Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Do We Always See the Same Side of the Moon?

Why Do We Always See the Same Side of the Moon?

Pure physics can explain this one.

By Adam Hadhazy in Discover Magazine

Q: Why does the moon always present the same face to us? I find it impossible to believe that this could happen by chance. — Michael Connelly, Toronto

A: Nope, not by chance — it’s pure physics.

For starters, the moon is not stuck in place with one side facing us. Our lunar companion rotates while it orbits Earth. It’s just that the amount of time it takes the moon to complete a revolution on its axis is the same it takes to circle our planet — about 27 days. As a result, the same lunar hemisphere always faces Earth.

How’d this come to be? In a word: gravity. The moon’s gravity slightly warps our planet’s shape and gives us tides. Likewise, Earth tugs at the moon, creating a rocky, high-tide “bulge” facing us. That bulge ended up working like a brake, slowing the moon’s spin down to the current rate, so the lunar high tide permanently faces us.

When that happened, about 4 billion years ago, the moon became “tidally locked,” and it has presented us the same visage ever since.


Food stories

Food stories

Fresh food from the sea is always enjoyed by me. Even the garlic bread and cheap red wine came across pretty good, too.


Among my favorites is just wrapping a shrimp in a wonton skin, cooking it by deep frying it or steaming it or broiling it, and serving it with some kind of wasibi and soy and maybe ginger mixture.


Plan B in Monterey (east Tennessee) is to use Pillisbury dough wrapping because I can get it here, and wrap whatever I am in the mood for. For example, I might wrap a mushroom, wrap it in Pillsbury pastry dough (I can get it here as croissant dough), and serve it in a dip of my making.

Even fake butter and garlic sounds pretty good right now.

Dang, and I was already planning on going to the grocery store tomorrow AM.


Last, I tried just heating some Dollar General Store cream of mushroom soup with a little half and half, and dipping some soft garlic bread in it.  In the end, I liked it better than the “Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Soup” I made a few days earlier.

I figure with all of your seafood choices, one can substitute about any kind of seafood, and go from there.


By the way, my mother, JoJo, I always thought of as a crummy cook. Now for company she could make some pretty good stuff, but only if there were leftovers would I ever even get to try whatever it was leftover. Recipe’s from Trader Vic’s (mostly bacon wrapped things) were always a hit.


India-China Border Standoff: High in the Mountains, Thousands of Troops Go Toe-to-Toe

India-China Border Standoff: High in the Mountains, Thousands of Troops Go Toe-to-Toe

Biggest Border Clashes in Decades a Sign of Growing Friction Between World’s Most-Populous Countries

Friction along India’s long and disputed border with China has sparked a road-building effort to make it easier for the Indian army to move troops and equipment to contested areas. WSJ's Gordon Fairclough reports.


By Gordon Fairclou in the Wall Street Journal



KORZOK, India—It was dusk when the herdsmen reached their Himalayan village bearing ominous news: They had spotted dozens of camouflage-clad Chinese soldiers inside territory India considers its own.

Indian security forces poured in, beginning a face-off last month that grew to involve more than 1,000 troops on each side at an altitude of roughly 15,000 feet, according to Indian officials, making it the biggest border confrontation between the two nations in decades.

The mountain standoff lasted weeks and at times involved tense shoving-and-shouting matches, according to Indian border-patrol troopers who participated. Both armies called in helicopters. The scale and duration of the clash are signs of mounting friction between the world’s two most-populous countries.

“The Chinese have become more aggressive,” said Jayadeva Ranadé, a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board. “They were trying to send a message that they can pressure us at a time and place of their choosing.”

Beijing says its forces didn’t cross the “line of actual control”—a boundary that has separated the two sides since a 1962 border war and whose exact location remains a subject of bitter dispute—and played down the encounter’s significance.

Without a clearly demarcated border, “it is quite natural for some incidents to happen,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Geng Yansheng said afterward at a news briefing in Beijing.

Locals were caught in the middle. “Everybody was worried and asking if we should stay or go,” said Gyaltsan Tsering, the headman of Chumar, a village near the standoff. “We were afraid hostilities would break out.”

Much of the global attention paid to China’s territorial assertiveness has focused on maritime conflicts in the East China Sea and the South China Sea that have stoked tensions with Japan, the U.S. and some Southeast Asian nations.

But China is also making a less-noticed push in the west to enforce claims along its 2,200-mile (3,400-kilometer) frontier with India. India says the number of what it describes as Chinese “transgressions” across the two countries’ ill-defined boundary has climbed sharply—to more than 400 last year from 213 in 2011.

