Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jack Bauer Tally: Hour 14

Mopping up after the largest slaughter of Russians since Afghanistan, Jack relocates back to CTU and has his broken ribs splinted. The EMT guy says he "could have floating rib fragments, that could lead to internal bleeding", apparently he don't know Jack, so to speak.

The bad guys get their stealth drone into the air, headed for parts unknown but later to be revealed as San Francisco. They have a back door into the CTU system that lets them spoof the satellite tracking of their drone.

The lunatic VP-who-is-acting-President is going to nuke a patch of desert in Middleeasternstan to show that he means business if the second bomb goes off. Karen Hayes is understandably dismayed, Tom won't step in to change anything. The only one that can stop this is President Palmer, and he's just been put into a medical coma to stop brain swelling.

Jack got some bad news, apparently Audrey is dead. The official story is that she perished in China in a car accident, and there is "DNA evidence" to that effect. Any time a questionable incident off-camera is presented as a fait accompli in 24, it usually means the official story is wrong or a cover-up. Do I smell Season 7?

The data link the Russian drone pilot is using to stay undetected is detected, and traced to Nadia Yasser's station. Chloe had already confronted Nadia and Milo about Nadia using Milo's login to get around security restrictions placed on Nadia because she's a Muslim, but it's not clear whether or not Nadia and Milo undid what they did. Nadia is arrested and dragged to a holding room where Ricky Schroeder chokes her and she calls him a sadist, which he doesn't deny. Jason Bateman would have already been pulling fingernails if Silver Spoons is any guide, so she got off light. Milo looks pensive, probably because they'll figure out that at least he's committed a felony by letting her use his login, and at worst he's going to get busted if he planted the spoofing software.

Conveniently, the drone pilot is just three blocks from CTU, so Mike Doyle (Ricky Schroeder) and Jack round up a CTU posse and break in. Jack gets two kills with a silenced pistol, the pilot is disabled and the drone steered not over the Pacific, which would be too easy, but to Oakland where it crash-lands without detonating and spreads nuclear material on the docks. Bill Buchanan tells the Vice-President that the first responders "almost assuredly got a lethal dose", though in reality plutonium is only really toxic if inhaled. The VP orders a nuclear strike and is told that the sub will be in position to fire "within the hour", then the episode ends.

Technical Note

"Silencer" is a misnomer, almost no weapons are actually silenced. People in the know call the cylindrical doo-dads on the ends of pistols "suppressors" (or "cans", if they're really cool), because that's actually what they do. The noise made by a gunshot is composed of two or three separate sounds, depending on the round being fired. The two invariable sounds you'll here are the mechanical noise of the pistol being fired and the action working, and the explosion of burning powder and gas exiting the muzzle and pushing the bullet out of the barrel. If the bullet is supersonic (nearly all rifle bullets are supersonic, and some pistol bullets are supersonic), there is an additional sound from the bullet's shockwave as it breaks the speed of sound and produces a sonic boom.

To "silence" a weapon, you have to address all of these sounds, and only a few weapons have ever been truly silent. The Welrod pistol and the DeLisle carbine from World War II were some of the few really silent weapons, the Welrod was bolt-action pistol and the DeLisle was a modified British bolt-action rifle that fired the US .45 ACP pistol round. For both weapons, the only audible sound with firing was the click of the hammer hitting the primer.

Work on suppressors continued after World War II. The two main kinds of suppressors are ones that work with "wipes", typically rubber discs in a cylinder that trap the expanding gas, and more sturdy designs based on metallic baffles that trap, cool and slow down the gases shooting out of the barrel. One of the main advances in suppressor technology was designing the baffles so that the sound produced becomes very high frequency, to the point where it's practically inaudible. A dog would go "WHAT WAS THAT?!", but humans don't sense that sound very well. The precise appearance, number and design of baffles is the province of PhDs and patents, and the materials used are often the strongest, most heat-resistant metals in common use. The suppressors based on wipes may last only a few shots before the discs become ineffective, but the baffle-designed suppressors can last thousands of rounds.

Metallic baffle silencer

The supersonic issue is easier to manage than you might think. For one thing, heavier bullets that don't exceed the speed of sound (roughly 1000fps at sea level) are actually fairly common in pistol rounds, nearly all the loads for .45 ACP are subsonic, and there's even a heavy 9mm bullet that leaves a normal barrel at less than the speed of sound.

