Democracy in the Philippines:

The Manila Times ("Since 1898") has an article today on the upcoming elections. Looks like about one in ten voters is expected to be a "flying voter," i.e., somebody who has managed to register in more than one place so they can cast their vote at least twice.

Should be fun.


Happy Birthday:

My baby sister was born on this date. She's grown up and run off to Minnesota since then, and I haven't seen her in most of a year. Still, I know she reads the blog, though she doesn't comment -- I think she's afraid of you people, who are of course a contentious and boisterous lot. And welcome, just that way.

Anyway, happy birthday, Juli. I wish you all the best.


A Little Mountain Feud, Part II:

Part I here.

I promised to keep y'all informed, so here we are.

The wife saw Captain Moonshine driving around the other day. Apparently the local judge feels that this is the sort of person who ought to be granted bail.

The next night? Twenty-four gunshots. Hopefully one of the blackguards actually hit his target this time. At this rate, I'm going to have to start giving marksmanship lessons to the locals, just so they can finish this business and I can get some rest.

No more news yet. I'll keep an ear out for you.

UPDATE: Apparently I misunderstood the wee wife, who informs me that in fact she has no idea what Captain Moonshine looks like. She saw someone visiting an abandoned house nearby, which I thought she had said was owned by the fellow. But she says she doesn't know that, either. One of us is seriously confused, and I suspect it may be me.

As to the twenty-four gunshots, though, that part was right on. Ah, well. Maybe there are two feuds.

Who cares, anyway? The only interaction I've had with the "neighbors" has been pleasant enough. The one fellow who owns the horses down the way has proven to be good conversation. The local dogs are all friendly. And one of the kids from down the way brought me a dozen eggs today, laid by local hens. I didn't ask for them; I don't know why he decided to bring them. But there we are.

Good line

"That's Actually Kind of a Dream of Mine."

OK, so an illegal immigrant got past the FBI's background checks, got a job as a Border Patrol officer, and then used his position to smuggle in more illegals.


Dan Melson asks at the end of a fine piece, "I know neither party's heart is in it, but can't they at least pretend to care?"

Hat tip: Smash.


The Fang Fund:

Nobody who navigates the blogosphere regularly will first learn here about Venomous Kate's lost teeth. Still, I know a few of you out there don't otherwise read blogs, so now you know.

I'm not actually a reader of Electric Venom. No offense, Kate -- there's just so much time (less every day, thanks to work). I learned about the business elsewhere. I can't even remember where, it's been mentioned so many places. Still, it's good when you can do something that will really help someone in need. Of course, there are always so many people, it can be hard to pick your shots.

It's not too often someone proud will ask for help, though. My best to the lady.


Reagan, Reagan Everywhere:

The folks at the Corner are having an idle debate today over whether enough things have been named after Ronald Reagan, or if perhaps it might be time to stop. The occasion of the debate is a proposal to rename Washington, D.C.'s 16th street after him.

There's quite a lot of opinion against more renamings, for reasons that Mark Steyn hits beautifully. I agree with Mr. Steyn, as indeed I so often do.

But there is one idea that I had to comment on:

If it were up to me, Maryland itself would be renamed Reagan.
Sorry, lads. I have to stand against that notion. I have a dear friend who would die of a heart attack if that happened.


Searches on the NY Subway:

Baldilocks is on the track of the NYCLU's suit over the NYPD's random searches on the NY Subway.

I have to admit, I've been a bit concerned about this too. I've been asking a lot of lawyers, and bloggers, about the question. I'm not clear on exactly why it's legally OK for the police to deny access to a public subway to anyone who won't waive their 4th Amendment rights. So far, I've found several people willing to take a stab at it, but no one who can actually defend their position in the face of attack. This seems questionably Constitutional to me.

I understand why it is necessary, of course. Unlike the NYCLU, I don't think the police are doing anything immoral. What I want to know is, how is it Constitutional?