At times the disputes have revolved around issues as minor as the location of a hut to shelter herders. Many details of the most-recent standoff, based on Wall Street Journal interviews near where the incident occurred, haven’t previously been reported.

China’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond to questions about India’s figures and declined to say if Indian troops cross into the Chinese side. Both countries say their forces don’t leave what they consider to be their own territory.

India’s new government has pledged a tougher foreign-policy stance. Last week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said India would build 54 new outposts along the eastern section of the India-China border and invest $28.5 million in other infrastructure to catch up with construction on the Chinese side.

Although New Delhi wants to resolve boundary disputes through dialogue, “peace cannot come at the cost of honor,” he said.

On Thursday, a spokesman for China’s Defense Ministry, Yang Yujun, reacted, saying: “We hope the Indian side can strive to uphold peace and calm in the border region, and not take any actions that complicate the situation.”

The long-running quarrel hasn’t involved armed conflict in recent years and both sides say they are determined to keep the peace. But analysts say more encounters between the two sides’ armed forces raise the risk of accidental escalation.

Defense analysts attribute the increasing tensions in part to the fact that both sides have built roads and other infrastructure that ease the movement of troops and supplies, despite the border areas’ inhospitable geography.

China has also shown greater willingness to press its territorial claims and show its displeasure with its neighbors as its economic and military power has increased.

The two countries have long harbored strategic misgivings about each other. India resents China’s close relations with rival Pakistan and its growing influence with India’s other neighbors. China says its interests in the region are commercial, not military.

For its part, Beijing is wary of the emergence of a strategic partnership among India, the U.S. and Japan, which some in Beijing see as aimed at hindering China’s rise. India’s decision to let the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama use the country as a base also rankles with China.

While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants Chinese investment to help revive India’s economy, he hasn’t shied away from steps that could anger Beijing. On Tuesday, India said it would sell navy vessels to Vietnam, which has its own territorial feud with China, after earlier signing an energy-exploration deal with Hanoi.

Today’s border situation has its roots in the fact that for centuries, the sparsely inhabited belt of mountains between what are now India and China existed as a sort of buffer zone between empires. Since a brief 1962 border war between the countries that left several thousand soldiers dead or missing, tension has waxed and waned.

China asserts claims on India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, while India claims a region it calls Aksai Chin that connects Tibet with Xinjiang in northwest China. More than a dozen rounds of talks since 2003 haven’t made much visible progress toward a settlement.

Now, local leaders from Indian border areas say they believe China is making a creeping advance, in some cases forcing herders off traditional grazing grounds. Assessing the situation on China’s side is more difficult, because China limits the access of foreign journalists to militarily sensitive border areas.

Chinese troops “come some meters, or a kilometer, at a time,” said Gurmet Dorjay, a member of India’s Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. “Our side doesn’t push back. That’s how you lose ownership.”

Kiren Rijiju, a minister of state in India’s Home Ministry, said Mr. Modi’s government would “respond appropriately” to incursions.

Villages like Chumar in the arid, high-altitude region of Ladakh, part of India’s northern Jammu and Kashmir state, are on the front line.

A settlement of stone and whitewashed, mud-brick houses and corrals for livestock, Chumar is home to about 35 families who eke out a living raising goats, sheep and other animals. They earn money selling cashmere wool.

People speak a Tibetan language similar to that spoken across the border in China and practice Tibetan Buddhism. Prayer flags flutter over the village and locals worship at a nearby monastery.

Residents say they are Indian citizens and would leave if the area falls under the control of Chinese authorities, whom they view as hostile to their religion and ways of living.

Locals used to have little contact with China’s military, said Mr. Tsering, the headman, who is his 40s. That changed in recent years, he said.

Chinese soldiers on horseback entered areas around Chumar multiple times in the summer of 2013, locals said. This spring, Mr. Tsering and other local leaders said, several herdsmen from Chumar were attacked by about a dozen mounted Chinese soldiers.

The soldiers beat them with whips in an area near a group of generations-old Buddhist monuments, said Messrs. Tsering and Dorjay. “Nobody’s been challenging them, so they just keep coming,” said Mr. Tsering.

China’s Defense Ministry declined to comment.

Then came the September standoff, ahead of a visit to India by Chinese President Xi Jinping .

Indian security forces discovered Chinese soldiers using heavy earth-moving equipment to build a dirt road into territory India considers its own. Dozens of Chinese soldiers also took up positions at an area of high ground known to India’s military as 30R, near Chumar.

