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Saturday, October 18, 2003

New Review

As you know, Saturday is usually bad movie day here at triple-b. Today is no exception. The link is near the top of the left-hand column.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Marshall Plan Money

As you know, the United States Government is considering whether to gift or loan $20 billion to Iraq.

Over at National Review, Stephen Moore votes for loan:

Is this another case of America winning the war and being taken to the cleaners in the peace? Do we have here the classic fictitious parody The Mouse that Roared come to life?

Heh, funny film. Yes, America has a tendency to become best friends with the country we just beat up. And we often spend until it hurts. I don't think that indicates our fiscal ineptitude, but rather it highlights our generosity.

To his credit, Moore already has an answer:

Spurious argument #3: This $20 billion of foreign aid can have the kind of high return the Marshall Plan did after World War II.
The Cato Institute has demonstrated many times over the years that the supposed "success" of the Marshall Plan is a myth that the foreign-aid establishment self-interestedly perpetuates. The aid to Germany, for example, was almost entirely cancelled out by the reparation payments the Germans were making. West Germany recovered rapidly because the Germans allowed the free market to work. East Germany had billions of dollars of aid from Russia, but it grew poorer. Moreover, if the purpose of the Marshall Plan was to build long-lasting strategic alliances with the French and Germans, then something went wrong, because two of our greatest adversaries in the war against terrorism today are the French and the Germans.

Moore makes a good point contrasting East and West Germany, but I disagree with his last point. If the Marshall Plan built alliances which didn't last, one ought to concede that they lasted long enough. After all, they outlasted the Communist threat which inspired them in the first place. And secondly, rebuilding those countries was the right thing to do.

I took a course on International development aid and the Marshall Plan, taught by a fellow who would go on to become a current and outspoken Undersecretary of State. (You know the one I'm talking about.) While that fact doesn't make me an expert, it helped to answer the teacher's question:

(Broadly paraphrasing) How come the Marshall Plan worked, and everything since hasn't?

My answer:
By rebuilding the infrastructure, the Marshall Plan assisted Western Europe as it returned to a state somewhat akin to the status quo ante. The survivors were just as educated and skilled as they were before the war. We broke their buildings, rolled in and rebuilt them. Things didn't return quite to normal, but in Europe there was a normal which regular people remembered.

Third World hellholes lack all of Europe's 1946 advantages. Their normal state is atrocious. You can't just build homes and roads, you've got to establish who owns what property, you've got to enforce contracts, and you have to establish laws that bring certainty to civic transactions. That takes generations, if it works at all. In fact, the only examples of places where an occupying power succeeded are the United States, Australia and New Zealand. And Bermuda. Almost forgot.

In Iraq, I think we've got as good a shot as you might expect in the Third World. It's got natural resources, an extant infrastructure (a bit shabby, but a good start) and most importantly it's got the right people. They've already got a respectable educated class, and lots of eager expatriates. From the polls, we see most Iraqis want to join the free world. Spending to help them is part of the American character.

Let's not forget, Free Iraq is a big strategic goal in the war. In the future, it could be a model for the rest of the region. But right now, it's our unsinkable aircraft carrier right where we'd want one. It's the well from which we'll draw the extra, Arabic-speaking divisions we'll need the next time we cry havoc.

Rebuilding a Free Iraq ought to have an Apollo-level priority. It's that important. Asking for our money back? That's like recovering a load of moon rocks, and auctioning them on eBay: tacky.

May it please the court

Here's some news from France which might be of interest. Because this is a PG-13 web log, I can't actually cite the headline, but I can use an excerpt to give you the flavor:

French newspaper Charente Libre, whose reporter was among the witnesses, said it happened as an attorney was pleading his case.

The witnesses confirmed they saw the judge raise his judicial gown, open his trousers and "perform unmistakable movements".

Too funny, but what a dilemma for the court reporter!

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Restatement of Principles

Because this web log is enjoying a rolling rediscovery, I might as well restate the lepine principles inspiring this silly little diary.

1. Bunnies are natural warmongers.
They adopt this attitude not because they are aggressive or vicious, but because they live under constant attack from species who are. If the world wages war on you, only the suicidal types ignore this salient fact. Do you feel threatened by an implacable enemy, bent on your destruction? Maybe you can sympathize.

2. Bunnies support a strong defense policy.
Given the circumstances, wouldn't you? If not, go face the tiger, and don't come crying to Anna.

3. Bunnies are pre-emptive.
Every bunny fears an attack. And like Walter Mitty, each bunny would like to stand up and do something. Sadly, bunnies lack saber-fangs and razor-claws. Staring evil in the eye every day, bunnies wish they had the means to bring the fight to the enemy.

