I would like to recall your attention to this post, in which I proposed a complete reconsideration of the justice system.
Last night I had dinner with an old teacher, one of the most logical and thoughtful men I've ever known. He is also, as it happens, a genuine socialist -- and was once among the early members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in the days before it decided that the cause of anti-segregation would best be served by purging all of its white members (that way it could speak, apparently some believed, with more complete moral authority -- all the members being black, they'd all be victims, and being a victim gave them that authority. This irony naturally foreshadowed the course of the Civil Rights Movement, which went from a righteous and clarion call for men to be judged on the content of their characters, to a demand for affirmative action based on the color of their skin).
In any event, he and I had a long discussion on the topic of the need for such a reform. As you would expect, we both began from completely different first principles, and yet we both agreed that the existing system serves none of the purposes of justice as well as almost any alternative -- and at a staggering cost, if you consider what the price is for maintaining a nationwide prison system. This is true whether "life without parole," or a twenty-year court procedure for death penalties, is the standard top punishment. Almost any system would be cheaper than this.
That leaves out the cost to society of a system that fails at everything except warehousing men, so that they are released in ten or fifteen years with fewer honest prospects, more organized criminal contacts, and a greater awareness of criminal procedures than when they went in.
It's a big topic, so it's wise that we should take time to think about it. You've all had a little while to ponder it, at least in the backs of your minds. Please take a look over the original post again if you'd like, and let's talk about it. What are we trying to accomplish? What should we be trying to accomplish? How can we best get there?
I would like to recall your attention to this post, in which I proposed a complete reconsideration of the justice system.
The Washington Post has two big headlines today in its online edition, and both are about secret wings of the GWOT. The second is more interesting than the first: "Covert CIA Program Withstands New Furor." It holds that:
The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.Well, that is the idea behind the whole classification system. And yet, we have learned a substantial amount about the program:
GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe.Emphasis added. It's of course the case that "some lawyers" will be willing to stake out any legal position -- that's why neither the ACLU nor their opponent of the week ever has trouble finding a lawyer. There are lawyers with opinions on all sides of every issue in the law.
Therein lies the problem with the debate the Post wants us to have over these programs -- a problem that poses a real puzzle for the citizen who is interested in doing his duty as a thinker and a voter. Before we join the 'rising furor,' we really ought to know what we're raising a furor about.
Yet the program is secret. Details are available only to those directly involved. We know some several details due to leaks of the sort that the Post's first article is about. Just like the case with "some lawyers," however, any government agency has dissenters. It doesn't say anything bad about you that you are a dissenter -- I've argued at length that maintaining internal dissent is a critical national security issue. What becomes a problem is when the dissenters decide to take their case to the public, in violation of their oath.
It's a problem because they are putting forward only one point of view, from a perspective that is limited. They know the details of their own part of the program; they don't know what the rest of the CIA is doing. They have their own particular reading of the details and events. They are dissenters, so we can reasonably assume that their interpretation is a minority reading at CIA.
Because of the secrecy oaths, however, we can't get a balanced view. There is no opportunity for a response from the other side. Consider Bill Roggio's response to another story in the Washington Post, one about him. It asserted that he was there doing Information Operations for the US military. Bill pointed out that this was entirely incorrect -- a reading of the facts that was flat wrong.
Almost certainly there's a response of the same type lurking in the minds of many a CIA officer. "What the #@$@#?" they are doubtless saying this morning -- just as I've found myself saying it on the occasions when I've seen press reports on topics about which I knew the truth. This has happened a time or two, and the media gets the details so badly wrong that I wonder what on earth they were thinking.
Yet the other officers at CIA can not reply. Their oath forbids it, and even if it did not, national security interests forbid disclosing the rest of the details or the alternative interpretations of the details that are available. The debate -- the "furor" -- must be carried out in public on the basis only of the information provided by the dissenters, usually without rebuttal.
The solution to this problem is the republican one -- the small "r" is intentional -- which is to elect representatives who can review the information and report to us that things are, or are not, as they ought to be. Thus the problem of secrecy is worsened by the reckless political culture lurking in D.C. these days.