India has long considered 30R to be on its side of the line of actual control and Indian forces use it to monitor Chinese operations.

Convoys of olive-drab troop trucks rushed in Indian reinforcements and China sent in more troops. Forces—for the most part armed with assault rifles and pistols—at times pushed, shoved and shouted at each other, participants said.

“This is the biggest confrontation I’ve ever seen,” said one veteran Indo-Tibetan Border Police officer, who declined to be named. “It’s obvious they want to come farther.”

Chinese officers showed maps to their Indian counterparts indicating that the 30R hill and Buddhist stupas closer to the Chumar monastery were in Chinese territory, the officer said.

“That is a new claim. Next year they’ll be back with a map that moves the border even further,” he said. “They keep changing the maps and intruding again and again.”

Ma Jiali, an India watcher at the China Reform Forum, a think tank affiliated with the Communist Party’s Central Party School, said India’s construction of outposts around Chumar, where India’s army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have bases, had forced China’s hand.

“China didn’t provoke the latest standoff,” Mr. Ma said. He blamed India for “creating a new point of contention and forcing the Chinese side into taking action to defend its position.”

A few years ago, India built a paved road to the Chumar area and an observation tower. During the standoff, China also objected to what Indian officials described as a hut, erected to shelter patrols, that India says is within its territory. The Chinese in the past have also objected to a shelter for herders near another village.

It took several rounds of talks between military commanders and a meeting of the countries’ foreign ministers before the two sides pulled back.

Such face-offs could become more common as India moves to close the gap with China in terms of border roads and infrastructure. China has made big investments in border regions and connected Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, to the country’s east coast by rail.

India is making its own infrastructure push. In the Ladakh region in late September, crews were blasting away the side of a mountain to widen a road to border areas and doing other construction work. The military has started using airfields near contested border areas to spotlight its ability to airlift reinforcements.

“India is trying to catch up,” said C. Raja Mohan, a foreign-policy specialist at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “Both militaries are now operating much closer to the border. That could mean more incidents and more intense incidents.”

—Chun Han Wong in Beijing contributed to this article.




The U.S. Military Mission Against Ebola

The U.S. Military Mission Against Ebola

This isn’t a novel effort—the military medical system has plenty of experience stopping disease from spreading.

By Jonathan D. Moreno And Stephen N. Xenakis in the Wall Street Journal


Military health-care forces under Africom, the United States Africa Command, have been deployed to assist Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in setting up preventive health services and treatment centers for the Ebola epidemic. The mission of the U.S. military, charged with defending our country’s national security, sometimes includes responding to epidemics that could threaten America and its allies. It has the experience and the infrastructure to do so.

The U.S. Army first sent advance teams to West Africa in early summer to prepare for humanitarian missions and assist local governments in dealing with Ebola. Military planners have long tracked developments, like infectious epidemics, that could destabilize countries in the region. The military now is helping local authorities build treatment centers, train local health-care providers and support staff, and establish effective command and control of health resources across the region.

In 1995 the U.S. Army established the U.S. Army Public Health Command (formerly the Center for Public Health and Preventive Medicine) to anticipate, identify and monitor health consequences of war and instability. Today combat forces and U.S. military installations around the world have units staffed by veterinarians, public-health technicians, environmental-science officers and physicians to control threats to the health of American soldiers and surrounding military communities. Sophisticated medical-intelligence agencies track the emergence of diseases and environmental disasters and changes in environmental conditions that impact security. Military specialists have worked closely for many years with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC to protect against SARS, H1N1, and other infectious agents that could threaten U.S. citizens here and abroad.

Not unreasonably, Americans worry that U.S. service members may contract Ebola. This risk cannot be waived aside, but risk is part of any dangerous mission. Military medicine focuses intensely on preserving the health and effectiveness of America’s armed forces wherever they serve.

Another worry is that U.S. troops could bring the virus back to our shores. But the military routinely imposes strict constraints on the movements of individuals in their command. In the case of Ebola, there is a 10-day window prior to allowing anyone to return to the U.S., which is followed by 21 days of close monitoring. As has been reported, U.S. troops returning from West Africa are already being quarantined in Italy.

In the absence of vaccines or treatments known to be effective against Ebola, the most important goal is to prevent the disease from spreading at its source. The U.S. military medical system has considerable experience in prevention, often under difficult conditions. In the first Gulf War (1990-91), for example, air conditioning was installed in tents to prevent infestation by sandflies whose bite could cause leishmaniasis a parasitic disease that causes fever and ulcers of the skin and gastrointestinal tract. In Panama in 1989 the antibiotic doxycycline was provided prophylactically to all personnel at the Jungle Training Center to prevent outbreaks of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause severe bleeding of the lungs and brain.