Some weapons that have the suppressor built into the weapon itself, like the MP5-SD shown above and the DeLisle, have a perforated barrel to prevent the gas from pushing the round past the speed of sound. Even without using a subsonic projectile, suppressors make it very difficult to locate the source of gunfire with human hearing. The supersonic crack may be audible, but it's a non-directional sound that is not helpful in determining where the shot originated.

Suppressors are legal Class III devices, each suppressor requires a $200 transfer tax and an application to the BATFE, but they are legal for civilian use. For home defense they're a good option if you can afford them because firing a weapon makes a LOT of noise, to the point where you can add "permanent hearing loss" to the list of your costs for defending your home. Suppressors are popular for urban combat because they reduce noise and often completely mask the flash signature of firing at night. The other plus is that since the suppressor traps the gas column coming out behind the bullet, accuracy can actually be improved with a well-designed and well-fitted suppressor. And most importantly, a suppressor allows you to fire a weapon without being identified by sound as having done so. Pistols sound like firecrackers, if you hear pop!-pop!-pop!-pop! in the distance (and you're near a gun range) you're hearing gunfire. Most people don't immediately identify fsst!-fsst!-fsst!-fsst! as suppressed gunfire.

One common Hollywood error is the sight of a suppressed revolver, the most egregious case is Magnum Force where David Soul snaps a suppressor onto a Colt Python.

All revolvers with the exception of the Nagant revolver have a "gap", a bit of open air between the cylinder and the barrel that the fired bullet has to cross to get into the barrel. This gap makes silencing a revolver functionally impossible.

The Score so far:

Biting A Carotid9.0 -1 for lack of Universal Protocol
Shooting Curtis-8-10 own goal, +2 neck shot over a hostage
Shooting guard while handcuffed7.0+2 for while handcuffed
Handgun6.0+1 for saving hostages (Milo & Graeme's wife)
Handgun7.0+2 for disarm
Handgun6.0+1 for suppressor, because suppressors are cool
Handgun6.0+1 for suppressor

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Frank Facts About Fred Thompson

Frank J, the proprietor at IMAO, is just screamingly funny.

If you enjoy the Chuck Norris Facts or Jack Bauer Facts, Frank has a list of Fred Thompson Facts for your perusal.

The funniest one is probably in the comments:
If Fred Thompson had been at Thermopylae, the movie would have been called '1'. And people would now be decorating their homes with 'Fred' rugs.

Movie Review: '300'

300, directed by Zack Snyder and adapted from a Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, is yet another retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. It's generating plenty of battles on its own. The basic story of the movie has been known for almost 2500 years, since Herodotus first wrote it down: 300 Spartans led by one of their kings, Leonidas, stood for three days against a Persian army of hundreds of thousands, and died at the pass of Thermopylae in Greece in 480 BC. Their sacrifice was an inspiration to the Greek city-states, who temporarily stopped killing each other long enough to fend off an invasion by the largest empire the world had ever seen, and subsequent events in Greece formed the basis of Western Civilization.

My exposure to the history of the Battle of Thermopylae comes from a circuitous route. In reading We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, the book by Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and Joe Galloway, from which the movie We Were Soldiers came, there was a section about why men fight, and what it's like to be a soldier -- not the physical experience, but the mindset. Both that book and another Vietnam memoir, Steel My Soldiers' Hearts by David Hackworth recommended yet another book: Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield.

It seemed odd that non-fiction books about Vietnam referenced a novel about ancient Greece, of all things, to explain the mindset of men in combat, the fraternity and lifelong bonds that the most dire of circumstances will produce. It seemed odd, that is, until I read Gates of Fire for myself, and I have to tell you, it's about the only book that has ever had me close to tears. I get close to tears when I read about the 19 year-old Marine who gets shot, and in shock and in pain apologizes to his Sergeant for being wounded, and whose first concern is for his squadmates who will be denied his assistance in the rest of the battle. There's a selflessness there that is out of place in a self-centered world, yet another reason that the military is unpopular in certain circles these days. The military shows us a high standard of selflessness that can be difficult to face, particularly by people whose concept of selflessness consists primarily of proscribing the speech of others and taking a day off of work to go to the protest. 'Courage' and 'sacrifice' are frequently ignored or defamed by people with lesser definitions of those qualities.

