Monday, May 31, 2010

ZOMG! There's a man with a gun!

Oh never mind - it's the American Legion Honor Guard. Hundreds of people turned out for the parade, and nobody panicked at all the Open Carry. Even in Massachusetts.

But all the kids who grabbed the spent cartridge cases after the 21 gun salute are now felons. Probably all the veterans in the Honor Guard are accessories, too. They clearly do not have the proper moral character and good judgment to be granted a firearms license by the Government.

Memorial Day, small town Massachusetts

Europeans think that a hundred miles is a long way. Americans think a hundred years is a long time.
- Unknown
I live in the heart of bluest Blue State America, but this town has earned its place in the Nation's Honor Roll with the blood of its veterans. The town dates way, way back - to the Seventeenth Century, in fact. So do its veterans. Today, I want to show you just how much this town has to remember, and be proud of.

While Veteran's Day is for remembering the fallen veterans, most of these pictures are from the local town Burying Ground, of men who survived the war and returned to live out the rest of their days. However, for each who returned, there's another buried in soil far from hearth and home.

As far as I know, there are no honored dead from Iraq and Afghanistan. At least, I don't remember any news, and haven't seen any graves. But the War On Terror has not left the town unscathed.

Three of the town's citizens were on American Airlines flight 11 to San Francisco, that September 11 morning. That one hits pretty close to home, because that's the flight I used to take to The Coast, back when I worked for Big Tech Company.

Desert Storm is represented, not by a combat casualty, but by someone who died too young.

When I was young, the old soldiers were from World War I, and the young soldiers were going off to Vietnam. Now the Vietnam veterans have become old in turn.

Like most of these pictures, this was not a combat casualty. Like my Uncle Dick, this soldier returned to his family.

World War II makes up the second largest group of veterans in this cemetery. One couple were both veterans, he in the Army and she in the Navy. Now they lie side by side, each with a flag decorating their grave.

Grandpa was in the army during the World War, and Dad still has the flag that draped his coffin.

Cpl. Hunt was actually a combat casualty (or perhaps died of disease) in the Spanish-American War. He was brought home to lie under a War Department headstone.

The single largest group of decorations is for the men who fought in the Grand Army of the Republic. There sure are a lot of these.

I couldn't find any markers for the Mexican War. It seems that the Army was too small, and recruited from places far from here. But there are two men who fought in the War of 1812.

But Pride of Place is reserved for the Minutemen who marched to Concord. 58 flags mark the veterans of the Revolution, watched over by the town monument to them:

There were more than 58 on that day - several hundred in fact. Most moved away, or are buried somewhere else.

But they weren't the oldest veterans. A hundred years before the unpleasantness with His late Majesty George III, the town came within a hairs breadth of being wiped out by 800 Indian warriors under King Philip. Captain Wadsworth and 28 militia under his command fell to a man, but so thrashed the Indians that the town was saved.

This was the biggest combat loss in the town's history, and dates from 1676 when the frontier extended only a few miles to the west of here.

Three and a third centuries of men from this one town answered the call of Country - and in some cases, King. That's a tradition to be proud of. But not all who fall are returned to their families like Cpl. Hunt, or are buried among their families in the ground hallowed by their own valor. On this Memorial Day, remember all the fallen but especially those in lonely (or unmarked) graves, far from home.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Aretae, about the void at the core of the Progressive vision:
Almost everything the government does (in reality, not in a progressive fiction) benefits either large business (or their partners, the large labor unions) or else government. Because government action is force-based interaction, it tends to be zero/negative sum. And if it's pro- large business or government, one should assume that it's anti- small business or citizen.
Actually, he's simply been on fire lately:

- Government phone banks being useless to help the victims of sex trafficking, the Internet community steps up.

- What we know from experience will actually reduce health care costs, and how ObamaCare likely outlaws it.

- Musings on top-down vs. bottom-up political systems.

Really, just go read everything he's written in the last couple days. That's one smart dude.

Peggy Noonan is dumb as a box of hammers

But Borepatch, I hear you say, she writes for the Wall Street Journal. She was a speech writer for Ronald Reagan fer crying out loud. Dumb?

Yup. As a box of hammers. She wrote a mystified Op-Ed about Obama:
He Was Supposed to Be Competent
I have to say that I don't much follow Powerline any more - it's a bit too conservative for my tastes, which run more towards Insty's this-country-would-be-better-off-with-hapily-married-gay-couples-with-closets-filled-with-assault-weapons. But hey, that's just me. There's no denying that the gents over there are indeed wicked smaht, and they bring the condescension in 55 gallon drums: Why would anyone have expected competence?
What is curious is that quite a few people did think that Obama would be an especially competent president. Why? What evidence was there that Obama would be a skillful administrator? Before becoming president, he had never in his life run anything more substantial than a Senate staff. His executive experience was closer to zero than that of any president in memory.
In fact, the only president with an equally thin administrative resume was Jack Kennedy*, and he almost got us into World War III, and did get us into Vietnam.

So to the question of Peggy. Her article is, in fact, packed to overflowing with smart. So how can she be dumb as a box of hammers? Because she just put her naiveté on display for all to see. She bought the smoke and mirrors, the unicorns playing underneath the rainbows, the whole sham. Obama was, of course, a member of her own Intellectual Elite class, and she was dumb to give him a pass because of that, but dumber to tell us that she had.

Peggy, please take a seat in the back next to David Brooks.

* Jerry Ford was an exception. He never would have been elected President in the first place, as the election of 1976 demonstrates.

Lawn 1, Borepatch 2

Ah, the sweet smell of victory. Smells like gasoline.

And grass pollen ...

Lawn 1, Borepatch 0

It's harder when the self-propulsion drive goes out. The battle will be rejoined later today.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quote of the day

From #1 Son:
First comes Pop-Rocks, then comes marijuana, then comes cocaine, then comes heroin, then comes LSD. What a great example of good parenting.
He has video to prove it. The snark is strong in that one ...

Missing Man

Photo Credit: Borepatch. Owl's Head, ME Air Show.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
- Rudyard Kipling, Tommy

Radney Foster - Angel Flight

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.

- Inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Virgina

War is a serious business, in which young men and women sometimes die. Some lie in foreign soil, far from their loved one's reach. Some are never found, and are listed as "missing" - a wound that never quite heals for those they left behind. Lately, most have been brought back home, to help their families find closure, and for us to honor.

But not to forget.

