Regular readers of MilBlogs are aware of that the author of "A Storm in Afghanistan" announced in September that his wife's cancer had gotten to her brain. She died today.

He writes at his blog:

Ellicia enjoyed your cards, letters, and notes of support. They warmed her heart, and mine too, to see all of the caring from around the world. If you'd like to write to the family, or... to the kids - it'll be nice to show them how much their Mother was loved and cherished. You may write at: (Kira, Marissa, and Thomas) The Stanley's P.O. Box 4793 Fort Eustis, VA 23604
My condolences to a fellow husband and father.

NYear Pardons

New Year Pardons:

It has, in several cultures, been the habit of kings and presidents to issue pardons to deserving (and sometimes undeserving) persons on the new year. Here are some cases I think are deserving.

Two Border Patrol Agents convicted of shooting a drug smuggler in the backside, in the course of his escape and while he was armed. The smuggler was granted immunity(!) for his testimony against the agents. They are meant to serve 11 and 12 years for attempting to stop his escape from American justice.

Cory Maye, convicted of killing a policeman who burst into his house, in the course of a raid, at night and without warning -- the raid serving a warrant on the wrong address. In defense of his child, he killed one, though he surrendered when the policemens' identity became clear. Maye is sentenced to life in prison. (H/t Instapundit, who has regularly reminded us of the case.)

These three men -- two agents of the law, and one wrongly handled by agents of the law -- deserve their freedom.

Proj V-IT on Esquire cover

Project VALOUR-IT soldier on the cover of Esquire:

Fuzzybear Lioness has the story, along with a retrospective of the case. Bryan Anderson's story is an important one to read, to see how the project has helped one fighting man begin the road to recovery. His family described the laptop as "the first step," because "it proved that he was going to be able to do all the things he did before."

All of you who have helped, or donated: thank you.


Good Work:

The Virginia Citizens' Defense League is proudly reporting that a member stopped a bank robbery the other day. The criminal, encountering an armed citizen, fled at once without a shot being fired or the citizen even needing to draw his weapon. SunTrust banks in the area have been robbed recently, but not this one.

The story underlines a basic fact about an armed citizenry: its successes aren't always visible. The criminal, who wore a ski mask and immediately fled from the area, was not apprehended; indeed, the bank didn't even try to call the police, since they had no way to identify who it was. There is therefore no police report, no media report, nothing that would show up on a statistical study of crime. The citizen's gun was never drawn, only observed.

We all share a citizen's duty to uphold the common peace and lawful order. As this story shows, sometimes all it takes is being devoted to that duty, and keeping the necessary tools to hand.



While in Indiana, I had occasion on Christmas Day for a long talk with my mother-in-law. She was raised in Alaska. A wise piece of advice for any man who wants to marry: look long at the mother of your considered bride.

So here's a story about my wife's mother. See if you can spot the family resemblance.

Some years ago, she lost a kidney. It was a hard time for her, as she was terribly ill for months due to the poisons coming from the dying tissue. She refused to go to a doctor for a long time, however, so she didn't know what was wrong.

When she finally did go in, the doctor determined that one of her kidneys was dying. "I wonder what has caused this," he said. "Have you suffered any sharp blows to the area lately?"

"No," she said.

"Hm," the doctor said. "Well, any serious injury to the area ever?"

"Not that I can recall," she said.

"You never had a hard blow to the region?" he tried one more time.

She fixed her mouth in thought, and finally said, "Well, there was the time the grizzly bear threw me into the tree. I forgot about that."

"Slipped your mind?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered. "I was cleaning a deer, and he just wanted the carcass. So, he slapped me into a tree. I was so mad, I went back for my rifle, but my mother made me go to the doctor. I didn't want to go to the doctor, I wanted to go get that bear."

"Was the injury serious?" the doctor patiently continued.

"I didn't think so until now," she said. "But my mother insisted. The claws tore through the parka, and the shirt I was wearing, and my undershirt, and the underwear... but they didn't touch me! I figured I was fine."

Apparently not, she discovered decades later... well, such things happen.

Iraqi force spirit

Iraqi Forces:

I've always been opposed to those "team building" exercises that try to artificially create the unity of spirit that only really occurs from genuine experience.

On the other hand, this one may cross the line into genuine experience. Ben of Mesopotamia, deployed MilBlogger, reports on an Iraqi forces' parade in Najaf:

One of the units stops in front of the reviewing stand and executes a right face so they face the dignitaries. They are wearing dark green camouflage tee shirts that look as if they had just visited a surplus store somewhere, and black pants. Their faces are also painted black. The commander issues an order in Arabic, the men chant something in response...
OK, so far standard enough in spite of the weird uniforms...
...and then each soldier produces a live frog from his right pocket. They then proceeded to BITE THE HEAD OFF THE FROG and throw its STILL KICKING torso onto the track. The Commander of the unit then produces a live rabbit and holds it by its hind legs in front of him. He pulls out an eight-inch hunting knife, and guts it from its belly to its neck. He grabs the incision on each side, and rips its chest and stomach open. He proceeded to STICK HIS MOUTH INTO THE CARCASS, AND COMES OUT WITH THE STILL BEATING HEART IN HIS TEETH!!! He passes the rabbit to each soldier, who takes a turn BITING INTO THE BLOODY INTESTINES!!!
Hmm. Perhaps these guys are up to whipping the insurgents.

There was a lot more to the parade, including a formal loyalty pledge by tribal shieks. Overall, Ben was encouraged:
There have been a lot of bad days in Iraq since I arrived last Spring. I start every day with the daily intelligence report, which leads off with how many people were killed over the previous 24 hours. Even on days where the violence is relatively light, it is still too many innocent families being torn apart by the nihilism of evil men. And while I am still fully convinced that our cause here is just, it is frustrating at times to realize that best intentions are not enough, and that the sacrifices our soldiers are making in the field every day (sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice) for a peaceful Iraq and a secure U.S does not seem to be improving the situation here.

But today, the spirit of the Iraqi Security Forces was palpable, and you could see the pride on the soldiers' and policemen's faces as they marched, honored to be assuming responsiblity for maintaining Iraq’s security. Their clear devotion to Iraq as a nation renewed my hope that there is still a chance we can overcome the terrorists and extremists trying to destroy everything the Iraqi people want to build.
Parades are meant to rally your spirits and manipulate them toward the ends of the parade-master. Nevertheless, I think that his take is right. The hope has always been that the enemy's ability to create chaos would eventually work against him -- that the people would come to be willing to create peace and order themselves, through any means necessary.

The Coalition is not going to deploy the sort of force necessary to quell the insurgency, because you don't fight a successful counterinsurgency that way. You raise local forces that will do it, and make clear over time that stability and peace can only come through those forces and no others. Victory comes when your allies are seen by enough of the people as being 'their team,' so that the countryside fights for them and refuses to shelter the enemy.

The other necessary condition is that the people have to believe that your side will be able to provide stability. As Bill Roggio reported from Anbar province, one of the chief problems we face in the Sunni areas of Iraq is that potential allies don't believe we'll stick it out. They cannot, therefore, commit to us -- they have to hedge their bets. That lack of commitment is a structural flaw in American foreign policy, one that cannot change, and it is therefore why insurgency is such a difficult thing for us to combat compared to more brutal, less free and democratic nations. The insurgents can hope to move our political will, in a way that they cannot hope to move (say) China's.

That is why we must make a public recommitment to fighitng through the difficulties in Iraq, and seeing it through. There can be no end but victory on the table.

This week's news from Somalia is being cast in some places as good news in the fight against Islamist movements; in others as bad news for stability. The truth is that the Islamists have never been able to hold ground when opposed by local forces backed with US power -- or by Western forces. What we are seeing there is what we should expect to see. It's important nevertheless, because a key element in the GWOT has to be ensuring that Islamist movements do not hold territory in their own name. It is one thing if the people of a state choose to institute some level of Islamic law in their public lives, as they do in Malaysia and parts of Indonesia; it is another to have an Islamist state, as the Taliban was in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the hard part comes later in Somalia. It's always possible to break the Islamist hold on an area. It's defeating their insurgency, with its design of targeting the weak and the innocent, that is the challenge of the age. We must learn to do this; we must show that we can do it, not only once but reliably.

Ethiopia will commit as we cannot, and indeed should not, and so we serve as advisors to them. The Iraqi fighting forces we are raising will likewise be brutal in a way we cannot, and cannot be forced to "go home" because they are home.

Winning the tribes should have been the first, and must be the last, phase of the war. The Shi'ite tribes are increasingly in the right column -- that of the Iraqi government -- but the Sunni tribes have, if anything, relapsed. This is due to the fact that they cannot trust us to keep presence in Iraq, and pressure on the government to support their rights; they therefore fear the government of Iraq, rather than looking toward it as a means of ensuring their own stability. We must convince them both of our own resolve, and that the government of Iraq will not annihilate them. Otherwise, the government of Iraq will have to do so, as it is the only alternative to end the war. Surely, none of us wants that ending.

