended to replace America’s traditional culture, but that evolving notions of tolerance and pluralism are a central part of the American tradition (a point Obama echoed somewhat in his famous “A More Perfect Union” speech on race last March). For example, every civilization has known slavery, but only Anglo-American civilization, fueled by religious and philosophical conviction, set out to destroy it, at enormous costs. Huntington offered “an argument for the importance of Anglo-Protestant culture, not for the importance of Anglo-Protestant people.”But Huntington saw in a cadre of “denationalized” elites a contempt for the idea that the fruits of tolerance need roots in the soil of culture and identity.

These citizens of the world look skeptically at notions of sovereignty and contemptuously on the authority of tradition.Obama is at home among — and revered by — this crowd. His comment during the campaign that the real problem is that there aren’t enough American kids learning Spanish, not that there aren’t enough immigrants learning English, was music to cosmopolitan ears. But he also speaks movingly about American cultural solidarity.
To date, much of that language has been eloquent but platitudinous, perhaps because specifics highlight Obama’s own confusion about the thorny question of national identity. There’s still time for him to read up before his inaugural address.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online.

In case you're wondering what exactly Huntington said in his "Clash of Civilizations" here's one link to help:

Or, here's the Foreign Affairs article that started it all:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Patriotic Scholar's Passing

Samuel Huntington's controversial book Clash of Civilizations hit the bookstores just as I was entering grad school. It's probably the only book I vaguely remember compared to all the other dreary tomes we had to read.

My classmates and I, all members of the military at that time, didn't find anything controversial about his work. We thought he was spot-on right from the get-go.

Apparently this patriotic scholar passed away last week. He will be missed.

(Painting by Zina Saunders)

Wall Street Journal.


The last of Samuel Huntington's books -- "Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity," published four years ago -- may have been his most passionate work. It was like that with the celebrated Harvard political scientist, who died last week at 81. He was a man of diffidence and reserve, yet he was always caught up in the political storms of recent decades.

"This book is shaped by my own identities as a patriot and a scholar," he wrote. "As a patriot I am deeply concerned about the unity and strength of my country as a society based on liberty, equality, law and individual rights." Huntington lived the life of his choice, neither seeking controversies, nor ducking them. "Who Are We?" had the signature of this great scholar -- the bold, sweeping assertions sustained by exacting details, and the engagement with the issues of the time.

He wrote in that book of the "American Creed," and of its erosion among the elites. Its key elements -- the English language, Christianity, religious commitment, English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals -- he said are derived from the "distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."

Critics who branded the book as a work of undisguised nativism missed an essential point. Huntington observed that his was an "argument for the importance of Anglo-Protestant culture, not for the importance of Anglo-Protestant people." The success of this great republic, he said, had hitherto depended on the willingness of generations of Americans to honor the creed of the founding settlers and to shed their old affinities. But that willingness was being battered by globalization and multiculturalism, and by new waves of immigrants with no deep attachments to America's national identity. "The Stars and Stripes were at half-mast," he wrote in "Who Are We?", "and other flags flew higher on the flagpole of American identities."

Three possible American futures beckoned, Huntington said: cosmopolitan, imperial and national. In the first, the world remakes America, and globalization and multiculturalism trump national identity. In the second, America remakes the world: Unchallenged by a rival superpower, America would attempt to reshape the world according to its values, taking to other shores its democratic norms and aspirations. In the third, America remains America: It resists the blandishments -- and falseness -- of cosmopolitanism, and reins in the imperial impulse.Huntington made no secret of his own preference: an American nationalism "devoted to the preservation and enhancement of those qualities that have defined America since its founding." His stark sense of realism had no patience for the globalism of the Clinton era. The culture of "Davos Man" -- named for the watering hole of the global elite -- was disconnected from the call of home and hearth and national soil.

But he looked with a skeptical eye on the American expedition to Iraq, uneasy with those American conservatives who had come to believe in an "imperial" American mission. He foresaw frustration for this drive to democratize other lands. The American people would not sustain this project, he observed, and there was the "paradox of democracy": Democratic experiments often bring in their wake nationalistic populist movements (Latin America) or fundamentalist movements (Muslim countries). The world tempts power, and denies it. It is the Huntingtonian world; no false hopes and no redemption.

In the 1990s, when the Davos crowd and other believers in a borderless world reigned supreme, Huntington crossed over from the academy into global renown, with his "clash of civilizations" thesis. In an article first published in Foreign Affairs in 1993 (then expanded into a book), Huntington foresaw the shape of the post-Cold War world. The war of ideologies would yield to a civilizational struggle of soil and blood. It would be the West versus the eight civilizations dividing the rest -- Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese.

In this civilizational struggle, Islam would emerge as the principal challenge to the West. "The relations between Islam and Christianity, both orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other's Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity."He had assaulted the zeitgeist of the era. The world took notice, and his book was translated into 39 languages. Critics insisted that men want Sony, not soil. But on 9/11, young Arabs -- 19 of them -- would weigh in. They punctured the illusions of an era, and gave evidence of the truth of Huntington's vision. With his typical precision, he had written of a "youth bulge" unsettling Muslim societies, and young, radicalized Arabs, unhinged by modernity and unable to master it, emerging as the children of this radical age.