The U.S. military was the first to vaccinate service members against meningococcal meningitis in 1971. Vaccination against this dangerous bacterial infection is now common in U.S. colleges and universities. It also vaccinates all recruits against adenovirus, a disease that can be fatal in some circumstances.

Some of these preventive measures also represented important medical advances that have saved countless lives. Perhaps the most famous case was that of Major Walter Reed’s Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba in 1900, which verified that a mosquito was the vector of this dread disease—one that had caused horrific epidemics since the founding of the United States—and ensured that American soldiers would not be carriers when they returned home.

Although the current mission in West Africa does not include medical research, several experimental Ebola vaccines are already under development. The U.S. military facilities in place could serve as vaccination centers once there is a vaccine that’s shown to be safe. The U.S. military deployment to this afflicted region could turn out to have incalculable benefits.

Mr. Moreno is a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Dr. Xenakis, a retired Army brigadier general, is an adjunct professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.


Beijing Loses Friends in Hong Kong

Beijing Loses Friends in Hong Kong

From tycoons to pols, the united front begins to crack.

From the Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy sit-ins have lasted more than a month, a milestone that protesters marked Tuesday with an 87-second moment of silence to recall the 87 volleys of tear gas fired by police on Sept. 28. But the real news is that Beijing’s united front has begun to crack.

First tycoon James Tien —leader of the pro-Beijing Liberal Party and former chairman of the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce—called for the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Mr. Leung has approval ratings near the single digits but is backed by Beijing, which didn’t take kindly to Mr. Tien’s suggestion.

On Wednesday Beijing booted Mr. Tien from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, the central government’s top advisory body. The official Xinhua news agency cited his “improper remarks” as the reason.

Heightening this drama was a Xinhua commentary that appeared online Saturday—only to disappear some seven hours later. It slammed Hong Kong tycoons for showing disloyalty to Beijing by remaining “mute” about their city’s protests. With only one exception, it said, “none of the tycoons” recently hosted in Beijing by President Xi Jinping “has expressed support to the police’s handling of the demonstrations and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s government.”

As it happens, several tycoons had spoken out, which might be why Xinhua threw the article down the memory hole. But the point was made: Beijing’s rulers, or at least some factions among them, are growing distrustful of their erstwhile allies in Hong Kong’s nicest boardrooms.

Rounding out the week’s disharmony was Jasper Tsang, former leader of Hong Kong’s main pro-Beijing party and now the president of the Legislative Council. In an interview Wednesday he disputed the government’s claim that foreigners are driving Hong Kong’s democracy demonstrations.

“I can’t see it happening,” he said. “Unless you treat foreign diplomats expressing concerns as an intervention by external forces. I think their concerns, raised objectively, were not intended to influence, dominate or instigate any side.” Mr. Tsang thus rebuked the local Chief Executive and Beijing officials as senior as Vice Premier Wang Yang , who claimed this month that “some Western nations” are trying to foment a “color revolution” in Hong Kong.

Beijing and its Hong Kong allies aren’t gathering in a circular firing squad, but tensions are rising. Beijing’s more honest loyalists, such as Mr. Tsang, have long warned that the territory will become ungovernable if the government refuses to compromise with democrats.

Many in the pro-Beijing camp opposed the selection of Mr. Leung as Chief Executive in 2012 because they knew his hardline approach would further polarize Hong Kong society. Their predictions have come true, but Beijing still doesn’t want to listen.

China’s leaders could spare themselves much trouble if they find a way to compromise with the Hong Kong people. As Mr. Tien put it, “Citizens are ignoring court injunctions and pan-democrats are staging their non-cooperation movement” in the legislature, including a campaign to block non-essential spending. “How is [Mr. Leung] going to govern in the remaining three years of his term?”


A Lesson From My Great-Aunt

A Lesson From My Great-Aunt

Is Sacrificing a bit of comfort for public health such a great indignity?

By Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal

On a bookshelf in my home in a glass-and-brass frame I keep my great-aunt’s Ellis Island health card. It’s cardboard, about as big as your hand. She wore it on her coat during her nine-day journey from Ireland. Every day the ship’s surgeon (possibly brusquely, probably officiously) examined her for signs of acute or long-term illness. The card noted her details—immigrant, steerage, age about 20—and other facts. SS California out of Londonderry, 1909, Mary Jane Byrne, last residence Glenties. On the back it says, “Keep this Card to avoid detention at Quarantine and in Railroads in the United States.” If she failed the physicals she would be held at Ellis Island or sent back. There’s a little notch to mark each day the doctor found her healthy. In the end there were nine.