Country music is perhaps unique among this nation's art forms in that it doesn't forget. Radney Foster sings of that final ride home, of those who make the trip, the quick and the dead.

Angel Flight (songwriters: Radney Foster, Darden Smith)
All I ever wanted to do was fly
Leave this world and live in the sky
I left the C130 out of Fort Worth town
I go up some days I don't wanna come down

Well I fly that plane called the Angel Flight
Come on brother you're with me tonight
Between Heaven and earth you're never alone
On the Angel Flight
Come on brother I'm taking you home

I love my family and I love this land
But tonight this flight's for another man
We do what we do because we heard the call
Some gave a little, but he gave it all

I fly that plane called the Angel Flight
Come on brother you're with me tonight
(Come on brother you're with me tonight)
Between Heaven and earth you're never alone
On the Angel Flight
Come on brother I'm taking you home
Come on brother I'm taking you home

Well, the tarstrip's quiet and the stars are bright
Feels kinda like church in here tonight
It don't matter where we touch down
On the Angel Flight its sacred ground

I fly that plane called the Angel Flight
Gotta hero riding with us tonight
Between Heaven and earth you're never alone
On the Angel Flight
Come on brother I'm taking you home
Come on brother I'm taking you home
Come on brother I'm taking you home
Come on brother I'm taking you home
This Memorial Day weekend, remember those who gave that last full measure of devotion for the rest of us. Those that came home, and those that didn't.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rangeblogging with JayG

Playing hookey.

Verbs make bad Trademarks

When your brand name becomes a generic term, it's bad news for the brand. It's doubly bad for the brand when the name gets turned into a verb. Here's why:

Fortunately (for Google) this is a spoof. But Trademarks have been ruled to be unenforceable if they become used as general terms. If that happens to your brand, it's, err, evil.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'd like to just point out ...

That Alan is on a roll. I was going to post on the idjits at the Economic Advisors and the War On Bacon and the surprise finding that government spending raises unemployment, but he beat me to it.

C'mon, man - leave some blogging for the rest of us ...

1000 words

Over at MacBourne's Musings. The only explanation, of course, is that this is the fault of Chimpy McBushliter.

I gotta start carrying around a pocket copy of the Constitution and a Sharpie, for the next time I'm talking to a leftie.

Added to the blogroll.

Democratic Defense Department pork

Authorized by a strongly Democratic Congress, to the tune of Billions of our dollars. On display for your despair edification over at The Gormogons (which you really should be reading every day).

Just how much has the Democratic Party turned into the Party of Government? They won't even cut Defense waste.

"Get off my lawn" starts young, these days

Those wacky kids! And it's never too early to start your Mid Life Crisis.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Are video games bad for children?

I have to admit, they bring up some pretty good points here.

Via #1 Son's new blog, which he assures me will get updated more often than his old blog. Pretty funny stuff there, actually. Also check out his Daily Motion channel, as he's making videos.

The kids are all right

Wolfwalker left a pretty interesting comment to my last post, on the Liberal Crackup:
With all due respect, are you sure this isn't wishful thinking? Polls show that 40 percent of voters still support Barry Lackwit, and almost as many still support LackwitCare. I don't know how many belong to the "don't cut MY stuff, cut somewhere else" faction, but I'm guessing at least another 10-15%. Combine the two, and you get a majority that will oppose the changes that need to be made in order to actually undo the fascists' program. And the gods only know what will happen if those changes are made and don't yield instant improvement.

Consider also that a large chunk of the electorate consists of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, many (perhaps most) of whom grew up under leftist control, conditioned to believe that government is always the solution. Will they support the wholesale changes that are needed to avoid collapse? Or will they succumb to the liberal siren song "mend it, don't end it"?
It's not just him who thinks this, either. It's a serious question - Greece is looking at street riots as they try to do precisely what Wolfwalker describes, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better.

Here's why I think that the left's support in general and Obama's support in particular is very, very weak. It boils down to marketing. Obama won the 2008 election against a terrible opposition candidate, by a modest margin. He did so based on an appeal to change the way business is done in Washington - essentially, he garnered a lot of votes from people who hate politicians, by painting himself as the anti-politician.

Now, they see that he's precisely like all the other politicians. And that sort of brand damage is weakening him at exactly the moment that his program is energizing his opposition.

Pew Research:

Support among youth for the Democratic Party has dwindled to 54 percent as of December, compared with 62 percent identifying as Democrats in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center study released Wednesday.

Youth identifying as Republicans increased from 30 percent to 40 percent in the same time period.

"This is a generation of young adults who made a big splash politically in 2008," Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center and co-author of the report, told the Associated Press. "But a year and a half later, they show signs of disillusionment with the president – and, perhaps, with politics itself."

48 percent of respondents said Obama had failed to bring change to D.C.

Harvard Institute of Politics:

Harvard's Institute of Politics released the latest results from its ongoing survey of young adults this morning, and they don't look good for Democrats. As in the rest of the population, President Obama remains personally popular (56 percent approval), but support for his individual initiatives, like health-care reform, is much weaker. Only 38 percent of young people (defined as 18- to 29-year-olds) approve of the president's handling of the deficit, and a majority disapprove of his economic management (51 percent) and his work on health care (53 percent). Young people are unimpressed with congressional Democrats, with only 42 percent approving of their performance. That's still higher than for congressional Republicans—who have a mere 35 percent approval rating—but Democratic approval is down 6 points since last November, which is a worrying trend going into the midterms.

The worst sign for Democrats is voter enthusiasm. Young voters are a critical demographic for both the president and Democrats in Congress. They were the key to Obama's success last cycle, both in the primaries and the general election. Young voters arguably pushed him over the top in Indiana and North Carolina—two significant states in his victory over John McCain—and, going all the way back to January 2008, they handed him his very first victory, in the Iowa caucuses. This year only 35 percent of young Democratic voters say they'll turn out in November. Young Republicans, on the other hand, are significantly more enthusiastic, with 41 percent saying they definitely plan to vote. Among those who voted for John McCain in 2008, 53 percent told Harvard they were certain to vote this year, while only 44 percent of Obama voters plan to cast ballots. And those who disapprove of Obama's job performance are more likely to vote than those who approve.

Young people may be (are?) more idealistic than us crusty old cynics, but they're also much less forgiving to politicians they think lie to them. Is Obama in that category? I'm not sure anyone's asking this in polling questions, but the numbers are pretty clear - young people simply don't see Obama the same way they saw him in 2008. Probably they can't - nobody can survive that kind of inflated expectations.