The biggest news of the last week was the capture of the ranking Iranians in the region. Unfortunately, ther is not enough information in the clear to make judgments about. I suspect that is what Bush is really doing this week -- not 'rethinking the course' in a general way, but deciding what to do about Iran's involvement. Negotiation is widely suggested, but can only work to our advantage if we can find a way to negotiate from strength -- if we put a large enough stick on the table, that is, to go with the soft and diplomatic talk. If we have the courage to deploy such a stick, then I favor the negotiations; if we do not, then they are worse than pointless. Negotiation and diplomacy of that type is actively harmful.


Post-Holiday Confusion:

Wait, what? We're on the air? Oh, hello.

Whew. Yesterday's five-hundred mile drive over several sets of mountains has left me unusually cff-balance, due to the cold I haven't quite shaken. The pressure changes in the ear suffered at Monteagle still haven't gone away due to the head being stopped-up in a fashion unbroken by Robotussin. It finally sparked vertigo by the time we were passing Cloudland Canyon, leading to this conversation:

Grim: "Are we sideways now?"

Wife: "No."

Grim: "Crap."

I did manage to find my way to the computer today. This has not improved the situation.

For one thing, I find that my favorite blawg has closed. Alas for Southern Appeal! We shall not see its like again.

I've several things I'd like to talk with you about soon. Give me a day or two, and a supply of good beer, and I don't doubt I shall be at your service.


If this is St. Steven's Day, I'm in... Where?

Farmland outside of Indianapolis, Indiana, childhood home of the little wife (whom I met in Knoxville on her way to Savannah -- long story). Today, I'm going to the Eiteljorg Museum, and then will have a last dinner with the in-laws. Tomorrow, I'll begin the long trip back to my beloved South.

I've been sick over the holiday, but thanks to my mother-in-law's application of dark Jamaican rum and coffee, I feel much better today. JarHeadDad can tell you that there's nothing like rum to make you feel better (eh, old son?). Hope all of you are well.

Yule Log


I have a moment to check in after all, and I see that our friend Fuzzy has posted one of those silly holiday quizzes. "What holiday food are you?" it asks, and she reports being a Gingerbread House.

Well, I'm tired enough to feel some whimsy this evening. Let's see what it says...

You Are a Yule Log

While you do have holiday spirit, you have a secret, heathen past.


Hope you're all getting your favorite holiday foods, whatever they are. Waes Hail! See you after the Yuletide.


Happy Holidays:

Grim's Hall has residents, to my certain knowledge, who are proudly Heathen, Christian, Pagan, or Jewish. I'm not sure if we have readers from other faiths or not -- since they haven't mentioned it -- but I wish to offer my good wishes to all of you.

I gather from my email that Hannukah (or however you spell it -- I'm told there are several choices) is ongoing. I'm not sure what the right greeting is for that, but have a good one (I think it's meant to be a good one -- it's Yom Kippur where you set out to have a bad one, right?). One of you fed me a potato pancake last year, and it was delicious. So, while I don't know much about the holiday, it can't be all bad.

The Winter Solstice is tomorrow according to my calendar, and drinc hail! Have one for me -- fate decrees that I will be on the road all day tomorrow, and so shall not be able to feast and celebrate as I would prefer on such a day.

And, of course, next week brings Christmas and St. Steven's Day. Merry Christmas to all.

I will be traveling until two days after Christmas, visiting distant family. I don't know if I will post between now and then, or have access to post. The best to you all, good people of good hearts, whatever tradition you cherish. All such are welcome here.

Stable truths

Stables, Donkeys, Christmas:

Reader A.H. sends this piece by Jennifer Graham, from a "play barn" in the suburbs of Boston. I hope the horses are as disciplined as the children are suggested to be -- having met a few "play horses" in my time, I have usually found them to be on the verge of dangerous. A thousand-pound creature is not a toy, and if they aren't taught manners, they may "playfully" smash you. Or just by accident.

The main thrust of the story is a reflection on the presence of filth in stables, which is surely one of the great truths of history. It is almost forgotten today, by accident of our suddenly sterile society. What does this mean for a story of a god born in a stable? The author has some thoughts. Chesterton also wrote on the subject, in "The God in the Cave."

It's something I also reflect on sometimes, while working in the barns. No matter how hard you work, no stall that has ever held a horse is free of some evidence of that fact. If you're going to be with horses, you have to learn to accept the presence of that evidence.

Ms. Graham suggests that associating with barns is humbling, and evidence of the particular humility evident in a god who casts off glory so far as to enter a barn. Is that so? If the Christian creation story is even close to correct, surely God cannot have a problem with the dirtiness of barns. It would have been his idea, after all, to make horses in such fashion as to dirty them.

If he had a problem with barns, it would have to be with the existence of barns, not the dirtiness of them. It would have to be, in other words, with the keeping of horses in stalls -- not with the fact that the stalls then became dirty.

If the story is an endorsement of barns, then, it must be an endorsement of humanity's keeping of animals, and rule over them. The favor shown to humanity, by one who had come to love them in spite of themselves, would be the point of the story. Surely that is the way to read the tale.

Cold hats

Cold Weather Hats:

Ron F., whose long service with the Boy Scouts is his main reason for fame here in the Hall, offers an excellent piece of advice in the comments to the survival post below.

I know you said it above, but if you keep your head, hands and feet warm, keeping the rest of your body warm is one hell of a lot easier. Note that a stocking cap will stay on when you sleep when a Stetson won't. Wear a hat when you go to bed.
That's right. The only time of year when I don't wear a Stetson is when the temperature drops notably below freezing. In my experience, a straw or light felt hat is best in the heat of summer; beaver felt or buffalo felt hats in spring, fall, and early and late winter; but for the depths of winter, you need something designed to keep your head warm, more than to keep it dry and shady.

By far the best thing I've ever encountered for this is the Deerskin shell Mad Bomber Hat. Although it is the most expensive of the Mad Bomber Hats, it's still cheap for the price -- I bought one more than ten years ago, and expect it will outlive me. No matter how cold it gets, your head will stay warm. Wind and snow will not bother it. And, since it has a chin-strap, it will stay on while you sleep.

For cold weather survival, I know of nothing better. It's far warmer, and more impervious to the icy wind, than any synthetic or knit cap I ever encountered.

Injustice & Animals

Injustice & Animals:

On the other hand, an example of an unkind and merciless thing to do is distributing this link...

Justice & Animals

Justice & Animals:

I prefer the company of serene turkey vultures overhead to that of a similar number of men, unless I can pick the particular men and am in the mood. Otherwise, I'll take the vultures every time. I know every dog within a mile of my house, though I know few of the owners. Wounded or frightened domestic animals follow me home, though they have never met me before. I've written about the joy of knowing horses, and of good dogs.

There are a number of reasons to feel that animals ought to be treated better than they often are. The world imposes hard limits on us, however. Consider the Humane Society: it began as a collection of caring people who wished to improve the lot of domestic animals. It has become the chief slaughterhouse for domestic dogs and cats. Precisely because it has undertaken to ensure their welfare, it must kill the ones for whom it cannot provide.

I mention this because of an article entitled "Animals and the Limits of Justice," by Paola Cavalieri. Cavalieri made her name by co-editing The Great Ape Project, an ambitious animal rights book that attempted to argue for extending human-style rights and protections to primates. In this latest work, Cavalieri argues that justice cannot really be achieved until we extend it to many other nonhuman species. Her summation holds:

Any arbitrarily limited justice creates and maintains by its own existence the existence conditions of injustice. This is, I believe, the kernel of truth that lies in the famous, and apparently mystical, dictum that no one is saved until everyone is saved.... Contra the Stoics, true justice can exist only if it is extended to (many) nonhuman beings.
I have a number of things to say about this article. I'll start by complimenting it. It is a beautiful piece. It does just what I like a work of philosophy to do: it starts with the Greeks, and does not limit itself to their philosophers, but explores also what their mythology tells us about the nature of their understanding.

In addition, I think it does a good job of disposing of large parts of the Stoic argument -- in her sections on absurdity, Cavalieri shows logical and disciplined reasons why many of the facets of the Stoic argument are improper and cannot be held seriously.

That said, she is finally, entirely, wrong. This is because she misunderstands both what justice is, and what the Stoics were saying.

But let us quote the Stoic position. They are holding that it is wrong to treat animals as equals:
Our opponents therefore say, in the first place, that justice will be confounded, and things immoveable be moved, if we extend what is just, not only to the rational, but also to the irrational nature; conceiving that not only Gods and men pertain to us, but that there is likewise an alliance between us and brutes, who [in reality] have no conjunction with us....

For he who uses these as if they were men, sparing and not injuring them, thus endeavoring to adapt to justice that which it cannot bear, both destroys its power, and corrupts that which is appropriate, by the introduction of what is foreign. For it necessarily follows, either that we act unjustly by [not] sparing them, or if we spare, and do not employ them, that it will be impossible for us to live. We shall also, after a manner, live the life of brutes, if we reject the use of which they are capable of affording.... For it would be impossible to assign any work, any medicine, or any remedy for the want which is destructive of life, or that we can act justly, unless we preserve the ancient law illustrated by Hesiod, a law by which, distinguishing the natural kinds and giving each class its special domain,

“To fishes, savage beasts, and birds, devoid
Of justice, Jove to devour each other
Granted; but justice to mankind he gave.”

i.e., toward each other.