I would be happy to accept as an answer, if it were clearly stated, "It is not Constitutional: but the Constitution is not, as famously held, a suicide-pact." That would be good enough for me: I can understand that a pressing, war-brought necessity can cause us to have to set aside certain usual rights for a time. The same thing happens in the case of other serious emergencies, like hurricanes; in the aftermath, it may be necessary to go so far as to institute Martial Law or shoot-on-sight orders for looters.

The advantage of this answer is that it allows the searches, which really seem to be necessary, without diluting the power of the 4th. We understand that the 4th should apply in all but emergency situations. But we also recognize that we have an emergency situation.

Feddie at Southern Appeal promised to put up a post requesting legal insight into this, when I talked to him about it the other day by email. I'll gently prod him to remember to do it; I think it's a very important point.



So this is why all of you keep coming around here...

A study of 7,000 people in their early 20s, 40s and 60s found that those who drank within safe limits had better verbal skills, memory and speed of thinking than those at the extremes of the drinking spectrum. The safe consumption level was considered to be 14 to 28 standard drinks a week for a man and seven to 14 for a woman.

Questions ranged from verbal reasoning problems to tests of short-term memory. Surprisingly, perhaps, teetotallers were twice as likely as occasional drinkers to achieve the lowest scores.

Bryan Rodgers, from ANU's Centre for Mental Health Research, said moderate drinkers not only performed the best, but also seemed to be the healthiest. "This does not necessarily show moderate alcohol use is good for our brains - there may be other reasons we haven't measured to explain the poor performance of non-drinkers," Dr Rodgers said.
Time for some more poetry:

Twenty-eight drinks a week
That can make you really think!
Putting those four beers away
Makes for better word play!
Better poems, better thought,
Better health is thereby bought!
A merry life to you and me!
A drink right now, and then three!

Yep, that's fine stuff. I'm going to bet that a "standard drink" in Australia is a pint, too, not just one of those wee 12-once cans we use around here.

UPDATE: More beer-related poetry at Cassandra's.


Guns in the Parking Lot:

My wife, who reads the blog though she has never commented here, asks for fewer gun-related stories, as she finds them somewhat dull. I shall certainly try, in case others among you feel the same way; but I do have to reply to this editorial that JHD sent me. It's from the NY Times, which has never understood the issue, has no interest in understanding the issue, and is simply throwing around assertions without backing.

The occasion for the editorial is an NRA-proposed boycott of certain oil companies, because those companies refuse to allow workers to keep firearms locked in their cars if those cars are parked on company property.

ConocoPhillips ran afoul of the N.R.A. when it joined in a challenge to a law passed by the Oklahoma Legislature that would strip businesses of their gun-control rights on company property. The state gun lobby jumped on the issue after a dozen workers were fired at a paper mill for violating a ban on keeping guns in their cars parked in company lots.
In the Times' mind, the "right" at work here is "the right to gun control," which is a right that may be expressed by individuals and even corporations, and which ought to be enforced by the courts:
Responsible corporations sued, pointing out that they are liable for workers' safety. They cited estimates that more than a dozen killings occur each week in the nation's workplaces because angry employees are able to put their hands on guns.
There are several things to be said.

1) There are no "gun-control rights" pertaining to corporations, or individuals. What is at issue here is not the "right" to control guns, but the private property right to limit access to what one owns.

It is the right, that is, to put up a sign that says "no guns here," and have someone prosecuted for trespass if he ignores the sign; or fire him, if he is an employee, because he has committed the crime of trespass.

The right to keep and bear arms, however, actually is a right: a Constitutional right, one that is recognized by the Justice Department, and what is now almost the totality of the scholarship, as a right pertaining to individuals. The Senate bill that the Times is on about also recognizes that nature, in quite strong language, which the Geek quotes at length.

When private property rights come into opposition with basic Constitutional rights, it is the private property right that normally gives way. By "gives way," I don't mean that it is voided, but that it has to accept some restrictions. The usual one in cases of this sort is the notion that public accomodations (which include gas stations) have fewer such rights than private homes.

