Sunday, May 2, 2010


Once again, the politically-correct, anti-free-speech regime in Britain has resulted in the arrest and jailing of somone – just because what he said offended someone.  This time the offender is a Christian preacher, and what he said was that according to his beliefs, homosexuality is a sin.

In any country that actually has free speech, this man would have been free to say such a thing, and anyone offended would have the freedom to yell back at him.  But in today's U.K., such speech is a crime, and this preacher is guilty.

I sure hope we can avoid this in the U.S. – but I'm not optimistic.

What a bunch of thin-skinned ninnies Europe has developed into!  And the portents are that we're headed that way, too.

Where do the normal people live these days?  Is there somewhere to escape to?

Book Review: With the Old Breed...

With the Old Breed, by E. B. Sledge is remarkable for its focus on the lot of a Marine in the Pacific battles of World War II.  Only the barest high-level view is presented, just enough to give the reader the context in which Sledge and his fellow Marines fought.  This is not an analysis of the battles on Peleliu and Okinawa, but rather a straightforward description of what it was like for an ordinary American frontline soldier to be in those battles.  Sledge was a member of a 60mm mortar team, and spent most of his time in those battles at or immediately behind the front lines.

The prose is neither worshipful nor breathless, and is consequently all the more believeable.  I came away from reading this book with exactly what I'd hoped for in a descriptive history: knowledge of what actually happened.  The brutality of some scenes from this book are quite shocking, even to someone like me who has read extensively about World War II.  At the same time, more recent brutality on display from Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations reminds one that mankind's capacity for such brutality has not disappeared.

Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in learning about the Pacific theater in World War II.

I'm glad my country never needed me to fight in any way that resembles how these men fought – and I'm profoundly grateful that there are men capable of doing so.

This book was made into the recent miniseries Pacific.  I have not seen the miniseries myself (I rarely watch television at all any more), but a friend and fellow history buff assures me that it resembles the book in only the most obscure and irrelevant ways, essentially filtering the entirely apolitical book through a progressive, politically-correct lens.  That assessment is more than enough to ensure that I will never watch the miniseries!

On Free Speech...

Neo-neocon has a thoughtful, don't-miss post on freedom of speech (using the recent Harvard kerfuffle as an example).

I'm often amazed at the apparent inability of lefties to see the huge conflict between freedom of speech on the one hand, and the political correctness and zero tolerance movements currently sweeping our schools on the other hand.  Many times earnest lefties have told me straight out that there is no conflict at all, when it's perfectly obvious that there is (as Neo-neocon points out). 

In Europe especially this has for a decade or so assumed almost farcical dimensions, such as the unfortunately frequent cases where homeowners are prosecuted and imprisoned because they defended their family and property from a burglar – with the punishment doled out to the homeowner being far worse than the punishment (if any!) received by the burglar.

Now we have a generate of kids entering adulthood who were indoctrinated by our school system in the ways of political correctness and zero tolerance.  This is precisely what happened in Europe some 20 years ago, so it doesn't seem too far a leap to predict that we're headed toward an America that's as intolerant of free speech as is most of Europe today.  To this American, that's a frightening thought.

The emergence of the tea party movement, though, is a move in the opposite direction – toward free speech, and away from political correctness.  A small move, to be sure – and arguably unintentional and accidental – but a move nonetheless.  Let's hope that snowballs into a full-throated intolerance of politcal correctness and zero tolerance!

Hydrogen Production Breakthrough?

Department of Energy scientists are reporting what sounds like a breakthrough for inexpensive hydrogen production: an inexpensive and versatile metallic catalyst, far less expensive than the current standard platinum catalyst.  However, before you run out and buy yourself a hydrogen car, remember that there are several other major developments yet to be made. 

The biggest remaining problem is hydrogen storage, especially storage in a car.  Large improvements have been made in this area, but even the best of them doesn't have the right combination of capacity, safety, and economy that's needed in order to make hydrogen powered cars practical (that is, with a range comparable to today's petroleum powered cars).

Nearly as big is the unsolved issue of how to transport and distribute the vast quantities of hydrogen needed to convert our existing fleet of cars and trucks to hydrogen power.  This is an area where the new catalyst might conceivably help, especially if it actually enabled consumer-scale solar-powered hydrogen production – in other words, if it let you make your own commuting hydrogen at home.  Then it would be as if we each had our own oil well and refinery; obviously this would greatly reduce the distribution problem.

But we're a long, long way from solving either of those remaining problems – and of course I've left out the elephant in the room: the cost of replacing all the existing petroleum-powered engines with hydrogen-powered engines...