The End

The End:

Mark Steyn rang the bell, and there have been some interesting reactions. Lileks is one, and I think he hits his high note in criticizing what we used to call the counterculture, but which has become so important that we now call it by many other names: multiculturalism, trans-nationalism, and the like. Lileks joins Steyn in being astonished that these folks won't see, or talk about, the danger of radical Islam to the things they care most about:

If the Islamists were Christians, they’d be motivated. That threat they understand, because that threat sounds like Mom and Dad...
Doc Russia responded too, wondering if religion is an evolutionary requirement for long-term cultural survival. He posits that the demography will work out so that the American "Red States" overwhelm the "Blue States" by virtue of breeding -- which only may be true, depending on immigration policy. The problem Europe has is that it has been maintaining its population levels by importing people who, two and three generations in, remain alien and hostile to the base culture. Our immigration policy is wiser, which is not to say that it is wise; it just fares well by comparision. Still, it could be improved.

What I don't forsee is the giant culture clash that Steyn and Doc both wonder about. I don't think we'll ever have a single religion that overwhelms the world; even in the height of European colonization, for example, India remained mostly Hindu and Muslim rather than Christian. I do think, though, that Steyn is right to suggest that Europe is going to become far more Muslim in its outlook and law:
This ought to be the left's issue. I'm a conservative--I'm not entirely on board with the Islamist program when it comes to beheading sodomites and so on, but I agree Britney Spears dresses like a slut: I'm with Mullah Omar on that one. Why then, if your big thing is feminism or abortion or gay marriage, are you so certain that the cult of tolerance will prevail once the biggest demographic in your society is cheerfully intolerant? Who, after all, are going to be the first victims of the West's collapsed birthrates? Even if one were to take the optimistic view that Europe will be able to resist the creeping imposition of Sharia currently engulfing Nigeria, it remains the case that the Muslim world is not notable for setting much store by "a woman's right to choose," in any sense.
At Doc's place, I commented along a similar line. This stuff is a problem for somebody, but I don't see why it should be a problem for Red State America.
Actually, in a lot of the world, I think we have more in common with Muslims than we do with anyone else. The Muslims of Xinjiang province, China, for example -- they're about as happy with Communist China as we are. I read Malaysian and Philippine newspapers regularly as part of my job (and so can you, if you want; Bernama, the state news wire, is on Google News, as is the Star of Malaysia and several others). I can't help but recognize a lot of North Georgia in the whole attitude expressed by a lot of Muslim provinces: "We're who we are, and we don't want your meddling in the way we do things, so leave us alone if you know what's good for you."

As far as I can tell, that applies to al Qaeda as much as to the US or their own central governments. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for example, is happy to help hunt down bandits and Qaeda-linked groups in Mindanao province, Philippines, but will also fight the government army if it comes meddling. The rebels in Aceh, Indonesia, don't have any use for the Indonesian government or the US -- but they also don't like Qaeda-style meddlers, who want to shut down Achenese traditional culture and replace it with Taliban-style non-culture. Southern Thailand is about the same.

There's not a lot that a fellow raised in the American South is surprised to see. They're religious, and they have funny ideas about their religion, but they mostly just want to be left alone. They don't like meddlers, and mostly nobody suffers from their violence but them and people who stick their noses in their business.

It seems to me we could make allies out of people like that, under the right circumstances. After all, we don't give a damn what goes on in Aceh or Mindanao, as long as it doesn't involve people practicing to blow up US skyscrapers or Naval ships. While the rest of the world plots how to better meddle everywhere else -- China, Europe, our own leftists, NGOs, central governments everywhere -- we could get a long way on down the road we want to be on just by supporting these locals.
Anyone who grew up in the South can probably see what I mean. There is always the church down the road whose members think they're more moral than everyone else -- even the members of the other church down the road, which two years ago was the same church until they split up in a heated dispute over the interpretation of a line from one of the letters of St. Paul. These guys get hot over their particular understanding of the faith, and they will try to enact parts of it into law as the occasion arises. They have every right to do so; it's their country too.

If you can give them some room to do their thing -- say, a town council, or sometimes even just the church's managing board -- they'll confine themselves to that, and generally leave you alone. They don't really like you or approve of you, but they also don't really care about you. As long as you're not trying to change their town or their church, you can do what you like in your town over the hill. In fact, they kind of like that you do things differently -- it gives them something else to feel superior about.