If someone wished to assert this type of private property right over any other sort of Constitutional or civil right, the Times would be foresquare in the opposition. They would never endure a corporation putting up a sign that violated first amendment rights -- e.g., "No Episcopalians." They would never endure a violation of fourteenth amendment rights -- e.g., "No immigrants." They would probably not support even a violation of "freedom of association" rights that are not otherwise Constitutionally protected: "No Communists," or "No gays."

An individual is free not to invite Episcopalians to his house, but he cannot refuse to employ them if he has a business.

2) I don't have access to the "estimates" that are on offer here, so I can't analyze them. I'm sure someone will in the fullness of time.

However, it strikes me that they are somewhat irrelevant to the debate at hand. An employee who has decided to shoot his fellow employees is not going to be restrained by a sign that says "No guns," if he is not restrained by the laws against murder, assault, carrying weapons of any sort in any place with the intent to committ illegal violence, or any of the other laws that apply.

All of that is already illegal. It is subject to both criminal punishments, and civil punishments in the case that harm is caused.

The only thing that is at issue is whether a corporation may insist that employees contract away a Constitutional right. May I write in my contracts that employees agree not to practice a certain faith? If they are Muslims, can I legally require them not to practice their daily prayers on company property, or company time?

What if one fears that "people who practice Islam," like "people who carry guns," are likely to harm others around them? The evidence is against both propositions, but the perception may be real enough. Is that perception enough to override the Constitution? Should it be?

I think the Times would argue that it is not, and should not be, in any case except this one.

3) The civil liability issue for the corporations is a real issue, but it can't be resolved in this way. The argument is that corporations are liable if someone is shot on their property, and therefore they have to be able to protect people on their property from being shot. Fair enough; but as pointed out above, a sign that says "No guns" is no protection whatsoever from crimes of this type.

The legal argument they are imagining is: "We have an obligation to protect people on our property from violence of this type. We obviously can't afford to put armed security everywhere, which is might really stop this sort of violence. However, we did put up a sign that said 'no guns,' so it's not our fault." That prevents no one from being shot, however; it's only to escape the corporation having to pay out legal damages.

At least as compelling a legal argument would be, "We have an obligation to protect people on our property from violence of this type. We obviously can't afford to put armed security everywhere, which might really stop this sort of violence. However, we do permit our employees the access to the tools they need to defend themselves."

That should be just as likely to avoid damages as the first argument. In addition, it might actually prevent deaths from workplace shootings, because it means that someone might be in the position to prevent it.

The Times continues:
Most Americans do not believe that the right to bear arms applies to an employer's parking lot, to a church or to many of the other places where politicians have declared open season because they fear the out-of-control gun movement.
I'm not sure what their evidence is for this assertion, but it is of course perfectly irrelevant even if it were true. I've seen polling data suggesting that "most Americans" believe that homosexuality should be illegal, but that doesn't mean it should in fact be illegal.

The entire reason for having Constitutional rights in a democracy is to protect rights from popular encroachment. Of course it is rights that are not popular which are in most danger.

They are still rights, written in the Constitution, and they must be protected. They ought to be protected by the government, which is required by its own Constitution to do so.



Amid this excellent bit of photoblogging by Michael Yon, there is an insightful comment. He was right there during a firefight with insurgents, who almost escaped:

The lack of power of the American M-4 and M-16 rifles is astonishing. So many people and cars shot-up, but they just keep going and going. For a moment, it appeared the terrorists might get away.
That's right. The engine block of even the least well-constructed vehicle will absorb 5.56mm rounds. This is one reason why cars "stopped" in this fashion by American forces are frequently shot with hundreds of rounds. It's not bloodthirstyness: it's necessity.

This may be a useful piece of advice if you should ever find yourselves being shot at by anyone: the engine block will stop pistol and light rifle rounds. Your door will not. Your window will slightly deflect bullets sometimes, but not reliably. Choose your cover accordingly.

Unfortunately, the military is planning its new weapon in the usual, bid-taking and tech-oriented fashion. The proper way to choose a new battle rifle is by polling actual Marines and combat soldiers. If there's one piece of equipment not to skimp on, this is the one.

