A Bet:

A Bet:

I have placed a friendly wager with a young liberal of my association on the outcome of the upcoming Presidential election. I am offering her 2-1 on this proposition, which is probably still theft on my part, but is better than she asked.

Proposition: Howard Dean will be elected President of the United States in 2004.

Forfeit if the proposition is true: I will provide the girl in question a week's worth of Slurpees and nachos, and donate $60 US Dollars to the charity of her choice, i.e., AllBreed Pet Rescue. (An aside--these are good people who do good work, and I should be only too happy to donate to them in any case.)

Forfeit if the proposition is false: She will provide me with a week's worth of beer, and furthermore, she will donate $30 to the charity of my choice, i.e., The National Rifle Association.

We shall see how it plays out. As soon as the results are in, I'll post a note on the blog to let you know who's paying up.

RICHARD B. MYERS, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Holiday Message 2003

Holiday Message:

Holiday Message from the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:

For generations, US Service men and women and government civilians have spent the holiday season far from loved ones, so that all Americans can celebrate the peace, prosperity and liberty that our Armed Forces have fought to protect.

Today, you continue to keep steadfast watch across the globe, from bases on land, planes overhead, and aboard ships at sea; from distant, remote locations, and within our own borders.

During this holiday season, the United States is asking much of you -- and you are responding with a strong sense of duty, a willingness to give up personal comfort for the greater good, and the professionalism that has earned our military services honor and respect throughout the world. It is never easy to be away from home, but especially during the holiday season, the courage, patriotism and unconditional support of families and loved ones mean so very much.

Your service and the sacrifices of your families come at a crucial moment in our Nation's history. Your dedicated work is making the world a better, safer, and more peaceful place. I am inspired by your character and courage, and am extremely proud to serve with you. The Joint Chiefs of Staff join me in sending to you and your families our very warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Message received. Happy New Year.

FT December 2003: Opinion: Johnny of the Cross

Johnny Cash:

Without doubt, the greatest American artist to die this year was Johnny Cash. Here find a moving elegy to him, "Johnny of the Cross". It may be the best thing I've ever read about the man.

On his final album, he was teaching us how to die. And in a culture that by and large loves death but does not know what to do with it--a culture simultaneously repulsed and attracted by i--Johnny's confrontation with his own imminent demise was largely misunderstood. The critics who complained that his voice was not what it used to be missed the point entirely. It is precisely because his voice was not what it used to be that the songs have such power. The beauty of the record lies in that very frailty, the tremolo in his voice that became more pronounced with each album. Even in his younger days, the inimitable strength and fortitude in his voice was mixed with the occasional moment of weakness, the odd quaver and show of vulnerability. In the last few years those moments became more frequent, and his voice became more diaphonous, disclosing more of the effects of illness.

Yet for that very reason, Cash's voice was all the more beautiful--it had a weakness stronger than others' strengths.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily.



The FBI has released an unclassified, but redacted, version of its audit on intelligence sharing with other counterterrorist agencies (PDF warning):

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has established as its highest priority the prevention of terrorist attacks on the United States. The accomplishment of this critical national security mission requires the FBI to collect, analyze, and appropriately disseminate intelligence and other information needed to disrupt or defeat terrorist activities. However, in the past, Congressional inquiries concerning the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, reports of commissions examining terrorism before and since September 11, and Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports have suggested various weaknesses in the FBI's ability to effectively carry out the vital intelligence component of its counterterrorism program.

As a result, the OIG initiated this audit to review the FBI's progress in addressing deficiencies in the FBI's intelligence-sharing capabilities that the FBI, Congress, the OIG, and others identified subsequent to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

One of the big problems found? When they share information with local police, it ends up in the paper the next day. The local cops are so excited at getting a piece of highly important FBI information, they can't keep their lips together. Exhibit A seems to be those almanacs. What was perhaps a useful piece of intelligence is now being reported even in Pakistani newspapers.

The Feast of Stephen

The Feast of Stephen:

Another holiday tradition, this one not even two hundred years old, is the song "Good King Wenceslas":

Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel.
Hither, page, and stand by me,
If though know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?"
Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes' fountain."
Bring me flesh, and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither;
Thou and I will see him dine,
When we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went,
Forth they went together;
Thro' the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather.
Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
Mark my footsteps, my good page;
Tread thou in them boldly;
Though shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possesing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourself find blessing.
The good reader will now ask, of course, who this King Wenceslas was. The particularly astute reader will wonder who St. Stephen was, that his Feast directly follows Christmas. Both questions are answered; follow the links, if you like.

Another Poem

Another Christmas Poem:

This one from Blackfive.

Waes Hael!

Waes Hael!

If you missed it yesterday, a Yuletide tradition explained.

Waes Hael! Drinc Hael! Merry Christmas, and a fine Yuletide to you all.

And Since We're Doing King Alfred:

And Since We're Doing King Alfred:

From The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton:

Then Alfred laughed out suddenly,
Like thunder in the spring,
Till shook aloud the lintel-beams,
And the squirrels stirred in dusty dreams,
And the startled birds went up in streams,
For the laughter of the King.

And the beasts of the earth and the birds looked down,
In a wild solemnity,
On a stranger sight than a sylph or elf,
On one man laughing at himself
Under the greenwood tree--

The giant laughter of Christian men
That roars through a thousand tales,
Where greed is an ape and pride is an ass,
And Jack's away with his master's lass,
And the miser is banged with all his brass,
The farmer with all his flails;

Tales that tumble and tales that trick,
Yet end not all in scorning--
Of kings and clowns in a merry plight,
And the clock gone wrong and the world gone right,
That the mummers sing upon Christmas night
And Christmas Day in the morning.

A Christmas Poem

A Christmas Poem:

"The Knight Before Christmas"
by Robert L. Sheridan
(which I assume he won't mind me sharing, since he posted it on the internet)

'Twas the knight biforn Christmas, whan al thrugh the castle
Nat a creature was stirring, nat even a vassal;
The gauntlets were hung by the hearth with care,
In fear that the Saxons soon wouldst be ther;
The knights were nestled al snug in their bedst,
Whilst visions of battles dancest in their heeds;
And Guenevere in her silver wimple, and I in my helm,
Hadde joust settled adoun for a long winter's realm,
Whenst outen on the motte ther arose swich a clatter,
I sprang from the bedst to see what wast the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a turncoat,
Tore out the bars and threw them into the moat.
The moon on the breast of the fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to the serfs living below,
Whenst, what to my wandering eyes should appear - much to my chagrin,
But a battering ram, and eight mean lookyng Saxons,
With a leader, whose terror was so widespread,
I knew in a moment it must be King Alfred.
Moore rapid than boiling oil his soldiers they came,
And he yelled, and shouted, and called hem by nempne;
"Now Botolph! now, Clough!, now Fulke and Heaton!
Onst, Hurst! on Ockley! on Ramsden and Waldgrave!
To the edge of the moat! thurgh the moat!
Now bash away, bash away! bash away al!"
Ast Saxon's that er the winds fly,
Whan hem meetest with an obstacle, mounteth to the sly,
So up to the castle-gate the Saxon-mother's-sons they flewest,
With an assortment of weapons, and King Alfred tooest.
And tho, in a instant, I heard by the castle-gate, the horde
The chopping and hacking of each Saxon's sword.
As I drew my sword, and was trilling around,
Downed the castle-gate King Alfred came liketh a hound.
He was dressed all in chain mail, from his feete to his garrote,
And his chain mail was all rusted from coming thrugh the moat;
A sack of pilfered goodst he had flung on his back,
And he looketh lyk a smuggler joust closing his pack.
His eyes -- how they scowled! his warts how dreary!
His cheeks were lyk haymows, his nose lyk quiteth beery!
His troll lite mouth was drawn up like a crossbow,
And the beard of chin was the colour of soot on the snow;
The stump of a small tree he held tighteth in his teethe,
And the roots it hidde his face, it caused me to grief;
He had a rude face and a bigeth belly,
That shooketh, whenst he laughed atte me, lyk a bowlful of jelly,
He was grubby and quite a lump, a right grievous old elf,
And I laughed when I nicked him, in spite of myself;
In a blinketh of an eye, and a thwart of my deeds,
Anon gave me to knoweth I had been sullied;
He spoketh hou a word, but went bak to his thieving,
And took all the gauntlets; which caused me muche peeving,
And laying his sword aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, out the castle-gate he fled -- unopposed;
He sprang to his horse, to his soldiers gave a yell,
And soone they flew -- they covered the grounds well.
But I herde him calleth, ere he rode out of sight,
"Thonke you for the Yuletide Gifts -- you good-knight!"



