Via Instapundit, this article from the LA Times, in which the World Bank reports that China's economy is smaller than recently thought. About 40% smaller.
"...China, it turns out, isn't a $10-trillion economy on the brink of catching up with the United States. It is a $6-trillion economy, less than half our size. For the foreseeable future, China will have far less money to spend on its military and will face much deeper social and economic problems at home than experts previously believed."
Wow. 4 trillion dollars just went poof. Just wow.
Tactical advice for those intending to rob the Santa-Claus-outfit-wearing Salvation Army volunteers at shopping malls.And a happy new year.
1. In this part of the country, those Santa's are rednecks. Large rednecks. With an attitude to match.
2. When you and your homie stick a gun in Santa's face and demand, "Gimme the bucket!" he might take you precisely and exactly at your word. Literally.
3. As you watch your homie lying on the ground, bucket over his head and Santa stomping it flat onto his (unlovely) features, it's not a good idea to forget that you're within grabbing range of Santa - or to let your gun hand sag to your side.
4. Failure to observe #3 above will result in an infuriated Santa holding your head in an armlock under his left arm while, with his right hand, he beats you heavily over the bonce with his festive Christmas bell. This musical accompaniment, whilst no carol, is nevertheless pleasing to the bystanders' ears. The same might be said about your screams.
5. When passing shoppers stop, gather around and start applauding Santa's actions, it's not a good idea to yell at them that they're mother[deleted] [deleted] and beg them to make this [deleted] stop hitting you. This may - nay, gentle reader, this WILL - encourage some of them to offer to help Santa with the hitting . . . and encourage him to accept their offer.
6. When responding cops arrive, rush up to the scene with guns drawn, and promptly sag to the ground in hysterics while ignoring your pleas for help, it's not a good idea to swear at them in words of distinctly non-festive hue. This will result in their handling the rest of your interaction in a less than sympathetic manner (drawing further cheers from the by now numerous onlookers).
7. As you languish (with your battered homie) in the back of an ambulance, both of you being treated by the medics for bleeding from the head, it's particularly galling to see Santa's now somewhat battered bucket being filled to overflowing by cheering shoppers and the responding police officers, all of whom seem rather in a rather more more festive and cheerful mood now than they did before you made your move.
8. And a merry Redneck Christmas to both of you, idiots. Ho-ho-ho.
Last spring, we held the arvel for my father-in-law. Unsurprisingly, his wife of fifty years did not long survive him. I wrote of her here, and can think of no better memorial. She died Wednesday.
As a consequence of her death, I am home from Iraq on two weeks' emergency leave. My wife, who loved her mother dearly but is relieved to see an end to her suffering, says that the timing was like a last gift from her mother. Knowing the strength of the lady's spirit, I would not be surprised.
To my knowledge, no organization with the above name exists. That is a pity because it should. If, as many pundits claim, evangelical Christian conservatives are responsible for Huckabee’s surging poll numbers then some of us need to stand athwart his campaign momentum and yell “HALT!”
I will concede that some of the criticisms of Huckabee smack of regional and religious bias. That is both unfortunate and unnecessary because there are SOOOOO many other reasons to criticize him. Additionally, criticisms intended to make Huckabee appear like some uneducated Southern hick fundamentalist will only have the effect of causing many evangelicals, especially in the South, to become defensively sympathetic to his candidacy.
For those who don’t know me, I am a proud Southerner from a South Mississippi family. I was born, bred, and remain a devout Southern Baptist. As a fellow Southern, Southern Baptist Mr. Huckabee would appear to be my ideal candidate. Unfortunately, I am also something else that Mr. Huckabee is not; a small government conservative that believes in reduced taxation. Consequently, I will not support Huckabee.
As I pointed out earlier, many pundits claim that evangelical conservatives are flocking to Huckabee’s campaign, ostensibly because they see him as their candidate. However, if you use the term “conservative” in any way to describe your political philosophy then Huckabee should most certainly not be your candidate. First of all, as David Harsanyi points out in Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children, Huckabee is not averse to using the power of political office to enforce his personal lifestyle preferences. As Governor of Arkansas he established a statewide smoking ban. He also required schools to adopt stricter rules on snacks and issued government stickers and approval to restaurants offering healthy alternatives and nutrition information. It should come as no surprise that he has proposed a national smoking ban. I don’t like smoking either but at least I recognize that a nationwide ban would be a gross overstepping of federal power.
If Huckabee’s nanny-stateism isn’t enough to convince you he is no conservative then how about his propensity to grow government and raise taxes. According to the Cato Institute, Huckabee raised the Arkansas tax burden 47%. The Cato Institute points out that, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, this included increases in the state's gas, sales, income, and cigarette taxes. “He raised taxes on everything from groceries to nursing home beds.” The Cato Institute gave Huckabee an F on fiscal policy and an overall D for his two terms. To put all this in even more perspective, he raised taxes more than Bill Clinton did.
If the above information still doesn’t convince you that Huckabee is a liberal in Republican clothing then take a look at his soft-on-crime approach to pardons. According to this USA Today story, Huckabee granted 1,033 pardons and commutations in his 10 1/2 years as governor of Arkansas, twice as many as his three predecessors combined, including Bill Clinton. As a Christian I believe in forgiveness and second chances. However, I also believe that criminals, especially violent criminals, need to pay for their crimes. A governor that hands out pardons to criminals like they were candy raises serious questions regarding his judgment and sympathy towards victims. I would also recommend this American Spectator article for people interested in this issue.
Our country is currently involved in a two front war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequently, we need a commander in chief that appreciates the complexity of the current international situation. However, Huckabee’s Article in Foreign Affairs demonstrates that he is not up to the job. This article is so full of contradictions and empty platitudes that it would require a separate post to adequately set them all out. I do find it interesting that he thinks that the current administration has not done enough to convince the American public that jihadists are bad guys. Give me a break.
Huckabee might be a fine preacher. Nevertheless, this conservative evangelical Christian will not be supporting him on any level. If he wins the Republican nomination I will vote for the Libertarian candidate. I would rather see any other Democrat become president then have a hand in helping Huckabee enact the same policies they would while fracturing the conservative movement at the same time.
The drudge report posted an unflattering photo of Hillary Clinton this morning, and the person who blogs at immodest proposal thinks her campaign is over: (pic at his site)
Right here, that's it, this is the most significant photo taken in the year 2007. Think it will win a Pullitzer? Whichever photog snapped this photo effectively ended Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Over at her blog, Ann Althouse has a different take:
But here's my second reaction, on reflection: We make high demands on women. A picture like this of a male candidate would barely register. Fred Thompson always looks this bad, and people seem to think he's handsome. We need to get used to older women and get over the feeling that when women look old they are properly marginalized as "old ladies." If women are to exercise great power, they will come into that power in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. We must — if we care about the advancement of women — accommodate our vision and see a face like this as mature, experienced, serious — the way we naturally and normally see men's faces.
Now, I happen to think that the professor has a point about older women--but still, even Althouse has a picture of the Senator looking apple-cheeked earlier this year, not like a dried apple. There's more here than meets the eye.
bthun noticed this story:
The family of an Albany Marine killed earlier this year in Iraq will become the first in the history of the armed forces to adopt a military working dog, Marine officials said Wednesday....Lt. Caleb Eames said Wednesday that the U.S. military has agreed to begin the adoption process that will eventually allow Lee’s family to be reunited with their son’s unshakable partner.
Obviously, the dog isn't the Marine, but its good to see such a gesture made all the same.
Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I LOVE Westerns, be they movies or books. Consequently, I am always on the lookout for great Western stories. Two of my favorite are True Grit by Charles Portis and Josey Wales: Two Westerns : Gone to Texas/The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales by Forrest Carter.
As a fan of the movie, True Grit, I absolutely had to buy the book when I saw it on the bookstore shelf. That proved to be a good choice. As much as I loved the movie, the book was better. To begin with you get more character development, which I guess is true of most books that were later made into movies. But the characters in this book are characters you realy want to know more about, especially Rooster Cogburn. Besides telling an entertaining story the book was simply a pleasure to read. Charles Portis employs an elegantly simple, some would say a uniquely American/Southern, style of writing that is very enjoyable to read. In fact the language does a great job creating just the right atmosphere.
If you liked the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales then run, don’t walk, to buy this book. First of all you get two books for the price of one. Second, you will be treated to some great stories. In the character of Josey Wales Mr. Carter has created what amounts to the definitive Western hero as warrior character. Josey Wales is not the traditional laconic cowboy who simply uses horse sense and homespun wisdom to get him through. He is the natural born warrior visiting death, destruction, and vengeance on his enemies. Nevertheless, don’t let the above description lead you to believe that these books are just mindless action stories. These stories deal with very real issues such as loss, love, duty, honor, redemption, and choosing a meaningful life over a nihilistic existence.
I am not a professional book critic so I am sure the above reviews lack much. As a wise man once said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” Nevertheless, don’t be put off by my pedestrian efforts to describe these great books. Check them out for yourself.