But it is not possible for us to act unjustly towards those who cannot be just towards us. Hence, for those who reject this reasoning, no other road of justice is left, either broad or narrow, into which they can enter. For, as we have already observed, our nature, not being sufficient to itself, but indigent of many things, would be entirely destroyed, and enclosed in a life involved in difficulties, inorganic, and deprived of necessaries, if excluded from the assistance derived from animals.
I have highlighted the parts to which I will refer. As I said, there is much here that is not to the point, and I think Cavalieri has shown where those parts lie.

Yet these things remain, and undo her argument.

What is Justice?

Cavalieri offers Nussbaum's definition and Aristotle's. She disposes of Nussbaum early, but for different reasons than I would.
Martha Nussbaum states that, under the capabilities approach she favors - an approach stressing that individuals have the basic right to be “all that they can be” with the support of internal and external conditions - nonhumans, as conscious and purposive agents, do have entitlements based upon justice.
Cavaleri asserts that this is too little; I say it is too much.

Justice is a virtue that exists between parties. Normally, one party is being just to another. Nussbaum is speaking only of one party: a being is 'treated justly' if it has 'external and internal supports' that enable it to 'be all it can be.' If that is just treatment, who is treating it justly?

Who is providing these 'external' supports, and at what cost? This establishes who the real moral agent is in the situation. If justice is providing resources to others, then the recipient is not being just, but only being treated justly.

Who then is being just? Society, one supposes, since this is meant to be a universal formula: we are meant to treat everyone this way, and indeed (in Cavalieri's ideal) every animal.

Societies are not just or unjust. A society has no virtue, no morals, no heart, and no soul. It is a name we give to a collection of people. It is the people who have hearts and souls, morals and virtues. A society is not just or unjust. It is made up of people who are just or unjust. They pass laws, either justly or unjustly because of the people's intent. Those laws are applied justly or unjustly, because people apply them.

Thus, this vision of what justice might be cannot be correct. Justice cannot be measured in this way. Justice cannot be found in results. It has to be found in relationships. It is in how the people behave towards each other (or towards animals, to some degree -- we shall come to that). You cannot see it in the result, but in the process.

More, justice has a cost. What is the cost of paying for 'external supports' that enable you to 'be all you can be'? More, if you need expensive medicines than if you do not. If we pay for one man who needs hundreds of dollars a day in medicines, how many are not receiving this sort of care? Where is the money coming from? If it comes from taxes, does it not impair my ability to 'be all I can be' if you take away my resources? Is it just to help one man 'be all he can be,' by making many men be somewhat less than they might have been?

Cavalieri also cites Aristotle, with whom I normally agree. I disagree here, but I do not think the fault is Aristotle's, but that of language. Ancient Greek was a rich language, complex and capable of carrying many subtleties. Modern Greek, for example, has many fewer words. English is also a complex language, but we do not always have words that express precisely the same shades of meaning as the ancient Greek. When Aristotle says that justice means that "relevantly similar cases are to be treated alike," he is really speaking of something more precise than what we mean by "justice." The concept he is advocating here seems closer to "fairness," which is not the same as justice -- it is unfair that my neighbor escaped his traffic ticket since he was also guilty, but that does not make it unjust that I have to pay for mine.

What do we mean, then?

Justice is the virtue of using your power to achieve the kindest and most merciful result.

Several things flow from this definition:

1) Justice requires a sense of kindness and mercy.

2) Justice is limited by practical circumstances. It does not require a "kind" and "merciful" result, but the "kindest" and "most merciful" result that is possible and practical.

Return your mind to the Humane Society. The gentle-hearted souls who began it did not mean to slaughter kittens by the hundreds every year. Yet they do. Are they wicked? They are not -- no one feels the pain more than do they. Yet they know that, if they do not put down these children in a merciful way, they will starve or die of disease. This is not a kind or a merciful answer: but it is the kindest and most merciful.

3) Justice requires a power relationship. Cavalieri objects to this aspect, but there is no getting around it. She writes:
And, once stripped of its specific metaphysical background, the view that the sphere of justice should be limited by the interests of those to whom justice already applies reveals its true nature as an implicit appeal to privilege. What about the idea that, since we would (allegedly) live the life of slaves if we rejected their exploitation, we are entitled to maintain the institution of slavery?
Privilege, or power, is implicit in justice. If you have no power over another, you cannot treat them either justly or injustly. It is in the relationship, not the results, that the virtue lies. Indeed, that is why this particular virtue is a virtue.

The people of the Humane Society are acting justly, even though they are choosing a course that the animal would presumably not choose for itself (i.e., instant death). They and we are acting justly when we choose which animals will breed, and castrate or spay the others. We would not submit to a similar system ourselves -- would indeed resist it with all our power -- but it is nevertheless an act of justice.

I have known others -- Sovay in particular -- for whom this is not enough. For Sovay, she will do nothing that the animal would not choose (except spay or neuter, but let's set that aside for the moment). Yet the facts are the same for her. She can run her own personal 'no kill' shelter, and bless her for it -- no one living has said more in her praise than I have, and for good reasons I have seen with my own eyes. Yet still there are limits. She currently has, I believe, three dogs and four cats, all rescues except possibly one. This is the limit of what her resources will bear. This is all the justice she can afford.

The Humane Society, by contrast, will take all that come to them. Better that, they have decided, than to let these animals die in the streets (or breed in them). Many, most, end up having to be killed. They have chosen to be responsible -- they have taken the power that goes with responsibility -- and it carries this price. This is the most justice they can afford.

The Stoics

This is where the Stoics were right. First, to be just requires a sense of kindness and mercy. It also requires power.

Animals are outside the human conception of justice, because of their nature. They have no sense of kindness or mercy, and they do not have the capacity to obtain dominion over others -- save that sort of dominion that is quickly resolved, for the purpose of nutrition.

We do. We are different. There is no equine Aristotle.

Insofar as justice is to be extended to animals, it will forever be us "being just," and them "being treated justly." That being the case, we must do what we can practically afford. We can treat a few animals very well, or many animals as well as we can manage -- which may mean that we can only kill them painlessly. That is the choice that this world presents us.

This leads to the last and worst thing about justice I have to offer.

Justice is not the normal condition of the world. It is something to which we aspire, but can only achieve conditionally, in some cases. Most of the time, in most of the aspects of the universe, there is neither justice nor an interest in justice.

I seem to remember reading somewhere a slogan, which was deeply wise:

We should not expect justice. The best we can hope for is an occasional lapse in injustice.

That is the world we have.

UPDATE: There's a parallel discussion at Winds of Change. David Blue questioned me over the use of the word "dominion." Dominion can mean merely 'control,' which of course animals do practice, and is called dominance. I intended the word in the sense of exercising perfect power, as over a dominion of land:
You raise a good point about dominion. The word choice may be confusing. Horses, and dogs, and others, of course practice dominance in groups. What I meant by dominion was the larger quality to decide, as humans do for so many species, every aspect of their existence. A wolf or a horse who exercises dominance is doing so according to preset, instinctive rules. He does not have the power to change even his own society: he is only filling a role that his group is hardwired to require.

An animal can exercise perfect power of that sort only in killing another. Men, on the other hand, have the power to take wild cattle and make veal; to take wild dogs and make Shi Tzu; or to take horses from Mongolia and make hotblooded Arabians suited to the desert. We can order our own society as we like, and to a large degree we can order the lives of others too: deciding who will breed and who will not, making breeds and species larger or smaller, faster or slower, and indeed now altering their hormones and increasingly their genetics for our purposes.

I hope that clarifies what was meant by the word.

2/8 in the news

2/8 Marines in the News:

Our co-blogger Major Leggett sends this story about his unit, from the LA Times. He's quoted in the article, which you wouldn't know from the article itself -- since he is identified as "Maj. Joel Garrett."

On a related note, did you see today's 'Day by Day' cartoon?

Christmas cards

Christmas Cards:

If John Donovan and BlackFive are right to say we know the family, I'd hate to think we here in the Hall didn't do our part.

Life's been tough for a Marine Corps family lately, including the loss of a dear family member. Every year for the past three years they have lost a loved one between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This family has been an active support group for Marines for years - inviting troops into their home, participating in Operation Santa and other troop support projects, etc. Many of you who are in the military community and participate in discussion forums might be familiar with this family.

We want to protect their privacy, but it's not right that such good people who have given so much to our country should not be feeling the joy and love of the Christmas season. So let's show this family the Christmas spirit! Please send them a Christmas card.

Mail your cards or notes to:

970 W Valley Parkway #223

Escondido, CA 92025

We will get the cards to this family as soon as possible.
Open your heart, and share the love of this Holiday Season with a family that has done so much for all of us!
I understand that you've probably sent any holiday cards you were meaning to send -- and that they probably won't get there by Christmas anyway. All the same, we are a big family in a way, and I can think how I'd feel if the holidays had been a time of death and sorrow for three years running. Let's show them that they've got more friends than they realize.
Bill Roggio, Part... er, Something

Another report from Bill, embedded with the Iraqi Army. I got the same email that InstaPundit noted, and have essentially the same reaction to it. The soldiers know Bill is there because he is on their side, and wants their story told.



CENTCOM has a series called "Heroes in the War on Terror," which highlights good acts by soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines. Today's is a little odd, in that -- while the act by the National Guardswoman was heroic -- it wasn't really GWOT related.

