Archive for July, 2006

How Do We Fight?

July 30, 2006

One of the more pressing questions in the ongoing war against Islamofascism is, how do we fight these people?

It’s not just an academic question. The opponents of classical liberal civilization have become adept at using the West’s principles against us. The Geneva Conventions, for instance, were originally designed to protect both civilian populations and members of lawful armies from mistreatment. Terrorists from Lebanon to Somalia to Afghanistan, with no small amount of help from jurists and journalists in the West, have learned to turn those principles on their heads, regularly using civilian populations as shields from attack, only to turn and claim “atrocity” when attacks are carried out against terrorists hiding amist civilians. They have also used the West’s legal systems as defenses, claiming rights to which they are not entitled under the letters of prior treaties, but accepting no responsibility for their own barbaric treatment of captured Western soldiers or civilians.

These conditions are not likely to change. Gunmen in Mogadishu learned early that Americans do not attack women and children; they quite literally hid behind civilian women while shooting at US troops as a result. What then can the response be from the civilized world?

For the Israelis, when Hezbollah intentionally locates its forces within civilian neighborhoods and next to technically neutral “UN peacekeepers,” the answer is to attack anyway, albeit after sending warnings to the civilian population to flee (imagine for a moment the leadership of al Queda or Hezbollah even contemplating taking the same measures). In a world without many easy answers, their decision is understandable, if still terrible.

The question still remains for us: how do we fight? We don’t want to stoop to the enemy’s barbarism, but it’s even less palatable to consider acquiescing to that very same barbarism. They must be defeated, but how, and at what cost, both to us or to innocents in between?

In the end, I’m afraid the answer is still the terrible one: unwillingly harming innocents in the crossfire is still preferrable to surrender–especially when surrender means subjugation at best and annihilation at worst. It’s an awful, awful choice, but it’s one we’re going to have to make many times over during the harsh years of the Long War.

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The Contest

July 28, 2006

I would be unspeakably remiss if I didn’t at least link to this story from Drudge:

On a congressional trip to Estonia, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton astonished her traveling companions by suggesting the group do what one does in the Baltics: hold a vodka-drinking contest!

Delighted, the leader of the overseas delegation, Sen. John McCain, quickly agreed, the NEW YORK TIMES is planning to report on Saturday.

Frankly, I have a hard time seeing myself ever voting for either of them, but hey, at least they have taste in spirits.

Now, the real question is: which brand? Hillary has to be an Absolut drinker–after all, it’s made in the socialist Disneyland of Sweden. McCain? If he’s out trolling for conservative votes, it sure as hell wouldn’t be French-made Gray Goose. I’m betting a nice bottle of staunchly anti-commie Polish Zubr

Ten Bucks For Hank

July 25, 2006

Marc Danziger (aka Armed Liberal) at Winds Of Change is leading up a blog fundraising drive for Hank Johnson. Johnson is running for the Democratic nomination to Georgia’s 4th District House seat; he forced Cynthia McKinney into a run-off in this month’s primary. Marc’s plan is to raise $50,000 for Johnson’s run-off campaign in $10 increments.

In all honesty, I don’t expect to agree with Johnson on all that much. If elected he’ll probably vote the same way I would have maybe one time out of a hundred–but that’s still better than the “never” I can expect out of McKinney, and I’m reasonably sure Johnson won’t morph into a raving pro-terrorist nutbag while in office. Blogger Will Hinton, who seriously considered running against McKinney as a Republican an independent, is also supporting Johnson.

The argument that McKinney should be allowed to stay in office so she can continue being a living example of the crazy Left is tempting, but frankly, I’m sick of her. She’s an embarrasment to the state and the nation and yes, to her party, and it’s time she was out of office and off the front pages.

Since I don’t live in the 4th District and can’t vote against her directly, giving ten bucks to Hank looks like a pretty reasonable deal to me (the 4th is an overwhelmingly Democratic district; the general election will be little more than a formality). If you agree, you can contribute here. The run-off election will be on August 8.

The Man Who Sold LEO Strikes Back

July 19, 2006

Remember Robert Bigelow, the hotel magnate who set up an aerospace company to build a private space station for tourists?

The first module is in orbit, and sending back pictures. It’s just a demonstrator, but…

Take it from somebody who works in the business, getting a working platform up in orbit when you started with nothing but an idea in that short a time (Bigelow Aerospace was founded in 1999) is… well, “remarkable” is a major understatement. And “cool” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

A Prediction

July 19, 2006

Lileks is going to go into jealousy-induced shock when he sees this site.

Early Returns

July 19, 2006

We had primary elections here in Georgia yesterday. It was a very quiet, low turnout election, particularly compared to 2004.

Ralph Reed, who was running for lieutenant governor, got clobbered, and Cynthia McKinney was forced into a run-off. So I’d say it was a pretty good day all around.