Repairing that culture by replacing the currently worthless run of Congressmen is our only option, however. We cannot strip away the secrecy from the most critical programs; and we ought not to pretend to be conducting honest reasoning into these programs with only a limited, one-sided view available to us as data. To do so would be to do exactly what Bush is accused of doing by those who disagree with him: to reason within a bubble of single-minded opinion.
The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of "Republicanism." The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture.The Corner apparently feels rather defensive. Jonah Goldberg says that "I don't think you can dispute" that Yglesias is right to say that "the vast majority of America's premiere institutions of education and high culture are located in the 'blue' areas." Ramesh Ponnuru offers a mild defense of the South, but then asserts that his argument turns on "the Sunbelt," what we used to call the New South. He thereby writes off most of, and indeed the best parts of, the South.
I shall gladly dispute what Yglesias attempts as his main point. When asserting that "high culture" is a blue-state thing, he says, "That's not to say the South is some kind of total wasteland -- I visited the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum earlier this year and it's first-rate, albeit a bit small -- but on the whole this stuff is primarily in the Northeast and to a lesser extent on the Pacific coast."
Well, now. If "high culture" means modern art, you've got a point.
On the other hand, if modernism is precisely the rejection of the classic high culture of the West -- as practitioners of modernism have often argued, and as has likewise been argued by those who reject modernism since at least the time of G. K. Chesterton -- then the location of modern art museums is not particularly telling. Rather than an absence of "high culture," the South is almost the last bastion of traditional Western high culture, both in its intellectual and its cultural foundations.
In the 19th century, Harvard produced Francis Parkman, who wrote the following on the proper education:
[I]f any pale student glued to his desk here seek an apology for a way of life whose natural fruit is that pallid and emasculate scholarship, of which New England has had too many examples, it will be far better that this sketch had not been written. For the student there is, in its season, no better place than the saddle, and no better companion than the rifle or the oar.If you follow that link, you'll find also a bit of scoffing from today's Harvard over the fact that MIT recognizes riflery as a "varsity sport." "Hey!" says a living Harvard graduate. "I was on the Harvard varsity rifle team," once upon a time:
In fact, MIT claims to have 42 varsity sports, one more than even Harvard. Of course, Harvard scoffed snootily, "Hearing that MIT was claiming 42 varsity teams, officials at Harvard, which has 41, chafed. They point to MIT's varsity pistol and rifle teams as evidence of MIT's skewed vision of varsity sports."The problem is that, rather than being a bastion of high culture, Harvard etc. has abandoned the traditional conception of a complete education. From the time of Plato we have seen that conception expressed as a need to educate the whole man, both mind and body, so that he possesses a complete understanding of virtue and also the capacity and will to enact it and defend it in the world. One of the earliest of Plato's dialogues, according to the usual methods of determining their age, is the Laches, which treats the importance of developing courage and the question of whether or not it can be developed by practicing fighting in armor. The union of philosophy and valor is so important that, even in his most developed writings, Plato considered it central to his conception of the soul and the best kind of society. He suggested that society be divided into "golden" Guardians who would be philosophers first, their "silver" auxiliaries who would be warriors first, and the rest of mankind who would be workers first. But this only mirrored his conception of the soul, with philosophy and valor separate from and superior to the rest of the human nature.
Hey, wait a minute! I was ON the Harvard Rifle Team in 1973! The team capitan, a member of my "freak fraternity" and now owner of a software company in Houston, had the key to the Harvard rifle range and we would go down there in the wee hours under the effects of whatnot and invent weird games like hanging tootsie roll pops from shoelaces tied to the mechanized target holders. When we rolled 'em back down the range, the lollypops swung around wildly and were wicked hard to hit. Or even see, for that matter.