If I may be permitted a personal narrative: In 1993, I had written the lead critique in Foreign Affairs of his thesis. I admired his work but was unconvinced. My faith was invested in the order of states that the West itself built. The ways of the West had become the ways of the world, I argued, and the modernist consensus would hold in key Third-World countries like Egypt, India and Turkey. Fifteen years later, I was given a chance in the pages of The New York Times Book Review to acknowledge that I had erred and that Huntington had been correct all along.A gracious letter came to me from Nancy Arkelyan Huntington, his wife of 51 years (her Armenian descent an irony lost on those who dubbed him a defender of nativism). He was in ill-health, suffering the aftermath of a small stroke. They were spending the winter at their summer house on Martha's Vineyard. She had read him my essay as he lay in bed. He was pleased with it: "He will be writing you himself shortly." Of course, he did not write, and knowing of his frail state I did not expect him to do so. He had been a source of great wisdom, an exemplar, and it had been an honor to write of him, and to know him in the regrettably small way I did.

We don't have his likes in the academy today. Political science, the field he devoted his working life to, has been in the main commandeered by a new generation. They are "rational choice" people who work with models and numbers and write arid, impenetrable jargon.

More importantly, nowadays in the academy and beyond, the patriotism that marked Samuel Huntington's life and work is derided, and the American Creed he upheld is thought to be the ideology of rubes and simpletons, the affliction of people clinging to old ways. The Davos men have perhaps won. No wonder the sorrow and the concern that ran through the work of Huntington's final years.

Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. He is also an adjunct research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Twenty of the Worst Drinks

2009 is rapidly approaching which has folks pondering what resolutions to make--after they ring in the New Year.
Probably the #1 resolution is to lose weight and eat healthy. Part of a healthy diet is to keep one's body well hydrated--but without taking in those notorious empty calories.
The picture of this scrumptious looking drink was taken from the Baskin-Robbins website for nutrition information.
How bad will you wreck your resolution by drinking this?
Find out by reading The 20 Unhealthies Drinks in America, from Eat This not That in Men's Health:
Did your favorite drink make the hit-list?
Thinking of sticking to diet soda? Men's Health rolls-in on this not-so-healthy drink:

Non-Healthy Supermarket?

So you've decided to eat healthier in '09. If so, one of the first decisions to make is to eat-out less often. Restaurants are notorious for serving higher caloric food and in larger-than-normal portions. This essentially gives you a double-calorie whammy.

However, going to the grocery store is not entirely a safe bet either. Some foods aren't as healthy as the glitzy packaging claims.The attached article gives you the low-down, but not a low calorie count, on some foods; from Eat This not That:

Is your favorite food part of the Unlucky 13?

Giving in to Temptation

Okay, you've been sticking to your diet, but then the urge hits you! And you just GOT TO HAVE IT!

A hamburger that is. What else do you think I'm referring to?

Not all burgers, however are created equal, calorie-wise.Check out the attached article, from Eat This not That, courtesy of Men's Health, to see how you can satisfy your greasy, ground beef craving without packing on the pounds:

You manage, just barely, to resist temptation--of eating a hambuger--and begin your quest for a healthier lunch alternative. But be careful, even a quest for a light lunch is full of pitfalls to thwart you:

And if your light lunch quest takes you to the food court, let this be your guide:

By the way, the eye-catching photo is part of a sexually-charged commercial by CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardees and Carl's Jr. This site, Seeing Red AZ, is not amused:

Hamas Reaping the Whirlwind

So far in the opening days, Israel seems like it is trying to avoid the mistakes made during the last Israel-Hezbollah War.

Here's a bit of advice from Bill Levinson, which generated a lengthy on-line debate about whether or not an aerial bombing campaign is truly effective:

Israel: Heed Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris

by Bill Levinson

Now that Israel has FINALLY retaliated against Hamas for Hamas’ ongoing litany of mindless violence and breaches of regional peace, it needs to heed the advice of the British air marshal who supervised the bombing campaigns of the Second World War. With regard to justification of the bombing campaign in the first place, just replace “Nazis” with “Palestinians” (easy enough) and the names of the Allied cities with those of the Israeli cities at which the Palestinians have fired rockets.The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.

With regard to the advisability of using Israeli ground troops (who would suffer heavily in combat with guerrillas–house to house fighting is a combat soldier’s worst nightmare):

I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.

The whole of Gaza is similarly not worth the bones of one IDF soldier, if bombing the place into rubble will end the conflict without ground combat. Civilian casualties are admittedly regrettable, but they are the responsibility of the Hamas terrorists who hide among civilians (often with the civilians’ consent and encouragement, because they support Hamas’ agenda of terror). Harris had some good advice about this too:

The aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilized life throughout Germany.It should be emphasized that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.

A similar bombing campaign by the IAF should similarly traumatize the population of Gaza to such an extent that the dazed and vacant-eyed survivors will never again think of lifting a finger to Israel, or being caught in possession of so much as a model rocket (let alone a Katyusha). Even if some might still be inclined to commit violence, they will not have the means to commit it because they will be struggling to find enough to eat in the rubble.

The above may sound harsh, but most normal people learn in kindergarten not to hit other people unless they want to be hit back. Most adults know that you don’t shoot at other people (even in the absence of police) unless you want them to shoot back at you. As stated by Harris, Nazi Germany did not understand this, or did not care, so England turned Dresden into a giant crematorium. Hamas clearly does not understand this either, so Israel is 100 percent justified in turning Gaza into a giant crematorium if that is what it takes to make the rockets and mortar shells stop.