Zombie Bleg

July 18, 2006

Need a little help here.

My wife works with sick kids here in Atlanta. One of her patients is a teenage guy who’s recovering from a really bad car crash. He’s still in the hospital doing rehab right now, but he could be ready to go home by the end of the summer.

He’s a huge fan of Rob Zombie, who is playing a show in Atlanta about the time the kid will be ready to leave the hospital. We’d like to see if we can arrange for the kid to either meet Zombie, or just get into the show. If anybody out there has a Zombie album, and could look up the name of his management company in the liner notes (I’ve had no luck Googling), I’d really appreciate it if you’d post that information in the comments, or send me an email (blog -at- willcollier.com).

Hammer And Anvil

July 18, 2006

Not too long ago, Jonah Goldberg at NRO and Kevin Drum had a brief squabble over ‘unsolvable problems.’ I’m paraphrasing recklessly here, but Drum’s position was basically that the Left has a morally and practically superior position over the Right because the Left doesn’t believe that problems are unsolvable, while the Right will metaphorically throw up its hand and not try to fix things it perceives as permanently unfixable. Goldberg responded that liberals unrealistically expect the “next” government program or initiative to fix problems that just don’t have reasonable real-world solutions.

That discussion was largely on a philosophical level, and to be fair to both participants, dealt with issues related to the human condition, as opposed to specifics of geography and warfare, but it still sprang to my mind when I look at news reports from the last week. Right now we’re all looking at a textbook definition of an unsolvable problem in Lebanon, and whether you believe in a “fixable” human condition or not, it’s hard to see how the issues on the ground are going to be settled in any kind of ‘best’ ending.

On the one hand, you’ve got the Israelis, who have had enough of being attacked by Iranian-funded and Syrian-supported Hezbollah terrorists acting from Lebanese territory. They’re apparently finished dealing with a “peace process” that has produced no peace, and it’s hard to blame them for that. Certainly, Hezbollah is a barbaric terrorist army that deserves to be destroyed, but the problem is, Hezbollah lives in somebody else’s neighborhood.

The non-Hezbollah Lebanese, who like Syria and Iran only microscopically more than they like Israel, are caught in the middle and getting clobbered. The Lebanese army is outgunned and hugely outfinanced by Hezbollah, and the Lebanese people are understandably horrified at the idea of fighting another civil war.

It’s a terrible situation. If the current war (and let’s not kid ourselves with proxies, that’s what it is) pitting Israel on one side with Syria and Iran on the other destroys the nascent Lebanese democracy along the way, that’s an awful, awful outcome–but it’s also an awful outcome if Iran is able to maintain its proxy terrorist army attacking Israel from Lebanese soil. Maybe worst of all for the Lebanese, it looks like this one is going to be fought out to a military conclusion. “Diplomacy” is a joke in this case. The Israelis don’t trust any of the international organizations, and for good reason. Iran holds those organizations (and the non-radicalized Lebanese) in contempt, and is only interested in using them to further the mullahs’ various ends.

Hammer and anvil, and the Lebanese in between. There is not a good solution.

Site Update

July 18, 2006

Very briefly: to what I expect will be the relief of most regular readers, the flurry of the last few days should be “it” for college football content at VodkaPundit. Not only have I had my say (and then some) on recent events, but I’d already planned to start up a football blog this summer separate from VP. With luck and a little design help, it ought to be up before the end of this month. I’ll post a link when it’s ready.

In the meantime, I’d like to welcome all the new readers who’ve found VodkaPundit thanks to the sports-related stories, and invite you all to stick around. It’s kind of a weird bar, but we do try to keep the martini menus updated with new and interesting options–but no girly drinks.

Oh, and for those who’ve asked, I’m assured that Steve is still fine and still busy. He’ll be back when he’s less of one or the other.

Some Students Take Crip Classes–Stop The Presses!

July 17, 2006

If you ever needed proof that summer is indeed the silly season for college sports, watching the newspapers in Alabama and a few points north over the last few would have settled your mind. After weeks of rumor and speculation, and shortly following a post of mine right here at VP, Pete Thamel of the New York Times rushed in his story on

… well, on not much. But it’s July, and there’s nothing else for sportswriters to talk about, so Thamel’s overheated article has been causing quite a stir in print and one the air since late Thursday. As for the realities of the piece, without further ado, a Fisking. My comments are in bold.

For Some Athletes, Courses With No Classes
By PETE THAMEL
The New York Times
Published: July 13, 2006

A graphic popped up on James Gundlach’s television during an Auburn football game in the fall of 2004, and he could not believe his eyes.

One of the university’s prominent football players was being honored as a scholar athlete for his work as a sociology major. Professor Gundlach, the director of the Auburn sociology department, had never had the player in class. He asked the two other full-time sociology professors about the player, and they could not recall having had him either.