A quick Iraq story, to lay over the following email from our old friend JarHeadDad. Last week, LTCOL (Ret.) Oliver North was here. He was telling me how -- as a boy in Virginia -- he and all the other boys brought their deer rifles to school on the bus on the first day of the hunting season. Then, at the end of the day, they'd walk home and go out in the woods and hunt.
Colonel North would have been a boy in about the time mentioned here.
SCHOOL 1957 vs. 2007
Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school
parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.
1957 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his
car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
2007 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail
and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for
traumatized students and teachers.
Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
1957 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up
2007 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge
them both with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.
Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.
1957 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the
Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class
2007 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for
ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a
Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives
him a whipping with his belt.
1957 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to
college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 - Billy's Dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster
care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that
she remembers being abused herself and their Dad goes to prison.
Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.
Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.
1957 - Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2007 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car
searched for drugs and weapons.
Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July,
puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.
1957 - Ants die.
2007 - BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic
terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home,
computers confiscated, Johnny's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is
never allowed to fly again.
Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee.
He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.
1957 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2007 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She
faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.
Okay, my mind is on fiction tonight and it's all Joel's fault. On my way home last time, and on my way out this time, I found and reread one of the true classics of heroism and leadership in the English language. I am referring, of course, to Watership Down.
The writing is excellent, the story is engaging, the characters are well-drawn, the literary and historical references are tastefully used (Adams loves a good quote from Wellington), and the author makes excellent use of real dialects and invented language (Lapine) - just enough to give the book charm and flavor, not enough to distract. But what really makes the story for me is the picture of heroism and leadership it gives. Hazel-Rah isn't the one who always has the answer, always guesses right, always knows what to do, and always gets his way from his subordinates by means of a personal magic. He isn't the smartest warrior in the band, he makes mistakes, and he is struck with self-doubt at exactly the times you or I would be, but he knows his weaknesses and compensates for them. He's got a good staff, some with better experience, to help him plan; but he shows enough bravery (and knows he needs to show it) to inspire them to follow him. He may be struck with doubt, but he makes himself go on thinking - and he keeps his resolve when the temptation to surrender is strongest. His archenemy, Woundwort, in many ways is the more remarkable leader and effective field commander; but he lacks Hazel's strategic vision - and while he can inspire his own troops with his strength, courage, and ruthlessness, he lacks Hazel's moral qualities that make others want to follow him. Hazel also has a good second - Thlayli, a braver and more eager warrior, with a gruffer style of leadership (this, I have seen, can be an effective combination; a nice guy as top leader and an "enforcer" as deputy or top enlisted man - Woundwort, by contrast, is ruthless and encourages all his officers to be the same; and whichever way you go it is fear or material rewards, not the joy of serving).
Because of his flaws and the way he meets them, Hazel is in some ways a more convincing character than Dick Winters in Band of Brothers - despite the fact that Winters was a real person, and Hazel is, well, a talking rabbit.
P.S. - Skip the movie; it's not badly made but the things that make the book remarkable don't make it in. This is a good story for young people but I appreciated it more later in life.
Joel's recent post on The Golden Compass and the general webwide chatter about it got me to thinking. I read the His Dark Materials trilogy (this is the first part of it) back in the 1990's (I don't read much fantasy these days - but it was different then). What struck me about it is how stale the stories felt.
The basic idea - the Revolt of the Angels wasn't quite the good-versus-evil struggle we've been taught - was already done, much better, over ten years earlier by Steven Brust in To Reign in Hell (Heinlein did a much cruder and duller job in Job, which for some reason remains a staple of airpport booksellers - I haven't read Anatole France's Revolt of the Angels and can't comment on it). A historical or semi-historical or alternate-world fantasy where the main villain is based on intolerant Catholics of the medieval kind - well, Robert Shea did that, and Michael Moorcock before him, and (so I'm told) Sir Walter Scott even earlier.
For the rest, he had some beautiful visions to share, but they had a tired feel. Heroic fantasy has been showing us beautiful visions since the genre began, and there was nothing to compare with The Worm Ouroboros or The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath - both over 70 years old. Among Pullman's visions, my personal favorite was the Armored Bears, with their spiritual link to their armor, and the fight for the kingship - but even that felt like something Tarzan, or the Grey Mouser, or one of Moorcock's Eternal Champions would've met 2-3 generations ago (in what would surely have been a much better story). The parallel worlds thing has been done a thousand times over, and while some of the themes are eternal (basic heroism in the face of danger, the call of love versus the call of duty), Pullman's books didn't do anything for me that other and older tales hadn't done better a great many times. I felt cheated of my time when I finished the trilogy.
Grim recently linked to a Commentary article on artistic Modernism and brought back to mind something Derbyshire once said - after admitting he didn't enjoy modern poetry much, he asked, but what else were modern poets to do? They couldn't go on turning out Pippa Passes or A Shropshire Lad for another hundred years - if they were going to write it at all, they had to do something else, but what they ended up doing didn't seem to have much staying power. I don't want to say this has happened with heroic fantasy - some of the last fantasies I read were by authors who were creating fascinating worlds that had never been seen before, and were at least making an effort at adding a believable political or economic dimension. But Pullman's stories, however much attention they get due to the movies, aren't the ones that have moved on.
About a week or so ago, I actually got a few hours off during the daylight. I'd seen some hyenas wandering around at night. A Navy LT who was here last spring caught one.
They're cute. I saw the pups last night, who are even cuter.
I decided to go see if I could track them. The dust in Iraq is perfect for tracking.
Turns out they were denned up in among some construction materials out in an empty quarter by Route Irish. There were also some abandoned trailers out there, which the hyenas enjoyed.
I did find the den and the female, but the others were out hunting. I had to climb into the T-walls to get to the den, and she spotted me as I got within a few feet of her. She was better at wiggling around than I was, so by the time I got clean and got my camera on her, she was fifty yards away and moving.
Ah, well. Sorry about the picture, but it was fun. Most fun I've had since I got here, in fact.
The subject of religion has once again taken center stage in the national discourse. One could say that this is unsurprising since we are approaching the holiday season. However, I think the real reason is two fold; Mitt Romney’s speech on religion yesterday and the release of the atheism promoting movie The Golden Compass.
Regarding the first subject, I guess it was to be expected that Romney would give a speech concerning his views on faith and citizenship given the questions and concerns many people have about his Mormon faith. The number of Mormons in America is very small and their faith deviates significantly from traditional Christian Doctrine, so much so that one Mormon I talked to did not consider himself a Christian. In fact, Many Christians, myself included, view Mormonism as a cult. Consequently, Romney appears to have felt it necessary to dispel fears, especially among Evangelical Christians, that he would use the office of the President as a platform to advance his faith.
I am glad he did this and I hope that the rest of America, especially my fellow Evangelical Christians, stop worrying about his faith and move on to other more pressing concerns. The vast majority of Evangelical Christians that are concerned about Romney’s faith appear to be motivated out of a fear that a Mormon president will encourage other people to explore Mormonism and, therefore, lead to increased Mormon conversions. My response to this is, so what?!?!? When it comes to political candidates my only concern is whether the candidate is competent to hold the office and whether his governing philosophy concerning the role of government is broadly in line with mine. The question of a candidate’s faith is irrelevant. As Thomas Jefferson said on the same topic, “It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.” I also happen to think that Martin Luther was absolutely correct when he said “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk (Muslim) than a foolish Christian.”
I hold the above view not just because of the irrelevancy of the candidate’s faith to the question of his competence, but also because I have nothing to fear from different faiths. As a Born-Again Christian I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. To me, this is a truth that is simply inalterable. You either accept or deny that truth to your own benefit or peril. Consequently, I am not worried that somehow the existence of others that believe differently from me, or don’t believe, will in any way affect the truth of God. So what if someone from a different faith, or no faith, assumes a position of power? So what if people become curious about that person’s faith or lack thereof. That does not change the truth of God one bit. If anything, it provides me an opportunity to discuss my faith.
The aforementioned discussion also reflects why I am not concerned about the movie The Golden Compass. The movie is based on a children’s book written by an avowed atheist for the purpose of promoting atheism by means of a fantasy story. Many fellow Christians are angry about the thinly veiled attack on the Christian Church, specifically the Catholic Church, contained in the series of books of which The Golden Compass is the first installment. They point out, correctly I think, that no publisher or studio would publish or produce such a story if it attacked the Jewish or Muslim faith to the same degree it attacks Christianity. Consequently many Christians are talking about boycotting the film and demanding that theaters not show it.
