How Close Is Too Close?-A Few Links On The 2013 El Reno Tornado

Dan Robinson was the guy heading south, then rapidly east, in the hopes of staying on a parallel northward track to the May 31st, 2013 El Reno, Oklahoma tornado. I can appreciate a man driving towards such a thing.

In his words:

‘I was not trying to get close. I knew from how the tornado first appeared that it would be very large, violent and dangerous. My goal was simply to remain in a good position for photography and video, which I felt would be best with the tornado backlit by the bright skies to the southwest. I wanted to be just close enough to have a high-contrast view.

It turns out that particular evening, many of the variables leading to supercell formation, and even EF5 tornado formation, were in place. So many were in place, in fact, that this became one of the most violent and dangerous tornadoes ever recorded.

It changed directions suddenly. It slowed down to 5 mph and sped up to nearly 50 mph. 2.6 miles wide at one point? 300 mph wind?

Eight people died.

The guy in a Toyota Yaris, slipping on a wet, gravely Oklahoma road unable to disable traction control doesn’t exactly come off a hero. The guy suddenly racing for his life, enveloped in the outer wind-field, is easily criticized. Bigger balls than many? Maybe. Stupid enough to get killed? Possibly.

Thanks, Dan, for chasing on your own dime, sharing your information, and respecting the wishes of the families of those in the car behind you. That was the last anyone saw of them.

It is what it is.

From the Weather Service video below: A small percentage of the world’s surface supports the kinds of extreme clashing air masses found on the U.S. plains.  Very few thunderstorms become supercells, and very few of those supercells form tornadoes.  Even fewer tornadoes become violent F4 and F5 monsters which spawn sub-vortices and anti-cyclones.

The El Reno, Oklahoma tornado from 2013 took the lives of eight people, including experienced stormchasers known for their judgment and contributions to the rest of us.

A sad day.

Repost-A 9/11 Link

For those who didn’t make it through, and those who did, and those who have worked every day to make it better…

Here’s a video of the memorial at night, from some number of years ago. You can look into those holes, the water flowing down and away. You can also be with everyone else for a moment, looking at the beauty around you; the bustling city.

Addition: At the NY Observer, a firsthand account from the 77th floor of the 2nd tower.

R.I.P. Jerry Pournelle

Via Instapundit.  A pretty sad day for this blog.

How do you balance interests in liberty, libertarianism, war and military technology, government, the sciences, sci-fi, artistic creativity, along with much insight and wisdom into human nature?  And pretty good writing?

His original blog is a good place to start looking around.

As previously posted:

Libertarianism can be accompanied by attendant utopianism and grand visions of the future (as strong as the progressive and collectivist love of technocracy). Yet, as for predictions about the future, here’s Pournelle describing his own home computer and how publishing might look in a few decades time.

Keep in mind he was saying this in 1979:

How I came across his writing:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.’

Rest in peace.

Repost-A Whimper Or A Bang?-Dino Buzzati’s ‘Seven Floors’

It’s barely twelve pages long, dear reader.

What are you doing with your time and imagination?

You’re fine, Mr. Corte.  In fact, you’re looking a little better than yesterday…:

‘Giuseppe Corte didn’t need anything, but he began to chat freely with the young woman, asking for information about the clinic. In this way, he learned about the hospital’s unique practice of assigning its patients to different floors in accordance with the gravity of their illness. On the seventh floor, the top floor, only the very mildest cases were treated. Those whose forms of the illness weren’t grave, but who certainly couldn’t be neglected, were assigned to the sixth floor. More serious infections were treated on the fifth floor, and so on and so forth. Gravely ill patients were housed on the second floor; and on the first floor, those for whom all hope had been abandoned.’

You probably spent a lot of energy when younger, wishing to be older, and as you get older, find yourself spending time wishing you were younger.

These lines from ‘The Old Fools‘ by Philip Larkin spring to mind:

‘…Extinction’s alp, the old fools, never perceiving
How near it is. This must be what keeps them quiet:
The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come? Never, throughout
The whole hideous inverted childhood? Well,
We shall find out.’

What to focus on?

R.I.P. StormChasers-Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras & Carl Young

NBC video here.

National Geographic had what would be a final interview with Tim Samaras.

Some final tweets.  Weatherspace has more here, with information about the El Reno tornado.

Addition: The El Reno tornado was a record 2 1/2 miles wide.  Video here.  It’s easy to see when a few miles wide tornado spins off multiple vortices, hits in the evening, and is rain-wrapped, that even veteran chasers can underestimate it.    It’s like the supercell is dragging its belly on the ground.