Another offers Christmas greetings--an Iraqi:

You see, Jesus (Issa in our language), is not only important to Christians, he (PBU) is also very important to us. Faith is a mystic experience: First there was Feeling, then was the Word and then was the World. In the Bible somewhere it says that Jesus said to his disciples that if they had even an atom of real faith they could move a mountain (Please help in locating the exact quote). This is the mystic essence of faith; anybody with sufficient faith can accomplish miracles. And true faith is a kind of ecstasy, a kind of elation; getting drunk with the heavenly wine.

The Pope

The Pope:

If you would like to read his homily, you can do so on the Vatican's official site. The closing verse includes this, which strikes me as magnificient:

O Holy Night, so long awaited, which has united God and man for ever! You rekindle our hope. You fill us with ecstatic wonder. You assure us of the triumph of love over hatred, of life over death.

For this reason we remain absorbed in prayer.



Reuters is a famously biased news service. Tonight's example is from the Pope's Midnight Mass at the Vatican:

"You come to bring us peace. You are our peace," he said in a homily that was mostly of religious content, recalling the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Mostly religious content, you say. On Christmas. From the Pope. Honestly.

Waes Hael!

Waes Hael!

We have been enjoying the Yuletide, but for many of us, the only real days of rest are Christmas itself, and perhaps the day after. For some of us, there are no days of rest. This year that is especially true for those defenders of our country, who in a desperate time guard against those who would murder our weakest. I salute my brothers in arms.

This is a time to renew our devotion to old traditions, both Christian and Heathen, as they together make up the Order of the West. Here are some thoughts on Pagan Yule traditions:

For the Vikings, the yule log was an integral part of their celebration of the solstice, the julfest; on the log they would carve runes representing unwanted traits (such as ill fortune or poor honor) that they wanted the gods to take from them.

Wassail comes from the Old English words waes hael, which means "be well," "be hale," or "good health." A strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices) would be put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with "waes hael," to which they would reply "drinc hael," which meant "drink and be well." Over the centuries some non-alcoholic versions of wassail evolved.

Waes Hael! We know the phrase thanks to Geoffrey of Monmoth's Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey attributed it to the Anglo-Saxons Hengst, Horsa, and Hengst's beautiful daughter Rowen, who caught the eye of Vortigern. That Vortigern is the same one you may have heard about, who according to Arthurian legend invited the Saxons to Britian, and then lost it to them.

The connection of the phrase "Waes Hael!" to Arthur continued into the 19th century. This is odd in a way, as Arthur was the enemy of the Saxons, and spoke Cymric or Latin. Still, poets who had read Geoffrey of Monmouth in their education put "Waes Hael" with Arthur, and Arthur with England. Thus Robert S. Hawker's "KING ARTHUR'S WAES-HAEL" which begins:

Waes-hael for knight and dame!
O! merry be their dole;
Drink-hael! in Jesu's name
We fill the tawny bowl;
But cover down the curving crest,
Mould of the orient lady's breast.
The proper answer to "Waes Hael!" was "Drinc Hael!" Sir Walter Scott knew that, and used the device in Ivanhoe in the encounter between Friar Tuck and a disguised King Richard Lionheart:
The hermit only replied by a grin; and returning to the hutch, he
produced a leathern bottle, which might contain about four
quarts. He also brought forth two large drinking cups, made out
of the horn of the urus, and hooped with silver. Having made
this goodly provision for washing down the supper, he seemed to
think no farther ceremonious scruple necessary on his part; but
filling both cups, and saying, in the Saxon fashion, "'Waes
hael', Sir Sluggish Knight!" he emptied his own at a draught.

"'Drink hael', Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst!" answered the warrior,
and did his host reason in a similar brimmer.

"Waes Hael" became "wassail!" in the Middle English, and there were a number of wassailing ceremonies practiced by the English. The word also became associated with several kinds of festive drinks, often mulled wine or hot, spiced ale. I myself recommend a touch of nutmeg and ginger in a good ale as a suitable wassail. You may heat it if you like--I prefer mine cold. Hot, spiced cider is a good alternative.

Waes Hael! Drinc Hael! Merry Christmas, and a fine Yuletide to you all. Let us gather in our halls and drink like men, to celebrate love and kinship, warmth, and the company of the brave.



From the glorious Allahpundit.



From The Command Post, which I finally got around to adding to my blogroll:

Part of discussion over Iraq between U.S. Ambassador in Egypt David Welch and some Al-Ahram Weekly journalists, as reported via FrontPage Magazine :
Nevine Khalil: And what if there is democracy in the region and the people decide to elect governments that are not friendly to the US? What would you do about that?

Welch: You mean like France?

Some Help He Could Do Without

Help He Could Do Without:

A publication has stepped forward to defend Howard Dean from the attacks of the "mainstream" press. I'm sure he will be grateful to his new best friend: The World Socialist Web Site.

How does that go again? "Better Dead than Red?" Nothing says "I am too part of the mainstream!" like a few kind words from the World Socialist.

Change of Command

Change of Command:

USCENTCOM has appointed a new ground commander in Afghaninstan, Lt. General David Barno. Barno, who was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame back in 1994, when he was a Lt. Colonel, seems like a good choice for the position and illustrates just how deep the talent pool is.

Gen. Barno says that his major effort is going to be improving security in the south and east, which includes Zabul province--readers of Grim's Hall have been following the situation in Zabul for months. It will be interesting to see what tactics he brings to the field. I wish him luck. We've had some successes there in the past, and I've been under the impression that we've been letting the Taliban gather in Zabul so we don't have to hunt them in Pakistan, destabilizing that state. However, the recent Operation Avelanche didn't meet with great success at all.



For political, this week, "The Politics of the Lord of the Rings". For non-political, this piece.

Speaking of International Law

Speaking of International Law:

It's worth recognizing that there is more than one Law on offer:

Members of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, who concluded their seven-day deliberations in Makkah yesterday, emphasized the need to remove the conditions that breed terrorism and extremism by implementing Shariah.
Worldwide Sha'ria is certainly being advocated by quite a few fellows as a competing model to whatever the EU will finally settle upon, if indeed they ever can settle. In fact, Sha'ria is a stronger candiate, as it is already an established system of law. Would this count as a "fair trial under international supervision"? I don't see why not.

Of course, those of us who would prefer to continue being consulted about the laws that govern us can support neither option. Sha'ria can't be changed by mortal man; and "international law" EU style creates foreign arbiters to overrule you. The Classical Liberal must fight both systems with whatever weapons fall to hand.

UPDATE: Apparently the USS Clueless has been on this theme too. I should get over there more often.

Some Misconceptions

Some Misconceptions:

I think it's about time that we pointed out a few problems with the prevailing theory of international law. Consider this statement by Saddam's daughter:

"Of course I don't think he would receive a fair trial" under the current regime, she said. "The interim government is not recognised by anyone in the Arab world.

"I want a fair trial under international supervision... This is a legitimate right of any human being," she said.
That is flatly not true. No one anywhere has a right to a trial under international supervision--and they never have. From the dawn of human history, justice has been local. It may be that we will someday build a system in which "a fair trial under international supervision" is indeed a right, although from a US perspective, this would be a step backwards. The "international community" is noted for having far less fair trials than we have already; adding an observer from Zimbabwe, or even Denmark, would not improve the situation.

Regardless, it must be recognized by "international law" advocates that what they are demanding is new. It represents a massive cessation of national authority--indeed, in many cases, of local authority. Most crimes in the USA, for example, are prosecuted by state governments and not the Federal government. One simply cannot assert that there is a "human right" here, when no such right has ever belonged to any human. If you want to build this system, you must first build an actual argument for why we should desire it. So far, I've not seen anything that would convince me that it was a good idea.