If they did, I will bet you this one is the one they would choose. Notably, it's exactly the opposite of everything the military thinks it wants in a battle rifle: it's heavy, it chooses tons of power instead of being able to carry lots of ammunition, and it involves very little of 'the latest technology.' Plus, it's long and solid rather than modular and collapsible.

Nevertheless, it has every advantage over both the M-16/M-4, and the suggested replacements. It comes of a good family, whose battle record is as solid and proven as it is possible to find. And the long, solid concept has advantages as well as disadvantages, if you will only take the time to train to exploit them: we have seen bayonet charges on quite a few occasions in Iraq, and -- as USMC pugil stick training indicates -- even an unloaded rifle, if it is long and solid, makes an excellent weapon.


The Remote:

While reading over the worst short story I've seen in ages (and who knew that Valerie Plame was really a KGB officer?) I came across this piece on an entirely different topic:

New research suggests men are still hogging the television remote control. 41% of men and 30% of women claim to rule the sofa entertainment, says a poll by Intel.
What I like about this story is that it shows something of what the post-blog future of the media will be like. It reports what its findings are -- but then, at the bottom, it adds in some reader comments:
Though a few people had comments on the rules.

"Do none of these etiquette experts have children? For years now the first I see of the remote is when the last of my children has been extracted, screaming and kicking, from the lounge and sent to bed," says Mike Thomason.
Maybe not even then.

Grim's Hall has television set, but it isn't hooked up to anything except a VCR and DVD player. As a result, the only things our remote can do are turn the various devices on and off, play or stop the video, and fast forward or rewind a tape, or "scene select" on the DVD. As such, except for a few seconds at the beginning and end of the watching session, it's of no use whatsoever.

Even so, it is the coveted possession of the three-year-old boy. He loves the thing.

A few days ago, it was lost. We looked everywhere for it. Under things, over things, behind things, whatever: it was nowhere to be found. After quite a bit of hunting, we just did without for a while.

The next day, the boy came downstairs and plopped himself down by the bed. He reached underneath, and extracted a (normally quite empty) briefcase that is stored there because it is out of the way. He unzipped it, reached inside, opened an internal pocket, reached inside of that, and pulled out the remote.

I'd never have thought to look there, I can tell you.



Kim du Toit knocks one out of the park.


Woman Marines: has an article today on women who are Marines, one that raises again the old debate about the proper role of women in combat.

In May, House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and House Personnel Subcommittee Chairman John McHugh, R-N.Y., pushed a provision that would have barred all female troops in forward deployed support units from moving to the front lines during combat. Language in the 2006 defense authorization bill would prohibit assigning women to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct ground combat.

McHugh's amendment would have left the door open for other restrictions, particularly if the mission involves long-range reconnaissance or Special Operations Forces. But the issue quickly generated partisan turmoil. Army leaders and two associations representing retired Army and National Guard members fought against its passage. The proposed legislation was shot down.

Had it passed, the amendment would have closed nearly 22,000 positions now available to female service members in heavy and infantry brigade combat, according to an article published on
The article speaks to several servicewomen and asks about their experiences. It is an enlightening read.

This is one of those issues on which I once had a considered and set opinion, which I find I have now changed in light of experience and new data. Even two years ago, I still believed that women should be restricted to military roles in which combat was not going to be one of their primary functions.

The debate seemed entirely one-sided at the time, I recall thinking, with all the good arguments and hard evidence on the side of restriction. All the tests demonstrated that men were, overall, far superior in the physical attributes on which combat continues to rely: strength, endurance, and the ability (based on differences in the physical structure of the brain) to dissociate emotion from reason. This last is a key ingredient in the stress of a life-or-death moment, one that only becomes more important as the "moment" drags out into hours, as it sometimes can.