But that just means that his support is waning just when his opposition's is waxing. This doesn't mean that he's through by any means, as Wolfwalker accurately points out. What it means is that if Obama is to recover, he will need to re-invent himself to appeal to the center, just like Bill Clinton did in 1995. That would mean, of course, the complete jettisoning of his old "Hope and Change" messaging, which will hurt him even more with young voters and the left core of the Democratic Party.

The country has been split roughly in thirds for years: Democrats, Independents, and Republicans (it's actually more like 30%/45%/25%). It's simply not possible to build a governing coalition by running to either the right or (as Obama has tried to do) the left. There aren't enough votes there. He can get enough residual support from his core to get to 40%, but that just won't be enough to govern. Add in the enthusiasm angle (his support is increasingly "soft", and his opposition is increasingly "hard"), and it's a bad moon rising for him, even with all the indoctrination.

This is all speculative, but if November is a disaster in large part because the youth vote simply doesn't turn out, we can expect to hear leftists advocating laws requiring everyone to vote.

The Liberal Crackup

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian political theorist and Communist during the early part of the twentieth century. His ideas about the importance of the Intellectual Elite led to what is called "the Long March Through the Institutions", where leftist ideology gradually takes over the key intellectual institutions - film, the media, Universities - as a means of fostering social change.

It's fair to say that by the 1990s, that march was complete. The education system, Television, movies were safely bastions of leftist thought, with any few remaining islands of non-left thinking (say the College of Engineering) safely marginalized. At this point, the left were finally free to indoctrinate at will, to mold society in their image.

The election of 2008 is perhaps the greatest success of these institutions, where a combination of news media propaganda, University group-think spoon fed to students, and a glittering collection of Hollywood stars led to the election of Barack Obama, the most liberal president in history. The ground had been carefully prepared, and now the left could finally complete the transformation of the Country, as Gramsci had predicted.

It hasn't worked out that way. Certainly Obama has had some legislative victories, but at terrible cost. Maybe a million people have taken to the streets in protest, in the Tea Party movement. Even if a supine news media downplays or simply refuses to report these events, it's clear that the careful preparation of the Intellectual battlefield have not had at all the expected result. The Intellectual organs do not seem to be pushing the country in the desired direction. On the contrary.

The Long March Through The Institutions is complete, but the results are not what were expected:
The only conclusion we can reach is that the Long March Through The Institutions has effectively destroyed the Institutions.

At what should be the height of the Intellectual's power under the Obama Administration, they are being rejected by the country. And so they're cracking up, like Woody Allen and Tom Friedman dreaming about a Dictatorship. Roger L. Simon suggests why:
They sense — and Woody and Friedman sense with a different reaction — that the Culture Wars are turning. It’s partly the Tea Parties, but it’s more than that. It’s the zeitgeist. The times, they are definitely a-changin’. Liberalism, as we have known it for decades, is on the defensive. With the welfare state unsustainable, it has nowhere to turn and its adherents are turning tail in every direction. They are mad and they are, in many cases, unmoored. Lifetime ideologies are beginning to crumble. Personality constructs are at risk.
Gramsci was wrong, at least for America. We don't care about Intellectualism, and never have. All the dreaming and wishing that America "becomes more like Europe" is empty. Not happening, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

The crackup isn't pretty. Bush wasn't supposed to win, and we saw Bush Derangement Syndrome. Obama did win, but we still see Palin Derangement Syndrome. Charges of "racist" and "sedition" are tossed around, to general derision. At what should be their moment of final victory, it's all turning to dust.

Will the last people to leave the Institutions please turn out the lights? We're trying to be Green and Save the Planet ...

UPDATE 3 June 2010 10:57: Welcome visitors from Tam's place, and she's quite correct: you should also read this and this and this. I've focused here on the Great Tyranny, the one on the national level. The petty tyranny of the local school board or zoning council is another post or ten. You should also read this follow-up post that was triggered by Wolfwalker's excellent comment here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rifle scope want

I make no bones about my (ahem) modest marksmanship abilities. This looks like just the ticket:
US military trials have found that a laser beam shone on the target can do more than just determine the range: it can also be used to "measure the average down range crosswind profile". The laser information can be combined with automatic readings of temperature, humidity etc and a "ballistic solution" computed.

Then a set of artificial crosshairs can be generated in the rifle showing where the bullet will actually strike. These can then be moved onto the target. Alongside the crosshairs is a constantly updated readout of how reliable the calculated aim point is and how likely it is to shift during the time the bullet is in flight (perhaps several seconds at long ranges). This lets the sniper choose the right time to shoot.

DARPA's "One Shot" program is expected to deploy next year.

The 13 Vendémiaire of the Government Class

The French Revolution was Utopian, in the sense that advocated a near total overthrow of traditional social structures, and replacement with rational (lucide) substitutes. For example, the calendar was entirely revamped, with different names for the months ("Brumaire" from brumme, or fog; "Vendémiaire" from vendange, or grape harvest).

This sweeping restructuring of society relied not just on the intellect of the Revolutionary leaders, but on the strong arm of enforcers to cow the opposition, and in the Paris of the 1790s, that meant the Mob.

The ancients described in detail where that led, and so it was no surprise to find the Parisian Mob lead to the Terror that devoured the leading Revolutionaries: Hébert, Danton, and finally Robespierre himself. The Royalist opposition decided that two could play at that game, and brought their own mob to Paris. On October 5, 1795 (13 Vendémiaire of the Year 3 under the new Republican calendar), a young general Napoleon Bonaparte dispersed the mob with a "whiff of grapeshot".

The American Revolution, while equally radical, had taken a very different path. It was perhaps best described as "Practical" rather than Utopian. Americans had a distrust of intellectuals then, that has continued down to this day; despite Thomas Jefferson's suggestion that the Tree of Liberty's need to be refreshed by the blood of Patriots and Tyrants, George Washington dispersed the Mob on this side of the Pond.