River Tam was right. It's meddling that gets you in trouble. The best thing, if you're going to be a global leader, is to find a way to support people in doing what they want to do anyway. This is true whether you're trying to be a global leader in law and military power, or a global leader in the selling of computers or fashion products.

The great bulk of humanity, which would prefer to avoid politics anyway, will be entirely satisfied by this arrangement. That simplifies the problem: all that remains is to deal with that fraction of humanity that isn't happy unless they're telling everyone, everywhere what to do. That impulse lies behind not only al Qaeda's push for a universal Caliphate but also the United Nations' hand-waving about "unilateralism" and the various NGOs' constant attempts to bully nations into adopting vegetarianism, or banning guns, or whatever.

Anyone who comes selling a universal answer to a human problem is a danger. Not all of them will be terrorists, nor even violent at all, but all of them are selling something you'd be foolish to buy.

What does that mean for Europe? Nothing. Steyn is right; they're done. It does mean something for America, though, which is that we are likely to remain the leading global power for the forseeable future. We are the natural enemy of the "tell everyone what to do" crowd, whether they are Qaeda terrorists or NGO scolds who want to criminalize "hate speech" or fox hunting. But we're the natural ally of anyone, anywhere, who wants to do his own thing.

Indeed, it's the answer to Steyn and Lilek's question: people of the "tell everyone what to do" type see the US as the principle enemy of their natural impulses. With al Qaeda they differ only on the goals, and hopefully the acceptable methods. With the US, they differ on first principles. Al Qaeda's a competitor. We're the enemy.

Myers Again

Julie Myers Shuffles In:

Sovay, who knows how irritated I was with the Julie Myers nomination some months ago, mentioned tonight that Bush had appointed her by recess appointment. I realize the administration has a lot on its plate, and probably is only too happy to avoid any fights it can. Also, it's obviously true that the opposition in Congress is given over to both excessive rhetoric, and knee-jerk refusal of anything Bush asks. That has to be exhausting.

Still, the 'advice and consent' part of the Constitution is not meant to be an empty letter. Recess appointments made a lot of sense in 1787, when the Senate might be out of session for months in order for members to travel home and back again. These days, there isn't anywhere in the world that's more than about 24 hours away from Washington, if you're rich and powerful enough to command a private plane -- for example, if you're a Senator.

Why, then, make use of the provision? ThisNation provides a good writeup on the process, and also the remedies available to the Congress if a President seems to simply prefer to avoid debates on his nominees.

While this provision is fairly straightforward, it has produced several differences of opinion between the Congress and the President. How many days must the Senate fail to convene for it to lapse into a recess? Does a position have to become vacant during a Senate recess for a valid recess appointment to be made or does the position simply have to remain vacant during the recess? Instead of allowing the Court to settle these disputes, the Congress and the President have generally agreed to work together to solve them. This makes sense because neither side has a particularly clear interest in forcing the issue. If the President tries to force recess appointments on the Senate, thus circumventing the normal "advice and consent" process, the Congress can refuse to appropriate funds to pay the salaries of the appointees. The Senate might also take the extraordinary measure of blocking future nominations to "teach the President a lesson." Furthermore, if the Senate took a hostile approach to all recess appointments, it would essentially have to remain in session all of the time--an inefficient solution, to say the least.

Currently, the President and Congress generally adhere to a procedure for recess appointments that minimizes the potential for interbranch conflict. If the President wishes to make a recess appointment or appointments, he generally sends a list of persons to be appointed to members of the Senate shortly before or during a recess. If Senators express serious concerns about a nominee, the President will likely hold off on the appointment until the Senate is back in session and the normal procedure can be followed.
"Currently" obviously should be read "until recently." Myers has been subject to quite a lot of concern.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said on Friday that Ms. Myers "really was not qualified for the position." Mr. Lieberman said Congress had intended the position to be held by someone with at least five years' management experience.

"In my opinion, she lacks the management background," he said. "And one of her key responsibilities is to enforce immigration laws, and she has virtually no immigration experience."

