The Braden Files
Curiosities of mathematics, history, parachuting, etc……


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Israel’s military forces began a ground invasion of Gaza on Jan. 3, following a weeklong aerial campaign aimed at devastating the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The logistics of the operation will be a serious challenge for Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that it has begun to move troops into Gaza, CNN reported Jan. 3. The report of a ground invasion follows an eight-day air campaign to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian militant group Hamas. Israel faces complicated urban warfare and, possibly, newfound Hamas anti-tank capabilities.

The 2006 Israeli war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon taught the IDF the limitations of air power, a lesson they will not soon forget. While there is no doubt that the sustained air campaign by the Israeli Air Force in December 2008 degraded Hamas’ military capability by collapsing smuggling tunnels and destroying known arms caches, it is starting to appear as though it was not decisive.

The key here is actionable intelligence. The Israeli Air Force attempted to strike crucial arms caches, smuggling routes, human operatives and supporting infrastructure of Hamas’ offensive capability. The trick was attacking them before Hamas had time to react and disperse vital assets across Gaza. Though small, the Gaza Strip has a densely packed population among which weapons and people can be concealed. Aside from some late-breaking actionable intelligence on targeting, the maximum effect of the air campaign would have been achieved in the early days – if not the first hours.

A ground incursion may well have been part of the Israeli war plan from the start, and it is certainly too early to call the air campaign a failure definitively. But the continued onslaught of Palestinian rockets several days into the air assault – including the emergence of what a Stratfor source suggests is the Iranian-made Fajr-3 artillery rocket – indicates that the air campaign has not been as destructive as Israel might have hoped.

In any case, an Israeli ground assault now appears to be under way. While the precise depth and duration of this assault is far from clear, the IDF clearly prepared to sustain protracted raids if deemed necessary by calling up an additional 2,520 reservists on Dec. 30, 2008, on top of the 7,000 already activated for the Gaza campaign.

The challenges Israel faces are immense. While Gaza – occupied by Israel until 2005 – is familiar terrain for the IDF, it is Hamas’ home turf. Additionally, in conjunction with the other militant and jihadist groups in the territory, Hamas has been prepping the ground for an Israeli assault for some time.

Indeed, Stratfor sources suggest that Hezbollah not only has helped provide Hamas with the 240 mm Fajr-3, it has helped train some 300 Palestinian fighters in southern Lebanon who have now returned to Gaza. Unconfirmed reports in 2008 also suggest that Hamas may have acquired Soviet-era anti-tank guided missiles, specifically the AT-3 “Sagger,” likely smuggled through tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula. Though the design dates back to the 1960s, this missile has been widely proliferated.

Hamas thus may have obtained a limited anti-armor capability. With the appearance of what may be the Fajr-3 (much larger and heavier than an AT-3 and its mount; the mount is only about the size of a suitcase), the potential that AT-3s have been smuggled into the territory must be taken seriously at this point.

While the AT-3 is unlikely to penetrate the frontal armor of a late model Merkava main battle tank, it certainly gave the IDF trouble in 1973 when employed competently by the Egyptians. Used against the rear quadrants of armored personnel carriers and other lighter-skinned vehicles – easy enough in a built-up urban area – the AT-3s could be significantly more effective. Regardless, it would certainly be an upgrade from the rocks and Molotov cocktails that the Palestinians often rely on to throw at Israeli soldiers and armored vehicles. Though it will be unlikely to halt an Israeli advance, a significant and competent deployment of AT-3s could quickly inflict more damage and casualties than the IDF is accustomed to in Gaza raids.

Given Hamas’ demonstrated ability to smuggle rockets that weigh hundreds of pounds and are more than twice the height of a human being, the militant group also could possess even more advanced anti-tank weaponry (designed to be man-portable) smuggled into Gaza from Egypt through the same tunnels. But, Hezbollah and its patrons would likely keep the most advanced anti-tank guided missile systems for themselves.

Either way, Hamas wants an Israeli ground incursion. With no apparent capability to hit Israeli fighter jets, Hamas can only really engage Israel directly if the IDF brings the fight to Hamas on the ground. The AT-3 aside, the proliferation of techniques to build more advanced forms of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have emerged from Iraq is a major concern. The old standbys of large, buried IEDs, suicide bombings and armed ambushes are also possibilities. While Israeli troops can enjoy the protection of tanks, armored personnel carriers and the infamous D-9 armored bulldozer during the approach to the target, infantry at some point must dismount to conduct searches and destroy caches of weapons. Moving armor through dense urban areas without dismounted infantry to spot potential anti-tank teams is risky to say the least.

Actionable intelligence is also key to Israel’s ground offensive. Though small, the territory encompasses some 140 square miles, much of it densely populated. The IDF does not have the manpower to search the entire territory house-to-house, and even if it did, it would hesitate to do so given the casualties this would incur. Though pinpoint targeting data necessary for a successful airstrike is not required to guide a ground incursion (infantry can cordon off and search a complex or even a city block), IDF raids must still be guided by information that allows them to push into Gaza, capture or destroy their target, and pull back out.

Ultimately, it must be remembered that Hamas – even with all its rockets intact – is not a strategic or existential threat to Israel. Israeli territory around Gaza is lightly populated compared to the rest of the country, so from a geopolitical perspective the rocket fire is just a nuisance. It thus makes little sense for the IDF to commit its forces on a strategic scale, and to incur strategically significant losses, in pursuit of a nonstrategic objective.

But with the leap from the 122mm BM-21 Grad to the Fajr-3, Hamas essentially doubled its range. It would have to double it again to reach the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, an unlikely prospect given the heavier logistical burdens of such rockets and the limitations of Hamas. Nevertheless, that hypothetical capability undoubtedly would further escalate the conflict.

This is especially true because Israel exists at a demographic disadvantage in the region. The IDF is relatively small compared to nearby armed forces and the country is casualty-averse. There is thus little doubt that the IDF assault will be limited in nature, and Israel certainly has no interest in re-occupying Gaza. For its part, Hamas will attempt to drag out the assault as long as possible, conducting a war of attrition against the casualty-averse IDF.

While the ground incursion will have to play itself out, IDF limitations mean that the overall Israeli operation probably will eviscerate Hamas’ military capability only if the air campaign was exceedingly effective in its first days. At this point, it is not at all clear that it was. In that case, the IDF may have more work in Gaza than it is ultimately equipped and structured to achieve.

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Change of Address
In a few short days, an African American man will move from his private residence into a much larger and infinitely more expensive one owned not by him but by the taxpayers. A vast lawn, a perimeter fence and many well trained security specialists will insulate him from the rest of us but the mere fact that this man will be residing in this house should make us all stop and count our blessings – because it proves that we live in a nation where anything is possible.

Many believed this day would never come. Most of us hoped and prayed that it would, but few of us actually believed we would live to see it. Racism is an ugly thing in all of its forms and there is little doubt that if this man had moved into this house fifteen years ago, there would have been a great outcry – possibly even rioting in the streets.

Today, we can all be both grateful and proud that no such mayhem will take place. when this man takes up residency in this house.

This man, moving into this house at this time in our nation’s history is much more than a simple change of addresses for him – it is proof of a change in our attitude as a nation. It is an amends of sorts – the righting of a great wrong. It is a symbol of our growth, and of our willingness to “judge a man, not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character”.

