July 30, 2007

Rich Puts Down A Marker; Partisan Slugging Expected

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:58 am

Rich Galen, who I began reading regularly when he went to Iraq to work public affairs issues, has a new blog. He also has joined the campaign of one of the Presidential candidates. Political wonkery is his normal line of work. (It’s also the family business, apparently; his son was on the McCain team until recently and that link is a good insight into how campaigns work.)

This is an example post for the new blog that provides some insight into the election process; Galen is a long time insider inside the Beltway but not so big time that he has to be bland about his thinking.

I know of no other election guy writing with this much inside baseball knowledge on either side since James Carville was a much younger (and candid) player. Anybody got any others?

July 28, 2007

Biography Is Hard

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:50 pm

Heinlein’s biographer is kind enough to drop by this web site, and offers some comments and corrections to my little late night post on the Heinlein conference. Although I’m embarrassed to have made mistakes in my post (since corrected by several people), I apparently did not make a mistake in posting quickly and as accurately as I could at the time–there’s not too much else out there on the Web reporting on the conferences. I’m honored to have the man drop by–he was a gracious and entertaining teacher in the panels I attended.

Mr. Patterson says, among other things:

The biography was actually finished more than a year ago, at 750,000 words, and I cut it to less than 400,000 words for submission. If the biography had any real “model” it was probably McCullough’s biography of Truman.

I found that you can cut about 15% just by eliminating excess or repetitive stylistics and up to about 20% by rearranging text to condense it; but after about 20% you start cutting facts. This was cut nearly in half. One of the things I had done in the original draft was to let Heinlein tell his own story in his own words as much as possible, and that device had to be eliminated except where it’s essential to get the point across, since narrative summary is a lot more condensed than the actual speech. Tor has picked it up and I suspect there will be some further cutting, as we’ve just got into the editorial process. I don’t think it could appear any time before Spring 2008 at the earliest.

Oh, and, yeah, the viewpoint in the biography rises out of the evidence, and my task was to present a picture of Heinlein as a person with the important factors that weighed into any given decision visible and present in the narrative — so only the evidence has any real chance of changing my opinion, and the best shot at changing an opinion is to show me that whatever interpretation I may have put forward in a panel or somesuch doesn’t really encompass the relevant evidence. Obviously that’s not always possible in an event-setting, but the Journal is available for that kind of thing, and I’ve been running letter-series for discussions of disagreements and such. My online presence for the Journal isn’t there — no time — but you can always e-mail me at or write at The Heinlein Journal 2261 Market Street, No. 457, San Francisco CA 94114.

As a courtesy and because I had a scanner handy, here’s a scanned pdf of the subscription page from the Heinlein Journal brochure I got at the conference.

Reading about this work reminds me of what my friend Jerry once told me about how hard it was for Edmund Morris to write about Reagan. Morris, who has written wonderful biographies, got stymied in Reagan’s case because Morris found it too hard to get at the narrative arc of Reagan’s life (a difficult task indeed). I also note the few people presenting at the conference who clearly didn’t get where Heinlein was coming from in some aspects–or recognized ideological differences but minimized them to continue in another direction. It’s impossible to write in such a way that one cannot be misunderstood, I guess.

I’m not knowledgeable about Heinlein and his times. I do note that the community of amateur and expert historians working on Heinleiniana certainly knew what they knew to very small details, and knew pretty well what they didn’t know of his life (with my caveat that some folks really didn’t understand being a naval officer and how that colors one’s thinking). If Patterson really can get Heinlein’s self on paper, get Heinlein’s viewpoint rising from the evidence of a man who was equally at home in what might seem mutually contradictory environments of old school Academy officers and movie people and California oddballs and various political groups and enterpreneurs and innovating engineers, then Patterson’s managed quite an achievement. If Patterson can do it and tell the story well, he’s got a significant work. I can’t wait for his book to come out.

And I still owe Dr. Wysocki a few introductory emails to folks at the Naval Historical Center…

Africa Resources

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:08 pm

I’ve been building a resource page for Africa links because I know less than jack and need to get smart about an entire continent. If you’ve got things to add or re-prioritize, please get me smarter on it.

Forgotten Hits?

Filed under: — Chap @ 6:58 pm

No Mozart in this post; you’re forewarned, guy.

This is one of the more inspired mashup boots I’ve seen recently (h/t BoingBoing).

Mashups, or bootlegs, were a fad a couple of years ago where someone would take one song and force it to fit with another song, making a new song in the process and impossible to match with most countries’ copyright laws as for-profit items. So they hide in the shadows a bit. Sometimes they get in trouble, sometimes the EFF defends them, sometimes they show up on an hour long BBC special mix of nothing but boots.

There were some great boots out there, and a couple of songs released with a capella B sides got recontextualized about a million times (because it’s a lot easier to put an a capella track on top of Old Smokey, as it were).

