Charles Oliver - Econ/Media-Boy
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Charles C. Watson - Science/Tech-Boy
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Ron Campbell - sushi-bait.
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Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his day job where he works the education beat and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.

Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest. Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.

Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out the on-line journal of Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.

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Shoutin' across the Pacific
Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
Monday, March 31, 2003
40 Greatest, Part Deux. Here's the second part of my list of the greatest men in country music history.

11. Buck Owens. Buck owned the country charts in the 1960s, and his Ranch Show was the highest rated country music TV show in the nation. He was a triple threat as singer, songwriter and guitarist. For a long time, buck didn't get his due, thanks largely to all the years he spent on Hee Haw, but that has changed.

12. Ray Charles. This was the biggest omission on the CMT list. Ray is best known as an R&B singer, of course. But, against the advice of his record company, he went country in a big way in the 1960s. those albums are some of his, and country's, best.

13. Elvis Presley. His early Sun recording were considered country. Those alone would get him a spot on the list, but I also consider much of his comeback material from the late 1960s ("Suspicious Minds," for instance) to be country, too.

14. Jerry Lee Lewis. After Ray Charles, the second biggest omission on the CMT list. Again, Jerry Lee's classic work at Sun was as much country as rock. And after he wrecked his rock career, Jerry Lee found a home in country music. (Think about that). "What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out of Me)" is just one of the greta country songs he recorded after his comeback.

15. Hank Williams Jr. Once had seven albums in the country top 40 at once. If they'd had SoundScan back in the 1970s and early1980s, he would have been as big as Garth Brooks.

16. Lefty Frizzell. The first country star to wear rhinestones. The man George Jones and Merle Haggard tried to copy when they first started singing. Lefty wrote his classic "I Love You a Thousand Ways" as an apology to his wife while he was in prison on statutory rape charges. Did I mention that Lefty was one of Country's great sex symbols?

17. Flatt and Scruggs. Everybody knows how great Earl Scruggs is. But I think that Lester Flatt someines doesn't get his due. Lester was one of the great singers, and if you don't believe me, check out the Flatt and Scruggs cover of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" or "doin' My Time."

18. Webb Pierce. Another huge omission from the CMT list. Webb had a thin nasally voice. He wasn't a great singer, but he was one of the best stylists Country music ever had. It didn't hurt that he had Mel Tillis writing his songs and Bud Isaacs playing steel guitar.

19. Bob Wills. Great fiddler. Great Songwriter. Great bandleader. Melded jazz and country.

20. Conway Twitty. I struggled really hard over where to put Conway, and I'm still not quite sure he deserves to be this high. But only George Strait has had more #1 hits than Conway, and commercial success counts for something. Conway had a growly bartione that drove the women wild, but he played to his "loveman" image way too much. Conway's story is well known. Minor rockabilly star and the model for Conrad Birdie. Switched to country and had huge success. His early coutry records contain several gems (often written by Twitty) such as "Hello Darlin'," "Linda on My Mind" and his classic "You've Never Been This Far Before." But he spent the last 15 years or so of his life and career wasting his talents on commercially successful junk. Conway made a very successful career out of recording what were little more than dirty-joke songs such as "Don't Call Him A Cowboy (Until You've Seen him Ride)." That's why I'm still not sure if I've got him in the right place.

posted by Charles at 8:04 PM

Sunday, March 30, 2003
The Greatest. Now that CMT has done its list of the greatest men in country music history, I'd like to offer my own suggestions. To recap, here's CMT's list:

1. Johnny Cash
2. Hank Williams, Sr.
3. George Jones
4. Willie Nelson
5. Waylon Jennings
6. Merle Haggard
7. Garth Brooks
8. Conway Twitty
9. George Strait
10. Alan Jackson
11. Alabama
12. Buck Owens
13. Randy Travis
14. Roy Acuff
15. Elvis Presley
16. Bill Monroe
17. Vince Gill
18. Charley Pride
19. Kenny Rogers
20. Hank Williams, Jr.
21. Ernest Tubb
22. Eddy Arnold
23. Roger Miller
24. Flatt & Scruggs
25. Brooks & Dunn
26. Tim McGraw
27. Bob Wills
28. Chet Atkins
29. Glen Campbell
30. Ronnie Milsap
31. Lefty Frizzell
32. Charlie Daniels
33. Jimmie Rodgers
34. The Eagles
35. Mel Tillis
36. Toby Keith
37. Ricky Scaggs
38. Gene Autry
39. Dwight Yaokum
40. Travis Tritt

Coming from CMT, the list is packed way too much with video-friendly singers who, to be blunt, were chosen more for the way they look in tight jeans than their vocal abilities. There's no way Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson or Toby Keith belong anywhere near a top 40 list.