Another misconception, thanks to Michael Moore:

Thank God Saddam is finally back in American hands! He must have really missed us. Man, he sure looked bad! But, at least he got a free dental exam today. That's something most Americans can't get.
Again, this is flatly untrue. Saddam killed, at minimum, 300,000 Iraqis. Some put the number as high as a million.

Any American who wants a free dental exam can get it by killing just one American citizen. In fact, he can get free dental and health care, as well as free room and board, for his whole remaining life. So you see, Mr. Moore, Americans don't have to work nearly as hard as Saddam for these benefits; they can get them for an afternoon's work, rather than the work of three decades. Just lucky, I guess.

"Mr. Dean"

"Mr. Dean: Beyond the Mainstream":

I have never particularly liked the way that the top four or five US newspapers take it upon themselves to determine what constitutes "mainstream." The NY Times and the Washington Post are particularly frequent offenders. The reason it bothers me is this: All major newspapers are, for economic reasons, located in major cities. Major cities are, as we know from recent elections, the reform-liberal bastions of this country. The reason there are "blue states" at all is because of the cities located in the blue states. Attempting to gauge the "mainstream" from the heart of Washington, D.C., or Manhattan, is an act sure to fail.

However, for the above reason, it is almost always rightists who are declared Outside The Mainstream. Today, the Post made a declaration to the left. The same bias that causes centrist right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh to be put 'outside the mainstream' (which is laughable, given that his audience of American citizens far surpasses the Post's subscription base. You may not like him or agree with him, but by the clear evidence of his following he is at least as 'mainstream American' as the Post, and any argument to the contrary is self-delusion) suggests that anyone the Post finds out of the mainstream on the left is going to be pretty far left indeed.

So who is it? Why, Dr. Dean:

Yet there are important differences between the Democratic front-runner, Howard Dean, and the other five. In his speech Monday, Mr. Dean alone portrayed the recruiting of allies for Iraq as a means to "relieve the burden on the U.S." -- that is, to quickly draw down American forces. Only he omitted democracy from his goals for Iraq and the Middle East. And only Mr. Dean made the extraordinary argument that the capture of Saddam Hussein "has not made Americans safer."

Mr. Dean's carefully prepared speech was described as a move toward the center, but in key ways it shifted him farther from the mainstream. A year ago Mr. Dean told a television audience that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies," but last weekend he declared that "I never said Saddam was a danger to the United States." Mr. Dean has at times argued that the United States must remain engaged to bring democracy to Iraq, yet the word is conspicuously omitted from the formula of "stable self-government" he now proposes. The former Vermont governor has compiled a disturbing record of misstatements and contradictions on foreign policy; maybe he will shift yet again, this time toward more responsible positions.

Mr. Dean's exceptionalism, however, is not limited to Iraq. It can be found in his support for limiting the overseas deployments of the National Guard -- a potentially radical change in the U.S. defense posture -- and in his readiness to yield to the demands of North Korea's brutal communist dictatorship, which, he told The Post's Glenn Kessler, "ought to be able to enter the community of nations." Mr. Dean says he would end all funding for missile defense, a program supported by the Clinton administration, and also has broken with Mr. Clinton's successful trade policies, embracing protectionism. Sadly, on trade his position is shared by every Democratic candidate except Mr. Lieberman (and Ms. Clinton).

It is Mr. Dean's position on Iraq, however, that would be hardest to defend in a general election campaign. Many will agree with the candidate that "the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help and at unbelievable cost." But most Americans understand Saddam Hussein for what he was: a brutal dictator who stockpiled and used weapons of mass destruction, who plotted to seize oil supplies on which the United States depends, who hated the United States and once sought to assassinate a former president; whose continuing hold on power forced thousands of American troops to remain in the Persian Gulf region for a decade; who even in the months before his overthrow signed a deal to buy North Korean missiles he could have aimed at U.S. bases. The argument that this tyrant was not a danger to the United States is not just unfounded but ludicrous.

Mr. Dean may be arguing Saddam Hussein's insignificance in part because he is unwilling to make a commitment to Iraq's future.
If this is a radical position when viewed from the center-left, how is it when viewed from the center-right, i.e., from everywhere in America not in a major city? Remember that Dean has to win 70% of US states if he captures no Southern states, which it is likely that he will not. As I argued earlier, Dean actually looks less radical on domestic issues, and could be a real contender for the victory if this were not wartime. It is, though, and a very large number of Americans care about the war more than every other political issue put together.

FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Documents Tie Saddam to 'Mohammed's Army'

One-Two, After All:

No news on whether the Atta memo is genuine or not, although it looks fuzzy. However, there is news on Saddam's terrorist connections. It's from FOX, so take it as you will.

Telegraph | News | Terrorist behind September 11 strike was trained by Saddam

A One-Two Punch?

The Iraqi Governing Council has apparently chosen today to release a statement that they have uncovered proof that 9/11 attacker Atta was trained by Iraqi agents.

Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.

In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy".
That's very handy. Even handier:
The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment", contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.

Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.

"We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," he said. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks."
That's maybe too handy. If this document proves to be a forgery, well, it wouldn't surprise me. On the other hand, if it pans out, it's a kind Christmas gift from the IGC.

UPDATE: The Age has some additional details about the memo's physical properties. The news report is called "Atta linked to Baghdad in dubious document," which captures the sad fact that this is a shockingly neat package to get everything we wish we could know for certain about Iraq and al Qaeda: that the links were real and functional, that 9/11 involved direct training from the Iraqi Mukhabarat and Abu Nidal, and even that the Niger shipment was real and aided by Qaeda agents. It'd be really nice if all of this panned out--and I have always believed the first part, that the links were real and functional, and been open to evidence on the second part, about 9/11--but what are the odds of finding it all written up in one neat document?

Written in the neat, precise hand of Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and one of the few named in the US Government's pack of cards of most-wanted Iraqis not to have been apprehended, the personal memo to Saddam is signed by Habbush in distinctive green ink.
Well, good luck to the CIA analysts who will be sifting these details in the next little while--assuming this is news to them. It's always possible they've had this memo for quite a while.

Saddam Hussein Captured by U.S. Troops (washingtonpost.com)


Saddam Hussein Captured by 4th ID and USSOCOM! And in Tikrit, too. I'll be taking that shipment of Italian wine, McKnight.

New Link

New Link:

Semper Fi to Mike the Marine, just added to the "Other Halls" link section. Always a pleasure to see a Teufel Hunden on the web. Mike, if you stop in, take a look to the right and you'll find, under "Philosophy and Ideas," a link to the USMC Doctrine page. Everybody should read WARFIGHTING, don't you agree?

Learn it, live it, love it. Ooh-rah.

Asia Times - News and analysis from Korea; North and South

Why, Yes, You Do Need To Explain This:

The Spanish government is demanding that the Bush administration please explain why a shipment of SCUDs and dangerous chemicals was allowed to proceed to Libya:

The episode began on December 5, 2002, when US intelligence services informed Madrid about the route of a freighter named So San, which they suspected of trafficking weapons and which was, at the time, crossing a zone under Spain's authority in the Indian Ocean. Four days later, a Spanish frigate and warship intercepted the So San after ordering the captain to halt and firing warning shots. The vessel was found to be sailing under the Cambodian flag.

The weapons and chemicals came from North Korea and did not appear on the ship's manifest, which showed only that the merchant vessel was carrying bags of cement. After intercepting the freighter, Spain then handed the ship over to the US Navy. Immediate official explanations out of Washington and Madrid said the missiles might have been headed for the al-Qaeda network, which the US government holds responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. However, just hours later, the US administration took Spain by surprise by turning the So San over to Yemen, explaining that the cargo was actually a legal shipment of weapons purchased from North Korea by the Yemini government.

The handover was preceded by a telephone conversation between US Vice President Dick Cheney and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. When that conversation was made public, the White House justified the move by calling Yemen a friendly nation. So what initially came off as a brilliant Spanish military operation to prevent illegal trade in weapons of mass destruction was reduced to a suspected manipulation directed from Washington, with Madrid in the role of receiving and carrying out orders that were not very clear in their purpose.