She disembarked at Ellis Island where, so enraged at this crude, assaultive violation of her civil liberties—being subjected to intimate questioning by a stranger, feeling harassed by the daily threat of rejection and expulsion, being, in effect, immigrant-shamed—she got a lawyer, sued the U.S. government, and, with Emma Goldman and Floyd Dell, started a civil-liberties movement that upended American immigration law.

Wait, that’s not what happened! She accepted with grace the needs and demands of her new nation, took no offense, and acknowledged the utility of a quarantine or ban—why would America be bringing in sick people who could spread disease? She settled in Brooklyn near the Navy Yard and became a maid, a job she worked as a true profession, for half a century. Thus was America built.

The card she wore on her coat? She kept it as a souvenir. She didn’t know it was a relic of abuse, she thought it was a first palpable sign of citizenship. And so, 50 years later, she passed it on to me.

I miss such humility, don’t you? Did we fail to encourage it by forgetting to honor it? Or, if these questions are insufficiently ideological, whatever happened to courtesy to the collective? We should bring it back. We could answer the current quarantine question if we faced it with the calm of a 1909 immigrant.

An American nurse returns from Sierra Leone after treating Ebola patients. She did that on her vacation. We are proud of her. After she lands at Newark Airport she is hustled into quarantine. She is greatly shocked and indignant, loudly protests in the media. Her rights are being violated, her treatment is “inhumane.” By that she perhaps meant uncomfortable—a tent, paper scrubs, no shower. It was all on-the-fly and disorganized, a state scrambling to do what the federal government would not.

The nurse got sprung and is currently in Maine, refusing quarantine, threatening legal action, and gaily bicycling past media scrums. I see a future in politics.

Should she have been quarantined? Of course. Because she is at higher than normal risk of developing and transmitting a deadly virus.

She has been tested for the disease, tests came back negative, and she has no symptoms. But—do we need to keep saying this?—the same was true of Thomas Duncan, the Liberian visitor who later developed Ebola and died. As a doctor said, it takes time for the viral load to become big enough to register. The nurse probably won’t get sick—she looks like a person who knows how to protect herself—but why not be careful?

The nurse’s case of course makes us think of the New York City doctor who came back from Guinea a few weeks ago after helping people there. He ran all over New York—subways, restaurants, bowling alley—before he came down with Ebola. The New York Post this week quoted law-enforcement officials saying the doctor at first claimed he’d self-quarantined, then admitted he hadn’t. But to be blithely bopping around when he knew he might be carrying a dread illness whose spread would concern an entire city—that was, and I hope I’m not breaching protocols here, discourteous. It wasn’t nice of him to scare everyone like that.

It would have been gracious if the nurse, hearing of heightened public anxiety, and concerned for the safety of others, had patiently accepted the situation and expressed understanding.

Instead she, and the sick doctor, acted as if, when a microbe meets a respected and altruistic health-care professional, it, like the general public, is expected to bow.

Doctors Without Borders suggests those returning from health-care work in West Africa not go to work for 21 days. The military will quarantine U.S. troops back from West Africa for 21 days. Why can’t we have an overall national policy that establishes this? Why are the states forced to do it—then pressured not to?

It doesn’t seem to matter if quarantined individuals are at home by themselves, with a cop posted at the front door, or alone in another setting. The only point is that they not endanger anybody.

Support among the American public for quarantine appears at this point to be overwhelming. You can know this if you walk down the street and ask people, or if you look at a CBS poll that found 80% of respondents think citizens returning from West Africa should be quarantined until it’s clear they do not have the disease.

But America’s “professionals” in the scientific and medical communities, and certainly those in the White House, seem deeply uninterested in the views of common people. When pressed on the issue they, especially the president, offer only gobbledygook and slogans. We can’t be safe here until they’re safe over there! They sound like propagandists for Bleeding Belgium in World War I.

The only argument against a quarantine that makes sense is that the decision might dissuade U.S. health workers from going to West Africa. It can easily be answered. Pass a law to pay everyone’s full salary while they’re quarantined. Make it a free vacation. Get them every kind of benefit and service possible for those three weeks. And then when they’re well, thank them publicly. Have them in the balcony at the next State of the Union!

Three weeks off and the thanks of a grateful nation. That’s not a disincentive, it’s an incentive.

