Thursday, June 30, 2005

Shelby Foote, RIP

I didn't realize it, but it's been over a week since I last blogged. And I can't let this event go without comment.

Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, I was mesmerized by Ken Burn's "Civil War" series. Part of the greatness of the production is the historical narrative and detail provided by Shelby Foote. After seeing the series when it first came out, I decided I needed to buy Mr. Foote's historical tome "The Civil War". My wife obliged, and I got it for Christmas almost 10 years ago. I devoured it within 3 months.

Shelby Foote's work will forever be the quintessential history of the Civil War. If you haven't read it, I suggest you do so. It should be required reading in every high school American history class. For that matter, it should be required reading for every American.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Och, this day inna historrry...

(posted from an e-mail at El-ahrairah's request. Of course, I had to edit it - CH)

On June 24th in military history….in 1314.

Scottish forces under Robert Bruce defeat English forces under Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn. In 1314, after 18 years, the Scottish rebellion started by Mel Gibson, er, William Wallace had liberated Scotland north of the river Forth. Stirling Castle, however, was still under English rule, and in the spring of 1314, the Scots under Robert Bruce had started to besiege it. The commander of the castle had agreed to surrender himself and the castle to the Scots if relief did not arrive by the end of June. Upon hearing this, the king of England, Edward II organized a force to relieve the siege of the castle and also put down the Scottish rebellion, once and for all.

The English force was quite large (40,000 men by some estimates) and arrived at the ford of Bannockburn, just south of Stirling Castle on 23 June. Robert Bruce wanted to fight the English at a place where the English would be forced into small area, thus negating their strength in numbers and where his schiltron (a circle of men with 15 foot pikes facing outward) could withstand the charges of the English knights. He had suspected that the English would travel by the old Roman road towards Stirling Castle and at the village of Bannockburn, where the road fords the Bannock Burn, he prepared to fight.

He hid his men in the trees on the other side of the Bannock Burn along the old Roman road where they would be able to swarm around the English knights in close quarters and prevent the knights from mounting any charges. However, a group of 500 knights tried to bypass the Scottish defenders through a gorge and make their way to the castle, but were discovered by the Scots who sent a force to block them. A small skirmish ensued with the English knights charging the Scottish schiltron and then retiring back to their lines when they couldn’t breakthrough. As the end of the day approached, the English forces retired across to a marshy area between the gorge and the River Forth which paralleled the old Roman road.

The original plan was that the Scots would fight the English along the confines of the old Roman road to Stirling, but with the English essentially across the Bannock Burn, this would not work. They were camped in a marshy area (a carse) between the Bannock Burn and the Pelstream Burn and separated from the Scots by a gorge. The gorge was not all that deep, but its sides were steep and would take some time for the entire army to cross. This meant that the battle would take place in the flat area between the gorge and the old Roman road. This was much more open than Robert Bruce had wanted, but it was either here or nowhere.

The morning of the 24th, the Scottish forces were already in position waiting in their schiltrons when the English started to cross the gorge. However, instead of attacking all at once and in an organized fashion, the English attack was piecemeal and disorganized, with many knights being killed when they struck the Scottish schiltron. As the English knights retreated, someone gave the order to the English archers who had just crossed the gorge, to start firing arrows. The arrows fell on the Scots, who were out in the open, but more importantly, they also fell on the retreating English knights, contributing to the confusion. The Scots had foreseen this development and a force of mounted infantry was sent out of the woods to attack the archers and route them off the field.

With the English knights in confusion and the English archers routed, the Scottish schiltrons started advancing towards the remaining English forces. Since the English mounted charges could not breakthrough the Scottish schiltrons, the knights were forced to fall back towards the gorge. Unfortunately, the English infantry were still trying to advance across the gorge to join in the fight, causing each force (the retreating English knights and the advancing English infantry) to block each other at the gorge. The relentless advance of the Scottish schiltron caused the English forces scatter and those who were not killed on the field of battle, crushed by the mass of men and horses in the gorge or drowned in the River Forth, tried to save themselves in a veritable “sauve-qui-peut”. Seeing that the enemy was routed, Robert Bruce gave the order to break ranks and give chase. The English king, Edward II, left the field of battle early, and after being denied entry to Stirling Castle (he was told by the earl commanding the castle, that since the Scots had held to their part of the bargain, he would hold to his), he barely escaped by boat to England.