Problem, though, is that Sturgeon’s Law applies: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” So the ease of making a boot caused a flood of really bad attempts and they got less sexy. Now and then, though, a good one pops up. This one ain’t total revelation but a neat idea. One of the best is Rick James’s Super Freak with a crime jazz backing.

July 27, 2007

This Would Happen The Week I Get A Detaching FITREP…

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:57 pm

A wheelbook is a steno notepad, usually shoved halfway down the back of some poor officer’s pants as he rushes from meeting to meeting. A PDA would be a nice substitute if they allowed them in classified spaces.

The yeoman dropped by to tell me he saw the above link. Nice of him to give the warning!

July 25, 2007

Unfortunate Losses

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:00 am

Jeff Goldstein has lost his grandmother.

Mike Hendrix of Cold Fury has lost his wife due to a motorcycle accident.

I am very sad to hear of both, and offer my condolences for the loss.

July 24, 2007

Link Dump 23 July – Opening The Ball Valve With The Sanitary Tank Pressurized Edition

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:24 am

Got some house movin’ to do here. You know how it is. I think I’ll drive the first car 1800 miles the last day of the packout to get to the corporately owned government housing office (“we don’t acknowledge you exist ’til you’re here in person and checked out of the previous command”) by Friday, then fly back on my own nickel and drive the second car loaded with the stuff the movers won’t take (like the Chap Memorial Booze Preserve Of Bottles Too Good Too Open By Myself and all those cleaning supplies) while my better half takes kids and pets on a plane by herself in a Relaxing Journey Of Adventure.

Oh what fun.

Speaking of fun, I detect a trend here. Any guesses?

  1. This lovely person’s post about ‘supporting the troops’ was recommended by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Combine that with Durham-in-Wonderland’s profiles of the Group of 88, example here and refutation of “it’s just a fringe element” here, and you see why I don’t intend to shell out fifty grand per year per kid on their undergrad degree, and why I get annoyed on campus all too often.
  2. Or you could combine it with this lovely person who calls it a “Killitary” with specious logic “proving” we’re all evil, or this one who says “So to sum up, I don’t like our troops, I don’t like what they’re doing, I don’t like their fat, whining families, and yet, I support them.“, and just feel so good about the people who care so much about supporting the troops.
  3. The insufferable Chris Hedges, who Lex commented on last week, has a longer excretion in the Nation. I just figured out who the co-author is–the unrepentant and Columbia-educated daughter of convicted terrorist abettor and university professor Sami al-Arian.
  4. While the Nation goes for pseudointellectual bashing, the New Republic went for a more visceral approach, and “Scott Thomas” is going to be the usual story where something gets corrected six months later after the narrative is put into everybody’s head.

You know, a couple of weeks ago I went to Great Lakes, Illinois, where I went to boot camp and A school. I remember seeing Top Gun at the theater there, and the cheers rising up when a Navy Exchange coffee cup was shown prominently. I remember that was a big deal, seeing Navy in uniform on screen, being about the time the tide turned for the public view of the military–you know, Reagan-era and all that.

I wonder what will happen for the guys going to school up there today.

July 23, 2007

“66 soldiers, one diplomat and a carpenter.”

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:12 am

Remembering a carpenter who embodied much of the highest ideals of Canada.

Would that he were still around to continue to do good works. A security space is essential to making things better, and can’t be done without force.

(h/t the Drink Soaked Trots)

July 22, 2007

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:45 pm

John Stossel critiques the framing of his interviewee Michael Moore.

Wrong All Around

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:44 am

I’m only now catching up, and missed out on the news that Stephen Glass enlisted. You know, even the clichés sound improbable.

Even if every word (however unlikely) were true, the pseudonymous “Scott Thomas” would then be wrong for sitting back and watching all these things without doing anything about them.

Yeah, it’s about the time in the Vietnam cycle for the BS atrocity stories to come out…

Update: Falcon PAO calls BS.

Chewing On The Information Fat

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:28 am

I saw a little of the guild defense in the Yon-Prine debates a couple of years ago on this blog. Grim over at Blackfive finds another example of this–and his argument is not only spirited but erudite.

Halo effect candidate the Commissar’s classical studies (including Anabasis) figure prominently. I truly missed out in my younger days not learning anything of the classics–I’ve got catching up to do.

July 21, 2007

Link Dump 21 July

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:14 pm

While I recover from a bad hit of flu and try to pack…

  • Traitor Alger Hiss is popping up again in the news.
  • There’s an interesting review by a shipmate of a new Civil War book, this one on J.E.B. Stuart. I hadn’t realized the general died at the tender age of 31.
  • Joe Bob Briggs (via Tim Blair) spies an all-too-common situation, in the process defending the work of the late Doug Marlette.
  • My suspicion about Chowderhead Bazoo’s politics is confirmed when he reports a San Francisco event a bit different from how Zombie did.
  • Here’s an interesting quote:

    PS: Note to media types reading this: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles D. Stimson spoke out about the Gitmo lawyers back in January and lost his job as a result. San Francisco lawyers, free speech champions all, have even tried to yank his California bar license for daring to suggest that all was not hunky-dory with attorney-detainee relations. But more and more information is coming out to vindicate him. Don’t you think he ought to get a little air time to explain himself? I’d love to hear what he has to say now, even if it’s just “told ya so”.