She saved a drowning man, in West Haven, CT. When you hear the details, you'll understand why CENTCOM decided not to quibble about whether it was right for the series -- it's a story that deserves telling in any forum.

The nursing student and Iraq War veteran jumped into the freezing water and swam out about 10 feet to where Tom was struggling for air.

“It was too cold to talk,” said Artigue, “but I grabbed his vest and tried to keep him above the water. He grabbed a hold of me and started to pull me down with him, but I was able to drag him by his vest to shore.”

The human chain helped to pull both Artigue and Tom out of the water. On a cold November day, coming out of cold, moving water, communication was difficult, but Artigue was able to keep Tom talking and conscious until emergency crews arrived.
Well done, sergeant.

Poor Cass

Poor Cassidy:

I feel sorry for our friend Cass, who has managed to enrage apparently half the world. I don't think it's even her fault. But I'm getting ahead of the story.

If you don't read her blog (and you should), a few days ago she tossed off a post in reply to an advice column, which she titled "Idiot."

You wouldn't think a short post that derived from an advice column would generate a lot of heat, but it did. After it went over a hundred (mostly rather hot) comments, she wrote a second post to explain the first.

Today, she had to write a third post to reply to anger directed at the first two.

The problem is this: people are trying to read from the specific to the general -- and, in this case, "the general" is a very dangerous place. It's a place where many people feel very vulnerable, and want to assert boldly in order to cover how uncertain they really feel.

I'm not sure this particular specific, though, holds general lessons. The woman in question is unusually stupid and shallow. It's always dangerous to read general lessons from a single example, but especially when the single example is so far to the left of the bell curve.

Different readers

Difference in Readerships:

I guess this article is interesting to many people, as it was carried in a "popular" magazine and linked today at InstaPundit, a very popular blog. Obviously, lots of folks are captivated by recent stories about people who died of exposure this winter, and are fantasizing about what they would do in such circumstances.

Well, nothing wrong with that. Fantasy can be a useful way to prepare your mind for challenges.

I expect my readership, however, will mostly enjoy the article by mocking it.

Fire Starter: Connect fine-grade steel wool to the positive and negative terminals of a 9-volt battery to create a glowing fire starter. (A pair of 6-volt, AA batteries held in a series will do.)
Right! I'll just get out that fine-grade steel wool that I always keep handy, and then... let's see, I know there must be a 9-volt battery here...

(Oh, sure, make fun. But aren't they just urging you to be prepared? If that's what they wanted to do, why not say, "Carry some @$#%@# matches"?)

Water Jug: Got a condom aging in your wallet? [No.] In a pinch, it can carry a gallon of water. [How did you figure that out, I wonder?] (Unlubricated tastes best.) [I don't even want to know how you figured that out.] To make it easier to carry, sling the improvised water bag in a bandana.
The bandana is the best idea I've heard yet. I've never been on the tech-heavy side of survival. As I said on the subject of First Aid Kits, one of these and one of these is all you need. You can do everything from rigging a tourniquet to a sling, stop bleeding, bandage a wound, whatever you have to do.

By the same token, wilderness survival is easy. Don't complicate matters.

1) Know your environment. If you know where to find water, what sort of makeshift shelters are appropriate, and how to navigate the kind of land where you live -- you're going to be all right barring injuries.

2) Learn first aid, to maximize your chance of dealing with injuries.

3) If you have to travel in cold weather, keep some extra clothes (including boots) in your car or truck, enough for the coldest weather you're apt to encounter. It really doesn't take much to be warm enough to survive. Keep your head, feet, hands and groin well insulated, and the rest of you out of the wind.

4) Always carry a book of matches, a good knife, and a bandana or silk "wild rag," preferably the latter. Always wear a good hat. It's not a bad idea to keep a heavy caliber handgun in your glove box or on your person, as appropriate with local law. That's all the equipment you need to survive in North America.

That's it. You don't need to be McGyver. Just be a cowboy. You'll be fine.

UPDATE: The wife, who used to teach cold-weather survival for the Girl Scouts, suggests some sort of disinfectant as a third "must-have," to go with the wild rag and the bowie knife. In truth, I do keep rubbing alcohol in the truck for just that reason -- it just isn't something I carry on hikes or horseback rides, though it would be wise.

The 'cowboy' variant of this would be grain alcohol. However, I suspect a supply of that might be detrimental in a survival situation...

Watch A Under DOS

Watching America Under DOS Attack:

If you read Watching America, a site that translates and publishes world writing about America into English, this note is for you. WA has been under a denial-of-service attack for several days. They want you to know they will be back up as soon as they can -- keep checking back. They're not going anywhere.

UPDATE: They're back online now.

D t Amicalola

Down the Amicalola:

You may not know it, but in Georgia, the right to hunt and fish is constitutionally protected. As a consequence, the state is obligated to protect wilderness lands of sufficient size to support a population of prey animals. The Dawson Forest WMA (Wildlife Management Area) is one of those tracts, devoted to the City of Atlanta. It is, however, quite distant from the city -- a city which includes disproportionately few citizens, for Georgians, who wish to hunt or fish.

As a result, the Dawson Forest is a true wilderness. There are some marked trails, but no rangers I've ever encountered. For that matter, I've never met another man in the area. You can go hiking. No one guarantees your safety. There are laws. I don't know who enforces them, but occasional signs testify to their applicability. There are other signs, too, interpretive ones that speak to conditions no longer evident in the wild. I wonder how old they are.

And it's beautiful.

Today's hike was down that way. Three miles down the trail, we turned aside and hiked to the river over broken ground. From there, it was a four hour struggle to return to the highway north of us. At times we fought over the bramble, or under it; walked over rocks in the river; and once, we had to cross through caves where a granite outcropping thrust into the river and left no other path. Only where the water had split it, where a man could cross in a squeeze, was traversable.

What a day. I hope yours was as memorable, and as fine.

Ashamed of American II

Ashamed of America, II:

Again, this time thanks to Pajamas Media, we have an American ashamed of her country. This time it is Jeralyn Merrit, who also blogs at TalkLeft.

We recently had a long discussion on the subject of whether it was ever proper to be ashamed of America. (If you missed it the first time, be sure to read through the comments, as the discussion with the readership is always more interesting than my simple assertions).

This has been an occasional topic here since at least 2004. In October of that year, I was talking not about American patriotism, but Japanese and German.

A renewed strength in Japan is troubling to the Chinese, but they hate more any renewed Japanese patriotism -- that is, not just strength but the belief in your country's rightness that encourages strength's use.

Yet it is not healthy to be ashamed of your heritage. It is necessary to be able to recognize where your parents -- or countrymen -- have gone wrong, and where they have fallen from the ideals you would want upheld. At the same time, you have to be able to recognize and honor the good that they did. To do otherwise is to believe that you come from poisoned earth. It darkens your understanding, and it weakens your ability to defend the right in the future.
In April of this year, we looked at local patriotism -- at how this natural love-of-home can play out at levels below love-of-country. We also looked at how Howard Zinn's anti-patriotism was poisonous for those same reasons.
The first principle [Zinn advocates in the cited piece] is that we ought to understand that politicians, as a rule, are liars and scoundrels who do not have our best interests at heart. That far, he is entirely correct.

The second principle is that we ought not, therefore, to love our nation or believe that she enjoys a special mission in the world. That is wrong.

In a sense, everyone ought to love his nation regardless of where he is born. This is because it is as natural to love your country as it is natural to love your mother. It arises in the soul reliably and properly. That is another way of saying that the failure to love your country is an unnatural corruption....

The patriot, like Zinn, can also say that Congress is filled with worthless scum -- but once Davy Crockett was there. He can say that Washington remains a stinking swamp in spite of more than two centuries' attempts at draining it -- and yet remember that it was named for Washington. He can further remember that Washington was a slave-holder -- and yet look with awe on his politics, his ethics, and his magnificent life.
This has been my constant understanding of patriotism. It is not, "my country, right or wrong," but rather, the principle that a healthy soul must love some things without reservation, and that family and home are two of them. Because they are your source and point of origin in this world, there are deep consequences to being ashamed of them. You must focus on what is good about them, and where they are wrong, improve them. You ought, though, always love them and never be ashamed.

Of course, Ms. Merritt and I further disagree on the particular point of whether the current issue is something bad. Arresting people who are in the country illegally and deporting them seems to me like enforcing the law, which we are free to change -- but if we don't, it's the law. I'll set that aside, though, because the issue that interests me here isn't immigration, but patriotism.

What bothers me, in other words, is not her position on immigration, or whether or not we ought to arrest people who have disobeyed our laws. What bothers me is her uncritical acceptance of this:
I disagree [with the suggestion that we need more law-and-order in immigration reform]. Once residing in this country, our immigrant workers are entitled to recognition and the right to living wages, safe working conditions and other worker protections.

As the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights organization says, they should have “the same rights as any other member of the U.S.: the right to travel, work, live, study and worship freely and safely, and to reunite their families without discrimination and violence.”
"Member" of the United States? It is one thing to say that we shall issue the same protection to all lawful residents as we do to citizens, that they might enjoy equality under the law. It is quite another to empty the categories of "citizen" or "lawful resident," and merge them into "members of the United States." It is another step further to then blend "unlawful resident" into that mix.

