Saying too much

Saying Too Much:

I saw that Althouse slammed the BBC's Justin Webb, for which she was approvingly linked by InstaPundit and The Corner (at least, I assume that "BBC Bashing" indicates approval).

Y'all should have read to the end of the piece. Of course a British socialist thinks that America's lack of a welfare state is a problem. Of course he believes we need a revolution to institute a more socialist form of government.

But he also does understand America, as it turns out.

My children attend the same school that Charles Wheeler's daughter Shereen graced in the early 1970s.

In the last few weeks my e-mail inbox has been filled with earnest messages from fellow parents about places we can give money to victims of Katrina, drop off teddy bears we no longer want, dispatch clothes for which we have grown too fat and so on.

Many are giving their time as well as their money

No e-mail in those days of course, but I bet Charles got parchment scrolls, or whatever they used then, with lists of good causes to which he could contribute.

Charity is part of the warp and weft of American life and it is telling that Hurricane Katrina has encouraged an outpouring of giving on a scale never seen before.

Americans are cross with the government and disappointed with the response from Washington, but they have not sat on their hands and waited for the government to sort itself out. Much the opposite.

Americans have given with unbridled enthusiasm and generosity.

Is that not something governments do?

Americans do not think so and never will.

This is unquestionably a source of strength and spine in troubled times, but boy does it put a dampener on revolution.

Charity ameliorates it, softens blows, pours oil on troubled waters. It does not lead to social change.

Inequality is a part of American life and so is self reliance. Nothing I have seen in the last few weeks alters that.

American government is a mess. American bureaucracy and red tape is a national shame. American political clout around the world has been reduced by the Katrina fiasco.

But in Biloxi three weeks ago I watched a man with a chainsaw and two handguns beginning the process of rebuilding his house.

He will be joined by others after this weekend's devastation. They represent an America that Charles Wheeler would recognise instantly, and even now after the flood, is little changed.
American government is a mess, and the red tape and bureaucracy are a shame -- just look at the Julie Myers political appointment we've been railing about for a week, or really just take a close look at any bureaucracy in the government. I don't know about American political clout being reduced. I don't think political clout really has much to do with how people want to see you. It has to do with how they can't help but deal with you. By that score America isn't going anywhere: neither the UK nor the EU nor ASEAN nor the OIC can really afford to do without us, and though they won't admit it, they all know it.

Still, the important and notable thing about the article is not that the fellow said that "the real question, to put it baldly, is whether there is going to be a revolution."

The real thing to note is that he answered his question: No, there won't be. When he looked hard and honestly at America, what he saw was no mob of discontents fomenting violence. He saw a nation spurring itself to ever greater acts of charity and goodwill. He saw a people who would not and did not ask their government to fix things for them. He saw a man with a chainsaw and two handguns, who had put up his house once before and was going to do it again.

That's the America I want people to see. I've got no problem with this author. Whatever I may think of his politics, and whatever he thinks of mine, I respect the fact that he has eyes that are not blind.


Perhaps it's the "Medicine":

A report from the Times of London:

A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America.
England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.
Got that? Scotland and England are both far more dangerous than Northern Ireland.

Well, it is a UN report.
It found that people living in Scotland were almost three times more likely to be victims of violent assault than people living in the States and suggests that more than 2,000 Scots are attacked every week, almost 10 times the official police figures.
I've done some work with American crime statistics, and so I know that the manipulation of these things by police departments is quite usual. I don't know how things work in the UK, but in the US the central crime statistics are compiled by the FBI in what they call the Uniform Crime Reports. UCRs are based on stats compiled by local police, and transmitted to the FBI.

There are two serious openings for manipulation in the UCR methodology. The first is the fact that the FBI only tracks certain named crimes. Because local police are themselves compiling the stats, all they need to do is reclassify a "forcible rape" (a UCR tracked crime) as a "sexual assault" (not tracked by the UCR) and the rape disappears off the crime statistics entirely and forever. As far as the statistics are concerned, it never happened, and your city had one fewer rape last year.

Alternatively, if you are lobbying for increased funding, you can start reclassifying things as UCR crimes. This brings us to the second great flaw: the FBI doesn't have a standard for how the police count. The police may report to the FBi the number of crimes that were reported; or the far smaller number "cleared by arrest"; or the far, far smaller number prosecuted; or the very much smaller number for which a conviction was actually obtained. One police department will choose to report on reported crimes, and another only on crimes cleared by arrest (reasoning that they don't know that the other crimes really happened, since they never caught anyone who seemed to be guilty of it).