It’s actually not all that unusual for a student to go through an academic career without having had a particular professor, especially at a big school. I myself never took a single course taught by my department head at Auburn, in aerospace engineering. In my case, it wasn’t for any particular reason; my schedule just never worked out for one of Dr. Williams’ classes. Nice guy, but I didn’t even meet him until my graduate exit interview. I don’t think I ever met the head of the aerospace department at the University of Texas, where I earned my masters degree.

That said, there just possibly could have been a reason why Gundlach hasn’t met a good number of Auburn’s sociology majors. Examining Gundlach’s ratings on the RateMyProfessors.com website (free registration required) as posted by his former students, it’s clear that he wasn’t going to win any campus popularity contests, even before the Thamel article was written. We should ignore any postings from 14 July and beyond, as it’s likely they were generated by notoriety from the NYT piece; suffice to say Gundlach’s ratings were in the dumper long before most people had ever heard of him.

Granted, RateMyProfessors is at best an inaccurate measuring stick, but as any college student will tell you, the word about which professors are the real jerks gets around quickly, especially among close-knit student communities like, say, football teams. Here’s what former Auburn player and sociology major Derrick Graves had to say about Gundlach in Saturday’s Montgomery Advertiser:

“It only took me a couple of days to figure out that I needed to get out of there,” said Graves, who never took one of the directed-reading courses that prompted the article. “Me and (Gundlach) didn’t get along. I’m not going to get into what the problem was — I’ll just say that a lot of us didn’t agree with a lot of the stuff he was saying.”

A recent Auburn graduate and former Gundlach student says, “He hates sports… He thinks athletic scholarships should not be given. He also completely badmouths Auburn University and The United States of America every single day.” Among the overwhelmingly-conservative Auburn student body, it’s not hard to see how plenty of students would avoid the ponytailed avowed-leftie Gundlach, athletes as well as non-athletes.

So Professor Gundlach looked at the player’s academic files, which led him to the discovery that many Auburn athletes were receiving high grades from the same professor for sociology and criminology courses that required no attendance and little work.

Eighteen members of the 2004 Auburn football team, which went undefeated and finished No. 2 in the nation, took a combined 97 hours of the courses during their careers. The offerings resemble independent study and include core subjects like statistics, theory and methods, which normally require class instruction.

Speaking of statistics, let’s stop here and do a little math.

An undergraduate degree at Auburn requires about 120 semester credit hours (in the Sociology Department, it’s exactly 120 hours; here’s a .pdf file with the university bulletin). Eighteen players taking 97 hours over a minimum of four years (the norm is usually five for football players, who almost all take a “redshirt” year without playing in games) comes out to 5.4 hours per player, or slightly less than one-and-a-half hours in an academic year.

I am at a complete loss as to how numbers like that are at all remarkable. 1.34 hours a year? So what? Even if you take one hypothetical player and assume he took three times the average, that’s only 16 hours over a full undergraduate career, a paltry 13.4% of all credit hours. Again: so what?

The professor for those players and many other athletes was Thomas Petee, the sociology department’s highest-ranking member.

Let’s stop again here. It’s obvious from subsequent reporting in Alabama (but conveniently left out of Thamel’s article) that James Gundlach is not a fan of Thomas Petee. While Gundlach denies reports that he was passed over for promotion in 2002 to department head—a job that did go to Petee—Gundlach’s statements to the press over the last few days that indicate he does not approve (to put it mildly) of being Petee’s subordinate.

The feud between Gundlach and Petee appears to be rooted in run-of-the-mill office politics and rivalries. According to a rather fawning portrayal of Gundlach written by Alabama graduate Evan Woodberry for the Mobile Register,

[T]he conflict is clearly rooted in his academic department, an unwieldy collection of sociology, anthropology, social work, criminology and criminal justice professors.
Petee, a criminologist who researches homicide and policing, was elected chair by a voting bloc made up of criminology and social work professors, Gundlach said.

Gundlach said Petee exploited his influence as chair, teaching directed-reading courses in fields outside his expertise.

“Petee was teaching more upper-division students in his directed-reading sections of sociology classes than the three real sociology faculty were all together,” Gundlach said. “If you look at where athletes and other students were going, they were going to Petee’s classes. They weren’t going to the regular sociology faculty.”

Gundlach said he and other sociology professors were angry that easy classes were watering down their major.

“We have a person whose primary area is outside of sociology teaching sociology classes and giving our department the reputation of being easy,” he said. “That attracts people who are looking for an easy major and easy grades.”

I had never heard of either Gundlach or Petee before last Thursday. I didn’t take any sociology coursework in college, but I can tell you now what I would have told you on Wednesday: the concept of Sociology being an intellectually-undemanding major did not suddenly spring to life after 2002, when Petee was named Gundlach’s boss. That’s been an open not-very-secret at Auburn and most other campuses since subjective pseudo-sciences were added to university curricula.
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