It must be noted that all this—the quarantine argument, the travel ban—is another expression of the deep, tearing distance between America’s professional and political elites, who operate as if they are estranged from common sense, and normal people, who are becoming more estranged from the elites, their oblivious and politicized masters.

That distance has been growing all my adult life, but the Ebola argument has brought it into sharper relief. The elites should start twigging onto it. They are no longer immediately respected, their guidance is not reflexively taken. They seem more immersed in political thinking—what is the ideologically enlightened position to take, where’s the boss on it?—than in protecting public health.

Or thinking commonsensically, like your great-aunt.

Which is too bad because great-aunts built America.

All this will be part of the story on Tuesday, in the elections. It is hard to believe you can patronize people, and play them, and they will not, first chance they get, sharply rebuke you.


Massive Non-Citizen Voting Uncovered in Maryland


By Bryan Preston in PJ Media


An election integrity watchdog group is suing the state of Maryland, alleging that it has discovered massive and ongoing fraudulent voting by non-U.S. citizens in one county. But because of the way that the non-citizens are able to cast votes in elections, the fraud is likely happening in every single county and subdivision across the state. The group believes that the illegal voting has been happening for years.

The group, Virginia Voters Alliance, says that it compared how voters in Frederick County filled out jury duty statements compared with their voting records. The group’s investigation found that thousands of people in Frederick County who stated that they are not U.S. citizens on jury duty forms went on to cast votes in elections. Either they failed to tell the truth when they were summoned for jury duty, or they cast illegal votes. Both are crimes. The same group previously found that about 40,000 people are registered to vote in both Virginia and Maryland.

It is a federal crime to cast votes if you are not legally eligible to vote. Non-citizens, whether in the country legally or not, are prohibited from voting in most local and all state and federal elections. Yet the VVA investigation found that hundreds of non-citizens have been voting in Frederick County, Maryland. One in seven Maryland residents are non-U.S. citizens.

“The lawsuit is the equivalent of the lookout spotting the iceberg ahead of the Titanic,” state Del. Pat McDonough told the Tatler. He added that the group’s investigation found a voter fraud “smoking gun.”

Maryland state law makes it easier for non-citizens, both those present legally and those in the country against the law, to vote. Maryland issues drivers licenses to legal and illegal aliens. Driver’s licenses in turn make it easier under the Motor Voter law to register to vote. Maryland also offers copious taxpayer-funded social programs to non-citizens in the state.

The group filed suit in Baltimore’s U.S. District Court on Friday. They are suing the Frederick County Board of Elections and the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Del. Pat McDonough (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties) detailed the alleged fraud in a Maryland press conference today. He is calling for a special state prosecutor because the fraud may be taking place statewide, with significant impact on Maryland elections. Maryland currently holds 10 electoral votes in presidential elections. McDonough is also proposing legislation including voter ID to close the loopholes that he says non-citizens are using to cast votes.

In a statement, Del. McDonough says:

There are frequent allegations in America and Maryland about the existence of voter fraud. In the case I am presenting today, there is documentation and a track record. The numbers and facts from the records in Frederick County are the tip of the iceberg. When these numbers are multiplied by including the other subdivisions in Maryland, the potential number is alarming and could change the outcome of a close statewide election.

Even more dangerous is the probability of many local elections that are decided by a few votes could be affected. All 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly are standing for re-election as well as many local office holders.

The important election that we have coming up demands that citizens’ votes are not diluted or cancelled by non-citizens who are not legally permitted to vote. The sanctity of the ballot box, because of the flawed system we are pointing out, has already been violated in previous elections.

The purpose of the lawsuit is to mandate those responsible for the administration of the election process will remove the non-citizens from the final voting count.

The purpose of the investigation by the special prosecutor is to penetrate more deeply statewide and determine why this fraud or any other related violation was allowed to occur.

The purpose of the legislation is to plug the massive loophole in current law which permitted these fraudulent practices to take place.

Maryland is a Democratic stronghold especially around its larger cities, but the governor’s race there is tightening as Republican Larry Hogan gains ground. Illegal votes could tip the balance if the legal vote is close enough on election day. “What if Hogan loses by 500 votes or 1000 votes?” McDonough asked.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Del. McDonough noted that the fraud uncovered by VVA occurred on O’Malley’s watch.


Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.


The Five Biggest Disasters in American Military History

The Five Biggest Disasters in American Military History

"What are the biggest disasters in American military history, and what effect have they had on the United States?"