Blogfather JayG writes of the latter day mob, terrorizing a teenager in a Washington D.C. suburb:
This is a frightening series of events on many levels. It represents true democracy - mob rule - in that this group of goons made a concerted effort to intimidate, harass, and otherwise physically threaten someone simply on the basis of the job they perform. It's a chilling glimpse into the future where a protected class - in this case a labor union - is allowed unchecked aggression simply because they agree with the cause. There are reports that DC police accompanied the protestors - if that is the case, every single officer who was there, along with the supervisors who authorized it, should be fired and prosecuted for aiding and abetting criminal action (trespass, at the very least).
This isn't the first example, either:
It's street muscle to back up the lucidité of the Intellectual Elite, embodied in the President of Harvard Law Review the United States. And make no mistake - the intellectual elite is sympathetic: Woody Allen and Tom Friedman are waxing wistful for the Iron Grip of Dictatorship:
So, Allen and Friedman–and others who have kept their faces before us for 40 years by coasting on the work of their youth, because they’ve done nothing memorable, lately–are feeling the shifting sand beneath their feet, and they’re wondering why America can’t simply submit to a fantasy of Limited Dictatorship. It’s so inconvenient for these elites to have to deal with the noise of the bourgeoisie – commoners who presume to opine on anything and who dare to object to the incessant lecturing from their betters.
But this isn't Greece, with a history of petrol bombs in the streets and the Colonels in the Presidential Palace. Jay sums up a uniquely American* view:
If this is the direction they choose, it will lead to bloodshed. At some point there will be another "protest" like this one where someone panics and cranks some 00 buck into the crowd.
The problem that the entire Intellectual Class faces is that they are selling a Utopian world view to a country that has traditionally rejected Utopian visions. Street muscle won't help advance the cause, but will simply accelerate the collapse on the Intellectual Class and its thugs. The Mastodon Main Stream Media is doing its best to ignore these stories (and in my mind, what isn't a story is the clearest proof of media bias), but they're just accelerating their own irrelevance. With all the talk of "violent" tea partiers and all the studious ignoring of violent leftist and union goons, the story can't be bottled up.

And the story is: Americans don't like the mob, and don't like those who rely on it.

This November is the most important election of my lifetime. The American people have to show those on the margins - the do we join in the violence, or turn a blind eye to it folks - that they're on the losing side.

* Unique when compared with the rest of the world, of course. I don't believe that this is at all unique here.


At least it wasn't 127/8 ...

Climate Smörgåsbord , vol 1, no 3

Save the environment, clear cut the Forrest.

When you think about replacing fossil fuel electricity generation with renewable sources like Solar or Wind, you need to find a place to put the collectors. Denmark has established aggressive national goals for wind generation, and has found the perfect place to site the near-thousand foot windmills: a National Park that they're going to clear cut:

The Danish environment minister Troels Lund Poulsen decided, on behalf of the government, on 30th September 2009, that the clearing of 15 km2 of forest in the north west of Denmark will take place. A test centre for the development of offshore windmills is planned to take up 30 km2 of land in the Thy region, near Østerild. This deforestation will create an increase of 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emission, the equivalent of the CO2 emission of 100,000 people per year.

The government will force the local population out of their homes. The reasoning behind this is said to be for the benefit of the Danish windmill industry, which will in turn create more Danish jobs. The regulations to finalise the evictions goes against Denmark’s constitution and is therefore clearly illegal.


The Danish government has not consulted properly about the plans. The Danish citizens had little time to put forward comments of the project. The hearing has only been 11 days long, with 9 of those being a national holiday.

Well of course they planned the public hearings when everyone is on holiday. Otherwise, people might have asked all sorts of embarrassing questions. Can't have a bunch of tree huggers getting in the way of saving the environment!

Oh, and now that it's clear what a disaster is the Spanish "green power" program that Obama used as a model, this bold action by the Danish government must now be the inspiration for the coming US "green" revolution.


Create Jobs! Quintuple the price of Electricity!

That Spanish Green Power program that's bankrupting the Spain.Gov? Seems even the Germans can't make it work:
he German solar subsidy is something like 50 cents per KwH — to give one a sense of scale, the typical electricity price from fossil fuels there or here is something like 8-10 cents per KwH. Subsidizing just 20% of US electricity production at this kind of rate would cost $50 billion a year. Subsidizing all production would cost a quarter of a trillion dollars a year.
Let's see: if you wanted to add 100,000 "green" jobs, a quarter trillion dollars means you could pay each person $2.5M a year. Man, this environmentalism thing sure sounds lucrative! Where do I sign up?


Public acceptance in climate warming scare continues to plummet.

Yeah, I know - dog bites man:

Climate agnostics now outnumber true believers who believe radical action is required for the first time, according to a YouGov poll.

The number of people who acknowledge scientific opinions differ has risen from 25 to 33 per cent, while the number who believe global warming is "a serious and urgent problem and radical steps must be taken NOW to prevent terrible damage being done to the planet" has fallen 10 per cent to 28 per cent over a year. The number of respondents who declare that they're "very interested" in global warming has fallen from 31 per cent in 2007 to 18 per cent.

Yeah I know - this is the UK. So how does the American public feel about it?
Only about a third (32%) says it is very important for Congress to address climate change in the coming months, including 47% of Democrats, 29% of independents and 17% of Republicans. This is consistent with earlier Pew Research surveys that show the public putting a relatively low priority on addressing climate change.
People dig the idea that their electric bills will quintuple. Yeah, sounds like a great time to muscle Cap-And-Trade through Congress. Note to Contemptible Democratic Party: when you're in a hole, stop digging.


The Theory can't be wrong, the Data must be, part XLVII.

Carbon Dioxide levels before the last Ice Age were 5 times what they are today:
The CO2 folk are flummoxed. In the current issue of Science (14 May) William F. Ruddiman of the University of Virginia wrings his hands over the mismatch between unchanging carbon dioxide levels and the drastically cooling climate over the past 20 million years. “Major glaciations began in the Northern Hemisphere around 2.75 million years ago, after a long prior interval of climatic cooling,” Ruddiman says, “… but our understanding of the driving forces behind the cooling remains incomplete.” [emphasis in original - Borepatch]
But we have to act on CO2 right now!!!!1!!one!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Your moment of Zen

#1 Son has been practicing his camera moves.

UPDATE 24 May 2010 18:42: The direct-upload-to-blogger didn't seem to work. Posted via Youtube now.

Deuce Bigalow, Blogger Gigolo

Shamelessly stolen from Stacy McCain:
South Carolina conservative blogger Will Folks confesses to having once, er, dated the married Republican gubernatorial candidate he’s been promoting:

Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki.


At any rate, if GOP candidates think they can impose on me for sexual favors — trying to cop a feel in the backseat, telling me that they’ll “respect” me in the morning — they’re sadly mistaken. I’m not one of these blog-floozies like Will Folks, who lets sex-starved Republican women use and degrade him to satisfy their depraved lust.


