Monday, March 31, 2008

Having a fit over "Fitna"

“Fitna” is the title of a video created by a Dutch politician named Geert Wilders. The video is posted on file sharing sites, such as YouTube, Google and initially LiveLeaks (it was pulled off the site this weekend due to serious threats against staff.) The short film is critical of Islamism. So you can guess what the reaction to it has been; wild rantings about how unfair it is, calls for Mr. Wilders death, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

The Muslim nations have of course taken the Dutch government to task and demanded apologies, even though Mr. Wilders acted as a free citizen exercising his freedom of expression.

Having viewed the video it is difficult to understand what the complaint is. It seems that everything displayed is factual. Islamist did indeed destroy the World Trade Center. They did bomb the trains in Spain. They did blow up buses in London. They did decapitate Nick Berg. They did murder Theo van Gogh. They do have spiritual leaders calling for the extermination of the Jews. They do call for the destruction of the West. This is clearly a piece of anti-Islamist propaganda, but should the West stand idly by and allow a crazed fringe of Islam to destroy us?

I am certain that someone could find passages in the Bible that are equally as disturbing as those lifted from the Koran in the film. However, it would be difficult to find the images of Christians committing mass murder in the name of religion, and of respected Christian theologians calling for the death of all Muslims.

Mr. Wilders claims to be an atheist, so it is fair to assume that his problem is not one of his beliefs are better than another. But, that he truly fears the threat that the Islamist present to the Netherlands, Europe and the West as a whole.

It is time for those of us who appreciate our democracy and freedoms to stop being politically correct, and to speak out when we know something is clearly wrong. Our enemies do not respect our culture, why must we respect theirs?

End of rant.

ADDED: Henryk Broder writing in SpiegelOnline seems to share my views. Geert Wilders Is No Right-Wing Populist

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ft. McKavett living history

Yesterday I made the trip to historic Ft. McKavett, Texas. This is a frontier fort that was established by the U.S. Army in 1852, then abandoned during the Civil War and reoccupied in 1868, and then finally abandoned in 1883. The purpose of the fort was to protect the settlers from Indian attack. This area of the state (as with most of Texas) was primarily subject to attack from the Comanche and their allied tribes.

The fort is on a beautiful site. It is an open hill top with wide views in all directions. It is quite well preserved since many of the buildings were occupied by local residents from the time the fort was abandoned until the State of Texas acquired the property in the 1970's.

The event yesterday was a living history. There were soldiers of all types, along with demonstrations of frontier living during the mid-19th century. The demonstrations of artillery operations and the Gatling gun were quite impressive. Also, in attendance was the Texas Camel Corps. (There was an experiment by the U.S. Army beginning in 1855 to use the camel as transport in the arid western U.S. The Texas Camel Corps was established to preserve the memory of this.)

Many of the soldiers based at Ft. McKavett, and several of the other western Texas frontier forts, were "buffalo soldiers". The buffalo soldiers were black infantry regiments sent west after the Civil War. Obviously in the vastness of west Texas, infantry was not a very effective force, they became mounted infantry. The origin of the term buffalo soldier is credited to the Indian foe, and I have heard at least two credible explanations for the term. The most common is that the soldiers curly hair was reminiscent of the hair on a buffalo hump. The second is that the first encounter between the Indian and the black soldier occurred in winter, and the soldiers were all wearing buffalo robes for warmth.

The fort hosts living history events a couple of times a year. Also of interests are the star parties hosted there. Since the fort is isolated there is little light pollution and the sky view is very wide. It is an ideal location for astronomical observation. Many amateur astronomers come to these events and set up telescopes. The public is invited to attend and view celestial objects. The next star party will be Saturday, April 5 and begins at, you guessed it, dark.