The NATO sources cited in El Mundo said that at the time the shipment was intercepted, the United States was secretly negotiating the possibility that Libya would accept Saddam Hussein, then still president of Iraq, in exile. And Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who played the role of go-between during the Gulf War in 1991 by assisting in Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, had hopes of gaining access to the weapons.

"Gaddafi wanted the missiles and Yemen acted as intermediary. In the context of gestures with Libya, it was decided to look the other way, given that there was no international regulation that impeded it," said the newspaper, citing sources from the Pentagon.
Ah, yes, "gestures." I always like to reward gestures from former terrorists by letting them have medium-range missiles and chemical weapons material. Especially when the North Koreans can profit too!

Someday we're going to wonder why we didn't take this war a lot more seriously. I'm wondering already.

Locke, or Demosthenes?


My vote this week is for "The War will be a Success" from Anti-AntiWar. It's a fairly basic history lesson, and one worth keeping in mind. Sadly, there's a lot that can go wrong that this post doesn't cover. Still, the facts he mentions deserve consideration.

White House Aide Angers Pagans (washingtonpost.com)

Pagans Help the Poor:

Reader MB sends this story along and asks for some commentary. The story is of the director of the White House's "Faith Based" programs, who was asked if pagan groups could get Federal money for charity efforts. His reply was that he hadn't heard of any such groups:

I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work, and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.
It turns out there have been quite a few Pagans for the Poor:
In the past three years, Pagan Pride groups have collected 74,000 pounds of food and donated $51,000 to homeless shelters, interfaith food banks, the American Red Cross and other charities, according to the Indianapolis-based International Pagan Pride Project.

In Chicago, pagans support a battered women's shelter. In Massachusetts, they have given $20,000 for children with AIDS.

$51,000 is a pittance compared to what Christian groups donate to charity each year, it is true; but then again, the numbers of people who are professed pagans is quite small. The estimate in the Post story is 300,000, which is just about one tenth of one percent of the US population.

This, of course, points the way forward here. There's no reason to ban Pagan groups, as there aren't going to be very many of them because there aren't very many Pagans. There's no reason they shouldn't participate in charity, as long as they're held to the same standards as everyone else--a good one is the one cited, i.e., that the money can't go to promote ideology.

Of course, that's the problem with the Faith-based program anyway: no one trusts their neighbors not to preach while they feed the hungry and soothe the sick. The sick are still suffering, though, and the hungry are not fed. I should rather take the risk that some preaching might get done, than prefer that the ills should continue with no better treatment than that which the government can provide. If we have learned anything, it is that the government is the worst choice for caring for the poor. Anyone does it better.

Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus on National Review Online


Blogger's been down for the last couple of days. As a result, I was unable to post anything in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. Just for the record, though, it was not forgotten.

Jay Nordlinger, writing today for the National Review, has this item on the use of language:

You'll be pleased to know that Murder, Inc., the rap-record company, has changed its name — to, simply, "The Inc." The company's founder told a press conference, "People have been focused on the negative energy of the word 'murder.'" You don't say? "Negative energy"?
This reminds me of something I once heard David Letterman say: "'The Washington Bullets' [a basketball team, I think] has decided to change its name to something less violent. From now on, they will just be called, 'The Bullets.'"

Heroic Epic Warfighting

Heroic Epic Warfighting:

Michael Ledeen argues that we need a new strategy to win in Iraq. I happen to agree with him that far, although I differ on the practicalities. Ledeen wants to widen the war to Iran and Syria. I want to change the form of the war in Iraq.

Consider this post from the Mesopotamian, addressed to President Bush:

The bones in the mass graves salute you, Avenger of the Bones.

Hail, Friend and Ally, Hail, Sheikh of Sheikhs, GWB; Descendant of the Noble Ancient Celt.

Islam is not, as it has become fashionable to call it, a religion of peace. Islam is a heroic epic. The core ideal of Islam is that the Muslim is joined in a great war to bring the whole world under the peace of rule, not according to fallible human rules, but according to the revealed design of God. That is an epic struggle, and the Muslim is encouraged to think of himself as a mujahid, one of the holy warriors in the fight.

It happens that this fits perfectly with tribal culture. The philosophy of the tribe is informal--that is, it is the natural philosophy of mankind. The bonds of family are to be defended; the power of the family, extended. Peace can finally be had only by destroying those outside the family, or by bringing them within the family. This is the mujahedeen's ethic. It is the ethic of jihad. This is why the tribal parts of the Islamic world have been a strong recruiting ground--Baluchistan, for example, and the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan.

It is also why Islamism is appealing to those radical young Muslims who have been educated in the West. In the Western philosophy, they see an abandonment of this older, traditional ethic, this natural ethic which feels so very right because it comes from our evolved nature. That is a core problem that needs to be fixed if we are to achieve a lasting peace.

The road forward, for the West, is to reinvigorate our own tradition of the Heroic Ethic. I have argued this before, in a piece suggesting the outlines of a new philosophy, one that would answer the Islamist writings of Qtub, on which al Qaeda's on arguments are based. The core of this argument is this: a man who has familiarized himself with the Beowulf, the Iliad, the Odyssey, or the Icelandic sagas, knows exactly what he needs to know to treat with Islamists, both tribal and modernist. A man who has learned all of these epics can not only treat with them, but give them better than they ask. He can convert them--not away from Islam, which there is no cause to do, but away from Islamism, and toward the West.

Let us return to the specific example of Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Iraq. What does it mean to be "Avenger of the Bones?" It seems little notice has been taken of it by the administration; they may think it is an honorific, that it means nothing at all. The opposite is true. It is a title, one that personalizes the American effort and brings it within the circle of the tribal ethic. 300,000 dead fill Iraq's mass graves. The tribal ethic of vengeance requires that the families of those dead take revenge as they can. The Avenger of the Bones is a formal, natural ally--a man to whom loyalty and gratitude are owed. If I were the President, I would be trumpeting that new title from the rooftops. It is one that every Iraqi will understand, and very many--the families of 300,000--will feel called, by their own culture, to respond to with alliance.

Consider the "humiliation" issue. We have heard from everyone that our acts are humiliating the Iraqis. It's humiliating to be searched; to have your house searched; to have your women and children searched; etc. All that may be true, but we have no option--the enemy has chosen to use women and children as bombs.

The way forward? Avenge the bones. The humiliation of the living can't be avoided. We can make up for it by showing honor to the dead. By making the identification of bones, and their return to their families, a priority of our operation in Iraq, we can show the dead a respect that we can't affort to show the living. Think on the positive effect it would have on US operations for us to stage ten public funerals every day, with military honors, for the bones of those dead and identified in Saddam's mass graves. For one thing, it would reduce recruitment for attacks on US convoys--you would not know which ones contained a funerary detachment that might be coming to your own home, to return a brother or a cousin. For another, showing the Iraqi dead the honor we show our own fallen heroes can overcome the humiliation issue. We can solidify our position as "Avenger of the Bones," a friend to the dead, an ally in the duty of vengeance.

Consider also hospitality, another heroic duty. What does it mean that there are many areas of tribal Iraq where Americans only travel in heavily armed convoys? CENTCOM ought to be arranging dinners with tribal chiefs. Go and take dinner with the chief of a tribe, in his home. Take your bodyguards as far as his door, but not into his house. Eat his food, and share his water. Then, make it a point to push this behavior down the chain: so that soldiers regularly accept invitations to dine, trusting in their hosts to protect them, and so that tribal figures are regularly asked to dine with Americans in our tents. Do this, and their honor will be concerned with protecting you. Hospitality will fight the war for you: their honor will demand it.

This is what I wrote about in the essay above, under the heading of "frith." There is an Islamic mirror. It is called the "Covenant of Security". This is how you build a state that even the Islamist must feel obliged to protect. Personal honor, and the heroic ethic, alone can do it. They can do it because the ethic is already native to the men and women of Iraq. Nothing need be changed, except on our end.

On our end, the change is easy. The U.S. military is the segment of American society best suited to undertake a renewal of the Western heroic ethic. Very many of them--particularly in the Marine Corps and SOCOM--already believe in it. Even outside of SOCOM and the USMC, the military is disproportionately Southern, and American Southerners believe in the old heroic ethic, and love it. All that is necessary is to explain the particulars: the general standards are present and accounted for.

