Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Cold

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Spengler:

General William Tecumseh Sherman burned the city of Atlanta in 1864. He warned: “I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them.” Add a zero to calibrate the problem in the Levant today. War in the Middle East is less a strategic than a demographic phenomenon, whose resolution will come with the exhaustion of the pool of potential fighters.

The Middle East has plunged into a new Thirty Years War, allows Richard Haass, the president of the Council of Foreign Relations. “It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups – militias and the like – operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless,” he wrote on July 21.

Well and good: I predicted in 2006 that the George W Bush administration’s blunder would provoke another Thirty Years War in the region, and repeated the diagnosis many times since. But I doubt that Mr Haass (or Walter Russell Mead, who cited the Haass article) has given sufficient thought to the implications.

How does one handle wars of this sort? In 2008 I argued for a “Richelovian” foreign policy, that is, emulation of the evil genius who guided France to victory at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648. Wars of this sort end when two generations of fighters are killed. They last for decades (as did the Peloponnesian War, the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars of the 20th century) because one kills off the fathers die in the first half of the war, and the sons in the second.

This new Thirty Years War has its origins in a demographic peak and an economic trough. There are nearly 30 million young men aged 15 to 24 in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, a bulge generation produced by pre-modern fertility rates that prevailed a generation ago. But the region’s economies cannot support them. Syria does not have enough water to support an agricultural population, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers into tent cities preceded its civil war. The West mistook the death spasms of a civilization for an “Arab Spring,” and its blunders channeled the youth bulge into a regional war.

The way to win such a war is by attrition, that is, by feeding into the meat-grinder a quarter to a third of the enemy’s available manpower. Once a sufficient number of who wish to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so, the war stops because there are insufficient recruits to fill the ranks. That is how Generals Grant and Sherman fought the American Civil War, and that is the indicated strategy in the Middle East today…

The Bush Administration was too timid to take on Iran; the Obama administration views Iran as a prospective ally. Even Neville Chamberlain did not regard Hitler as prospective partner in European security. But that is what Barack Obama said in March to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg: “What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.” Bush may have been feckless, but Obama is mad…

ISIS is a distraction. The problem is Iran. Without Iran, Hamas would have no capacity to strike Israel beyond a few dozen kilometers past the Gaza border. Iran now has GPS-guided missiles which are much harder to shoot down than ordinary ballistic missiles (an unguided missile has a trajectory that is easy to calculate after launch; guided missiles squirrel about seeking their targets). If Hamas acquires such rockets-and it will eventually if left to its own devices-Israel will have to strike further, harder and deeper to eliminate the threat. That confrontation will not come within a year, and possibly not within five years, but it looms over the present hostilities. The region’s security will hinge on the ultimate reckoning with Iran…

Three million men will have to die before the butchery comes to an end. That is roughly the number of men who have nothing to go back to, and will fight to the death rather than surrender.

The 3 million doesn’t count Iran, BTW, which most certainly will not choose to go quietly. Also, it doesn’t have to be EMP.

Priorities!

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

From DOD, Congress and CIA via WSJ:

2004 and 2008 reports by the congressional EMP Commission…warn that “terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or a military base, they may gain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack”…The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown…Surge arrestors, faraday cages and other devices that prevent EMP from damaging electronics, as well micro-grids that are inherently less susceptible to EMP, have been used by the Defense Department for more than 50 years to protect crucial military installations and strategic forces. These can be adapted to protect civilian infrastructure as well. The cost of protecting the national electric grid, according to a 2008 EMP Commission estimate, would be about $2 billion

Way too much money when US policy is that adversaries “must agree to a politics of ‘no victor, no vanquish’.”

Gunga Din on TCM now — suddenly timely

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

What’s Gunga Din you ask? A poem by Bombay born Rudyard Kipling that we read in school 50 years ago (“flayed you” — “made you”) that is probably illegal or at the very least terribly un-PC today? Or an RKO movie from 1939 that is strange and without accessible context? That’s so two years ago dude. Snooze material back then when we watched it occasionally and were bored to tears, but it’s suddenly fascinating now.

Gunga Din was just on TCM. (We comment only on the movie, not on whatever the underlying history might be.) Story: in India, a revolutionary religious/military movement is violently opposed not only to the dreaded British imperialists, but also to the Indian authoritarian establishment. They have a special religion which is superior to all others. They have no fear of death, but have an eschatological goal. The radical religious movement is both smart and merciless. After a long narrative, at times highlighting British battles with insurgents, they lure the western army into a battle deathtrap devised by clever military strategy, and their leader’s command is to cut off the heads of their captured British imperialists. (Sounds like ISIS? — hey, ISIS is in India now!)

