Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween:

In honor of this eerie night, some unnatural concoctions that should never have been mixed (very strong language warning on the first one, though probably you've all heard the song in its original incarnation):

I'm just going to go ahead and apologize in advance to Joel Leggett for that last one.

And then there's this thing, which fits the holiday all too well. I feel bad for even knowing this song exists, except that these boys (and one lady) sure can play.

Well, it's Halloween. We'll repent tomorrow.

UPDATE: Looks like the White House was fun tonight:

Dressed as superheroes, pirates, fairies and skeletons, the kids came in with their parents from Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C., and lined up on the orange-lit White House driveway.

Standing outside the White House front door, the Obamas smiled, chatted and passed out cellophane goody bags that were also filled with a sweet dough butter cookie made by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses. Kids also received a National Park Foundation Ranger activity book.

Mrs. Obama wore furry cat ears and a leopard-patterned top. Obama said the kids looked adorable, as well as his wife, "a very nice looking Catwoman."

A big, stuffed, black spider dangled in a web of string from the top of the portico, and pumpkins had sprouted up around the columns.

Meanwhile, an odd cast of figures wondered around the North Lawn, including skeletons playing musical instruments, walking trees and "Star Wars" characters. The night's arrangements took a month or two to prepare, the White House said.
You've got to say, that sounds pretty cool. Except for this:
The president, dressed in casual clothes, was one of the few not in costume.
Or possibly he came dressed as a pansy.
Even Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was dressed as Darth Vader, the "Star Wars" villain.
That's the spirit!

Most Hated Man in America

The New Most Hated Man in America:

Now former President Bush has retired to happy obscurity, even his name only turning up once in a while in administration speeches blaming him for whatever they haven't gotten done yet. Actually, it's not just 'once in a while'; we've been hearing his name from the administration a lot. It's as if they just can't turn loose of the habit. Much like a cribbing horse, the practice tears them up, and yet it feels so good.

Everyone has to move on, and a former member of their party seems eager to help them with that. How else to judge these comments?

This week, Lieberman made headlines by rejecting a plan for a government-run insurance option put forth by Senate Democratic leaders.

His statement to ABC News today that he intends to campaign for GOP candidates in 2010, only added more fuel to the critics' fire.

But Lieberman laughed off the critics' attempts to "psychoanalyze" him.

"I feel relevant," Lieberman said in a conference call with a handful of Connecticut reporters this afternoon.
'I feel relevant' is the kind of line that makes people pull their hair out. Of course, certain people did sell Lieberman out a few years ago, and I suppose he hasn't forgotten.

Most likely he's enjoying this quite a bit.

Hearty & Hellish

"Hearty & Hellish!"

So we've had a good time lately with some old Celtic tunes. Here are a few more, on love and merry-making.

And one political song:

I wonder, though... "Hellish"? It's a fine hell they imagine for us.

Nawlins Apology

Continuing to Impress:

I know I was making fun of N'awlins yesterday, but to be honest, Atlanta has its moments, too. The parents seem to have some pretty good heads on their shoulders... unlike the teachers.



This last one from The New Republic itself:

Trust in government now stands at 23 percent—the lowest level in at least twelve years. A stunning 76 percent of Americans believe that the government in Washington will do the right thing only some of the time, or never. These statistics confirm the findings from a recent CBS/New York Times poll, and they suggest that proponents of government action must overcome deep skepticism. The Obama administration inherited a public sector most Americans regarded as broken, and nothing since the inauguration has fundamentally altered that perception....

These concerns may be related to the recent surge in the activities of the federal government. In the month after Barack Obama took office, 51 percent of Americans believed that government “should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people.” Today, the figure stands at 46 percent. Meanwhile, the percent who believe that government is “doing too many things better left to businesses” and individuals has risen from 40 to 48 percent....

As he and his advisors plan for the second year of his administration, they would do well to ask themselves how much more the people will bear. The man who famously called for "l'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace" ended his life at the guillotine.
That would be Danton. He was put to death by his own people for being too moderate a revolutionary, so the historical analogy is bad: but the rhetoric is an interesting choice of warnings for a liberal journal of opinion.

Hard World

It's a Hard World:

Stop in and say something kind to a man who needs to hear it.

A Whistling Wind:


In 1982 there were people saying, "If only we get rid of this guy Reagan, we can make it better!" Others said, "If we follow Reagan, he'll squeeze out inflation and lower taxes and we'll be America again, we'll be acting like Americans again." Everyone had a path through.

Now they don't. The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can't figure a way out. Have you heard, "If only we follow Obama and the Democrats, it will all get better"? Or, "If only we follow the Republicans, they'll make it all work again"? I bet you haven't, or not much.