There can be little doubt now that the vast majority of us truly believe that this man has earned both his place in history and his new address. His time in this house will not be easy – it will be fraught with danger and he will face many challenges. I am sure there will be many times when he asks himself how in the world he ended up here and like all who have gone before him, the experience will age him greatly.

But I for one will not waste an ounce of worry for his sake – because in every way a man can, he asked for this. His whole life for the past fifteen years appears to have been inexorably leading this man toward this house. It is highly probable that in the past, despite all of his actions, racism would have kept this man out of this house. Today, I thank the Lord above that I am an American and that I live in a nation where wrongs are righted, where justice matters and where truly anything is possible.

Who is this man?

Here is his picture.

Maybe you thought I was talking about someone else?

Rules for the Non-Military
Dear Civilians, ‘We know that the current state of affairs in our great nation has many civilians up in arms and excited to join the military. For those of you who can’t join, you can still lend a hand. Here are a few of the areas where we would like your assistance:

  1. The next time you see any adults talking (or wearing a hat) during the playing of the National Anthem – kick their ass.
  2. When you witness, firsthand, someone burning the American Flag in protest – kick their ass.
  3. Regardless of the rank they held while they served, pay the highest amount of respect to all veterans. If you see anyone doing otherwise, quietly pull them aside and explain how these veterans fought for the very freedom they bask in every second. Enlighten them on the many sacrifices these veterans made to make this Nation great. Then hold them down while a disabled veteran kicks their ass.
  4. (GUYS) If you were never in the military, DO NOT pretend that you were. Wearing battle dress uniforms (BDUs) or Jungle Fatigues, telling others that you used to be ‘Special Forces,’ and collecting GI Joe memorabilia, might have been okay when you were seven years old. Now, it will only make you look stupid and get your ass kicked.
  5. Next time you come across an Air Force member, do not ask them, ‘Do you fly a jet?’ Not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot. Such ignorance deserves an ass-kicking (children are exempt).
  6. If you witness someone calling the US Coast Guard ‘non-military’, inform them of their mistake – and kick their ass.
  7. Next time Old Glory (the US flag) prances by during a parade, get on your damn feet and pay homage to her by placing your hand over your heart. Quietly thank the military member or veteran lucky enough to be carrying her – of course, failure to do either of those could earn you a severe ass-kicking.
  8. Don’t try to discuss politics with a military member or a veteran. We are Americans, and we all bleed the same, regardless of our party affiliation. Our Chain of Command is to include our Commander-In-Chief (CinC). The President (for those who didn’t know) is our CinC regardless of political party. We have no inside track on what happens inside those big important buildings where all those representatives meet. All we know is that when those civilian representatives screw up the situation, they call upon the military to go straighten it out. If you keep asking us the same stupid questions repeatedly, you will get your ass kicked!
  9. ‘Your mama wears combat boots’ never made sense to me – stop saying it! If she did, she would most likely be a vet and therefore could kick your ass!
  10. bin Laden and the Taliban are not Communists, so stop saying ‘Let’s go kill those Commies!’ And stop asking us where he is! Crystal balls are not standard issue in the military. That reminds me- if you see anyone calling those damn psychic phone numbers, let me know, so I can go kick their ass!
  11. ‘Flyboy’ (Air Force), ‘Jarhead’ (Marines), ‘Grunt’ (Army), ‘Squid’ (Navy), ‘Puddle Jumpers’ (Coast Guard), etc., are terms of endearment we use describing each other. Unless you are a service member or vet, you have not earned the right to use them.. Using them could get your ass kicked.
  12. Last, but not least, whether or not you become a member of the military, support our troops and their families. Every Thanksgiving and religious holiday that you enjoy with family and friends, please remember that there are literally thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen far from home wishing they could be with their families. Thank God for our military and the sacrifices they make every day. Without them, our country would get it’s ass kicked.’

‘It’s the Veteran, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press.’
‘It’s the Veteran, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.’
‘It’s the Veteran, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.’
‘It’s the Military who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.’

One more:

  • 13. If you ever see anyone either standing for or singing the national anthem in Spanish – KICK THEIR ASS.
  • Jan

    In September 1944 a hungry, cold, terrified airman hunched over what remained of a recently arrived Red Cross package. He had been a POW since his Lancaster was shot down over the Ruhr valley in 1943. His excitement grew as he saw the tiny red spot. He had been briefed about it just before his first mission. To identify a ‘special’ Monopoly set, a tiny red dot, designed to look like a simple printing glitch, was in the corner of the Free Parking square!

    His hands trembled as he split the box cardboard in the dim light from the tiny barred window above his head. He had already ravenously eaten the food that was left in the Red Cross Package and now found the strength to consider another escape attempt. A previous attempt had led to failure and severe punishment. Getting through the barbed wire had been relatively easy but finding his way through the snow and forests of Eastern Germany was not, nor was finding help or purchasing food or train tickets. He simply got lost until the patrols with dogs ran him down.

    As he gently spread the layers of cardboard of the package, he found two slivers of metal which screwed together to form a file. He broke the little wooden red hotel to find a tiny silk map of his region folded very tightly. Under the packaged Monopoly money was real German Reich marks ready to spend and, finally, inside the Scotty dog was a tiny compass. Here was what he needed to be among the estimated 35,000 Allied POWs who escaped from German and Italian camps during WWII. The contraband in the Monopoly games is credited with at least one third of them….

    Click to read more

    Civics lesson
    From a teacher in the Nashville area

    We are worried about “the cow” when it is all about the “Ice Cream”. The most eye-opening civics lesson I ever had was while teaching third grade this year. The presidential election was heating up and some of the children showed an interest. I decided we would have an election for a class president.

    We would choose our nominees. They would make a campaign speech and the class would vote.

    To simplify the process, candidates were nominated by other class members. We discussed what kinds of characteristics these students should have. We got many nominations and from those, Jamie and Olivia were picked to run for the top spot.

    The class had done a great job in their selections. Both candidates were good kids. I thought Jamie might have an advantage because he got lots of parental support. I had never seen Olivia’s mother.

    The day arrived when they were to make their speeches. Jamie went first. He had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place. He ended by promising to do his very best. Every one applauded. He sat down and Olivia came to the podium.

    Her speech was concise. She said, “If you will vote for me, I will give you ice cream.” She sat down. The class went wild.

    “Yes! Yes! We want ice cream.”

    She surely would say more. She did not have to. A discussion followed. How did she plan to pay for the ice cream? She wasn’t sure. Would her parents buy it or would the class pay for it. She didn’t know. The class really didn’t care. All they were thinking about was ice cream.

    Jamie was forgotten. Olivia won by a landslide.

    Every time Barack Obama opens his mouth he offers ice cream, fifty percent of the people react like nine year olds. They want ice cream.

    The other fifty percent know they’re going to have to feed the cow and clean up the mess.

    Ancient wisdom
    So, what have we learned in 2 millennia?

    “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

    Cicero – 55 BC

    Evidently nothing.

    Math, Bunker style

    (Interesting read from a Navy Reserve Chief Petty Officer.)