One of the more remarkable aspects of the film is the inner peace of the ISIS, er, radical leader. He knows they will defeat the idolaters of Britain and the Indian establishment because his religion is supreme. His tactical advantage is that his troops will fight in new ways that the established military does not anticipate, and that even his own death, should it occur, is but a call to the faithful to heed his lessons with greater fury and abandon. His strategic advantage is the he has truth and destiny on his side.

Unfortunately for him, events don’t work out so well. Here things become a little complicated. Gunga Din, a bhisti regarded as a nonentity by most of the British officers (racists!), is well respected by the Cary Grant character (note Sergeants 3 parallel). He wants to be a bugler, but that’s a far off dream, not going to happen in the English army. Still he perseveres and at the critical moment in the movie saves the day. He’s not an establishment Indian, but he is certainly a death-deserving apostate in the way the ISIS guys see the world.

In the end, the religious maniacs are defeated by the combining of old and new. A mortally wounded Gunga Din blows a bugle call to alert the British troops that there’s a trap ahead, and the British respond by radically altering their march into the valley of death, and all-of-a-sudden unleash heretofore unknown superior technology using gatling guns to blow the enemy away. So technology plus apostasy plus superior military tactics plus opposing inhumane radicalism turn out to be a winning strategy. (Better keep that tech edge lest IS stumbles into nukes, EMP, etc.)

We had regarded the film Gunga Din as strictly a period piece with not much relevance to today. Suddenly it’s not, reminding us that human nature does not change and that death-worshipping head-chopping religious cults will be with us from time to time, and must be systematically, and if necessary, ruthlessly eliminated from the face of the earth.

Final fun point: Gunga Din was played by Dr. Zorba! Do not underestimate God’s sense of humor…

The IS agenda

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Too much to reprint, but this link leads to a longish piece outlining the agendas of the IS. It must be said that at this juncture, these fellows are motivated!! — and sure up for good times, ah yes, good times. A decade ago we hoped in vain that the West would deal seriously with the ideology of its enemy. Not doing so has made the West a worse enemy, one to be ridiculed for its cowardice. We’ve now entered phase two of what Jonah Goldberg and many others view as a very long war. Finally, James Lewis has a rather more excited piece on some of the same.

Horror and clarity

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Telegraph (more of the reporting from Jonathan Krohn here):

Mount Sinjar stinks of death. The few Yazidis who have managed to escape its clutches can tell you why. “Dogs were eating the bodies of the dead,” said Haji Khedev Haydev, 65, who ran through the lines of Islamic State jihadists surrounding it. On Sunday night, I became the first western journalist to reach the mountains where tens of thousands of Yazidis, a previously obscure Middle Eastern sect, have been taking refuge from the Islamic State forces that seized their largest town, Sinjar. I was on board an Iraqi Army helicopter, and watched as hundreds of refugees ran towards it to receive one of the few deliveries of aid to make it to the mountain. The helicopter dropped water and food from its open gun bays to them as they waited below. General Ahmed Ithwany, who led the mission, told me: “It is death valley. Up to 70 per cent of them are dead.” Two American aid flights have also made it to the mountain, where they have dropped off more than 36,000 meals and 7,000 gallons of drinking water to help the refugees, and last night two RAF C-130 transport planes were also on the way. However, Iraqi officials said that much of the US aid had been “useless” because it was dropped from 15,000ft without parachutes and exploded on impact…

Hundreds can now be seen making their way slowly…carrying what few possessions they managed to flee with on their backs. Exhausted children lie listlessly in the arms of their parents, older ones trudging disconsolately alongside while the sun beats down overhead. The small amount of relief the peshmerga militia can bring up into the mountain is not simply enough. One pershmerga fighter, Faisal Elas Hasso, 40, said: “To be honest, there’s not enough for everyone,” he said. “It’s five people to one bottle.”