The Scottish victory enabled Robert Bruce to re-establish Scotland as a sovereign state, although English recognition of Scottish Independence did not come for another 10 years. So now you know what happens at the end of Braveheart.

Now, go back and read this again, using an accent like the Famous Historian in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Or maybe with a Scottish accent, like Tim the Enchanter ("a grrrrrail!?")

Monday, June 20, 2005

There's one born every minute

Over the past couple of decades, Utah has been the destination for many upper-class, left-of-center California refugees. Having created a socialist worker's paradise in the Golden State, they now seek to escape the high taxes, oppressive regulation and cultural chaos they helped create in the 60's and 70's.

Of course, they didn't learn anything; upon arrival in the Beehive State they immediately support liberal politicians, who in turn seek to duplicate the conditions they just fled.

Anyway, since these people often have far more money than sense, it is only natural that they would soon attract all the camp followers that fed off their largesse in California. Today it is official: Utah has its first "Pet Psychic".

Words fail me.

The Terri Schiavo autopsy report is released

Since Captain Holly was so outspoken during the countdown to Terri Schiavo's court-sanctioned killing, it's only fair to ask what he thinks about the recently-released autopsy report.

Because the MainStreamMedia has reported only their spin on the story, I took all preliminary reports with a shakerful of salt. From what Michelle Malkin has written, it's a good thing I did: The report hardly exonerates Michael Schiavo, and raises several important questions.

For one, Mr. Schaivo's claim that his wife had bulimia has been completely debunked. The coroner could find no evidence that Terri's collapse was due to bulimia, or that she ever had an eating disorder. This is a remarkable piece of evidence, which leads us to conclude that:

1. Michael Schaivo is a lying sack-of-s#*t (my vote);


2. Autopsies are quite useful for determining the condition of a person just before she died; they are less useful for determining the condition of a person 15 or 10 or even 5 years ago.

Now, I'm willing to keep an open mind and say that option #2 is the best explanation. I would expect, however, that those who claim that Terri was completely blind or brain dead and maintain her parents are simply unwilling to face the truth be just as open-minded.

I won't hold my breath, though.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Great idea. Agree 100%. Ain't gonna happen

Durbingate has produced calls for official Senate censure. While I agree with the sentiments, it simply ain't gonna happen.

For censure to occur, it would require Senate Republicans to use their backbones, something they haven't done for decades, if ever.

This Day in History (a little bit early)

(Posted at El-ahriarah's request, edited for spelling and grammar -- CH)

On June 24 in military history….in 217 B.C. Carthaginian forces under Hannibal Barca destroy the Roman forces of Consul Flaminius at Lake Trasimeno.

In 218 B.C., Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, marched his forces from Spain through southern France, across the Rhone river and over the Alps into northern Italy. After defeating a Roman army under Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus at the Battle of the Trebbia River near Piacenza in Northern Italy in December, 218 B.C, he went into winter quarters close to Bologna. The next spring, he started moving his forces south again towards Rome.

In the meantime, the Roman Senate had sent two forces north along the Via Flaminia under Consuls Caius Flaminius and Gnaeus Servilius Geminus respectively, to stop him. Consul Geminus stationed his forces at Ariminum (Rimini) on the Adriatic and Consul Flaminius stationed his forces at Arretium (Arezzo) in Tuscany. Hannibal was able to slip past the Roman forces by crossing the Apennine Mountains south of Bologna, crossing the Arno river at Fiesole near Florence and descending the Chiana valley south of Arretium (Arezzo) towards Perugia.

Whether by design (By Saturn! We will crush the barbarian between our two armies!) or by accident (By Jupiter! The barbarian has escaped the trap!), Consul Flaminius set off in pursuit while the forces of Consul Geminus moved south along the Via Flaminia in an attempt to stay between Hannibal and Rome. With one Roman force pursuing him and another blocking his advance to Rome, Hannibal decided to set a trap at Lake Trasimeno, near Perugia in central Italy.