Israel Preparing for Ground Offensive?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israeli Hanukkah Offensive

The 6-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas ended several days ago. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) pounded various Hamas facilities throughout Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket attacks.

Meanwhile the Israeli Army is massing tanks, artillery and other assets along the border.

Naturally there's world-wide protests from Muslims outraged by Israel's latest "aggression."

(Photo from Yahoo News, via AP),2933,473408,00.html

The Hanukkah Bombing Campaign

The 6-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas ended several days ago. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) pounded various Hamas facilities throughout Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket attacks.

Meanwhile the Israeli Army is massing tanks, artillery and other assets along the border.

Naturally there's world-wide protests from Muslims outraged by Israel's latest "aggression.",2933,473408,00.html

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Book Review: Prayers for the Assassin

After New York City and Washington, DC are destroyed by suitcase nukes and Mecca is irradiated by a dirty bomb, the US fractures into five separate entities: The Bible Belt, with roughly the same borders as the Confederacy; the Mormon Territories, consisting of Utah and parts of Idaho, the Nevada Free State and the South Florida Independent Unaligned New Area; while the remaining states fall under the Islamic Republic of America. Another American Civil War erupts but unlike the first one, the former United States remains fragmented with an uneasy armistice in place.

This is the backdrop for Robert Ferrigno's Prayers for the Assassin (Feb 2006): A near-future thriller set primarily in Seattle, the capital of the Islamic Republic, 25 years after the "Zionist Conspirators" attack. Events are set in motion when the niece of the Islamic Republic's State Security vanishes and he calls upon Rakkim, an ex-Fedayeen infiltrator--and her lover--to find the girl. Before her disappearance Sarah Dougan was working on a controversial book that casts doubt on the official history of the Zionist Conspiracy.

According to's Customer Reviews, 91 readers posted their comments about this book: 39 gave it a 5-star rating and 30 gave it 4-stars; while there were 13 x 3-stars, 4 x 2-stars and 5 x 1-star ratings.

There were three main complaints about the book: First nearly all the 1-3 star raters felt an Islamic take over of the US to be highly improbable. Second was the author's apparent lack of knowledge of Islam and Muslim society. While the final grievances were based on literary short falls: Shallow character development with a lukewarm plot and tepid action, etc.Meanwhile the other 69 reviewers who loved the book felt the author accurately portrayed an Islamic society set in the not-too-distant future. Many of them said they traveled to the middle east and others seemed familiar with Islamic History.

For starters, I liked the book for the simple reason that such a story's been published. I remember the plethora of "Red Dawn" type of novels that flooded the book stores during the Cold War. Many of them were more far-fetched than Mr. Ferrigno's vision. Now in the wake of the Danish Cartoon Scandal and the Theo van Gogh murder, there's hardly a trickle of similar novels depicting a hypothetical Islamic conquest of America. Mr. Ferrigno deserves credit for at least broaching the subject.

This book will not incite hatred towards Muslims as claimed by one reviewer. On the contrary, I was quite drawn-in by, and sympathetic towards the hero and heroine--both them Muslim. I also thought the author's depiction of the average citizen's devotion to Islam to be very sensitive and deferential. It is the jihadi terrorists of the real world who crash airplanes into sky-scrapers, blow up buses and commuter trains,--rather than a piece of speculative fiction--that incites anger towards the religious-political ideology that spawn such acts.

I found the story itself to be well-written, straight-forward and entertaining: Can Rakkim and Sarah stay alive in order to discover the truth behind the attack that destroyed New York, DC and Mecca? There were several minor plot twists that kept the story from being too predictable. It was also fun to read a book set where I live. The author, a Pacific Northwest Native, struck a fine balance between detail and minutiae, giving the reader just enough detail to paint a vivid picture of the Puget Sound area.

Nor are all the characters cartoonish, "Koran thumpin' fundamentalists" either. The Islamic Republic is also populated by Jews, Catholics and moderate Muslims who maintain the country's deterioration infrastructure. This stratified society is more reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire than the dystopian settings of 1984 and Brave New World. The author lists several of his sources in the Acknowledgments, nearly all of them Islamic. So I'm assuming the "lack of understanding" of Islam is more in the form of splitting hairs on the details. (Islamic men don't wear silk shirts? Who knew?).

I did agree with some of the less-than 4 star ratings. These reviewers pointed out that Europe, with the demographic decline of non-Muslims, is more likely to evolve into "Eurabia" rather than the US--possibly within a generation. Also according to the novel's back story, as Israel was overrun Russia took in the Jewish refugees fleeing the Arab onslaught. I'm not sure it'd be possible for a country that authored The Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax, would turn around and absorb a people they've spent centuries persecuting. But then again, humanitarian causes were never on the Kremlin's to-do list. Could it be the Russians have ulterior motives for taking in Israeli refugees?

For those who did enjoy the Mr. Ferrigno's work despite real or perceived flaws, you can look forward to two sequels:

Sins of the Assassin (Feb 2007) and the upcoming Heart of the Assassin (Aug 2009).

Overall I found the book entertaining to read and give it a 4-star rating, not 5, because I found the story more interesting rather than edge-of-your-seat exciting.

The Unrepentant Terrorist Slants History

Too bad this picture isn't on a milk carton.

On 5 Dec, the New York Times (NYT) published "The Real Bill Ayers," by none other than the domestic terrorist-turned-professor himself.