This is historic. This is something new in modern political history, and I'm not sure we're fully noticing it. Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved....

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark.
I had a conversation last night with a bunch of adults in their 30s--and I was startled to hear remarks to the effect that the only real hope for fixing this country is revolution. I've been hearing remarks like this for the last few months; it isn't serious discussion, of course. (If they were seriously enough concerned, and there was more than just a few, we wouldn't have this idiot Congress and President.)
ROGULSKI: Why are you here?

WOMAN #1: To get some money.

ROGULSKI: What kind of money?

WOMAN #1: Obama money.

ROGULSKI: Where’s it coming from?

WOMAN #1: Obama.

ROGULSKI: And where did Obama get it?

WOMAN #1: I don’t know, his stash. I don’t know. (laughter) I don’t know where he got it from, but he givin’ it to us, to help us.

WOMAN #2: And we love him.

WOMAN #1: We love him. That’s why we voted for him!
H.R. 3962, the "Affordable Health Care for America Act" has been introduced--all 1990 pages of it. This gargantuan beast contains thirteen new tax hikes....

N'Awlins AK

N'Awlins Continues To Impress:

Las Vegas never quite lives up to its reputation, but the most important port on the south coast...

The deputy constable [serving the eviction notice] knocked on the door shortly after 11 a.m. and Scearce replied: "Hold on a minute." Soon smoke began poring from underneath the front door and the deputy constable called 911, Constable Lambert Boissiere Jr. said.

Within minutes firefighters kicked in the door and began to battle the blaze. They spotted Scearce inside the home, leveling a rifle at them. The firefighters fled. Gunshots rang out, though no one was injured.
The rifle was reportedly an AK-47, although I'll be quite surprised if it proves to be one in fact. It will almost certainly prove to be a semiautomatic rifle 'in the style of' the famous Kalashnikov. If the man could afford a real AK-47, even on the black market, he could have paid his rent.

Good work

Good Work!

The American Knife & Tool Institute has wonderful news today.

October 28, 2009 The President has signed the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2892) for FY 2010 that includes a permanent “fix” so that any folding knife with a bias toward closure cannot be declared a switchblade by U.S. Customs....

The significance of the legislative victory that was led by AKTI and supported by several other organizations cannot be overstated. If U.S. Customs had succeeded in broadly redefining a switchblade, as they proposed in late May 2009, domestic manufacturers and all owners of folding knives would have been in jeopardy. That’s because an import restriction becomes an issue for interstate commerce. And where local law enforcement might be uncertain about how to correctly apply their state law, they often turn to U.S. Customs to provide guidance.

All of you who contributed to their fund or helped spread the news, wrote your congressfolk or otherwise participated, thank you very much. Knife rights are an undeveloped field in the 'right to keep and bear arms,' and one where our liberty is still quite vulnerable.

UPDATE: In honor of the victory, a video on the making of knives as it is done in Sweden and among the Sami.


Extraordinary Nature:

Today we can read of an explosion brighter than galaxies, from an age when the stars were first starting to light.

Or, you can read of a simple coyote who had a most improbable adventure.

All part of your universe, brought to you by... well, some say by nothing at all.

Things I'm Prepared To Overlook

Unfit Sticks:

Chesterton wrote that many people seemed to feel that any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with: for example, that it produced such meek people (like monks), but also that it produced such warlike people (such as Richard the Lionheart). It was at once an unmanning religion, and a religion that had filled the world with blood.

So, here is a list of sticks that we won't be using to beat our ideological opponents in the White House:

1) 'All Male' sports games. Yes, it's true that 'relationships are formed' at these games, and that those relationships have effects beyond the arena of sports.

It's also true that everyone likes some people and doesn't like others. They enjoy spending time with some kinds of folks, and not with other kinds. Finally, it's true that being forced to spend time with people you don't really like won't improve your view of them.

If he doesn't like you enough to invite you along, you're better off with "no relationship" to him than the kind of "relationship" that will develop if he's forced to take you along to satisfy his critics. Your choice isn't between being ignored and being 'one of the boys.' It's between being ignored and being hated. Life's just unfair that way.

Don't feel bad. He wouldn't like me either.

2) "Date Night" with his wife. The US military asks some of its fine soldiers to leave their families for as long as fifteen months -- but not four years. The Presidency is a marathon, and personal feelings about the occupant aside, he'll need his wife.

3) Playing a lot of golf. Honestly, why is anyone on the right upset about this? Play golf every day, if you want. The more golf he plays, the fewer hours he's spending pushing his legislative agenda on us. We should be trying to find him new and exciting places to play.