The refugees who made it out described desperate scenes as they awaited help from the outside world. “There were about 200 of us, and about 20 of that number have died,” said Saydo Haji, 28. “We can live for two days, not more.” Emad Edo, 27, who was rescued in an airlift on Friday at the mountain’s highest point explains how he had to leave his niece, who barely had enough strength to keep her eyes open, to her fate. “She was about to die, so we left her there and she died,” he said. Others shared similar stories. “Even the caves smell very bad,” Mr Edo added. According to several of the airlifted refugees, the Geliaji cave alone has become home to 50 dead bodies. Saydo Kuti Naner, 35, who was one of 13 Yazidis who snuck through Islamic State lines on Thursday morning, said he travelled through Kurdish-controlled Syria to get to Kurdistan. He left behind his mother and father, too old to make the rough trip, as well as 200 sheep. “We got lucky,” he said. “A girl was running [with us] and she got shot.” He added that this gave enough cover for the rest of them to get away. Mikey Hassan said he, his two brothers and their families fled up into Mount Sinjar and then managed to escape to the Kurdish city of Dohuk after two days, by shooting their way past the jihadists. Mr Hassan said he and his family went for 17 hours with no food before getting their hands on some bread.

The Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish community that has kept its religion alive for centuries in the face of persecution, are at particular threat from the Islamists, who regard them as ‘devil worshippers’, and drove them from their homes as the peshmerga fighters withdrew. There have been repeated stories that the jihadists have seized hundreds of Yazidi women and are holding them in Mosul, either in schools or the prison. These cannot be confirmed, though they are widely believed and several Yazidi refugees said they had been unable to contact Yazidi women relatives who were living behind Islamic State lines. Kamil Amin, of the Iraqi human rights ministry, said: “We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them.” Tens of thousands of Christians have also been forced to flee in the face of the advancing IS fighters, many cramming the roads east and north to Erbil and Dohuk. On Thursday alone, up to 100,000 Iraqi Christians fled their homes in the Plain of Ninevah around Mosul.

One thing about ISIS, or as it calls itself now, the Islamic State: it sure has generated a lot of brand equity and clarity. Jihad is holy struggle? Jihad is personal growth? It appears that things have reached a new stage that the West, despite its intellectual obfuscation and denial, won’t be able to ignore for too long.

Related, from an interview with the retiring DIA head: “in 2004, there were 21 total Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 18 countries. Today, there are 41 Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 24 countries. A lot of these groups have the intention to attack Western interests, to include Western embassies and in some cases Western countries.”

ISIS versus SISSI

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Scotsman:

Bagpipers have expressed their fear over a new law which led to two US teenagers having their pipes seized by border control staff at the weekend. Campbell Webster, 17 and Eryk Bean, 17, both from New Hampshire had their pipes seized while travelling between Canada and the US, just two days before they were due to fly to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships. Mr Webster’s pipes, which were previously used by his father in his role as an official piper to the Queen, were confiscated by officials because they are made out of ivory.

New laws brought in earlier this year mean that owners of pipes containing ivory must get a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) certificate from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in order to transport their pipes across borders. And pipers hoping to travel to Scotland for the competition will have to make an appointment with officials at a “designated” port and make a declaration on their customs form. But pipers say the confusing rules, brought in at the end of June, are causing “significant concern” – with many unsure how the new laws work.

Mr Webster, from Concord, New Hampshire, had his £6,000 bagpipes taken off him by US Border Patrol in Vermont just two days before he was due to fly to Scotland. The teenager said he had a CITES permit but was told he needed it amended to allow him to travel through smaller border crossings…

He said: “My friend and I both had our pipes seized by the US government Sunday night. “We were told we were never going to see them again.” “There is no way to describe the feeling watching border patrol agents seizing your bagpipes right in front of you.” Campbell’s vintage 1936 silver and ivory Robertson pipes previously belonged to his dad Gordon Webster – pipe-major with the 1st and 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and once an official piper to Queen Elizabeth II.

It’s an ISIS versus SISSI world. One group makes snuff videos and beheads or crucifies its opponents, and the other harasses bagpipers, guitar makers, and boy scouts. Who will win in the coming showdown?

MSM in Gaza, Iraq, North Korea — obsequious and dishonest

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

CNN in 1997:

In a sweltering, crowded hospital south of Baghdad, dozens of children line the beds, their stick-like limbs reflecting a severe lack of food. A mother’s wail pierces the room: One of her children has already died and two others are suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea. Such conditions are prevalent throughout the Arab nation, where aid agencies have issued numerous reports documenting the deteriorating health of Iraqi children since the United Nations imposed sanctions seven years ago. One in four Iraqi children are malnourished, according to UNICEF. Many of those who survive will suffer permanent brain damage or stunted growth.

CNN’s chief news executive in 2003:

Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN’s Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff. For example, in the mid-1990′s one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government’s ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency’s Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk…A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for “crimes,” one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family’s home. I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me.