To the north of Lake Trasimeno is a series of hills which overlook the lake. The road around the lake passes between these hills and the shore of the lake, creating a classic “chokepoint”. If attacked at this point, any pursuing forces would be caught between the attacking forces in the hills to the front and the lake to the rear. It was at this point that Hannibal deployed his forces in the hills above the lake with another force deployed across the line of advance as a blocking force, a classic “L” ambush. The pursuing Roman forces would be forced to march between his forces in the hills and the shores of the lake where the blocking force would stop the Roman advance while the forces in the hills above the lake would attack the Roman flank. Hannibal’s cavalry force would attack the Roman rear to keep them from escaping from the trap.

It normally takes a large amount of skill and training (and incredible stupidity on the enemy’s part) to make an ambush work and, unfortunately for the Romans, this one worked perfectly. The morning of the battle, there was a thick mist coming off the lake which obscured the battlefield. Consul Flaminius thought that Hannibal was at least a day farther ahead so he did not send any scouts forward and his forces were deployed in road march columns in order to make the best time. Just as the bulk of the Romans had marched into the “kill zone”, Hannibal sounded a general attack. The entire Carthaginian force came running down out of the hills and stuck the Roman forces from the front and the flank while Hannibal’s cavalry force “slammed the door shut” on the Roman rear. The Romans did not have time to form up in their normal battle array and were forced to fight were they stood. The Roman forces that were not killed by the Carthaginian onslaught were pushed into the lake where they were drowned.

The Roman forces numbered about 25,000 men and of those, 15,000 were killed outright with the other 10,000 drowning in the lake, including Consul Flaminius whose body was never found. The slaughter was so great that according to an ancient tradition, the name of the stream which runs through the battlefield was changed to Sanguineto which means “blood river”.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

He must be a Republican Mole

I've been so busy lately with family reunions and taking my kids to Lagoon I haven't had much time to blog, so I've missed some big news items, such as Senator Durbin confirming to everyone just what the Democrat Party thinks of our troops. Michelle Malkin is all over it, though.

I'll just say with enemies like this, who needs friends?

UPDATE: I want to add that despite my flippant attitude, I understand the seriousness of this. But I'm not shocked. Not at all.

This is what the Democrats truly think of the military. Durbin's comments are what they have been saying to each other since Viet Nam in their exclusive Hollywood fundraisers and Georgetown dinner parties. The only shocking thing about it is that they are so open and bold with their views.

I agree with Rush: Let Durbin talk. It's important that the American people understand what the Democrats really believe.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

New Blog on the roll

From Instapundit I found this gem of a blog. It will soon be added to the list of daily reads.

Mark Steyn, Sinologist extraordnaire

Via Insty, I found this extremely insightful piece written by Mark Steyn, who not only understands China better than most journalists but understands China better than most US State Department diplomats. If the Senate Democrats do succeed in derailing the nomination of John Bolton as UN Ambassador, Steyn would be a perfect replacement.

In my relatively short 40-plus years, I have seen the America-haters of the world (including many in the Democrat party) repeat the same tired prophecy of American decline. Every decade, though, they are forced to replace the country that stands to displace the United States as the World's Only Superpower.

For example, in the 70's it was the Soviet Union that was going to bury us. After the Soviets were in turn buried by the Reagan military buildup, then it was Japan that would destroy us economically. Alas, in the early 90's the centrally-planned Japanese economy began a decade-long recession that left those damn free-market Yankees without a competitor to the title of World's Economic Superpower.

Enter the Chinese, with their amazing transition from a planned to a (partial) market economy. For many on the Left, the Chinese are the best of both worlds: an economic powerhouse that redistributes wealth better than the Europeans. But as Steyn points out, market economies cannot function in a totalitarian state. Eventually, one will destroy the other. Either the Chinese will cease to be communists, or they will cease to be capitalists.

I'm betting on the former, but only after the latter has occurred. China is running headlong into a confrontation, not with the West, but with itself; one that will leave it in tatters, just as the Cold War left the Soviet Union as impoverished as it was in 1917. Hopefully, after the coming Chinese meltdown a new, freer society will emerge. But one thing is sure: America will still be on top.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Am I the only one blogging about this?