I think a boycott is unnecessary. I am not going to see this movie nor will I buy the book, not because I am participating in some formal boycott, but simply because I don’t want to provide any financial support to the promotion of the movie/book’s message. I am not bothered that the book was written or that the movie was made. Atheism has been around for a long time and will continue until the second coming of Christ. Furthermore, I no more fear atheism than any other idea that challenges the truth of God. As I have said before, I believe that God’s truth is THE truth and is not threatened by competitors. I am aware that this movie/book may influence some to become atheists and I think that is unfortunate. I will pray for them and hope they see the errors of their way. Furthermore, I am more than willing to explain my faith to anyone that wishes to talk about it. What I won’t do is insist that contrary beliefs be excluded from the public square. While I may not contribute to their dissemination, I will refuse to insist on their elimination.
I believe our Eric Blair is also from Iowa:
Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 ..... 875 NextDuly noted.
By the weekend, the Standard's editor, William Kristol, published an editorial that, without evidence, pronounced the Diarist an open-and-shut case, calling it "farrago of dubious tales." The gloating by rightwing bloggers that the evidence now exists is really beside the point, and a smokescreen to obscure an important fact: when Kristol and Goldfarb and company first hurled their then-baseless charges in July, there was no way that they could have known that the evidence would eventually turn up!
I have had relatively little time lately, and I apologize for that. My old favorite, Arts & Letters Daily, provides me with the meat for today's short post.
Commentary has an article on how American society is getting better:
Just when it seemed as if the storm clouds were about to burst, they began to part. As if at once, things began to turn around. And now, a decade-and-a-half after these well-founded and unrelievedly dire warnings, improvements are visible in the vast majority of social indicators; in some areas, like crime and welfare, the progress has the dimensions of a sea-change. That this has happened should be a source of great encouragement; why it happened, and what we can learn from it, is a subject of no less importance....There is also an allied article on what would, at first glance, appear to be a different subject: art.
Despite persistent anomalies and backslidings, some species of cultural re-norming certainly seems to have been occurring in this country over the past decade-and-a-half, and it is fascinating to observe in whose hearts its effects have registered most strongly. In attitudes toward education, drugs, abortion, religion, marriage, and divorce, the current generation of teenagers and young adults appears in many respects to be more culturally conservative than its immediate predecessors. To any who may have written off American society as incorrigibly corrupt and adrift, these young people offer a powerful reminder of the boundless inner resources still at our disposal, and of our constantly surprising national resilience.
Why did experimental novels like James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake fail to exert the same enduring appeal as the paintings of the abstract expressionists—or, for that matter, the distinctively modern jazz and popular music about which Gay has nothing at all to say in Modernism? Could it be that, as I have previously argued, there were “in fact two modernisms, one deeply conservative and tradition-based, the other profoundly radical and antinomian,” and that the first of these modernisms, not the second, is the one that has prevailed?Confer, as they say, and discuss.
I think it's helpful to be able to articulate a vision for victory. That said, it is possible to be wrong about this sort of thing:
Troops still in Japan? We lost World War II.It's likely we'll have troops in Iraq for many, many years. If Iraq someday looks like South Korea or Germany, though... well, or even the Philippines.
Troops still in Germany? We lost World War I.
Troops still in the Philippines? We lost the Spanish-American War.
Troops still in the South? We lost the Civil War.
And I just learned that we have 10,500 troops in Britain. That means we lost the Revolutionary War. No wonder we speak English.
You've probably seen the famous one, but this list is even better.
"You kick aside the M-16 on the floor, without a second thought, when you sit down to eat in the Dining Facility."
"Your carry-on luggage includes body armour and a helmet."
"You can recognize 12 different camouflage patterns."
As always, I'll repost a link to Sgt. Rob's 'Gifts for Deployed Soldiers.' The Gerber Applegate-Fairbairn remains the best folding combat dagger I've ever encountered. That said, I picked up The Cold Steel 'AK-47' and have been pleased with it. Enough so, in fact, that I might suggest Cold Steel knives... though you'll want to get them from a dealer you know, who will charge you below their MSRP; or else from Ebay or something. They're overpriced, though high quality.
I think this one looks good for combat soldiers, for example. Although I'd want this one, which looks like it meets the tests for a proper Bowie: long enough to use as a sword, heavy enough to use as a hatchet, wide enough to use as a paddle.
That kind of knife requires special training to use effectively, though, and is not for everyone. Mclemore's introduction is a good one, if you have the time and interest. I wouldn't mind getting his new book, to see what it might have. Maybe I'll order one to review.
I usually mention STEK knives, which are my favorite custom knives. Here is their current selection.
For the non-deployed, this bedroll looks very comfortable to me. It's in about the same price range as a good knife. For the man in your life who loves to camp by an open fire, it could be just the thing.
Make sure he's got beans, coffee, and a good coffeepot. It wouldn't hurt if he had a rifle, in case he might want some venison to roast.
That and a good hat, and he should be all set. And he'll love you forever. :)
More on the surfer who solved the world. There's a useful analogy to an earlier point in physics. As the article notes, the coolest thing is that the theory is testable. That's science.
Did "thousands of people [die] because of Kissinger's activities"? Some discussion. The things for which he really seems to be condemned are things he didn't try to stop: Cambodia, Laos, West Pakistan. To what degree is it fairly the fault of the United States of America if people kill each other in Cambodia? We had the power to stop it, perhaps, had we backed South Vietnam past 1972. (An alternative argument: being a democracy, we did not have the power to stop it, as the people were flat out tired of war in southeast Asia; in which case, the government may not have had the strength to stop the war in any case.) Even granting, for the sake of argument, that we had the power, does the failure to use that power make it Kissinger's fault that Man X murdered Man Y?
If so, that's an idea with consequences. If I see my neighbor about to shoot his wife and don't stop him, I'm a murderer. I guess we'd better start building new prisons.
What seems more likely to me is that Kissinger's power is greatly overestimated by historians and journalists alike; and that they are not able to see the opportunity costs attending every choice he made, whether to do or to not do. Those costs aren't always apparent from the outside even at the time. They're likely to become less and less obvious as the decades roll away.
That's not to absolve him of guilt, but neither is it to blame him. A historian has enough work just trying to sort out what really happened.
I wish one and all a Happy Thanksgiving.
I am most thankful for a warm and friendly home, where my mother is baking pumpkin gingerbread. My father, the best of men, will be there watching football and his grandson. My wife is there, and my beloved boy. The kitchen table will be covered with food, turkey and stuffing and brown gravy, casserole and mashed potatoes.
I'm not there, but I'm glad to know it exists. Everyone have a fine day, today.
Pile On® offers some appropriate post-prandial exercise for Turkey Day over at The Institute:
This is a football.
Please note the lack of handles.
Small wonder that each weekend countless receivers "can't find the handle on that one".
Feel free to share the comments of sports commentators you find annoying and over used in the comments.
Cap'n Smith is talking about N. Iraq. I don't get out that way, so if you're interested, see what he has to say.
If you're interested in Western Iraq, Michael Totten is out there. Greyhawk and I put him on a bird just a few days ago. Nothing yet, but keep an eye on his site.
Slate magazine: helping you conceal murder since 2007.
Knox and Sollecito were on the right track: Bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, an extremely corrosive chemical that can break the hydrogen bonds between DNA base pairs and thus degrade or "denature" a DNA sample. In fact, bleach is so effective that crime labs use a 10 percent solution (one part commercial bleach to nine parts water) to clean workspaces so that old samples don't contaminate fresh evidence. Likewise, when examining ancient skeletal remains, researchers first douse the remains in diluted bleach to eliminate modern DNA from the surface of bones or teeth.I'll frame this with the China query of a few days ago. Free inquiry has its benefits and its hazards; you can be sure China wouldn't let a website post a get-out-of-jail-free kit like this one.
So, why did Knox and Sollecito's bleaching gambit fail? It's difficult to swab a knife thoroughly. Dried blood can stick to the nooks and crannies in a wood handle, to the serrated edge of a blade, or become lodged in the slit between the blade and the hilt. With help from a Q-tip, it's possible to eliminate most stains, but what's not visible to the naked eye might still be visible to a microscope, and sophisticated crime labs need only about 10 cells to build a DNA profile.
Bleach is perhaps the most effective DNA-remover (though evidently no methodology is failsafe), but it's not the only option. Deoxyribonuclease enzymes, available at biological supply houses, and certain harsh chemicals, like hydrochloric acid, also degrade DNA strands. It's even possible to wipe a knife clean of DNA-laden hair follicles, saliva, and white blood cells with generic soap and warm water. The drawback to this last method is that the tell-tale cells don't just disappear once off the knife. They linger on sponges, in drains, and even in sink traps, where wily investigators search for trace evidence.
Today's debate topic: We are better off allowing the free distribution of information, including topics of this sort. Defend or refute, as you prefer. I'm a defender, by sentiment; but a proper debate club requires you to do both, regardless of sentiment.
...forever strange. A remarkable article from the New York Times tells us about 'love in the time of dementia.'
Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s husband, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, has a romance with another woman, and the former justice is thrilled — even visits with the new couple while they hold hands on the porch swing — because it is a relief to see her husband of 55 years so content.This actually makes perfect sense to me.