Thus, a police captain who wants to light a fire under people can cause his city's crime statistics to "soar" just by changing to counting-by-report, and having a policy of classifying reported crimes whenever possible as a report of a UCR crime. A sheriff who wants to show "progress" in his tenure can do the opposite, causing the rates to "fall" again. A clever politician in the police department can play with these statistics both early and late, charging his predecessor with "unethical underreporting" to explain why the rates soar shortly after he enters office, and then making changes over the course of his term to bring the "rates" down.

Do Scottish police do the same thing? I don't know: maybe the UK has a rock-solid methodology. It would be a bit surprising to me, though, to learn that was the case.


"Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents."

Reporters sans Frontiers has issued a manual on anonymous blogging. It is intended to protect bloggers in parts of the world where they may be the only honest reporters (say, China) or for people who have reason to fear government censorship of their speech (say, State Department employees). The guide looks good on its face, with advice on keeping your identity secret from authorities, while getting your message out by getting publicity and attracting the notice of search engines.

It's a good idea. Any of you who are techies might want to look it over and see if you can spot errors that might undermine the purpose of the manual, or make suggestions to refine their concepts.


NRA Files:

The National Rifle Association has apparently filed for a restraining order to stop the unconstitutional gun seizures in New Orleans. The comments in their news article about it are publicity statements -- I haven't yet seen the actual motion. It will be interesting to see where they take their stand on the law, and under just what terms their lawyers decided they could make the strongest case.


Rita Rides In:

Grim's Hall co-blogger Daniel is going to ride out Rita in Houston. Doc hit what sounds like a miserable highway, but has apparently made it out safely. His lady wife, however, is remaining behind -- she is a medical doctor who has volunteered to care for the wounded.

I'm not too worried about Daniel -- neither storm nor thunder should trouble a man of his ilk -- but I hope you will all keep Mrs. Doc in your thoughts. And best to Doc, too: being away from a loved one in these circumstances is a worse pain than being in danger yourself.


Stare Decisis:

Feddie of Southern Appeal writes to say that he would be only too happy to serve if nominated. Fat chance, Fed. Nice pic, though.


Whisky, yer the divil!

The LA Times today has a review of a new book on the happiest subject of them all:

He evokes the whisky-sodden world of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment; you wonder that Edinburgh, a city where everybody downed half a cup of whisky promptly at noon (a bell was rung), produced so many important writers and inventors.

The 18th century attitude, MacLean writes, "is summed up by a story about a group of gentlemen who had been drinking together in a club in Glasgow. They had been at it for several hours when it was noticed that one of the number had been keeping quiet for some time. 'Whit gars Garskadden luk sae gash?' (What makes the laird of Garskadden look so ghastly?), asked the laird of Kilmardinny. To which Garskadden's neighbour replied, 'Garskadden's been wi' his Maker these twa hours; I saw him step awa', but I dinna like to disturb gude company.'"
A half a cup of the pure each noon? I get about that much yearly these days, but I can certainly appreciate the concept. Perhaps when I've retired.

The author does have the right attitude about it:
Because whisky was long considered a medicine, the Scots often added spices and other supposed medicinal ingredients to it, along the line of tonic liqueurs like Chartreuse. MacLean mentions an 18th century recipe that added mace, cloves, cinnamon, nuts, coriander, cubeb peppers, raisins, dates, licorice, saffron and sugar to what was probably perfectly good Scotch to start with.
'With Scotch, mix only water -- and that, only in an emergency.' Just so.


A Gallery of Weapons:

Thanks to Secrecy News, you can see the US Army Weapons System Handbook for 2005. It is, of course, unclassified. The information is quite basic, but it treats some near-future weapons as well as current stuff. It can be useful as a primer if you should be interested in an article that mentions this or that piece of weapons tech with which you're not already familiar.


Nation of Riflemen:

The Nation of Riflemen forums have moved. I'm not a regular participant there, simply because my time for contributing to forums is quite limited, so I normally spend it on blogging here or at The Fourth Rail. It is, however, an interesting and useful resource.


On Arms & Charity:

Hunter Baker at Southern Appeal had a post describing an encounter he had with a vagrant at his door, who showed up wanting work. The police showed up not long afterwards, and arrested the fellow on charges of burglary.

Our Joel Leggett put up a followup post taking Hunter to task for his foolishness. Joel and I have been discussing the ethics and practicalities involved in the comments. We disagree on the proper course of action, though I do wish to add that I respect the Captain's position, and the way in which he allows his deep personal faith to guide his life and thinking.

