Memorial Day Weekend

I want to wish all of you a happy Memorial Day weekend.  I continue to be rather ill this weekend, and thus must regret that I am unable to do due honor to those who ought to be remembered.  However, my good brothers at BLACKFIVE are busy.

All the best to all of you, as you remember.  By coincidence tomorrow is the Feast of Pentecost; I will try to have something for that.  Otherwise, you may not see much of me for a few more days.

A Glimpse of the Death of the Law

There's either a lot to be said about this story, or almost nothing.  I'm going to go with the latter because a lot of ink has been spilled on it today, and maybe you should just read it if you haven't so far.

I'll say only three things.

Knowingly falsely sending a SWAT team to someone's house should be prosecuted as attempted murder.  The team in this case was apparently entirely professional, and nobody got hurt:  but things turn out otherwise so often when such teams are used that we ought to prosecute it as an attempt to kill the target.  In the case that someone is actually killed by one of these false reports, it should be prosecuted as premeditated murder.

One of the things I did in the war that I feel best about was that, for a while toward the end of my time there, the intel shop would ask me before executing raids on tribal targets for whom they had actionable intelligence.  Very often I could talk them through how the 'informant' proved to be from another tribe with an active beef, while the target of the raid was a highly ranked member of the tribe to be raided.  If they could talk us into it, we would detain or kill one of their enemy's key leaders, while also driving a wedge between US forces and their enemy tribe.  That was very hard to do, though, and there's no reason to believe it can be replicated here. We really need to rethink whether having so many SWAT teams in America is a good idea, or whether commando-style teams ought to be used for so many purposes.  Now that this firewall has been breached, and the tactic has made it here, we need to give careful thought to where, and indeed to whether, such a team is really appropriate.

Finally, Patterico has a screen capture of a message from one of his enemies.  Allow me to suggest that the wrong part is bolded.

That is not the worst-case scenario.  The worst-case scenario is that you convince ordinary reasonable and rational people that the law can no longer protect decent people, but that the courts have been captured to serve the interests of the wicked.  This is a very high-risk strategy, and not only for the people engaged in it.

If it becomes widely used it also represents a potentially fatal risk to the authority of the courts.  Jurists and legislators had better find a way to take this threat seriously, and institute controls to prevent their institutions being captured for such purposes.


The following is a South Korean training video.  It shows some remarkable infantry tactics, a kind of update of ancient infantry tactics.  South Korean protests get rather unruly, as the video may suggest.

Note the flanking maneuver from 2:33-3:20 or  so, where a wing of the enemy is cut off and destroyed (presumably in this case, they would merely be arrested).  Also the use of a kind of pure-infantry bounding overwatch from 5:30-7:00.  This allows them to advance against significant resistance, including incendiaries, and capture territory while maintaining formation.

Malum in Se

Cassandra has a post by this title today, treating some of the abuses currently coming to light.  It is starting to seem like there is a new example every day.  I hope she is right that people of good will can come together.

The Real Numbers

USA Today has been on this story for years, and they deserve credit for continuing to make the point and bring it back around to our attention every so often.  One of the things that a robust journalism should do is bring these kinds of major national issues to our attention when the powerful are trying to hide the scale of the problem.

If you applied corporate accounting rules to Federal spending, we'd see that our current budget deficit is over five trillion dollars a year.  To balance the budget at current spending rates, the average American family would need to fork over almost its entire income in Federal tax alone.

That doesn't speak to the state crises, which are not limited to California.  This is just the Federal problem.

However, that's just the scale for this year.  Look at the bigger picture:
Federal debt and retiree commitments equal $561,254 per household. By contrast, an average household owes a combined $116,057 for mortgages, car loans and other debts.
Well, so the average American household is $677,000 in debt.  What's the average net worth of an American household?  It's a lot higher than I would have thought -- $434,000 and change.  (The median net worth is much closer to what I would have expected, but there are a certain number of very rich people out there).

So that's just an extra $137,000 that the average household needs to earn in its lifetime, and things will be ducky.  (That is, the $561,000 in 'extra' debt you don't know you have, minus average net worth, which already considers the average $116,000 in ordinary debt.)  After you fork that over, you can start getting ahead.

Arming Law-Enforcement Drones

A deputy sheriff in Texas has a suggestion:  how about we arm drones with rubber bullets and tear gas?

Charles Krauthammer has a response:

Oh, wait, sorry.  Mr. Krauthammer's actual wording can be read here.