State Dept. Tries Blog Diplomacy, reports the Washington Post:
By Walter PincusSoon, every cell phone in Baghdad will start receiving: US <3 U!
The State Department, departing from traditional public diplomacy techniques, has what it calls a three-person, "digital outreach team" posting entries in Arabic on "influential" Arabic blogs to challenge misrepresentations of the United States and promote moderate views among Islamic youths in the hopes of steering them from terrorism.
The department's bloggers "speak the language and idiom of the region, know the culture reference points and are often able to converse informally and frankly, rather than adopt the usually more formal persona of a U.S. government spokesperson," Duncan MacInnes, of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism and unconventional threats on Thursday.
"Because blogging tends to be a very informal, chatty way of working," MacInnes said, "it is actually very dangerous to blog." So State has a senior experienced officer, who served in Iraq, acting as supervisor and discussing each posting before it goes up. "We do not make policy," MacInnes added.
The State Department team's approach is to join a blog's conversation, often when it turns to the motivation for U.S. policy toward Iraq, and when others are claiming that the U.S. occupation is meant to help Israel or to secure oil. "Our job is to address that motivation issue and show them that that's not the motivation," MacInnes said.
"You can't just say, 'Well, here's our policy,' and drop it into the blog. You have to have what I call a bridge," MacInnes said. He then described using a sporting or current event or even poetry that would "allow one to get to be in a conversational mode with people."
Even though the State Department employees were not going into hard-core terrorist sites, the worry, MacInnes said, was that after identifying themselves and using their own names, "we would be, in the parlance of the Internet, 'flamed' when we come on" -- meaning their entries would be subjected to intense attacks.
They were not, and there were such posts as, "We don't like your policies but we're sure glad you're here talking to us about it," MacInnes said. As a result, State is expanding the team to six speakers of Arabic, two of Persian and one of Urdu.
To prove that it, too, can plug into the modern media world, the Pentagon's Central Command has a blogging operation at its headquarters. Its Joint Forces Command also has the capability and has even written a brochure on how to do it. "It's an area we're moving into," Navy Capt. Hal Pittman, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for joint communications, told the House panel. He added that Central Command may not be using its own Arabic or Farsi speakers, but rather contract personnel. "We're sharing with State and trying to, you know, better our knowledge on how to do it."
The State-Defense communications approach is also turning to a more sophisticated message, one that moves away from trying to change perceptions of the United States, focusing instead on the self-perceptions of its target audiences. "Our core message must outline an alternative future that is more attractive than the bleak future offered by the terrorists," said Michael Doran, deputy assistant secretary of defense for support of public diplomacy.
Another step they described to the House panel, in what they called "counterterrorism communications," is having a greater awareness of the impact of what U.S. speakers are saying. "When we say 'Islamo-fascism,' whether the term has a meaning or not, what they hear is 'war on Islam,' okay -- 'attacking my religion,' " MacInnes said.
He described the phrase as "a verbal equivalent of poking a stick in somebody's eye . . . and [Osama] bin Laden has been very good at taking our words and turning them around to his advantage by saying, 'See, they're actually at war with Islam.' "
President Bush has not used the phrase recently.
National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines -- but should.
EagleSpeak has a great post:
The last warship from World War II came home Tuesday to the United States.Of more contemporary interest, a piece on security engagement with potential partner nations.
When it comes to security cooperation, however, there will always be a tension between balancing military readiness with security cooperation. Most argue that readiness is the most important priority. But, if adequately funded and properly executed, security cooperation activities may build partners and prevent conflicts. Investing early in shaping activities may avoid exponentially larger expenditures later.Sub-regional partnerships are a wise idea, in my reading: we can get a lot out of them. They came in for a brief mention in a fairly harsh critique of our government's functioning that I penned.
From The American business magazine, on 'the China model,' this week:
The CPC is replacing old-style communist values with nationalism and a form of Confucianism, in a manner that echoes the "Asian values" espoused by the leaders who brought Southeast Asian countries through their rapid modernization process in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and elsewhere. But at the same time, in its public rhetoric, the party is stressing continuity and is assiduously ensuring that its own version of history remains correct. Historian Xia Chun-tao, 43, vice director of the Deng Xiaoping Thought Research Center, one of China’s core ideological think tanks, says, "It’s very natural for historians to have different views on events. But there is only one correct and accurate interpretation, and only one explanation that is closest to the truth." The key issues, he says, are “quite clearly defined” and not susceptible to debate. "There is a pool of clear water and there’s no need to stir up this water. Doing so can only cause disturbance in people’s minds."From John Derbyshire's tour of Hangzhou, 2001:
Some political scientist — I forget who — has coined the phrase "pre-critical society" for those cultures that have not attained the ability to look objectively at themselves and their history. Fifty years of Party-line government and "thought control" have left China stuck firmly in the pre-critical stage of intellectual development.My wife and I lived in Hangzhou for a while. I can confirm the truth of the story about the statues.
This unhappy little fact was brought home to me at the mausoleum of Yue Fei in Hangzhou. Yue Fei is a national hero. He lived in the early twelfth century, a time of great crisis for the Chinese nation. The Song dynasty (960-1279: it was, by the way, arguably the most progressive and creative of China's 24 imperial dynasties) was under assault by the savage Jin barbarians of the far north. Yue Fei was commander of the Chinese armies fighting against the Jin. He won many brilliant victories against them, and was hugely popular with his troops and with the common people. At the court of the Song emperor, however, there was a faction that wanted to make peace with the Jin, and cede to them the large area of North China they had conquered. This faction was led by a senior official named Qin Hui. Yue Fei, of course, wanted to fight on, to regain the lost territories. Qin Hui, however, had the emperor's ear. He arranged a frame-up of Yue Fei, who was recalled to the capital and executed. North China was ceded to the Jin (and the dynasty is thereafter known as the Southern Song, with its capital at Hangzhou).
This incident is regarded as an outrage by all patriotic Chinese, and seems even to have aroused strong feelings at the time. The following emperor had Yue Fei posthumously rehabilitated. The great warrior was re-buried in a grand mausoleum, which is now a popular tourist spot. Statues of Qin Hui, of his wife (who was involved in some way I have forgotten), and two of Yue Fei's subordinates who had co-operated in the frame-up were set in front of the tomb, all in a kneeling position — kneeling humbly before the patriot they had wronged. It used to be the custom for visitors to the mausolem to spit on the statue of Qin Hui. This has now been forbidden, however, and when I saw it, the statue was spittle-free. (The only surface area of its size anywhere in China of which this could be said.)
Strolling around the pleasant grounds of the mausoleum, I wondered aloud to Rosie — who can be taken here as a sort of lay figure, a representative well-educated thirty-something mainland Chinese — whether any bold historian had tried to make a name for himself by arguing a revisionist view of the Yue Fei incident, showing that Qin Hui was right and Yue Fei really a dangerous plotter.
Rosie was scandalized by this notion. "If anyone wrote such a thing, his statue would be put next to Qin Hui's for people to spit on." I persisted, with all the usual arguments about the difficulty of getting to the bottom of historical matters. President Kennedy was shot less than forty years ago. We have film footage of the event, and independent judicial inquiries have been carried out at vast expense, yet people are still arguing about what happened. Are we quite sure we have all the facts about a palace intrigue of nine hundred years ago?
Rosie wouldn't hear of it. Yue Fei was a great national hero, she sniffed. Qin Hui was a contemptible traitor, who sold himself and his country for cash. "Everybody knows." No use to point out (though I did anyway, from sheer force of habit) that until quite recently, "everybody knew" that the sun revolved around the earth, but that careful inquiry had showed this not to be the case. No use: I had hit the Wall.
This failure to develop a properly critical attitude to one's culture and history is a natural consequence of despotic government, with all its grisly apparatus of propaganda and intimidation. At any give time there is only one correct "line" in a despotism. To present any alternative version of things is at least anti-social, and may be seen as treasonous.
Yet Qin Hui must have been a man of great intelligence and ability. He had risen to the highest rank in government via stiff competitive examinations, and no doubt had survived many savage and complex court intrigues. Are we really to suppose that he would have no arguments to bring to his defense? After all, in any conflict there is a peace faction and a war faction, and the peace faction is sometimes right. King Alfred made peace with the Danes and ceded half of England to them: he is revered as the savior of his nation. And powerful, popular generals sometimes do have designs on the throne — most disastrously, in Chinese history, An Lu-shan, whose rebellion in the middle of the eighth century wrecked the Tang dynasty.
Today's question: does this make for a stronger or a weaker society? We have a few national heroes left: Martin Luther King, Jr., being a clear example. We haven't got any national traitors that we are all willing to agree to scorn. Is that a strength or a weakness for our culture, compared to China's? Why do you say so?
This one, though, actually might have a read on it. I don't know enough mathematics to evaluate the claim that E8 construction could explain reality; perhaps one of you would like a try at it?