Not much has changed except the location, certainly not the professionalism of the media. Even the WaPo says the MSM are intimidated into silence or propaganda. Disgraceful. Lights, camera, action!!!

Bonus fun: North Korea too. Sense a pattern???

Odds and ends

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

The NYT asks that with “public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill,” just who in the USA might be on the other side? Duh.

It’s true and pretty obvious that most diseases are either highly contagious or highly lethal but not both. Plagues are rare enough. That said, the Ebola numbers are in all likelihood vastly understated, and complacency is unwarranted and unwise. So far we have been fortunate that many in the affected populations aren’t likely to be jetting off for August vacation; but that’s mere serendipity.

Question: if The Atlantic can figure out that Hamas isn’t gentler and kinder and has but one thing on its mind, why can’t other superior beings? Apparently, as Thomas Sowell rues, thinking is obsolete today.

Today’s reading

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Alan Dershowitz again. Jon Voight. Questions for journalists. And a writer at The New Yorker, of all places, takes on Rashid Khalidi. What a world. Meanwhile, did you know that the Gaza tunnels were a jobs program? Or that Andrew Jackson was a “genocidal maniac“? Or that if you think illegal immigration is bad now, soon “millions of people are driven north from the parched landscapes of a world degraded by intensifying climate change?” (Must be why they’re sending the kids to Alaska!) Finally, on some station that shows vintage TV, there today was an episode of Flipper from 1966. Almost every minute features something that is unacceptable or illegal now.

History lesson

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Here’s an extended piece on the Hamas Covenant by Jeffrey Herf. It covers a lot of territory apparently foreign to our government until recently; you know, about that “largely secular” group of guys. Gosh, it’s been over ten years since even the NYT did a long article on Sayyid Qutb and the MB, whose vetting for fanaticism and loyalty is truly impressive. Santayana and so forth……

An explanation

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

We talked about the possibility of serious realignments on the world stage, noting a particularly sharp piece in Haaretz the other day. Turns out we didn’t know the half of it, if this report is true.

Inverted world redux

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Bret Stephens:

Israel is culpable because (a) it won’t accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction; (b) it won’t help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won’t ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels. This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else.

Jonathan Chait: “I still find myself far more sympathetic to Israel than to Hamas.” That’s nice. VDH has more.

Inversions

Monday, July 28th, 2014

How strange. We now live in a world where the editorial line of the Washington Post is more or less unfit to appear in the HuffPo when it comes to Gaza. More at the WaPo and at PL on our inverted world. BTW, we thought Wretchard was getting a little too dramatic when he transitioned from the various wars to Ebola — then we saw that the CDC is stonewalling USA Today regarding the failures of its medical “do not board” rule for airlines. That’s reassuring! Have a nice day.

Era of potential realignments

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Haaretz, of all places:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

The document recognized Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’ disposal. The document placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary U.S. ally and as if the second isn’t a terror group which overtook part of the Palestinian Authority in a military coup and fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

On Saturday, the State Department distributed photos of Kerry’s meeting with Qatar and Turkey’s foreign ministers in Paris. The three appear jovial and happy-go-lucky. Other photographs show Kerry carousing romantically with the Turkish foreign minister in the pastoral grounds of the U.S. ambassador’s home in Paris, as if the Turkish official’s prime minister didn’t just say a few days ago that Israel is 10 times worse than Hitler.

The secretary of state’s draft empowered the most radical and problematic elements in the region – Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas – and was a slap on the face to the rapidly forming camp of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have many shared interests. What Kerry’s draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant.

It’s not clear what Kerry was thinking when he presented this draft. It’s unclear what he had in mind when he convened the Paris summit. It can only be seen as surreal. Along with foreign ministers from Europe’s major nations Kerry greeted with regal honors Hamas’ Qatari and Turkish patrons, ignoring what Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority might have had to say.

Wow, Israel’s NYT slams the administration hard. And in other news, the crazed illegal immigration situation draws large protests in Massachusetts, and elsewhere among traditionally loyal D’s. In some ways our current situation is a disaster, but it does open the door for realignments among people who can think like adults.

Bonus fun: Netanyahu goes off on the nutty Presbyterians.

