Changes in the Wind:

Wretchard has a warning and a prophecy.

The foliage, sounds, the shift in airs, scents -- all of these -- spoke to them as directly as words in a book, though I scarcely imagined how. Later I discovered that psychologist Julian Jaynes had advanced the theory of the bicameral mind, which helped explain what I'd seen. His book, the Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind suggests that our ancestors were instructed by voices and visions. They understood through a process of unconscious thinking as perhaps the Mangyans still do. Nature spoke to them, and they heard....

My own hunch is that in the last two or three months there's been a change in the tone of the blogosphere. Nothing definite, simply a change in atmosphere in proportion to the degree of abstract tendencies of the blogger. Authors who trafficked in ideas and concepts have altered the most.... The old play is ending and yet the new one has not yet begun. And this bothers abstract intellectuals far more than it does the men in the field. A soldier can write with perfect conviction that "the world was a slightly better place every time I pulled the trigger" because he lives in a world of specificity, but the agonized thinker can find no such comfort in cold abstractions; abstractions now in need of repair under the weight of experience.
It is true what he says. I have felt it myself. I think there is an ending of things, which the bumper sticker of the post below makes clear: a point at which thought can carry us no farther. When it seems rational to make such a claim, as it increasingly does to increasing numbers, we may be coming to a time beyond words.

Wretchard ends with the Old Testament, as he prefers to do. I shall end as I prefer, with the Ballad of the White Horse.
And the great kings of Wessex
Wearied and sank in gore,
And even their ghosts in that great stress
Grew greyer and greyer, less and less,
With the lords that died in Lyonesse
And the king that comes no more.
So it is, in the time between whispers. Yet, in the ballad as in the Bible, that was only the beginning: the vision was set to come.

Bumper Stickers

Bumper Stickers:

Here's one I saw driving around northern Virginia the other day.

Germans Supported Their Troops, Too.

Good Germans supported their troops--and their President--until the end of the war. Any similarities? This, like all our other NO RIBBON items, aren't against American soldiers, obviously...


What seems obvious to me is that the sticker suggests that American soldiers are like Nazis... and those who support them, are also Nazis.

There are words fit to reply to such an assertion, but they aren't suitable for a family website.

Well, at least the sticker makers are clear about their sentiments:
The best liberal, democratic, and fun political bumper stickers, buttons, badges, magnets, t-shirts, goodies, and toys anywhere!
You think that's fun? Is that how it seems to you?

Indy * Iran

Indonesia & Iran:

A couple of updates on the developing situation there:

From the Voice of America, and...

From The Australian.

It's not clear why the Indonesian proposal for a 'more representative' world body makes sense. Precisely why should countries which have not managed to work out the science on nuclear power be involved in the discussion of who should have nuclear power? Why should nations which have not worked out the basics of human rights be permitted to do so?

Well, as the Iranian president says, "If somebody points weapons at your face and tells you to speak out, will you do that? Some countries have bad ethics, and of course they are very arrogant."

I think Iran's in a wholly defensible position, refusing to cooperate with us because we are negotiating under the threat of force. That's perfectly understandable. I don't like to be threatened either.

Nevertheless, the threat remains. We can not accept a nuclear Iran. They must, then, choose: surrender, or fight. I'll respect them if they make the decision to fight, but we're still going to have to fight.

A Funny Joke

A Good One:

Joatmoaf responds to a Cassidy post with one of the best jokes I've heard in ages:

Moishe Reads an Arab Newspaper

A Jewish man was riding on the NY subway reading an Arab newspaper. A friend of his notices this strange phenomenon. Very upset, he approaches the newspaper reader.

"Moishe, have you lost your mind? Why are you reading an Arab newspaper?"

Moishe replied, "I used to read the Jewish newspaper, but what did I find? Jews being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation and intermarriage, Jews living in poverty. So I switched to the Arab newspaper. Now, what do I find? Jews own all the banks, Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, Jews rule the world. The news is so much better!"
I think we can all appreciate that joke, these days.