I will say, however, that "Holy Crap! That's it!" is a pretty good Modern English translation of Archimedes' "Eureka!"
First of all, it's time for one of our periodic discussions among the various co-bloggers. We do this occasionally for various reasons. One of the items on the agenda this time will be getting someone to keep an email list, so I don't have to keep asking for everyone's emails, which I always lose before the next time I need them. :)
Second, let me thank Cassandra for providing this link, which I hadn't seen before. It's majestic. The last line is, of course, Gandalf's.
Third, I have gotten a lot of requests to do stuff lately. I'm sorry that I'm very busy and don't have the time I would like, as all of these things are worthy causes. Here are two of them, which I present only because they are in the last day or so's email, and I don't have to go searching for them.
OSD is running an "America supports you" text messaging thing.
Miss Ladybug is running an AnySoldier support project.
Sadly, the Project VALOUR-IT fundraiser, which I normally am glad to assist, is over already.
Been there, done that. Twice now.
This learned opinion notwithstanding, may I offer a few words that have restored my perspective on more than one occasion through years of raising two fine, but very different young men?
A mother, perhaps more than anyone else, puts so much of herself into her children. They represent her life's work. And so, when they grow up, it can be difficult to let them go, to know when that work is truly finished, to be at peace with what she has done and allow her children to venture forth and make their own mistakes, fall down, pick themselves back up, do things she wouldn't do herself, repeat all the dumb things she did (and warned them about repeatedly). This helped me to remember that while as a parent you never stop caring, more likely than not (as it says in one of those other mass culture poems that contains more than a grain of truth) no doubt my little universe will continue to unfold exactly as it should, even without my expert guidance :p
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
...life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is strong and secure.
So as it says somewhere in the Bible, rejoice in a job well done knowing you have been a good and faithful
A famed author pronounces the final decline; but his reviewer points out that the fact of that very man's existence is reason for hope.
Admission to the Barzun-Trilling seminar, as it was known, entailed an interview with the two professors, which took place in Trilling’s Hamilton Hall office. This turned out to be genial, indeed conducted with a tone that suggested that in some sense we were equals, gentlemen and professionals, and serious about goals the three of us shared.So, amid decline, are new seeds planted.
In that first interview I gained a distinct sense that what they wanted were seminar participants who not only would teach but had it in mind to write in a serious way, and to the extent possible be engaged in focused and shaping activity: No Waste Landers; no Bartleby the Scriveners; no William Steig figures curled up in protective boxes of sensibility.
Islam bans shedding blood of nations; on the same ground, production of nuclear bomb and even thinking on its production are forbidden from Islamic point of view.This is one of those times when I want to know why he says so. What's the justification for a ruling that even thinking of producing nuclear weapons is haram? I have no doubt that would be a fascinating conversation, one I'd like to have.
Loyalty a Factor in Heroism
...then again, some lessons can't be stated (and internalized, and acted upon) too often.
Dalrymple gets a positive review here. He has a way of turning a phrase, so as to both praise the person of, yet totally dissent from the view of, an ideological opponent:
[J. S. Mill] was inclined to suppose, as many thinkers are, that most people either were or could become with sufficient education, like himself. In a way this does him honor, for he modestly supposed also that his own gifts were neither great nor exceptional, but this led him to imagine what is not very probable, that there would come a time when most people would be as deeply concerned with the moral foundations of human conduct as he. This in turn suggests that his knowledge of human beings in walks of life different from his own was not very extensive.That's a brutal charge -- 'Mill was too ignorant of humanity to write about human nature' -- but delivered in a manner befitting a gentleman. We'd do well to emulate that courtesy.
I had some good (if spooky) responses to my request for contemporary songs about death - Cassandra's reference to "old favorites" turned my mind back to my longtime love for Gilbert & Sullivan. I hadn't thought about this before, but death is a theme in many of their jokes and almost all of their musical comedies (Patience and Trial By Jury are the exceptions that come to mind). So, much of The Mikado's plot is driven by the Emperor's crazy law that imposes the death penalty for flirting (leading to my favorite pun in the series: "Flirting is capital!...It is capital!") - and Ruddigore is, I'm convinced, the funniest ghost story ever written (the name led to one of Gilbert's wittier exchanges - partway through the run, an acquaintance asked:
Acq: How's Bloodygore going?
Acq: Well, it's all the same, you know.
Gilbert: Is it? Then I suppose if I say I admire your ruddy complexion, it's the same as saying I like your bloody cheek! Well, it isn't - and I don't!
I read it here.) I don't know whether this is part of the plays' staying power or not, but so it is. Many of their songs are on this general theme. There's everything from this bit of bravado in The Yeomen of the Guard -- (sung by Colonel Fairfax, falsely accused of sorcery and expecting to be executed):
Is life a boon?
If so, it must befall
That death, whene'er he call,
Must call too soon.
Though fourscore years he give,
Yet one would pray to live
What kind of plaint have I
Who perish in July?
I might have had to die
Perchance in June.
Is life a thorn?
Then count it not a whit -
Nay, count it not a whit,
Man is well done with it!
Soon as he's born
He should all means essay
To put the plague away.
And I, war-worn,
Poor captured fugitive
My life most gladly give --
I might have had to live
(the four-beat lines and rhyme-sceme make it seem "cutesy" when you read it - but Sullivan gave it a slow, martial tune that gives it dignity and fits the character) - to some really hilarious pieces, some of the best in the two plays they wrote after their infamous break-up. In The Grand Duke, Ernest Dummkopf lost a "Statutory Duel" - he and his opponent drew cards; he drew the low card and lost; so under the laws of the duchy he was legally dead. Which leads to this exchange between him and his fiancee (who's been shunning him):
Ernest: If the light of love’s lingering ember has faded in gloom,
You cannot neglect, O remember, a voice from the tomb!
That stern supernatural diction
Should act as a solemn restriction,
Although by a mere legal fiction
A voice from the tomb!
Julia: I own that that utterance chills me – it withers my bloom!
With awful emotion it thrills me – that voice from the tomb!
Oh, spectre, won’t anything lay thee?
Though pained to deny or gainsay thee,
In this case I cannot obey thee,
Thou voice from the tomb!
So, spectre, appalling, I bid you good day –
Perhaps you’ll be calling when passing this way?
Your bogeydom scorning, and all your love-lorning,
I bid you good morning, I bid you good day.
Good morning, good morning, good morning, good day!
...the tempo is upbeat and prevents the joke from going stale; the last five lines are like a fast waltz. If the Ultimate Reality is going to catch us, whatever we do, why not have a little fun with it? It's perfectly healthy, seems to me.
Joseph asked for contemporary songs about death. Since today is Friday, may I offer an old favorite:
Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There’s always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it’s hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight
In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there
So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There’s vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lie
That you make up for all that you lack
It don’t make no difference
Escaping one last time
It’s easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
This glorious sadness that brings me to my knees
In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
I still recall the dress I wore to my first dance. It was black with wild roses – pink ones - on it. The empire waistline tied in the back with grosgrain ribbon and the deep, square neckline was trimmed with white lace. My date gave me the most beautiful corsage: pink sweetheart roses and baby’s breath.
I kept the ticket and the corsage for years on a bookshelf in my bedroom. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it seemed the sort of thing that should be remembered. I don’t think I missed a dance in school and I kept each corsage I was given; even the ugly ones.
Not every boy who asked me out was as adept as that first young man at matching flowers to my outfit and personality. But that didn’t matter. To tell the truth I never really liked corsages, even in high school. They were awkward and clunky and the pins had a nasty way of poking you in the shoulder when you tried to dance or stood up on your tip-toes for that long anticipated good night kiss. But they were tangible reminders that a young man had taken pains to please me, just as I had gone to a great deal of trouble to look nice for him, to make his evening pleasant. Memorable.
And so I kept them, every one. All my yesterdays, pressed between the leaves of my mind like wildflowers from some long forgotten ramble down a country road on a summer’s day. As they slowly faded in their allotted spaces on my bookshelf, they somehow managed to retain traces of their former loveliness; giving off sweet memories of being courted, cherished, of feeling - for the space of few moonlit hours - like a princess in a fairy tale.
Thus it is with some sadness that I wonder: what on earth do today’s would be princesses have to look forward to?
Last month, a boy asked my 16-year-old daughter to his school's homecoming dance. She agreed to go, bought a new dress and made a hairdresser appointment.
The boy never bought tickets to the dance. Neither did his friends. They decided that attending homecoming wouldn't be cool, and instead planned to just dress up that night, go out for dinner and then hang out with their dates at someone's house.
My daughter was disappointed, as were her girlfriends. They would have loved to have been taken to the dance, to show off their dresses, to see and be seen.
At 6 p.m. on the night of the boycotted dance, about a dozen of these girls and their dates gathered in one boy's backyard so a mob of parents could photograph them. I found it dispiriting. My heart went out to those girls -- all dressed up with no place to go.