While the NYT staff was eager to publish Ayer's "I'm not a terrorist" op-ed, they gave the cold shoulder to Larry Grathwohl's rebuttal. Mr. Grathwhohl was the FBI informant who helped bring the Weather Underground's terrorist activities to light.

Comrade Karla sent me the article Pajamas Media ran, but the NYT wouldn't:

In case you're interested in Ayers' revision of history, here's his op-ed the NYT saw fit to print:

Mexican Beauty Queen Busted

Laura Zuniga, seen here crowned as Miss Sinoloa in July, was arrested for "riding shotgun" with a pack of gang-bangers in Zapopan, Mexico.It makes you wonder how much influence the Sinoloan Drug Cartel had in her royal nomination.

To Salt or not to Salt?

The City of Seattle has come under sharp criticism for failing to clear many of the streets. One of the main problems is that Washington State in general doesn't salt the roads to melt snow & ice. Instead WSDOT (WA State Dept. of Transportation) sands the streets to provide traction for motorists. The premise was that salt harmed the nearby waterways. However, now scientists & environmentalist are thinking differently.

After all, Puget Sound consists of salt water.

(This picture of a runner braving the elements in Sammamish was taken from the Seattle Times).

Salt vs Sand from the Seattle Times:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not Rubbing Salt in the Wounds

Ah! Remember as kids when winter was all about having frosty fun?

As adults winter looses some of its appeal when we have to excavate our vehicles from snowdrifts in order to get to work.

It's finally stopped snowing here in the Seattle-Tacoma area--for now. More snow, mixed with rain, is on the way though. And while the main highways are clear, many of the city streets look more like bobsled runs.

Apparently Seattle's on a "salt free diet" when it comes to clearing snow clogged roads:

Meanwhile, holiday travelers are still in "refugee status" and unable to leave:

I talked to an elderly gentleman at the gym this afternoon. He and his wife spent 2 days trying to get to Mexico. After the second flight cancellation they gave up and decided to spend the Holidays here after all. They're the lucky ones because they live here and aren't delayed in-transit like many others.

"New & Improved" Photoshopping

A few days ago I posted "Arms Race Within the Ummah" on this blog and on the Consimworld Social Network. The accompanying article described the growing anxiety of the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian governments over Iran's nuclear power program. For an attention grabber, I added a picture of the missile test launch Iran conducted this past summer. However, one astute reader on the CWSN commented that the photo in question was the subject of a controversy: The Iranians apparently photoshopped one or more missiles into the picture than was originally launched.

So today I thought I'd "come clean" and instead of perpetuating an Iranian disinformation/propaganda campaign, I'll continue the running joke about Iran's photoshop expertise (or lack thereof).

The above, over-the-top, eye-catching photo can be found at What the Crap?:

As an additional treat, can you spot the Star Wars character within the launch plumes?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shortages of Everything but Snow

The Seattle Times article, linked below, confirmed my thoughts: This is the worst snow storm this area has seen in 12 years. When that snow storm hit, I was living below the Mason-Dixon Line in North Carolina. I didn't move here, as I mentioned in my previous post, until the first day of winter 1998.

While Winter maintains it's icy grip, Seattle is facing a shortage of everything but snow: There's only 27 snow plows to service the area, Sea-Tac Airport is running low on de-icing fluid and there's a shortage of outbound flights for the growing population of frustrated travelers.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, various agencies are recommending everyone stay home.

But as an employee of Washington State's Emergency Management Division, this means I have to ignore such sound advice. One of the my justifications for buying a Jeep a couple of years ago was to have a reliable vehicle to get me to-and-from work during adverse conditions. Unfortunately, our current weather woes has given me plenty of oppurtunity to test my Jeep's 4-wheel drive capability.

The picture above, again of Seattle's iconic Space Needle, was taken from Yahoo News.

The weather outlook from the Seattle Times:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seattle Still Under Snow

As of today, I've been a Pacific Northwest resident for 10 years. I arrived from South Korea in weather similar to this, with temperatures in the teens. However, that didn't last long as the ice and snow melted within a day or two. While we're surrounded by snow-capped peaks, winters in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area have normally been mild, with temperatures rarely dipping below freezing. So our winters are usually gray, rainy and dreary. Snow, when we do get it lasts no more than one to several days.

This December's been different. In the 10 years I've lived here I don't remember getting this much snow for so long, not to mention the below-freezing temperatures. I've been wearing sweaters that haven't been outside my closet in years!

Our current weather issues are expected to continue through Christmas. While the expected near-hurricane force winds didn't materialize, the snow has been playing havoc with airline travel. Sea-Tac Airport is now a virtual refugee camp as incoming flights dump-off condemned travelers with little or no chance of an outbound flight.

The picture above, taken from Yahoo News, is the Seattle Space Needle at City Center.

Here's the latest from the Seattle Times:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"It's the End of the World as We Know it..."

So where would you like to live?

Consider your choice carefully. According to the Russian Professor Igor Panarin the United States of America will fragment into 6 pieces by June or July 2010.

Of course the fact that he's an ex KBG analyst and feeding anti-American sentiment in Russia has nothing to do with his conclusions:

Arms Race within the Ummah

Anxiety appears to be building within the Islamic Ummah (community) over Iran's geopolitical intentions. On 9 July 2008, Iran test fired 4 long and medium range missiles, allegedly capable of reaching "The Zionist Entity" (as Israel is often referred to). The test, pictured here from, deepened the concern of the US about Iran's motives of its supposedly peaceful nuclear power program.