Daniel K. Akaka, Democrat of Hawaii, echoed those concerns. "The head of I.C.E. should be an individual who has demonstrated extensive executive-level leadership and the ability to manage a budget through reorganizations and budget cycles," Mr. Akaka said. "Ms. Myers has not demonstrated this ability."
Lieberman, at least, isn't one of the knee-jerk enemies of the President, although he does vote with his party more often than not. The Times, which is one of the knee-jerks, digs up a couple of Republicans to say bad things about her, and also a National Review editorial. They didn't quote me, but I had one or two or three things to say about it also. So did Froggy, who served as a Customs Special Agent -- that is, one of the people whom Myers will now be commanding. This isn't a case of the political opposition stonewalling out of spite. It's a case of genuine, serious concerns raised by allies as well as opponents of the President -- and the President choosing to simply ignore those concerns, and those allies.

No wonder they want to avoid a debate. Here is the administration's defense against charges that Myers is an unqualified nepotism appointment:
"She's tried criminal cases and worked with customs agents on everything from drug smuggling to money laundering," Ms. Healy said. "So to say that Julie does not have the prerequisite experience to lead I.C.E., it simply ignores her extensive background working with law enforcement, immigration and customs."
Here's a hint, in case you folks at the White House ever want to do this kind of thing again and there's not a handy recess. If you want to convince the public that your appointee is a highly qualified expert and not someone who is simply being promoted due to her political connections, don't have your spokeswoman call her by her first name. It says volumes that she's so close to the White House that they, reflexively and thoughtlessly, refer to her in the most familiar way.


A Hard-Hitting Town Hall:

Greyhawk has some more from the Murtha-Moran town hall meeting.

Hello Mr Moran I'm General Wagner. I'm here tonight, I decided to come at 7:30. And I'll tell you the reason I came at 7:30 is because I want an answer to a letter, to a friend of ours. She wrote this letter to Mr. Murtha, where she pointed out to him that he was causing the insurgents to bring more activity against the soldiers in Iraq, just as the traitors did during the Vietnam war. I was fighting in 1972 with the Vietnamese when people were cavorting with the North Vietnamese.

Her son was killed today.

I got the message at 7:30 tonight, and I'll tell you, I wasn't going to waste my time coming here because I knew the trash that was going to be put out. But I'm really mad. Because what is being put out is being used to incite the insurgents to continue this war, just as it incited General Giap to consider the Vietnam war.

He hasn't answered her letter, Mr Moran, but I want to read a paragraph to you...
And so he did. Moran's response, far from inspiring, was as off-balance as you would expect from someone who just got hit upside of the head with a sledgehammer.

Neverthess, he had to respond. The lady, may her grief be eased by time, has absolute moral authority to demand an answer.

Marine SOCOM

Marines @ SOCOM:

BlackFive has a post which started as speculation as to whether the new USMC SOCOM units would have a different name (e.g., "Marine Raiders" instead of just "Marines"). It's become something a bit more than that in the comments. Doc Russia and I have already engaged it, as has JarHeadDad. Some of the rest of you might like to jump in.


Oh, This Is Going To Work Out Great:

One never knows if Drudge has been drinking before noon again (not that there's anything wrong with that), but if this report is accurate, it shows that the Democratic national party is cheerfully unwilling to change course in the face of the rocks in front of it, in spite of the experience of having hit those same rocks just recently.

Senate Democrats intend to zero in on Alito’s alleged enthusiastic membership to an organization, they will charge, that was sexist and racist!

Democrats hope to tie Alito to Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). Alito will testify that he joined CAP as a protest over Princeton policy that would not allow the ROTC on campus.

THE DRUDGE REPORT has obtained a Summer 1982 article from CAP’s PROSPECT magazine titled “Smearing The Class Of 1957” that key Senate Democrats believe could thwart his nomination! In the article written by then PROSPECT editor Frederick Foote, Foote writes: “The facts show that, for whatever reasons, whites today are more intelligent than blacks.” Senate Democrats expect excerpts like this written by other Princeton graduates will be enough to torpedo the Alito nomination.
So, let's play this out.

DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN: Mr. Alito, you belonged to an organization that held that whites are more intelligent than blacks.

ALITO: I did?

DC: Yes. Your old organization, the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, ran an article to that effect in its publication.

A: Really? Huh. I don't remember reading that.

DC: It ran in the Summer 1982 edition of their journal.