By Robert Farley in The National Interest

Nations often linger on their military defeats as long as, or longer than, they do on their successes. The Battle of Kosovo remains the key event of the Serbian story, and devastating military defeats adorn the national narratives of France, Russia and the American South. What are the biggest disasters in American military history, and what effect have they had on the United States?

In this article, I concentrate on specific operational and strategic decisions, leaving aside broader, grand-strategic judgments that may have led the United States into ill-considered conflicts. The United States may well have erred politically in engaging in the War of 1812, World War I, the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, but here I consider how specific failures worsened America’s military and strategic position.

Invasion of Canada

At the opening of the War of 1812, U.S. forces invaded Upper and Lower Canada. Americans expected a relatively easy going; the notion that Canada represented the soft underbelly of the British empire had been popular among American statesmen for some time. Civilian and military leaders alike expected a quick capitulation, forced in part by the support of the local population. But Americans overestimated their support among Canadians, overestimated their military capabilities, and underestimated British power. Instead of an easy victory, the British handed the Americans a devastating defeat.

American forces (largely consisting of recently mobilized militias) prepared to invade Canada on three axes of advance, but did not attack simultaneously and could not support one another. American forces were inexperienced at fighting against a professional army and lacked good logistics. This limited their ability to concentrate forces against British weak points. The Americans also lacked a good backup plan for the reverses that the British soon handed them. None of the American commanders (led by William Hull, veteran of the Revolutionary War) displayed any enthusiasm for the fight, or any willingness to take the risks necessary to press advantages.

The real disaster of the campaign became apparent at Detroit in August, when a combined British and Native American army forced Hull to surrender, despite superior numbers. The British followed up their victory by seizing and burning several American frontier outposts, although they lacked the numbers and logistical tail to probe very deeply into American territory. The other two prongs of the invasion failed to march much beyond their jumping off points. American forces won several notable successes later in the war, restoring their position along the border, but never effectively threatened British Canada.

The failure of the invasion turned what Americans had imagined as an easy, lucrative offensive war into a defensive struggle. It dealt a major setback to the vision, cherished by Americans, of a North America completely under the domination of the United States. Britain would hold its position on the continent, eventually ensuring the independence of Canada from Washington.

Battle of Antietam

In September 1862, Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland with the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee’s objectives were to take advantage of foraging opportunities (the movement of armies across Virginia had left the terrain devastated), support a revolt in Maryland and potentially inflict a serious defeat on Union forces. Unfortunately for Lee, information about his battle disposition fell into the hands of General George McClellan, who moved to intercept with the much larger Army of the Potomac. President Lincoln saw this as an opportunity to either destroy or badly maul Lee’s army.

The Battle of Antietam resulted in 22,000 casualties, making it the bloodiest day in the history of the Americas. Despite massive numbers, a good working knowledge of Lee’s dispositions and a positional advantage, McClellan failed to inflict a serious defeat on the Confederates. Lee was able to withdraw in good order, suffering higher proportional casualties, but maintaining the integrity of his force and its ability to retreat safely into Confederate territory.

McClellan probably could not have destroyed the Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam (19th-century armies were devilishly difficult to annihilate, given the technology available), but he could have dealt it a far more serious setback. He vastly overestimated the size of Lee’s force, moved slowly to take advantage of clear opportunities and maintained poor communications with his subcommanders. A greater success at Antietam might have spared the Army of the Potomac the devastation of Fredericksburg, where Union forces launched a pointless direct assault against prepared Confederate positions.

Antietam was not a complete failure; the Army of Northern Virginia was hurt, and McClellan forced Lee out of Maryland. President Lincoln felt confident enough following the battle to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, promising to free slaves in rebellious states. Nevertheless, Antietam represented the best opportunity that the Union would have to catch and destroy the Army of Northern Virginia, which remained one of the Confederacy’s centers of gravity until 1865.

Operation Drumbeat

On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Germany’s treaty obligations to Japan did not require action in case of Japanese attack, but Germany nevertheless decided to make formal the informal war that it had been fighting with the United States in the Atlantic. Historically, this has been regarded as one of Hitler’s major blunders. At the time, however, it gave German submariners their first opportunity to feast upon American coastal shipping.

In the first six months of 1942, the U-boat force commanded by Admiral Doenitz deployed into the littoral of the eastern seaboard. The Germans had observed some restraint prior to Pearl Harbor in order to avoid incurring outright U.S. intervention. This ended with the Japanese attack. The German U-boats enjoyed tremendous success, as none of the U.S. Army Air Force, the U.S. Navy, or American civil defense authorities were well prepared for submarine defense. Coastal cities remained illuminated, making it easy for U-boat commanders to pick targets. Fearing a lack of escorts (as well as irritation on the part of the U.S. business community), the U.S. Navy (USN) declined to organize coastal shipping into convoys. The USN and U.S. Army Air Force, having fought bitterly for years, had not prepared the cooperative procedures necessary for fighting submarines.

