Friday, December 30, 2005

Impeach Bush Now!

That's what Bob Krumm is saying:

It’s like cussing. Several years ago I went to Kuwait for four months to live in the desert surrounded only by other cavalrymen. Like everyone else there, my language was atrocious at the end of the tour. Whether used as adjective, exclamation, or punctuation, the F-word made its way into my every sentence. I was trapped in my own feedback loop of swearing. However, it didn’t take me long after my return to remember that civilized people don’t talk that way.

What those within the
Impeach Bush-crowd don’t understand is that, similarly, civilized people don’t use the I-word all the time.

Oh, but they’ll learn. When they push the issue in Congress, and it comes to the floor of the House for a vote, boy, will they learn.
Just like when Representative John Murtha stepped forward to declare: "Withdraw immediately." (He only later, under the heat of scrutiny, changed it to "Move away, real soon, carefully.") and the Dems leapt all over it, only to scamper away when the declaration was put to a vote on the floor of the House. (Twice!)

Democrats are "stuck on stupid." Republicans should take advantage of that. Play their bluff again. Put a motion on the floor and watch them scamper away again. Let America see that they aren't serious, just partisan. Again.

It shut up the "Withdraw now!" clamor, and it will shut down the impeachment talk.

Go for it!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Quote for the Day

That Crawford Tillinghast should ever have studied science and philosophy was a mistake. These things should be left to the frigid and impersonal investigator, for they offer two equally tragic alternatives to the man of feeling and action; despair if he fail in his quest, and terrors unutterable and unimaginable if he succeed.
H.P. Lovecraft in From Beyond

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back Into Battle

[I posted this to BoardGameGeek earlier and decided to crosspost it here.]

Back in my high school and college days, I used to play some D&D games and a few Avalon Hill hex-and-counter wargames. I fell out of that crowd, and haven't played in twenty years.

At the start of 2005, though, my friend Mark was looking for a regular opponent for the table-top miniatures game Epic: Armageddon so he introduced me and bought me a starter pack. I've really taken to the game -- I went from total unfamiliarity with the Warhammer 40K universe to regularly beating Mark in one year -- and it has sparked a regeneration of interest in gaming in general.

First, I tracked down an old AH favorite game, Afrika Korps, on eBay and bought it, though I haven't played it yet. Then I found the Memphis gaming group this month and got together with some of them. We only had time for Ra, but I found myself really enjoying the game and the people. I'll be going back when I can.

I've also restarted playing chess, to sharpen my analytical skills. So far I'm only playing a computer program until I can get decent again.

Today, Mark and I... well, we went directly into the deep end of the pool. He found a copy of Flat Top, an old favorite of his, another AH hex-and-counter game about WWII naval battles in the South Pacific. He'd already made a copy of the rule book for me to study, so we just dived in. We began with a scenario (remember that), a shorter, simplified, "game within a game," called "East Solomons."

Set up alone took nearly two hours, though some of that time did include tracking down loose chits. Running through the rules, making sure everything was correctly ready, and fixing my plane errors took another hour. (When the rules called for "34" planes, I took thirty-four chits, not thirty-four points worth. Oops!)

We managed to make it through the game from 1AM until 11AM in about 6 hours. Ten turns of a 66 turn scenario. We made a lot of mistakes, and unevenly applied the rules we remembered to apply when we remembered; we also inadvertantly or not left out a lot of rules and procedures, but we did it!

Yeah, we bit off a lot to chew but we definitely had fun, in that "my brain hurts" kind of way that wargamers experience until one day the game just clicks and play suddenly becomes transparent. Or as transparent as a chart, counter and "formation box" heavy wargame like Flat Top can become.

First lesson? Start small. This game may have been the wrong place to start, but Mark's an old Navy man so he "gets" the theme and we both like wargames. We were smart to begin with a scenario and not the whole enchilada here. Even so, we joked about why admirals need staffs.

Second lesson? We need more tables! It takes three: one for the game boards; one each for our "formation box" charts and all the other charts and rules we need. Both our apartments are small and cramped, and mine has a friendly, inquisitive cat, so we might need to find some public space that will let us take it over for a day. (Hah! Maybe we just need to clean up the clutter in our apartments.) Any ideas?