Citizenship means something. A citizen is special because he can be presumed to have some of that patriotism -- some of that natural love of home that resides in a healthy and vital soul. A citizen is special because he shares a bond with his nation, one of mutual defense. We have duties to each other, we and America, we are bound to each other.

One of America's traditions is to welcome immigrants who are seeking a better life, and are willing to dedicate themselves to those same bonds of love and defense. Another of our traditions is to have 'no king but the law,' as the Icelandic Vikings put it.

Those traditions blend, and suggest that the proper attitude toward immigrants is that they are welcome, welcome -- if they come according to the law. If they wish to, they may remain and become citizens also. They may bind themselves to us and to America, and when they do, enjoy the name as well as the rights of a citizen.

"Members of the United States." Hmph. I welcome those who will abide by our laws, and love and defend our country. Those who will not, but who instead show contempt for her laws and traditions, are not immigrants but invaders. They may have a good cause for their invasion, but we are under no duty to be hospitable.

GW Ohio!

Good Work, Ohio!

Via Gwa45, Ohio overrides a veto and passes "the most significant roll back of gun control that has ever been enacted by a state."

Outstanding stuff. It's good to see a swing state come up with a supermajority for a proposal of this type. Hopefully, it shows that gun rights are increasingly an accepted bipartisan reality. Like them or hate them (like Social Security), "shall issue" is the way it's going to be almost everywhere.

Combat ops

Combat Operations:

Spirit of America is, you may recall, a charity that procures requested items for the US military to distribute as gifts in areas of operation. These are "combat operations" of the type Francis Marion was discussing below. Previously, for example, they set up sewing centers so that Iraqi women could begin earning independent income.

SoA projects have been targeted by insurgents in the past, precisely because they wish to prevent any stability or improvement in the local situation. Today, we have a story from Fallujah and elsewhere in al Anbar province about the ongoing efforts.

Being sharp, SoA asked Bill to drop by while he was in the neighborhood, and there's a message from him as well.

Rogg 3

More from Bill Roggio:

Today Bill watches "Muj-TV" with the Iraqi Army. Also, the Christian Science Monitor has taken notice of him, and proceeds to direct fire on his position.

The problem, one all too common in the blogosphere, is that Roggio has become less a reporter than a validator of the pro-war viewpoint to many. He has become a phenomenon among war supporters, most of whom, judging from reader comments, read him largely because they agree with his views.

And that's too bad for the war's supporters and its detractors as well. Bloggers such as Roggio can create a fuller picture of the conflict in Iraq. But if only one side of the political spectrum reads him - or one side reads him and only him - both sides will be missing some important perspective.
This is what the MSM has decided about bloggers: that they're detached from reality, humming to themselves with their fingers in their ears. People who want to know what the REAL world is like read the MSM.

The Christian Science Monitor is a very good newspaper. I know that because, naturally, I read it on occasion -- and a lot of others too. Of course we're aware of the other side of the story, because it's trumpeted from the heights. Trying to get out Bill's version is important because it's a side that the MSM isn't interested in putting forth.

John Noonan at MilBlogs has a piece considering the MSM's side of the argument at greater length. To some degree it confirms that reporters in Iraq are largely hiding out in protected zones these days, rather than doing what it takes -- like Bill -- to get out to where they can see the action for themselves. They also provide anecdotes of how the media sees itself, and sees the military.

One of the anecdotes is also from the CSM, and deals with the early days of the conflict. It shows, writ small, what the problem really is. The reporter encounters military police, and reacts in a way that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever spent a day in court listening to testimony:
I had gone and watched a movie with a buddy in Mansur one night, fall or early winter of 2004, and we wanted to go over the bridge. The bridge that you go over to go toward the airport, and there was an American vehicle checkpoint set up basically blocking the way you wanted to go on the bridge. It would have meant a twenty-minute detour for us. There were three or four cars that would pull up and they would turn around; it was late at night.

So we stopped and rolled down the window and a private walks over and I said, “I’m an American reporter, can you let me through, ’cause this is going to take another twenty minutes and it’s dark and a little dangerous and we’re just going over there.” The guy says, “Shut the fuck up.” I say, “Look man, I don’t want to make trouble for you,” and while I’m talking to him he’s got his flashlight and he’s moving it in frenetic circles over both of my eyes. I said, “Look, really man, I’m just trying to get home. Is there any way we can just get through?” And he says, “Now you’ve done it! I’m pulling you over and I’m making you wait here while we search your whole car.”

So we comply. We got out of the car, stand away from the car as we were told to, open the trunk, etcetera. And this is my friend’s driver, an Iraqi driver who I had just met that evening, so I felt pretty bad that I had gotten him into that situation. And the pimply private comes over and he says to me, “Yeah, how do you like that? You see what you get when you fuck with me?” Like two feet from my face. And not to my perfect credit, I basically called him a word that will famously get you thrown out of any baseball game that has ever been played. You can figure that out for yourself. Not a pleasant word. And that was it. He goes and talks to his commanding officer, who comes over and within two minutes has me zip-tied, handcuffed, roughly searched, and interrogated for fifteen minutes. We go through this and I’m calm, as I usually am, and eventually they’re like, I guess we can’t arrest an American for using language that we don’t like. They untie me, and we drove off and go home.

About a week later, we get an e-mail addressed to The Christian Science Monitor Baghdad bureau chief, and I was chief at the time, and it’s a letter written by the general in Baghdad at the time. The letter goes on to say we’ve had a lot of complaints about the conduct of our troops in the field and we try to hold ourselves to a high standard and correct problems when they are brought to our attention by the press, but we think you have to be equally responsible and aware of the terrible behavior of your people. For instance, this guy Dan Murphy was stopped and was politely asked to step out of his car and he refused and launched into a profanity-laced, anti-American tirade, and he was so agitated and physically wild that we had to restrain him for his safety and our own. And etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. That was completely fantasy. It was lies. And I have no doubt that the general who wrote this letter believed it; he had attached the incident report written by the soldiers who were involved in this little incident.

Basically, I responded and said I happen to be that guy, and I will tell you exactly what happened, and of course [the report] has no truth because these things have no truth. And he apologized and said, “These things get garbled in transmission, sorry.” Now, does this incident matter in the big scheme of things? No. Did the guys on that patrol lie because they thought that maybe arresting Americans for using one naughty word isn’t the thing they should be doing? Maybe. Was what he was told by the soldiers in the field, who of course might have an incentive to lie, believed wholeheartedly by this general? Absolutely. Does it lead me to believe — given the source from the podium in the Green Zone and elsewhere over three years now — that these sorts of reports are far from the whole truth? Absolutely. Have there been military investigations that have proven the same? Absolutely. I think you get the point of the story.
This kind of thing happens all the time. You show up to traffic court, and the cop gets up on the stand, and he tells all sorts of lies about what happened, and claims you were rude and spouted profanity when really you just called him one little name (and were otherwise perfectly polite, it was really his attitude that was the problem)... And of course the judge believes him, because he has the badge, man!

Or maybe you're the cop, and a guy you wrote a ticket to a few months ago shows up in court and claims you were rude and profane, and that you abused your authority, and didn't follow proper procedures anyway, and why is he the one on trial? You have a vague memory, but you wrote up a report at the time, and it says something totally different from what this guy is saying.

Yeah, I get the point of the story: Question Authority.

Well, that's fine, do. I've had a cop show up at a traffic case with me and give false testimony -- not intentionally, I believe, but just because he really didn't remember (and in this case, had no report to rely on). And I've sat in court and watched a lady trash a policeman unfairly, while giving wild explanations of the charges against her ("Speeding? Why, there was a swarm of mosquitos in my car. I was just trying to blast them out before they ate up my baby." "Radar clocked you at ninety miles an hour." "Well, that must be a mistake. I'd only just...").

The problem is that the MSM reporter expects that we'll believe his side, because he's the MSM. He 'expects we'll get the point,' by which he means, the military is full of power-hungry thugs who falsify reports, so nothing they say should be trusted at face value. The point I get is that reports of what happened are often two-sided, as people acting on adrenaline are rarely thinking clearly or focused on the same details.

The soldier doesn't get to tell his story to the public, though. He puts it in a report, which goes through a chain of command (just as the soldier did, when he went to his commander before any action was taken). The reporter just puts it out to the world, and the public gets that information without benefit of a rebuttal. The soldier is presented as a liar, an unfair thug, etc -- exactly like the traffic scoff at court, except the cop isn't there to give his side.

So Bill Roggio went to Iraq, to get the other side. That's why his stuff is valuable, and read widely by those who aren't ready to give up. We'd like to hear the other side. It's a shame that a newspaper as normally excellent as the CSM doesn't want to get that.

John Noonan's friend, a reporter named Sam, had a different reaction: total acceptance of the reporter's side. "Sam was particularly taken with Dan Murphy's testimony," Noonan says. "My response was that, like any organization, the military has a few bad seeds (Abu Gharab anyone?). His reply was: 'Hey man, more "moral waivers" and bottom third asfab scorers than ever before. It's like great society II.'"