The results were devastating. Allied shipping losses doubled from the previous year, and remained high throughout 1942. German successes deeply worried the British, such that they quickly dispatched advisors to the United States to help develop a concerted anti-submarine doctrine. Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) was (and is) immensely complicated, requiring a great deal of coordination and experience to pull off correctly. The United States had neither worked diligently on the problem prior to the war, nor taken the time to learn from the British. However, the USN would make good its mistake later in the war, developing into a very effective ASW force, and deploying its own submarines to great effect against the Japanese.

Across the Partition, 1950

Following the successful defense of Pusan, and the stunning victory on the beaches of Inchon, the United States Army and Marine Corps, with support of Republic of Korea forces, marched deep into North Korea in an effort to destroy the Pyongyang regime and turn over full control of the Korean Peninsula to Seoul. The United States saw a counteroffensive as an opportunity to roll back Communist gains in the wake of the Chinese Revolution, and punish the Communist world for aggression on the Korean Peninsula.

This was an operational and strategic disaster. As American forces approached the Chinese border on two widely divergent (and mutually unsupportable) axes, Chinese forces massed in the mountains of North Korea. Beijing’s diplomatic warnings became increasingly shrill, but fresh off the victory at Inchon, few in the United States paid any attention. China was impoverished and militarily weak, while the Soviet Union had displayed no taste for direct intervention.

When the Chinese counterattacked in November 1950, they threw back U.S. Army and Marine Corps forces with huge loss of life on both sides. For a time, it appeared that the People’s Liberation Army’s counteroffensive might completely rout United Nation forces. Eventually, however, the lines stabilized around what is now the Demilitarized Zone.

This failure had many fathers. While General Douglas MacArthur pushed most aggressively for a decisive offensive, he had many friends and supporters in Congress. President Truman made no effort to restrain MacArthur until the magnitude of the disaster became apparent. U.S. intelligence lacked a good understanding of either Chinese aims or Chinese capabilities. The invasion resulted in two more years of war, in which neither China, nor the United States could budge the other very far from the 38th parallel. It also poisoned U.S.-Chinese relations for a generation.

Disbanding the Iraqi Army

On May 23, 2003, Paul Bremer (chief administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority) ordered the Iraqi Army to disband. It is difficult to overstate the unwise nature of this decision. We don’t need hindsight; it was, as many recognized, a terrible decision at the time. In a moment, swept aside was the entirety of Iraqi military history, including the traditions and communal spirit of the finest Iraqi military formations. Eradicated was the best means for managing the sectors of Iraqi society most likely to engage in insurgent activity.

It’s not hard to see the logic of the decision. The Iraqi Army was deeply implicated in the Baathist power structure that had dominated Iraq for decades. Many of its officers had committed war crimes, often against other Iraqis. It was heavily tilted towards the Sunnis, with few Shia or Kurds in positions of responsibility. Finally, it had, from the American perspective, a recent history of appallingly poor military performance. As Bremer argued, it had largely dissolved in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

But this was not how many Iraqis viewed the army. The Royal Iraqi Army had come into existence in the early 1920s, when Iraq remained a protectorate of the British Empire. It had revolted in 1941, but the British made the wise decision to keep the force together so as to maintain order. In 1948, its units fought against Israeli forces during the wars of Israeli independence, and it participated in the 1967 war, if briefly. In the 1980s, it waged an eight-year struggle against Iran. While its legacy was complex, for many Iraqis, service in the Army (and in particular its performance against Iran) remained a source of personal and national pride. Eradicated was eighty years of institutional history.

It’s impossible to say how the reconstruction of the Iraqi Army might have played out differently, but then it’s difficult to imagine how it could have been worse. The Iraqi Army has consistently failed in the most elementary of military tasks when not directly supported by American forces. It remains unpopular in broad sectors of Iraqi society, and its performance against lightly armed ISIS fighters has made it the laughingstock of the region.


American military failures have undoubtedly had an impact on the country’s strategic position, but have yet to fundamentally undercut national power. The United States recovered quickly from Operation Drumbeat, Antietam, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the defeat in Korea.

National greatness depends on more than simply victory in battle, as the persistence of U.S. power suggests. Nevertheless, each of these avoidable defeats proved costly to the United States—in blood, treasure and time.


Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.