    Dear Friends and Family:

    I’ve been back from Iraq two months now, and acclimating to civilian Life.  I want to give you a short account of the last few weeks in Iraq the trip home and my thoughts on the war. We were prohibited blogging, so I didn’t write much in the final weeks.

    I was elated when my boss sent me an email giving me the tentative date out of Iraq.  The bummer was that I had to go back to Al Asad for 2 weeks and wait it out.

    Boring!  Those were a long 2 weeks. I left my truly fantastic friends in Hadithah,  and boarded a V22 Osprey for the 8 minute flight back to Al Asad.  I got to hang out at Al Asad, workout, drink tea with Ed, my great interpreter, and watch Arabic TV. Work slowed to a halt, as peace was breaking out in Anbar.  As a final goodbye Iraq dumped a 4-day sandstorm on me, making me wonder if my plane would leave.

    So on that great day, I rose at 0400, hauled my trash to the airport and Waited!  Waited!  Waited!  Finally, we walked a long distance to a huge C17 and got situated.  We passed the Sailors and Marines coming in for their first time and wished the poor bastards good luck.  We were through and I didn’t want to look back.

    A 4-hour flight with no hassles landed us in Ali Al Salem Airbase Kuwait – the hottest place on the planet.  It must be two inches from the face of the sun there. More waiting while our ride came to pick us up.  By 4 pm we made it to the Kuwait Navy Base, where the good ole USN has a foothold.  We stowed our weapons and for the first time in six months I did not carry even a pistol.  I felt naked and uneasy not having ole Betsy within arm’s reach.  But life was an easy two days there.  I swam in the Red Sea even though the base sign said not too.  It was about 98 degrees water temp and very salty.  Not pleasant at all.   I shared my room with a First Class Corpsman who has blessedly been selected for CPO.  He was very pleased but also troubled.  He had a much tougher time at war than I. This was his second tour.  He had seen his buddies killed by bombs and sent two of his Sailors on patrols.  They did not come back.   I fear he will carry these scars on his soul forever.  I pray for this brave new Chief.

    After two days of waiting, we jumped into a van and hauled butt over to the Kuwait commercial airport.  We ran around and could not find our flight.  No one had heard of our call-sign and no H-53 was expected. We finally got a call that the H53 was going to land at the Kuwait Navy Base,  about 40 minutes away in about 30 minutes.  We broke the Kuwaiti traffic laws and pulled up as the Navy bird was landing on the pad.

    A long 2-hour flight in truly mind-melting temps brought us the island of Bahrain.  Bahrain looks like Miami Beach with Arabs running around in shemaghs.  It’s very beautiful and cosmopolitan.  The guys there for the Navy picked us up, got us a room.  I showered and immediately hit the town.  I had a whole 20 hours to kill.  I found a cab to an English pub in a hotel.  That beer was exquisite going down, after 6 months with only near beer.  I had bangers and mash and couple cold ones.  Ramadan was approaching, but the place was strangely empty except for a couple British contractors.  I took a walkabout the town.  As is my wont, I naturally was drawn to the seedier part of town – aren’t all sailors. Bahrain is a fascinating place.  One could be in New Dehli or Manila depending on the street. Beautiful Asian faces mixed with the odd jet black abeya-clad Arab woman.  The gold stores are amazing and beautiful. They sell the gold by the market price per ounce plus a small fee for the worksmanship.  Since gold as at an all-time high, it was not a cheap time to buy.  An amazing thing to me was seeing women in normal western clothes.  I had not seen a woman in anything but fatigues or Arab dress for 6 months.  It was visually jarring to see a woman in jeans or a regular t-shirt.

    After a few hours of seeing the city I boarded a commercial charter, euphemistically called the “rotator.”  They really should call it the pain train.  It wasn’t crowded.  They served booze and surprisingly good food.  But they stop at every taxi stand in the world on the way home. So we stopped at Crete, Naples, Azores Islands…and finally Norfolk Naval Base.  But the Navy demons were not through torturing us.  After approximately 30 hours in transit, and seven countries in 4 days, they made us wait 5 hours at the terminal due to a lightning storm.  Oh…and we had to wait in the pre-customs/ immigration area, just feet from our families till the storm blew over and they unloaded the plane.  I found a command phone list lying around and called the watch duty officer and offered the services of the passengers to unload the plane.  Apparently, the civilian baggage guys can’t go outside if there is a thunderstorm in Nebraska.  Needless to say the CDO did not take me up on my offer.  We finally got our gear, sailed through customs and immi and into the waiting arms of our families.  Marie thankfully brought a bottle of champagne and we drove the three hours back to Northern Virginia that night.  I didn’t need coffee.  It was great to be back in the US.

    Since I’ve been back many people have asked me “What’s really going on over there?”  I’ve tried to answer to the best of my ability and with zero ideology.  I also can speak only for what I saw.  So here it goes:

    Bottom line up front:  the US has won the war.  Even the Counter insurgency war has been won by the US.  How can I say this?

    Even in the short time I was there, deaths and attacks, and battles had dropped to nearly zero in Anbar.  The people themselves have turned against Al Qaeda and its ideology.  They do not agree with it.  I think the Sunnis flirted with Al Qaeda’s ideas as a counter balance to perceived US hegemony in the region.  They now see that the US is not there to own or pillage Iraq.  Al Qaeda happily spent their sons and daughters blood in the street with wanton abandon – to no end.  US servicemen and women are professional, discrete, and have sacrificed the final measure to protect Iraqis from death.  They now see this.  They are responding.  There are still major and deadly problems in Iraq.  But Al Qaeda’s ideas are almost universally rejected by the Iraqis.  If we do not abandon Iraq, no matter who gets elected as president here, we can see a peaceful, productive ally soon in the region.

    The Sunni of Iraq are not unlike Americans in that they are primarily concerned with jobs, with building wealth, and providing for their kids. Most are not overly pious. Many enjoy a good round of single malt scotch and a Brittany Spears video now and then.  The Sunnis I met were highly entrepreneurial.  Even in a war zone small business springs up.  Nearly everybody wants peace so they can go back to work.  Iraq was always the most West-leaning of the Arab countries, with only Lebanon being more pro-West.  The big question for history will be can the Shia and Sunnis get along in Iraq?  The US will have almost nothing to say about this issue.  If Iraq remains on a secular government path, then the answer can easily be “Yes, they will find peace.”

    The Arabs I met are an interesting bunch.  They are at one moment warm, hospitable, and desiring to please.  The next moment they are suspicious, vendetta-prone, with violence lurking just beneath the surface.  They don’t yet trust each other.  This creates uncertainty at the personal and national level, I think.  They expect the worst from their neighbor and they all hedge against that.  They have never really been free.  This experiment in freedom is new for them.  I say give it a chance.  Despite the nearly universal acceptance in our political establishment that the surge has succeeded, there are still American’s arguing against democracy as an inoculation against Al Qaeda’s ideology. If not democratic ideas, then with what will we counter Bin Laden’s ideas?  I find it disturbing that US citizens are still arguing against fomenting democracy around the world.  This was the real reason we went to Iraq.

    We can debate the honesty and morality of WMD as a reason for going into Iraq.   But the real reason we went was for two overarching strategic moves:

    1. We wanted to draw Al Qaeda into a decisive battle, where they would lose, thus proving the moral bankruptcy of jihadism as a theory for political and religious organization.