Here's my picks:

1. Jimmie Rodgers. He's the father. Without him and the Carter Family, there is no country music. Apart from his historical sigificance, his work as a singer and a songwriter still stand up today.
2. Hank Williams. Along with Merle Haggard, the greatest songwriter country music has known. One of its greatest singers, and for better or worse, the man whose personal life many stars seem determined to emulate.
3. Merle Haggard. One of country's two greatest songwriters. (See above.) And, along with George Jones, one of its two greatest singers.
4. George Jones. Only Hag can touch him as a singer, and he's an underrated songwriter.
5. Johnny Cash. The only man in the Rock and Roll, Country Music and Songwriters halls of fame.
6.Willie Nelson. He can sing it all, and if you've ever seen him in concert, you know that he will sing it all. Sometimes, he 'll even sing the same song his band is playing.
7. Bill Monroe. How many people can say they singlehandedly invented a new musical genre?
8. Roy Acuff. During World War II, his popularity was so great that Japanese soliders taunted American POWS with the cry "Fuck Babe Ruth. Fuck Roy Acuff. Fuck FDR."
9. Enrest Tubb. He didn't invent honky tonk, but he came darn close. He took string music and electrified it, and he was one of the first to popularize cheating and drinking songs.
10. Waylon Jennings. A great singer. An underrated songwriter. The man who busted down the old Nashville machine. And a seriously funny man. Johnny Paycheck once called him in the mid 1970s and said "Waylon, I's with you guys." Waylon: "What do you mean?" Johnny: "I'm an outlaw now." Waylon: "That's great, John. What'd you do, steal some antique furniture?"

That's the top 10. More to come.

posted by Charles at 2:13 PM

Saturday, March 29, 2003
Vindication? Several months ago, I blogged on charges that war games in an Iraq-like country had been rigged to validate the pet theories of DOD planners, not to actually prepare for war. (Go here and scroll down.)

Now, Slate says the Iraq war is proving the man who made those charges, retried Marine Gen. Paul Van Riper, was correct.

posted by Charles at 9:22 PM

Weather and War
Posted some maps showing the effect of weather on combat ops.

posted by Chuck at 11:37 AM

Friday, March 28, 2003
Intel Dump. I've been meaning to link to Phil Carter's blog for a several days now. Now that Instapundit has already done so, I guess I will, too. check out this post in particular.

posted by Charles at 7:31 PM

Thursday, March 27, 2003
Monitoring the War, continued
I've had several interesting conversations with colleagues in and from Europe (old and new) as well as other parts of the world over the last few days. There is a remarkable uniformity of opinion that the US media has in effect become an arm of the US military and government. "Propaganda merchants" was a phrase I heard more than once. Another phrase I heard, again more than once, was that there is no more free press in America, especially with respect to reporting the war and homeland security matters. Even those who agree with US action in Iraq are soundly critical of US media reporting, and are afraid that in the long run this will undermine the long-term war and recovery effort. They are also afraid that the high degree of cooperation between US government and media are undermining the independence of the media, and at some point will result in a backlash. The widespread use of former high ranking military officers is, in the minds of most, very suspicious. As one pro-US European diplomat I spoke with put it, "there is no such thing as a former flag officer". (Flag - general or admiral).

Interesting perspectives, and I think there an element of truth in some of this, although I suspect that the SECDEF would like to order a muzzle for a certain former drug czar and commander of the 24th Mech . . .

Chris Suellentrop comments on the TV Generals, and includes a link to McCaffrey's remarks.

posted by Chuck at 2:12 PM

I've heard the words "unprecedented" used several times regarding the speed of the US advance in to Iraq. Well, in the Africa campaign in WWII, Rommel advanced over 200 miles in 6 days against the British, a much tougher job than US forces against Iraq. The British had comparable or greater advances against the Italians early in the campaign, which is probably a more fair comparison in terms of quality ratios. In see-saw battles across deserts, long advances and retreats are not uncommon.

Not trying to put down US efforts, but come'on - lets have some perspective here . . .

posted by Chuck at 1:55 PM

King Roy Is Definitely Gone. Sonny Perdue got his butt kicked big-time when his plan of hiking Georgia cigarette taxes came to a vote. None of the Whitfield County delegation voted for it. His emotional townhall meetings Saturday got him no votes, and according to some reports actually drove the wedge between him and Republican lawmakers even deeper. Perdue says he hasn't given up his dream of hiking cigarette taxes, but the resounding nature of the defeat means it isn't likely he'll get his way.

The legislature now has just 11 days to find about $1 billion in budget cuts.

posted by Charles at 10:08 AM

Monday, March 24, 2003
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
The Iraq from Space page has had lots of mentions lately, such as on MSNBC's Weblog Central, which coined the phrase "satellite blog" to describe it, the Christian Science Monitor, and NPR/WNYC's On The Media (which is really a reahash of Avi Zenilman's plug.)

The Knoxville News Sentinel groups us with Centcom as a blog. Ok.

As noted earlier, lots of European interest, including this German site for journalists which has generated a ton of hits on the site. something called "20 Minutos" in Madrid, and this site in the Netherlands.

