MoonDawg's Den: April 2007

MoonDawg's Den

Monday, April 23, 2007

R.I.P., Boris

I've just heard the news that Russian ex-president Boris Yeltsin has passed away at the age of 76. I'll never forget watching CNN in the summer of 1991 as he stood atop a Soviet tank in front of the Russian parliament, shouting his defiance against the Communist apparatchiks who launched a coup against the government of Mikhail Gorbachev, putting Gorbachev under arrest and filling Moscow with troops and armor.

Yeltsin was far from perfect; he was bombastic, corrupt (but no worse than other Russian leaders), and a drunkard. He might have done a better job leading Russia during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the bitter transition from Communism to economic reform, although I'm not sure that anyone else could have done much better if they were handed the basket case economy of the former USSR to fix.

For me, my lasting memory of Yeltsin will always be the scene atop the tank during the '91 coup. The man was far from perfect, but this one moment of personal courage helped transform a nation forever.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

To lockdown, or not to lockdown?

When confronted with something as hideous as the Virginia Tech massacre, the mind recoils from the horror of such an event and turns to other things - like recriminations. The VT police department and the university's administration started getting heat for their actions while the smell of gunpowder still hung in the air:

John and Jennifer Shourds of Lovettsville, Va. demanded the immediate firings of University President Charles Steger and Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief W.R. Flinchum who he said "screwed up" the handling of separate shooting incidents that left 33 students dead, including the shooter.
"My God, if someone shoots somebody there should be an immediate lockdown of the campus," said John Shourds. "They totally blew it. The president blew it, campus police blew it."

But over at Dean Barnett makes the following point:

Virginia Tech has a student population of almost 30,000. Adding in the staff members, faculty, etc., the Virginia Tech community numbers over 35,000 people. If there was an unsolved murder in a city of 35,000, would the city go into lockdown mode until the crime was solved? Would the city authorities even consider going into lockdown mode? Given the facts that the authorities yesterday understood the motive for the initial killings and there was absolutely no reason to believe a mass murderer was on the loose, shutting down the campus would have been a bizarre reaction to the initial tragedies.

Yet Virginia Tech did go into "lockdown mode" when an escaped killer was on the loose in Blacksburg this past August:

Police have spent the day racing to sometimes widely separated locations around Blacksburg in response to reported sightings of William Morva, who is accused of shooting and killing a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy this morning and a Montgomery Regional Hospital security guard on Sunday, as well as injuring a sheriff's deputy Sunday...Access to Tech's campus has been largely shut down, with classes canceled and staff evacuated.

A killer on the loose in nearby Blacksburg was enough to prompt a campus shutdown and evacuation eight months ago, but a killer was on the loose who was actually on the campus initially prompted little more than a vague email - sent two hours after the first shooting Monday morning - that urged students and faculty "to be cautious".

Barnett contends that, given the perceived motive of the shooter (jealously), a lockdown would have been a "bizarre reaction". But the bottom line is, there's a guy running around your campus with a gun who's already shot two people, and you have no way of knowing for certain what his motives - and further intentions are - until and unless he's caught.

Now don't get me wrong - it's unfair to crucify the VT president and campus police with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and people should wait until all the facts are in before making judgements. But in the coming days and weeks the question will be asked: why such a large difference in reaction between the August incident and the one yesterday? It's a fair question, and one that deserves an answer.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Of Occam, Oswald, Nessie, and Rosie

Whenever an imbecile like Rosie O'Donnell spews forth lunatic rantings about a 9/11 conspiracy, most sane folks (like myself) tend to simply laugh it off. But in a tour de force post on conspiracy theories, Bill Whittle takes Occam's Razor in hand and tackles everything from the JFK assasination to the Moon landing to the Loch Ness monster, and explains how real damage is inflicted on our society by those who perpetrate these "diseased philosophies":
My goal here is not to bust any of these four conspiracy theories; that has all been done much more effectively elsewhere. What I am trying to do here is to build a chain of evidence to show a progressively deteriorating epidemic of world-wide insanity, of truly diseased thinking -- not just a misunderstanding or difference of opinion but real, diagnosable mental illness.

Whittle argues that it's way past time to start pushing back hard against Rosie and her ilk for their dispensing of "cultural suicide pills". Read the whole thing.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

The Mullahs and the Copperheads

Today's big news: Iran sharply expands uranium enrichment. And why shouldn't they? After the British sailors hostage debacle, in which the UK's European "allies" could not even bring themselves to consider economic sanctions for Iran's act of piracy, Tehran now understands that it can get away with practically anything, and the worst conseqences it will face for misbehavior will be some hand-wringing at the United Nations and in the capitals of Europe.

The mullahs also had to be encouraged by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's fool's errand (as Lebanese blogger Anton Efendi called it) to Syria, Iran's partner in terrorism. Iran can now reasonably expect Democratic leaders to react to any further provocations with the same fecklessness as the UN and the EU, and worse (or for them, better) actively subvert any administration attempts to deal with Tehran more strongly in the future.

Pelosi's illegal trip to Syria came on the heels of her disgraceful actions before the recess in preventing a Congressional vote on a simple resolution that condemned Iran for seizing the British sailors. With the EU and UN now proven useless, the only thing that stands in the way of Iran's nuclear ambitions is the United States. And now the mullahs know that a large segment of the US political class can't even bring itself to challenge them verbally, let alone militarily.

With the Democratic leadership is going down a path of cowardice and retreat, the national party has sunk to its lowest level since it adopted a "peace at any price" policy in the 1860s. Today's Copperheads are just as short-sighted - and just as dangerous to the nation's well being - as they were during the Civil War.

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