Noonan was too kind, because he also accepted the story uncritically. If you're going to Question Authority, well, the reporter is an authority too. He gets to print what he likes in a newspaper read widely across the nation and the world. What's the evidence that he was right and the soldiers were wrong? His word. What's the evidence in favor of the soldiers? Their word, which was reviewed by their commanders on the ground, and then by their chain of command, leading to a letter of protest by a general officer. What's the evidence that the letter was resolved the way the reporter claims? His word.

See a pattern?

Sam's response is beautifully illustrative. The military is really a poverty program for stupid, unethical people, "like Great Society II." The evidence runs all the other way, but whatever: he says it, and he's a reporter, so it must be true.

Yeah, I get the point of the story.

Eat Steak

Eat Steak:

Now this is a problem to which there is a clear and desirable solution.

Antipsych drugs

Antipsychotic Drugs:

You probably read this article, and perhaps the reader comments, at Dr. Helen's place. The article posits that antipsychotic drugs should be regarded as releasing the "real" person from within a person suffering from a psychosis. The authors object stridently to the notion that these drugs are "mind-altering," although the drugs clearly do alter the mind. They want us to reframe our understanding of the drugs as being, in effect, "mind-releasing."

My disdain for psychology knows no bounds, but medical psychaitry is another story. It is almost an actual science, as it demonstrates testable, replicable results, and operates, in its smaller claims, on the null hypothesis. Its larger claims -- the overriding models of the mind -- are not truly falsifiable with empircal tests, which is why I don't consider it to be a true science. However, it is a far, far better case than psychology, which seems finally to be a form of magical healing (somewhat like consuming powdered rhino horn in your tea).

That said, this study raises several questions for me. I suppose today I'm feeling like making lists, as here is another.

1) Some of Dr. Helen's commenters note that courts have required people to take antipsychotic drugs before trials hinging on an insanity defense. If we are to regard the drugs as releasing the "real" person, does that mean that the "real" person is not guilty for crimes they committed while not on such medicines? If not, why not?

The study seems to make an excellent case that -- through impaired attention and "executive function" cognition -- there really is a 'different person' here. Should these drugs then serve as an alternative to punishment -- the destruction of the "person" who committed the crimes, while leaving the new "person" free to go about a new life?

2) If the person is only "real" while on the drugs, can anyone refuse these drugs? In other words, if society objects to your personality, can it require you to take drugs to alter it? If you're not "really you" off the drugs, then presumably you have no right to object to what is done to the "real you." Only the "real you" could refuse the drugs, and he isn't here.

If case (1) is decided in favor of the study's ideas, it seems to me that case (2) becomes pressing. If we have to set people free who commit crimes while not on medications, surely then it becomes a pressing social need to make sure that everyone, everyone at all, is on his proper cocktail. Otherwise, they go free for whatever they did while off the pharm.

3) By the same token, can a person on the drugs opt to go off them at all? Is that a free choice that society would have to accept, or is it a form of banned self destruction -- like suicide? Does it not endanger society, by allowing them to take advantage of the 'get out of jail free' card posited in case (1)?

If we chose to accept the choice, how long would it be valid? After a certain period, when the last of the drugs was out of your system, wouldn't we be back in case (2)?

4) Dr. Helen says out that you probably wouldn't refuse treatment for diabetes, and so asks 'Why would you refuse it for (mental illness X)?' There are two objections to that analogy, however:

a) Diabetes is a case in which the body is not self-sustaining. Many things classified as "mental illnesses" are unpleasant, but will not result in a predictable decline and death. The analogy is not valid, for that reason. What is classified as a "mental illness" is not clearly an "illness" in the same way that diabetes is -- it's just a state that many people find undesirable.

b) Even if the analogy were valid, if one had a desire to refuse treatment for diabetes -- for whatever reason -- one would be free to do so. Precisely because these states are defined as illnesses affecting the judgment, however, it is not clear that the study's suggested understanding would leave room for refusal of treatment. For the reasons noted above, we risk creating another situation in which the judgment of society is placed above individual liberty. Surely we have enough such socialism already!

c) If point (b) is decided in the favor of the state, however, what guarantee do we have that the definition of "illness" won't be expanded? We've seen any number of attempts to define political or sexual leanings as pathologies. Given the unscientific nature of the fundamental models of both psychology and psychiatry, how can we trust them to define what we are "really" like? How can we trust them to say, "There -- this is the combination of drugs that makes you normal"?

Overall, I wonder if the greater good isn't in retaining the clear and traditional understanding. "Mind altering" drugs alter the mind. They make it into something that it wasn't naturally.

We may prefer that something -- many people prefer to alter other natural qualities, as for example their eyesight. This is a personal choice, though, which ought to be respected.

I realize that there are some people who would be happier if they were drugged, but are not capable of realizing it in their natural state. It may be that we, by refusing to adopt this new understanding, doom them to lives of misery when they could have been cheerfully altered.

Surely that is the lesser evil, though, to giving the state the power to define how we "ought to be" -- to say what is normal for you, or for me. With all respect to those people who may live worse lives because we don't adopt this proposed new understanding, I can't see my way clear to it.

I simply lack the trust, both in the government and in the academic disciplines involved, to ceed that kind of control. I'm not willing to accept their right to judge who is, and is not, "normal" -- or, worse, to judge what sort of alterations are necessary and required to make you "normal." Accepting this study and its judgments would require those concessions.

UPDATE: On reflection, I think I should add that the study doesn't advocate a lot of the things I discuss here. It's recommendations seem to be limited to this: adopt the understanding that antipsychotic drugs release the real person, and administer those drugs before a person is tried in court, because it's important that the person's mind be clear if they are to be competent in their defense.

I don't see how you can take that step, without taking the others -- not as a slippery slope "what comes next," but because those other issues seem to flow naturally from the principle being established. However, to be fair to the study, it should be clear they don't consider these questions.

Dawson Co Shootout

Local Color:

Our farrier, who is also a deputy sheriff in Dawson County, was involved in this little hostage situation.

The police did not return fire due to concern for the 8 year old hostage, which is good, given that the police were apparently armed with automatic weapons. However, according to our farrier, the hostage-taker reported at one point (after a shot fired inside the house) that he'd shot the boy. Negotiators on the phone later established that wasn't true.

I gather the drug-abuser in question has been arrested before, and turned loose. This is apparently normal behavior for him.

I wonder the following things:

1) What is the point of issuing automatic weapons to police? If they have to be afraid to use them because of concerns for noncombatants, the benefit of having them is nonexistant. There will nearly always be noncombatants in a policing situation. A scoped rifle would seem to be a better choice, not only for this situation, but for almost any conceivable policing situation.

2) The police were obviously constrained from simply killing the man, in spite of the fact that (a) he had a child as a hostage, and (b) he was a repeat offender in terms of going crazy on drugs and shooting at people. As a potential juror, I can't imagine voting to convict an officer under these circumstances -- but I'm not sure why it should matter anyway. Yet the policy of the deparment was plainly to protect the criminal and hostage-taker, which is madness.

3) E. Charles at Gwa45's place was asking if anyone still supports the war on drugs. I can't say that I do. It's a needless expense with serious dangers to our notion of liberty. Can we agree, however, that if we were to legalize certain drugs, we'd be willing also to take the cuffs off cops who have to deal with people who are driven mad by their abuse of drugs? In other words, are we ready to say that (a) drugs can be used, if regulated like alcohol or tobacco, but also (b) that people who take kids hostage, claim to have shot kids, etc., are taking their lives in their hands?

4) How did we get to the point that a claim to have shot a child -- who might be dying from blood loss at this moment -- is something to be resolved by negotiators, over time, on the phone? If anything justifies a frontal assault, or a sniper putting down the criminal in question, surely that is it.

910 Group

UPDATE (2022): This post was flagged for review by what I can only assume was an automated algorithm. Anyone who reads this post will find that it is a call to engage Muslims, understand their ideas, and find ways to work with any whom we can. This post is from 2006, the height of the 'Global War on Terror' and the Iraq conflict, both of which I participated in directly in the surrounding years. It is the opposite of radical hate speech; it was a call to find ways to limit the violence of those conflicts through understanding.

An interesting, internet-based movement brought to my attention by reader A.A. is the 910 Group. It declares itself to be a nonpartisan defense of Western core values and civilization, asking only one thing of prospective members: devoted opposition to what it calls "the Great Islamic Jihad in all its forms."

I gather from their specific comments that what they mean by that formula is 'terrorist violence executed by people who believe in a radical version of Islam, plus also the political movements driven by the same goals.' They expand on what they mean by their movement by an assertion of things you can't believe and be one of them:

There’s no room for responses like these:
I’m opposed to radical Islam, BUT…
*You have to understand the root causes of terrorism. *The problem of Israel and the Palestinians has to be solved first. *It is a legacy of Western imperialism and colonialism. *It is important to understand and be accepting of different cultural values. *Sometimes terrorism can be a legitimate form of resistance against oppression.
Nuh-uh. Nope. No way. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances.

If you subscribe to any of the above dependent clauses (or their numerous cousins), then you don’t belong here. This is no place for equivocation; those who have come here recognize the gravity of the present danger.

Root causes don’t matter. Historical grievances don’t matter.

Violence against civilians for religious or political purposes is always, everywhere, and under all circumstances WRONG.

Asserting otherwise destroys the civic and moral fabric of our common society, and we emphatically reject it.