Lots of hits from the Blogsphere as well. Very entertaining to browse the referer log on the server.

posted by Chuck at 6:09 PM

Sunday, March 23, 2003
Bowling Alone. Michael Moore turned his Oscar acceptance speech for best documentary into a diatribe against the war and against President Bush. No surprise there.

But the reaction from the audience was. There was a smattering of applause at first, but it quickly turned into loud boos. Even those who weren't booing had pained looks on their faces by the time the band played him off the stage.

A few minutes laterl, host Steve Martin got perhaps his biggest laugh of the night when he joked,

"It was so sweet backstage. You should have seen it. The teamsters were helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo."

Update. Thanks to the magic of videotape, here's Moore's acceptance speech

On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan from Canada, I'd like to thank the Academy for this. I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to — they're here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition (sic) of duct tape or fictition (sic) of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up. Thank you very much.

posted by Charles at 11:58 PM

More Taxes. Sorry, I forgot to link to my story about Sonny Perdue's trip tp Dalton.

posted by Charles at 11:52 PM

Republican Tax Hike. State Rep. Calvin Smyre, a Democrat and chairman of the House Rules Committee, said this about Republican calls for a tax hike to balance the Georgia state budget:

The Republican leadership is trying to justify a tax increase by accusing the Democrats of being irresponsible for the past 10 years. However, at the same time they complain there is "no waste to cut" in state government, and we need a tax increase. This is an irrational argument and the ultimate failure of leadership.

posted by Charles at 7:53 PM

Saturday, March 22, 2003
Tax Hike Tour 2003. Sonny Perdue spent the day trying to drum up support for his budget plans. I'll have a piece on his Dalton stop in tomorrow's paper. But thanks to the AP, you can see a preview of it now. In Newnan, Perdue apparently came close to tears as he talked of the need for higher taxes.

posted by Charles at 9:47 PM

Monitoring the war
For the last couple of months, I've tried to float the idea of establishing an independent capacity to monitor the war via satellite. Nobody would even return my messages. Then the war starts, and I tried to post some images based on the meager assets at hand (only two passes per day, etc.), and the response has been overwhelming, as anyone who tried to get to my site can attest . . . these images have appeared on sky news, bbc, netherlands TV, etc.

The sad thing is that we could be doing so much better. My original idea would have obtained 10 to 12 images a day, at much higher resolution, enabling damage assessments, much greater accuracy in assessing oil fires, etc. Charles can probably comment on this better than I can, but the pack mentality in big-time journalism, especially in the US, causes them to miss out on providing real information, rather than just pretty pictures. For all the talk about "scooping the competition", they are amazingly reluctant to try something different. I negotiated with one major US entity for two days, to no result. I cleared things with a major european outlet in a single 5 minute phone call. Another problem seems to be the "pennywise, pound foolish" syndrome, where they will spend millions on marginal matters, but object to far smaller sums for a better payoff in terms of information. Just ranting . . .

posted by Chuck at 12:58 PM

Friday, March 21, 2003
Yep. Reader Domenic Anghelone points to statement from Junichiro Koizumi:

The U.S. is the only ally providing Tokyo with deterrent power against any foreign country that could threaten regional security, such as North Korea, and the Japanese people should never forget it.

posted by Charles at 11:48 PM

Human Shield changes Mind. A Palestinian cleric in High Point, NC, who organized a group of human shiled now Iraq says he has chenged his mind and won't join them.

"I feel like we achieved our objective," he said, "by sending eight people from America to go as human shields.

posted by Charles at 9:01 PM

Iraqi-American. Here's my latest piece, an article on a local Kurd.

To be blunt, this could have been a much better article. But I only found out about the man at 4:30 p.m yesterday. That didn't me much time to interview him and write it. (I'd really have like to talk to the rest of his family, too.) Throw in that I'd already been at work on other things since 8 a.m. and the fact I have a terrible cold, and things just didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. Still, it gives a perspective we haven't been hearing much of and it adds a local angle, and it's not that bad.

posted by Charles at 12:09 PM

Thursday, March 20, 2003
Flash: Iraq blowing the wells?

Are the Iraqi's blowing the wells south of Basra? Significant signature change over the last 24 hours . . .

posted by Chuck at 8:22 AM

Northwest Georgia Residents. Gov. Sonny Perdue will be holding a townhall meeting at Dalton State College's Memorial Hall Saturday at 9 a.m. He's trying to drum up support for his 400% increase in cigarette taxes. Let him know how you feel.

posted by Charles at 7:36 AM

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Not-So-Wiseguy. Thanks to Domenic Anghelone for pointing out this essay over on I seem to recall Murray Rothbard writing pretty much the exact same thing in a review of "The Godfather" when it came out.

As I've noted before, Rothbardianism is more anti-state than it is pro-liberty. So it isn't surprising that its adherents tend to embrace and lionize those who oppose the government, especially the U.S. government. They glorify the CSA, so why not the Mafia?