Having read Steven Pressfield's version of the historic battle (and having never covered much in the way of Greek history other than mythology in school), I was eagerly anticipating the Frank Miller/Zack Snyder version. The day before the opening I was talking to one of the young women at the office who indicated that her boyfriend had already gotten tickets for the next day, and she remarked that "Every guy I've talked to wants to see that movie. I guess they just like all that violence and gore." I replied that if men wanted to see violence and gore there are plenty of options, the Saw series comes to mind. What motivates men to see 300 and to be drawn to the story in general, in my estimation, was the example of a stand against impossible odds, to draw your line in the sand and pit your will and your strength against the other's. And most importantly, to do that beside your dedicated friends, men who have your back, who trust you and in whom you trust. The Spartans are the ultimate football team.

I must admit, there's also a certain adolescent impishness that makes the Spartans (in the commercials and trailers, as well as the movie) appealing, especially to younger men. They're tough, they're bad, and they'll tell you the same to your face. When called to lay down their arms, the Spartans respond "Come and get them." When Xerxes offers Leonidas an amicable sharing of cultures after the first day's slaughter of Persians, Leonidas respones with a smirk, "We've been sharing our culture with you all day." One of the Spartans (they have names, but they aren't really important to the plot) is threatened by a Persian that "Our arrows will blot out the Sun!", to which he replies, "Then we will fight in the shade." The Spartans are nothing if not cool, until the fight starts, at which point they're deadly, efficient and largely smarter than the poor saps they're fighting. In short, they talk the talk and they walk the walk, something to which most young men aspire. I was in no way surprised that the 9:30 showing last Saturday was probably 70% male.

The other strong presence in the movie is Gorgo, Leonidas' wife who stays at home yet still fights for her husband, attempting vainly to rouse the Spartans to follow her husband and the 300 on the slim hope of rescuing him. She's as strong in her way as Leonidas is in his, and toward the end of the film she provided the loudest "Woohoo!" moment in the movie. At one point the Persian envoy who comes to deliver the first message from Xerxes to Leonidas and the Spartans is shocked that she speaks in his presence. She calmly puts him in his place. From the portrayal in the movie, it's even more obvious why Gorgo is queen than why Leonidas is king, she's an admirable figure.

There are multiple historical inaccuracies. A portion of the Persian fleet did sink in a storm, but it was on the other side of the island of Euboea, and out of sight of the Spartans. The Spartans wore armor in battle, their shields were bronze-covered wood, not solid metal, the swords are a bit fanciful. The Spartans weren't dead-set against slavery, they had a servant-class called helots that were pretty close to chattel slaves, these do not appear in the movie. When Leonidas bellows about "free men", he's talking about free Spartan citizens, but some license is in order. Democracy and the rights of the individual have to start somewhere, and Sparta was one of the places it started. Leonidas never spoke with Xerxes, and Xerxes is not indicated as being eight feet tall, bald and pierced in the historical record. The Spartans neither fought nor died alone, even at the end somewhere between 700 and 1,100 other Greeks stood and fought with them.

The controversy over the movie comes in two major and one minor flavors: there are several critics who write the phrase, "There's a war on!" as a criticism, and there are a lot of people objecting to the portrayal of the Persians in the movie. The other comment about the movie I find more than a little silly is that it's homophobic, a criticism that rests on one derisive line about Athenians (they are referred to as "boy-lovers") and the fact that Xerxes looks to some reviewers like a "club queen" or an ancient analogue of RuPaul. To deal with the minor issue first, the Spartans never liked the Athenians on general principles, you have to be extremely hypersensitive to focus on two words out of a whole movie. Also, the visual of Xerxes is Frank Miller's, compared to the, well, spartan Spartans there has to be a visual way to communicate "the Other" and this is the way Xerxes was portrayed. It takes a mind bent on finding offense to find homophobia as a strong undercurrent, given the other outstanding inaccuracies of the movie.