Israel and the US aren't the only ones concerned.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has this to say on the subject:

A Middle East Arms RaceThe Arabs respond to the likelihood of the Iranian bomb.

Hosni Mubarak is no one's idea of a visionary, but in sensing the Middle East's political winds he has few equals. So when Egypt's president-for-life warned his ruling party last week that "the Persians are trying to devour the Arab states," it's worth paying attention.

The immediate cause of the remarks is a war of words by Iran that led Mr. Mubarak to recall an envoy from Tehran last week. Among other provocations was the recent release of an Iranian film celebrating the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, Mr. Mubarak's predecessor. A Tehran demonstration late last month also called for Mr. Mubarak's execution, on the grounds of his alleged "subservience to the Zionists."

But the broader context of the friction is its steady progress toward a nuclear weapon and the encroachment by Iran into the Arab world -- principally through Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Mahdists in Iraq. States like Egypt and Saudi Arabia watched with dismay in the summer of 2006 as Israel failed to deliver a knockout blow against Hezbollah. Now they calculate that the U.S. lacks the will to prevent a nuclear Iran. As for Barack Obama's promise of "tough diplomacy," we suspect the Arab states take him about as seriously as they would a tourist who thinks he knows how to bargain at an oriental bazaar.

Little wonder, then, that the Arab states are taking a keen interest in acquiring nuclear capabilities of their own. The latest is the United Arab Emirates, which hopes to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. before the Bush Administration leaves office. Saudi Arabia is seeking a similar deal, while Egypt, Algeria, Turkey and even Yemen are also in the market for reactors.The ostensible rationale for these reactors varies from place to place, from energy-intensive water desalination schemes to reliable electricity supply. Under the terms of the agreement being proposed for the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, neither country would enrich its own uranium and both would put their facilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Still, it's difficult to see what use oil giants like the Saudis or Algerians would have for nuclear power except as a hedge against an Iranian bomb. IAEA safeguards or not, possession of "civilian" nuclear technology served India and Israel as the crucial first step to getting a bomb. It gave local scientists first-hand experience with the technologies and allowed opportunities for the covert diversion of key nuclear materials. Reports have circulated for years that the Saudis have pursued a secret nuclear program with help from Pakistan, though the Saudis deny this. Egypt has also been cited by the IAEA for undeclared nuclear work.

All this is a useful reminder that the threat of Iran's nuclear programs lies not only in whether it will acquire a bomb. It's also a question of how Iran's neighbors will react. The Israelis have said publicly that a nuclear Iran is an intolerable threat, a view many Arab states share privately. If neither Israel nor the U.S. act, they will be tempted to seek their security by acquiring their own nuclear deterrents. A Middle East in which Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt have the bomb -- in addition to Israel and Pakistan -- is possible within a decade.

Maybe there's someone at the Council on Foreign Relations who can explain why this isn't such a terrible scenario, what with everyone pointing a gun at everyone else's head. Our view is that this is a recipe for global instability, if not catastrophe, and a reminder of why no one should be complacent at the looming prospect of an Iranian bomb.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Wonderland "Fun" Ride

Washington State continues to grapple with the winter weather.

Pictured here, from the Seattle Times, is a charter-bus that nearly ended up on I-5. Fortunately there were only minor injuries (bumps & bruises).

One of my coworkers made this our screen savers with the caption: "Hey Buddy! You can't park that thing here!"

Here's the full story:

According to the National Weather Service, this is only a taste of things to come. An impending wind & snow storm is due to hit our mountains and shores this Saturday (20 Dec 08).Here's the current forecast:

I was off today and I go back to work tomorrow. Just in time for all the fun...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The weather has kept us busy in the Emergency Management Division. For the past couple of days, our state has been pelted by an intermittant snowstorm.

Those of us in western Washington live within sight of snow-capped mountains all year long. However, the bulk of the state's population resides within the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan area, rarely venturing up to the frozen peaks.

So when the snow falls here in the lowlands, things get slippery real quick.

The National Weather Service is predicting another storm is due to arrive this Sunday--the first day of winter.

This picture was posted today on the Seattle Times website's Photo Gallery along with the following caption:

"The scene from the Exit 9 overpass reveals motorists at a standstill along 405 northbound in Renton Thursday due to the heavy snowfall."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shoe Sales Aid Financial Bailout?

Muntafar al-Zaidi's 15 minutes of fame is going into overtime in the Arab world. His folk-hero status initiated a bidding war for the size 10 shoes he chucked at President Bush during his impromtu visit to Iraq.
One reader of Mark Steyn's website came up with an idea to finance the economic bailout plan:
"Payless Shoe Source [Mark Steyn]An enterprising reader suggests a way to kill two birds:
On the way to work a few minutes ago I heard on the radio that Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Egyptian who threw his shoes at Bush a couple of days ago during a news conference, is still in jail. But he’s being celebrated as a hero throughout the Arab world. One man offered his 20 year old daughter to the shoe thrower. Another Egyptian offered 10 million dollars to buy the shoes.And then it hit me!Let’s ask the President to allow 100,000 Arabs to throw shoes at him one at a time or all at once – with pre-arranged sales contracts such that each pair is then sold for $10,000,000! And any shoe that hits Bush goes for $100,000,000!That would come to at least one trillion bucks! Enough for the bailout!
Ingenious! Baathist symathizers and Washington Post writers seem to enjoy the idea of shoes being hurled at Bush, and the President seems awfully sporting about it, so let's make it the geopolitical version of those soak-the-selectman/pastor/principal booths they have on Old Home Day in New Hampshire.Also, while we're thinking outside the box, if those fellows offering their 20-year old daughters to the shoe hero were instead to offer 53-year old UAW members, we could skip the auto bailout, too.
"Here's a news clip and article about "sole" affair from the BBC:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Know that Sinking Feeling