(Vito Corleone0 uses this violence with restraint. Yes, he persuaded the bandleader who had signed his godson to a personal services contract to release him by making him "an offer he couldn’t refuse" by threatening his life: "He assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on that contract." But don’t forget that he had been there the day before offering ten times the money that he later did, and the bandleader unreasonably refused. The same thing happens with the movie director. The Don first offers friendship and to do him some specific services, but the director refuses reason, and wakes up with a horse’s head in his bed.

Lest you think that Rothbardians have simply been swept into sympathy with Vito Corleone by the pwoer of Marlon Bradno's performance and the skill of Francis Ford Coppola's direction, this is what Rothbard himself had to say about the real Mafia:

Organized crime is essentially anarcho-capitalist, a productive industry struggling to govern itself; apart from attempts to monopolize and injure competitors, it is productive and non-aggressive.

Tell that to the unions whose pensions were looted or the businessmen who were forced by gang-controlled companies.

Rothbardians may love "the Godfather," but Rothbard himself panned "Goodfellas." This is what he said of that film

Instead of good versus bad entrepreneurs, all working and planning coherently and on a grand scale, GoodFellas is peopled exclusively by psychotic punks, scarcely different from ordinary, unorganized street criminals. The violence is random, gratuitous, pointless, and psychotic; everyone, from the protagonist Henry Hill (Ray Liota) on down is a boring creep; there is no one in this horde of "wiseguys" or "goodfellas" that any member of the viewing audience can identify with. The critics all refer to the psycho gang member Tommy (Joe Pesci), but what they don't point out is that everyone else in the gang, including the leader Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) is almost as fully deranged.

In other words, he hated it because it showed the Mob the way it really is, not the way he wants it to be in his anti-state fantasy.

Rothbardians think "The Godfather" is a tale of heroic anti-state entrepreneurs. Coppola himself saw the film(s) as an indictment of capitalism. In their pursuit of profits, the "entrepreneurs" destroy their customers, each other, and ultimately, themselves.

I've always thought that "The Godfather" movies, despite, Coppola's Marxist intentions, actually make a powerful case against tradition and family values and for embracing assimilation.

Michael Corleone is the central figure of both films. (I try to forget that a third was even made). They are really the story of his downfall. When we first meet him, he is the golden boy: a handsome war hero with a beautiful girlfriend. We later learn that he enlisted in the military despite his father's wishes to fight for his homeland. And as he describes his family's business to his girlfriend, we se that he feels, at the very least, some distaste for it.

Michael has a bright future ahead of him, and his family knows it. They try to protect him from it. But his downfall begins when his father is almost killed in an assassination attempt. Michael, understandably, protects him, but that's the first step in getting further and further involved in the family business, an involvement that eventually costs him his wife and child and the future that looked so bright. If he'd denied his family, walked away when he could, things could have turned out very differently for him, but he didn't. Instead of embracing America, he embraced his heritage, and that destroyed him.

posted by Charles at 11:44 PM

The Perfect Storm. Regular readers know I love three things in life, politics, professional wrestling and heavy metal music. Here's an item that combines all three. Tony Halme, who wrestled professionally in the U.S. and Japan, has been elected to Finland's parliament. (You may remember Halme as Ludvig Borga in the WWF in the 1990s.) Halme was a pretty big star in Japan, but never amounted to much in the U.S. He also dabbled in professional boxing (he went 13-6) and ultimate fighting without much success. He was also in the terrible live action version of "Fist of the North Star" and had a bit part in Die Hard 3.

I don't know anything yet about the policies he advocates, but I'll let you know if I find out more.

And what does this have to do with heavy metal? Halme is also one of the biggest Finnish-language metal stars in the world, or at least Finland.

posted by Charles at 8:10 AM

Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Misc. Hits
The Detroit Free Press has an article discussing Iraq War web sites, linking to the Iraq from Space page.

Domenic Anghelone was kind enough to send a picture and Reuters photo of the farmer (Dwight Watson) who drove a tractor into the mall and is holding off the cops with possible explosives. To answer his question, he's no relation that I know of.

posted by Chuck at 1:36 PM

Fat, White and Whiny. Michael Moore says the Oscars are rigged to keep "Bowling for Columbine" from winning for best documentary. Let's hope he's right.

posted by Charles at 11:11 AM

Monday, March 17, 2003
Willard. Got to see the remake the remake of that killer mouse film last night. It wasn't that bad, nor was it great. It really was more of a psychological drama with some black humor than a true horror film.

Glen Morgan and James Wong, who wrote some of the better episodes of The X files, produced this. And Morgan wrote and directed it. It doesn't stray too far from the plot of the original, so if you liked that one, you'll probably like this one, and if you didn't, well, this one probably won't grab you.

Crispin Glover was okay, but R. Lee Ermey was hilarious.

posted by Charles at 7:27 PM

Travellin' Soldier. The Dixie Chicks latest hit is a very good cover of Bruce Robison's song "Travellin' Soldier." But in light of Natalie Maines's comments in England, some have suggested that country radio play Robison's original or Ty England's earlier cover of it instead of the Chicks' cover. At least one local radio station has said it will. This doesn't bode well for them.