Photos: Credit to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
For more information on Ft. McKavett visit the Texas Historical Commission

Friday, March 28, 2008

U.S. Military Deaths

1980 2,392

1981 2,380

1982 2,319

1983 2,465

1984 1,999

1985 2,252

1986 1,984

1987 1,983

1988 1,819

1989 1,636

1990 1,507

1991 1,787 (a)

1992 1,293

1993 1,213

1994 1,075

1995 1,040

1996 974

1997 817

1998 827

1999 796

2000 758

2001 891

2002 999

2003 1,228 (b)

2004 1,874 (b)

2005 1,942 (b)

2006 1,858 (b)

(a) Persian Gulf War

(b) Iraqi War

This is an interesting set of statistics. Military deaths were as high or higher during peacetime in the 1980’s as they are currently with active military operations in Iraq.

Ratio of Deaths to Wounded

Operation Iraqi
Freedom 1:7.6

Enduring Freedom 1:3.2

Persian Gulf War 1:1.2

Vietnam 1:2.6

Korea 1:2.8

World War II 1:1.7

World War 1:1.8

The ratio of deaths as a fraction of total casualties is improving over time, with the Persian Gulf War as an outlier (949 total casualties is in that war.) My guess is Vietnam and Korea had improved field hospitals in place, and the current improvements are due to body armor and further medical advances.

Read the whole report, it is interesting and details casualties all the way back to the American Revolution.

Source: CRS Report for Congress. American War and Military Operations Casualties:
Lists and Statistics. June, 2007.


Obama Suggests He Would Have Left His Church If Wright Had Not Retired

This sounds too convenient. It just does not pass the smell test. After twenty years as a member he would have left if the Reverend had not retired last month? There's a rock in Ireland that I do believe the Senator kissed several times.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Here we go again

Let's abolish the electoral college. Senator Ben Nelson of Florida makes this proposal AGAIN. You might notice that no one from Wyoming, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Montana or any other low population state ever makes this proposal. Hmmm, we wonder why that is? Maybe because they have no interest in giving up their position in electing the President in lieu of allowing the election to be decided by California, Illinois, Texas, Florida and a few other large states.

The United States is not a democracy it is a democratic republic. Politicians seem to be frequently uneducated and ignorant of the difference. If we were a democracy then majority rule would be the case, but as a democratic republic we have representatives that stand between the people and the final determination of law. This model has served us well for 200 plus years and any move to change it is short sighted.

Direct democracy does not allow for the cooling of passions. The bicameral legislature is the best example of this. The House will react to any impassioned issue with immediacy and very little thought to the long term consequences. The Senate has the duty to temper the House by looking to the longer term effects. One might argue that this is not effective, but history proves that it is a better system than allowing tempers to rule the day.

It is important to remember that this is just political grandstanding. The only way to eliminate the electoral college is through a constitutional amendment, and it is highly unlikely the Senate would ever pass such an amendment, and it is beyond credibility to imagine that the half of the states who would lose influence would ever ratify.

Never turn your back on a Wombat

I would bet the learning curve from Kiwi to Australian is not all that great. Read the story here.

Texas growing

"According to figures compiled by Eschbach, 16 percent of Americans who moved to other states between July 2006 and July 2007 came to Texas, which led the nation for the second straight year in that category."

As one of my friends who moved to the Austin area about 25 years ago asks: Why would anyone live anywhere else?

Read the whole article on relocation here.


For my readers who are not fortunate enough to be Texans; This is a picture of a field of bluebonnets. In a year with good rains the bluebonnets will turn vast areas to this beautiful shade of blue. Plan your trip to the hill country of Texas (the area with the most intense wildflower displays) for late March or April of the year.

Photo courtesy of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Obama, Obama

Senator Obama seems to have spent years trying to connect to the black community.

He has about as much in common with the American black experience as I do, and I am a product of mid-nineteenth century European immigration. He is the son of a Kenyan man and a white mid-western woman, raised by his Hawaiian grandmother. He has nothing in common with the average black American. He is, as a matter of fact, an honest to God African-American.

He has spent the last twenty years attaching himself to the black community. That is the only explanation for joining a church that preaches hate of mainstream America. He is trying to make his bona fides with the black community. He would have been rejected out of hand by his church if it were not for his fathers skin pigmentation.

I like to think that Senator Obama is better than that, but the record does not reinforce my wishes.

Immigrant rights

Australia gets it right.