Lastly, I had forgotten how absorbing hex-and-counter wargaming can be. I've already had that sensation of utterly losing myself in play with Epic and I like it. This one will take some work to master, but wandering around the Pacific, looking for carriers, watching for his aircraft, was a lot of fun.

Now I need to take that Afrika Korps box down and get all the pieces ready. Maybe we can try that one as a joint-unstiffener before we wade back into Flat Top again.

Yeah, my brain hurts right now, but I'm a happy guy. I was pretty dumb to not be gaming all these years.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Mark has posted his thoughts on the grueling endurance test that was Flat Top.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

And Now The Truth Begins to Emerge

I hate publishing a whole article, rather than excerpting it here and linking there but I think this one is short and sweet:
U.S. President George Bush decided to skip seeking warrants for international wiretaps because the court was challenging him at an unprecedented rate.

A review of Justice Department reports to Congress by Hearst newspapers shows the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than the four previous presidential administrations combined.

The 11-judge court that authorizes FISA wiretaps modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications approved over the first 22 years of the court's operation.

But since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for surveillance by the Bush administration, the report said. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004. And, the judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during those two years -- the first outright rejection of a wiretap request in the court's history.
And there you go. Now we begin to understand what was happening and why.

I'm still waiting to learn how many Executive Orders the President signed bypassing FISA courts, and how many innocent, non-terrorist related people were infringed.
Joke of the Day

In heaven, the policemen are British, the chefs are French, the lovers are Italian, the engineers are German, and everything is run by the Swiss.

In hell, the policemen are German, the chefs are British, the lovers are Swiss, the engineers are French, and everything is run by the Italians.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Update for Linkers

Just so you know, I switched off the hotlinks for the bloggers bash graphics. For all hotlinking actually. If you need the "New Memphis Mafia" button accessible for your site, just let me know and I'll hook you up.
They Support the Troops, Except When They Don't

It's a mantra from some on the Left: "We support the troops." Except, of course, when they don't:
Just as the seemingly intractable nature of the war has led to a growing recruitment crisis, so the United Services Organisation, which has been putting on shows for the troops since the second world war, is struggling to get celebrities to sign up for even a short tour of duty....

Newton said many celebrities have been wary of going because they think it might be seen that they are endorsing the war. "And I say it's not. I tell them these men and women are over there because our country sent them, and we have the absolute necessity to try to bring them as much happiness as we can."

Fear is also a factor. "They're scared," country singer Craig Morton, who is in Iraq on the USO's Hope and Freedom Tour 2005, told USA Today. "It's understandable. It's not a safe and fun place and a lot of people don't want to take the chance."
Say one thing, do another. For some, partisan politics trumps all.
You Had Your Fun, Now I Have Mine

I'll be away from the computer all day today, off slaying the Emperor's enemies in Epic. Normally the Battle Bunker is closed on Mondays but today is a special Monday -- the day after Christmas -- so they'll be open to serve your shopping and returning needs.

We usually play a game built around 2700 or 3K point army lists and had originally planned a "mega battle" of 6K points for today, which would take about 5 hours or so to finish. But other Epic players want to join us, so now we're likely looking at six players and maybe as many as 30,000 points total! It promises to be a long day....

But fun, in that brain-wracking way. I find that I like the strategic thinking of this game, the planning and execution, the sudden and sometimes terrible surprises of large-army combat. I've even taken chess back up, albeit with a freeware program on my computer, to sharpen my skills.

Because you never know when some general, having just lost his key man, will turn to scan the crowd, point a sharp finger my way and bark, "You! Lead my forces to victory!"

Later, y'all.

MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Whew! What a day. We got there about noon and started setting up just before one. We finished setup around 2:30. The first turn took three hours and we never even finished the second before one guy got dispirited, another fell asleep, and another had to leave. Man, oh man.