As to the Folks-Haley rumor, Erick Erickson sums it up best:

It’s a Rule of Nature: Hot Women Don’t Have Affairs With Ugly Poor Guys

I've heard the term "whoring for hits", but this seems to be a little (ahem) literal. RTWT, which will make you LOL.


Short of a Police State, how do you maintain law and order? It's simply too expensive to have cop on every street corner (particularly with the public sector pension problem); instead, police rely on a layered approach to public safety:

1. Deter. If criminals reasonably believe that they are likely to be apprehended and successfully prosecuted, some simply will not commit crimes that otherwise they would. This stage is the most valuable in the entire process: not only do you save on the costs of pre-trial and post trial incarceration (not to mention the cost of the trial itself), the public does not bear the private costs of loss of life, health, or property. This stage is a massive win, if it's effective.

2. Prevent. If you can't keep the criminal from committing the deed, the next best thing is to stop him just as he is beginning his attempt. Not only do you "catch him red handed", if you catch him before he causes private damage, those costs are minimized. This clearly isn't as good as the previous stage, but it's better than nothing.

3. Detect. It's said that the "perfect crime" is the one that is never discovered. If you have a criminal class, you don't want them to think that they can (repeatedly) get away with serious crime. Catching the bums and throwing them into Durance Vile will at least get a known bad apple off the street.

The essential strategy behind Rudy Giuliani's "Broken Windows" policing was to shift resources from #2 and #3 to #1. Deterrence has a massive force multiplier effect.

That effect runs both ways, though, when resources are shifted away from deterrence. Not only are immigration laws not enforced, but many cities actively prevent them from being enforced, for political reasons. Boston is one of those cities, where both the city and the state have made it impossible for the police to inquire about immigration status.

So what should we expect to happen as resources are shifted from deterrence to prevention and detection? Less effective policing, resulting in higher rates of crime, injury, and death. And what do we see? Just this, happening not only to the great unwashed masses, but to the Ruling Class as well:

[Massachusetts] State Rep. Mike Moran of Brighton was rear-ended by a suspected illegal immigrant this week. The suspect was wearing a Mexican costume at the time of the crash where he slammed into Moran at 60 mph.

The suspect, 27-year-old Isaias Naranjo, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a valid license. According to the report, when told of the serious charges he would be facing, he just laughed.

The system is a laughingstock. While Mr. Naranjo likely reacted from his prior fortification with Dutch Courage, he has ample reason to think that he will suffer no serious consequences:
A default warrant was issued for the arrest of an elderly Rhode Island man today after he failed to show up for his arraignment on charges of groping a young boy in a Raynham supermarket.

“I’m shocked - completely shocked,” Raynham Police Chief Lou Pacheco said of Valerio Rodriguez’ no-show at Taunton District Court today.

Raynham police had charged Rodriguez, 71, of Providence, a Market Basket janitor, with indecently touching a 4-year-old boy in the store’s bathroom on June 1.
I'm shocked - shocked - that Mr. Rodriguez had returned to his native Guatemala. So riddle me this, Batman: why should Mr. Naranjo fear consequences for a DUI fender bender when there are no consequences for sexual assault on a child?

[What's that? You say that the victim this time was a member of the Ruling Class? Full marks to you for your keen grasp on the workings of the system, but remember that we're discussing police deterrence. As such, your perceptive thought is off topic.]

So what happens to the idea of deterrence when it becomes known to all that the laws will not be enforced? Let's see: the Times Square Bomber is said to have been aided by a man from Boston. A man with an interesting history:
In an alarming example of how sanctuary cities can protect terrorists, a Pakistani man arrested for the Time Square bombing admitted on a city license application that he entered the U.S. illegally and authorities took no action.

That’s because he applied for the cabbie license in a state (Massachusetts) that openly protects illegal immigrants from deportation. Local law enforcement agencies throughout Massachusetts have don’t-ask-don’t-tell policies regarding illegal aliens and in this case the Boston Police Department has for years known that the terrorist, So Pir Khan, was in the country illegally.[My emphasis - Borepatch]
The libertarian side of the blogosphere dismisses this as irrelevant:
Truth is, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native Americans. Most come here to work, and in their desire to stay, they are generally afraid to do anything that might draw the attention of armed people wearing badges.
What's missing from this analysis? How many come here not to stay, but to make some money before "going home"? How many come to stay, but not to assimilate - rather, to remain inside a comfortable non-American social bubble where Anglos are seen as outsiders or even oppressors?

What do you lose when this happens? Social cohesion, a shared sense of community, and (sometimes) a reluctance to view society as prey. The effectiveness of deterrence.

There is a vast experiment under way, one that has never been attempted on these shores before. This country has an enviable track record of assimilating immigrants from all over the world, but did so under a different set of rules than are in play today. Past generations of immigrants did indeed keep their noses clean, because they were here to stay, and to become Americans. The rules today make it possible to stay, and not become American.
Most come here to work, and in their desire to stay, they are generally afraid to do anything that might draw the attention of armed people wearing badges.
Really? I'm willing to listen, and keep an open mind. However, we see illegals with ties to terrorists, illegals sexually assaulting children, and drunken illegals rear-ending stopped cars at 60 MPH. And then laughing about it. And lest you accuse me of cherry picking data, all of these occurred within 50 miles of Chez Borepatch.

Deterrence: ur doin' it rong. Look at the old New York City to see what that leads to.

Quote of the day

From Doc Zero:
That explains why socialism is miserable. It turns feral because it always makes promises it cannot keep, and the primary skill of a successful politician is the ability to avoid responsibility.
The one thing that I would change is the word socialism, replacing it with the ruling class. The problem is not a broad-based nationalization of industry, nor is it the traditional debate on marginal tax rates.

The problem facing this country is that "public servants" no longer scruple to pretend that they serve the public. The problem is a two caste system, with one set of rewards and constraints for the Government Class, and a different one for the rest of us. Out of control police departments, government union thugs on a rampage, Treasury Secretaries who don't pay their taxes, failing schools where the teacher's unions refuse to allow changes.

This is what John Edwards' "Two Americas" really looks like.

The Executive VP of Zombies

... has sent you a memo. Set to music.

And since we're in our Annual Planning Cycle, have you updated your Zombie Plan?

Planning and communication through proper channels. It's not just a good idea, people, it's corproate culture.

Via #2 Son.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Lone Star Commonwealth

Today, the Borepatch clan loaded up the Borepatchmobile for a recon mission on Boston's North Shore. This is the Bluest of Blue State territory, so we were careful to follow covert protocol.