DB Kim

More on Databases:

Kim du Toit has an excellent post on how massive databases are developed and used. I hadn't realized he was such an expert on the topic, but he is. It's a good read, to go with the posts by Froggy two items down.

There's quite a debate in the comments of Froggy's second post, by the way. That's good, although I'm a little astonished at Allan's remarkable suggestion that former-SEAL/Special Agent Froggy is part of UBL's fifth column. OSO has some interesting objections that are worth reading.

At this poing in the debate, reading these things is important not to verify what you already believe, but to inform yourself for the slog forward. There are three separate questions, and if you read these posts you'll be in a better position to think about all of them:

1) How, and how well, would such a system work?

2) What rights and protections apply to each part of the process?

3) Is the program legal, and if not, should it be?

You'll be smarter about all of that if you read those links.

Lawn Mowing Prop

Mowing: A Modest Proposal

Here's an idea I have to reduce American reliance on oil, reduce air polution, reduce noise polution, and generally improve American life. Let's ban gasoline lawn mowers.

A small engine may not use much gas to mow your lawn, but consider how much gasoline it takes to mow every lawn in America. If we saved all of that gasoline, it would produce a small but noteworthy drop in American fuel consumption. Reducing demand, we'd reduce the price of gasoline at the pump.

More, the lawn mowing needs doing mostly during the summertime. That's when gas prices are usually highest. So, this ban would improve pump prices at the most critical moment.

Similarly, gasoline lawn mowers are very noisy, and spew foul-smelling vapor. All those problems, solved at a stroke! American neighborhoods would be quieter, happier, and better-smelling.

There are two objections I can think of: first, won't mowing with a manual rotary mower be a pain? And second, what about the landscaping industry? Wouldn't this destroy them?

In answer to the first point, I can say that I used a manual rotary mower last year, and found it to be as good as any power mower. It takes just a little more physical effort, and the blades do have to be sharpened on occasion, but the cut is as clean as or cleaner than you get with a 4.5 horsepower mower. The process of mowing is more enjoyable, because your arms aren't being vibrated off, and you don't have to wear hearing protection.

In addition, the slight increase in physical effort would help address our obesity problem here in America. Not to mention any names, but I can think of a few people who would't be hurt by a slight increase in their physical exercise.

As to the landscaping industry, we would have to give a moment's thought to its protection. I suggest a buy-back program for their gasoline mowers, whereby we provide them with a small number of rotary mowers based on the size of the mower they're turning in. Yes, this would be expensive the first year, but after that we'd be free of the gasoline lawnmower menace forever.

The landscapers, meanwhile, would find that those people who weren't willing to undertake the slight extra work would provide them with new clients, thus increasing the size and power of their industry. More jobs, too!

We could have all these social benefits for only the small cost of helping the landscaping industry retool. Less dependence on foreign oil, lower gas prices, less air polution, less noise pollution, less obesity, and more jobs! That's quite a list of things we could get in trade for the evil lawn mower -- who knew it was such a parasite on our culture?

Well, now you know. Write your representatives today.


Some Good Stuff on the Internets Today:

Froggy, posting at BlackFive, has a series of posts on the new NSA leaks (here, especially here, and also here). Froggy wasn't just a SEAL (to paraphrase one of Subsunk's recent post titles), but also a Special Agent for Customs working against international drug rings. He's therefore seen the classified side of this process from both the military and the law-enforcement perspective. His understanding is therefore enlightening.

Andi's group "Sew Much Comfort," operating at Walter Reed, got a visitor of some note.

The Belmont Club points out one of the most deadly naval battles in years has taken place, between suicide attackers from LTTE and the Sri Lankan navy. The LTTE (or "Tamil Tigers") are, as I recall, the only non-Islamist group to field suicide bombers. Here they managed fifteen boats to attack a naval detachment, sinking a warship and damaging a transport ship.

In addition to the problems this demonstrates for navy operations, Wretchard points out that the troop carrier seems to have been the primary target. It was carrying a truce monitor. Wretchard explains how this fits in with a general collapse of protection of diplomats from terrorists.

The COUNTERCOLUMN borrows a photo and caption from the New York Times. It asks the Times, "When are you going to get some veterans in the newsroom so you don't embarrass yourselves like this?"