This story was all over the morning news as I ate my breakfast today, but both right and left sides of the blogosphere seem to be silent on it. Even the perpetually pessmisstic Andrew has no mention of it at all (probably because it doesn't directly relate to Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo).

There are some worrisome aspects about the story. Obviously, you can't fight a war for long without new recruits. You can't keep unit cohesion without well-trained NCOs. And there's the nagging possibility that the decline might be due to the public losing faith in the war and the military.

But historically speaking, this is par for the course. The War on Terror is the first major war since 1846 that has been fought entirely by volunteers. (Historical note: The Spanish-American War and the Gulf War do not qualify as "major wars" in the sense that both were over long before a draft was necessary).

For perspective, let's review America's use of the draft:

Civil War: The draft was first instituted, over protests of its constitutionality. Massive casualties made it necessary. It also was quite unpopular, unevenly applied, exempted the wealthy, and led to riots in New York City.

First World War: The draft was an integral part of America's war effort. My grandfather found that out first-hand, as he was drafted in late 1918.

Second World War: The Democrat Party's Great Patriotic War was fought by millions of draftees. In fact, the draft was in place prior to Pearl Harbor: It was part of the warmongering Roosevelt Administration's belligerent and unprecedented peacetime military buildup.

Korea: The draft was a constant feature of the first half of the Cold War.

Viet Nam: The draft lost it's steam, as many prospective recruits simply refused to show up. It was quite unpopular, unevenly applied, exempted the wealthy, and led to riots on college campuses across the nation. (sound familiar?)

In short, this drop in recruiting is to be expected. After the initial flush of patriotic pride, many young men become more reluctant to join as the casualty lists increase in length. Add to that a booming economy, and the military becomes a less attractive option.

This doesn't necessarily mean we need a draft; it does mean recruiters will have to get more creative and generous to overcome the reluctance of their potential recruits. While there may be clouds on the horizon, the sky is not falling.


Hopefully, my wife would agree

This is true, as anyone who has watched "Revenge of the Nerds" would know. (hat tip: kehaar)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Who is the most hated man in Utah?

Based on what newspaper columnists are saying, it's not Mark Hacking.

It's Dell Schanze.

Who is Dell Schanze, you ask? Well, for those Warren readers who are more than 25 years old, imagine Jim Varney's nosy neighbor "Ernest" character on speed. Schanze is arrogant, irritating, hyper, smug, loud, grating; you name a negative adjective, it probably fits him. He owns a successful computer chain and a gun shop, and is known for his outlandish advertising (example: "Gateway Computers are totally heinous pieces of garbage").

He's also ambitious, brilliant, market-savvy, and very libertarian/conservative, which goes a long way in explaining why Salt Lake's Establishment Media hate him so. Last week it was Holly Mullen of the Tribune who gloated over his recent arrest; this week Doug Robinson added his two cents. It's notable that neither columinst has said a peep about Mark Hacking recently.

But when Mr. Schanze got into legal trouble, they were on it like bias on PBS.

Schanze has always rubbed proper Salt Lake elites the wrong way. He dropped out of high school when he found he could make computers more cheaply than Dell, Gateway, or Compaq. He has been an outspoken champion of conservative causes, especially that of gun rights. He has refused to tone down his advertisements and continues to openly insult competitors. While it has not made him many friends, it has sold alot of computers.

(Full disclosure: I own a Totally Awesome computer. It has been everything it was advertised to be, and the warranty service from the company has been top-notch. Aside from a brief e-mail exchange years ago, I have never met Mr. Schanze).

As for this recent dust-up, I wouldn't be surprised if he were guilty. And if he is guilty, then he should be held accountable. High-energy people like Schanze are often prone to erratic behavior; it's part of their makeup. "Super Dell" didn't get where he is by working within the system. American history is full of iconoclastic types such as him, ones that ignore established practices and overturn conventional wisdom on their way to success. It's part of the reason why the elites of the world instinctively hate America: it's a place where ambitious, obnoxious drop-outs can get rich quicker than their Intellectual Betters.