The heroic ethic will take us forward to victory, in Iraq as elsewhere. It is the best kind of victory--not the one that destroys our opponents, but the one that brings us all within a family. Just as Saladin sent his personal physicians to treat Richard the Lionheart, as he had come to respect and love that man's courage and chivalry, so can we today win the hearts of our enemies. It is time to make right the opportunity missed between Saladin and Richard, who almost concluded a marriage pact that would have joined Islam and Christendom in friendship.

It was only between warriors that such a peace could be made. It is only between warriors that it can be made today.



Several of you have written to ask me after the snow. The snow is quite deep--nine or ten total inches in the last few days, by my unscientific measurement. However, temperatures remain reasonably warm, and the community has made adequate provisions against such weather. As a result, roads are clear and there has been no trouble about basic services. There's nothing to worry about up here.

I did have to borrow a snowshovel, as every one commercially available has been bought up in the last few days. It took more than an hour to dig my truck out of the frozen ice sculpture created by the snowplows, which was three feet high and frozen to the frame of my vehicle. Still, mission accomplished: all is well.

It occurs to me that this would be a good place to issue a public apology to the state of Maryland. I've spoken and written slander about it on several occasions, most recently that there were only two things to like about it (number one being, the road out).

In fact, exactly the opposite is true. There are only two or three things to dislike about Maryland. They are important matters, and serious complaints. Nevertheless, in fairness, there is far more to like about the state than not. It is a pleasant place, full of pleasant people (except when they are driving, when they unaccountably become ill-tempered monsters. Not sure why that is). If one could but banish the government from existence, it would be as fine a place as Georgia, almost.

I certainly have enjoyed taking long runs through the Black Hills, where the deer are so docile that they aren't bothered by you unless you run right into their herd. If you are fleet of foot, and enduring, you can start a herd by running right into the middle of it, and run with it for quite a while. I've started deer in Georgia afoot many times in the mountains, but one rarely gets so close there.

So, there's much to be said for the state of Maryland. She's not as bad as I've said in the past. Actually, there are parts of her I like perfectly well. My apology for overstating the case.

Un celebration!

Une fete de la culture francaise:

So, I have a new song to sing while practicing my French: Chevaliers de la table ronde. Who can argue with these sentiments, which translate loosely as: "Knights of the round table, let us drink to see if the wine is good!" (You can tell it is a French tune originally, not only because the rhymes only work in French, but also because of the verse which translates "two feet up against the wall, and your head under the tap!")

Clark Attacks

Clark Attack:

The lads at Southern Appeal are reporting on Wesley Clark's newest campaign promises: to bring the troops home at once, to always consider military force the "last resort," and never again to attack anyone pre-emptively.

Drug discovery - biotech, pharmaceuticals, research, clinical trials, etc. In the pipeline - Corante


The other big attack on America was the Anthrax attacks. It happens there's news about that too--or, at least, a new piece of investigative reporting. Needless to say, the FBI doesn't get off easy. They don't deserve to get off easy. The biggest question in the piece is, "could this stuff have been civilian-made?"

So Matsumoto concentrates on the processing of the spores: their particle size, and their possible coatings and treatments to make them disperse better. This is where the homebrew/high-tech distinction should be clear, and this is just where the available information has the most contradictions. Initially, reports were that the spore samples had very small, very uniform particle sizes, and may well have had additives to them to keep them from aggregating. Alan Zelicoff, of Sandia, was quotedat the time saying that whoever made the Senate anthrax had "the keys to the kingdom." (I remember reading that, and having a sudden, terrible vision of just what kingdom that was.) But you can now find leaks and reports that dispute both of these contentions, though. The difference is especially marked in statements the FBI has made in the last few months, which make the spores sound much less well-processed than their earlier reports. As Matsumoto puts it:

The reversal was so extreme that the former chief biological weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission, Richard Spertzel, found it hard to accept. "No silica, big particles, manual milling," he says: "That's what they're saying now, and that radically contradicts everything we were told during the first year of this investigation."

Hat tip: LGF.

9/11 Questions

9/11 Question:

Many of you may not be aware of the yeo-woman work being done by Sovay McKnight on 9/11 questions. In spite of her liberal nature (and occasional editorializing), her penchant for fairness and complete research often puts her in the position of defending the administration against wild-eyed claims. There are a number of questions you've probably never heard about, if you haven't been following the business closely.

Here's a question I hope she'll look into sometime, from Dr. Dean himself: was Bush tipped to the attacks by the Saudis?



This week I will be voting for, in the political category, "BarkBarkWoofWoof", whose entry compares Justice Moore with Sir Thomas More. In the nonpolitical category, I vote for Vegan Marshmellows Roasting over an Open Fire.



It's official: NASCAR rules.

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak:

So here is a left-liberal blog called Nasi Lemak attempting to slander George Bush, and Republicans generally, as racists. The occasion for doing so is what must be the least racist remark of recent political history, when GWB said that he and Dr. Rice had, while sneaking to their plane, looked "like a normal couple." How can this remark be turned into a vision of racism? Well, it's a little complicated:

1) Two conservative bloggers (OxBlog and the regrettable Andrew Sullivan) said they thought that GWB's remark was awfully nice, and a positive step.
2) Both of these two bloggers had quoted the Honorable Zell Miller at length on occasion.
3) Zell Miller worked for Lester Maddox, who was a racist, and...
4) ...also said some kind words at Maddox's funeral.

Therefore: Miller is a racist by association with Maddox, the conservative bloggers by association with Miller, and GWB (and conservatives generally) by association with the bloggers. Quod erat demonstrandum.

There's a small problem with the analysis (leaving aside the larger problem, which is that it is an ad hominem attack which is furthermore guilty of the fallacy of guilt-by-association, when the association is extremely tenuous). The small problem is this: Zell Miller is not a racist. Miller, in spite of being the most popular governor in Georgia history, very nearly lost his 1994 bid for re-election for one reason: he pushed with all his political capital to remove the Confederate battle-flag from the Georgia state flag. This was the least popular position any politician could undertake in Georgia. Support for the battleflag remains extraordinary. In fact, when it was finally removed from the state flag, it was done by a legislative trick that precluded debate or a public referendum. The governor who executed that trick was voted out at the next opportunity; his successor, who ran in part on restoring the flag, has instead pursued several tricks to prevent a public referendum. It is without doubt that, should there ever be a public referendum, the battleflag is going right back up on the state flagpole.

But Zell stood up for changing it. It almost cost him the election, and would have sunk any other politician. Yes, he ran against the Civil Rights Act in 1967--most Southerners were opposed to it, including very many black Southerners, as it promised radical change in a hurry in their states, which is always a frightful prospect. Yes, he worked for a racist--it was hard not to in Georgia, once. Yes, he said kind words over the grave of a dead man, as a gentleman ought.

When it counted, though, he put his weight in the right place. He did, and still does. He has earned the respect that we show him who hold high his opinion and counsel.

Just what we've been saying...


Just what we've been saying all along, but now the Guardian agrees: the Commies have hijacked the peace march movements.

Say, How Much Does A "Uranium Enriching" Laser Cost?

Say, How Much Does A "Uranium Enriching" Laser Cost?

It's a question worth pondering:

"Follow the money" is an old adage, and it means that economic interest will eventually explain much human behavior. That France opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein because he owed millions to French banks is proof of this. Less well known, but much more troubling, are key French financial links with other U.S. enemies. They raise the belief that the Franco-American conflict over Iraq was just one slice of the action. For France was not just Baathist Iraq's largest contributor of funds; French banks have financed other odious regimes....

In Castro's sizzling gulag, French banks plunked down $549 million in the first trimester this year, a third of all credit to Cuba. The figure for Saddam's Iraq is $415 million. But these pale in comparison with the $2.5 billion that French banks have lent Iran.

Not that this is a terrible surprise.

This is an Attack Site?

This is an Attack Site?

Dick Gephardt is running a website called DeanFacts. It's meant to show that Howard Dean is unsupportable for the Presidency by citing Dean's actual positions on issues. If I knew nothing else about Dean than what's here, though, I'd be half-inclined to vote for the boy. Dean on Medicare, Social Security, balancing the budget, and so forth and so on: it all sounds pretty good to me.