    2. We needed to build a democratic example to counter Al Qaeda’s example. Iraq was most ready for this, and prepped for occupation.

    I’m not a conspiracy person at all.  But I also understand most wars are justified by rationale that are not as openly discussed as maybe they should be.  The real reason we went to Iraq was to counter Al Qaeda in its home turf. We defeated Al Qaeda in the very heart of the Arab world, at the former seat of the Caliphate, using Arab Muslim warriors to do it.  Now the best Al Qaeda can say is that it speaks for a small portion of Islam, not all of it.  So many Muslims have risen against Al Qaeda, its voice is weakened and fragmented.

    A principle in warfare is that one never lets the enemy pick the place of battle.  Everyone from Sun Tzu to von Clasuewitz to Powell have stated this.  In New York and Afghanistan, Al Qaeda chose the place of battle.  In Iraq, we chose it and we won.    Al Qaeda cannot claim the moral or physical high ground any more.

    In closing, I want to thank all of you for your ongoing support of me and my family.  Thank you for the email, cards, care packages and prayers.  Your friendship and love sustained me.  Remember, that this war is far from over.  When I left there were over 14,000  Naval personnel still serving in the sand.  Many of the service members are reservists who have had their lives upended.  They will need support and love now.  And importantly, they need help when they get back.  They need jobs, understanding, and time when they get back.  We are fighting all over the world, Iraq and Afghanistan is the most publicized.  Don’t forget these fantastic men and women.  Every hour of every day, there are young men and women, and crotchety old reservists, standing watch in dangerous places so we can live free.  This country was bought and paid for with blood. Let’s honor them and take care of them.  They provided this freedom we enjoy.  Thank you all again.

    Much love,
    -Chief Penninger

    “One ground rule,” said Tanya, the giant cockroach. “If any of you humans plays rough with us, you’re all outta here. We like it peaceful in Nanonesia, and any species wants to fight, they’re eight-sixed.”

    “Two to the eighty-sixth is the largest power of two that doesn’t have any zeros when you write it out in decimal,” said the other cockroach. “Lemme ask you this: What’s the biggest Mersenne prime you got? I’m only asking for the lizard’s sake, mind you.”

    “The biggest Mersenne prime that I heard of lately is two to the 25, 964, 951 minus one,” said Paul, math robot that he was.

    “My condolences, the female member of the lizard couple couple said.” She fixed him with one of her large, golden eyes. “Your puny Mersenne prime is only enough to make a fourteen-million-digit perfect number. In our world, googol-digit perfect numbers are a commonplace. And we’ve proved that there are infinitely many bigger ones as well.” She gestured delicately towards herself and the other lizard. “I’m Vulma and this is Mulvane. We’re number theorists.” She tossed her head and twitched her colorfully ridged tail. She had meaty rear limbs like those of a T. Rex.

    “Hi there Unger,” said Alma, waving at him. “Don’t tell me you’re a mathematician too?”

    “Unger is a point-set topologist turned transfinite set theorist,” said Vulma. “He can’t tell a raven from a writing desk.” Pause. “That’s a joke. The raven’s ah, digestive tract and two beak-nostrils being homotopic to the three holes formed by the desk’s, ah, four legs and three cross-bars? Stay awhile and Unger can educate you about Cantor’s Continuum Problem. The true power of the continuum is aleph-two. And the next power in the beth power-hierarchy is aleph-seven. Big, ah surprise. How about lunch?” she said, sitting down to a plate of gork.

    From Mathematicians in Love pp 240-242
    by Rudy Rucker
    Tor Press, 2006

    A tale of two young recently-minted topologists from Humelocke, a university in a parallel universe to ours, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Berkeley. Many disparaging remarks about Stanford throughout.

    From the Inbox:
    You think the war in Iraq is costing us too much? Read this:

    Boy, was I confused. I have been hammered with the propaganda that it is the Iraq war and the war on terror that is bankrupting us. I now find that to be RIDICULOUS.

    I hope the following 14 reasons are forwarded over and over again until they are read so many times that the reader gets sick of reading them. I also have included the URL’s for verification of all the following facts.

    1. $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year by state governments.

    2. $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.

    3. $2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.

    4. $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of English!

    5. $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.

    6. $3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens.

    7. 30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.

    8. $90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for welfare & social services by the American taxpayers.

    9. $200 Billion dollars a year in suppressed American wages are caused by the illegal aliens.

    10. The illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that’s two and a half times that of white non-illegal aliens. In particular, their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the US.

    11. During the year of 2005 there were 4 to 10 MILLION illegal aliens that crossed our Southern Border also, as many as 19,500 illegal aliens from Terrorist Countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroin and marijuana, crossed into the U.S. from the Southern border.

    12. The National policy Institute, ‘estimated that the total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period.’

    13. In 2006 illegal aliens sent home $45 BILLION in remittances to their countries of origin.

    14. ‘The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One million sex crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States .’

    The total cost is a whopping $338.3 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.

    Jefferson could, in some cases, be called a prophet.

    “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”

    “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

    “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”

    “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

    “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”

    “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

    In light of the present financial crisis, itʼs interesting to read what Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:

    “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”


    Somewhere out in the fleet, there’s a Navy medical officer who earned the Navy Cross during vicious, hammering combat five years ago.

    And he’s not authorized to wear the award — second only to the Medal of Honor.

    That’s because the 2003 mission, during which the officer fought like a demon and put himself in the line of fire to save several wounded American and Afghan comrades from al-Qaida and Taliban forces, remains classified.

    And so does his identity.

    A spokeswoman for the Navy secretary confirmed the existence of the Navy Cross recipient after Navy Times forwarded her a copy of the officer’s citation, in which his name is redacted. So secret was the award that the Navy did not include it when queried as to the number of sailors who have earned the Navy Cross since Sept. 11, 2001. The Navy has now changed the number of recipients from six to seven, even though the seventh award was presented more than a year ago.

    “The Department of the Navy has approved the awarding of seven Navy Crosses for Navy personnel,” Capt. Beci Brenton, spokeswoman for Navy Secretary Donald Winter, said Friday.

    According to the citation, which is not classified, the unnamed lieutenant wasn’t caught in one brutal firefight but two. The citation does not identify the country but references Afghan personnel who were part of a “joint operational unit” on a mounted patrol with Americans.

    Unclear whether night or day, the patrol was ambushed and pounded by “extremely heavy fire from rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.” The lieutenant got out of his truck to return fire and pulled a wounded Afghan commander behind the engine block and away from the bullets.

    Still under fire, he extricated a wounded American, the driver, who was “trapped behind the steering wheel” of a stricken vehicle.

    While patching up that American, the lieutenant used his body as a shield, taking several bullets that only punched through his clothing and gear. He then made his way toward two wounded Afghans in the lead vehicles.

    After tending to them, he found a squad of Afghan soldiers in “disarray,” rallied them and sent them forward to “break the ambush.”

    The account of the first contact ends with the lieutenant treating and evacuating several wounded.

    Later in the day, “while sweeping an area of earlier action, a U.S.-Afghan element was ambushed by a platoon-sized enemy force” near the lieutenant. It’s not clear whether the element was the same joint operating unit ambushed earlier.