As a blogger and writer and weather-interested layman:

I suspect everyone’s been moved by the beauty of nature, and felt wonder, fear, and awe at its power and mystery. Some people keep going back and try to figure out how it works as well. There’s an element of thrill-seeking to the hunt, and adrenalin, no doubt. It’s extremely risky chasing down tornadoes time and again, putting yourself so dangerously close, but the goal is to know more, and to stay as safe as possible under the circumstances.

There’s been a lot of data gathered and science done that has drastically improved forecasting, preparation and warning time, and our understanding of tornadoes. That’s no doubt saved many lives. Storm-chasers also bear witness to the death and destruction in the wake of tornadoes, so to everyone who’s suffered, my condolences.

It might be helpful to the Samaras family to visit his site as he has a DVD for sale.

Here’s Tim Samaras discussing his work in 2004. R.I.P.


And Tim Samaras at work:


Related On This Site:  The Greensburg Tornado on Doppler Radar…Tornadoes In Major Cities: Atlanta

From The Weather Channel: 3D Image Of The Tuscaloosa Tornado April 27th, 2011Tornadoes! Some LinksThe Greensburg Tornado on Doppler RadarTornadoes In Major Cities: AtlantaFrom NOAA: Tornado Safety GuideFrom CBS St. Louis: ‘UPDATED: Video of the Joplin Twister’

From Weather Underground: Moore/Oklahoma City Tornado May 20th, 2013

Freedom Of Speech? Absolutely-From SteynOnline: ‘Lars Hedegaard, Defender Of Freedom’

Full piece here.

A man of the right, Steyn has been darkly predicting the end of Europe as we know it, locked as it is, he argues, into demographic decline and painting itself into the corner of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is tough to define, but for Steyn’s analysis, perhaps we could think of it as a melange of moral relativism, Statist top-down rationalism and its remnants, as well as a dominant liberal ideology of conformity.  Some people are viewed as victims before they even arrive, to be pitied and included into civil society mainly through questionable lawmaking by way of political activism.

More broadly, it can lead to the kind of technocratic governance which appears currently unable to acknowledge many cultural, economic, and demographic problems in Europe.  Muslim immigration, multiculturalists, and free speech are the main players in the Hedegaard case.

Europe wanted cheap labor and they got it with Muslims.  A few generations onward, as Europe’s Muslim populations quietly grow in cities such as Malmo, London, and Brussels, there are broader consequences. For Steyn, Muslims are naturally following an Islam at odds with much of European culture, an Islam which doesn’t recognize separation of Mosque and State, and will occasionally kill people who insult the prophet.  Point this out, or the folly of having Sharia law in shadow courts operating alongside at least 800 years of English jurisprudence, and someone may well try and kill you.  The sensitivities of the marginalized Muslim and the sensitivities of the multicultural Leftist consensus dovetail nicely.

***To be fair, I’d add and Steyn might agree, that many European Muslims are naturally responding to the incentives that European societies have created for them, including multicultural policies which blame Europe or America first.  Immigration isn’t easy, with or without Islam.  They are often viewed with suspicion and distrust.  It’s tougher to get a job in Europe, and it’s tough to be accepted where racial and national identity are more closely aligned.  Steyn may not agree, and I may, that the moral absolutism of Islam does not need to be met with the absolutism of some free-speech advocates each and every time, but it ought to be supported more than it is now.

Here’s Steyn on what’s become an unholy alliance:

“Why then are the Euroleft prostrate before Islam?  Simple arithmetic, says Lars:  “They are now increasingly dependent on the Muslim vote, which they hope will guarantee them a perpetual foothold at least in the major population centers.”

Rolled under this political alliance is where Lars Hedegaard found himself, as founder of Denmark’s Free Press Society.   He’s had to bear court costs to defend himself from charges of racism.

Here he is in his own words describing what he thinks are the failures of multicultural policies (addition: and why Islam is different):


Now, he’s become the target of actual violence and an assassination attempt.  His tale here:

“The assassin came to his home dressed as a postman. When the historian and journalist Lars Hedegaard opened his front door, the man — whom Lars describes as ‘looking like a typical Muslim immigrant’ in his mid-twenties — fired straight at his head. Though Hedegaard was a yard away, the bullet narrowly missed.’

Is he right about everything?  Probably not.  But few people are willing to endure the financial damage of political activism, legal persecution, and violence and threats of violence, just to speak up and join public discourse.  Hedegaard joins a growing list, in fact.  He’s taking his life into his own hands just to do so, and that’s where the line should be drawn.

European free-speech advocates can easily find themselves operating in a vacuum, working against public opinion, often alone and outnumbered.  It’d be nice to think even the establishment would come to his aid with public support against, you know, attempted murder.   Sadly, this is unlikely at the moment, as it takes both personal courage and the political will to butt heads against the dominant ideology and worldview of many European institutions.  The Eurocracy drifts forward, flaws and all.