The only issue is that, even on this site, there's the constant invocation of the need to cut defense spending. That is, in the middle of a war, insane. And the war is, of course, why Dean can't win this upcoming election. There's simply no way that a majority of Americans will vote for the anti-war candidate, or for cuts in military spending at this juncture. The GWOT trumps everything right now, and rightly so.

Need more proof that Dean is doomed? Try FundRace, which has this handy money-map. Dean--or any other Democratic candidate for the Presidency--will need to split the South. It doesn't have to be a big split, if they do well everywhere else, but they will need to win at least one Southern state because, if they win no Southern states, they have to win fully 70% of the races in the rest of the country to get enough electoral votes. Donations are a good indicator of where the candidates are going to find solid support--people who send cash will support you at the polls, too. Select "Howard Dean" in the money mapper, and then compare with GWB. There are two things to notice:

1) Dean, at his darkest, is a full shade lighter in every area from Texas to the Carolinas. In most parts of these states, he doesn't register.
2) The only reason it's even that close is that the money-mapper uses different scales for different candidates. GWB has to raise $3.2 million from a county to get the darkest green; Dean only needs $1.4 million, less than half that. If you plotted it on the same scale, Dean would hardly register in the South at all, excepting a few urban areas like Dallas and Atlanta. Some of that will be because Dean is having to compete with the other Democrats for monetary support, whereas Bush is getting all the Republican money. Even factoring that in, though, it looks like a solid South again in 2004.

I think Dean could have won in a non-wartime election year. I don't think people will take him seriously as a wartime candidate. Excepting those who were always opposed to the war--if we're talking about the Iraq war instead of the GWOT, which is where anti-war sentiment was highest, that's about twenty percent--Dean's not going to draw a lot of support. He's certainly not going to win in the South.

UPDATE: I'm apparently not the only one who thinks this way. This is from the Seattle Times:

"Anybody could win," said Merle Black, political-science professor at Emory University. But "right now, with the economy improving as it is, if Howard Dean is the nominee, he'd have a very hard time winning any of the Southern states."
And more...
"There's a lot of money in Texas to be donated to both political parties, so Dean had to come drag the bag," said Court Koenning, executive director of the Harris County Republican Party. But "he's gonna get his clock cleaned in the general election. I'll run around naked and you can call me Sally if Bush loses Texas."
And then there's this, from the world's most trusted news source.

This week I vote for Joe. It's a simple thought, but good enough.

My Endorsement:

The exclusion of Joe Lieberman from the recent presidential debates seems to have doomed his candidacy. Of the nine Democrats currently running, and the others who might consider running, he was the only one that I believe could have saved the party from electoral disaster.

The Honorable Senator Zell Miller endorsed George W. Bush in early November. Zell and I represent the same wing of the Democratic party--the James Jackson wing. Even so, I have held off following in the good Senator's footsteps, in the hope that the Democratic party might be saved.

I still hope it might be, but I do not think it will be in this election. It may be that, in the aftermath of the loss the Democratic party is racing toward, the survivors will finally be willing to listen to their Southern cousins when we say, "The party of the American people must love America with all depth and purity of heart; for the American people do. The party of the American people must trust the American people with their freedom and their money; for the American people trust themselves." Not this time, but perhaps the next.

I might have waited longer, but today a man did something brave, to warm the hearts of fighting men. Consider our President:

With the president out of sight, L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civilian administrator, told the soldiers it was time to read the president's Thanksgiving proclamation and that it was a task for the most senior official present.

"Is there anybody back there more senior than us?" he asked. That was the cue for Bush, who promptly stepped forward from behind a curtain, setting off pandemonium among the troops.

"I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere," Bush joked to some 600 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division and the 82nd Airborne Division, who were stunned by the appearance and applauded wildly while giving Bush a standing ovation.

"Thanks for inviting me. I can't think of finer folks to have Thanksgiving dinner with than you all."

That it was courageous to take Air Force One into Baghdad only a few days after the DHL flight was attacked goes without saying. That it was the right thing to do, to greet our fighters as they spent a lonely holiday on a distant front, goes likewise. What impresses me is not that; it is the humor. A brave but stern man can be terrible. A jolly coward is useless. A brave man with a laughing heart, though, is a man indeed.

In light of this act, I have now no more trouble than our Senator had in endorsing George W. Bush for re-election to the Presidency in 2004. Zell Miller was correct, as he usually is: Bush is the right man, at the right time.

Let us be thankful to have found him. Enjoy the holiday.

The Crusades:

Historian Thomas F. Madden speaks to the Crusades as wars of defense instead of wars of aggression:

Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far. See, for example, Steven Runciman�s famous three-volume epic, History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones. Both are terrible history yet wonderfully entertaining.

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression�an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity�and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion�has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed�s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt�once the most heavily Christian areas in the world�quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war. Why did they do it? The answer to that question has been badly misunderstood. In the wake of the Enlightenment, it was usually asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne�er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. The Crusaders� expressed sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God were obviously not to be taken seriously. They were only a front for darker designs.

During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.
But were they worthwhile? In his summation, Madden gives two reasons that we should be grateful for the Crusades:
Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished.
There is more, if you like. Hat tip: LGF.

John Derbyshire reports from Talladega. It was his first NASCAR race, and he provides a description with all the insight of a genuine newcomer. My favorite line comes from the part describing the appeal of the sport, which is in rooting for favorite drivers, he says:

A few [drivers] are widely disliked. Kurt Busch, a fast-rising young star known for . . . unorthodox driving tactics, is a villain to traditionalists, and to the kind of Southerner who believes in maintaining the exquisite manners of the region even when you are trying to kill someone.
Ah, yes. That kind of Southerner. It's a description that seems somewhat familiar to me, although I can't think just why.
The Raving Atheist:

The Raving Atheist has decided to break lances with me over this post. I've promised him a reply, and I am a man of my word. It will be a bit lengthy.

The Easy Stuff First:

First, RA suggests I "didn't get" his point, which was that if Forn Sidr should spread into the USA, "American schools might soon be compelled to 'respect' ridiculous gods such as Thor and Odin in the same way that they now respect the ridiculous Christian god �- they would no longer be able to disparage the Norse deities as 'mythical.'" I did get the point, but did not bother to reply to it, since it is wrong on the facts:

1) "Forn Sidr" does exist in the United States, and has for about thirty years. It's recognized, under a variety of names, by the US military--you can find the chaplain's reference guide here. So, in fact, it's been around for quite a while, and no such troubles as RA forsees have erupted. I might have spent more time explaining this point, if I had expected to draw an audience who was unaware of heathenry.
2) Furthermore, as I did point out, I recall from my own schooling that the Christian Bible was taught as "literature," or as a source in history that could be questioned and analyzed as other sources. In those classes, the "Christian creation myth" was in fact discussed, using exactly that term--except that it was not "myth" but "myths," as there are two of them in Genesis. Analysis included an examination of why these two myths were probably not written in the order presented, and why the first one in particular was probably the work of a formal priestly class rather than a single author (such as Moses). Now, I went to school in the great state of Georgia, way down South in the Bible Belt. If Georgia can handle doing it that way, I think RA's complaints against the system may be a bit overheated.

Second: there is not in fact a constitutional right to avoid being disparaged. RA demonstrates this fairly clearly by carrying on as he does every day. No one has yet arrested--nor even sued him, so far as I know. The First Amendment protects my right to believe as I wish, but also his right to call me "crazy," which he does a bit later on down the blog. (A tip: if you are going to cite logic as the core of your belief system, it is a good idea to avoid the better known informal fallacies, e.g., ad hominem).

Third: I hardly suppose that "all religions are equally true." I do assert that Atheism is false. We'll get to that momently.

What I assert on the question of the truth of religion is this: excepting Atheism, it is not possible to say with certainty that any religion is false. That does not mean that they are all true; in fact, it does not mean that any of them are true. It means, only, that so long as the believer behaves himself honorably and doesn't cite his beliefs as a good reason for attacking me, my family, or my country, I'm glad to extend him the benefit of the doubt. If he does cite his beliefs as a reason for attacking us, I am glad to extend him the benefit of a burial according to the tenets of his faith.