Why not promote them………and other matters

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Jim Fox, the leader of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111:

The scouts and their leaders were on a 21-day trek from Iowa to Alaska – a trip that had been three years in the planning. As their vans were moving through a checkpoint into the United States, one of the scouts snapped a photograph. Agents stopped the van and ordered all the passengers to get out. They told the underage photographer that he had committed a federal crime. It was unclear which agency with the Department of Homeland Security’s CBP agency was involved in the incident. “The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and ten years in prison,” Fox told Des Moines television station KCCI. During the search, one of the scouts tried to retrieve a bag from the roof carrier. When he turned around, Fox said an agent had a loaded pistol pointed at the child. “He heard a snap of the holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head,” Fox told the television station. The scoutmaster wrote a detailed account of the incident on his Facebook page. He said he tried to watch the agents search the van but was ordered to return to his vehicle. An agent followed him and told the youngsters “that the next one to leave the van would be handcuffed and detained.” “The agent in charge informed me of the potential charges against (the) scout and informed me it is a violation of federal law for any American to take a picture of a federal agent or any federal building,” Fox wrote. Fox said he and another member of the troop were interrogated by agents – forced to answer questions about their background. They also wanted to know why the Boy Scouts were hauling “excessive amounts of lighters, matches and knives,” Fox said. After a lengthy delay, the Scouts were released

Too bad they were released, or we’d might recommend that the agents be promoted 1500 miles south to stem this disaster. And in other news, “killing bald and golden eagles remains a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine and prison time…In 2009, the agency first instituted a permit system to allow exemptions from prosecution—for five years—for wind farms and certain other projects that inadvertently harm or kill eagles. Last year, it extended the duration of permits for ‘non-purposeful take of eagles’ to 30 years.”

Final thoughts: Joan Rivers, and in lighter fare, “By Grabthar’s Hammer…what a savings.”

Tranquility Base

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

No, not that Tranquility Base of 45 years ago. (Amazing how quickly going to the moon made for boring TV.) Bob Tyrell describes our new tranquility base, and the twist is that he’s actually a little hopey changey himself, certainly more than Mark Steyn, who sees endless violent cycles of Lather, Rinse, Repeat ad infinitum. (BTW, he displays a picture that really is worth a thousand words.) Bonus fun: Roger Simon discusses the lovely UN that gets $6-7 billion or more a year from us. Bonus question: how many refugee camps can you name that are older than the states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the countries Tanzania and Republic of Congo? Is the number more or less than the total number of countries in Africa? Guess first then peek.

Final comment: Baba Booey!

Let’s change the subject

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Jalopnik:

On assignment for the Wall Street Journal, I was in San Francisco to drive the original Bullitt chase scene in a new, 2011 Ford Mustang V6. In the passenger seat was Loren Janes, the fabled Hollywood stuntman and McQueen double who had driven the movie’s most exciting scenes. Loren had graciously flown up from Burbank for the day to take the ride. What’s more, I had a CD of the Bullitt soundtrack to set the mood. The result is in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.

Loren is a very level-headed guy who spent years doing crazy things for a living. Really crazy things. He pulled off hair-raising stunts in more than 500 movies-nearly all of them household names. He also has added excitement to more than 2,100 TV episodes. You realize that without guys like Loren, movies over the past 50 years would be rather static. When I asked Loren if anything scares him, Loren said matter-of-factly: “Not really. I’m asked that often. I’m not really afraid of anything, and I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve been a gymnast, a Marine, a diver and Olympic athlete, which was great preparation for stunt work. I was always comfortable in the air.”

Today’s post isn’t about jazz, but it’s certainly about cool. For those who share my fascination with Bullitt or have always been curious about stuntmen, especially those who began their careers in the early 1950s, here’s what Loren said to me during our conversation leading up to our drive on Sunday:

“I first met Steve McQueen while working on the TV show ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ Steve was the star. Apparently, there had been two stuntmen there Steve didn’t like, and they were both fired. They called me because they had scenes to film and I lived about five minutes from the studio.



“When I showed up on the set, I walked past Steve, who was sitting around. We were both taken with how much we looked like each other. He asked me to get him a coffee. I wasn’t happy that he was treating me like a gofer. I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m going to make you look better than you can make yourself look. Just don’t blow my close-ups.’



“As I walked away, I could hear him scream to the director or someone, ‘Fire him.’ Apparently they had said to him in response, ‘No, no, he has to do the stunt first. We’ll fire him after if you want.’ 



“When it was time to do the first stunt, the coordinator told me Steve wanted it done as athletic as possible — meaning realistic and seemingly impossible. The stunt called for me to go through a low window in a barn, roll off the ground, leap up, vault over two horses, land on Steve’s animal and ride off.