The U.S. should enforce similar standards. An immigrant should embrace the tenets of western civilization or be turned back at the border. (Do not read this as an anti-immigrant trope against our good neighbors to the south; they are very much western civ people.)

Hillary plays dirty

Big surprise: Hillary backers go dirtier. They are now threatening Speaker Pelosi.

Senator Clinton has been caught in yet another lie, so the proper response is to lash out at the rest of the party. The Clintons seem to think the Democratic Party is actually the Clinton Party and any apostasy should be punished.

It is not clear that Senator Obama is a better choice for the Democrats, but at least he is winning with the voters. Where do the Clintons come off with threatening anyone who does not buy into the Hillary inevitability. Senator Clinton seems to be nothing but bold, grasping ambition.

Gravel for President

"Fed up with being excluded from the debates and otherwise marginalized, former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska announced today that he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president," reports a New York Times blog.

Isn't this like a high school kid who takes up Dungeons & Dragons because he's fed up with not being able to get a date? (J. Taranto)

Now what is Ron Paul going to do? Will we have a convention floor fight between Paul and Gravel for the Libertarian nomination?

Follow this link to see how truly weird Sen. Gravel is. Remember this video is a Presidential ad.


It is entirely too nice a day to be inside. This is a perfect day for getting out and seeing the bluebonnets. The sun is shining, the temperature is in the 70's headed for the 80's and the wind is not blowing.

It would be a great day for sitting on the bank of a river with an unbaited hook (you wouldn't want a fish to interrupt), and drinking a beer or two.

State of the economy in west Texas

In my business I talk to a number of business owners in west Texas. The anecdotal evidence is that the economy is good in our area. Though it appears that nationally the economy is weakening, our area is not yet affected.

Employment is full. The chief complaint of business owners is that they cannot hire or retain employees, particularly at the entry level. The strength of the oil patch is a major contributor to this shortage. Good employees can earn a good wage working in oil extraction, processing and the related service companies. That leaves the other industries and trades competing at a wage disadvantage for marginal employees.

Another issue faced by employers is the work ethic, or more to the point, lack of one, of the Millenials. These young people have never had any expectation or responsibility placed on them. They were never allowed to compete. Remember in youth sports they were all winners and no one kept score. Now that they are expected to perform for a reward, in this instance, pay, they are not up to the task. So many of them do not realize that they should show up at a scheduled time and perform a designated task. It is simply beyond their ability to do this.

There are some signs of a slow down in the new home construction and remodeling market, but these do not appear to be as severe as the national trends. Orders for sub-contractors seems to have declined somewhat. This is not necessarily bad as there appears to be a shortage of skilled workers in the trades as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Supremes like gun rights

A majority of the Supreme Court appeared ready on Tuesday to embrace, for the first time in the country’s history, an interpretation of the Second Amendment that protects the right to own a gun for personal use.

That may be the easy part.

The harder question in the case challenging the District of Columbia’s handgun ban is what kind of restrictions the government could constitutionally place, in the name of public safety, on the newly recognized right. (L. Greenhouse. NYTimes. March 19, 2008).

This is such an odd statement.

The right to bear arms has been recognized since the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The right has been severely infringed by state and federal government. The only thing new here is that SCOTUS has deigned to hear an appeal and clarify the constitutionality of individual gun owners’ rights. Only a tortured reading of the amendment makes it possible not to find an individual right to bear arms. The questioning by the Justices seems to have made that very clear.

The right to gun ownership has always been embraced by those who do not live within the confines of modern liberalism. There are vast areas of the country where non-ownership of a gun is considered to be a character flaw. Guns are not to be feared. They are a tool.

If the Supreme Court heard a case on press freedom I guess the New York Times would define that as a newly recognized right? It seems what really gives Ms. Greenhouse heartburn is that a decision confirming the second amendment’s clear meaning might diminish government’s ability to disarm citizens.

It appears that SCOTUS is walking a fine line with the appeal. The affirmation of the second amendment exposes all state and federal gun control laws to attack. The opinion must be carefully tailored and narrowed. If not, hundreds, if not thousands, of statutes would have to be defended. The costs would be astounding.