"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"The system worked"

Lordie. Well, it's been a quiet Christmas for the SoCal branch of the family, spent, alternatively, getting Aaron to sit still in church, getting Aaron interested in opening his big presents rather than just eating the Goldfish from his stocking, and getting Aaron to choose just one toy to take in the car with him on our outings (and if this sounds suspiciously like Toy Story, you're right, since he can now choose between Buzz, Woody, and Rex). We had a couple of good Christmas feasts with some of my old squadron members, and with all my gift cards, I'm now booked out for at least the next few months. Thank you all for your gifts, and know that whenever I'm plugging through the pages of Xenophon's Hellenica, I'm thinking of you.

That said, back to Lordie: it hasn't been a quiet Christmas for other folks. In case you hadn't noticed (easy to do, since this country is again studiously ignoring it), Iranians have been protesting in record numbers against their regime during the Shiite holiday of Ashura; and boy, have they been paying for it. At least five have been killed in the last few days, and thousands more are going toe-to-toe with Iranian police and paramilitaries. The courage of these men and women is truly remarkable, given that the regime has no qualms about killing them outright and shutting down all possible avenues for getting their message out to the world. And yet they've continued, months after the mullahocracy rigged their presidential election. This may yet turn out to be one of those "hinges" of history, harbinging powerful and unforeseen change that resonates throughout the region. Since nothing else seems to be working, this protest movement may be our last, best chance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons without some military action on our part. Sure hope it works (no thanks to us).

Also, some holiday travelers got quite the scare when a passenger on a flight bound for Detroit decided to be a grinch and, um, blow up the plane with his underwear. I jest, a little, but this was no joke: somehow, a man who'd been identified as radical enough to placed on a 'watch' list (though, for reasons that escape me, not on the 'no fly' list) and whose own father had warned American authorities months ago that Junior was itching to meet his virgins and take a few infidels with him managed to smuggle explosives sewn into his clothes onto a plane and would have successfully detonated them had the device not malfunctioned and passengers not noticed what he was up to and beat the crap out of him. This was a stark reminder of two things. One: all wishful thinking to the contrary, our conflict with radical Islam is not over, and the crazies don't seem to care about what magnanimous treatment we give prisoners or how many globe-trotting apologies we make. They are out there, they don't give a damn how many concessions we make, and they will keep trying to kill us until either we surrender or they run out of jihadists. Two: countering these murderers does not mean having enough firefighters and doctors to clean up the wreckage when they succeed, but using the many tools we've developed to keep them on the defensive and protect our citizens. Our current chief of homeland security seems to be of the former opinion, however, because even though a terrorist came within a hair's breadth of turning Christmas into a funeral, she thinks that "the system worked" since the news of the bombing was rapidly disseminated and the passengers reacted quickly. From the leader of the department founded on the ashes of a previous terrorist attack, this is fatuous and irresponsible in the extreme. Had the bomb been built a little better, right now we'd be talking about the body count rather than how the bomber won't be able to have kids any time soon. Whatever system we have, failed, from the moment this guy was able to check in to his flight. Oh, and Janet, unless every passenger is now a paid member of DHS or a deputized air marshal, the passengers aren't part of "the system": they're what the system is supposed to protect, and the fact that they had to take any action at all again shows that the system, your system, FAILED. Be grateful that the average American still has the gonads and initiative to take matters into his own hands when necessary; apparently you're more interested in scraping bodies off the tarmac quickly and efficiently than preventing a body count in the first place. You need to get serious, and fast, or get another job.

OK, enough of the heavy stuff. All you geeks out there, please enjoy this doctoral dissertation on the physics of interstellar space battles. This should be required reading for all of us who plan to someday conquer the galaxy.

Oh, and to any crazies out there who think that the SoCal household is counting on "the system" to ride to the rescue, here's fair warning: my first line of defense isn't Jibbering Janet, but my new Christmas/anniversary/several occasions in the future present:


That's 7.62mm of the finest Soviet engineering (which, incidentally, when it came to small arms was pretty good), and after 60 years she's still in great shape. Great shape.

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