I know that a lot of the criticism is coming from the perspective of his dithering on Afghanistan, but that's really a separate issue. If he were spending more time in the office, he wouldn't be spending it on Afghanistan, because he isn't particularly interested in Afghanistan. That's not to say he doesn't care about the people involved, just that he doesn't really care about the outcome of the war. He's not really even sure what he wants to accomplish there, and is trying to find any way he can just to make the issue go away so he can concentrate on what he really wants to do. No, he'd be spending those extra hours on health care: that's where his mind is focused.

Aside from that, though, the thing is -- this happens every Presidency. Remember the early stories about Bush, and how many 'vacations' he took? And by the end of it, his hair was white.

Demotivators Contest:

Cass is running a military demotivator contest for VALOUR-IT week. Here are my two entries.

"Embracing the Suck" Category:

"Interservice Snark" Category:

And remember: donate Team Marine Corps!

Third Position on Afghan

An Emerging Third Position on Afghanistan:

I normally don't post here about stuff I write for BLACKFIVE, as the purposes of the blogs are very different. However, since this is VALOUR-IT week, some additional military content is probably called for by the occasion.

Speaking of VALOUR-IT, Cassandra's father has promised to match ten $100 contributions. I don't know if any of you has a hundred bucks to spare, with economic times being hard for everyone and unlikely to improve any time soon; but it's a very kind offer, and I wanted you to be aware of it in case you happened to have the means and the wish to contribute.


The OK Corral:

Our friend Lars Walker reminds us that we have just passed the day that in 1881 saw the most famous gunfight in American history. I've written about the subject several times in the past (and offered additional asides, like this one), so I won't test your patience with another version of the story. I will, however, give you a sense of the glorious treatment the man received in the 1950s:

"The West it was lawless, but one man was flawless, and his is the story you'll hear. Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold! Long live his fame, and long live his glory, and long may his story be told!"

Sound too shrill? Remember this study:

Many years ago, a team of researchers at the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota decided to put [a theory that religion was linked to mental illness] to the test. They studied certain fringe religious groups, such as fundamentalist Baptists, Pentecostalists and the snake-handlers of West Virginia, to see if they showed the particular type of psychopathology associated with mental illness. Members of mainstream Protestant churches from a similar social and financial background provided a good control group for comparison. Some of the wilder fundamentalists prayed with what can only be described as great and transcendental ecstasy, but there was no obvious sign of any particular psychopathology among most of the people studied. After further analysis, however, there appeared a tendency to what can only be described as mental instability in one particular group. The study was blinded, so that most of the research team involved with questionnaires did not have access to the final data. When they were asked which group they thought would show the most disturbed psychopathology, the whole team identified the snake-handlers. But when the data were revealed, the reverse was true: there was more mental illness among the conventional Protestant churchgoers - the "extrinsically" religious - than among the fervently committed.
The control group were the psycopaths. Interesting fact, I think: it is important to dare to believe, and enough to let that belief move you. It seems to purify. It matters that we have a vision of the right in the part of our heart that heeds myth, even if we can see the ways the truth fell short in the part of our minds that does reason.

Wyatt Earp is mentioned on that page too, as it happens -- in an old post about something Peggy Noonan once wrote. You can find it if you're curious.

How Bad?

How Badly Are Our Federal Entitlements Underfunded?

This badly:

* By 2050, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (health care for the poor) will consume nearly the entire federal budget.

* By 2082, Medicare spending alone will consume nearly the entire federal budget.
...and look at the scale on the two big ones:
* By 2020, in addition to payroll taxes and premiums, Social Security and Medicare will require more than one in four federal income tax dollars.

* By 2030, about the midpoint of the baby boomer retirement years, the programs will require nearly half of all income tax dollars.

*By 2060, they will require nearly three out of four income tax dollars.
Don't worry, though. The CBO thinks we can handle it if we roughly triple marginal tax rates -- assuming that corporations and the rich don't decide they'd prefer to live in Trinidad or something; and assuming that they continue to be able to produce new jobs and keep the economy afloat with, say, a sixth of their current profits. I'd say "the government can just provide us with jobs" except, of course, that they won't have any money left: anyone not working for the Social Security Administration, Medicare, or the IRS will pretty much be out of work, including the entire Armed Forces and Federal police agencies. Well, except the ones that go after tax cheats -- we'll have to find a way to fund them somehow.

What Plan?

What Plan Are You Talking About?