Addition:  Should Hedegaard be reading, I hope he’s faring well, and that after reading his work, I’ve found him very reasonable.

And if you think it can’t happen over here:   Mark Steyn discusses complaints brought against Macleans, Canada’s largest publication, by the President of the Canadian Islamic Congress (who sent three representatives) to TVOntario.   They were upset at the pieces Steyn had published there.  The complaints went through the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for alleged “Islamophobia” and “promoting hate:”

The connection here is what happens in Canadian society beneath the umbrella of more Left liberal ideas:

Libertarians stand firm on this issue:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant


***A friend asks me to note that the current progressive, Obama administration shares many of the same hallmarks as the EuroLeft Steyn describes:  More malleable on free speech, vaguely tolerant of American nationalism, conveniently religious but more animated by Enlightenment rationalism and Statism.  Political activism for social justice is a legitimate path to power and to reward minority groups (remember getting Muslims to NASA). No wonder the Europeans love Obama, he’s so familiar.

The simplest and plainest example:  It takes a special kind of ideological commitment to call the Ft. Hood shooting an example of ‘workplace violence.’

Related On This Site: Tariq Ramadan speaks both multiculturalese and the language of Muslim Brotherhood, and ironically it’s the 68er and socialist who stands for neither religious belief nor multiculturalism confronts him

Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

When you add it all up, it’s a lot From ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…  Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’More From Spiegel Online After The Westergaard Attacks Via A & L Daily: ‘The West Is Choked By Fear’

See Also:  If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie hereVia The A & L Daily-Interview With Christopher Caldwell At Spiegel Online Ayan Hirsi Ali is a Muslim immigrant to Europe, who seems quite populist and anti-Islam…is this a potential track for immigrants if they are integrated better?:  Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Roger Sandall-R.I.P.

My belated condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Roger Sandall, who passed away on August 11th, 2012.  He was an Australian thinker and critic of cultural relativism, romantic-primitivism and the Noble Savage.  He was a keen observer of the ways in which certain strains of Western thought interact with the non-Western, and often, tribal worlds.

While not as strong as in Australia, we’ve seen the rise of multicultural apologetics in the U.S. regarding the native population: “Well, we robbed this land from the Indians, anyways.”  Sandall highlights the problems and hubris of such sentiment, and what can become the “Disneyfication” of the natives and the historical record.

His home page where his essays can be found.

Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologue


Related On This Site: Romantic primitivism: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’…Roger Sandall: ‘Plato Vs. Grand Theft Auto…

Via The Telegraph: Christopher Hitchens

Full obituary here.

I suspect the Marxist materialist/radical days encouraged his particularly anti-religious bent.  As a member of the new atheists, he had a real and passionate hatred for the ability of religious doctrines and religions themselves to encourage (and potentially cultivate) many darker parts of human nature, including mysticism, passionate conviction tied only to respect for authority, righteous justification for action (no one may know some of these traits better than a former Marxist…and usually writers know the darker parts of the human heart).  He loved going after religious charlatanism.  He was also a war correspondent (real courage is always mixed with fear), a fine writer, and excellent in debate.

I remember being drawn to him for his withering critiques of the failures of multi-culturalism in Europe.


From the Telegraph:

‘He began as a leading iconoclast of the Left and, during the 1970s, was a voluble member of a talented and raffish gang, with Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and James Fenton, which gave the New Statesman magazine its glittery literary edge. But he got tired of British politics and, in 1981, moved to America where, despite occasional disagreements with his erstwhile comrades (as when he took Britain’s side against the Argentine junta in the Falklands conflict), his repeated assaults on such hate figures as Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger continued to guarantee him a welcome in radical circles.

All this changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, an event he interpreted as a turning point in “a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate”. He became an outspoken opponent of “Islamofascism”, forging a breach with the Left which became a permanent rift after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.’

Addition:  Transcript of a very interesting Reason interview here from November, 2001.

Related On This Site:  Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue……From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’

How does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

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Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’

Full post here.

Henri-Levy has been on the ground working with the Libyans for some time, during a relatively dangerous time.  Agree with him or not, he’s placed himself at risk and helped others to understand some of what could be at stake for themselves and the West in Libya (The New York Observer has a review of his recent book “Left In Dark Times: A Stand Against The New Barbarism”).   He frames the murder and parading of Gadhafi’s corpse thusly:

‘Either this collective crime will be, like the beheading of the last king of France in Albert Camus’s account, the founding act of the coming era, which would be a terrible sign. Or it will be the swan song of a barbarous age, the end of the Libyan night, the death rattle of Gaddafi’s system, which, before expiring, must turn against its founder and inject him with his own venom, making way for a new era that will fulfill the promises of the Arab Spring.’