I haven't heard England's cover, but Robison's original is pretty good.

posted by Charles at 12:42 PM

Sunday, March 16, 2003
No Irish. Discrimination against the Irish may not have been as widespread, virulent or long-lasting as conventional wisdom holds.

And in any event, the prejudice wasn't all one way. The late professional wrestler Ralph "Ruffy" Silverstein had a unique way of making money back in the 1930s. He'd walk into an Irish bar and announce "There's a Jew in this bar." Sure enough, some of the patrons would always take exception to that fact and try to start something with Silverstein. Meanwhile, a confederate Ruffy had previously planted would start taking bets. Silverstein wasn't partiularly big, but he was a former NCAA wrestling champ who'd grown up brawling in the streets. And he was one of the men that promoters used to "police" the other wrestlers and keep them in line. Of course, the people in the bar didn't know that.

Invariably, the bar would bet on Silverstein's opponent or opponents, and he'd clean the house out physically. His partner would clean up financially, and they'd later split the money. I'm told they tried the stunt in bars dominated by other ethnic groups, but none of them could so reliably be counted on to try to fight him as the Irish.

posted by Charles at 2:02 PM

Smoked Out. Local retailers aren't impressed with Gov. Sonny Perdue's calls for a big tax increase.

posted by Charles at 1:38 PM

Worst-Case Scenario. One of the planners of the first Gulf War isn't terribly optimistic about the second.

posted by Charles at 12:44 PM

Saturday, March 15, 2003
No fires yet . . .
Started putting some near real time low res views on the Iraq page. Not much to see yet but sandstorms and clouds.


Actually, this view of the Middle East this afternoon (Saturday) is pretty spectacular. Can see from Cyprus to the Persian Gulf clearly.

Restructured the Iraq from Space pages to gear up for the war. Have images from this morning (Sunday 16 March 2003), and will try to update daily unless they shut down the satellites or somebody comes up with $ for exclusive rights and serious graphics, instead of this "playing around" . . .

posted by Chuck at 5:32 PM

More Chicks. It didn't get as much attention in the mainstream press, but last year the Chicks picked a fight with Toby Keith over his song "Courtesy Of The Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)."

Natalie Maines kicked things off by telling a radio interviewer:

I hate it. It's ignorant and it makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire culture -- and not just the bad people who did bad things. You've got to have some tact. I think it feeds people's stereotypes about [our] country and that everybody's a redneck and ignorant, and that the way we're going to deal with something is in an uneducated way.

Remember, Natalie, you've got to have some tact.

Emily Robison followed up, saying the song:

I think it feeds people's stereotypes about [our] country and that everybody's a redneck and ignorant, and that the way we're going to deal with something is in an uneducated way."

posted by Charles at 5:08 PM

Fat and Stupid Is No Way To Go Through Life. Natalie Maines has apologized for her remaks about George W. Bush. I might buy the apology if it had come before she saw just how angry her fans were, or if here first remarks after the uproar broke didn't reiterate her intial insult.

Regardless of how you feel about the war or about Bush, an intelligent person should have seen this coming. Maines had neither the smarts to realize what she said would be controversial, nor the cojones to stand by her views. She should stick to singing.

posted by Charles at 1:26 PM

The paramilitary Police
This article in the St. Petersburg Times provides some interesting insight in to a problem I've ranted about before, that of Law Enforcement trying to play commando with military hardware instead of doing their real job. In fact, as noted in the article, the standard military tactic is to use a "three shot per trigger pull" mode for personal rifles, and only use "full auto" for SAW's and vehicle mounted weapons. You just can't aim a hand held rifle in full auto. If you are exposed and 50 guys are charging you, OK - maybe full auto makes sense, but even in most military cases, you want to use aimed fire, and any rifleman worth the name will use single shot mode for anything other than suppressive fire.

I can't envision a situation where routine LE needs a fully automatic weapon. Maybe (maybe) a case can be made that a few officers in tactical units in major cities need them, and should be extremely well trained in both tactics and use, but 99% of police officers don't have the training and, more importantly, shouldn't have the attitude to need them.

posted by Chuck at 9:12 AM

Friday, March 14, 2003
Are You Nuts? Howard Stern is suing ABC. That's Howard Stern the radio guy, not Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer.

Like Stern was the first to come up with the idea of obnoxious people judging others solely on their looks. Ron, if you remember, some fratboys at UGA used to set up a table in the big dining hall (Bolton?) and hold up cards as girls walked in, rating their looks on a scale of 1 to 10, like figure-skating judges. That was over 20 years ago. Maybe the guys at Interfraternity Council should sue Stern..

posted by Charles at 11:52 AM

The Elephant in the Living Room
I was going to post a series on why massive military intervention in Iraq was a bad idea, commenting on a few reasons that seem to have been lost in what has passed for a discussion on this matter. The Pro-Big-War crowd has done a good job of connecting being opposed to Big-War is the same as "coddling dictators", and that offends me since while it is a good tactic, it isn't true. But I've lost a lot of time due to my mother's illness, then my father-in-law was diagnosed with a rather nasty form of cancer, and events overtook the discussion. As noted earlier, the Rubicon has long been crossed: we must proceed.