4. Bunnies love the Arsenal of Democracy.
The AoD can empower a single individual to destroy any foe -- singly or by the megaton. Imagine yourself as a bunny, under the gaze of a hungry hawk. Wouldn't you appreciate an accoutrement like an FIM-92 Stinger? And like Mr. Mitty, bunnies would appreciate the opportunity to appropriate a page from the manual of the Rogue Warrior and "friend the friendly frienders first.. To translate the reference, go look up the unexpurgated translation of the B-52 BUFF.

5. Bunnies make excellent pets.
To your bunny, you're a superhero: the scourge of dogs and hawks (to name a few). While you're scary, you're also friendly. Smart bunnies can split the difference and live a secure, well-fed life in the company of man. Pet bunnies quickly civilize themselves, live by your rules and repay your kindness with kisses and snuggles. Adopt a bunny and you'll see what I mean.

Mind, bunnies are 'exotic pets,' and not yet recognized as mainstream companion animals. While this is bound to change, for the moment you'll need to familiarize yourself with the bunny basics. And you'll need to try to learn to speak bunny. If you're looking for a fuzzy new friend, it's the least you can do.


People who rescue bunnies are really the best type of people. Don't you think?

(Chicago HBS)

Loving suburban stray who has excellent litter habits and is always ready for
attention from his human friends. He doesn't understand why he lost his home.

His foster family thought he looked like a fine sable coat so they named him Gucci.
(Chicago HBS)

Abandoned bunnies really have a rough life. They've no camouflage nor survival training. They're not even the same species as American cottontails. (As you know, pet bunnies are immigrants from Europe.) As strays, they're really alone in the world.

It's always heartening to see nice people do the right thing. Are you a nice person?


A wonderful story at National Review Online:

"I keep telling journalists how grateful we are that the Coalition removed Saddam, but the media — especially European media — only wants anti-American views," says Pasha, whose grandfather, Nuri al-Said, was prime minister of Iraq until he was deposed and murdered in 1958. Like many of Baghdad's English-speaking artists, Pasha is often confused by the animosity shown by much of the world toward Iraqi's liberation. "Don't they understand what freedom means to us? Don't they see many of us cooperating with the Americans to rebuild our country?"

That last question has particular significance for Pasha. Despite his air of bohemianism — and his religious views — the young man is engaged in one of present-day Iraq's most crucial tasks: translating for the U.S. military. Working at night, Pasha accompanies American soldiers on an array of missions — from standard patrols to raids on fedayeen hideouts. Over the months he has developed a close relationship with GIs, whom he tends to call "my guys." (The soldiers, in turn, have chided Pasha for being "too perfect" and jokingly call him their "Wahhabi spy.") Part of this bond is Pasha's belief that America is bringing democracy to Iraq; part is the nature of the GIs themselves. "At first I was amazed when soldiers called me 'sir,'" he recalls. "Having lived for years in a police state, I couldn't imagine someone in uniform treating me with respect."

I added the italics, to emphasize something so obvious, only an embittered leftist might miss.

By the way, the story includes another linguist who's not afraid to criticize the AoD:

Today, with Americans occupying Iraq, linguists spend much of their time insuring that they don't violate cultural taboos. "GIs are nice, but naïve," says 25-year-old translator Ahmed Altaie. "I've had to tell them not to chat up girls or to play loud music near a mosque."

You know those GIs: with their candy bars and boom boxes -- natural babe magnets. It's an occupational hazard.

Let's have three cheers for these brave, freedom loving Iraqi linguists. In the story, one of them hints he might like to see the States. Is anyone willing to wager he won't?

"Pasha (and friends): you just won yourselves a free country. What are you going to do now?"

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Arsenal of Democracy

Communists in space again? Oh great. Or maybe it's not so bad after all. Here's what space consultant Rand Simberg says:

...the Chinese government is wasting valuable state resources on a circus that may, in the short run, provide some small bit of national pride to a government that is stealing those same resources from a people to whom it's unaccountable, but will not significantly contribute to the wealth of their nation. Ultimately, the only way to do that is to harness free enterprise to the task.
(National Review)

Since the Chicoms covering old territory, and since they aren't learning anything they didn't buy from Boeing a few years back, I think they're shooting men into space for the sake of national pride. They're looking for bragging rights. They want to strut in front of the world taunting:

In your face, world. In your face, USA!

No no China: now that your pilot is safely back on the ground, it's time to turn the tables. It's time gloat in your face:

By September 1985, all was finally ready for a test against an orbiting satellite. On Sept. 13, Maj. Wilbert D. "Doug" Pearson, the director of the F-15 ASAT CTF, took off on a crucial mission that required him to fly an extraordinarily exacting profile in order to arrive at a precise firing location at exactly the right time. Flying at Mach 1.22 some 200 miles west of Vandenberg Air Force Base, he executed a 3.8g pull-up to a climb angle of 65 degrees.