See if you can spot the error. If not, well, I'll be surprised if any of you can't spot it. That kind of incompetence takes a professional journalist.

"Brokeback Jihadi"

Uncle Jimbo's latest web-TV appearance conveys the story of... er... well... it conveys a story of young Afghan lads and, ah, older Afghan fighters.

Jimbo cites an Afghan proverb in the piece. I remember a similar sentiment from my studies of ancient Greece -- you can read in Edith Hamilton on the subject of how Greeks of high education passed their evenings before great battles. Perhaps there's something to The Man Who Would Be King, after all? Sure looks that way.

Guns Test II

Guns & Testosterone, II:

Doc has a good post up on the problems with studies of this type. He explains some of the problems with the "scientific method" as it's being practiced in medicine today, and some bigger problems -- namely, what would it mean if the conclusion was actually true?

This pseudoscience-with-a-press-release is becoming a real problem. I remember the Geek with a .45 had a top-notch post on the subject back in February. If you missed it, it's worth looking over. It shows some of the warning signs that you ought to look for, before you say, "Hey! We should change the laws to suit this new study!"


Cassidy has two strong posts today, remembering the fallen and scorning those who dishonor them. Russ Vaughn mails a link to his latest work, which by chance is on the same topic.

As she promised in the comments here, Cassidy wrote in part on the subject of our friend from Boston, who feels the POW flag is really about how "we ourselves have become the prisoners of war; it is our own government that has taken us captive." On which topic, you might enjoy (h/t Sage) reading a little of this entry from Egyptian blogger Alaa. It begins:

Today it hit me, I am really in prison.
An object lesson on just how extraordinarily stupid so much of this political discourse from the Left has become.

UPDATE: I talked to Sovay on the phone this evening (Saturday, 13 May), and she asserts she hasn't heard of the Globe piece on the POW flag. Hopefully this and certain other recent signs I've seen (particularly a certain bumpersticker) are just 'the work of isolated extremists,' rather than signs of a growing anti-military movement on the Left.


Soldiers Angels Request:

Patti at SA sends.

You are receiving this email, because I have heard from many deployed troops this week,
everyone has the same thing to say,

IT IS HOT!! It is hard to think...

I would like to get cool scarf to every hero on our list, THE TEMPERATURES IN IRAQ ARE WELL OVER 100 DEGREES, and will stay that way till September.

The cooling scarf is a great way to beat the heat. These cooling scarves comes from hundreds of tiny hidden non-toxic polymer crystals that hold many times their weight in water. By soaking your cooling scarf in cool water for 15 minutes, these crystals become "energized" and become a comfortable, portable evaporative cooler that can lower body temperature by several degrees! So, not only will you FEEL cooler, you will actually BE cooler!

The Cooling scarf is great for any activity that raises body temperature to an uncomfortable level. Golf, Tennis, Hiking, Biking...anything! Stay cool and comfortable during these activities. The cooling scarf will contiue to keep you cool for up to 15 hours.

We have over 12,000 heroes on this fourth deployment.

The scarves cost 1.20 and the shipping is 1.12, about 2.50 ea.
So in order to do this we need 25,000 dollars, not a small feat but these scarves help to keep their brains cool and offers comfort to our heroes.
Please help me to help them,
As the MilBlog Emma Peel notes, May means poor -- for a number of reasons. Still, at $2.50 apiece, I'd like to think we here at Grim's Hall could support a couple of squads. I don't want to put anyone on the spot, so don't declare your donations or anything -- but if you'd like to help, the donation button is at the top left of the Soldiers' Angels page.

Guns & Testosterone

Guns & Testosterone:

Via FbL at the Castle, a New York Times story on evidence that handling guns raises testosterone levels in men. FbL points to certain less-than-manly types who regard this as reason to restrict gun ownership.

Sorry, but that's a rank misreading. As Daniel points out it's not a bug, it's a feature. We need more testosterone in the American man. Seriously -- the odd shift in hormone balance is something scientists have been tracking for nearly fifteen years, and seems to be having a real effect on the population in the US and Europe.