    After an American and an Afghan were “severely wounded,” the lieutenant had to run 200 meters “between opposing forces” and under “withering and continuous heavy machine gun and small arms fire.”

    The lieutenant took shrapnel while tending to the two and protecting them from fire “now directed at him.”

    An Apache gunship fired rockets while the lieutenant mustered the remaining Afghans, led a “fighting withdrawal” to safety, then moved out “overland back to base.” He finally treated his own wounds when he stopped moving.

    Full story here
    Military Times

    You have to pinch yourself – a Marxisant radical who all his life has been mentored by, sat at the feet of, worshipped with, befriended, endorsed the philosophy of, funded and been in turn funded, politically promoted and supported by a nexus comprising black power anti-white racists, Jew-haters, revolutionary Marxists, unrepentant former terrorists and Chicago mobsters, is on the verge of becoming President of the United States. And apparently it’s considered impolite to say so.

    Melanie Phillips
    The Spectator

    Today on my way to lunch, I passed homeless guy with a sign that read “Vote Obama – I need the money.”

    I laughed.

    Once in the restuarant, I saw my server had on an Obama ’08 tie. Again I laughed as he had given away his political preference — just imagine the coincidence!

    When the bill came, I decided not to tip my server, and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistributionof wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need – the homeless guy outside.

    The server angrily stormed from my sight.

    I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10, and told him to thank the server inside as I’ve decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

    At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment, I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn, even though the actual recipient deserved the money more. I guess redistribution of weath, is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

    Perhaps employers could announce the consideration of employee raises, then withhold those raises and give the proceeds to a worthy cause, preferably one involving non-workers.


    Ed Freeman
    You’re an 18 or 19 year old kid.
    You’re critically wounded, and dying in the jungle in the Ia Drang Valley, 11-14-1965. LZ Xray, Vietnam.

    Your Infantry Unit is outnumbered 8 – 1, and the enemy fire is so intense, from 100 or 200 yards away, that your own Infantry Commander has ordered the Medi-Vac helicopters to stop coming in.

    You’re lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns, and you know you’re not getting out.

    Your family is halfway around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you’ll never see them again.

    As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.

    Then, over the machine gun noise, you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter, and you look up to see a
    Huey, but it doesn’t seem real, because no Medi-Vac markings are on it.

    Ed Freeman is coming for you.

    He’s not Medi-Vac, so it’s not his job, but he’s flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.

    He’s coming anyway.

    And he drops it in, and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 2 or 3 of you on board.

    Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire, to the Doctors and Nurses.

    And, he kept coming back…… 13 more times….. and took about 30 of you and your buddies out, who would never have gotten out.

    Medal of Honor Winner Ed Freeman died Aug 20 at 80, in Boise, ID.

    None of that is Hollywood fiction!

    God Bless Ed Freeman.

    So how would you pronounce this child’s name: “Le-a” ???

    Leah?? NO
    Lee – A?? NOPE
    Lay – a?? NO
    Lei?? Guess Again.

    It’s pronounced “Ledasha”. Yes…you read it right.

    This child attends a school in Livingston Parish, LA. Her mother is irate because everyone is getting her name wrong. SO, if you see something come across your desk like this please remember to pronounce it correctly.

    When the mother was asked about the pronunciation of the name, she said “the dash don’t be silent.”

    If Barack Obama would apply for a job with the FBI or with the Secret Service, he would be disqualified because of his past association with William Ayers, a known terrorist.

    If he is elected President he would not qualify to be his own body guard!
    (and the majority of the people don’t care)

    “A bureaucrat is the most despicable of men, though he is needed as vultures are needed, but one hardly admires vultures whom bureaucrats so strangely resemble. I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless, crafty or stupid, an oppressor or a thief, a holder of little authority in which he delights, as a boy delights in possessing a vicious dog. Who can trust such creatures?”

    Marcus Tullius Cicero

    What a lot of absolute crap. The only way to learn to land an airplane is to practice it, over and over again. Landing is the hardest part of flying, and it takes eight or ten hours to learn how to land even the simplest of airplanes, let alone a complicated multi-engine aircraft. Besides this, whoever wrote it wasn’t even a pilot. Jambing the nosewheel down on the runway would snap it off. The stick should be full back and the airplane stalled just above the runway or you will bounce right back up into the air. There are 12 things you must do to get a B-25 down on the ground…I had 250 hours as a pilot and it still took me about five hours of sweating hard to learn how to land a B-25. And the Mitchell is a lot simpler than a jet!

    I flew quite a bit with bush pilots up in Canada with my Dad’s comany when I was in high school. Some executives would take the controls for a few hours to learn how to get the plane down in one piece if the pilot had a heart attack or something. Nobody ever got really proficient though…it is too much work to learn how to do.



    Graphic for Geopolitical Intelligence Report

    The United States has been fighting a war in the Islamic world since 2001. Its main theaters of operation are in Afghanistan and Iraq, but its politico-military focus spreads throughout the Islamic world, from Mindanao to Morocco. The situation on Aug. 7, 2008, was as follows:

    1. The war in Afghanistan was deteriorating for the United States and NATO forces. The Taliban was increasingly effective, and large areas of the country were falling to its control. Force in Afghanistan was insufficient, and any troops withdrawn from Iraq would have to be deployed to Afghanistan to stabilize the situation. Political conditions in neighboring Pakistan were deteriorating, and that deterioration inevitably affected Afghanistan.
    3. The United States had been locked in a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, demanding that Tehran halt enrichment of uranium or face U.S. action. The United States had assembled a group of six countries (the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) that agreed with the U.S. goal, was engaged in negotiations with Iran, and had agreed at some point to impose sanctions on Iran if Tehran failed to comply. The United States was also leaking stories about impending air attacks on Iran by Israel or the United States if Tehran didn’t abandon its enrichment program. The United States had the implicit agreement of the group of six not to sell arms to Tehran, creating a real sense of isolation in Iran.

    * The Russian Resurgence

    In short, the United States remained heavily committed to a region stretching from Iraq to Pakistan, with main force committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possibility of commitments to Pakistan (and above all to Iran) on the table. U.S. ground forces were stretched to the limit, and U.S. airpower, naval and land-based forces had to stand by for the possibility of an air campaign in Iran – regardless of whether the U.S. planned an attack, since the credibility of a bluff depended on the availability of force.

    The situation in this region actually was improving, but the United States had to remain committed there. It was therefore no accident that the Russians invaded Georgia on Aug. 8 following a Georgian attack on South Ossetia. Forgetting the details of who did what to whom, the United States had created a massive window of opportunity for the Russians: For the foreseeable future, the United States had no significant forces to spare to deploy elsewhere in the world, nor the ability to sustain them in extended combat. Moreover, the United States was relying on Russian cooperation both against Iran and potentially in Afghanistan, where Moscow’s influence with some factions remains substantial. The United States needed the Russians and couldn’t block the Russians. Therefore, the Russians inevitably chose this moment to strike.

    On Sunday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in effect ran up the Jolly Roger. Whatever the United States thought it was dealing with in Russia, Medvedev made the Russian position very clear. He stated Russian foreign policy in five succinct points, which we can think of as the Medvedev Doctrine (and which we see fit to quote here):

    * First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.
    * Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.
    * Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.
    * Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.
    * Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors.