But there is one point that seems to still be relevant, and it is a major difference in worldview between us and the world, and a primary cause of our problems in the UN. The arguments over Iraq and Saddam Hussein have boiled down to if the regime is complying with UNSC resolutions, and to a lesser extent to if he is actually disarming or not. The fundamental legitimacy of the regime has never been questioned, except in speeches for public consumption and commentary by conservative pundits. In the UN, you will never find regime change mentioned, for good reason: by our standards, virtually all of the 159 countries in the UN are illegitimate, and had we made an issue of the fact that the Ba'ath party regime should be changed for that reason, we would only get four votes in the UNSC instead of the, ah, four votes we have. Some, like George Will argue that this makes the entire organization illegitimate, but I'm not willing to go that far, as from my experience the technical agencies do a fairly good job in most cases.

Unfortunately, the difference between our public pronoucements regarding regime change, and our continuing cooperation with the UN position that if Hussein will only cooperate with inspections he can be welcomed in to the family of nations makes us look hypocritical. Well, actually it is hypocritical. And weasels like France use this disconnect against us by scaring other nations that we have a secret agenda to remake the world in our image and toss out all regimes that don't cooperate with us. If only that were the truth.

In our world-view, there is no such thing as a permanently legitimate government. Although we have continuity, we have a tradition (sadly dying) that we can overturn our government whenever we want: preferably by election, but by force if needed in extremis. The Clinton administration was the most insidious, power-hungry, out-right evil American administration in my lifetime (which includes Johnson and Nixon - two pretty strong characters). Yet his cronies left power, in a situation that in most nations would have triggered a civil war, and Clinton himself is now doing point-counterpoint with Bob Dole - certainly my vision of Hell, even if the pay is good.

The rest of the world, especially the UN diplomatic community, does not share this view. Virtually all governments are equally legitimate, and once recognized, it is impossible to "unrecognize" them. Thus, France, Camroon, and Iraq are all "equal" to the US in the sense that they are all valid governments with sovereign rights. Very few governments have lost that UN sanctioned legitimacy, and then primarily for "politically correct" racial or socialist reasons (white South Africa, Taiwan, and Israel - arguably all, even the former SA, far more moderate towards their "oppressed" majorities/minorities than, say, North Korea, China, any Islamic country, most of Africa, etc).

The reasons France opposes us has been detailed at length elsewhere: economic connections to Iraq, sense of self-importance by a former world power, and just because they are French. But what the rest of the UN fears most is that the US is setting a radical new standard for measuring the legitimacy of governments: that they not have absolute sovereignty to oppress and kill their own people (or others), and that we will create democratic governments and open markets. This is a dangerous threat to 99% of current governments - both those who are oppressive, and those who profit from oppression.

It may also backfire on us. If the populations of Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia were not contained by oppressive governments, they would be far greater threats to us than they are because the populations of these nations have been radicalized by traditional Islam. But I think that, on balance, the risk of liberation is worthwhile. Yes, Iraq is a threat to us, but I think not so much as has been advertised, and certainly less than other threats in the world. There have been noises from the administration that regime change for the sake of regime change is what we are really up to: I hope it is, and I wish we were more up-front about it rather than using the fraud of "disarmament" as an excuse.

posted by Chuck at 8:27 AM

Thursday, March 13, 2003
Freudian Slip? My Reason colleague Jesse Walker reports a couple of interesting quotes from Jonah Goldberg.

And does anyone think that Goldberg looks like a pudgier, slightly more butch version of E! channel gossip reporter Ted Casablancas?

posted by Charles at 11:50 PM

Some People Call Him The Space Cowboy Okay, so the guy who apparently kidnapped Elizabeth Smart was a survivalist streetpreacher. Worst of all, he seems stuck in the 1970s.

Derrick Thompson said his stepfather told him he had taken "10 hits of LSD and talked to God out in the desert" several years ago. "They said they weren't on drugs, but we think that was a lie. We think that's how he could communicate with God. That and listen to the Steve Miller Band."

posted by Charles at 2:00 PM

A massive strategic error
I've posted before that I felt that using UN resolutions as a primary public reason for attacking Iraq was a bad idea. UN resolutions, be they security council or GA, aren't worth much in my view, as most nations freely ignore or follow them as is in their interests. But once we had gone that route, and got tacit "permission" to go in under 1441, I just simply don't understand why we even floated the idea of a "second" resolution. A better approach would have been to simply declare Iraq in violation of 1441, invoke the self defense clause, and go for it. That would have put France et al in the position of introducing and passing a resolution revoking 1441 and/or positively asserting Iraq was complying with it, a much more difficult proposition than their current position, that of being obstructionists.