We had three armies to a side; two sides. Each side was 18,000 points. The whole battle was 36,000 points! Unbelievable. I think it's the largest game we may see for quite a while. Eldar, Space Marines and Orks (that's us) vs. Eldar, Space Marines and Imperial Guard. The IG has lots of artillery that can reach across the field and pound us before we can even get moving. It was brutal at first. Mark was our overall general; Fuzzy and I his lieutenants. Two of the three guys we faced were long-time players of Epic and very good generals.

We elected to wait for them to move up, then start whacking away at them. That mostly worked.

It was a huge mess and lots of fun. My Space Marines anchored the center and did their job in holding it. I even lent support to Mark's Orks on our right flank. Fuzzy had the left flank and he was rolling it up by the end of turn one. In turn two, he broke a large section of our opponents' forces and was clearly going to control his side of the board. I was still securing the middle and Mark was slowly grinding away on the right, suffering a lot of frustration from his direct opponent. But he also broke a lot of the enemy's forces.

A slow, draggy, chaotic slugfest. It was enthralling!

TUESDAY UPDATE: Mark reports on his experience of the mega-battle.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Holiday Bonus Quote of the Day

From that endless spring of silly that is The Tick:
You're on a first name basis with lucidity, little friend. I have to call it "Mister Lucidity" and that's no good in a pinch.
The Battle of Trenton

Two hundred and twenty-nine years ago today, General George Washington led the ragged remnants of the colonial army to a last-ditch, do or die, surprise raid against British and Hessian troops in Trenton, New Jersey. Victory was a long shot at best; failure would end the Revolutionary War that day. Still, Washington pressed forward.

Take a few minutes to read this story and then think about our modern day soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. They are the inheritors of those incalculably brave and determined men that frozen morning over two hundred years ago.

They fight today as they fought then: for government of, by and for the people. They fought for words and principles, but they fought with guns. Do not forget that.
Same as it Ever Was

It seems I'm not the only one to see broad parallels between our present age and the Civil War era.
In subduing the Confederacy, Lincoln took his bearings by his constitutional duty to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution." Though this is the subject for another day, it should be noted that, given the Supreme Court's handiwork in the Dred Scott case, he was not an advocate of judicial supremacy. As president and commander-in-chief, he suspended habeas corpus, used martial law, instituted military trials, and exercised power to the limits of his constitutional authority in a manner that illuminates the loose nature of those limits when confronted by necessity. Yet Lincoln preserved the rule of law and became the Great Liberator.
PowerLine blog has been on my regular reading list for quite a while now.

What bothers me about the New York Times stories on the NSA is that they have yet to prove any harm coming to someone from the allegations. As they themselves admitted, they sat on the first story for a year before publication. In that time, they apparently were unable to find anyone who had been violated by the NSA.

It seems that the NYT is shocked, just shocked!, to find out that the US government, in a time of war, is spying on people, some of them Americans. They are whipping furiously, trying to turn their nugget of sugar into a mountain of cotton candy. But given that Bush's poll numbers are now cracking fifty percent, it would seem that the American public isn't buying what they're selling.

Now, I'm no fan of government spying. But it has yet to be shown that anyone, much less Bush himself, did anything illegal, simply because they could and not because they had reason to believe in something nefarious first. It's being presented to the public as Presidential whim and fiat when the case more correctly appears to be one of acknowledging limits, taking specific steps in specific cases to bypass those limits, and documenting the whole thing for accountability's sake.

Find me cases where the President used a government agency to harrass and crush his enemies -- as Clinton did with the IRS -- and I'll be angry. But right now, it's just more of the same partisan noise. And it looks like many Americans recognise that.

The problem is, as always, that we create powerful positions and laws and tools. When bureaucrats try to exercise those powers and find themselves frustrated, they want more. It has been ever thus. It's not a partisan problem, it's a government problem. The solution isn't more laws and tools aimed at political enemies and supporters, but fewer tools with more power in them.

A willingness to accept that sometimes a life of freedom and liberty is fraught with danger and risk must replace the "take care of me, I'm scared" mentality being pushed by the ignorant, the cowardly and the crafty. I'm not sure that most present-day Americans are that kind of people, though, and so there you are.

If you want someone to take care of you, you have to give them power. And if you want someone to watch over the guardian, then you need to give away even more power. It's just that simple.