So that is why two columnists from Utah's two major newspapers devoted a whole column each to a misdemeanor traffic incident, instead of a lurid homicide: Mark Hacking doesn't represent a challenge to any established order. Dell Schanze does.

Even More News You Won't Read at

From the Corner at National Review, I found this:

About 20 members of the group Act Up entered the cathedral and proceeded to perform the mock marriage in front of baffled tourists and worshippers, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.
One activist - dressed as a priest - pronounded the two women married, while other Act Up members chanted: "Pope Benedict XVI, homophobe, AIDS accomplice."

Given Andy's recent righteous outrage over minor desecrations of the Koran, you'd think that he'd be screaming about the violation of one of Catholicism's most beloved sites.

You'd be wrong, of course.

Now if conservative Republican evangelicals had stormed Notre Dame, yelling "The Pope is the Antichrist"....

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Judgement Day is coming

The sexual abuse case against Michael Jackson will soon go to a jury.

I've pretty much avoided commenting on the trial so far, simply because I don't really care that much about it. Not that I don't think Mr. Jackson is a weird pervert who is probably guilty of everything the prosecution is alleging; I just don't have much interest in high-profile celebrity trials.

However, that doesn't mean I don't think it's important. It is, and not just to obtain justice in such a weighty matter. No, I think the Michael Jackson verdict will produce significant effects in our society, especially on the Left Wing of the political spectrum. There are three influential elements of the American Left whose philosophies are on a collision course with each other, no matter what the verdict is.

There is the hyper-tolerant, if-it-feels-good-do-it wing of academia and the Media that have provided cover for the bizarre behavior of most Hollywood celebrities. If Jackson is found guilty, they would be forced to admit that in some people, being weird might just be a sign that the person is dangerous. Most normal persons who have watched Mr. Jackson's strange transmogrification from a black man into a white woman have rightly concluded that something's just not right with Michael. For the Tolerance Police, who were not able to condemn even the practice of a grown man sleeping with boys, a guilty verdict would be a clear repudiation of their "anything goes" attitudes.

However, if Jackson is found innocent, the militant, Black-man-can't-get-no-justice types who helped him play the race card will have to answer to their communities. Michael's not very popular among most African-Americans, largely because they view his many plastic surgeries as a sign of his loathing of his own race. Unlike OJ, he's not "one of them", and so there will not be any widespread celebrations at his acquittal. Instead, they will wonder why their community leaders cried racism to help a wealthy pervert beat a child molestation rap.

Finally, the group with the most to lose are the angry, all-men-are-molesters, children-never-lie feminists. For them, a "Not guilty" verdict would be a disaster. They have labored long and hard to create a Kafkaesque, guilty-until-proven-innocent kangaroo court system that treats child abuse allegations as beyond reproach. If the jury in such a high-profile case determines this was just a case of extortion, it would be a significant defeat for them. In this case, the child's own testimony was indirectly corroborated by other witnesses. If they can't get a jury to side with them in such a slam-dunk case, then they are losing influence indeed.

So who is the ultimate winner in this case? No one. Not the victim, who will be reviled by Jackson fans if he is found guilty. Not Mr. Jackson, who will forever be viewed as a pervert, no matter what the verdict is. Not the people of the State of California, who will have to endure appeal after appeal by the Jackson lawyers. No one wins.

But there are some guilty parties who are not on trial here, and I think they are the ones who bear the ultimate responsibility. If the parents of the children who visited Neverland had been even the least bit vigilant, none of this would have happened. That may sound harsh, but as a parent there would have been no way in Hell I would have let any of my kids spend the night at Michael Jackson's house unsupervised. Up until 30 years ago, most parent's wouldn't have.

But sometimes, money and celebrity trump common sense. And this whole mess is the natural result.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The bottom line IS the bottom line

Just hours after I read about a boycott of Ford by a conservative group, I found this over at Fox News.

Although the boycott is obviously not responsible for Ford's recent troubles, it does provide a likely clue to their slump. Manufacturers survive by selling enough of their products at a reasonable profit. Contributing money to some gay cause du jour may please the liberal shareholders and the Media, but it won't add to the bottom line.

If Ford wants to survive in a competitive auto market, they need to worry more about selling cars than performing social engineering.