    Medvedev concluded, “These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy. As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

    The second point in this doctrine states that Russia does not accept the primacy of the United States in the international system. According to the third point, while Russia wants good relations with the United States and Europe, this depends on their behavior toward Russia and not just on Russia’s behavior. The fourth point states that Russia will protect the interests of Russians wherever they are – even if they live in the Baltic states or in Georgia, for example. This provides a doctrinal basis for intervention in such countries if Russia finds it necessary.

    The fifth point is the critical one: “As is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests.” In other words, the Russians have special interests in the former Soviet Union and in friendly relations with these states. Intrusions by others into these regions that undermine pro-Russian regimes will be regarded as a threat to Russia’s “special interests.”

    Thus, the Georgian conflict was not an isolated event – rather, Medvedev is saying that Russia is engaged in a general redefinition of the regional and global system. Locally, it would not be correct to say that Russia is trying to resurrect the Soviet Union or the Russian empire. It would be correct to say that Russia is creating a new structure of relations in the geography of its predecessors, with a new institutional structure with Moscow at its center. Globally, the Russians want to use this new regional power – and substantial Russian nuclear assets – to be part of a global system in which the United States loses its primacy.

    These are ambitious goals, to say the least. But the Russians believe that the United States is off balance in the Islamic world and that there is an opportunity here, if they move quickly, to create a new reality before the United States is ready to respond. Europe has neither the military weight nor the will to actively resist Russia. Moreover, the Europeans are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas supplies over the coming years, and Russia can survive without selling it to them far better than the Europeans can survive without buying it. The Europeans are not a substantial factor in the equation, nor are they likely to become substantial.

    This leaves the United States in an extremely difficult strategic position. The United States opposed the Soviet Union after 1945 not only for ideological reasons but also for geopolitical ones. If the Soviet Union had broken out of its encirclement and dominated all of Europe, the total economic power at its disposal, coupled with its population, would have allowed the Soviets to construct a navy that could challenge U.S. maritime hegemony and put the continental United States in jeopardy. It was U.S. policy during World Wars I and II and the Cold War to act militarily to prevent any power from dominating the Eurasian landmass. For the United States, this was the most important task throughout the 20th century.

    The U.S.-jihadist war was waged in a strategic framework that assumed that the question of hegemony over Eurasia was closed. Germany’s defeat in World War II and the Soviet Union’s defeat in the Cold War meant that there was no claimant to Eurasia, and the United States was free to focus on what appeared to be the current priority – the defeat of radical Islamism. It appeared that the main threat to this strategy was the patience of the American public, not an attempt to resurrect a major Eurasian power.

    The United States now faces a massive strategic dilemma, and it has limited military options against the Russians. It could choose a naval option, in which it would block the four Russian maritime outlets, the Sea of Japan and the Black, Baltic and Barents seas. The United States has ample military force with which to do this and could potentially do so without allied cooperation, which it would lack. It is extremely unlikely that the NATO council would unanimously support a blockade of Russia, which would be an act of war.

    But while a blockade like this would certainly hurt the Russians, Russia is ultimately a land power. It is also capable of shipping and importing through third parties, meaning it could potentially acquire and ship key goods through European or Turkish ports (or Iranian ports, for that matter). The blockade option is thus more attractive on first glance than on deeper analysis.

    More important, any overt U.S. action against Russia would result in counteractions. During the Cold War, the Soviets attacked American global interest not by sending Soviet troops, but by supporting regimes and factions with weapons and economic aid. Vietnam was the classic example: The Russians tied down 500,000 U.S. troops without placing major Russian forces at risk. Throughout the world, the Soviets implemented programs of subversion and aid to friendly regimes, forcing the United States either to accept pro-Soviet regimes, as with Cuba, or fight them at disproportionate cost.

    In the present situation, the Russian response would strike at the heart of American strategy in the Islamic world. In the long run, the Russians have little interest in strengthening the Islamic world – but for the moment, they have substantial interest in maintaining American imbalance and sapping U.S. forces. The Russians have a long history of supporting Middle Eastern regimes with weapons shipments, and it is no accident that the first world leader they met with after invading Georgia was Syrian President Bashar al Assad. This was a clear signal that if the U.S. responded aggressively to Russia’s actions in Georgia, Moscow would ship a range of weapons to Syria – and far worse, to Iran. Indeed, Russia could conceivably send weapons to factions in Iraq that do not support the current regime, as well as to groups like Hezbollah. Moscow also could encourage the Iranians to withdraw their support for the Iraqi government and plunge Iraq back into conflict. Finally, Russia could ship weapons to the Taliban and work to further destabilize Pakistan.

    At the moment, the United States faces the strategic problem that the Russians have options while the United States does not. Not only does the U.S. commitment of ground forces in the Islamic world leave the United States without strategic reserve, but the political arrangements under which these troops operate make them highly vulnerable to Russian manipulation – with few satisfactory U.S. counters.

    The U.S. government is trying to think through how it can maintain its commitment in the Islamic world and resist the Russian reassertion of hegemony in the former Soviet Union. If the United States could very rapidly win its wars in the region, this would be possible. But the Russians are in a position to prolong these wars, and even without such agitation, the American ability to close off the conflicts is severely limited. The United States could massively increase the size of its army and make deployments into the Baltics, Ukraine and Central Asia to thwart Russian plans, but it would take years to build up these forces and the active cooperation of Europe to deploy them. Logistically, European support would be essential – but the Europeans in general, and the Germans in particular, have no appetite for this war. Expanding the U.S. Army is necessary, but it does not affect the current strategic reality.

    This logistical issue might be manageable, but the real heart of this problem is not merely the deployment of U.S. forces in the Islamic world – it is the Russians’ ability to use weapons sales and covert means to deteriorate conditions dramatically. With active Russian hostility added to the current reality, the strategic situation in the Islamic world could rapidly spin out of control.

    The United States is therefore trapped by its commitment to the Islamic world. It does not have sufficient forces to block Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union, and if it tries to block the Russians with naval or air forces, it faces a dangerous riposte from the Russians in the Islamic world. If it does nothing, it creates a strategic threat that potentially towers over the threat in the Islamic world.

    The United States now has to make a fundamental strategic decision. If it remains committed to its current strategy, it cannot respond to the Russians. If it does not respond to the Russians for five or 10 years, the world will look very much like it did from 1945 to 1992. There will be another Cold War at the very least, with a peer power much poorer than the United States but prepared to devote huge amounts of money to national defense.

    There are four broad U.S. options:

    1. Attempt to make a settlement with Iran that would guarantee the neutral stability of Iraq and permit the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces there. Iran is the key here. The Iranians might also mistrust a re-emergent Russia, and while Tehran might be tempted to work with the Russians against the Americans, Iran might consider an arrangement with the United States – particularly if the United States refocuses its attentions elsewhere. On the upside, this would free the U.S. from Iraq. On the downside, the Iranians might not want -or honor – such a deal.
    2. Enter into negotiations with the Russians, granting them the sphere of influence they want in the former Soviet Union in return for guarantees not to project Russian power into Europe proper. The Russians will be busy consolidating their position for years, giving the U.S. time to re-energize NATO. On the upside, this would free the United States to continue its war in the Islamic world. On the downside, it would create a framework for the re-emergence of a powerful Russian empire that would be as difficult to contain as the Soviet Union.
    3. Refuse to engage the Russians and leave the problem to the Europeans. On the upside, this would allow the United States to continue war in the Islamic world and force the Europeans to act. On the downside, the Europeans are too divided, dependent on Russia and dispirited to resist the Russians. This strategy could speed up Russia’s re-emergence.
    4. Rapidly disengage from Iraq, leaving a residual force there and in Afghanistan. The upside is that this creates a reserve force to reinforce the Baltics and Ukraine that might restrain Russia in the former Soviet Union. The downside is that it would create chaos in the Islamic world, threatening regimes that have sided with the United States and potentially reviving effective intercontinental terrorism. The trade-off is between a hegemonic threat from Eurasia and instability and a terror threat from the Islamic world.