The administration uses a strange sort of pincer attack in pushing its agenda. On the one hand, for example, the Obama administration has offered nothing concrete in terms of actual health care legislation:

...“I called him,” said Stupak. “I called the president--had a discussion with the president. And I read exactly what you just said. And he said: ‘What it says is “under my plan”’—meaning the president’s plan. And I said: ‘With all due respect, sir, you do not have a plan. The only plan we have out is the House plan.’ So, I don’t know if it is a game of semantics or what.”
This lack-of-concreteness has been used on several occasions by defenders of the President. When we talk about things we'd like not to see in any plan -- I've seen this tactic fielded on Afghanistan, too, where the President also has no plan -- we're told that any objections are 'lies about my plan' or 'chasing pink elephants' because the President has written no plan. So that's pincer one: you can't attack my plan, because there's nothing to attack.

Pincer two: ...and the time for debate is over.

So, you can't attack the plan because it doesn't exist yet. And we can't debate what the plan shouldn't include, because the time for debate is over. We must adopt my plan that doesn't exist right now!

It's almost clever, since it really does make it hard to debate the President on anything. Of course, the flaw in the plan is that someone else becomes the voice of your ideas.

UPDATE: Or possibly there just is no plan for anything at all.... (h/t InstaPundit.)

Air Force != Foxhole

Christopher Hitchens on Believers:

The great atheist has some kind words for his debate partners, particularly in the South.

I have discovered that the so-called Christian right is much less monolithic, and very much more polite and hospitable, than I would once have thought, or than most liberals believe.
He hasn't changed his mind; but who expected he would? Good lad, though. However, he makes one odd remark in defense of 'secularism':
And don't tell me that warfare increases faith and that there are no unbelievers in foxholes: Only recently I was invited to a very spirited meeting of the freethinkers' group at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where there has been a revolt against on-campus proselytizing by biblical-literalist instructors.
I'm sure you were, sir; but the Air Force has what to do with foxholes?

VALOUR-IT Challenge

VALOUR-IT Challenge:

Cassandra has asked me to join her effort to raise funds for the Marine Corps team in the VALOUR-IT challenge. I warned her that I doubted my contribution would be that impressive, since I imagine all of you already read her own site, and she is much more charming and likely to persuade you all to part with cash. Nevertheless, she insisted, and it is a highly noble and worthy effort.

I imagine that you are all quite familiar with VALOUR-IT at this point, but in case any of you are not, it stands for "Voice Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops." The effort began when a military officer named Chuck Ziegenfuss suffered injuries from an IED in Iraq. His sense of disconnection from family and friends, at a very hard moment of his life, sparked the idea of trying to find a way to connect injured troops with those who love them. Because hands may be bandaged or too injured to use, voice-activated software on laptops allows these troops to email family and keep up with them from their hospital bed, which may be far from home.

Chuck says today:

This means that for the 238,000,000 American Citizens out there who've never served a day in uniform, today's freedom costs you only $.004. That's less than half a cent apiece. That tiny amount would net VALOUR-IT over $1 million, and fund over 1000 laptops. It would give us the purchasing power to make real deals with computer companies (Dell, HP, etc.) If however, you'd like to contribute more than your Fair Share (TM), that is always welcome, since as we all know, there's something like 100 million deadbeats and dole-takers out there

Something like 25,000 Service members have been wounded in combat. Of those, most were wounds to extremities. They've given their contribution, how about you?

I don't want any donations based on guilt or pity, you can keep that money. If you have any money in the kitty designated as "Worthy cause to Help a wounded service member" that money is welcome.

But honestly, the most important thing you can do is reach out to the 237,999,998 Americans who don't read this blog.
I'm sure there's more than a hundred million deadbeats and dole-takers, but also that none of you are among them.

If you wish to find more inspiration, read of the love of a Marine Rifleman (but I repeat myself) and his woman, who wants you to know how proud she is.
Late October Grass:

North Korea

A Much Better Article from the Times:

Travelogues to North Korea are always interesting:

We went to endless museums and parks but were sternly instructed not to speak to any locals. We took meals at restaurants where we were the only customers, and the food seemed to come from the same Western-facsimile kitchen: bread with swirls, bland fried flounder, mayonnaise-based salad served in a martini glass. Finally my mother, weary of the utter weirdness of the place, told our tour guide in Korean that we needed to try some real North Korean food.

It was indeed announced one day that for lunch we would have a traditional clam bulgogi, clam barbecue. The bus took us to a gorgeous area in the mountains, complete with a waterfall and a tranquil pool. People were already there having their own picnic on the sandy beach. Our picnic was set up on a rocky ledge on the other side, but the water was irresistible in the heat, and some of us gravitated there. Oddly, our handlers said nothing, even though normally they were alert as sheepdogs to anyone wandering off and earlier in the day an unauthorized photo incident caused upset all around.