On the other side of the balance sheet were largely fairness claims, and as anyone knows, "it's not fair" is the very first rule in the UCMJ. Not that these weren't worthy considerations -- it had a real effect on promotions, pay, and in other ways limited a woman's career options. In spite of that, the military exists to provide for the physical security of the country, not to provide a career for anyone. All such considerations, for men as well as women, have to take a back seat to the simple matter of victory. In the long view, that means putting the best people in all positions that will have an effect on combat; in the short term, it means that the person next to you on the front line needs to be the one most likely to keep you alive.

After some years of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, I think the balance of evidence has shifted. The tests that measure physical capacity remain sound; but we have learned several more things from direct experience that have to be filtered in.

As the article makes clear, women are needed even in front line positions in Islamic cultures, because of the need to search Muslim women and female regions of homes. The realities of fourth generation warfare make it necessary; and so we have had women in those positions, and they've done very well.
"I went on a convoy ... and was walking around with the squadron, carrying my M-16," Griego said. "I did exactly the same things they did. When we encountered females, I searched them to make sure they didn't have anything and kept them moving."

At times, Griego said, she was scared. But she was confident she had the training needed to do the job.

On this particular search, there were two women who looked suspicious to Griego. Searchers cannot hold a weapon while they work because it might go off by accident - or worse, the enemy might get a hold of it.

"One woman had an infant (in one arm) and a bundle of something in another," Griego said. "She had her arms under her burka which was unusual."

Reciting phrases from the Poshtun language, Griego asked the woman to raise her arms.

The woman didn't move.

"So I lifted her arms and saw the muzzle of an AK-47 begin to slip out," she said. "I slapped the gun down."

All the while, the Marine next to her kept his gun aimed at the Afghan woman. But when Griego slapped the gun down, the woman tried to run, she said.

Griego used her martial arts training to tackle her. The team found not only the gun, but several AK-47 magazines.
What was necessary as a practical reality has given us experience to weigh against the tests. What that experience has proven is that the physical qualities are not as important to performance as the science would suggest. Physical standards need to remain strong, but it is now plain that women who meet the standards are frequently up to the task -- even if they don't surpass the physical minimum standards as much as a male might. These women are providing us with a needed capability, and they have proven themselves entirely.

In retrospect I should have known. Of course it is not finally the body, but the spirit, which conquers.

Hackett II

The Hackett Thing:

Looks like Rush gave a part of his program over to this today.

I'll tell you what, this guy to me sounds like a typical lib. He runs while trying to conceal his true beliefs, and he's running as a Marine. Of course the implication there is that he's to the right of Jean Schmidt. But, folks, he's not running as a Democrat, because if he were running as a Democrat, he would run anti-war. He would be an anti-war candidate -- and he's not saying that. He's not even saying he's a Democrat. He's not even admitting what he has said elsewhere: he thinks Bush is the most dangerous guy in the world, and he wants to raise everybody's taxes. But what's going to happen? I just want to warn you, if this guy wins in this election with a 20% turnout today, which is what they are expecting, the libs all over the place are going to be saying that this was a test of Bush, and Bush lost.
He's running as a Marine, but he's really a liberal?

Our boy Deuddersun should put an end to that line of thinking. He's a Marine. He's anti-war. He hasn't posted in a long time, so I'm going to stand up for what I know he believes. It's not that I believe it myself -- it's that a man I respect and honor believes it. I don't agree: but he's got a right to think things through. Being a Marine doesn't obligate you to a political position. You can believe what you like, and you can count on me for fight for it. I'm not Rush Limbaugh, but for those of you who do come by, I will always stand up for the right of fighting men to stand up for whatever they believe.

I think it would be good for the country, and especially for the Democratic Party, if Hackett won. We've argued that. We'll see who wins, soon enough; and if Hackett loses, I'll be fine with accepting it. I've got no special problem with his opponent.

The Marines are heavily conservative. Fighting men are -- they're used to fighting for something, and that means conserving it. But it's not true that every fighting man fights for something that already exists. Some fight for the world they want to see. Whether I agree or not, I'll defend their right to their position.

Rush decided to title his page "Paul Hackett Shows Libs Must Lie to Compete." Hackett may be a good officer or not, but he's sure not a liar. I resent the charge. I don't love everything he stands for, far from it, but I resent that charge with my blood.