    We are pointing to very stark strategic choices. Continuing the war in the Islamic world has a much higher cost now than it did when it began, and Russia potentially poses a far greater threat to the United States than the Islamic world does. What might have been a rational policy in 2001 or 2003 has now turned into a very dangerous enterprise, because a hostile major power now has the option of making the U.S. position in the Middle East enormously more difficult.

    If a U.S. settlement with Iran is impossible, and a diplomatic solution with the Russians that would keep them from taking a hegemonic position in the former Soviet Union cannot be reached, then the United States must consider rapidly abandoning its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redeploying its forces to block Russian expansion. The threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War was far graver than the threat posed now by the fragmented Islamic world. In the end, the nations there will cancel each other out, and militant organizations will be something the United States simply has to deal with. This is not an ideal solution by any means, but the clock appears to have run out on the American war in the Islamic world.

    We do not expect the United States to take this option. It is difficult to abandon a conflict that has gone on this long when it is not yet crystal clear that the Russians will actually be a threat later. (It is far easier for an analyst to make such suggestions than it is for a president to act on them.) Instead, the United States will attempt to bridge the Russian situation with gestures and half measures.

    Nevertheless, American national strategy is in crisis. The United States has insufficient power to cope with two threats and must choose between the two. Continuing the current strategy means choosing to deal with the Islamic threat rather than the Russian one, and that is reasonable only if the Islamic threat represents a greater danger to American interests than the Russian threat does. It is difficult to see how the chaos of the Islamic world will cohere to form a global threat. But it is not difficult to imagine a Russia guided by the Medvedev Doctrine rapidly becoming a global threat and a direct danger to American interests.

    We expect no immediate change in American strategic deployments – and we expect this to be regretted later. However, given U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip to the Caucasus region, now would be the time to see some movement in U.S. foreign policy. If Cheney isn’t going to be talking to the Russians, he needs to be talking to the Iranians. Otherwise, he will be writing checks in the region that the U.S. is in no position to cash.

    Dr. George Friedman
    September 2, 2008

    If you’re concerned about Sarah Palin’s lack of experience, Politico’s Alexander Burns has some numbers that ought to put your mind at ease:

    For a man who has lived 72 years and 67 days (McCain’s age on Election Day this year), there is between a 14.2 and 15.1 percent chance of dying before Inauguration Day 2013, according to the Social Security Administration’s 2004 actuarial tables and the authoritative 2001 mortality statistics assembled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

    Going by the Social Security Administration’s tables, that’s nearly ten times the likelihood that a man aged 47 years and 92 days (Barack Obama’s age on Election Day this year) will die before Jan. 20, 2013.

    Let’s take the average of the two figures and say that McCain has a 14.65% likelihood of dying before Inauguration Day 2013, while Obama’s likelihood is 1.465%.

    For the sake of argument, assume further that Joe Biden and John McCain are equally qualified to be president, and Sarah Palin is as unqualified as Barack Obama.

    That means that if McCain is elected, there is better than an 85% chance that America will have a qualified president at the end of the term. If Obama is elected, the likelihood of having an unqualified president at term’s end is higher than 98.5%.

    Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials

    This is the work of Alan Bennett – who got interested in such things
    after retiring in the early 1990s. (I believe he may have died
    relatively recently.)

    To see other (simpler, but more elegant) examples of his work, google
    “Alan Bennett glass” and go the science museum website.


    Fighting in Georgia’s separatist enclave of South Ossetia picked up overnight Friday. Georgia moved regular army forces into the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali proper after having captured most of the suburbs and encircling the town. The Georgian government says that its forces now hold most South Ossetian territory, including all of the heights overlooking the capital.

    South Ossetia seceded from Georgia in 1993 during the chaos of the Soviet breakup. In those early post-Soviet days, a crumbling Russia wanted to maintain footholds south of the Caucasus Mountains and ensure that Georgia could not become a launching point for foreign influence into Russian territory. On the other side of the border, Georgia was undergoing a nationalist spasm that made the South Ossetians believe that their destruction was imminent. These fears merged and the Russians provided the South Ossetians with the military capabilities they needed to secure and hold independence. Fifteen years later, the Georgians are attempting to eliminate the South Ossetian separatists.

    But this conflict is about much more than simply which flag flies over a tiny chunk of territory in the Caucasus. Georgia is an extremely pro-American and pro-Western state and represents the easternmost foothold of American/Western power. It has also been in the Russian orbit for the bulk of the past 300 years. As such, it is the hottest flashpoint in Western-Russian relations. Which way the territory falls ultimately decides whether Russia can determine security concerns that literally fall right on the border of its heartland. To put it another way, what is being decided here is whether bordering Russia and simultaneously being a U.S. ally is a suicidal combination. Whichever way this works out, the dynamics of the entire region are about to be turned on their head.

    The conflict started on Thursday because the South Ossetians feared that the Russians were about to sell them out. Russia does not want Georgia to join NATO – or even to be appearing to be seeking to join NATO – and so has cranked up political, economic and military pressure on Tbilisi. The two had been negotiating a deal by which Georgia would abandon its NATO bid and tone down its rhetoric in exchange for being allowed to continue existing. Since South Ossetia (and, to a lesser degree, Georgia’s other breakaway region of Abkhazia) gauges its own prospects for continued existence based on the level of tension between Moscow and Tbilisi, the South Ossetians feared that restoration of some sort of “normal” relations between Russia and Georgia could destroy them. Ergo they began shelling Georgian towns near Tskhinvali. The Georgians responded with an invasion.

    Fundamentally there are only two locations in this conflict that matter: the capital and the southern end of the Roki Tunnel, which connects South Ossetia to Russia. The capital is the only city of note in South Ossetia, and the Roki is the only means for Russia to shuttle forces to and from the territory. The tunnel is only two lanes wide and is an excellent choke point. If Georgia can capture and hold those two targets, South Ossetia’s 15-year rebellion will in essence be over.

    But that can happen only if the Russians let it. While Georgia’s forces – with U.S. training – have become demonstrably more capable in the past five years, Georgia remains a relative military pigmy and South Ossetia is a Russian client.

    Effective Russian intervention has not yet materialized, however. Russian sources are reporting that the Georgians have engaged Russian peacekeepers (forces the Russians have long deployed to guarantee South Ossetia’s independence) and killed their commander. Georgian sources report that Russian jets have bombed Gori, a city in Georgia proper that is being used for the invasion’s launching point. Those reports also claim that Georgian forces downed one of the jets.