But not everyone is following those protocols. We saw this:

And this:

And this:

And also this:

I don't know how generalized this sentiment is, but it was simply astonishing to see the breadth of anti-Obama sentiment on display in the People's Republic.

Don't mess with Texas Massachusetts.

The Art of Blogging, Borepatch-style

Sigh. That's pretty much how I do posts. Hits rather close to home, that.

St. Thomas à Becket and the need to choose your words with care

Thomas Becket was a Londoner, son of a merchant - not a nobleman or even a knight. Nonetheless, his father was well off, and so Thomas grew up with advantages few of those day had. As Simon Schama wrote in A History Of Britain:
We think of him, with good reason, as an austere man, but the truth is that he was a real Londoner, with an instinctive flair for the things that Londoners have always cared most about: display and costume; the getting and spending of money; theatre, private and public; and (even though his stomach was delicate) fine food and drink. He was street smart and book smart. He was, from the get-go, a Player.
This made him valuable to king Henry II, Plantagenet ruler of Britain and most of France, and the most powerful monarch in twelfth century Europe. Becket rose through the ranks of Henry's courtiers until he was Chancellor of the Realm, the most important servant of the king's administration. When the Archbishop of Canterbury passed on to his Eternal Reward, Henry thought that Becket was the obvious replacement - someone with the smarts and talent - and most importantly, the loyalty - to bring the Church under Henry's sway.

It was one of the great miscalculations of all history. Once wearing the Mitre, Becket turned out to be fiercely protective of the Church's independence. And his intelligence and political skill as an opponent drove Henry into frequent rages.

It was during one of those rages that Henry is said to have railed at his courtiers, yelling "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Four of his knights took that to be an order, rode to Canturbury, and struck Becket down at vespers.

Henry might have chosen his words with more care, if he had known what would happen after.

The Czar of Muscovy writes about Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley, and his latest outbursts about gun control:
Two—and far worse—the Mayor revealed another violent spasm when he said “You have to have confidence in the Supreme Court, Maybe they'll see the light of day...Maybe one of them will have an incident and they'll change their mind overnight, going to and from work”

Tire screech. The Mayor hopes that someone will attack a member of the SCOTUS with a firearm and convert them to being anti-gun? Maybe on their way to or from work, someone will use a handgun on a Justice? If the Czar made such a comment, he might expect a visit from people in suits. one in their right mind makes comments like these.
Will no one rid me of these meddlesome Justices?

The fundamental issue for Daly is the same one that motivated Henry: an external authority placing limits on the power he can exercise. Daly's reaction is the same as Henry's: annoyance at these limits, growing into an uncontrollable rage against those embodying that resistance. Hizzoner should open a history book, to read about Henry's penance: he was obliged to allow his person to be stripped, and then whipped before the tomb of his now canonized rival.

A minor, but interesting point about the Mayor's comment here concerns the lack of media attention this story is receiving. Had this come from, say, someone in the Tea Party movement, the media would certainly be in full bed-wetting uproar.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Political Endorsement

I thought that this would be my first, but it looks like it's not. Oh well, it's the first in an election I can't vote in.

Borepatch endorses Young Boozer for Alabama State Treasurer. I encourage all Alabama residents to vote for him in the upcoming election.

Yes that's his real name, which is entirely Made Of Win:

Now it's all fun and games at the start, but what happens once the votes are all counted? I must admit that it was his name that drew me to his web site, but he sounds like my kind of guy:
"I want to use my 37 years of financial experience along with my educational background in Finance to safeguard our money. I am a conservative Republican who at my age does not want a political career or to use this position as a stepping stone.
Got to love a modern day Cincinnatus.

Also from his web site, discussing a poorly-conceived pre-paid student loan program that is (unsurprisingly) costing the State bushels of cash that nobody had planed on:
Putting a program of this type in place broke an important rule. Government should not guarantee the investment returns of an individual citizen.
Clearly, this man is a dangerous radical, and the People of Alabama would do well to send him to Montgomery in the Autumn. While I'm not a Republican (and not really a conservative), it seems that Treasurer is precisely the job where you want a conservative to keep the pols from (ahem) stretching the numbers a bit [*cough* Health Care Reform *cough*]. Would that we had men of his caliber up here in the People's Republic of Massachusetts.

Young Boozer - come for the name, stay for the responsible fiscal oversight!


IBM handed out a bunch of freebie USB sticks at a conference. No big deal, corporate marketing departments have a permanent charge number these days for USB tchotchkes.

What is a big deal is that these USB sticks were infected by malware. Oops.

What's an even bigger deal is that the conference was a security conference:

IBM has apologised after supplying a malware-infected USB stick to delegates of this week's IBM AusCERT security conference.

The unlovely gift was supplied to an unknown number of delegates to the Gold Coast, Queensland conference who visited IBM's booth. Big Blue does not identify the strain of malware involved in the attack beyond saying it's a type of virus widely detected for at least two years which takes advantage of Windows autorun to spread ...

Your moment of Zen

Sitting on the shore, the sea's calming effect merges with our mood.
All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.

Inspired by Kevin.

Next time I'll film in Landscape mode.

Nickel Creek - When You Come Back Down

When it's good, Country Music has a knack for making the old new again.

Take, for example, Kahlil Gibran's 1922 classic On Children, from The Prophet. Gibran was by no means a Nashville songwriter, but penned one of the most moving descriptions of what it is like to be a parent:
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
If he were a modern Nashville songwriter, he might have written this as When You Come Back Down. And in keeping with the old-made-new theme, Nickel Creek brings a Bluegrass style that not only perfectly suits the song, but seems to channel Gibran. Like him, they burned brightly - their 2000 self-titled album containing this song was produced by none other than Alison Krause. Like him, they achieved rapid success in their day. Like him, their production ended far too soon.

But it's a fabulous new take on an old idea, set to a new/old musical sound.

When You Come Back Down
(Songwriters: Tim O'Brien, Danny O'Keefe)
You got to leave me now, you got to go alone
You got to chase a dream, one that's all your own
Before it slips away
When you're flyin' high, take my heart along
I'll be the harmony to every lonely song
That you learn to play

When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down

I'll keep lookin' up awaitin' your return
My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn
And I won't feel your fire
I'll be the other hand that always holds the line
Connectin' in between your sweet heart and mine
I'm strung out on that wire

And I'll be on the other end
To hear you when you call
Angel, you were born to fly
And if you get too high
I'll catch you when you fall
I'll catch you when you fall

Your memory's the sunshine every new day brings
I know the sky is calling
Angel, let me help you with your wings

When you're soarin' through the air
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there
When you come back down

Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there
When you come back down
When you come back down

Friday, May 21, 2010

The lonely Lighthouse Keeper

Nubble Light in York, Maine, is one of that state's southernmost lighthouses. This makes it a very popular destination for legions of Day Trippers up from Boston. You'd think it would be overrun.