The "There's a war on!" people like to try to raise questions about whether Xerxes or Leonidas is the George W. Bush of the film, and whether or not the film promotes violence. I can understand the perspective, particularly if you approach it from the US being decadent and expansionist and sinful and the insurgents of Iraq or Afghanistan as noble and peace-loving people who fight to protect their way of life. I don't see the world this way, and on as simple a question as "How do the Perisans and Spartans perceive the role of women?" the question is answered. The other issue would be who does the fighting and for what reason, the Spartans send 300 volunteers, a tiny force, to accomplish a huge mission. The Persians drive their non-volunteer troops to battle upon fear of death and in fear of the God-King, to avenge an insult. Slot in the ummah for the God-King and a religious philosophy that even today demands submission and fidelity beyond that given to a nation-state and you have a pretty good Islamist analogue for the Persian troops. There is also some concern that a pro-military movie might (gasp!) encourage young men to enlist. Wonder if that held up the producers of Guadalcanal Diary? Frank Miller comes across as an unabashed conservative in this audio clip from NPR, I'm pretty sure that if the movie means the Army and Marines don't have to scramble for recruits it won't be the worst thing to happen, in his opinion.

Gorgo at the forum in Sparta pleading for assistance for the few volunteer Spartans fighting for their lives far away may just be too accurate a picture of Western civilization circa 2007: peaceful at home and uninvolved while a few fight across the globe against a real threat that as a civilization we'd rather not notice. The Spartans at home seem to say, "They're at war with Athens, not us. The Athenians shouldn't have provoked them," much as some in Europe (and those Americans who want desperately to be Europeans) say, "The Islamist terrorists are attacking the Americans and the Israelis. The Americans and Israelis shouldn't have provoked them." As if that will stop the onslaught. It did nothing for the Phocians, who abandoned their posts and allowed the defenders of Thermopylae to be surrounded and eventually defeated. If current political figures are anywhere in the movie, George W. Bush is Gorgo and most of Europe's political elite is Theron, including the rape in return for help that never comes. If only GWB was as articulate as Gorgo...but I digress.

The other criticism comes from modern-day Persians, including the Government of Iran. Some of this criticism is valid, some is not. The invalid parts center around the CIA's involvment in bringing the movie to fruition, if the CIA had CGI capabilites this good, we would have 'found' WMDs a long time ago in Iraq. The Iranian government is having a cow over a movie and events that predate the birth of their prophet by a millennium, it's just more in a stream of idiocy that seems to pour forth like a fountain from Tehran. I wish the CIA were this good, about the only government the CIA seems to be threat to these days in that of the United States.

The Persians who feel slighted by the portrayal of Xerxes have a historical point, the Persian empire was considerably more liberal in its administration of its territories than comparable empires, by and large as long as the taxes arrived they didn't impose religion on people and left them alone. They may have been the first to do this but they were by no means the last, Rome employed a similar strategy. They also point out that Xerxes was simply responding to an Athenian provocation that occurred 20 years earlier, and to the prior Persian defeat at Marathon, 10 years before Thermopylae. For the sake of argument let's concede the point that the Persians are generic bad guys made fanciful and freakish for the movie, but the tip for careful viewers that this wasn't a historical film should have been at least by the point in the movie where 'The Immortals', Xerxes' personal guard showed up wearing Greek theater masks and swinging katanas. One would think that the fact that the only actual things in the movie are the actors playing the soldiers and the rest is CGI would have been the first clue. Compared to the contemporary falsehoods that are believed to be truths by many in the Arab world after viewing the movie Valley of the Wolves Iraq, license with historical accuracy from 2500 years ago may be somewhat easier to overlook than license with events from less than four years ago.

300 is a spectacularly violent movie that is not for children, but tells a story of a brave battle for high stakes and higher ideals that still has relevance today. There is nudity and dudity, some of the makeup and costumes are a little gross. But if you're an adult, have eight bucks you can spare and a couple of hours to kill, I highly recommend it.

Weird Thought Of The Day

We were watching The Sound Of Music on DVD night before last and I couldn't stop giggling thinking about how different a movie it might have been with Georg Von Trapp played by Christopher Walken instead of Christopher Plummer.

Consider that the next time you see the movie.