We lost all 12 matches that season. Most of the guys we were shooting against were steely-eyed vets with thousand-yard stares just back form Nam and trying to finish college on Uncle Sam, while we were just a bunch of Ivy freaks who liked to play with guns.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, the first virtue Aristotle treats is bravery. The whole point of Aristotle's ethics is to develop the right kind of fighting, thinking citizen. Like Plato, he felt that correct politics grew out of that ethics: the city should mirror the man, as he explains in his Politics.
That philosophy has served as the foundation of the Western understanding. Indeed, we date the rise and fall of the West by the rise and fall of that philosophy: when it perishes, and the rational fall beneath the unthinking, we call it the Dark Ages or the "Low" Middle Ages in spite of the fact that communities of thinkers and monks survived and even flourished. When it arises, so that Medieval society is cleanly divided between Oratores, Bellatores, et Laboratores, we call it the "High" Middle Ages. When capitalism causes a rising middle class to blur the lines again, we call it the Late Middle Ages.
That, gentlemen, is the high culture of the West. In the South, foremost, is it preserved. In the South, alone, do its institutions flourish. The three American military academies are maintained elsewhere, but only the South has native ones of similar prestige: VMI and the Citadel. While the great institutions of the northeast and California maintain instruction in philosophy, they have cast aside the role of educating men who are bellatores as well as oratores: that is, men who know how to fight as well as to pray -- or, as is more and more commonly the case, simply to orate.
Thus we have institutions like Harvard, which once scoffed at the pale 'emasculate scholar,' and now seeks to produce him above all. These are institutions that -- not to put too fine a point on it -- prefer to reject military recruiters out of preference for another cause. Institutions that once instructed men in riflery as well as philosophy now scoff at riflery.
Yet the division of society was always meant -- in Aristotle, in Plato, in the Middle Ages, and now -- to mirror the division of the individual soul. Western high culture envisions a man who is a thinker first, a fighter second, and everything else third. He must be all of these things, or he is not a Man of the West. The Medieval nobleman was meant to be educated as well as a fighter; he was to know tactics and the art of heraldry, at least; and as the High Middle Ages progressed, became expected to know poetry and the rules of courtly behavior. The monk was expected to be a soldier against the devil's cause, if he was not a solider in fact -- as were many priests in the Church Militant.
Do not tell me that the blue states are the seat of Western high culture. By and large, they have rejected it.
Compare those statistics above with these, which break down recruiting by geographic region of the United States. The South is far and away the leader in recruitment, although it is the poorest region of the United States. The wealthiest region, the Northeast, trails in recruitment.No, gentlemen, the seat of high culture is not the blue states. It is the solid South.
That suggests that the media picture is even less accurate. The military maintains these levels of representation in the richest and second-richest quintiles, while drawing 40% of the force from the poorest region in the country and only fifteen percent from the richest region.
That suggests that military recruitment is heavily disproportionate among the upper and upper-middle class everywhere but the Northeast...
The Prime Minister of Canada has a complaint for you. He says the US is corrupting his culture, and turning Canada into violent, evil America:
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Toronto Mayor David Miller warned that Canada could become like the United States after gunfire erupted Monday on a busy street filled with holiday shoppers, killing a 15-year-old girl and wounding six bystanders -- the latest victims in a record surge in gun violence in Toronto.Yep, sounds just like America to me. I think we can all easily recall a time when we were out on a busy street, shopping with our families, and gunfire erupted all around us.
Well, OK, maybe not. But we can at least recall a time when it happened to someone we knew, and...
Well, I'm sure we can recall a time when we read about it happening somewhere in the US?