By the way, I disagree that the UN is worthless, as many conservatives argue. The technical agencies such as WMO do a good job for the most part in coordinating multilateral activities and fostering international coordination and cooperation. The problem is in the SC and GA.

posted by Chuck at 12:53 PM

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Poor Philip Michael Thomas. The last I heard of him, he was suing some psychic hotline for back wages or something. Meanwhile, Don Johnson is walking around with $5 billion. (No, that's not a typo.)

Update: The AP is reporting that the total value of the cash and securities was $8 billion. Either someone is very bad with math or Johnson's earned a lot more from that album he did in the 1980s than I thought.

posted by Charles at 4:09 PM

Hormesis. No, it's not a canned-meat company. It's the theory that small doses of things that would be poisonous in larger doses is actually good for you. I first came across the idea in the the old Access to Energy Newsletter. Ron Bailey describes some of the latest research supporting the theory.

posted by Charles at 10:18 AM

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
A Request. If you are a smoker or a retailer who sells tobacco products and live in Whitfield, Murray, Catoosa or Walker County, Georgia, I'd be interested in talking to you for a story I'm doing on how people in those two groups will react if the state does indeed raise tobacco taxes. Just e-mail me at address on the left-hand side of this page or leave your contact info in the "Shout Back" section below.

posted by Charles at 1:34 PM

The Big One
If the MOAB test goes off today as planned (between 1 and 6pm ET), we'll be watching from satellite on the Iraq page.
Looks like high clouds obscured the test. Oh well - that's how it goes.

posted by Chuck at 11:48 AM

Good News
Aviation Week has been doing its usual excellent job of coverage of new weapons systems like HPM's, aviation related issues with Homeland Security and Iraq, and an especially good job in reporting on the Columbia investigation. The subscription isn't cheap, but if you are in the aerospace community it is an essential resource.

posted by Chuck at 8:46 AM

Bad News
I've been disappointed with the "war reporting" dished out on TV thus far. Last night's story on HPM (high power microwave) weapons on the Fox Report was typical. Bad information and worse analysis from some retired LTC that wouldn't recognize an HPM if it bit him on his butt. Graphics and commentary indicated that HPM's could "disable all of the electronic equipment in a city". Wrong. The current generation of HPM's have a very limited effective area - a little something from high school physics we call the inverse square law, that limits all energy weapons, even nukes (they just release a lot of energy). Many of the so-called "military experts" toss around a few T-Shirt slogans and let that pass for expert commentary. Example: some retired Marine NCO was being interviewed about Marine tactics. The best he could come up with was If you run from one of our snipers you'll only die tired.

Aside from the irritation it causes me, the danger here is that people get a false idea of what this war will involve. Many of these issues are complex, and few Americans have an appreciation of the military arts. The news media, largely ignorant of military issues specifically and technical issues in general, are doing the nation a grave disservice by this shallow, slogan filled, and often just plain wrong reporting.

posted by Chuck at 8:35 AM

Sunday, March 09, 2003
Small Town News. I've been lazy about linking to my work in the Citizen lately. But here are a couple of my latest stories. This one looks at several high school students who are going to be studying in Mexico. The Georgia project has been brining Mexican teachers to Whitifield County for several years to teach and sending local teachers to Mexico to study at the University of Monterrey during the summer. This is the latest expansion of that exchange program. The studdents are now going to Mexico for a week, and Mexican students are cmoing to Whtifield County for a week. But the plan is to eventually move to semester-long or year-long exchanges for the students.

And here's an article on Georgia's budget situation. Gov. Perdue is still pushing tax hikes, but no one seems to be buying.

posted by Charles at 10:03 PM

Fatwa Watch. It has been a long time since I did this feature. i gues no one should be surprised that Muslim religious scholars say that Islam commands believers not to go to war with Iraq or to aid those who do or to serve in their armies.

You also probably won't be surprised to find that "Old School" is rated completely unacceptable for Muslims, but "Gods and Generals" is rated rather acceptable.

posted by Charles at 7:23 PM

Two School Systems. Dalton High School, like most high schools in the area, offers several diploma tracks. It has a vocational/technical track, a college-prep track and an International Baccalaureate track. It also offers AP classes, though it doesn't offer a formal AP diploma.

The high school recently decided that it wanted to abolish the "regular" English, math, science and social science classes. Students in the vocational/technical program will now have to take college prep classes for their core requirements.

When the adminisrators presented their plan to the school board, the board was concerned that this would result in a dumbing down of the college prep classes. The school presented several steps it would take to prevent that. Among them, it will require that teachers with the most seniority and most advanced education themselves will have to teach the college prep classes, not the more advanced classes such teachers normally prefer.