Jack Bauer Tally: Hour 13

Well, last week was pretty uneventful from a Jack Bauer standpoint, he just broke into the Russian Consulate and cut off the left pinky finger of the Consul-General with a cigar cutter. Then he got blown up by a breaching charge (an explosive designed to rapidly open a door) and subdued by the Russian Consulate guards. He convinced a Russian security guy to call CTU and rat out the Consul-General, but evidently this fellow was Aaron Pierce's overly-trusting opposite number, because another guard shot this guard in the back of the head and hung up on CTU. Jack gets no points for a pinky, leaving Hour 12 with a fat zero net points.

In Hour 13, Jack disarmed the Bad Russian with the Dead Good Russian's belt, after being thrown down the stairs. Scuffling ensued, basically Jack got the Bad Russian's Makarov pistol and shot him with it, though he found himself trapped in the basement. Five points for the kill, plus two for the escape. Later in the episode the Russians found out where he was hiding and charged the room with AKs blazing, Jack got three more kills and was rescued by Mike Doyle (Ricky Schroeder) and his tactical team, who appear to have killed everyone else in the building in about 15 seconds, except the pretty Russian chick. It seems that really pretty people can't die in 24, they seem to have "charisma armor" or something. The blonde woman that was the arms dealer's girlfriend was unceremoniously executed, so it's not a hard-and-fast rule, but it's the way to bet.

The Makarov is a decent little Russian-designed double-action pistol that at least conceptually resembles the Walther PPK. It fires a 9x18mm (first number is diameter, second is case length) round that is between the .380 ACP (9x17mm) and 9mm Parabellum (9x19mm) in size as well as performance. It is useful for its intended purpose (shooting dissidents in the back of the head), but it's no tack-driver in terms of accuracy and production quality ranged from superb to abysmal.

The Europeans didn't seem to consider the pistol a fighting tool after World War I and always liked smaller calibers than we typically used. Police officers would actually be sent out on the streets with a self-loading .32 ACP as a defensive weapon, making the pistol the equivalent of a badge of office rather than a useful item. That is perhaps too severe a criticism, a .32 ACP is more effective than harsh language, at least at close quarters. This European fad burned out in the late 20th Century and now European firearms makers crank out a wide variety of "real" pistols in less-than-anemic calibers, and arm their police officers fairly well. Modern European police pistols include the Heckler & Koch P7, the SIG Arms P225 and P220, and other, more capable firearms.

Russian, East German and Bulgarian Makarovs were imported into the US in fairly large numbers in the 1990s, and were pretty cheap as pistols go, as little as $150, with the Russian and especially East German models fetching higher prices. As a backup gun they're not a bad option, but I'm pretty sure Jack would have preferred something else.

The Score so far:

Biting A Carotid9.0 -1 for lack of Universal Protocol
Shooting Curtis-8-10 own goal, +2 neck shot over a hostage
Shooting guard while handcuffed7.0+2 for while handcuffed
Handgun6.0+1 for saving hostages (Milo & Graeme's wife)
Handgun7.0+2 for disarm

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bangladesh Trial Update

If you remember my previous posts, the trial of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury for blasphemy for daring to write articles critical of Al Qaeda in Bangladesh and for advocating economic relations with Israel (as the charges read, "sedition, treason and blasphemy" -- right) was supposed to go off January 22, 2007.

The good news is that the government witnesses didn't show up, and apparently the government of Bangladesh is getting the picture that this trial isn't helping their image in the democratic countries of the world. Other good news is that the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed, in a bipartisan fashion and without dissent, a resolution calling for the government of Bangladesh to drop all charges against Mr. Choudhury. It should go to the full House soon.

The bad news is that while the government of Bangladesh had apparently told everyone concerned about the issue that there would be three hearings and no witnesses would show up, allowing the issue to be dropped, two witnesses showed up for his February 28 trial, and thus the trial has to continue. Given that the judge in the case is inclined to favor the Islamists, this is not a good thing for Mr. Choudhury.

Ask your representatives to co-sponsor House Resolution 64 (text (PDF)).

This just ain't right, folks.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hyperpower? By Default.