A: Could be. I don't remember reading it, though. I had other concerns in 1982. In fact, the reason I joined CAP was one of them: Princeton was trying to keep ROTC off campus.

DC: Don't change the subject. What about these racist writings?

A: Don't remember seeing them. But what I do remember is that Princeton was slandering our military, and doing its best to deny the military access to the campus. Our national defense depends on quality recruits, and...

See where this is going? Right. The same place we've been the last few elections. Republicans are running on the need to provide for a national defense in the face of violent enemies; Democrats are running on identity politics concerns that appeal, by definition, to narrow interests. The Democrats hope to build enough such interests together to make a coalition majority, but so far it just hasn't worked. Coalitions are hard to keep together: their interests are often at variance with each other.

The Republican message, by contrast, is a national unity message. The ROTC story speaks to every American. Not every American will be concerned at all with the question of whether, in 1982, this magazine published a story that could be construed as racist (indeed, I can't muster even idle interest myself); but every American has an opinion as to whether the military is a fine and noble organization, or a base one that should be banned from campuses.

Sadly, we do have a sizable minority of citizens who will hold the latter. That being said, the majority will and has stood with the former proposition.

Bush wins. Alito confirmed. Somewhat more than half of US citizens look in wonder upon the Democrats, who seem consistently willing to take positions that can be interpreted as anti-military. That's just not a competitive message among the swing voters who occupy middle America. Haven't ya'll watched any Superbowls lately?

Well, you'll have another chance soon. I'll bet there will be a few references to the military, designed by the best minds in corporate America to appeal to the broad mass of citizens. They know the right way to talk about the military in order to maximize profit.

Pay attention this time. You might learn something.


Froggy Reviews "Navy SEALS":

It's worth having a look at his review of the movie about his service. My favorite part:

The interesting thing about watching the movie again this time was that the “team” commander (Biehn) contacted an American journalist with connections in Lebanon to gain information about the terrorists and the location of the missing missiles. In 2006 America, this is something of a quaint proposition.


The Passing of a True Hero:

The Castle draws our attention, and rightly, to the story of Hugh Thompson, who has died at the age of sixty-two. Thompson was the helicopter pilot at My Lai, who on that terrible day put his ship in between US soldiers and fleeing noncombatants, and transported those he could to safety.


How A Blogger Makes A Correction:

For that matter, how a man does:

If there was another house just 20 meters away, too, I think we do have to look at whether the force used was proportional, under the old Jus in Bello doctrine we all had to learn during precommissioning training.

Much as I'd like to bring it to the bastards, I think an analysis in light of jus in bello and proportionality is entirely fair and should be constantly renewed.

And now, having written a post that sucks harder than an incontinent street whore with a plane to catch, I have to go commit sepuku in order to preserve my family's good name.

I'll leave it up for the record, but the post "A good strike" is hereby retracted. My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.

Well, except for their loved ones are moojies. Then to Hell with 'em.
True to the facts, true to himself. And in real time.

Blogger Sued

Hunting Bloggers:

This should be fun.

Lawyers who filed the suit say that Web logs and other new media should be held to the same standards of accountability as traditional media and journalism. Brodbkorb, a former operative for the Minnesota Republican Party, pledges to protect his source and to keep his website going.

The suit alleges that Brodkorb, citing an unnamed source, defamed the St. Paul-based public relations firm New School Communications when he posted a claim that New School had become publicly critical of the congressional campaign of Coleen Rowley only after Rowley rejected a contract with the firm.

Despite being told that New School does not perform political campaign work, Brodkorb, the suit says, continues to make the claim, even though his source "may, in fact, be a fabrication."
If you do some follow-up reading on the blog in question, you'll see that it appears that the claims he made have support from several traditional journalistic outlets. That's going to be a problem for the PR firm when they get to court. They could still win, if the get a sympathetic jury (everyone loves it when corporations attempt to sue the little guy, right?), but it makes it less likely.

What is more likely is that they'll lose their case, while getting enough media attention drawn to the blogger's claims as to convince the world that those claims are true. Thus, at best they might win damages the blogger probably can't pay (I'm sure we all have $50,000 in liquid assets sitting around, right?) while humiliating their client; more likely, they'll lose while humiliating their client.