It's not, because it's on an island. An island with no bridge to the mainland. You use this chair that runs over a cable to move back and forth.

As you'd imagine, that's one righteous cable. It's bolted into the living granite (my 10 1/2 for scale).

Calling all current and former Law Enforcement Officers

I know that some of you are current or former L.E. (hi, Wofat!), and may be interested in this. I was pinged by a couple of guys from Stanford who have invented a device they hope will make the current duty belt more comfortable. As they put it:
During our graduate studies, we have done extensive research and design work with local police officers. We have created a device which, in testing, has greatly enhanced the comfort and ergonomics of the standard duty belt. We have been fielding prototypes for the past 6 months in Bay Area departments with extremely favorable results. (Every officer who has tried the device has committed to buy it.)

The device has a very small physical and visual footprint, and it was designed to be fully compatible with all the standard duty gear. It does not compromise the officer's safety or professional appearance.

As part of the process of finalizing the design, we're trying to expose the product to a broad cross-section of officers and use cases. The device has recently been deployed with patrol and SWAT officers from San Mateo County Sheriff, Stanford PD, Santa Clara County Sheriff, Menlo Park PD, and CHP.

This product resolves the serious back pain issues that most police officers are facing due to their heavy duty gear. We would therefore be very interested in having you review our product and help us promote it to the police community.
Now I've never worn a duty belt, and so wouldn't know whether their device works or not. But some of you do (or did), and would.

If anyone who's a current or former L.E.O. wants to give it a try in return for a product review to be posted here, send me an email, and I'll arrange for one of these to be shipped to you.

And a memo to the Federal Trade Commission: kiss my grits. All I'll get out of this is someone else to write my blog for me. Heh.

UPDATE 22 May 11:00: We have some volunteers. Thanks, guys!

Why a government of technocratic elites cannot succeed

The Antiplanner has a very interesting post asking whether the government can pick winners:
The problem is that government is not about efficiency, it is about power. If government tries to pick winners, it will tend to pick things favored by powerful interest groups, not the best technology. Once it has made its picks, the winning interest groups will work to maintain the policies favoring them even if the pick turns out to be a loser.
The post is packed full of smart and concludes that the government cannot in fact, reliably pick winners in the tech game.

I agree, and have a proof point. Most companies can't pick technology winners, either, and they are strongly motivated by the quest profit, not power. The genius of Cisco's John Chambers was to decide that they weren't going to try to pick winners; rather, they'd let the market choose winners and buy the startups that won those battles. Consider the dynamic laid out by the Antiplanner:

It may be possible, if you search hard enough, to find an example of a government successfully picking and promoting a winner. Atkinson specifically mentions “Internet, the web browser, the search engine, computer graphics, semiconductors, and a host of others.” One problem with these examples is that government did not pick any of these technologies with the aim of promoting the industries. Instead, it help develop these technologies because they were useful to government (mainly defense) agencies.

More important, for every successful example, you can find numerous failures. Think about corn ethanol, one example of government picking a technology for the specific purpose of promoting a new industry. It wasn’t long before people realized that corn ethanol is a very inefficient way of trying to save energy, but once government picked it, it can’t stop supporting it.

The market has all sorts of examples of winners and losers like this, too. Chambers decided that you didn't have to prognosticate, you just had to identify the emerging winners. Essentially, Cisco lets the market weed out a lot of the failure technologies, and snaps up the winning ones.

Actually, Chamber's real brilliance was figuring out how to make corporate acquisitions work; historically most have been failures. Cisco is one of the few companies to do successful acquisitions repeatably.

And so the response to progressives itching to use the Organs of the State to pick new winning technologies is not "can we make the selection process motivated by some sort of Aristotilian sense of Good, rather than raw political power"? Rather, the question is "do you really think that anyone the government can reasonably expect to hire can out-preform John Chambers?"

Because good luck with that one.

On this day in history

In 987, French king Louis V died under mysterious circumstances. Only 20 years old, he was described by the learned as Louis qui nihil fecit (Louis the do-nothing) and by the vulgar as Louis le Fainéant (Louis the lazy). He was the last of the Carolingians, the great dynasty founded by Charles the Hammer and best known for Charlemagne. It's unknown whether, like the Merovingian boy king Sigebert, he wept in his saddle; it's a cold certain fact that his line was replaced Hugh Capet. This new Capetian dynasty would rule France through Louis XVI and the Revolution, and then come back for a couple small bites at the apple, ending in 1848 with Louis-Philippe. Spain's king Juan Carlos is a distant descendant of Capet, continuing the dynasty. That's some run.

It was another ill-omened day in 1650 when James Graham, Marquess of Montrose was led to the scaffold. Originally a Covenanter (resisting the authority of bishops from the Church of England), Montrose became one of King James' Charles' greatest soldiers during the English Civil War. James Charles, of course, had his head taken off by Cromwell. Montrose, ever the King's Man, tried to invade Scotland for the exiled Charles II. He failed, and was hanged for his efforts, but leaves us his great legacy - his toast:
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his desserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all.
Not for nothing is he known in Scotland simply as the Great Montrose.

But even as inspiring a legacy as Montrose's wasn't enough to change the bad luck associated with May 21. In 1946, a Plutonium experiment at the Los Alamos National Laboratory went horribly wrong. One of the problems with the World War II Atomic Bombs was that a large amount of fissile material was needed. The experiment was investigating whether by reflecting emitted neutrons back into the Plutonium, the efficiency of the device could be increased (and less material needed). The experiment used two hollow half spheres of Beryllium, surrounding what became known as the "Demon Core" - a sub-critical sphere of Plutonium (an amount too small to form a "Critical" - explosive - mass).

Well, it turns out that Beryllium was just a dandy reflector of neutrons, and the sub-critical mass scooted almost all the way over to "critical", which is a Very Bad Thing Indeed when you have eight nuclear physicists in the experiment room. Quick thinking by Louis Slotin pulled the spheres apart, but he got a fatal dose of radiation poisoning for his trouble, lingering nine days before shuffling off to join Louis V and the Great Montrose, perhaps to bitch about what a lousy day May 21 is.