Max Boot of the LA Times lays out the reason the US is the sole superpower left in the world, in the process of talking about why Tony Blair had to reduce Britain's troop committment in Iraq:

The tragedy is that he had to rob Peter to pay Paul because Britain can't maintain 7,000 troops in Iraq and 7,000 in Afghanistan. Those are hardly huge numbers for a country of 60 million with the fifth-largest national economy in the world. Yet even as Britain has continued to play a leading role in world affairs, it has allowed its defenses to molder.

The total size of its armed forces has shrunk from 305,800 in 1990 to 195,900 today, leaving it No. 28 in the world, behind Eritrea and Burma. This downsizing has reduced the entire British army (107,000 soldiers) to almost half the size of the U.S. Marine Corps (175,000).

Adding all of Canada's 62,000 active duty soldiers to the British Army equals the manpower of the Marine Corps. The US does have the largest defense expenditures in the world at a shade over $500 billion a year, but that is just 4% of GDP and nowhere near Cold War-level expenditures, which were often 9% of GDP or higher. Meanwhile, Euroland has dropped its GDP expenditure for defense to 1.9%, on average. All of the EU armed forces together -- a geographic and economic power equal or greater in size to the United States -- can't muster a force anywhere near ours, and is woefully lacking in force projection, the ability to get boots on the ground around the world.

Why does the US "go it alone"? Because we functionally "go it alone" even when our allies come on board, in terms of numbers and capabilities. Barring some tectonic shift in European politics and budget priorities, even the "full support" of our traditional allies amounts to little more than political cover and a pat on the back. This is one of those times where appearance is more important than reality, because the reality is that if we fight in the future we'll be on our own in the field. Our French, German and British friends may stand behind us, but the reality is that they'll for the most part be behind us indeed -- like, back in Paris, Berlin and London.

This is not disparagment of the British or Canadian soldiers that take risk equal to our troops in Afghanistan, they are widely-regarded as extremely capable and brave troops especially for the numbers of them in theater. But it sure would help if there was no need for a qualifier after "extremely capable and brave troops". Canada in particular is doing yeoman work in Afghanistan, and the Conservative PM Stephen Harper is taking flak for the strain on the Canadian Forces to keep their troops there. The help of their troops is greatly appreciated, it would be easier on their troops if their societies would put more resources into defense. Many of the non-British and non-Canadian NATO troops in Afghanistan are forbidden by their governments from taking offensive action, even though operations in Afghanistan are supported and approved by NATO. While there are combat support jobs that need doing, that doesn't strike me as quite the same level of commitment the Canadians and British are showing. Not only are our combat troops defending American freedom and the principles of the nations of NATO, they're also fighting and dying in Afghanistan in part to defend European nations' right to a thick social safety net at the expense of their ability to project power.

Robert Kagan covered this well in Of Paradise and Power, a look at how America and its European allies interact in the post-Cold War period. He argues that there was a window for the EU to form a counterpole to America's default unilateral power after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that in essence Europe chose to buy into the Peace Dividend concept rather heavily. Part of Europe's reluctance to recognize the War on Terror as a War is their general position on Arab-Israeli interactions (it's the Jews' fault) and possibly more experience dealing with domestic terrorism, but another factor may be the Europeans' inability to participate in a war. They're simply not prepared. The EU's iffiness on whether Darfur requires UN intervention is likely due in part to the reality that if the EU declares a genocide, there's little they can do about it militarily.

The EU likes the soft power of trade and sanction and strongly-worded diplomatic notes because that's about the only power they have left. It's not inconsiderable power, but if boots on the ground become necessary that's a situation that only highlights Europe's impotence in that regard. Why encourage even righteous beat-downs of international criminals if it shows that the defense cupboard is bare because of decades of neglect? The last genocide on record happened over a period of years in Europe in the 1990s, and only when the US showed up to drop 96% of ordnance in a "joint" operation against Serbia in 1999 was the genocide stopped. Next time you're out to dinner with someone, offer to pay 4% of the check and see how much your companion appreciates you telling others you split the bill.

Where this becomes a problem is when the US feels the need to use the military force it has retained since the Cold War. The result is almost inevitably elitist disdain of our decision to have guns AND butter, rather than a whole lot of subsidized EU-certified butter. We can count on this attitude, no matter the issue, until the EU is able to field a force on par with US forces. It's not outside their capabilities, but from a political standpoint it does seem to be beyond their conception.