But those would have been the options even if the likelihood of winning were reversed: even if victory were certain, the media attention from the case would train the spotlight on the blogger's charges. That suggests that the PR firm was not acting out of a desire to win the lawsuit, but a desire to use the suit to silence the blogger without a trial. The firm doubtless thought the blogger would fold, being unable to afford to mount a legal defense. This kind of rank intimidation is nothing but an attempt to use the simple weight of money to push people around.

Jeff Blanco suggests that the blogger has done all he ought to do by providing a comments section in which the PR firm can dispute his claim, and there is something to that argument. Just like here at Grim's Hall, commenters can post evidence and argument to prove that the blogger is wrong. I've been proven wrong just now and again by readers, at least two of whom -- Eric Blair and Captain Leggett -- are now co-bloggers here.

If I say something you think is flat wrong, or untrue, you're invited to prove it in real time and with the full attention of the readership. The ability to do that is something that makes blogs different from newspapers, say, where the best you can hope for is a correction, published someday, without fanfare, and hidden somewhere inside the paper instead of on the front page.

I don't know if that satisfies the legalities for libel, it surely must go a long way. I've always heard that truth is an absolute defense against a charge of libel, so "I have every reason to think this is true, and invite any evidence to the contrary to be published right here" isn't too far away from simple truth.

Indeed, it's the closest thing to the scientific method that "journalism" (for this purpose, to include bloggers) has ever developed. The scientific method is of course the best way humanity has found to determine where uncertain truths can be found. As long as the method is administered honestly, commenters are allowed to post evidence and argument, and the blogger will admit if he is proven wrong on a point, I think the system must be judged as good as any newspaper correction from a legal standpoint. It is certainly better, from a practical one.



Don't miss this story from the Economist (of all places). The writing is as stiff as you'd imagine, but it's worth clicking on it just for the picture.

None of you will be surprised to learn that I have had a hand in a prank or two myself. I take great pleasure in that kind of humor, which performs the absolutely necessary function of upending the social order so everyone can laugh at it for a moment. Not that I'm an enemy of social order -- just the opposite. Still, like everything, you have to know how to laugh at it. A certain amount of order frees us to live without fear. Too much becomes a prison, or a justification for evil and oppression. Laughter is often the thing that lets you break it off at just the right point.

On one occasion a companion and I "liberated" a desk from the school, and spirited it away for six months or so until the day before Spring Break. Then -- having painted the desk with the famous "Kilroy was Here!" symbol along with our class designation -- we returned it to the campus by hanging it thirty feet in the air from the branches of a giant tree. Getting it back down again proved a logistical challenge for the administration.

What we had not known, but what made the prank perfect, was that the park in which the tree was located was to enjoy its 100th anniversary that next morning. It had been designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. The occasion was one in which every dignitary in Atlanta came by to see it, up to and including the mayor himself. The challenge of removing the offending desk was too difficult to be accomplished before the ceremony, so...

That was a pretty good school prank, though it doesn't compare to the story from over the holidays about the Fire Department ghosts. Surely some of the rest of you have good stories as well.

SA Move

Southern Appeal:

The infamous blawg "Southern Appeal," often cited here at Grim's Hall, has a new address. Please make a note if you are interested.


"In Despite of the Thunderstoms"

Bold words from a fellow on the way out the door, but they didn't prove out too well. I wrote that Monday morning, left just a bit after noon, got to the airport at two, got through the check-in line by three, through security by and to the gate by four. The flight was delayed half an hour; then two more hours; then cancelled entirely due to the storms and tornados. The backup of flights caused all manner of chaos.

As a result, I didn't leave on a flight until two in the morning, and that to a different regional airport. I spent yesterday getting back here from there. My wife and little boy couldn't get on that flight, so they won't be arriving until later this morning.

Even that was a serious improvement over what the airline intended for us; they said they'd reschedule all three of us to arrive sometime tomorrow.

I'll be a couple of days sorting things out from the mess.


"Force Multipliers"

Russ Vaughn sends his latest, which I thought you might enjoy:

Force Multipliers
Wikipedia: force multiplier-a military term referring to a factor that dramatically increases (hence multiplies) the combat-effectiveness of a given military force.

In Iraq an IED explodes,
An American soldier dies,
But that blast will grow as the media blow
It up before our eyes.
And trumpet to the watching world,
These fifth column falsifiers,
Like sheep they bleat we face defeat,
Our foe’s force multipliers.