    Could it be…?


  • And a final quote from the Comic Strip Doctor:

    Of course, outright mockery coupled with widespread exposure begat the inevitable cease-and-desist letters, which is why I maintain on this site at least a thin veneer of academic criticism.

July 20, 2007

A Good Reminder

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:15 am

An interesting observation set inside a gripe about the BBC mindset. In the middle of this essay (worth reading) comes a section that resonates:

Obviously all institutions have to be watched pretty closely. Although their justification lies in the service they provide, their fundamental objective has always been self-preservation. Without their critics, 10-year-old children would still be going up chimneys, women would not be able to vote, and sheep-stealers would still be being hanged. Nevertheless they are all that stands between the civilised world and the chaos of anarchy or the violence of tyranny.

It would have been more than reasonable for us to have opposed specific abuses by institutions; homosexual acts were decriminalised during my BBC years, which we all applauded. But the focus of our hostility was the institutions themselves.

Institutions are made of people. People, being human, will screw up every thing they touch; but that said, they still are made of people. Institutions are better understood when one knows the people in the institution, to better know how the institutional culture is built. Then one can better deal with, support, or destroy the institution as necessary.

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:06 am

Looks like Lex doesn’t like Chris Hedges very much.

Well, neither do I.

Not one bit.

There’s a reason the PAOs hated that SOB, by the way…

My Vote For The USNS Borlaug

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:59 am

Easterbrook’s got a point. There’s silliness in the comments, as usual for the HuffPo, but the article is sound. Easterbrook wrote a good article on Borlaug in 1997 in the Atlantic which still stuns people when they understand the magnitude of the gift Borlaug provided to the world.

July 18, 2007

War Is Not Just Kinetic

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:48 am

Strategy Page:

Yet another Marine has won a court victory in the investigation of the battle at Haditha – adding more doubts to the claims of a massacre. In this case, the officer conducting an Article 32 hearing (equivalent to a grand jury hearing in civilian courts) has ruled that charges should be dropped. In essence, the claims of a massacre at Haditha are now looking false. That said, al Qaeda, through some adept media manipulation, has still won a victory.

Just because there was no Israeli massacre at Jenin does not mean many people in the Middle East and Berkeleystan think there was, or that Israel doesn’t suffer the strategic effects commensurate with such an act. It’s an information war, and truth doesn’t have to be at the root of a powerful assertion for it to have an effect.

By the way: Thanks, Congressman Murtha.

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:44 am

Some rather painful snark at the BBC here, from a columnist I think I’m going to enjoy reading more regularly.

July 17, 2007

I Do Not Like My Experiences With DTS

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:15 am

CDR Salamander points out that Ace is on the case where the horrible Defense Travel System is concerned. Check the satisfied customers in the comments!

I would like to see something much simpler for DoD travel. I’d love to see that blasted credit card thing go away, and make travel systems acknowledge that we’re not in the sixties anymore. We could just give people a lump of money and let them figure it out themselves, or put the rule sets in plugins for any number of web-based travel agencies, or make the system become a travel ATM (“need to go to Cleveland for a week? Your boss says it’s required? Okay, come back if you get stuck paying more than X, and here’s the Cleveland air-room-car packages from these eight travel systems!”). Standardization isn’t the goal. Mission accomplishment, careful use of the taxpayer’s money, and transparent accountability is–in that order, too.

This problem is a lot like the French Minitel computer system. Minitel was good for what it was a long time ago, but it locked the country into a teletext terminal system for everybody just as the Internet became useful. Minitel cost a lot of money to implement and standardize, and the standard prevented the French from taking advantage of rapid improvements to connectivity. When you’re stuck with a Minitel, the answer is not to build another Minitel from scratch using the best of the last decade’s innovations.

In order to really save and become efficient, we have to become more accepting of a particular kind of risk. Unfortunately, that risk is completely unacceptable to the people who control the purse, which got us this program. Congress will spend a thousand dollars keeping ten from being stolen or wasted, and it is almost impossible to kill a program of record. So for that reason, even if Sen. Coleman is criticizing DTS for home state pork reasons, he’s still benefiting the country. I’d prefer we think bigger than just going back to a travel agent contract again–but this is a start.

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:33 am

Yeah, about like that.

July 16, 2007

At Least It’s Not “Detach Friday, Report Monday, Paper To Follow” Like The Last Couple Of Times

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:50 pm

Look at that. I’ve got some orders that just popped up on the website.

“Detach July” it says. Looks like it’s half past July right now, actually.


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