With the easy stuff out of the way, we'll carry on to the harder stuff.

Forn Sidr:

Since it was Forn Sidr that was the inspiration for his original post, we'll start with that. RA links to his "proof of Atheism." I'll quote the first point in full, since the argument hinges on it:

First, there is no God. In fact, all definitions of the word �God� are either self-contradictory, incoherent, meaningless or refuted by empirical, scientific evidence. Although the nature of the disproof will necessarily vary with the god under review, I will usually be raving against the modern monotheistic (or triune) Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, having (in various permutations) the characteristics of being, conscious, all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-good (omnibenevolent), immaterial, transcendent. immutable, immortal, infinite, omnipresent, disembodied and eternal.

Such a god is as much a contradiction in terms as a square circle, and thus logically impossible, for numerous reasons including the following:
1) Omnipotence is impossible because God would, at a minimum, be unable to limit his powers, e.g., make a stone he cannot lift; if he could make such a stone, then his inability to lift it would defeat his omnipotence;
2) God's omnipotence conflicts with his omniscience, because if God knows everything that is going to happen in advance, he cannot do anything in the present; he must simply watch the future unfold as previously foreseen, because changing anything would falsify his prior belief concerning the future;
3) God's omnipotence precludes him from having knowledge of any sensations or emotions associated with weakness, e.g., fear, frustration, despair, sickness, etc., and thus conflicts with him omniscience;
4) God's omniscience precludes him from having knowledge of any emotions associated with surprise or anticipation, and thus conflicts with itself;
5) God's omniscience conflicts with his disembodiedness, since a being without a body could not know how to drive, swim, or perform any activity associated with having a body;
6) God's omniscience conflicts with his omnibenevolence, since a morally perfect god could not have knowledge of feelings of hate, lust, or envy, or cruelty, etc.
7) God's omniscience and omnipotence conflict with his omnibenevolence, since a god who could prevent evil would do so unless he were unable to do so or unaware of the evil.

The gods of Forn Sidr--the Aesir and the Vanir--actually take part in none of the categories RA finds demonstrably impossible. None of them are all powerful, all knowing, all good (some of them, in fact, aren't particularly good at all), immutable, immortal, infinite, ominpresent, or eternal. They may be transcendent, depending on what you meant by the word; and as to whether or not they are immaterial or disembodied, that is I gather the subject of some debate.

Regardless, the various "omni-" aspects, on which the "proof" relies, simply aren't a problem for Forn Sidr. They make no claims to those properties. This "proof" that they do not exist doesn't touch on them at all.

Yet RA's original post on the subject said that this was "the one form of theology that can safely be declared false." Now, I understand RA himself is prepared to declare all forms of theology false. Still, it's interesting that he's chosen to pick on one that is not touched by his arguments.

On Atheism Generally:

RA holds: "To disprove atheism, one would have to prove the existence of a particular God of a particular religion." That is not true, however. The claim that "you can't prove that God exists" belongs to the Agnostic, an honorable fellow with whom I have no quarrel. The Atheist's claim is that "We can prove God does not exist." I admit that I am not able to prove the existence of any god. However, I can prove that it is impossible to prove the nonexistence of God.

Let's return to the claim that "god is as much a contradiction in terms as a square circle." Indeed. Here's the problem, though, lad: where can I find a square, or a circle?

This is not a flippant question. It touches on the limits of human knowledge. Both the square, and the circle, belong to the realm of mathematics. Mathematics only models the world. If you hand me a child's puzzle piece, and say that it is square, I'll point out that it is not, as it has three and not two dimensions. If you draw one on paper, it will still have depth (if you draw it with ink, which soaks into the paper) or height (if you draw it with a graphite pencil). Examine it closely, and you will find that its edges are not perfectly straight, as a the sides of a "square" must be. Draw a "line," if you will, and you'll append arrows to each end to show that it goes on forever--which it does, but only in theory.

The mathematical certainty you want to apply to the world applies only to the realm of math. In fact, it doesn't even apply there:

Thus, it came as a great surprise in the 1930's when it was formally proven that there exists an unlimited supply of math problems that fundamentally cannot be solved, whether by human or machine. Furthermore, it was shown that the very problem of determining if a math problem can be solved is undecidable.
Even in the realm of math, which is a wholly human creation, and deals exclusively with human concepts, certainty about the absolutes is not possible. Mathematics is a tool--it is, as I said above, a model. Its categories, though, do not accurately portray the world--they only model the world, simplifying it to keep the calculations manageable to human minds and such tools as we can build. Still the ultimate questions are beyond us, even in the simplified realm of math. Things become far more complicated when we pass beyond math into physics, biology, or history.

By the same token, it is not possible to prove the non-existence of God. Yes, it's true that "omnipotent" is a contradiction in terms. The terms, however, are human. They are limited, even as mathematical concepts are limited; and they break at the limits, even as our mathematical concepts prove finally unsolvable. Like mathematics, too, these concepts only attempt to model the world: they are not, in fact, the world. Not only are our concepts imperfect in themselves, but they are imperfect in their attempts at modelling reality. If you find that there are questions about the world you cannot answer, not even in theory, it is foolish to speak of proving that there is nothing beyond the edges of the universe. It is whistling past the graveyard.

The world is too big, and too strong, for us to hold it in our heads. Faced with that, there are no alternatives but three: to pretend it is not so, and that you can possess ultimate knowledge; to shriek in despair; or to bow your head with reverent awe. The first--Atheism falls here--is falseness and self-deception. The second is madness. The third alone allows proper respect for the power of the truth of the world, without destroying the man who recognizes it.

It is therefore the case that none of the religions of Men can be proven false, except Atheism, which has been.

No, You Asked For It:

So, a young lady has been suspended for a pseudo-lesbian highschool kiss:

Inspired by a high school assignment, Stephanie Haaser leaped onto a cafeteria table, shouted "End homophobia now!" and kissed classmate Katherine Pecore.
Not actually a lesbian, the girl in question was suspended for two days. The principal offers what is, at first glance, a reasonable explanation:
"It's highly inappropriate to stand on a table in the cafeteria and make out, whether the kiss was heterosexual or homosexual," said River Hill High School principal Scott Pfeifer. "I don't think there's a school in the country where parents would consider that appropriate behavior."
Right. No problem. Except...
Haaser, a junior, said she chose to make the statement as part of an English class assignment, which required that she engage in a nonconformist act in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Ah! I see! So, the school officially tasked teenagers with engaging in an act of rebellion. What brilliance! What an astonishing grasp of the teenage mind!

Sorry, bucko. You asked for this, and now you can reap the whirlwind. You're lucky this is the worst you got.

For Sovay:

I thought you'd like to see this other entry into the Last Words of Uday & Qusay contest. It's in the style of Dr. Seuss.

My favorite Seussian poem, though, will always be "Norse, Of Course."

Happy National Ammo Day!

Today's the day. Go out and pick up some ammo.

Any Stick:

Today, Mark Steyn defends America:

The fanatical Muslims despise America because it's all lapdancing and gay porn; the secular Europeans despise America because it's all born-again Christians hung up on abortion; the anti-Semites despise America because it's controlled by Jews. Too Jewish, too Christian, too Godless, America is also too isolationist, except when it's too imperialist.
This echoes G. K. Chesterton, defending Christianity in the masterful sixth chapter of Orthodoxy:
One accusation against Christianity was that it prevented men, by morbid tears and terrors, from seeking joy and liberty in the bosom of Nature. But another accusation was that it comforted men with a fictitious providence, and put them in a pink-and-white nursery. One great agnostic asked why Nature was not beautiful enough, and why it was hard to be free. Another great agnostic objected that Christian optimism, "the garment of make-believe woven by pious hands," hid from us the fact that Nature was ugly, and that it was impossible to be free. One rationalist had hardly done calling Christianity a nightmare before another began to call it a fool's paradise. . . .