I live in suburban Detroit, but this phenomenon is playing out elsewhere in the country, too -- a telling example of the indifference with which young people today view dating, chivalry and romance.
Studies, of course, show more young people skipping romantic relationships in favor of "hooking up." As teens socialize in packs, forgo one-on-one dating and trade sex nonchalantly, it is no stretch to find that boys are asking girls to homecoming and not bothering to take them there.
When I was a young girl I recall hearing a song by Peggy Lee on my transistor radio.
“Back in the day”, as my boys are fond of saying with rolled eyes, you couldn’t just summon up a tune any time you felt like it. We didn’t have iPods, playlists, or personal CD players. When it came to that special song that made you dizzy with delight, you were at the mercy of the DJ down at the radio station. You had to wait, sometimes for what seemed like ages, for your favorite song to come onto the airwaves and thrill you to the very marrow of your bones. That’s what made it special: rarity, and the knowledge that you couldn’t hear it any time you wanted to. If you were really, really crazy about a song you might save up and buy the 45, or even the LP. But that took a while. And in the meantime there was the agony of suspense.
I wonder, sometimes, if that is what is missing from modern relationships: the ache of wanting; the knowledge that someone isn’t there just for the taking, the thrill of finally gaining your heart's desire after long uncertainty, a series of delays? Of knowing you might never have had them at all? What happens to our sense of wonder when we take everything for granted, when we are never deprived, when we never take pains?
When nothing is special anymore?
There is something to be said for anticipation. I carried my little transistor radio everywhere, glued to my shell-like ear. I must have known the words to a million songs by heart – I repeated them over and over in my head while waiting for the next time my favorite song would come over the airwaves. I still do. Who does that now? The song was called, “Is that all there is?”
I hated that song with a passion, even then. It asked that question - “Is that all there is?” - about love. It was too cynical and worldly wise for me then and it still is today, forty-odd years later, because no matter how long you walk this earth, you never stop discovering the unending wonder of loving other people, and you never quite do come to know all there is to know about life.
I know that in my bones. There are a million kinds of love, and to me the saddest thing on earth is the cynic who asks, “Is that all there is?” because she has never experienced the delight to be found in pleasing others; who says “Let’s not bother…” celebrating special occasions because he has never been denied anything (and so sees every new experience through a lens of dreary sameness), who doesn’t understand that hooking up or casual sex, though amusing, can never be anything but pale substitutes for what happens when two people really love each other, when making someone else’s heart race a mile a minute is just as satisfying as feeling the earth move yourself. And sometimes more.
I wonder if these children will recognize (or would they be bored by) the quiet, peaceful Sunday morning comfortableness that sneaks up on you when you’ve been together for half a lifetime? When you fit neatly together as though you had been made for each other? That doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of living, and sometimes years of ups and downs that I sometimes wonder if they will have the patience to wait for?
Love takes many forms. Love is having the faith and the courage to let go when your children need to strike out on their own. Love means trusting in their judgment (and your own long stewardship); it means recognizing that they are no longer babies, but young adults. It means releasing them gently, lovingly, gracefully; though every fiber screams they aren’t ready yet – that they aren’t listening to you, that they will screw things up if you don’t keep a hand on the old tiller. It means not saying “I told you so”, when you did. Again. And again. It means biting your lip, and your tongue, a lot. It means giving them the space to grow, as you did once. Love means standing a bit apart when they come home, though you long to crowd them with questions as you did when they were small; waiting for them to come to you. Loving it when they finally do.
Even though it took years. Boys are a slow crop.
Love means taking pride in the achievements of your friends, sharing their every day triumphs and tribulations, both great and small. Taking satisfaction in their talent, not knowing whether to laugh or cry when one of them writes something so poignant it could have been plucked from the pages of your own life:
Right before Lancelot went on his latest trip, he reminded me that the Dark Prince was coming home on Friday. I must have had a blank look on my face because he then reminded me why: Dark Prince's pre-deployment brief the following day. A brief that I would have to attend with my son without my husband.
Looking back, I'm now of the opinion that my husband planned to be out of town so as to avoid the whole nightmare....
For starters, my son is not very skilled in the social graces. Some might even assume that he was raised by wolves. Arriving at the brief, it began.
"Mom, I have to go talk to someone."
Me: "Oh, okay, I'll be right here."
This, in case you didn't know, is his way of avoiding even the admittance that he has a mom (let alone introducing her).
Nope, not the Dark Prince, he was hatched from an egg.
Love means thanking God for them when they aggravate you, and when they make you laugh, when they lift you up. What would we do without friends? They make the sun come out when all the world seems grey and cloudy. They say things that make you cry. And laugh out loud. Sometimes in the same breath:
A house isn't a home until you can write "I love you" in the dust. I just ask that you don't date it.
I like that. But for a military wife home can never be a place, really, or a time. Times change, and even the people we meet are often far less constant than they appear to be. But somehow, friends are a gleaming thread running through the hopelessly tangled skein of our lives. Pull on it, and everything suddenly slips into place effortlessly; all the snarled knots come untied. They know, without our having to tell them, certain things about us. We share, not everything – because no two people share everything – but the important things. A friend will be there to celebrate quietly with you those moments that mean something to you. And that can make all the difference, for then you carry home inside of you wherever you may roam.
Because home, you see, is the people you care about. A home is love.
I am sitting here in Georgia with The Burrito in my lap. He is one week old. My son’s house is full of light, and warmth, and love. The Burrito is mostly full of milk. His eyes are very heavy and he is making comical faces as he falls asleep in my arms. Across the room, my son is talking quietly to his wife. I like watching him with her. He loves her very much. I am thinking of what I will write to my husband in the morning. The scene around me is proof that families do evolve – they have so much more than we did, starting out. But then they are a good ten years older than we were when we had our first child. I am also thinking of ten years ago, when I was convinced the man across the room from me was a complete bonehead and wasn’t listening to a word his mother had to say.
He is a fine young man, a good father, and an even better husband. I am proud.
And The Burrito totally rules.
Reading one of Mark Steyn's recent articles - including a little rant on pop lyrics - I was thinking about songs of death, specifically songs about how we do and should respond to the reality of death (even when it seems far off). Some of my favorite classical songs are arrangements of A.E. Houseman's A Shropshire Lad on this very theme (my favorite arrangements are by George Butterworth) - numbers 2, 23, and 27 are especially moving in Butterworth's arrangements.
I didn't much listen to pop songs of any kind until the last few years and my pop-culture IQ is very low. I had it in mind to post here and ask whether anything good on those themes had been written in the last decade or two. Before I could write the post, I picked up this on the radio. Is there something else any of you would recommend?
From the San Diego Union Tribune:
To all those who said the “surge” in U.S. forces in Iraq was doomed to fail, a look at the latest results should be instructive, if not humbling.
Start with American military casualties. For October (36 Americans killed in action), they were the lowest for any month since February 2004, more than three years ago.
U.S. casualties have now declined for five consecutive months even as American forces press the fight against al-Qaeda-in-Iraq terrorists and move out of their mega-bases to operate from security outposts in Iraqi neighborhoods.
Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno reported the following arms captures: “Over 37,000 pounds of explosives, a thousand gallons of nitric acid used to make homemade explosives, over 2,000 artillery rounds and over 500 rockets, 136 assembled explosively formed penetrator IEDs (improvised explosive devices), along with 359 copper discs used to make more EFPs, and hundreds of rifles, grenades, anti-tank weapons and suicide vests.” Odierno attributed these arms captures largely to tips from local Iraqi civilians.
Iraqi civilian deaths are down more than 60 percent since their peak last December, from 3,000 that month to just over 700 in October.
The incidence of mass-casualty terrorist attacks (truck bombs, car bombs and the like) in Iraq's capital city is down 75 percent in recent months.
Overall, the declining numbers of terrorist attacks and security incidents represent, as Gen. Odierno noted, “the longest continuous decline in attacks on record.”
Yet another thing you won't hear about on the evening news, because it doesn't fit the narrative, is that for the first time since the war started there were five days in October when not a single Coalition forces service member was killed as a result of hostile action. But you see, we wouldn't want to take notice of such developments prematurely. They might result in outbreaks of irrational exuberance.
As the San Diego Tribune author points out, progress on the political front in Iraq is still not where we'd like it to be, but in an insecure environment sectarian reconciliation was never even a possibility. Advocates of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq have used the absence of hope as their primary argument for abandoning the Iraqis to their tormentors. The success of the Surge, following on the dramatic turnaround in Anbar province this Spring, makes this the second time they've been wrong.
But more importantly, the opinions of average Americans - those who vote, and those who make up those all-important opinion polls used to drive public sentiment on the war - are based on what they see and hear in their newspapers and on the nightly news. Perhaps it is time for us to wake up and ask ourselves who has a vested interest in consistently portraying things as worse than they are, and to what end?