I don't mean to add to the debate here, but rather to direct you there should you wish to consider it. It's an important topic, I think, touching on heroic ethical issues such as hospitality and charity, duty and protection.

UPDATE: Although it touches an entirely different topic, I see that Doc is thinking along the same lines as I am about the underlying issues. Good luck to the lady, Doc, and yourself as well.


Myers' Tombstone:

The case of unqualified nepotism appointee Julie Myers, joined with Eric's British colonial references, has reminded me of something. The British colonial system ought to be critiqued for what we can learn of its failures, but we ought also to remember its successes. The British also dealt with the question of patronage positions, but they did it better than we do.

A piece of popular theater in the late 19th century was Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore." It made fun of the British empire, and particularly the Royal Navy. It was popular in America as well as elsewhere -- so much so that it was performed in Tombstone, Arizona not long before the shootout at the OK Corral. (Addendum to the cited article: in addition to being "a disreputable cowboy," Behan was also at times the sheriff.)

One of the characters most mocked is "the Ruler of the Queen's Navy," who is a patronage appointment who knows exactly nothing about the navy:

Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership,
And that junior partnership I ween
Was the only ship that I ever had seen;
But that kind of ship so suited me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navy!
Yet the song, though it mocks, is also a tribute to the British system. The Ruler of the Queen's Navy began as an office boy, whose hard work at cleaning out a law firm earned him a minor position copying letters. His devotion to accuracy earned him another opportunity; and through hard work and study, he moved up to that junior partnership. Through more hard work, he became wealthy, and then became a member of Parliament, where his party loyalty brought him to the position of command over the Navy. It is a testament to a lifetime's hard work and devotion to duty.

What has this to do with a thirty-six year old, whose tiny amount of relevant experience was only gained as the result of another patronage position? The Ruler of the Queen's Navy was a man of experience and character in his own right, who was laughable only because he was placed in command of something he didn't happen to know much about. Yet he did have experience, and what was really an extraordinary career behind him.

Who is Julie Myers? Not, I hope, the next head of the Immigration and Customs service.



Our Ambassador to Malaysia, Christopher LaFleur, has called Malaysia a success story for democracy. (Shouldn't we ask American diplomats named after French flowers to adopt a nomme de guerre for the duration of their tenure? How about we call you "Chris Eastwood" just for the length of your appointment?)

Is it true? Well, there's one leading indicator to watch. Lim Kit Siang, the leader of the Democratic Action Party, has a blog. Lim is a fun character to watch. You can count on him to cause a near-brawl in the Malaysian parliament at least twice a year, usually by making some "insensitive" statement about the proper role of Islam in Malaysian politics. DAP is a secular party, and likes to remind the less-secular parties that the Malaysian constitution declares Malaysia to be a secular state. Malaysian politicians, somewhat like a certain brand of US politician, often like to call Malaysia an "Islamic nation," which is true in the sense that belongs to the OIC. The DAP can always be counted on to stand up and fight the idea, to the amusement of all.


More on Basra:

Reader J.M. sends this article by a UK army officer on the Basra mission. Except for the idea of running a tank into the building, he says, it was a great thought:

Right up to the point when someone thought a 17-ton armoured vehicle was the right negotiating tactic to spring two British special forces operatives from an Iraqi jail, the fact that two SAS troopers were disguised as locals (and sneaking around in a civvy car) showed the British Army was doing what it has always done, usually pretty well: getting down and dirty with the locals and gathering information.
Well, fair enough, insofar as it's true. However, I can't help but notice that "getting down and dirty with the locals" apparently encompassed shooting Iraqi police. Doubtless this improved their credibility with the local insurgents tremendously -- but the rest of the Iraqi population has every right to take the demonstration just as seriously.

Why, precisely, were they doing this?
The Army is struggling to win the intelligence battle. When your enemy communicates through use-once-and-throw-away mobile phones, or motorbike couriers, when you don't speak the language, and the locals are all related, come from the same village, and won't talk to strangers, gaining actionable intelligence is very hard. Hence the covert ops.
The author then compares this with the American method:
And technology won't help.