Resist the jihad. Encourage the overthrow of tyrannical Islamist regimes. Work to stop and reverse the encroachment of Wahhabi fundamentalism throughout the Western world.

I guess it's point number three that troubles me. If all it means is "It doesn't matter what your cultural values are, terrorism is still wrong," OK.

On the other hand, it appears to suggest not being interested in the Islamic understanding of why these acts are lawful. The use of the phrase "Great Jihad" is a good example of that lack of interest, as I'll explain below. That is foolish -- and I say that as a dedicated fighter, and a man who believes the military is the 'last man standing' in terms of being an effective branch of the US government. If you scroll down to 'the Executive' there, you'll see for example how I think the US military is now doing diplomacy better than the State department. It's a military response we need. But ADM Fallon's work wasn't done with disinterest toward the cultures of the region -- I have personal reason to know how interested PACOM and its subordinates have been in the cultures of their region.

Take the phrase, "the Great Islamic Jihad." I have to wonder if they didn't know, or have forgotten, or simply do not care that the phrase "Great Jihad" has a meaning in Islam separate from the 'jihad of the sword.' If you declare yourself against "the Great Jihad," a Muslim will have every reason to ask -- doesn't that mean you're really against Islam itself? Aren't you saying that you oppose anyone converting to Islam, or living an Islamic life? In other words, isn't your interest the elimination of Islam?

This plays into the problem. The Muslim understanding of Mohammed's war's, as explained in the same link, is that they were defensive: that Mohammed put up with more than a decade of abuse without fighting back, and were granted permission by Allah to fight back only when the destruction of themselves or their faith was at risk:

[The Quarish] would either annihilate the Muslims or compel them to return to unbelief. In these circumstances came the earliest permission to fight, in verses 39 and 40 of chapter 22, which read:
"Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And surely Allah is able to assist them - Those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And if Allah did not repel some people by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, in which Allah's name is much remembered, would have been pulled down. And surely Allah will help him who helps His cause".
Indeed, war with such a pure motive as to establish the principle of religious liberty was truly a jihad, a struggle carried on simply with the object that truth may prosper and that freedom of conscience may be maintained.
The average Muslim understands Islam's wars in that way. If you go on declaring yourself to be against "the Great Jihad," he will understand you to be saying that you are like the Quarish -- that you intend to force him to return to unbelief (that is, by banning the practical side of Islam) or destroy him.

Better results could be achieved by saying that you believe that the terrorist groups who claim to be waging jihad by the sword are, in fact, murderers -- and are therefore not 'waging jihad' but slandering Islam. It is important to show how the attacks they claim to be "defensive" are actually aggressive; that the United States, while not exactly a friend to Islam (being a secular state), is not opposed to it either; and to show where we have helped Muslims and their nations, as a counterweight to the examples (given lurid daily play in the press) where we have fought in such places.

This is the Special Forces' mode of waging war -- to isolate the extremists from the 'sea in which they swim,' to paraphrase Mao. In that way, they either die of a lack of oxygen, or they become easier to catch and kill.

This isn't a theory with no practical side I'm putting before you. Read "Francis Marion"'s blog for a window into how it is playing out, every day, in the Philippines. He is a Special Forces operator there, waging our war in a region in which there are numerous Islamic forces under arms. Some of them are friends of al Qaeda and our devoted enemies; some are merely interested in local autonomy, and will take help from whomever will give it; and all of them depend on the support of a local population.

You'll see him engaged in operations against the first set (Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf), being circumspect with the second set (MNLF/MILF); and helping spread cheer among the locals -- for example, in his mission as a Special Forces soldier to aid the Philippine Girl Scouts.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were sponsoring the Philippine Girl Scouts for a two day event at our location and my team assisted by teaching a few classes. Green Berets have a reputation for womanizing and having a team in close contact with a few hundred teenage girls can put a lot of commanders into a nervous sweat.

Events were over before I returned and had a chance to settle in so I did not participate but, from what I have seen and heard, this was one of the most effective combat operations we could have performed. In typical teenage girl fashion, the girls identified a few favored U.S. soldiers. They would wave and giggle as they walked by or swoon when their favorite soldier was announced. It was cute and these guys continue to get teased but the effects have gone far beyond our base camp. These guys have achieved celebrity status here.

Now, when we drive the streets, the girls run out and shout out the names, or nicknames, of the soldiers they recognize. This may have some effect on our egos but, more importantly, it is a tactical victory. Having a few hundred adoring fans will make the terrorists think twice before targeting us and also adds several hundred extra sets of eyes that can warn us of possible danger.

I feel safer.

That's a combat operation, to use his words.

I suspect the 910 group and I agree on more than we disagree. These things are important, however. If you don't get them right, you push us into a very different kind of war -- one I have no wish to fight, though I would fight it if it came.

We are wiser if we avoid it. Francis Marion is right, and it is his mode of war that will be most effective in so many parts of the world. We should think on how we can support him and men like him in their missions. Understanding how to support missions like his requires taking extra care -- but he deserves it.

More from Bill:

No, this isn't Bill Roggio's new blog, but I have always supported his embedding missions. This time, I'm going to quote the whole letter he sent, because I think he does a great job of explaining his purpose in it. Also, there's a request for some help for the Marines.


I spent a few days with a Navy Corpsman here in Fallujah. This kid is incredible. I just can't say enough good things about him, and am ashamed my article did not do his work justice. In all honesty, I am not very good at writing about a Marine or soldier in such a manner. Personal stories such as this are really not my forte. It's not because I don't care, but because I care too much, and fear one day I will see their name where I don't want to see it. I am afraid to get too close. But I could not let the good work of Doc J pass without mention. I watched him treat some Iraqi Police after a mortar attack here on base today, as well as care for the police like they are his own.

(The story is here.)

Also, if anyone is interested in donating a wireless router to the Marines in the Military Transition Team, drop me an email and I'll give you the address. If I don't get any takers, I'll pick it up and send it out when I get home. But I'd love to get it out here before Christmas. Wireless Internet in Fallujah? It's not just a dream, it's a reality here at the Police Transition Team. Let's help the Military side of the house!

All the best to you & yours,

Bill Roggio

Bill R 2

Bill Roggio Reports, II:

Today's story includes an attack driven off by the Fallujah Police, and the capture of an al Qaeda commander.


Bill Roggio Reports:

He's been on patrol with the Marines in Fallujah, and Route Mobile, one of the two largest and most important roads in Anbar. The Marines described the quiet he encountered as "typical," although he also describes the new tactics adopted by the insurgents to deal with the enhanced security.

Cold poetry II`

A Poem by Doc Russia:

Obviously, being up north is playing with his brain, because he's taken to composing poems about the snow. Actually, the whole piece is almost a poem. I would say it's the first piece in a long time that is "classic" Doc Russia, the sort of thing he used to write before the last year of med school and the first year of his new residency drained away his time.

It's a good piece, in other words.

I have my own memories of the cold and the snow, also from mountain living. It was the winter of 2002-3 that was coldest for us. We lived on a mountain above thirty-three hundred feet, so that it froze in early November and never warmed above freezing, day or night, until sometime in March. There were no roads in or out of the place except private dirt tracks, which were impassable even with a 4x4 when there was any kind of snow. My "neighbor," a park ranger, would join me in painstakingly shoveling off each snowfall the whole long way back, over the ridge and to the switchbacks on the sunny side.

While it was still snowing, it was necessary to hike in and out, two miles over the ridge, to the closest state highway. We'd park over there and hike in. My wife had a new child at the time, and so she was not particularly mobile. I'd have to carry food for them in with my backpack, fifty pounds of flour and canned goods.

Happiest time of my life. No kidding.

The clouds would pass right there over the mountains, and the mists that make up the clouds would freeze to whatever it touched. In the mornings, as the sun rose and I was hiking out for work, every single thing would be covered in a sheet of ice, like in a fairy story where some warlock or evil Queen had cast a spell of doom. It was cold enough that you knew if you slipped and broke your ankle or something similar, you would probably die before anyone found you.

I also wrote a poem that mentioned all that, once, to commemorate the greatest sadness of my life so far. Never mind what it was; think of your own greatest sorrow, and you will understand what I meant.

To die for Freedom

To Die for Freedom:

How important was Thermopylae? A new book considers the question (h/t Arts & Letters Daily).

The author says it was more important than Marathon, because it established a principle:

Two Spartans survived. One, who missed the encounter at Thermopylae because he was on a diplomatic mission, hanged himself in disgrace upon his return home. The other, who missed the battle because of an eye infection (not much of an excuse for a solider, never mind a Spartan), went on a suicide mission in the next major encounter with the Persians. When Spartans said that the only way to return from a battle was with your shield or on it, they meant it.

How, then, was Thermopylae the battle that changed the world if the Greeks lost? It did seriously weaken the Persian forces and spelled their ultimate defeat. But Mr. Cartledge has something grander in mind. For him, Thermopylae was a triumph of "reasoned devotion to, and self-sacrifice in the name of, a higher collective cause, Freedom." The strange capitalization is Mr. Cartledge's and it is a measure of just how seriously he takes the Spartans' stand.
I will say two things about the review. First, the author is correct to note that it's hard to see the Spartans as the ancestors of the West -- spiritual or otherwise -- given how different Spartan culture was from anything else before or since. The closest thing I can think of to the Spartans was the Jomsvikings, or perhaps the orders of the Church Militant. Neither of those, however, proposed to engage the whole civilization in the business -- women, children, families, slaves, and a subject people to pay for it all -- as did the Spartans.