All right, fine, neither can I. For some reason, we don't see a lot of gunfights in crowded American shopping districts. But we do get the occasional story about violence in shops, even if it's not as colorful as a gunfight on a crowded street:
Joe Phillips just wanted to help a friend fix her car, but police say that when he entered an auto parts store, an armed robber forced him to change his plans. According to a police report, a 21-year-old man brought a gas can into the store and began to fuel a small motorcycle that was on display. When a clerk told him to stop, the suspect pulled a gun, pointed it at the worker and announced he was robbing the place. It was then that Phillips drew his own gun and told the young man to drop his firearm. The two exchanged gunfire and the would-be robber was shot. He was recovering at a hospital and was expected to be arrested after his release. “That’s exactly like Joe,” said Karl Phillips, Joe’s brother. “Joe’s a good Samaritan, always has been. Joe wouldn’t have gotten involved if he didn’t think it was a matter of life and death.” A clerk was also injured, but is expected to recover. (The News Tribune, Tacoma WA, 09/30/05)There, you see? Exactly like Canada. Well, there is that one difference: the good guys are armed here, too, and able to stop the crime in its tracks.
I ran the word "shopping" through The Armed Citizen archives. It doesn't come up much, and mostly in terms of people who had either just finished shopping and come home, or who were on their way to do some shopping. Criminals in America, even the gun-and-knife toting set, are kind of on the run here. We keep them to the shadows.
Here's the closest thing I could find, from ten years ago:
American Rifleman Issue: 8/1/1995Maybe the problem isn't that America is exporting violence to Canada. Maybe the problem is that Canada has stopped its own citizens from having the tools to perform their individual duty to uphold and defend the common peace.
"He's the only reason why they didn't empty the entire store. What he did was outstanding," said one police officer about an unidentified man who single-handedly put an end to looting at an Atlanta, Georgia, shopping mall. When hundreds of young revelers-turned-hoodlums ran wild and began ransacking and looting businesses, the man jumped from his car with a shotgun, firing three shots into the air. The thieves scattered and fled as the citizen knocked stolen merchandise from some of their hands and held one young crook for arriving police officers.
Popping in to suggest a blogger for the sidebar: Chris Roach's man-sized target.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet Chris while at a blog get-together with Chester (Adventures of Chester) and learned of his blog. Since then, he's been a daily read; it speaks ill of me for not suggesting him sooner-- but hey, I got to it before the end of the year.
Today I went with my father to take the antique ladder truck on a run, which is necessary to keeping it in good working order. It's a beautiful 1930s model with mahogany ladders that are probably worth more than the truck itself. We drove it over to a local park where my son Beowulf was playing, and then the boy got to ride around on the old ladder truck. What a lucky, happy boy.
I was driving the pickup trailing the thing, to keep people from getting too close to it. My father was driving the ladder truck. When we got to the park, there was a guy there flying a remote-control airplane, which was buzzing merrily around the park's airspace.
A 1930's firetruck will turn heads, and it did indeed turn the head of the "pilot" running his airplane. As we pulled around the circumference of the park, he watched the old truck with such devotion that he forgot all about his little airplane.
That wee plane slammed right into one of the big light-poles used to illuminate one of the baseball fields. Wham! It flew apart into three pieces.
The guy quickly ran over and collected the pieces, threw them in his truck, and drove away rapidly. I saw the park workers over there a bit later, and I wonder if they'll now have to replace any of the big lights that were up on that pole.
Well, these things happen.
Yep, the Specialist is absolutely correct about this:
From a recent AP article highlighting the escalating wars over illegal downloading:That seems to be the position some are adopting. I don't see how the RIAA can't be admitting to something equivalent to breaking-and-entering in this business. How can we say that the government, where we have representation, is bound in this area -- but it's perfectly all right for a hostile corporate concern to charge right in? Nothing against corporations, but the government works for me, at least in theory. The RIAA doesn't, not even in theory.It was Easter Sunday, and Patricia Santangelo was in church with her kids when she says the music recording industry peeked into her computer and decided to take her to court....So let me get this straight: it's perfectly alright for the music recording industry to peek inside a computer without a warrant to look for downloaded songs, but it's a federal crime for President Bush to monitor phone calls to try to save American lives?
Greyhawk explains information operations:
I have a gun. You have a gun. I can talk you into setting that gun down, or I can shoot you.That's about the size of it. Meanwhile, Bill Roggio explains why what he's doing isn't IO, and why al Qaeda's efforts to influence the debate aren't equivalent to military IO anyway. Hint: they're mostly doing it by killing people, rather than placing stories.