Faced with the language problem, the US army bought electronic translators. The British hired teachers.
Indeed they did, and also brought on as many human translators as they could locate or train. They also, however, hired teachers. And not just language teachers: cultural instructors as well. I know a charming young mother in Washington, D.C., who was introduced to me as an "urban warfare instructor." I was a little taken aback by the introduction, given that she didn't seem to have the build for urban warfighting, so I later asked her just what it was she had taught. It turned out that the Army had sought her out for roleplaying exercises with troops heading to Iraq. A Muslim from the Middle East herself, she was hired to teach them what to expect and how to deal properly with the cultures involved.

We'll return to that in a moment.
When your threat is a man with an AK47, spy satellites aren't going to tell you that someone has moved into the empty house next to the centre-forward's cousin.

This is nothing more than good old-fashioned policing - the Bobby on the Beat, albeit with a 155mm howitzer on call. What the British Army - and even more so the American forces - need is far fewer Rambos and a lot more Jack Warners.
The "Bobby on the Beat" is a little out of place in Iraq today. I don't see a future for this particular sort of SAS-style "old fashioned policing" either. The fellow has diagnosed the problem nicely, but has no remedy to hand.

There is an intelligence gathering method that works. It starts with building personal relationships, which in turn starts with treating people properly. The US Army knew that years ago -- that's why they hired instructors, like my kindly friend in D.C., to train deploying infantrymen. The dividends are paying off in Mosul, as Yon's pieces demonstrate, and throughout the USMC's AO.

The US military is using local tips, gathered from people who've decided they have a stake in the new Iraq. They've decided that partially because we've been winning on the military front, so the insurgents can't hold territory or guarantee peace. We've also been doing it because people have been building personal relationships, built on respect and honesty -- not sneaking around in sneakers and shooting your allies.

I hope the British army produces a better explanation than this for the little contretemps in Basra.


A Non-Ceremonial DeLinking:

Per Doc, who passes on the blogger's request that others also remove his blog to reduce its Google signature. Those of you with blogs may wish to drop by and see if you might want to do likewise.


Who is Julie Myers?

Well, she's President Bush's pick to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which includes the Border Patrol and is under the Department of Homeland Security. She has impressive qualifications:

Her uncle is Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She married [former Justice Department official Michael] Chertoff's current chief of staff, John F. Wood, on Saturday.
No, wait, those aren't her qualifications. Her qualifications aren't that she is thirty-six years old and is related or married to important people with political connections. That's not why she's being put in a critical position for Homeland Security.

Here we are:
In written answers to questions from Congress, Myers highlighted her year-long job as assistant secretary for export enforcement at Commerce, where she said she supervised 170 employees and a $25 million budget. ICE has more than 20,000 employees and a budget of approximately $4 billion. Its personnel investigate immigrant, drug and weapon smuggling, and illegal exports, among other responsibilities.
So, she has one year's experience. No one could be more qualified than that! See, it's not about her family and political ties at all.

Nobody is getting that the border is a critical vulnerability to "Homeland Security," are they?
What were they thinking?

I came across this report of that botched British Army operation to free some British (undercover?) soldiers from jail in Basra.

And more here (with pictures) from the BBC.

I have been concerned for awhile that the British in Basra haven't really been pulling their weight. Its just a hunch I have, but the initial "we know what we're doing, and the Americans are too heavy handed" comments from the British military in 2003, particularly after the insurgency in the Sunni triangle started, made me question whether the British command really had an idea of what they were in Iraq for.

Just what do they think driving tanks through a jail wall is?

The British have just screwed up big time. I don't even want to think about the implications of this.

Posse Comitatus

Posse Comitatus:

Arms and the Law has a short but useful post on the built-in exceptions in Posse Comitatus. If you aren't familiar with the phrase yet, you will want to become familiar with it, as you'll be hearing a lot about it in the wake of the New Orleans disaster. The term means "power of the county," although comitatus has an ancient and highly honorable heritage: the word, which is related to "comrade," meant in early Germanic society the warrior band that kept company with, and often elected, the king. These are the men who became Charlemagne's Paladins; these are the men who became knights and great nobles when the qualification for such status was a strong arm and a brave heart.

In the American legal tradition, Posse Comitatus is a law that limits the military's ability to be used as a law enforcement agency -- for example, to suppress riots and restore order in ruined New Orleans. However, one can offer another example: to storm houses of people suspected of illegal conduct in normal times, or to "stop" cars in the fashion our Mr. Yon explained is universal: by putting cannon rounds from a helicopter gunship through the vehicle's engine block. Assuming you don't miss, which even the most well-trained soldier will on occasion.