“I spent some time walking the set to make sure the ground was clean and that there were no surprises. I moved the horses a little closer together and moved a rock that I could use to spring off to go over the horses.



”When the director yelled, ‘Action!,’ I went through the window, did my somersault, ran 15 feet to the horses, leaped over two of them, landed on Steve’s horse and took off. Steve couldn’t believe it. I worked out daily on parallel bars and other gymnastic equipment in my backyard, so vaulting over the horses wasn’t a problem.



“On my way back, I brought him a coffee, and he laughed. From that day forward I worked with him on every movie he made, including his last, The Hunter, in 1980, where I had to hang off the Chicago elevated train traveling at 55 mph.

Bullitt is on TCM today, and TCM is one of the few best hopes for a revival of the American values of several centuries. What would you prefer, VDH links to the upending of obvious choices between good and evil?

Moral clarity, one way or the other

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Benjamin Netanyahu:

Who wants civilian casualties? Who wants to accelerate and escalate? We’re forced to do it. And what would you do? What would anybody do? You know, you just have to put yourself in Israel’s place. And if you’re a leader, put yourself in my place. And ask a simple question, what would you do?

If you look at the historical antecedents, the answer is very clear. Israel is acting with great restraint because there’s no other country that’s been rocketed like this, with thousands of rockets. We’ve just had close to 2,000 rockets and mortars in the last few days, on every — just about every one of our cities…

Well, the only parallel, history parallel is Britain, rocketed by the Nazis in World War II. I don’t — you know, if we start drawing parallels, what Britain did compared to what we do, we’ve been showing a hell of a lot of restraint. So if there is any complaints, and there should be, about civilian deaths that they belong, the responsibility and the blame belongs in one place, Hamas. I don’t think anyone should get that wrong…

you know, in the Middle East, it takes two to tango, sometimes three and maybe four. The point is that there’s one side that is clearly bent on escalation and one side, that is Israel, that is bent on defending its people, as any country would under similar circumstances…

I’ll tell you what my experiences have been. I’ve been in war. I’ve been in battle. And when you take a surgical operation, you can’t guarantee when your soldiers are being fired from Hamas homes, that is, Hamas is targeting people with — from private homes. And you hit them back. Of course, some people are going to be hurt. That’s totally different from deliberately targeting them. We asked these civilians, before we went in, we said, please leave. We text them. We call them on cell phones. We drop leaflets. We told them where to go. And those who left were safe.

Now, those who didn’t leave, you know what they didn’t leave? Because Hamas told them to be there, because Hamas, while we try to avoid Palestinian civilian dead, Hamas wants Palestinian civilian dead. The more the better, so they can give you telegenic fodder. So this is the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen. I mean not only does Hamas target civilians, ours, and hides behind their civilians, theirs, it actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.

Meanwhile, you have the NYT (HT: Noah Pollak), Code Pink, and many others — ah yes, the anonymous “youths” have reappeared — arrayed against Israel. Strange times indeed to find ourselves, Alan Dershowitz and Bill Maher on the same page.

Check back in 2016

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Commentary:

almost everyone agrees that there is very little chance of the Taliban’s capturing any Afghan city, let alone Kabul, after the departure of ISAF forces later this year. They do control large areas of certain provinces, but they lack the capacity and perhaps even the desire to take any of the country’s cities.

Okay then, that’s settled. But just to be on the safe side, let’s check back in 2016, which will be ten years after this story.

Another charming fellow

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Ibrahim al-Asiri:

The 32-year-old, originally from Saudi Arabia, is a leading figure in the Yemeni-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and has been the brains behind a number of high-profile aircraft bomb plots. These have included the so-called “underpants bomber” who tried to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit airport on Christmas Day 2009, and the ink cartridge bombs uncovered at Dubai and East Midlands airport the following year…

Asiri’s fanaticism is such that he even blew up his own brother, Abdullah, in a failed attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s head of security. Asiri built a device that was concealed in his brother’s rectum and detonated by remote control from a mobile phone. Abdullah was killed instantly, although the Saudi official suffered only minor injuries.

Intelligence officials believe Asiri is now trying to develop a device that will escape detection by even the most sophisticated scanning equipment. His latest technique is to use an explosive known as pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, which has no odour, and therefore foils sniffer dogs and X-ray machines.

Telegraph: Travellers at Heathrow were subjected to “vigorous” body searches…It is feared that Western jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, including hundreds of Britons, have been recruited as would-be suicide bombers.