The Problem of Disgust

Some time ago we talked about Dr. Martha Nussbaum's thoughts on disgust.  We shouldn't allow disgust to be a standard for making laws, she says, because it is an irrational standard, and it leaves us likely to pass unfair laws discriminating against people whom we (irrationally) find disgusting.
What she's really arguing is that feelings of the type broadly called disgust are often purely irrational, and not therefore good reasons for rules. Why not? A minimum standard for 'a good reason' is that it should be based on reason, which by definition isn't purely irrational. Indeed, most modern thinkers would say it should be purely rational -- but I don't think that's right, for as we've discussed, the ancient notion of reason was able to embrace both the true and the beautiful.... 
The feeling of disgust does occur in children learning about sex, and also in India when some castes ponder the untouchables, and also in a wide variety of other cases. Some of this may be purely irrational; other things (like the reaction when seeing a person with a serious deformity) has an underlying reason we can grasp (a revulsion of that type might have helped our ancestors avoid a serious disease), but it is one that is irrelevant or useless in modern life. Furthermore, in acting out of disgust of this type, we are failing to treat those people who are 'untouchable' or afflicted with a deformity with the respect due to human beings. 
That far, at least, her argument is surely a reasonable one: indeed, it's an argument which is wholly compatible with what the Judeo-Christian ethos that the reviewer is defending. This very principle is what took saints in to live among lepers. 
The problem with following her approach is that disgust -- pure or otherwise -- is a powerful motivator.  It's a thing like pain in that it creates an aversion in the person experiencing it.  To license it is to put a powerful weapon in the hands of the kind of bullies that occupy too much of our public space.

Today's example comes from Hustler magazine, which took a photograph of a young conservative journalist named S. E. Cupp and modified it in a way clearly designed to disgust her -- most people would be disgusted by being portrayed this way in public, in any case.  The text accompanying the photo clearly label it as not a real photograph of her, so there's probably no legal way to act against the magazine; the text also makes clear that they are doing this to punish her for her political opinions.

It is not only women who are treated this way (although as Hot Air points out, Playboy did much the same thing in 2009).  We remember the case of 'Rick Santorum's Google problem,' in which a gay rights activist (and bully) decided to disgust the Santorums by linking their name to a filthy substance associated with homosexual acts.  This was also a use of disgust to punish political opinions.

The old saying that 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me' isn't entirely false, but it isn't entirely true either.  Many people of good will are also of sensitive natures, who see the disgusting things being done and would never want it to be done to them.  So, they will stay quiet and keep their heads down -- which is just what the bullies want.  S. E. Cupp is surely brave enough to face it down, as Rick Santorum was, but the example of what was done to them will quiet others.  Those others have every right to be in the public space as well.

Dr. Nussbaum intended for her idea to have a humane effect on the law and the public space.  I cannot agree that the effect will be anything of the sort.  If anything, we are already too far in that direction.  There ought to be a mechanism for replying to bullies of this sort.  We need a strong enough medicine that it convinces them to do what decency would compel, had not they been born without it.

Dawsonville Pool Room Update

FOX News came out to Dawsonville last week to report on the outrageous seizure of the Dawsonville Pool Room.  [UPDATE:  News video now below the fold to speed page loading times.--Grim]

There are several things that make this a travesty.

1)  That the crime has been fully prosecuted, so that the identity of the actual guilty party is known, and restitution ought to be his responsibility accordingly;

2)  That the owner of the Dawsonville Pool Room is fully compliant in helping the law enforcement agencies;

3)  That he has even been trying to "pay" the "debt," although the fact is that Georgia had licensed the accountant that defrauded the owner (and robbed Georgia of its tax revenues), which means that Georgia bears at least as much responsibility for the "debt" as he does;

4)  And thus that therefore Georgia is punishing a man who is, properly speaking, a crime victim.  The state ought to protect its citizens when they are victimized by criminals, not exploit them;

and furthermore,

5)  That destroying a functional business in the middle of a recession, shuttering its doors under arms and seizing every dime of cash with gun in hand, was a thing better fit for bandits than anyone who would claim to be a man of the law.

Where are the waitresses going to find work now?  How is the government going to get its money by killing the goose that lays the golden egg?

UPDATE:  This post has been substantially revised from its first version, because I was angry when I wrote the first version.  I think substantial anger is justified by this case, but I wish to ensure that I don't lash out at those -- like FOX News -- who are merely bringing attention to the injustice.

Medieval Spain

This is a remarkable and pleasant documentary, which I encountered while doing some research on the Spanish crusades.  I suppose it should be said that it ends on a bad note, but aside from the last five minutes or so, it's a truly enjoyable film.  [UPDATE:  The movie has been moved below the fold.--Grim]

Part of it quotes the Rule of St. Benedict, which requires monks to sleep with robes and cord-belts about them, so that they are "always ready" to rise and do God's work.  Sir Robert Baden-Powell invented a fictional "Knight's Code" for the Boy Scouts, which encoded the principle of semper paratus:
Be always ready with your armor on, except when you are taking your rest at night.
Defend the poor, and help them that cannot defend themselves.
Do nothing to hurt or offend anyone alse.
Be prepared to fight in the defense of your country.
At whatever you are working, try to win honor and a name for honesty.
Never break your promise.
Maintain the honor of your country with your life.
Rather die honest than live shamelessly.
Chivalry requires that youth should be trained to perform the most laborious and humble offices with cheerfulness and grace; and to do good unto others.
It turns out that the principle is as well rooted in the monastic tradition as in the knightly one.