In Chattanooga, Hamilton County high schools are considering a similar change, and in contrast to Dalton, the plan has been met with a great deal of public opposition and a great deal of skepticism from the school board. But the concern there isn't that the classes will be watered down. Far from it, people there fear that many of the children in the vocational track won't be able to handle college prep classes and that forcing them to take those classes will increase the drop-out rate.

posted by Charles at 6:28 PM

Saturday, March 08, 2003
Judge For Yourself. Here's the article that Mel Gibson was complaining about. Gee, I wonder why he'd be upset that they talked to his father.

posted by Charles at 5:03 PM

Friday, March 07, 2003
Inspector's Reports
Submitted for your consideration: I've been watching the reports and UNSC ministers comments off and on this morning/afternoon. One observation: all three of the cats that live in our house have been riveted to the TV, staring intently at the spectacle. They seemed especially interested in the comments of the Spanish Minister, Ana Palacio.

Not sure what this means, but I'm sure it means something.

posted by Chuck at 1:09 PM

Thursday, March 06, 2003
The Road Worrier. Mel Gibson says the New York Times is trying to paint him as pope-hating conspiracy freak.I don't know much about Gibson's religious beliefs. But I did read the interview he did with Playboy a few years back, and, well, let's just say he was very convincing opposite Julia Roberts.

And scroll down the link to the bit about Christina Ricci. Given that there's apparent nudity in that film, I'm glad they cast Charlize Theron, but she doesn't look anything like Aileen Wuornos.

posted by Charles at 12:24 PM

Wednesday, March 05, 2003
Cry Profit!, and loose the Hucksters of War!
Our ever-alert reader Domenic Anghelone sends this link to a Fortune article on Private Military Contractors, aka "Beltway Bandits", including the much (and rightly, in my view) maligned Dyncorp. As noted in the article, these companies raise all sorts of questions of international law and the "rules" of war, not to mention operational concerns for DoD.

There are lots of accountability and sustainability issues surrounding PMC's that haven't been thought out as carefully as they should have. There were many areas in DoD that should have been privatized, but I think the trend has gone too far with private companines providing front line operational support. Hopefully Iraq II: Unfinished Business will help work out the questions without discovering upleasant answers.

posted by Chuck at 11:40 AM

Monday, March 03, 2003
Anarchy, State and Immigration. Okay, there are some libertarians, mostly affiliated with the Mises Institute, who are vehemently opposed to immigration. I've read a bit of their stuff, mostly attempts to justify their anti-immigration stand. I know what they are against. But can anyone tell me what they are for?

The mainstream nativist lobby wants national ID cards and a national database to match employees and employers to keep people from hiring illegals. They want to militarize the borders and to require strict checks of everyone who comes into the country.

Most, if not all, of those things seem to violate libertarian principles. So how do the anti-immigrant libertarians propose to keep people out?

That's not a rhetorical question. I really want to know how they think they can avoid all of the problems of the drug war and Prohibition in their efforts to stifle immigration.

posted by Charles at 9:38 PM

Global Impact. I've got a review of two new books by George Soros and Joseph Stiglitz in the latest Reason.

posted by Charles at 9:32 PM

Nice work, if you can get it.
BBC Reporter Michael Buchanan filed this report on southern attitudes towards the war. And he just happened to end up in the Big Easy just before Mardi Gras. Coincidence, I'm sure . . .

Speaking of such, a house (corner Washington Ave and Harmon Drive, for anyone in Savannah) is flying a frog flag and a small sign saying "No War". I am accepting suggestions for a banner (I have a wide format plotter) to hang across from this house. It should include the phrase "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys" or equiv., and may include graphics. Winner (if any) gets a sewing kit lifted from the Al Rashid Hotel, autographed picture of me in front of a portrait of Saddam Hussein, or some other valuable (cough) artifact from Iraq.

posted by Chuck at 5:53 PM

Sunday, March 02, 2003
Happy Trails. Bob Brandy hass passed away. That name probably means nothing to most of you. But if you grew up in the Chattanooga area in the 1960s and 1970s or in the Columbus, Georgia, area before that, you'll have fond memories of the singing cowboy and his popular children's show. My parents took me to see Bob once in LaFayette, and I got to ride on his horse Rebel. That's still a fond memory of my childhood.

posted by Charles at 9:47 AM

The Memo
Drudge is linking to this alleged email that "reveals" US spying on UNSC memebers. Drudge points out a number of inconsistancies in the message, such as the use of British spellings. I have two immediate reactions. First, the British spellings are not an indication, in my view, since the email was obviously transcribed from some other source. The word processor used (especially if from the Evil Microsoft Empire) may well have changed them automatically. Second, So What? Anybody surprised that we are collecting all of the information we can on this matter is pretty naive.

That said, I'm suspicious of the authenticity of the message. I absolutely trust the British. But why wouldn't NSA be collecting info on the Brits? It would be irresponsible not to do so - I'd want every indication I could get to make sure Tony or his staff didn't "go wobbly". Likewise, if I were the Brits, I'd be collecting data on the US to make sure that we were not about to be left in the lurch and no secret deals were being made. And given the attitude of many in the State Department, I'd be monitoring them like they were French . . .

Everybody spies, Everybody lies. That's the rules of the game.

posted by Chuck at 8:08 AM

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