This picture triggered a No-"Crap"-There-I-Was memory. Back in the 90s, I was a BALO (Battalion Air Liaison Officer) for a mechanized infantry unit in Germany for 2 years. In July 94 we rotated in to the Hohenfels maneuver range for our annual field exercise. Just after sundown the day before our big attack against the evil OPFOR (Opposition Forces) it started to rain. And it continued to pour throughout the night.

Despite the weather we launched our offensive on schedule. It was still dark as we tried to keep up with the commander's Bradley in our "track," an M-113 APC (Armored Personnel Carrier). I kept checking my map with a red-lens flashlight to verify our position. We were driving so fast in the darkness I didn't have time to shout a warning to my driver about the creek I spotted on the map--the one we were rapidly approaching. We plunged down the steep bank, into the swirling water and couldn't get out. The stream was wide and deep enough that our treads couldn't get any traction. The commander raced off in pursuit of the OPFOR, leaving us behind.

After a couple of hours, the battalion Sergeant-Major showed up and yanked us out with his track. My team and I then spent the rest of the day racing across the rain-sodden fields trying to catch up to the battle.

At one point we were passing an M-1 tank platoon in a quagmire that, in drier times, was once a dusty dirt road. Two of the armored behemoths met the same fate as the one pictured here. Both of them sank up to the top of their chassis, with gas turbines screaming and treads frantically churning the muddy water--all in vain. They were sunk in more ways than one: Our two recovery vehicles (M-88s?) became mired a couple of hours prior, so there was no telling when they'd be rescued.

I had lost radio contact with the commander long ago, so in order to find him I looked for the vehicles with the flashing MILES lights. (MILES--Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System, the military's version of Laser Tag). The flashing lights represented vehicles that had "brewed up," as the British would say. So I just followed the trail of destruction.

Unfortunately most of the destruction was inflicted upon us. Our battalion tried evicting the OPFOR from their mountain stronghold and suffered 90% casualties in the process. I guess another 5% of our assets were still stuck in the Fatherland's mud. It looked like a scene from the Huertgen Forest (Sep 44-Dec 45), with "burning" vehicles scattered everywhere on the wooded hillside.

Even if I arrived in time to join the 90% I wouldn't have done any good. Due to the rain and solid overcast all CAS (Close Air Support) missions were grounded that fateful day.Hmmm. Maybe getting stuck wasn't so bad after all.

Or, as Herman Melville may have penned: "My team and I survived to blog thee..."

Combined Arms Heroics

My friend "Mad Max" forwarded me an article about a severely wounded comrade-in-arms. Apparently, last year the regional magazine covering Staff Sergeant Israel del Toro's (aka "DT") ordeal won several awards in Texas.I

don't know DT personally, but my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. Two years ago he was wounded by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) while on patrol in Afghanistan. DT, wasn't in the US Army, but was part of the US Air Force's special group known as TACPs (Tactical Air Control Parties).

"Global Security" offers a good description of what we use to do:

DT's story was profiled in "SW Texas Live" in December 06:

Several months later the magazine garnished several awards including "Best Featured Story" for the author's coverage of DT's experience.Meanwhile, the soldiers TACPs support have obviously seen more than their fair share of combat. In April of this year, a special forces team was involved in a 6-hour firefight. Their heroics was recognized by the Army awarding 10 Silver Stars, our nation's 3 highest military award for bavery, to members of the team.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Comments from Comrade Karla #1

Today, the good comrade rolls-in on what is now called "The Blackwater Incident." Blackwater is a private security company (PSC), hired by governments or other private firms to provide protection for their personnel. For the past few years, Blackwater's primary theater of operations has been in Iraq.

On 16 September 2007, a Blackwater team escorting a diplomatic convoy was involved in a shoot-out at, or near, Nisoor Square in Baghdad.As soon as the last shots were fired, a political fire-storm was kindled and is now raging over this incident. The Blackwater employees involved in the shooting are facing prosecuting for indiscriminately firing upon civilians.BBC America has a decent recap of the incident and the current legal issues:

Meanwhile various Main-Stream Media (MSM) outlets have already pronounced their verdict--guilty. The good comrade's comments are based on this article from "Pajamas Media":

Comrade Karla:

"The author points out quite clearly that the initial "story" that is being put out to the public is just as damning in appearance as the Haditha one was--that said, we all know how Haditha turned out. The real "story" was that the initial publicly available version was distorted and wrong; one suspects a similar motive here given the apparent attempt to try and condemn the Blackwater team in the court of public opinion before a trial is even held. I'm more curious as to what grounds this case is even based on? There was no real SOFA for private security contractors (PSCs) that I'm aware of. The US government began to look far and wide for PSCs once Rumsfeld's War-Mart model for Iraq crashed and burned when everybody (except maybe him) began to realize you couldn't do an occupation with 100K or fewer troops. 17 Iraqis were killed in this incident. Tragic and terrible; but was it murder? Remember what happened to the Marine Recon team in Afghanistan--ambushed by terrorists, their return fire hit civilians that the terrorists had embedded themselves with--tragic, but hardly a war crime. But the Marines were quickly rotated out of the AO, the skills of useful combatants lost. The Marine ambush in Afghanistan will likely be a closer model than Haditha, which has suddenly lost all media interest with each Marine acquittal. PSCs have been derided as mercenaries, thugs, etc. While some of the earlier ones lacked in skills, this was a growth industry and nobody else was available to do the job thanks to a too small US military that had other commitments (Afghanistan). DOS and others seem to have been very happy with Blackwater, which seems to be mostly populated by ex-SOF people. Regardless, they will have a tough time beating the media characterization of them as "trigger-happy cowboys and rogue operatives."

The ultimate moral? As Longstreet said at Gettysburg when asked to launch his attack on July 2 before Pickett's Division had arrived "I don't like to go into battle with one boot off." Hopefully future administrations will heed this basic fact and not plan to fight any more future wars with "one boot off" and all the problems that entails." A previous article Karla sent us stated that--among other things--the Blackwater employees were charged with using "a machine gun in a crime." (Huh?) The "guilt by verdict from the court of public opinion" was also very much in play during the 2006 Duke University Lacrosse Scandal. Which has now been consigned to the history books, or at least cyberpedias:

In this case, though, public opinion steadily shifted against prosecutor Nifong. It's really a shame that our men and women in uniform, along with those seeking better pay in PSCs, fight such a continual uphill legal battle.

For information on exactly what Blackwater is and does, check out their website:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Surviving Terrorist's Confession

The surviving terrorist from the Mumbai massacre, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab apparently wrote a 7-page confession. This document reveals some of the details the terrorists' plans, training, equipment and the events prior to their attack.

Greetings from Comrade Karla

Greetings everyone! Today I'm starting a new column called "Comments from Comrade Karla.

"I've known Comrade Karla for over a dozen years and have always enjoyed his wit and appreciated his in-depth knowledge of history. (Both of which are only superseded by his father). Karla e-mails his friends daily with news articles and commentaries discussing the sad state of affairs plaguing the world today.

In agreement with the good comrade, I decided to start posting some of his most insightful and/or humorous comments on this blog. So without further adue ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Comrade Karla...

The comments below are in response to Mark Steyn's article: "Mumbai could happen just about anywhere" (28 Nov 08):

Here's what Karla had to say:

"Part of the problem with all of this, at least as I see it, has to do with how you stop this sort of thing before it starts--it seems like too many in the media and politics look at the TV plot model where a successful foiling of a terrorist plot happens when they're on their way to the hotel (or wherever) to do their deed. In fact, for me effective counter-terrorism is blowing them up with a JDAM in the hovel they're meeting in in Pakistan or Somalia or wherever planning the operation--or killing them Mossad style in the hallway to their Rome apartment. If you're chasing them while they're on their way to their target, your intel isn't working.

So if they've already crossed into the US (or more likely are already here) we're already behind the 8-ball. And as we are hamstrung by the law-enforcement model, catching them early on just leads to the Defense Attorney's saying "hey, they were just a bunch of hapless confused immigrants talking, they weren't actually DOING anything." That's just another reason why, absent any special anti-terrorism courts or laws using our standard system isn't going to cut it. We got lucky with the Ft Dix guys but again that was a reactive model and won't work in the long run."

The good comrade is spot-on regarding this.

Over a year ago I read an article in "US News & World Report" describing the problem prosecuting attorneys have in getting convictions for our home-grown, run-of-the-mill violent criminals. It's called the "CSI Effect." That is, juries want to see a state-of-the-art, whiz-bang multi-media demonstration as depicted in the popular crime drama "CSI." Unfortunately most local forensics labs are underfunded, understaffed and don't have the technological gadgets seen in the show. Even if a state forensics lab has such equipment there's a backlog of cases causing lengthy delays. Not to mention defense lawyers questioning the competency of the technicians and sowing the seeds of doubt over the lab's findings. So the "TV Model" is also hampering day-to-day law enforcement. We'll be hearing from the good comrade in future posts!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Most Corrupt State in the Union is...

...not Illinois.

Despite Chicago's political machine reputation and current scandal over Governor Blagojevich's attempt to sell Obama's senate seat; the "Land of Lincoln" still isn't considered America's most corrupt state. This honor, according to "USA Today" goes to--North Dakota. (Huh?).

I guess we shouldn't be too surprised. Some "Bison Chips" are bound to get filtered into the political meat-grinding process. Especially within a capital city named after Germany's "Iron Chancellor"--Otto von Bismark.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Al-Qaeda's Commo Breakdown (Humor)