Niall Ferguson wonders after the majesty of a jubilee:
A hundred years ago, the seemingly immortal Emperor Franz Josef was approaching his 82nd birthday. This year Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, meaning that she has reigned since 1952. A sprightly 86, she has acquired precisely the same air of immortality as the old Habsburg Emperor (to whom she is no doubt distantly related). 
Last week I watched an astonishing number of bandsmen in bearskin hats and bright red tunics rehearsing for the jubilee celebrations, which culminate next month. Stuck in the resulting traffic, I had time to ponder why, at a time of deep cuts in defense spending, Britain can still afford the world’s finest military bands. 
“Austerity” has become the watchword of David Cameron’s premiership as he grapples with the huge deficits run up by his Labour predecessors. Yet there is nothing austere about the Diamond Jubilee. On June 3, according to the official website, “Up to a thousand boats will muster on the river as the Queen prepares to lead one of the largest flotillas ever seen on the River Thames.”
Don't hold it against him that he doesn't cite Kipling.  It's a proof of the thing he is worried about that he doesn't know to cite it.
God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget! 
The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget! 
Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget! 
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget! 
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Talking Blues, Scottish Style, in Australia

The important line is this poem:  "Whar Stands Scotland Now?  Stands it Whar it Used To?  Whar Stands Scotland Now?  Stands it Whar it Could Do?"

As to which, I honestly don't know how Scotland came to this.  If there was ever a people who seemed to have a hearty national sense for vengeance -- Nemo Me Impune Lacessit!  -- surely it was the Scots.  If that can be lost, all can be lost.

"The First 9/11"

This is really impressive stuff, WaPo.
On Sept. 11, 1857, a wagon train from this part of Arkansas met with a gruesome fate in Utah, where most of the travelers were slaughtered by a Mormon militia in an episode known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Hundreds of the victims’ descendants still populate these hills and commemorate the killings, which they have come to call “the first 9/11.”  Many of the locals grew up hearing denunciations of Mormonism from the pulpit on Sundays, and tales of the massacre from older relatives who considered Mormons “evil.”
Wow, those evil Mormons.  I guess they were the first terrorists, huh?  Well, it turns out -- deep in the article, buried on the second page -- that there's a little backstory that didn't make the first dozen paragraphs.
The massacre was an anomaly for the church, because it was Mormons who were more likely to be targeted in the early days of their religion, which was founded in the 1830s and 1840s.

Hot Air notices the story.  One of their comments asks:  

"What about the Dorn/Ayers militia from 30 yrs ago?"

That's just crazy talk.

A Precedent for that California Problem

Apparently this massive-debt-default situation has come around before... oddly enough, also in Greece. has the article (h/t Medieval News).  An heir to the disputed throne of Byzantium asked the army assembled for the Fourth Crusade to assist him in claiming that throne.  In return, he promised a lavish payment as well as substantial military support during the Crusade.

Soon after becoming Alexos IV, however, it proved that the newly-made emperor could not pay up.  So...
The crusaders’ only concern was to extract every penny of the money due to them. When, after mid-November 1203, Alexios IV began to cool in his attitude towards the crusaders and made only token payments to them, the crusading leaders, according to Villehardouin, ‘often sent to him [Alexios IV] and asked him for the payment of the moneys due, as he had covenanted’. Similarly, Robert of Clari records that the crusading leaders twice ‘asked the emperor for their payment’. In early December, after the flow of funds had ceased altogether, the barons finally decided to send envoys to Alexios to ask him to honour their contract, otherwise the crusaders ‘would seek their due by any means they could’. One of the emissaries sent to the imperial palace was Villehardouin. According to his first-hand account, upon admission to the audience chamber, the crusader envoys demanded that the emperor fulfil his commitments to the crusaders. If he failed to do so, the crusaders would ‘strive to obtain their due by all the means they could’. The rank- and-file crusaders were not ignorant of this ultimatum. Robert of Clari records that ‘all the counts and leaders of the army gathered and went to the emperor’s palace and demanded their money at once … [I]f he did not pay them, they would seize so much of his property that they would be paid’.
He did not pay, and a little capitalist "creative destruction" followed.

Unfortunately, though the debt was recouped, the destruction of Constantinople severely weakened what had been a fortification against Islamic expansion from the East.  The Greeks continued to hold sway for another two hundred and fifty years, but never so strongly as they had before.  Eventually, the rising Turkish power swept them away.

The fiscal catastrophe that dwarfs Greece

What happens when you share a currency with a political unit in a fiscal shambles?  No, I don't mean Greece:
So JPMorgan makes a $2 billion mistake -- less than 7 percent of their 2011 earnings -- with their own money, and senators are calling for hearings. The California's governor's office raised its 2012 budget deficit projections -- namely their overspending of public money -- almost 50 percent, from $9.2 billion to $16 billion, an error of almost eight percent of the state's total budget, in four months, yet those same members of Congress remain as silent as a Trappist monk.
H/t Maggie's Farm