I felt that a strong case against Christianity lay in the charge that there is something timid, monkish, and unmanly about all that is called "Christian," especially in its attitude towards resistance and fighting. . . . The Gospel paradox about the other cheek, the fact that priests never fought, a hundred things made plausible the accusation that Christianity was an attempt to make a man too like a sheep. I read it and believed it, and if I had read nothing different, I should have gone on believing it. But I read something very different. I turned the next page in my agnostic manual, and my brain turned up-side down. Now I found that I was to hate Christianity not for fighting too little, but for fighting too much. Christianity, it seemed, was the mother of wars. Christianity had deluged the world with blood. I had got thoroughly angry with the Christian, because he never was angry. And now I was told to be angry with him because his anger had been the most huge and horrible thing in human history; because his anger had soaked the earth and smoked to the sun. The very people who reproached Christianity with the meekness and non-resistance of the monasteries were the very people who reproached it also with the violence and valour of the Crusades. It was the fault of poor old Christianity (somehow or other) both that Edward the Confessor did not fight and that Richard Coeur de Leon did.

It is well to love those, and defend them, who are beaten with every stick. At the least this practice exhibits the virtue of mercy; and, as no one is so bad that any stick is good enough to beat them, it is apt to exhibit the virtue of justice as well.

I'll vote with the Alliance this week.

Uday & Qusay Speak:

The last words of Saddam's sons:

Uday: "Good news! I just got off the phone with the Information minister! He says all the Americans have been routed from Iraq by a popular uprising! Mobs are roaming the street, chanting our names!"

Qusay: "Great! That must be them at the door, even now."

Credit for this really belongs to Sovay McKnight, who is much better at parodies than I am.

Who is John Derbyshire?

Why, a friend of mine, and a correspondant, bless him for the time he wastes on it. Certain persons who hate him have set up a page about the fellow. You may find a link to his own web page listed to the right, under "Admired Voices," on Grim's Hall.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that John has given an account of the reasons why the author of the above page hates his guts.

Gay Marriage! Today!

Well, 180 days from yesterday. You've probably heard that the Mass. State Supreme Court has construed a Constitutional right to gay marriage. I am astonished, as always I am when the court finds a constitutional right to something that has been illegal since long before the Founding--a capital crime, in this case, since long ago.

I have argued before that, as marriage as an institution predates the Federal Constitution and the various state constitutions, the power to alter its basic nature is one of the powers reserved to the people by the 9th and 10th amendments.

Since the judiciary has decided to take it upon itself to do so, I see nothing untoward about putting the question to the people. The amendment process it the proper one for assigning new powers to the state that have hitherto not belonged to it; or, if the state is arrogating powers it does not deserve, to clarify the limits.

I personally feel that, whether we decide to legalize or to ban gay marriage�I will abide the democratic process with only an idle eye, having no interest in gays either way�the constitutional amendment is the only legitimate way to do it. The power to alter marriage as an institution was never granted the state; and if it is to become a function of the state, it must be sought, and granted or denied, by the people.

Human Decency, II:

I send thanks to everyone who joined in contributing to the Lester Campbell self-defense fund. The pictures through that link show the old fellow getting his money order, which hopefully will help him out in days to come. It is not the state but the citizenry who have righted this wrong, just as it was the citizen--Mr. Campbell--and not the state who fought against the mugger.

This story has a mostly happy ending, but the neighborhood in which Mr. Campbell lives is not secure. The state will not, and apparently can not, fix that larger problem. It is imperative, then, for the good of the people, that men like Mr. Campbell be allowed to exercise their right to self defense. Those of you who have a voice in the elections of that legislature ought to join the effort to make that right unencumbered by burdensome regulation.

Human Decency Rights A Wrong:

Last week, we learned that an 89-year-old woman had her farm sold out from under her by the county to pay about $600 in back-taxes. The county sold her property, worth more than a million dollars, to a land developer for $15,000. Mrs. Shue was to be evicted at the age of almost ninety, and also robbed of about $984,000.

Today, we learn that the deal is off: the county will reimburse the land developer, and the widow gets to keep her farm. Whose work was this?

The developer's own, who gave back the land even before he learned that the county would repay him. I don't recall having ever said a kind thing about a land developer before, but this was an act of fine, human decency.

Conclusive Proof of EU's Evil:

It's too late to be forgiven. Nothing but the complete destruction of the EU bureaucracy will do.

"Oh my God! It's got Ralph! Shoot! Shoot!"

The ad copy says, "This is the perfect gift for rendezvous black-powder re-enactment enthusiasts."

Allow me to suggest: Maybe not.

The Memo:

You will by now have seen this story on a memo offering evidence of a Qaeda-Iraq link. It is worth noting that the Department of Defense has issued a statement about it. The statement is charmingly verbose. The short form of it is this: "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence asked us a question: 'What sources and reports tend to suggest a link between al Qaeda and Saddam's Iraq?' This memo was our reply. It was not a conclusion that such links existed, just a compilation of reports that suggested it, most of which were raw data. As the question was 'what suggests a link?', data which suggested otherwise was not included."

I haven't seen most of this stuff before, and I don't know what conclusions were drawn about any particular report. Still, it's worth noting that this memo only opens new questions, it doesn't close the case.

Intelligence Agility:

An excellent article by Bruce Berkowitz focuses on the 9/11 intelligence failure. In explaining it, he concludes that the kind of threat posed by terrorist groups can't be met by the CIA as it is currently structured, and proposes a new model for intelligence, based on agility:

For an intelligence organization, agility can be defined as having four features. First, the organization needs to be able to move people and other resources quickly and efficiently as requirements change. Second, it needs to be able to draw on expertise and information sources from around the world. Third, it needs to be able to move information easily so that all of the people required to produce an intelligence product can work together effectively. And, fourth, it needs to be able to deliver products to consumers when needed and in the form they require to do their job. Taken together, these features provide a benchmark for measuring proposals to make U.S. intelligence more agile.
His further recommendations are worth reading. They provide a model for what we should ask our representatives to demand of the executive branch.
Hail a Hero:

Capt. Harry Hornbuckle, bred of the state of Georgia, raised to arms at Fort Stewart, GA. Hero of the Iraq war, and still in service, training heroes yet to come.

...But I Remember My Oath:

It was long ago, and dissolved by law, but I remember and maintain my oath:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Forn Sidr:

One of my least favorite bloggers, The Raving Atheist, has this to say about the recognition of Forn Sidr in the Dane-Mark:

Denmark yesterday recognized the worship of Viking gods such as Odin and Thor as a religion. Although the request -- by a group called Forn Sidr -- was originally turned down in 1999, worshippers of the Norse deities will now be allowed to celebrate legal marriages, receive donations and get tax breaks.

American public schools still teach that the Norse, Greek and Roman gods are �myths.� They are the one form of theology that can safely be declared false. Hindu, Wiccan and Christian mythology do not receive the same deserved disrespect. There�d be bloodshed in the classroom if they did.

So it would be interesting to see what would happen if the Forn Sidrites made their presence known in this country. Faced with a First Amendment challenge, the schools would have three choices: (1) stop teaching mythology (2) include Christianity, Judaism, etc. in the mythology curriculum, or (3) create a comparative religion curriculum which included the Norse �theology.� I think the first alternative would be the most likely. The second would probably be ruled unconstitutional because the government isn�t supposed to take a position on the truth of any religion. The third would simply be unpalatable -- no good Christian would tolerate having their faith compared, even indirectly, to a religion which �everyone knows� is really just a myth.

This being the case, I can see a day when the schools are also compelled to ban any children�s fiction containing a supernatural element. Cults may one day form around Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz and declare themselves to be religions. And they�ll have the same constitutional right against disparagement as every other disparagable belief.
As usual with the Atheist, there is more wrong here than can easily be addressed. (For example: the only religion which can actually be proven false is not Forn Sidr, but Atheism.) Besides, I recall the few classes I had that mentioned the Bible always approached it as "literature," so I'm not sure the problem hasn't been addressed in advance.

I'll just ask this: where, exactly, is that Constitutional right not to be disparaged? Maybe what the schools will be compelled to do is stop being pushed around by whiners, and assert their obligation to teach what students need to know, whatever it may be.

An Important Warning:

The Scotsman reports that the Qaeda agents who carried out the bombing in Riyadh were dressed as policemen. There is no reason they could not use a similar tactic in the United States. Keep your eyes open always.