As I write, the latter is my ardent wish. More than that, it is my conviction’

There is a bit of the romantic, war-correspondent at work here, and a more sober eye could be cast upon American interests (and how far can we really trust a Frenchman with those?).  If we look at it with a Burkean lens, that tradition is still carrying the flame of a more radical, Rousseauian, highly individualized, post-Enlightenment liberty and its dangers.  Henri-Levy is part of a tradition that defines liberty much more broadly than many Americans are comfortable with and which poses great risk to the efficacy of our institutions and our freedoms.  He has stood up against anti-semitism and anti-Americanism and other dangerous strains of the French and European Left, but…still.

We may come to reap the benefits of closer cooperation with Britain and France in protecting their interests, and helping them in their backyard, spreading some of the anti-Western sentiment and reasonable suspicion around that America has brought upon itself after Iraq and post 09/11.  We also may bind ourselves to decisions and decision-making that improperly define our responsibilities that can lead to greater conflict in seen and unforeseen ways.  It is a confusing time.

I’m skeptical it hasn’t been a mistake to put these ideas at the center of American foreign policy, just as I think it would be a mistake to exclude them entirely and exclude what many people may have learned on the ground in times of crisis as either intellectuals, war-correspondents, observers, aid-workers and other defenders and definers of liberty, especially in the Arab world right now.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition: One of the major policy goals of the current administration seems to be siding with it sees as the interests of the people of the Middle-East, not necessarily the autocrats and dictators, and this Wilsonian direction as the path toward moral legitimacy.

Another addition: Just how far Left is this administration anyways?

Related On This Site: Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others……Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’

For anyone, but especially Leftists and recovering Leftists, it takes moral courage to stand up to the messianism, Islamic moral absolutism, and dark theocratic tendencies of the Middle East…liberty is key as well as moral responsibility to think in terms of the legitimacy of rule here at home: …From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..

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From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’

Full report here.

‘On Friday, al-Awlaki was killed in the mountains of Yemen in what local officials said they believed was an American airstrike. The officials said pilotless drones had been seen circling the area in recent days.

According to American officials, the 40-year-old al-Awlaki had over the years moved from being an influential mouthpiece for al-Qaida’s ideology of holy war against the United States to become an operational figure, helping recruit militants for al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen, seen as the most dangerous direct threat to America.’

Somewhat established current thinking as I’ve heard it: A relatively smaller percentage of Muslim men, often with Western experience  (college, work, study abroad, immigration), usually in transitional periods in their lives (adolescence, joblessness, spiritual crisis, isolation and displacement, bereavement, mentally unstable) withdraw from the world, and usually their mosques, and become committed to some form of Al-Qaeda like ideology.  They may do this in small groups or alone.  They may watch videos of drone strikes, or Bosnia, or Al-Qaeda training and recruitment, or someone like Al-Awlaki, or may find a web site, and then become committed over a period of weeks or months to some kind of planning and action.  I suspect a sense of injustice is a major driver, but I don’t claim to know what justice is, only that more injustice results from their usually desperate actions.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition: Of course, the NY Times and NPR in their post 9/11 coverage were looking for a “moderate” Muslim,  not a radical Muslim in their coverage of Al-Awlaki as a bridge between the Muslim and American worlds.    I doubt such outlets will highlight their error.  I also doubt such outlets would want to live under an Islamic theocracy, nor an autocratic regime as is so often found in the Muslim world as Islam has not had anything like an Enlightenment from the inside out (and many in the Muslim world are deeply resentful at being at the mercy of so many Western influences).  I suspect such folks would rather just pursue their ideals until the public square came to be dominated by the “secular republic” ideal which seeks to keep religion out of that square.

This could be reasonable if many such folks recognized the threats posed to liberty by liberal groups and the consequences of their own ideals in action, here and especially in Europe, whose mistakes many seem all too willing to import (including real fascism, weaker economies that can’t handle Muslim immigration as does our stronger economy).  This is to say nothing of the obvious and more immediate danger that huddling another Al-Awlaki type under the banner of diversity, tolerance and multi-culturalism could pose to national security.

They made a mistake, but such foolish earnestness makes stronger and more fruitful attempts at mutual understanding harder to achieve, if such are your aims.

Another Addition: Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Related On This Site:  Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’ 

The Hitchens factor, and a vigorous defense of free speech: From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’

‘Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Headbutted During Lecture’……From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

What kind of threats to free speech do the justice and rights crowd pose?:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant

Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

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