    The truth of the reports from either side cannot be confirmed at this point, but this we know for sure: If the Russians were committed to assisting the South Ossetians, then the Roki tunnel would be flooded with military assets flowing south instead of evacuees flooding north. All reports at present indicate that the northern end of the tunnel is cluttered with evacuation buses, by some reports enough to transport a sizable portion of South Ossetia’s total population of about 70,000.

    If the Russians do commit militarily, one of the most enthusiastic forces they could tap to assist South Ossetia are the Abkhaz. Like South Ossetia, Abkhazia is another Georgian separatist enclave that could have attained and maintained its de facto independence only with active Russian military support. The Abkhaz say they are willing to send at least 1,000 volunteers to back up South Ossetia, but it appears the Russians are restraining them.

    The Russians appear to be making up their minds about what to do. President Dmitri Medvedev is chairing a National Security Council meeting as this diary is being published, a meeting that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – at the Olympics in Beijing – is undoubtedly attending remotely.

    The Russians now face an uncomfortable decision. South Ossetia wants to force Russia to intervene militarily, but Russia prefers to maintain the fiction that it is not Russian military assets that guarantee South Ossetian independence. Should Russia not intervene, however, it will essentially have demonstrated its ineffectiveness in its own back yard. Kosovo’s independence proved that Russian diplomatic power in Europe was nonexistent. Getting forced out of South Ossetia – a territory that Russia not only borders but has troops in – would be several steps past humiliation.

    And so we would be very surprised if Russia does not act. Which means we are very surprised that the Russians have not yet acted firmly. They will need to do so very soon, for if Georgia manages to capture both Tskhinvali and the mouth of the Roki Tunnel, then Russia not only will have lost its foothold in the South Caucasus, but also will be unable to use purely conventional forces to put the military balance back where Moscow would like it to be.

    So, for now, all eyes are on that security council meeting in Moscow. The Russians need to decide if they are all in.

    August 8, 2008


    About a year ago, I opened an e-mail from thinking it was just another blast to the Society of Vascular Surgery’s (SVS) membership regarding the vascular surgery issue of the day. Instead, it was a request from the U.S. Army, which had contacted the SVS to request help from volunteer vascular surgeons. The war in Iraq had depleted the domestic supply of active-duty vascular surgeons and volunteers were needed to cover U.S. Army hospitals until the Iraq hostilities ended or calmed down. Without really thinking about it and without talking to my wife or partners, both of which I should have done, I replied ‘yes’ and clicked ‘send.’ I will explain later why I was so quick to volunteer.

    Originally, I was told that I would be sent to El Paso, Texas, or Washington State, but somewhere along the way the army changed its mind and sent the civilian volunteers to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) adjacent to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Landstuhl is the major evacuation hospital for Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Major vascular injuries are addressed ‘down range’ or ‘in theater’ and then sent immediately to Landstuhl for follow-up care before being transported back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center or Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in the United States. It is not unusual for a severely injured soldier to be stabilized in Iraq, transported via C-17 cargo plane to Landstuhl for additional surgery, and then back onto a C-17 bound for either Walter Reed or BAMC, all while intubated and all within 48 hours.

    This tiny tour of duty, however, only emphasized for me the magnitude of the sacrifice that others make in service to their country. It also laid to rest the popular portrayal in the press of soldiers as being dead-enders with no other career prospects. For the life of me, I can’t understand how investigative journalists appear blinded to the extraordinary courage and patriotism prevalent in our volunteer army. Mandatory military service should be required if for no other reason than to personally acquaint the rest of us with some of America’s finest men and women. Maybe a little something would rub off.

    For many of the soldiers I met on the base, joining the military was like entering the family business, where many before them had served for generations. For others, the military made economic sense because of free educational and career opportunities with good benefits and early, well-compensated retirement. Many enlisted as unadulterated expressions of patriotism. I didn’t meet any refugees from real life in need of personality reconstruction. The army doesn’t want reclamation jobs. Most agreed that a sense of service to country was a necessary prerequisite to endure the sacrifices inherent in military life. If leaving for a few weeks made me a little uneasy for a variety of reasons, I could just imagine what it must be like for a 22-year-old to leave a wife and young baby for the uncertainties of war.

    I wondered about the psychological requirements necessary to take care of patients with the kind of mutilation all too common in the Iraq War. Advances in surgical care have improved survival even with massive injuries that leave survivors with extraordinary disfigurement and disability. Military surgery in this kind of setting is clearly a younger person’s game, not only because of the incredible energy required, but also because it takes a younger, agile mind and spirit to sublimate the horrors of war into something more palatable, like the intense satisfaction of working in such a highly charged and dynamic environment. For older people like me, there was no useful distraction from the stark finality of unimaginable injuries. I knew I was only seeing one side of the story, but I felt my worldview threatened by the carnage in front of

    I went to Landstuhl because I was led to believe that the army needed me and I was thrilled I had something to give. Instead, I got a great gift in return, one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I got to work with men and women who, by demeanor and deed, reaffirmed my belief that we live in the greatest country on Earth. The people I met — enlisted men and women and officers — populate a world defined by duty, courage, honor and selfless service to their country. I find it the height of irony that political candidates bellowing for change and service to country overlook the million-plus who are already doing that and more in the military.

    When I graduated from Yale more than 40 years ago, we were told we were the ‘best and the brightest.’ I don’t think so. We were neither. The best and the brightest had been kicked off campus, as an honest expression of antiwar activism, or so we were told. In truth, it was because the honest and purposeful culture of the military world was an embarrassment to the partisan and fragmented life on campus, where it’s difficult to navigate without spin and you can never really put your finger on the truth. The military should open itself up to average citizens like me so that upon request, a citizen has the opportunity to see firsthand the remarkable culture of the military that for some reason is hidden from most of us. It was an unexpected joy indeed to finally catch up with the real ‘best and the brightest’ at Landstuhl Regional
    Medical Center in Germany.

    Full story here.

    David V. Cossman MD
    (Dr. Cossman is a vascular surgeon in Los Angeles)


    This is an oldie but goodie.

    Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that’s it.

    In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

    When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

    There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we’d be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger’s potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat–it has no validity when most of a mugger’s potential marks are armed. People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

    Then there’s the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don’t constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level. The gun is the only weapon that’s as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weightlifter. It simply wouldn’t work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn’t both lethal and easily employable.

    When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation…and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

    From the Marko, the Munchkin Wrangler

    I have just finished the book “Best of Friends” about Bill and Babe, (two Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division troopers), who survived Camp Toccoa, Ft. Bragg, Normandy, Holland, Bastogne and fought all the way up to Hitler’s redoubt in Bavaria. They have remained close friends all these years, through thick and thin. They grew up within five blocks of each other.

    Stephen Spielberg decided to have these two troopers actually come to the set where the TV series was being filmed. Tom Hanks, producer of the series, asked Bill Guarnere, the poor kid from South Philly, then over age 80, who figured in major scenes (Jump Wings, two Purple Hearts, (missing leg), Silver Star, two Presidential Unit Citations), upon meeting him on the Hollywood set:

    “Do you want my autograph?”

    Bill Guarnere (somewhat incredulous): “Why aren’t you asking me for my autograph?”

    Hollywood people have always lived in their own little dream world.