I belive I'll pick up Max Boot's latest book for our upcoming cruise.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Missed Co-Branding Opportunity For The Wii

Had it for a couple of weeks before I managed to cowboy-up and climb into the warren of wires behind our A/V stack, add a component selector switch and power-on the Wii.

Let me just say that next to the trampoline in the backyard and a swimming pool, there is little that will send your kids to bed exhausted more than Wii Sports. I knew I should have stretched or something but I just couldn't help myself, and I've been sore for three days after maybe 90 minutes of Bowling, Tennis, Golf and Boxing.

Ouch. Fair warning to parents -- if you plan to play with your kids on the Wii, get limber or get Aleve. They won't get bored any time soon, and you'll still be sore. For the money it's a pretty good game system, it plays all the GameCube games if you have one of those, and it doesn't require a HD monitor upgrade to fully utilize. It wasn't the cost of the XBox360 that made me wait six months after they came out to buy one, it was the cost of the LCD panel to play it on. You sidestep that completely with a Wii, and it costs half of a PS/3 and 60% of an XBox360 with hard drive.

Soon as I get some other games I'll let you know. I was in college during Zelda, so I missed that part, but I'm sure something good is out there.

What is McCain Doing?

Comes to the reading room news that John McCain chose the august location of Late Show With David Letterman to announce his bid for the Presidency, and that he's declined an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Committee's (CPAC) 2007 meeting.

The Letterman thing -- whatever. It's not ringing with historical overtones like Sen. Obama's announcement at the Illinois Statehouse, but then again nobody was going to mistake John McCain for Abraham Lincoln. It's less Web 2.0 than Hillary's videoblogged-announcement, but I guess it's pretty silly at this point to go on a national television talk program and waffle about whether you're going to run when you've been running for the last 3 years.

McCain put his foot in the same hole that Obama twisted his ankle in a month or so ago, saying that the lives lost in Iraq have been "wasted", which is not going to endear him to the milblog crowd at all. Then again, the poll data suggests that he's angering less than 50.1% of the population with that statement, so politically it makes sense, right? He has since apologized, and his fellow Senator from Illinois had the grace to not tapdance on the statement with golf shoes on. It does show some class for Senator Obama to do that, which is part of the reason I think Hillary Clinton's politcal machine will be picking its teeth with his femur before the primaries are over. Politics is no longer the place for the Nice Guy, but I respect him not taking the boots to McCain when he's down.

The CPAC thing is a much larger blunder. First, the 5,000 attending CPAC are the yeast in the conservative political dough, and not getting face time with them is not helping your chances in the race for money and support. Second, it's pretty obvious that McCain is afraid of video of him speaking to the foam-flecked Wingnuts of the ultra-right (see, I could write for DailyKos if I used more profanity) making it out to the public. He could really use some conservative help, I mean, we vote too, rather reliably if it's someone we like. Mitt Romney will be there, so will Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. McCain's people were trying to get a room to meet with some of the CPACers on the sly, without saying anything to them on the record, but it strikes me that this only twists the knife -- I want your support, but I don't want my picture taken with you? This kind of makes CPAC attendees out to be the John Huang of this political cycle, don't it?

I guess the calculus is that the conservatives will vote for McCain if he's the GOP nominee, because we'd really rather not vote for Hillary. That's what I want to be, a President elected by the people who voted against the other guy. Whale of a mandate there. This would be a better strategy if there weren't other candidates at the conference. I think most conservatives would love to see Rudy Giuliani be the Designated Public Speaker for George W., the guy exudes credibility and he articulates the War on Terror as well -- but if it's Date-Marry-Kill between Rudy, Newt and Mitt, I'd go for them in that order and I imagine that most people at CPAC will feel the same way by the end of the conference. Rudy is a leader, but he's pro-choice and pro-gun control, and if you want to get me to stay home or vote Libertarian those are two good positions to articulate early and often. Mitt Romney? He's a bit of a cypher at this point. Yes, he was elected in a Blue state but his late conversion to conservative viewpoints seems based more on convenience than conviction, and since he's out of office he doesn't have a chance to demonstrate his commitment in any tangible way.