The missile automatically launched itself at 38,100 ft. Minutes later, orbiting peacefully 345 miles above the Pacific Ocean, an obsolete satellite named P78-1 was suddenly shattered into pieces. Pearson had become the world's first pilot ever to shoot down a satellite. To this day, now Maj. Gen. Doug Pearson remains, as Air Force Materiel Command Commander Gen. Lester Lyles recently observed, the first and only "space ace."
(The Mighty USAF)

Remember the ASM-135 ASAT? The AoD commissioned and successfully tested the system, but didn't put it into production.

Why not? Ask the Democrats. They voted it off the AoD's budget. I think they were worried about upsetting the USSR. Can't have that now, can you?

I think getting into space is the comparatively easy part. Commanding and controlling the heavens is much harder. If we wanted to try, all we'd have to do is dust off some old plans and maybe tweak some proven technology. There are several options available. And each reminds the rest of the world that while they may occasionally trespass, the AoD owns space and can bring down whatever the enemy may send up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Nothing is more neato:

(Washington Post)

Beats Versailles and Schoenbrunn every day of the week. You could actually live there.

Monday, October 13, 2003


Who likes a nice Bun-Bun?

(Alabama EARS' Adoptables Page)

Bun-Bun is called the "caretaker" by his foster mom. Bun-Bun has always groomed the bunnies that live beside him in his foster home. We think that Bun-Bun would be happiest in a home where there is a single girl bun (who has been spayed) that he could groom and cuddle with all day long. Because he has been known to nip when startled, we think that he should not be placed in a home with children. Bun-bun loves his vegetables and hay and he plays with his baby toys every day. He has been in foster care the longest of any of our singles so We hope that a loving home finds him as adorable as we do so he can go to his forever home. Just look at those socks on his feet!
(Alabama EARS)

Bun-Bun looks to be a modified-coat Dutch bunny, so you know you're getting a nice, small and friendly bunny. And that's pretty much what people want in a pet bunny. By all means, go say hi!

Arsenal of Democracy

Yesterday, Armed Liberal wrote a solid post at Winds of Change about the definitions of liberal and conservative. And although I agree with the balance of what AL wrote, I'd like to refute one of AL's paragraphs and reflect on how beneficient the AoD has been to every reader of this post -- even non-Americans.

If you like the Internet, thank a liberal (DARPANet was created in no small part thanks to a government research grant).

The arpanet eponymously sprouted from DARPA:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
is the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD). It manages and directs selected basic and applied research and development projects for DoD, and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances for traditional military roles and missions.

I think the funds used to invent the arpanet might be more accurately characterized as AoD defense spending.

Furthermore, arpanet wasn't intended as the kernel from which the world's largest computer network would grow. Arpanet was intended as the demo model for the AoD doomsday C2 network. Its follow-on (MILNET) would pass the launch orders to the bombers and ICBMs across its net even with whole sections atomized. Listen to the arpanet's inventor in his own words:

"Both the US and USSR were building hair-trigger nuclear ballistic missile systems. If the strategic weapons command and control systems could be more survivable, then the country's retaliatory capability could better allow it to withstand an attack and still function; a more stable position. But this was not a wholly feasible concept, because long-distance communication networks at that time were extremely vulnerable and not able to survive attack. That was the issue. Here a most dangerous situation was created by the lack of a survivable communication system."
(Paul Baran Shrine)

(You may dispute the accolade I award Baran. Some folks credit Larry Roberts as the father of the arpanet. But I hope you'll agree with me that arpanet was intended to be the next generation of military C2 network, supplanting and eventually replacing SAGE.)

Since arpanet grew into the internet, I think the AoD can credibly claim the internet as a defense spin-off.

Since the internet is a collection of networked computers, it's useful to consider the origin of computing machines:

The world's first electronic digital computer was developed by Army Ordnance to compute World War II ballistic firing tables.
(ENIAC Shrine)

Of course, you can dispute the above statement, with references to Zuse or Hollerith, but show me a pre-1946 electronic digital computer and we'll talk.

Since we've established that the AoD commissioned both modern computers and the internet, what else do you regularly use that they might claim?

How about Windows and the World Wide Web, invented by the AoD in 1945.

While people properly credit Tim Berners Lee with the invention of hypertext, he stood on the shoulders of a giant named Vannevar Bush.

Vannevar Bush was never directly involved with the creation or development of the Internet. He died before the creation of the World Wide Web. Yet many consider Bush to be the Godfather of our wired age often making reference to his 1945 essay, "As We May Think." In his article, Bush described a theoretical machine he called a "memex," which was to enhance human memory by allowing the user to store and retrieve documents linked by associations. This associative linking was very similar to what is known today as hypertext. Indeed, Ted Nelson who later did pioneering work with hypertext credited Bush as his main influence (Zachary, 399). Others, such as J.C.R. Licklider and Douglas Englebart have also paid homage to Bush.
(Vannevar Bush Shrine)

By all means, follow the link to the "As We May Think" essay. I've blogged on this topic before, so let's briefly review.