To get to the beach, you walked a path where a young boy sat painting a picture of the waterfall — it was almost too picturesque. The locals had spread out a feast of kimchi, bulgogi, mounds of fat purple grapes, cold bottles of beer. Soon some of the picnickers were cheerily exhorting us to join them, even picking up food with chopsticks and depositing it straightaway in people’s mouths. Beer was poured; songs were sung. It was the first time I’d seen North Koreans smile wide, toothy grins.

After a while the tour guide sauntered over and reminded us that we weren’t supposed to talk to locals. She didn’t sound convinced of her own words. I suddenly started to see everything anew. Why were the picnickers here in the middle of the workday? Why was their food, those perfect pyramids of fruit, untouched before they pulled us over? Even the boy; I peered at his easel as I walked back and saw he was using a kind of paint-by-numbers kit.
That's just amazing to think about.



This article is almost useless except that it points you in the direction of the controversy. If it causes you to be curious, you now know to go find something better on the subject.

One side of the controversy is 'traditional' historians, represented by a single figure who bases his numbers 'on chronicles he considers to be broadly accurate.' A reporter should tell the reader which chronicles he means, and why he thinks they are accurate, since the whole point of the article is that other historians are suggesting revised numbers. It wouldn't take more than a couple of sentences to sketch the position. The revisionist side gets that kind of a sketch -- the reporter cites the types of evidence they are considering, along with a few of their reasons. The piece is as one-sided as the Times' political analysis. Is the Times so anti-tradition that it just assumes that the traditionalists are always wrong, in history as in politics, in academics as in culture?

The Times reporter does find it interesting that "a new science of military history" is making revisions to current Army doctrine. I don't know what he means by 'a new science of military history,' since military history is neither new (anyone heard of Thucydides?) nor a science. History is one of the liberal arts; nor should anyone who cares about history wish to clump it in with such "disciplines" as sociology or the other so-called "social sciences." Better to be an honest art than a fake science!

I'm glad to say that the Army got better advice from its experts than the Times manages to produce here:

The Hundred Years’ War never made it into the [US Army COIN] field manual — the name itself may have served as a deterrent — but after sounding numerous cautions on the vast differences in time, technology and political aims, historians working in the area say that there are some uncanny parallels with contemporary foreign conflicts.

For one thing, by the time Henry landed near the mouth of the Seine on Aug. 14, 1415, and began a rather uninspiring siege of a town called Harfleur, France was on the verge of a civil war, with factions called the Burgundians and the Armagnacs at loggerheads. Henry would eventually forge an alliance with the Burgundians, who in today’s terms would become his “local security forces” in Normandy, and he cultivated the support of local merchants and clerics, all practices that would have been heartily endorsed by the counterinsurgency manual.
The Hundred Years War wasn't a counterinsurgency; it was the clash of two early states. A key fact of the war, unlike modern conflicts, was the power of fortification. Whereas today it is nearly impossible for an enemy army to fortify itself so as to be impossible to attack, the technology of the period made it quite possible to build an impregnable castle. Even cities could be fortified to such a degree that they could stand off an army for weeks or months.

Thus, one of the reason we so often find exhausted English armies having to fight superior French numbers is that the English were required to deal with these fortifications. One tactic was the long siege, during which your forces in the field grew weaker while the enemy elswhere could prepare an army to bring against you. Another tactic was the chevauchee, a brutal march through the countryside, burning and laying waste to such a degree that the French could no longer afford to remain behind their walls. The chevauchee in particular looks nothing like modern COIN methods; intentionally laying waste to the countryside in order to bring the enemy to battle is the perfect opposite of what the US Army manual advises.

Leaving that aside, though, it is true that the two campaigns both featured allies and attempts to persuade those with money or power to support your side. They both also featured violence and death, so I suppose that really, the two conflicts were exactly the same.

Other than that, though, the article is fine.

UPDATE: Actually, re-reading the article, it's still not fine. Re: "...after sounding numerous cautions on the vast differences in time, technology and political aims, historians working in the area say that there are some uncanny parallels..."

Apparently the author decided he wasn't interested in what the historians actually wanted to say, which was the part about numerous cautions on vast differences in time, technology, and political aims. Rather, he wanted to impose a story that there were "uncanny parallels" with today in order to make the piece interesting for average readers and not just history buffs. He elides past everything useful they actually said -- probably including some of the very issues raised above -- in order to get to the slight parallel that they finally admitted to after the "numerous cautions."