From the Iowahawk...
Apologetic Mumbai Killers: "We Didn't Get the Memo About Obama"MUMBAI - Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving member of the 10-man team of Pakistani gunmen that left hundreds dead or wounded after a bloody three day rampage in Mumbai, today blamed the mayhem on an "email mixup" that left him and his colleagues unaware that Barack Obama had won election as President of the United States.
"What? Oh bloody hell, now you tell me," said Kasab, as he was led away in handcuffs by Indian security forces.
Kasab, 21, apologized to Indian President Pratibha Patil, explaining that no one in his group had known about the recent U.S. election results."Boy, talk about having egg on the face," said a visibly embarrassed Kasab. "If we knew Bush was on his way out, obviously we would have called off the crazy random baby-shootings and martyrdom stuff, and signed on with the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity.
At this point I guess all I can say is 'my bad.'""Seriously, I can't even begin to tell you how shitty the whole situation makes me feel," he added dejectedly. "Don't get me wrong, I'm as thrilled as everybody else to find out Barack won the election, but this moment is always going to be bittersweet knowing that all those shootings were tragically unnecessary. Not to mention the six weeks I wasted in training camp."Kasab, who is personally suspected of killing over 30 victims at point-blank range in a posh Mumbai hotel, was at a loss to explain how he and other members of the terrorist assault team remained unaware of the historic U.S. election results that many American analysts predicted would lead to an immediate and permanent outbreak of rapturous harmony and transcendent brotherly love throughout the universe."
Jeez, I'm... I don't know, I just never got any kind of memo," said Kasab. "The ironic thing is that just the other day, when we were ritually shaving our testicles for final martyrdom, a bunch of us were talking about how great and symbolic it would be if the American infidels would only elect an handsome, articulate young African-American infidel. That way we could just lay down the suicide belts and scimitars and suitcase nukes and finally get involved in the positive aspects of community activism, like raising awareness for breast cancer research. Look, I know it's a cliche to point fingers at the IT department, but our email system really sucks. And it's hard to find a decent wi-fi hot spot in Northwest Pakistan.
"Tragically, though, it appears that internet connectivity was only the tip of the iceberg in a system-wide Obama news communication failure at Al Qaeda Headquarters.
"Obama won? Seriously?" said an astonished Abdul Aziz Qasim, Senior Media Affairs Director for Al Qaeda's Peshawar Office at an afternoon press conference announcing responsibility for the attacks. "I mean... you're positively sure of that?"
After a reporter screened a YouTube video for him showing Obama's election night celebration, Qasim angrily summoned his intelligence department."Have any of you seen this? Any of you?" shouted Qasim, jabbing at the laptop screen with his hook, as his staff awkwardly stared at their sandals. "Because it would have been nice to know about it TWO FUCKING WEEKS AGO."
"Can one of you idiots remind me why I pay you?" he continued. "Because all I know is that I'm the only one in this goddamn tent who ends up taking the heat from bin Laden and Zawahiri, and gets stuck doing the damage control caused by you stupid fuckups.
"Regaining his composure, Qasim said that Al Qaeda would work to make amends with victims of the Mumbai tragedy, including sending flowers and handwritten apology notes containing 1000 rupee ($12.65) PakMart gift cards to the surviving families of all 173 dead. Wounded victims are slated to receive a 50 rupee coupon good at participating Waziristan Fried Chicken restaurants."Ultimately, I know the 'buck stops here,' but I just want to remind everybody in the infidel world that the only gripe that we've really ever had with you is about George Bush," said Qasim. "There's just something instantly irritating about that guy, you know what I mean? It's that smirk, the way he says 'nuke-u-ler' and all that 'evildoers' crap. There's only so much you can take of him before you start flying planes into skyscrapers or bombing subways, or shooting Hindus, or beheading Thai school teachers, and what-have-you."
"Believe me, now that Bush is out of the picture we're just as upset about those senseless killings as everybody else, especially those of us who actually did the senseless killing," he added. "All we ask is that the Indian judges not take it too hard on Ajmal. The poor kid feels bad enough already. It's not his fault he didn't find out about the infidel elections, you know how hard it is to get a decent Verizon cell in Mumbai. Now that we're all on the same page again it would be a great time for all of us, believers and infidels alike, to put all the nonsense of the Bush years behind us and rekindle that beautiful peace and friendship thing we all had going on back in 2000."
"I know my wife is looking forward to another Florida vacation -- even though she'll have to drop a few pounds to fit back into her beach chador," Qasim joked. "She was only ten when we were there for our honeymoon."
"Oh, before I forget, let me finally send our belated congratulations to President-Elect Obama," said the Al Qaeda spokesman. "Let me also say we're very sorry for the snafu in Mumbai, and hope this won't put a damper on our negotiations for the peaceful return of Spain. We're cool, right?"

More Trouble with Pirates

Once again the Indian Navy takes on the pirates. In it's most recent encounter, 23 scallywags were captured. The Indian Navy came under fire for sinking a pirate-manned vessel last month. Apparently the fishing trawler was recently comandeered by the scurvy-dogs just hours before it came under the gunsights of the Indian warship.

Pictured here is Howard Pyle's "Ship Under Attack."

As the Indians continue to shoot-up the high seas, analysts and policy-makers continue to ponder the pirate problem. Meanwhile about 20 vessels are still being held captive by these seagoing gang-bangers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

All Fingers Point to Pakistan

AP news, via Yahoo, reports the Mumbai terrorists were trained in Pakistan. Apparently the US tried to warn India of an impending attack. However, the Indian government experienced the same "systemic failure" our government had on 9/11:

As news of the carnage unfolded, western mainstream media (MSM) and multiculturalists attempt to determine the "real" root causes for the attack.Commentator Ralph Peters rolls-in on the MSM's self-absorbed commentaries of the Mumbai attack:

Meanwhile, Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem post rolls-in on the unholy jihadist-multicultural alliance. She provides some good explainations on how western multiculturalist acolytes tend to side with jihadists (who consider them mere infidels anyway):