Rereading The Great Game:
I've been a little preoccupied lately, but I did find time this week to reread a splendid book on 19th-century conflict in Central Asia - Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game - which I can't too highly recommend. This time through, I spotted some analogies I missed before, that might be of interest. (As I get older and busier, I increasingly appreciate the value of well-written history; if I can't read it speedily, I'll never have time to read it again, and I always miss so much the first time through.)
The Great Game itself (I'm going to eschew further Wikipedia links here; you know how to go there!) arose quite simply, though the course was fascinatingly complex. Great Britain held India, which was a major source of its wealth and prestige (whether it should've is a separate question; it did). Britain had a stragegic interest in keeping India free from invaders; and Russia, which was often at odds with Britain over one thing and another, had a strategic interest in being able to threaten India. Afghanistan and Persia were, by themselves, moderately dangerous (both had invaded India in the past, and many Afghan tribes were still warlike and fond of plunder) - but as invasion routes to India (particularly after the Russians seized the central Asian khanates that gave them long borders with Persia and Afghanistan) they were appallingly dangerous. Russian officers in central Asia were quite forthright that they were wargaming just such an invasion in the event of war (they also had a nasty habit of acting beyond orders in carrying out attacks; the Czar tended to be very forgiving in the event of success).
Responding to (or learning about) a Russian invasion only when the first of the Czar's troops crossed the Indian border would've been an extremely bad idea; and Afghanistan was not the kind of powerful, secure nation that could resist such a thing alone, even if it wanted to (a recurring theme in Russian plans was to encourage Afghanistan to join in, and share the plunder, as it had long before). This in turn gave Britain a strategic interest in the rulership and foreign policies of Persia and Afghanistan (or, to use one of John Derbyshire's phrases - Afghanistan was in India's strategic backyard).
A couple of examples of where this led, summarized brutally: in the 1830's, Persia was allied with Russia; Afghanistan and Punjab (not yet part of British India) were allied with Britain, but they had a large dispute with each other over a province that Punjab had seized, and the British refused to make Punjab disgorge. The king of Afghanistan (Dost Mohammed) began receiving Russian ambassadors (possibly to hint to the British that keeping him happy was much in their interest); the British responded by unseating him and placing one of his several rivals (Shah Shujah, who had no quarrel with Punjab) on the throne (controversial decision even at the time; the British agent in Kabul highly recommended leaving Dost Mohammed in place) (Around the same time, the Persians, with Russian advisors, besieged the border town of Herat - a couple of British advisors helped Herat hold out; and the Persians withdrew when the British dispatched a relief column.) Shah Shujah proved much less popular than the British thought; the natives ended up overthrowing him and massacring his British advisors. Britain, worried that it would appear weak and vulnerable in the faces of this, mounted a punitive expedition. A few months later, they allowed Dost Mohammed to return -- and he remained friendly to the British for the rest of his reign (they, in turn, let him seize Herat - which had been independent - without objection). Later, the British discovered the existence of viable invasion routes through Tibet; and they found it necessary to map Tibet secretly (the rulers did not allow it). Later still, having intelligence that the Russians were being received in Lhasa, the British invaded Tibet and won some extreme concessions from its rulers. Hopkirk dedicated a separate book, an excellent one, to that story. And he did not miss the tragedy of it all - for the British intelligence was false, the Russians had no significant presence in Tibet, and the Tibetans (unlike the Afghans and Persians) didn't exhibit a single foreign policy goal beyond simply being left alone.
The point, to me, is that dreadful and uncertain as these events were - as long as Britain held India, and had an interest in keeping it secure, the British could not simply ignore its neighbors or leave them strictly alone. "Should the current ruler of Afghanistan stay in power?" "How much control should we attempt to exert over him?" and "How strong do we let him grow?" were fair questions; "I don't care" was not a practical or permissibile answer. "How do we gain intelligence and advance warning in the event our enemies come through Tibet?" was a fair question. "Let's just stay in the dark" was not a practical answer.
In the end, the British and Russians settled their differences by treaty in 1907; agreeing that Afghanistan and southern Persia were in the British sphere of influence, and northern Persia (including Tehran) in the Russian; Russia would have no agents in Kabul but Britain would not "change the political status of" (i.e., annex) Afghanistan. (This wonderful, final settlement lasted all of ten years; the Bolsheviks took over, tore the treaty up, and started their own campaign to dominate Persia and Afghanistan, and eventually India - to which Hopkirk dedicated another book, which I haven't read.)
I think you can see the analogy I have in mind. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are to us as India was to Britain - a major source of wealth (though happily we've been wise enough not to annex them - no Sepoy mutinies for us - but simply to purchase what we need), and their neighbors are thus in our "strategic backyard." Iraq under Saddam was something like Afghanistan under Czarist control - a serious threat, with an interest in gaining prestige by controlling the wealth of the Gulf states and humiliating us. Those states had nothing like the power to defend themselves from what he could muster; and keeping an army in the Arabian desert (as we did during and after the first Gulf war) to defend them created extra problems for us. Creating spheres of influence in buffer states wasn't an option because there weren't any; attempting to end the threat by treaty (as we did in 1991) didn't work, because Saddam did not hold to his treaties. Our ultimate decision, and I think it was the best available, was to replace Saddam with something else - something that did not have an interest in threatening the neighbors. A democracy at least avoids the problem of picking Shah Shujah over Dost Mohammed - you don't have to guess which leader has the most popular support (and you can avoid at least some of the problem Shah Shujah faced - since he was seated and supported by foreign troops, he was an affront to national pride). Which isn't to say that, like all options available to us in 2003, it didn't have its share of problems, or of controversy, or require a massive amount of guesswork.
Whether we should've - let's say - long ago switched completely to nuclear power, so as to end our strategic interest in the Gulf states, is a completely separate question, and quite beyond the scope of what I'm writing here. What the Great Game analogy illustrates for me is this: as long as we do have a material interest in the Gulf states and who controls them, we cannot (much as we might wish to) simply ignore the question of who, or what, is in control of their neighbors. It's hugely tempting to adopt a viewpoint that says, "This is all stupid. It can't be worth it. If they're not attacking us, right now, let's just leave them alone." Or to insist that we can avoid messy entanglements, and stick with the Powell Doctrine or something like, while we have interests like that. If books like Hopkirk's were more often read, these temptations might be more often resisted, and foreign policy debates take place on a higher level.
Turn your back on them for a few months, and you start getting emails asking if they can't please just go buy a little something...
Watch how he seems to float at the trot. That's the old warhorse blood in the Friesian. Goliath, from Ladyhawke, was one of that breed -- you can see the resemblance in how the colt moves. No doubt he's a beauty, or will be in a couple of years.
Not sure what they were thinking with their musical selection for that video, though.
Almost forgot: Happy Halloween.
Hope you got some treats.
From: "Boylan, Steven COL MNF-I CMD GRP CG PAO"
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 8:15 AM
Subject: Groveling Apology for Daring to Say Things You Disagree With (about A War That I Am Fighting) And Stipulation That Virtually Every Single Person Who Supports The War Is A Rabidly Right-Wing Partisan
The inspiring way in which you continually seize the moral high ground, nobly abjuring base ad hominid attacks and calmly employing facts and logic, has raised the tone of our discourse to such a rarified level that I now feel ashamed of my earlier communication with you. Who could face such a soaring example of the Left's oft stated belief in civility and respect for others without shrinking in shame?
The fact that a right-wing blogger spews serious accusations based on complete idiocy is ordinarily not worthy of comment. That happens virtually every day. That is what the right-wing blogosphere is, more or less; it is why it exists.
...I'm honestly interested in knowing: what else besides abject stupidity can explain this? I mean that as a serious question.
Largely as a result of your moral leadership, I'm writing to say I've had a change of heart. I now wish to confess my fault; my most grievous fault: indeed, my most manifold sins and wickedness against You and - with an humble and contrite heart - beg your forgiveness.
1. First, let me apologize for daring to voice an opinion at all. Not to put too fine a point on it, what the hell was I thinking? Looking back, I now realize this was way inappropriate.
Members of the armed forces should never presume the First Amendment rights they fight and die to defend apply to them; the Hatch Act and UCMJ notwithstanding. As every educated person knows, our fragile freedoms would evaporate in an instant if dangerous ideas lurking in the minds of rough, untutored military folk were allowed to compete in the marketplace of ideas with those voiced by their vastly superior civilian masters. When the subject is war, the danger becomes even clearer as the military are the undoubted subject matter experts possessing both professional expertise and first hand knowledge while civilians are, of necessity, far less well informed by virtue of their training, experience, and proximity to events. In such cases, it is absolutely vital that only those military members who voice sentiments critical of the armed forces and the war effort be allowed to speak their minds. Theirs are the only honest, authentic, and non-partisan voices. For reasons that should be obvious to any thinking progressive, it is vital to our national debate that they be allowed to Bravely Speak Truth to Power. Under no circumstances must they be Silenced!