For The Kingdom, If I Can...

Kim du Toit points to what might be a very serious business indeed.

A renegade band of Mexican military deserters, offering $50,000 bounties for the assassination of U.S. law-enforcement officers, has expanded its base of operations into the United States to protect loads of cocaine and marijuana being brought into America by Mexican smugglers, authorities said.

The deserters, known as the “Zetas,” trained in the United States as an elite force of anti-drug commandos, but have since signed on as mercenaries for Mexican narcotics traffickers and have recruited an army of followers, many of whom are believed to be operating in Texas, Arizona, California and Florida.
Kim has some hard words, but not hard enough. The government had better get its hands around this problem, or else it had better accept what comes with good grace. It won't be long before bounties like that begin causing the deaths of deputies. This is not something the citizenry will tolerate.

Where is "Black Jack" Pershing when you need him?

UPDATE: Parapundit has a lot more.



If I were not in such a foul mood, I would laugh loud and long at this:

Hackers found a way around Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) anti-piracy system last week, only a day after the system went into effect.
I know I should not have such a soft place in my heart for data pirates. They're nothing but thieves, I know. They steal the hard-earned work of honest programmers -- at least, the ones who aren't employed solely to try and beat them.

Still, you have to impressed by a show of mastery such as this. Microsoft hires the best minds it can find, and spent who knows how much money refining the system. They busted it in a day, apparently without having to reach deep into their playbook.

I can't help but have a certain respect for that.

UPDATE: Here is a story about a better class of pirate:
With the world wide web increasingly used as the main instrument of propaganda and communication for extreme religious groups like al-Qaeda, MI5 and patriotic hackers have formed an unlikely alliance to close down their sites.
Go get 'em, lads.
An old anecdote comes to mind: "A mule that has made 20 campaigns under Marius is still a mule."

I just noted this over at the Countercolumn blog.

I suppose Mr. Hackett is speaking to the 'base', but I'm not seeing where this is going to convince anyone else, and frankly it doesn't really reflect well on him, the Marines, or the Democratic party.

I'll have to find out what Dennis the Peasant has to say about this.


Butterfly: A Sonnet

Remember you the butterfly
As a child you had to let go,
For she was born freedom to know
to chose to stay or to hie,
And she chose the horizon to try--
They always vanish, like the snow
Oh, with long knife to force heart's flow
That pain with blood might dry.

But recall the morn on high, cold rift,
When ice crested trees like a mane,
The sunrise glows on the snow drift
And the cold could be Death's feign;
A thing so fine, a priceless gift,
Ought to be honored with pain.

Well Done

The Gun Watch:

Here's an enlightening story about a teenage girl who shot a rapist who was attacking her.

The incident took place on County Road13, just north of McNab. According to the Hempstead County Sheriff's Office, Ben Haywood, 48, the teen told them Haywood began to hit her and tried to undress her, pulling her shirt off.

The girl got away from Haywood, according to the HCSO, and hid in a closet at the rear of the home. She was found by Haywood and once again he began to beat the girl. After a period of confrontation, the girl was able to grab a 9mm rifle from a gun rack that was near her and shot the alleged attacker -- hitting him in the left leg. She then fled to search for help.

Sheriff deputies arrived on the scene along with Pafford Ambulance Service, questioned the juvenile and released her to her parents. She suffered several scratches and bruises, according to deputies.
Now, that's a fellow who is storing his rifles loaded and unlocked... and good thing he did, eh?

Saftey, yes. Training, absolutely.

Rights first.

Hat Tip: Gun Watch.

EU Infamy


I should not be shocked by infamous behavior, when it comes from members of the EU's ruling class. The EU is the natural home for every native intellectual enemy of traditional Western Civilization. Its advocates and princes are not only socialists, but scoundrels of the worst sort.