The second is that suicidal displays were apparently more common in the period than they are today, outside of course of Islam. The second review on the page -- of what sounds like a better book, Xenophon's Retreat -- makes clear that whole villages sometimes wiped themselves out to make a point. Nor was this unique to the Greek world, as we know from the later episode of Masada. Indeed, the fact of Masada probably undermines the conclusion that Thermopylae was a Western thing. While the Jewish civilization later became very important to the West, even as late as Masada's mass suicide, Jews were a small and apparently unimportant minority whose culture was not resonant through the Roman Empire as a whole. It was only the conversion of the Empire to Christianity that made old Jewish stories and ways of thinking an area of interest in the larger West.

That said, Thermopylae was and remains a great symbol. The Spartan spirit -- my favorite example being the reply 'Good! We shall fight in the shade! -- has its high qualities.

When the news of the stand at the Alamo became widely known, it was declared by American newspapers to be a Thermopylae. Indeed, the Alamo is a better example of what the author was seeking -- men dying for, if not "Freedom," certainly independence and self-determination. That shows the importance of Thermopylae as a symbol to the 19th century American.

My sense is that, in the 20th and 21st centuries, we have replaced Thermopylae in our culture with the Alamo. It is now the symbol that Thermopylae was, and it is more plainly ours. It's hard to think of yourself as a Spartan, but we can readily understand Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.


At last, an exit Strategy:

Or, a reprise of that great concept film, Escape from New York. Good advice for anyone, if you can manage it.

And now for something completely different:

So. I've seen (on a rack of sarcastic and ironic bumber stickers) a bumper sticker that said "If they take our guns away, can we use swords?"

The question, it appears, has been answered in Australia:

A FEUD between two families in a remote Northern Territory community escalated when more than 200 people attacked each other with axes, spears and homemade swords overnight.

The fighting in the Gemco mining town of Alyangula on Groote Eylandt continued throughout the night after a failed attempt to resolve the long-running dispute earlier yesterday, police said.

The two families had agreed to meet with the intention of reaching a peaceful resolution to their problems.

About 200 people turned up for the meeting in the stifling December heat but as the two groups gathered, police said one began to "taunt and verbally abuse" the other.

"The opposing family responded physically," police said.

"The situation escalated with police frantically trying to disarm young men of axes, spears and homemade swords."

Although the officers managed to disperse the crowd, the fighting continued throughout the night with police estimating it caused more than $20,000 in damages to cars and other property.

So far, 11 people have been taken into custody and will be charged with being armed in public, taking part in affray, being armed with an offensive weapon and inciting others to commit an offence.

Send those people some armor, I say. Or not. So far it appears that nobody has got hurt. C'mon people, you can do better than that.


I would like to make two apologies. First, I do not have even a quarter of the writing talent that Grim, or my co-bloggers, possess here in the Hall. Finally, my apologies for not using the comments area for this, as my reply is something that I feel needs it’s own post.

I do believe that we should, in some ways, model our conduct on the gentlemen of old. I do not believe that every American man can attain the status of Gentleman. No matter how good his character, devotion to arms, or other abilities driven by steadfast resolve.

Put simply, we will always fall short in one key area: Nobility.

From a linguistic perspective, a Gentleman is strictly defined as a man of superior, noble, social station. This is why I feel it is a dishonest usage.

Blackstone confirms that requirement right from the start:

“ALL degrees of nobility and honour are derived from the king as their fountaina : and he may inftitute what new titles he pleafes.”
Blackstone Book I Chap 12

To compound the problem, we have an intrinsic, as Americans, misapplication of what nobility truly means.

George F. Jones pointed out in both Honor in German Literature & Southern Honor, that the understanding of ‘noble’ had drastically changed when the Christian Guilt Culture supplanted the Germanic Shame Culture (incidentally, giving birth to the, then foreign, concept of Chivalry), and again changed in the North East during the birth of our United States and finally changing that last bastion of the Old South during the post-Civil War era.

Jones’ point is that noble is something recognized and confirmed by a sovereign and not something one feels about ones self. I would agree as I take deeds as the measure of a man. As such an action is not a noble action unless recognized. How you internalize an action is between you and your God or Gods; neither of which means anything to me. When a man says, “I am a man of honor”, it is a meaningless statement to me. While I will give leave of Right Good Will, and thus give you the benefit of the doubt, I will come to judge your deeds.

The next problem goes back to Blackstone; who are we to confer that status? Staying true to the roots of sovereignty, I could confer noble status only as far as my reach. Meaning, if thirty men swore oath to me as liege, my confirmation has meaning only among those men and their families. In the United States that is officially meaningless as we do not recognize peerage.

So I have a problem with the use of gentleman as anything other than a term of politeness in speech; “Ladies and Gentleman, if I can have your attention”, “That gentleman over there is Mr. Smith”, etc. Yes, an incorrect usage as well… but one that is not as dishonest in my eyes.

I feel a greater honesty in saying that Grim is an Honorable Man as opposed to a Gentleman. There is my recognition of honorable conduct, without the assumption of a shared sovereign with reach over us both, nor dependant on contrary views of nobility.

Saddle Time

Saddle Time:

This has been a hard year for lots of us. I see that BloodSpite has found a source of solace: teaching a young man to break horses.

Thanks to reader S.S. for the link. I should get by BloodSpite's place more often.

Rig lights

"Rigging up the Lights!"

My sympathies, Heidi. I think we're on day four of trying to get the decorations rigged, here.

Get 'em, Bill

Bill Roggio Reports:

Coalition Task Force 145 has taken down some high value targets. Our old friend Bill Roggio is back on the scene, giving it to us straight about our "hunter-killer" teams.

Gentlemen Defined

Gentlemen Defined:

I am told I have the bad habit, for a writer, of putting my point last, and the evidence -- in the form of long narratives -- first. The result, for those who read to the end, is that suddenly a long and apparently separate series of events comes together, and has a clear lesson. Unless you read to the end, though, you may never know what I was talking about at all.

For that reason, I'll state my intent clearly this time: "Gentleman" is a word that is not understood today. This must change.

The other day I ventured down to Gwinnett county, which is named for Button Gwinnett, signator of the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett died in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh, a Continental officer who later became a Valley Forge veteran and general in George Washington's army. I encountered, while walking around, a posh store with very fancy appointments, declaring itself to be "for distinguished gentlemen."

Standing outside, wearing a Stetson hat and blue jeans, I realized that these fellows had a very different definition of "gentleman" from mine. I doubt they understand the concept at all.

"For distinguished gentlemen!" A Google search on the term yields botiques, perfumes, and escort services.

This is not right. A gentleman is defined, as noted in Blackstone's commentaries, as "one qui arma gerit."

That is, "one who bears arms."

The manners and grooming aspects are entirely -- entirely -- secondary. I will explain how they came to be associated with gentlemen in a moment. For now, I will note Major Leggett's objection to gentlemen focusing attention on fashion:

I think that any self-respecting individual should take the time to ensure that their grooming and apparel standards are up to snuff. Nevertheless, I categorically reject the idea that an obsessive concern with the latest fashion trends is the hallmark of gentlemen. That is the hallmark of a fop. Remember, the concept of the gentleman comes the tradition of chivalry, which was itself an ethical system for fighting men, not fashion models.
Blackstone notes, as does the Oxford English Dictionary, that the "arms" in question are heraldic arms -- that is, symbolic ones. Those symbolic arms, however, were the later representation of what was earlier a very real right: the right to bear not only weapons, but armor onto the field. Heraldry describes the shield of a fighter. In the Middle Ages, the sort entitled to such a shield were those with the literal right to bear arms. It is only in these more decadent ages -- in more decadent countries -- that this right has become purely symbolic.

Why did the state recognize that right, in a time before the Declaration that Gwinnett signed? It did so because it depended on these fighters, knights and noblemen and squires, who later became the gentlemen. It needed them to defend itself. Before the Napoleonic era, wars were a matter of professional armies and levies raised by the fedual structure. The right to bear arms arose from the fact that you could be counted upon to defend your country and its civilization at need.

That is what it means today. Fine manners and courtesy pertain to the gentleman because he is, through their use, upholding what is fine about civilization. He defends it symbolically as he defends it practically.

In America, the right to bear arms is secured in the Constitution itself. If you wish to register heraldic arms, the link to the American College of Heraldry is on the right. If you wish to bear literal ones, you have the right to do so. Every American man can be a gentleman.

To do so, though, requires that you constitute yourself a defender of your country and its civilization. It is not enough to say, as did Dutch humanist Oscar van den Boogaard:
"I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."
No, that is not a gentleman, though he wears the finest clothes and writes the finest novels, keeps the best society, and has the finest manners. He has only the accidents of a gentleman. He has nothing of its essence.

The essence is to bear arms, in defense of country and civilization. That is the real thing, the root of the tradition. The arms may be symbolic, or they may be actual. The defense must be devout.

That may sit ill with some, but there it is. Honi soit qui mal y pense, goes the motto of the greatest of England's knightly orders. For the rest of us, there lies the gage.