Osama and his minions know,
In combat they can’t beat us;
So they hope and pray will come a day,
Our own media will defeat us.
Ignoring all the good we’ve done,
Liberals focus on the gore,
On losses mounting and body counting,
To prove we’ve lost this war.

They disgraced us once in Vietnam,
So now these leftists feel,
That again they’ll win with media spin,
And make America kneel.
But defeatists aren’t the only ones,
Learned lessons from the past;
Back then we swore we’d lose no more,
This time we’re standing fast.

The Internet’s exposed them,
As elitist media liars;
They stand unclothed and widely loathed,
Our foe’s force multipliers.
Some day when all our troops return,
With Iraq on freedom’s path,
The liberal elite who sought defeat,
May face some Righteous wrath.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66


All Good Things:

I suppose I couldn't stay in the Great State of Georgia forever. It's time to head back to Virginia, and so I'll be taking wing out of ATL in despite of the thunderstorms.

For your reading pleasure in the meanwhile, here's a link that Eric Blair will love. I like the idea behind it myself. Education of this sort is important, and anyone who qualifies for this deserves to be shamed rather than honored.

Opinion Journal has an article about Islamic ideology, and how we can know which ones to support. It's written by Abdurraman Wahid, about whom the Journal says little. I'll tell you a bit more about him: in Indonesia, he's known by the nickname "Gus Dur." He is a "former president of Indonesia," as they say, but what they don't tell you is that he was impeached. They also don't tell you that he was the former leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in the world with forty million members.

Gus Dur almost split the organization last year in a political fight for control of it, which he lost. Even so, he remains highly popular with a large wing of it, which includes the quasi-militant Banser. Supposedly a "youth movement," the Banser are sort of "good" blackshirts -- they march and organize and channel angry young Muslim energy in the usual fascist ways, but so far they've been used only to good purpose. For example, they guarded Christian churches this Christmas, as they do every year. In 2000, they lost one of their members to a terrorist bombing set by a fellow Muslim, but they keep coming back.

Indonesia has a lot of genuine fascist organizations, including especially the FPI ("Islamic Defenders Front"). Gus Dur has used, and more often threatened to use, the Banser to keep the real fascists in line. So, when he writes to America today, he ought to be seen for what he is: a hard-hitting 'elder statesman' of Indonesia, ready and willing to use both political and actual force in pursuit of his goal. His goal is the success of a kind of moderate Islam, the sort we would like to see arising everywhere to combat anti-Western militants, but it contains the seeds of a fascist movement and that has often been dangerous in the past. Keep all that in mind while you read his letter.

The Hat

The Hat:

I forgot to explain the hat. About a week ago, I went to Sackett's up in Jasper, Georgia, where I had been told there was a gentleman who could clean a hat. I had my grandfather's old silverbelly Stetson with me, which has had an eventful life. It had oil stains from his days as a mechanic, burns from his days as a welder (and from my days using it to fan campfires into life), soot stains from the same, and so forth. I wanted to have a man clean it who really knew how.

I met the gentleman mentioned in the post below. Now eighty, he is one of only sixteen remaining independent hatmakers in the United States (indeed, I saw in Shoot magazine that another of them is getting out of the business. Then there were fifteen, I suppose). He took one look at me, and said, "That is an old hat you're wearing."

"Yes," I agreed, taking it off and handing it to him.

"Ninteen forties," he remarked after a moment. "Don't see this bash any more." 'Bash' refers to the way the hat is creased on the top. "It became popular in the 1930s, and people pretty much stopped making it by the end of the forties. Don't see this quality of leather in hatbands anymore either. Grand old hat."

He spent an hour cleaning it, while we talked about my grandfather and his grandfather, the days he'd spent as a boy learning to work hats with an old man who lived near their ranch, and his time in the army. At the end, he gave it back. I asked what I owed, but he refused to take even a dime. "It's just a pleasure to work on a fine old hat like that," he said.

So I went back this week and bought a hat from him -- he handles all hat sales from Sackett's -- and what he sold me was a Stetson. He said he thought I'd like this better than anything else he had in the store. "The newest thing," he said. "It's made from buffalo hide and fur felt. Whole thing is buffalo, including the leather hatband. It wears like iron. Took Stetson years to develop it."