In the essay, Bush (director of the defense think-tank "Office of Scientific Research and Development) coins two concepts: the memex and the interpedia. What is the memex?

It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.
(As We May Think)

Clumsy, but find a better description of a GUI from 1945. What is the utility of the memex?

The owner of the memex, let us say, is interested in the origin and properties of the bow and arrow. Specifically he is studying why the short Turkish bow was apparently superior to the English long bow in the skirmishes of the Crusades. He has dozens of possibly pertinent books and articles in his memex. First he runs through an encyclopedia, finds an interesting but sketchy article, leaves it projected. Next, in a history, he finds another pertinent item, and ties the two together. Thus he goes, building a trail of many items. Occasionally he inserts a comment of his own, either linking it into the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item. When it becomes evident that the elastic properties of available materials had a great deal to do with the bow, he branches off on a side trail which takes him through textbooks on elasticity and tables of physical constants. He inserts a page of longhand analysis of his own. Thus he builds a trail of his interest through the maze of materials available to him.

And his trails do not fade. Several years later, his talk with a friend turns to the queer ways in which a people resist innovations, even of vital interest. He has an example, in the fact that the outraged Europeans still failed to adopt the Turkish bow. In fact he has a trail on it. A touch brings up the code book. Tapping a few keys projects the head of the trail. A lever runs through it at will, stopping at interesting items, going off on side excursions. It is an interesting trail, pertinent to the discussion. So he sets a reproducer in action, photographs the whole trail out, and passes it to his friend for insertion in his own memex, there to be linked into the more general trail.

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified. The lawyer has at his touch the associated opinions and decisions of his whole experience, and of the experience of friends and authorities. The patent attorney has on call the millions of issued patents, with familiar trails to every point of his client's interest. The physician, puzzled by a patient's reactions, strikes the trail established in studying an earlier similar case, and runs rapidly through analogous case histories, with side references to the classics for the pertinent anatomy and histology. The chemist, struggling with the synthesis of an organic compound, has all the chemical literature before him in his laboratory, with trails following the analogies of compounds, and side trails to their physical and chemical behavior.
(As We May Think)

A vast library through which a user can browse, research arcane topics, create bookmarks and add comments. What does that sound like?

If you combine SAGE, ARPANET, MILNET, ENIAC, the memex and Bush's shared, comment-friendly library he called the "interpedia," I think the AoD can credibly claim to have invented or inspired the following:

  1. the modern electronic digital computer
  2. large-scale computer networking,
  3. the internet,
  4. the Graphical User Interface,
  5. World Wide Web,
  6. the web browser, and
  7. the Blogosphere.

Each of these technologies owes some or all of their invention and rapid maturation to American defense spending. Yet the AoD charges you no user fee. Instead they're available to all, free of license. Even if you are not an American, you should thank the AoD for its myriad gifts to the world.

You know, like GPS:

The Swedish defense contractor Bofors is working with DASA on the development of a new cruise missile - the MAW Taurus KEPD 350, which will be fitted on the Tornado aircraft of the German Air Force. It can also be adapted for the Eurofighter. Delivery is scheduled for 2001. The project is managed by TAURUS Systems GmbH, a joint venture company owned by Dasa/LFK-Lenkflugk?rper-systeme GmbH (67%) and Celsius AB, Bofors Missiles (33%). Whether the Taurus will be developed also for Sweden, which currently does not have any cruise missiles, is yet to be decided. The Taurus KEPD 350 is the first European Global Positioning System guided missile with large range (over 350 kilometers) against surface and point targets. The MAW Taurus possesses a modular avionics system, an infrared seeker, a Penetrator (Mephisto), and a turbo-fan engine for speeds greater than 0.8 Mach.

Geez, other countries developing weapons guided by the AoD's GPS constellation. Are we taken for granted or what?

In sum, the internet might be characterized as an invention inspired by a liberal government grant, but I hope you'll agree with me that it was invented to meet the needs of the Arsenal of Democracy's cold war computer network requirements.

In my opinion, the AoD is like a giant pinata. People like to knock it, if only to reap the free candy. Dispute me if you like, but please explain how -- without the AoD gifts enumerated above -- you could read this post.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Free Stuff

Oh, the neat stuff you find at book giveaways. Here's a thrilling wonder story from 1991:

If you find the small text too fuzzy, I'll reproduce it here:
  1. A bigger market than the U.S.'s by 1993
  2. A common European currency by 1997
  3. NATO defunct by the year 2000
  4. The meaning of the new German superpower
  5. The coming European-Japanese alliance

Written by Daniel Burstein: author of Yen!, who ought to be reminded that after three strikes, you're out.


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