The reason I'd marry Newt is that he really is that smart. He's a good speaker. He thinks about the issues, and articulates real plans to do things, not more platitudes. Yes, he's had an extramarital affair or three, yes, he's been married more often than Britney Spears (in fairness, Britney is just getting started). I know all these things, if they're a negative for Newt they're a negative for Rudy "I Divorce Thee At A Press Conference" Giuliani as well. The thing is, I don't want a Pastor, I want a President. I want a GOP candidate that can, if necessary, intelligently talk the Democratic nominee into the ground, with detail, and be right. And do it all without cue cards. The Modern Political Playbook says know your Talking Points, and refer the answer to any question back to your Talking Points. What a world it would be if the candidates were Talking, instead of Talking their Points. Of the serious contenders for the GOP nomination (Brownback? Tancredo? WHO?), Giuliani can probably do that, but I would question Romney and McCain's ability to do so.

The trick is that Newt isn't running, at least not officially. But my prediction is that he will come in either second or third at the CPAC straw poll, and a lot of people who wished Jeb Bush would enter the race will leave CPAC wishing Newt would enter the race, and he will, if asked.

Fathers and Anthrax

In case you missed it this week, a 22 year-old graduate student threatened the University of Missouri-Rolla campus with a bomb and anthrax. The bomb was less of a problem than the word 'anthrax', which resulted in the graduate student and nearly everyone around getting a disinfectant bath, including the civil engineering building in which he was holed-up. The powder turned out to be powdered sugar.

His roomate, also from India, gave background on the perp to the local media. This sentence in particular stands out to me:
Venkatramolla is an international student from a “well respected” family in India, according to Putta, who also pointed out that Venkatramolla’s father died when he was a child.

This clearly illustrates the importance of a father in a young boy's life to stress how wrong it is to threaten others with dread diseases. Take that, feminists!

I am truly sorry this kid lost his Dad. I'm unbelievably lucky to be my age and still have mine. But why does the loss of this kid's parent need to be in a story about six felony charges and anthrax? What journalistic purpose is served by including this detail, other than to generate sympathy? I went to college with a guy who lost both of his parents by the end of his senior year, people go through pain all the time. The vast majority of them manage to navigate it without showing a white powder that they say is enough anthrax to kill Central Missouri.

When in our society will a 22 year-old be held responsible for his actions, and explanations not offered for his bad behavior? And isn't it a little early in the process for excuses?

Hat tip LGF

Jack Bauer Tally: Hour 11

Jack seems to be off his game a bit. Then again, he's been in a Chinese prison camp for a couple of years, so I imagine he's not in prime shape. He didn't even kill anyone this week, and he only killed two people last week. His season total isn't even up to what he managed to do in 10 minutes breaking Secretary Heller and Audrey out of their hostage situation in Season 4.

His two kills from last week saved Milo from getting gunned down and his sister-in-law, Nathan Petrelli's wife from Heroes, from being caught in the clutches of Jack's evil Dad. One son has killed nearly 100 people in service to his country, the other tried to foment a foreign war and had an ex-President assassinated to frame his brother. One can only imagine the dinner table conversations.

This week's bloodless (other than the bomb in the Press room, called by yours truly) episode showed Jack meeting with Charles Logan, and the prominent featuring of a Bible verse -- with the key phrase being "gave me a place to stand." A place to stand in Russia, Mr. Logan? That's what I'm thinking. Jack is in the process of accompanying Charles to the Russian consulate, and Jack doesn't do well with consulates.

For any of you interested, Jack's sidearm this season and last appears to be the Heckler & Koch USP Compact:

The USP Compact comes in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Wouldn't surprise me to see Jack using the .45 ACP, though compared to the .40 it doesn't offer much more in the way of stopping power at the cost of a few rounds per mag. Of course, if you can hit every time you shoot, how many rounds do you really need?

The Score so far:

Biting A Carotid9.0 -1 for lack of Universal Protocol
Shooting Curtis-8-10 own goal, +2 neck shot over a hostage
Shooting guard while handcuffed7.0+2 for while handcuffed
Handgun6.0+1 for saving hostages (Milo & Graeme's wife)
Handgun6.0+1 for saving hostages