This is the law, in other words, that prevents the government from making war on the American people -- or, at least, the criminal element of the American people, as best as it can be identified by the government's agents. It is a law we ought to be very glad to have. We ought to be deeply suspicious of attempts to overturn that law. I yield to none in my respect and admiration for the US military, but their training and their firepower is not meant to be used against Americans except in extraordinary circumstances.

It would tarnish their honor to let the politicians use them in that way. It is not what they are for, nor what they are sworn to do. As Arms and the Law demonstrates, it is also not necessary -- legal exceptions exist to cover most extraordinary situations. As it is neither needful nor desirable, we ought to mistrust legislators who attempt it.


Things You Can See in Virginia:

Virginia is horse country, of a sort. Horse people know that there are many kinds of horses, but in America there are mostly two kinds of riders: "English" riders, and "Western" riders. English riders draw their traditions, and their gear, from the old Foxhunting traditions of England. Western riders draw their traditions and gear from the cowboys, vaqueros, and other riders from the American West. There are also Australian riders -- the kit is an interesting mix of the two other styles, as I gather -- and of course there are non-Western traditions as well.

Virginia is English country in a big way. Many of the great among the Founders were horsemen, and the English tradition was their tradition. It is so deeply saturated in the culture around here that every little waterway -- which would be called a "creek" or a "stream" anywhere else -- is called a "run." Around here there is Broad Run, Thumb Run, and of course the infamous Bull Run, which I should not have to tell you is near a city called Manassas.

Today I saw a fellow hauling hay for his horses, and on the side of the truck was a logo for his company. Turns out they have a website: "Journey's End Carriage."

"If I'm at the journey's end," I asked my wife -- who used to teach horseback riding in the days when the Girl Scouts of America had a big national camp out west in Wyoming -- "why do I need a carriage?"

It was worth it for the look I got out of her.

On Saturday, I went to the Village of Hume and saw a ring joust. This proves to be the state sport of Maryland, which is appropriate since Maryland is the only state with a proper coat of arms for a flag. The arms of Maryland were inherited from one of their colonial grandees, Calvert, Lord Baltimore.

It was a fun little exercise, featuring no "knights" but many young maidens. So, at least, the announcer proclaimed them as they rode through: "Such and such, Maiden of the Plains." "The Plains" is a small town near here.

The girls were all having a great deal of fun, and a few of them had even attempted to kit out their horses in something like a medieval style. I have some pictures, which perhaps I can upload. Anyway, good fun, even if the announcer from the Ruritarians who was hosting the event was entirely confused by the medieval jargon.

Another thing Virginia has is lots of military folks. It's common to see USMC bumper stickers (indeed, you can see them on my trucks), as well as stickers that say "Proud Parent of a US Marine."

Until today, however, I'd never seen one of these. They say every Marine is a recruiter -- and so, apparently, is everyone in his family, at least to one degree's removal.



Please take the time to read this article about Cpl Ted Rubin by James S. Robbins. This authentic American hero will finally receive the recognition he so richly deserves on September 23 when President Bush presents him with the Medal of Honor. I have also posted this over at Southern Appeal.

Ice cream

Ice Cream:

I wonder about the Burger King "Allah" Ice Cream. But let me pass on the story in case you haven't heard it:

The fast-food chain, Burger King, is withdrawing its ice-cream cones after the lid of the dessert offended a Muslim.

The man claimed the design resembled the Arabic inscription for Allah, and branded it sacrilegious, threatening a “jihad”.
You can see the design through the first link, compared with the Arabic for "Allah." Judge for yourself, as JihadWatch suggests.

But my question is this: When one of our more Fundamentalist Christians thinks he sees in some commercial product Jesus' face, or the Virgin Mary, he takes it as a miracle that proves the existence of God. He tells us that it shows that even in these little things, these throw-offs of the godless capitalist system, God's work is done.

The more radical Muslim threatens jihad against Burger King.

Why is it that radicals in the one faith see the hand of God working something positive in these coincidences, while radicals of the other faith see a conspiracy to insult their god? Why is the radical arm of the Christian faith confident of God's power to work regardless of the intention of man, while the radical arm of the Islamic faith so ready to believe that it is man working evil in defiance of the Lord of the Dawn?

It suggests to me that there is a substantial lack of confidence at work in the radical forms of Islam. Why should that be? It's true that Islamic civilization is at a low point, while civilizations that have historic involvement with Christianity are still on top. But religion, because it speaks to issues of true power behind the obvious faces of the world, ought to liberate the intense believer from the mere facts of the world they know. The simple reality of the situation at hand should not be definitive for the true believer.

Yet, here we are. What say you?