Hope your day goes better.

UPDATE 21 May 2010 09:34: Bob in the comments points out that it was king Charles, not king James. Obviously, this is an ill-omened day.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What does a Climate Scientist look like?

The National Oceaniac and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is chartered by the Fed.Gov to forecast hurricanes. Their 2010 hurricane season prediction is due out next week.

Unfortunately, they're not very accurate, having missed three of the last four seasons. Others think that a .250 batting average is pretty low for climate scientists, and think that they can do better. This is “Dr. James Hansimian”, who also predicts hurricane frequency.

Via press release: Washington, DC: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s track record in predicting the number of Atlantic hurricanes is so abysmal that a trained chimp could do better, says The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The group is putting this claim to the test, issuing a 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Forecast today determined by a chimpanzee, “Dr. James Hansimian.”

I think that the reply from NOAA was something along the lines of "If you want Rocket Scientists, you should go try NASA", or something.

And unlike the labcoats at NOAA, the chimp works for peanuts (well, bananas).

Bill Mauldin, R.I.P.

And my favorite Mauldin cartoon:

There are a bunch more here.

Congratulations to Bob at The Drawn Cutlass

Looks like his odometer ticked over 200,000 visits.

He's a daily read of mine, especially for the snark and BBQ ....

Signal to Noise, part II

We keep hearing that the climate today is warmer than it's ever, ever, ever been. You keep getting me yammering on and on (and on and on) about how we're trying to measure a very small signal (a degree per century) with instruments that measure a huge amount of noise (plus or minus twenty degrees a day).

In other words, the noise is much, much bigger than the signal.

But let's forget about the "trick" to "hide the decline" and all that. Forget all the mysterious "adjustments" to the measured data that make up over 80% of the warming in the 20th Century.

Ignore all that. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that none of that matters. Here's the question: how accurate are the sensors themselves? Well for 90% of the ones in the US, the answer is "not very". You'll no doubt be shocked to learn that this 90% have a common error that makes them all read high (i.e. report a temperature that is more than 1 degree higher than the actual temperature). You'll also be no doubt shocked to hear that this is a recent occurrence, only since 1970 or so.

Anthony Watts (from Watts Up With That) explains why:

But if you lose sleep at night worrying about Global Warming, and are concerned that this make be just more ammunition for those skeptics to shoot holes in your pet theory, don't despair. The Fed.Gov assures us that they have a brand spanking new sensor grid in place to measure the temperature, and it's much, much more accurate. And in fact, it is more accurate.

And it's been online now for 18 months. And so, we can say with 100% certainty that 2009 was the warmest year since, well, 2009.

Hey you Deniers! Get off my lawn!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Required Reading - Three Cups of Tea, and Stones Into Schools

UPDATE: Looks like this was a scam, and Mortensen is a liar.  The original post is below.

General Petraeus wants you to read these books. If you reported to him, you'd already have read them, because they're mandatory reading for his staff. Also for Special Forces They think they're the key to winning the War on Terror.

I think they're right. Usually I post "Recommended" reading. These books are different. This war, more than any in the past, is about winning the "Hearts and Minds" of poor people in remote, rural parts of the Muslim world- like the people in Kandahar and Waziristan. Greg Mortenson has cracked the code of how to do that.

Mortenson's journey started on K2, the second highest mountain in the world. He almost died there, in a failed attempt to climb to the peak. He was taken in and nursed back to health by the people in a village at the foot of K2, in the Hindu Kush. The village was desperately poor, and Mortenson wanted to do something to help pay them back. What he did - that was different from what Battalions of NGO "experts" do - was ask them what they wanted.

Build us a school, they said.

And so a self-described "climbing bum" learned how to fund raise, how to organize local talent, and most importantly how to get village elders to support the effort to build schools (because that's what they wanted). It's a amazing journey, that has built over 140 schools in the most rural parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a school in Mullah Omar's home village. A school that educates girls, with the full support of the village elders.

The two books are very different, but really should be read together. The first (Three Cups of Tea) is about Mortenson's escape from death on K2, his struggle to raise money for the school (and then the struggle to raise money for a bridge that had to be built before the school could be). It's about his learning what would become the foundation for his program described in the second book.

Stones into Schools describes how Mortenson build a local organization of fiercely dedicated supporters that turned that first school into a blueprint for enabling local self-help:
  • Buy-in from the local political leaders.
  • Locally donated land for the school.
  • Local free labor by the villagers to build the school.
  • Agreement that girls as well as boys would be educated, in equal numbers.
It's also about how he kept working in Pakistan and Afghanistan during and after 9/11, how he survived a kidnapping and two fatwas (he got countermanding fatwas from higher authority, including from the Shiite holy city of Q'om), and how he became the go-to guy for the U.S. Military while still keeping his independence from them.

He's done this because he thinks differently than other people:
Most NGOs, for all sorts of well-justified reasons, prefer to establish a base of operations in a region that enjoys favorable access to resources and communications, and only then will these organizations gradually expand into the harder areas. It's a sensible way to proceed. The problem, however, is that if you work in a way that is incremental and controlled, it can sometimes take a lifetime to get to the people who need your help the most. What is far more difficult - and sometimes more dangerous - is to start at the end of the road and work your way back. And for better or worse, that's exactly what we do.
So there's your reading assignment. If you buy the books, the money goes to building more schools, but you can also find the books at your local library (it's almost certain that you'll have to put your name on a waiting list). If you keep your eyes peeled, you might find that Mortenson comes to a town near yours to give a talk, and you can (like me) pick up an autographed copy.

Here's Mortenson at East Carolina University, 4 Match 2010 - Part 1. It starts out slowly, but by 15 minutes in you'll find yourself mesmerized:

Greg Mortenson at East Carolina University, 4 Match 2010 - Part 2:

You can also try some of these (copied from the end of Stones Into Schools):

1. Visit for more information. The Amazon links above not only donate all the proceeds to Mortenson's organization, they donate 7% of all your order (i.e. the total from all your books).

2. Suggest these books to a friend.

3. Write about it (like this blog post).

4. Look at that's raised three h7undred million pennies so far. A school in Afghanistan can get a pencil for a penny. Maybe the schools in your town can join.

5. Donate to Mortenson's organization, the Central Asia Institute.

So there you have it, your assignment from General Petraeus (via me). Git 'r done.