I say we give peace a chance.
On the campus of Zhejiang University, there is a giant golden statue of Chairman Mao, his arm raised as if in benediction over China's budding young scholars. I remember looking at it in astonishment; but of course it has to exist. China is not ready to deal with the truth about the man.
MilBlogger GI Korea quotes an article from the University of California at Berkeley, which considers the 112th birthday of the Chairman.
“He is written in the constitution as the guiding force for China,” she says, “and it is also illegal to oppose Mao.” She says because Beijing withholds the truth about Mao, younger generations who did not live under him have no other choice than to accept a distorted view of the leader. “The regime is determined to perpetuate the myth of Mao,” Chang says.Simon's rebuttal, cited above under "the truth," points out that the benefits China now enjoys come exclusively from those areas in which it has been undoing Mao's work. It also includes an editorial comment on which I'd like to further comment:
Leaders like President Hu Jintao copied Mao, he said, travelling to villages in the countryside [Where else would villages be? - Ed.], and emphasised MAo's achievements in making China strong""Countryside" is a word I actually had a lot of trouble conveying in China. I worked hard with my students to give them an understanding that I was not from a city. "Then you are from a village," they said. "No, not from a village," I said. "I lived out away from any villages or towns or cities, in the land that was being used for raising cattle and timber." We went around on this for quite a while until they finally decided on the appropriate word in Mandarin to describe the setup. Then, they all nodded with understanding and went on their way.
I checked the word against my Chinese-English dictionary when I got home. It translated as, "Wasteland." In a sense, this neatly captures the Chinese worldview. The city is the center of the landscape, with villages existing to support it. The countryside which is not used to support the city is wasted.
In the larger scale, that same view holds China as properly the center of the world, with tributary states existing to support it. What is not part of that system is also wasted: barbarian.
Xinhua has a roundup from within China of appropriately devout pieces. This includes a reader comments section of a sort: unlike on a Western blog, it is plainly only selected reader comments. Still, this one got through:
Whoever enables the Chinese people to have enough to eat, people will remember him.In Mao's "Great Leap Forward," as this sympathetic treatment recounts, some twenty-five million people starved. Even the authors of that piece must conclude that:
After the death of Mao and the start of Chinese economic reform under Deng Xiaoping the tendency within the Chinese government was to see the Great Leap Forward as a major economic disaster and to attribute it to the cult of personality under Mao Zedong and to regard it as one of the serious errors he made after the founding of the People's Republic of China.One hopes the commenting "netizen" is aware of this history, and his "praise" is therefore ironic.
In an interesting decision from the 6th Circuit, the Court did not accept the ACLU's argument that the First Amendment requires separation of Church and State. Specifically, the Court affirmed the posting of the Ten Commandments in the Mercer County Court house. Some quotes of interest:I think that's right, not only from a legal but from a historical perspective. The ACLU is advocating a position that belonged, properly, to Jefferson and a few others -- which is to say, it is an honorable position deeply rooted in American history. On the other hand, it was a minority position among the Founders, many of whom were deeply religious and felt a need to be guided by and to express their faith in their work."Our concern is that of the reasonable person. And the ACLU, an organization whose mission is 'to ensure that . . . the government [is kept] out of the religion business,' does not embody the reasonable person."
"We will not presume endorsement from the mere display of the Ten Commandments. If the reasonable observer perceived all government references to the Deity as endorsements, then many of our Nation's cherished traditions would be unconstitutional, including the Declaration of Independence and the national motto. Fortunately, the reasonable person is not a hyper-sensitive plaintiff."
The reading of the First Amendment as requiring the separation of church and state doesn't come from the intention of the First Amendment, which was written to prevent the establishment of an official state church to which one would have to swear oaths, such as existed in England and Ireland. It's reasonably clear from a historical perspective that "the Founders," if they could be summoned from the grave and asked to rule on the matter, would not ratify a "separation of church and state" reading. Jefferson would advocate it, as he did advocate it (at least, presuming that nothing in the next world had changed his opinion on the subject). Most of his contemporaries, including Washington, would not (again, presuming the same thing).