Here's proof:

Recalling a Scottish host who served him a plate of Scotland’s national dish, haggis and neaps... Chirac took a swipe at British cuisine. “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that,” he declared.
Hospitality is one of the very few universal moral values. The relationship of guest and host is almost the only thing that is as sacred in Africa as in China, as important in Scotland as in France. Violators of the law of hospitality earn for themselves a deep and proper infamy.

What kind of a man insults a dinner that he was served as a guest? And not just the dinner, but his host? And not just his host, but his host's family, and entire people? I should not be shocked, but I am.

I am absolutely sure that traditional Frenchmen -- the kind of Frenchmen who made The Three Musketeers a best-seller for six generations -- would never engage in such behavior. It is only these base creatures, these EUnuchs, who cast aside their traditions as easily as they wish to cast aside that liberty for which the best men of Europe once fought and died.

Ex pede Herculeum: we know the whole from its parts. If this is the best man of EUrope, then let us keep the Europe of old. It may have produced wars and it may have produced worse, but at least it also produced gentlemen and men of honor.


Speaking of Cassandra:

...she has tagged me with another one of those things.

This one is entitled "What's on your nightstand?" That seemed like an odd question to me -- and, in point of fact, I don't have a nightstand anyway, that being one of the concessions to the lifestyle that keeps us moving every year. Furniture is somewhat limited. We have a very few nice pieces, mostly inherited, one or two we bought, a couple that we actually just found (including an antique trunk that was literally dug out of the mud at a nearby construction site, which the good lads working there gave me if I would only pick it up and carry it off). But we do without a lot of things we would have if we had a house of our own, to live in long-term.

However, tracking this back to its nest proves that the question had a deeper meaning to start with. It began among some of our gunbloggers, and the question "What's on your nightstand" meant, "What firearm do you keep ready when you sleep at night?" As to that Kim du Toit and I are in agreement as to what makes an ideal bedside gun: I keep a Smith and Wesson revolver, loaded with Winchester Silvertips in .44 Special. Kim has some good advice for keeping the thing safely around kids, and it happens that I agree with what he has to say there, too.

I don't load mine with Glasers, as I'm not worried about overpenetration issues -- my little boy sleeps on another floor, so there's no danger of that type. Anyway, the bullet is going where I want it to go. I can't promise "two X-rings" on the first two shots like Kim does, but I do put my first shot through the X ring every time. Usually, the second one drifts down and to the left into the ten ring, and the next 48 chew "one big, ragged hole" in the 8-10 ring on that part of the target. I don't think that's too bad for the .44 Special, which is a bear of a round though a pleasure to fire. If I'm not quite Kim du Toit, I'm not ashamed, either.

(By the way, have you seen Smith & Wesson's new Texas Hold 'Em Special? It's an engraved .38 that comes in a box with cards and poker chips. Allow me to take a moment to suggest that you probably should not join a poker game if you feel that you might need a revolver to get out of it again. In addition, the marketing photo has it sitting next to a hand that's two pair, Aces and Eights -- not the hand I would have chosen for a marketing photo, due to its history.)

Cassandra thought I'd have some interesting books on the nightstand. I don't have a nightstand, as mentioned, but I do have two large bookcases in the bedroom. There are plenty of interesting books there. I also have two Chinese guardian spirit sculptures, one from Zhejiang's XiHu and one from Shanghai. One of these I bought for myself, because I liked it, but the other one I've been carrying around for five years now although I bought it as a gift. My old close-combat teacher, Ken Caton, went missing while I was in China; I hope someday he'll turn up and I can pass it over to him. I assume, knowing Ken, that he is all right -- he just wants to walk unseen for a few years, for reasons of his own.

Anyway, if you happen to read this Ken, I have a gift for you.

The last thing that's close to the bed is a gift that was given to me: the working, scale-model catapult that Sovay gave me last year. It's a beautiful and beloved piece, good for hurling walnuts at neighbors.

So there you are. I'm supposed to get to tag people. I'm actually going to do it this time, but in a deferred fashion -- I want to tag Doc Russia. However, the tag won't take effect until after his birthday. He can tell us all about the new toys he ends up with.