When I bought it, the hat looked like this. "Tatanka" is Lakota for "buffalo." (I should also mention, in case any of you are wanting a hat and are planning to be down Georgia way, that he sold it to me for a whole lot less than the listed price. Sackett's is a good place to do business, if you're interested.) It's got a bash called a "cattleman's crease." This is pretty much the standard bash for "cowboy" hats these days, and I've frankly always hated it. I asked him if he'd be willing to lower the brim's "wings," and put a different bash in it.

"Glad to lower the brim," he said, and did, "but I can't change the bash. Once you put a cattleman's crease in, it never looks right with anything else. It's too tight a bash to undo. You'll cause the felt to crack if you try to undo it, which will ruin it."

Felt hats can be remade by the use of water, especially hot water, and best of all steam. You normally use the steam to heat the felt, making it pliant; it will keep whatever form it dries into. So, you heat it up, work it until it's what you want, and then let it cool and dry. It will set that way, like concrete.

Apparently the buffalo felt is a lot tougher than the usual beaver felt, or horsehair felt (the Australian Akubra hats use rabbit). He said that, to work it, you had to put it in a chemical bath.

Well, I thanked him and took it home. I hate to be told that something can't be done, though, so I gave it some thought. I figured some of those chemicals probably dried into the hat, so if I could get them lubricated again they ought to work. I put the hat in a bath of very hot water, and let it soak it up for an hour or so. Sure enough, it became pliant -- not very much so, still much stiffer than any other hat I've handled. Still, I gently worked out the cattleman's crease, and put in an open telescope bash. It worked beautifully.

Nothing makes a man happy better than doing something a master of the art said couldn't be done.

New Year

Happy New Year:

All the best to all of you. New Year's Eve has never been one of my favorite holidays. It's really a bureaucrat's holiday, marking nothing but a change in the keeping of records. May as well celebrate the due-date for the year's taxes, seems to me. But whatever; people seem to like it, so good on you.

This has been a most interesting trip down Georgia way. I forget, when I'm elsewhere, how fine a state Georgia is. Nowhere else I've ever been has the same potential for adventure and joy. Partially it's the terrain: the misty mountains in the north, the alligator-haunted swamps in the south, the crisp sea islands with their wild horses, Savannah with her Spanish moss. Partially it's the people, and not just the Southerners. The clash of cultures between transplanted "Sunbelters" and traditional Southerners keeps things interesting.

Of particular moment are the folks from New York. I encountered one of these new transplants and his wife. It was an older fellow with silver white hair, a black leather jacket, a black foreign luxury car, and a New York accent. "Hey, look at this!" he called to his wife, who was warming herself in a fine fur coat. He pointed at me and my hat. "I didn't see anybody who looked like this when I was down in Texas!"

"Mister," I said quietly, for I was walking past him, "I'm from right here." I pointed at the ground.

"Really?" his wife asked.

"Yes, ma'am," I said. "Fifteen years ago, where you're standing was a cattle pasture; and this hat belonged to my grandfather."

I tipped it to her, and left the two of them standing quietly in what must have been a complete departure from their normal condition. Honestly: to move down to Roswell, Georgia, twenty-five miles from where I grew up, and make fun of my grandfather's hat.

Well, that fellow got off easy. I'm a nice guy, as you all know. I was talking to a man I admire greatly -- a tall, thin gentleman of eighty years, and a master of the craft of making hats. He learned the craft as a youth from another hatter, who died while this gentleman was in the army overseas. I bought a hat from him, in fact, but we'll get to that.

I told him about my troubles down in Roswell, and he agreed that the whole city has become a wasteland. I relate his comments as I recall them:

"I was down in Roswell recently," he said. "Fellow got behind me, blowing his horn and waving his fist. I pulled over at a gas station and he hopped out, so I got out. He came running up cursing me in his Yankee accent, said I'd cut him off back there. 'Mister,' I said, 'I sure do apologize if I did, but I never saw you.'

"He said, 'I ought to beat you half to death. I just wish I'd brought my gun so I could shoot you.'

"Well," the old gentleman continued, "I said he really should have brought it, as I'd certainly brought mine. I opened my coat. At that, the fellow turned white, ran back to his car, and raced off."
When I was a boy, the road signs on the way into the state read: "Welcome to Georgia -- State of Adventure!" They were only telling the plain truth.