I don't think the ACLU is unreasonable to advocate for Jefferson's position. While they may not be acting as "reasonable observers" of history or public opinion, they are certainly reasonably reading the existing precedents.
However, the alternative reading is also not unreasonable -- far from it. A reasonable observer would have to read the history of the First as expressing very strong support for this position. Consider the weight of history, and the continuance of public opinion in support of that reading from the Founding to the present day. It seems right to say that such a broad and ancient current will but naturally cut a channel: a line of thinking so broad and old will find a way to express itself. I suspect the law will make room for it, sooner or later.
Christmas isn't usually the time for ghost stories, excepting of course the one called Spiritus Sancti in the Latin. Nevertheless, I'll beg your indulgence to convey a story my father just told me which is -- in its important parts -- entirely true.
Many years ago, a pair of young boys were killed here in Forsyth County. It was a terrible murder, the details of which I will not relate. In those days, there was a great deal of overlap between the Sheriff's department and the Volunteer Fire Department, both in terms of work and in terms of the men who did the work. Both always showed up at car wrecks, for example, and fires, and a lot of the deputies were also volunteers. For that reason, they didn't always keep clear lines of separation between what was technically "Fire Department" property, and what was property of the sheriff. This is how the records of the investigation of the murder ended up in the attic of Station #4.
We fast forward here to the current day. There's a young fireman who shall remain nameless here, who while brave enough to fight fires nevertheless has a thing about ghosts. Station #4 is now a manned station with paid firemen, not just the volunteers of thirty years ago. These guys have a lot of time on their hands, and that includes time to prowl through the attic and find the records. They young fireman begins to get creeped out that the gruesome records and photos are in the building where he sleeps while on shift.
Well, naturally the older firemen begin to relate -- that is to say, invent -- tales of the ghosts of these two young boys, who are supposedly in the attic. And then, having that time on their hands, they start thinking of ways to make it worse for the kid than just telling him stories. One of them rigs the drop-ceiling panels with a line, so that he can pull on it in a hidden location and cause the ceiling tiles to jump around when the kid is alone in a room. Naturally, he freaks out; and naturally, 'no one believes him' when he conveys the story.
The day before the next night when he's due to sleep over on shift, these same guys go and get some of that fire-hydrant paint that glows in the dark. They put a light coat around certain parts of the roof and attic entrances. During the day, it blends in fine with the regular paint, but after the lights are turned off, there's an eerie glow about the entry to the attic...
Oh, my. I haven't laughed so hard in months. All I can say is, I hope their good deeds as firemen make up for what they're doing to that poor kid.
We come together
once a year
Family and friends
gather to hear
The story of a
Born to a teenage
woman in an
Ancient town. Her
new husband a man
Gone there to enroll
A busy inn, no place
of privacy for
The business of birth.
no place? after
A moment's thought,
they enter the stable.
The travails and joys
of birth have been
Told thousands of times
by thousands of women.
Yet this birth was fraught
with secret import.
Tales of angels, tales
of special signs
In the heavens. strange
visitors with fine
Gifts in this little
hamlet of Judea.
A surprising life and a
shocking death await
This little baby boy.
this day we meet,
To honor the baby who
changed the world.
The Jamatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh pays monthly salaries, according to this report from the Independent of Bangladesh. That's pretty good for a banned organization that is allegedly being hunted high and low by the authorities. You'd think they'd divide spoils when they could.
It makes one wonder if there's anything to the statements of the opposition parties, led by the Awami League, that JMB is in league with the government. Two of the three parties involved in the coalition are Islamic. On the other hand, the Awami League are communists. Based on my experience looking over such things, I'd have to say that it's hard to choose whether to prefer the word of an Islamic political party, or a communist political party. The most likely condition is that both are outright deceiving you.
Fortunately, our own political parties adhere to far higher standards... well, at least, some of their members do. Some of them, even most of the time.