Those who support illegal, immoral military occupations, on the other hand, are obviously rabidly right-wing partisan hacks who must be stifled for the good of the nation. Mr. Greenwald, (can I call you Mr. Greenwald?) I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing me the logical errors in my former way of thinking. Surely only abject stupidity can explain such egregious lapses in judgment.
2. Secondly, regarding my gross unprofessionalism, let me apologize for thinking it was in any way appropriate for me (as a career military Public Affairs Officer) to attempt to correct the record on matters of fact regarding the military or the war effort. Again, WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING? This is not what Uncle Sam is paying me for. Enough said.
No, wait a minute. I am letting myself off too easily, aren't I?
I was (again) guilty of "abject stupidity" (not to mention gross partisanship) in accusing you of inaccuracy:
Most of Col. Boylan's claims of inaccuracy in what I wrote are grounded in his invention of "facts" that I did not assert. I never, for instance, said that Steve Schmidt (the Bush/Cheney P.R. flack and ex-Cheney "communications" aide) was currently on staff with the U.S. military in Iraq. Rather, I linked to an interview given to Hugh Hewitt by Mike Allen of The Politico, in which Allen reported that it was Schmidt who was sent to Iraq to improve the political efficacy of the U.S. military's war communications in Iraq...
In reviewing your exact words, I am at a complete lost to understand how I could have been so abjectly stupid as to think the words "the U.S. military in Iraq has become staffed with pure Republican political hacks" meant that Schmidt and Bergner were actually WORKING for the military, or that your statement that "these partisan and politically-motivated people" were "shaping U.S. military conduct" amounted to any kind of assertion on your part! Only a rabidly partisan political hack would make such an abjectly stupid error:
Throughout this year, the U.S. military in Iraq has become staffed with pure Republican political hacks -- including long-time Bush/Cheney P.R. hack Steve Schmidt and former White House aide Gen. Kevin Bergner. These are the most partisan and politically-motivated people around shaping U.S. military conduct. And it shows, as the Army's behavior in the Beauchamp case is exactly what one would expect from an increasingly politicized, Republican-controlled division of the right-wing noise machine.
Again, though anyone with even a passing familiarity with military assignments would surely know this, military aides cannot "choose" their jobs. We serve under both Democratic and Republican administrations (making the charge that a career military officer chosen by a MILITARY selection board to serve as a White House aide must be a "rabidly Republican partisan hack" highly debatable - what, pray tell, does that say about Clinton-era White House military aides?). But no doubt since you are a lawyer and a civilian, you know best. General Bergner was undoubtedly tainted by his tour in the White House and should have been cashiered immediately; perhaps taken out and shot for good measure. No doubt you would recommend exactly the same treatment for all former Clinton era aides since their loyalties are likewise suspect. It is best to be strictly non-partisan in these matters, don't you think?
3. Regarding the "increasing politicization of the military". Oh, you are so right, and the proof is in all these leaks that just keep on happening. Suspicious, aren't they?
I mean sure, there have been an awful lot of "leaks" of actual, classified (as in secret) information to the press. And oddly, you did not consider those leaks to be harmful, much less evidence of "politicization of the military" (or of the CIA) when they occurred. In fact, you were quite pleased and considered them a sign of a healthy democracy in which brave truth tellers are not "afraid" to come forward and break the law!
I must admit I am a bit confused on the point of exactly why you never seem to fulminate about "politicization" when opponents of the war illegally leak classified documents damaging to the administration or the war effort, but if non-classified information that conflicts with your preferred narrative is leaked, you immediately begin demanding investigations and accusing the military of malfeasance:
As the Beauchamp/TNR "story" demonstrates, the U.S. military is using the standard GOP/right-wing model for trying to shape the news in politically beneficial ways -- feeding supposedly secret and classified documents to Matt Drudge; using The Weekly Standard as its primary propaganda outlet, and working hand-in-hand with their apparent comrades in the most extremist precincts of the right-wing blogosphere. From the beginning, the U.S. military has refused to answer questions from the press, cut off The New Republic, cited classified and secrecy doctrines to suppress information, and all the while, worked secretly through selective leaks and back-channels with the most rabid right-wing partisans to shape the story in the most politicized way possible. Doesn't that merit at least some commentary?
The overt politicization of our military in Iraq -- working closely and in secret only with Drudge, The Weekly Standard and right-wing blogs -- seems at least as important as the monumental issue of what Franklin Foer knew and when he knew it.
So, when classified documents that harm the war effort are continually leaked to the media, is the U.S. military (perhaps that part of it that you all keep tell us is, any minute now, preparing to jump over to the DNC) "using the standard DNC/Left-wing model for trying to shape the news in politically beneficial ways?"
Amazing. Didn't think them fellers were that smart.
And then there's that whole PFC Beauchamp thing you keep going on about. Again, I remain a bit confused by why you don't smell a cover-up in the fact that the New Republic not only lied about the Army censoring Beauchamp but tried to pressure him into remaining silent so they could "control the story". That TNR wished to prevent Beauchamp from talking to anyone is corroborated by Foer himself:
Beauchamp, with the Army's encouragement, had agreed to talk to The Washington Post and Newsweek on Sept. 6, but canceled the interviews at the last minute at Foer's urging. Foer said yesterday that "given everything we have on the line, we have a right to have this exclusive line of communication with him."
Is Foer in league with those increasingly politicized scoundrels at CENTCOM and DoD too? What a rabidly right-wing partisan... the man is obviously in cahoots with the those Republican hacks at the administration. Good thing Foer (a completely disinterested and nonpartisan party if ever there was one) was able to keep Beauchamp from "leaking" the truth to the press, all while claiming the Army was trying to censor him against his will. We wouldn't want the corrupting influence of rabid political partisans with an agenda politicizing the military!
4. Finally, on the issue of the military's ongoing efforts to suppress bad news on the war:
Well, the proof is in the pudding, is it not? I mean, if there is one thing America has not seen much of during the past four years, it is bad news coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is what I'd consider prima facie evidence that the military's brutal attempts to intimidate the mainstream media have been an overwhelming success.
After all, the military are associated in the popular consciousness with guns and violence. Therefore, the mere act of verbally disputing any fact, opinion, or point of logic held by a civilian constitutes a veiled threat. It is all so obvious, isn't it?
The entire point is to terrify the recipient by reminding him a combat-addled, psychotic veteran may just show up on his doorstep when he least expects it and beat him senseless in some frenzied act of PTSD-induced rage... just like those Marines who suddenly snapped in the heat of cold blood from the stress of war and murdered innocent men, women and children at Haditha.
It's like Winter Soldier all over again: deja vu a grisly tale of repressed memories, the looming threat of imagined violence, and above all, the pseudo-intimidation:
The type of hostility, pseudo-intimidation, and stonewalling expressed by Col. Boylan here (in the emails of undisputed authenticity) is the type to which reporters are frequently subjected when they step out of line, particularly with war reporting. That is one reason why so few of them ever do.
And just survey the long list of media outlets and journalists which have been the target of swirling, right-wing lynch mob campaigns for perceived offenses in reporting about the war -- The Associated Press, Reuters, Eason Jordan, The New Republic, Ashleigh Banfield. There is a clear attempt to create strong disincentives for any journalist or commentator to do anything other than cheerlead loudly and deferentially.
Yes, there are few things in life more terrifying than pseudo-intimidation. Unless, of course, it's real intimidation. No doubt this explains why the number of combat embeds in Iraq has fallen, in a war the New York Times calls "worse by every conceivable measure" from a high of nearly 800 to fewer than 100 - all those brave truth tellers must have been ultra, ultra pseudo scared off.
In closing, Mr. Greenwald, let me say that you have opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. Previously my abjectly stupid prefrontal cortex would have been unable to grasp the near-perfect circular symmetry of your distinctive argumentation techniques. Luckily, right after I learned that Air America host Randi Rhodes had not, as her co-host had reported on air, been beaten up by conservatives I happened upon this mildly ironic comment at The Moderate Voice and suddenly you began to make perfect sense:
It’s not a huge leap to jump from viewing conservatives as those for whom ‘lying is second nature, if not first’, who make up the most corrupt Administration in history, who trash the Constitution and who stop at nothing to get their way to accusing them of committing violence. C’mon, if the GOP was willing to steal the 2000 and 2004 elections, beating up a woman who dares to speak truth to power is no big deal. Once you tell yourselves enough times that the right hates women, especially women with brains, it’s a small step to figuring they’re no longer satisfied with abusing women verbally. Since the right obviously isn’t happy limiting themselves to violating our civil rights on a daily basis, it makes sense that they’d turn to beating up their critics.
False story, but accurate… because every conservative is a potential mugger. If they haven’t yet turned to beating up their critics, it’s just a matter of time.
It's all about those progressive values: tolerance, open mindedness, the refuse to engage in ad hominem attacks, integrity. That's what makes you guys better than the Other.
And that's why I owe you an apology.
Steven A. Boylan
Colonel, US Army
Public Affairs Officer