Guns: there's no social problem they can't help solve!


A Less Well-Considered Statement:

Not every statement hits the high notes. Unlike the Iranians, Hizb-ut Tahrir didn't manage quite the right tone in their communication to the West. In this interview with the Christian Science Monitor, they try to explain how innocent their approach is:

"[President] Bush says that we want to enslave people and oppress their freedom of speech," says Abu Abdullah, a senior member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Party of Liberation. "But we want to free all people from being slaves of men and make them slaves of Allah."
Oh, well, that's all right then. Wait, though -- who decides what Allah wants from his slaves, on a day to day basis? Men, right?

Square one.

I hope that HuT didn't describe their plan for re-creating the Caliphate in quite these terms, either:
But unlike Al Qaeda, Hizb ut-Tahrir believes it can recreate the Caliphate peacefully. Its activists aim to pursuade Muslim political and military leaders that reestablishing the Caliphate is their Islamic duty. Once these leaders invite Hizb ut-Tahrir to take power - effectively staging a military coup - the party would then repeat the process in other countries before linking them up to form a revived Caliphate.
So, it's a nonviolent military coup they're planning? One in which the military then "invites" them to take power?

I think I see a possible snag in the plan.

One more quote:
"Islam obliges Muslims to possess power so that they can intimidate - I would not say terrorize - the enemies of Islam," says Abu Mohammed, a Hizb ut-Tahrir activist.
So, to sum up: men should be slaves of Allah, not slaves of men (but men will interpret for Allah); Hizb-ut Tahrir will come to power without using violence (because the soldiers who do use the violence will then kindly invite them in); and the power they envision Muslims wielding will only be for "intimidation," not "terrorism."

I'm glad we got all that cleared up.

UPDATE: Ok, just one more.
"In the beginning, the Caliphate would strengthen itself internally and it wouldn't initiate jihad."

"But after that we would carry Islam as an intellectual call to all the world," says Abu Mohammed, a pseudonym. "And we will make people bordering the Caliphate believe in Islam. Or if they refuse then we'll ask them to be ruled by Islam."

And after that? Abu Mohammed pauses and fiddles with his Pepsi before replying.

"And if after all discussions and negotiations they still refuse, then the last resort will be a jihad to spread the spirit of Islam and the rule of Islam," he says, smiling. "This is done in the interests of all people to get them out of darkness and into light."
Now I really feel beter about their intentions.

The Letter

The Letter:

The English translation of Iran's letter to the United States proves to be an astonishing and remarkable document. It is astonishing because it is nothing like it was described to be. "Some American officials have said the letter appeared to be aimed at disrupting talks on Iran this week among top envoys of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China," the New York Times tells us, and that's correct: we were told this was intended as a ploy, a bit of gamesmanship by the Iranians. Since the possibility of direct negotiations was open, the Russians and the Chinese could plausibly claim that UN Security Council action was not needed.

If that was indeed the reading of the professional diplomats, we are poorly served by their insights. The letter is not a negotiating ploy. If our best thinkers can misread this so badly, they need to be replaced root and branch.

The letter has two clear antecedents in world politics: the American Declaration of Independence, and the Communist Manifesto. This is a document of that type, and if we are not careful, it will be remembered for as long.

Like the Declaration and the Manifesto, the letter spends much of its time with a list of grievances. These grievances serve the same purpose in all three documents: they purport to demonstrate that the existing system is a moral failure, and that it has create affronts which can only be addressed by its overthrow. The American Declaration limited itself to the removal of the King's government from the colonies; it was only later, in Woodrow Wilson's time, that we began to think of American democracy as a universal human value. The Manifesto assumed a worldwide revolution from the start. In its summation, following sixteen pages of grievances, the Iranian letter proposes the same:

Liberalism and Western style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic

We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point – that is the Almighty God. Undoubtedly through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems. My question for you is: “Do you not want to join them?”

Mr President,

Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.
And there we have it. Liberalism and Western style democracy have led to war and invasion; international institutions that do not protect the people; many various abuses of human rights which are detailed; and a departure of mankind from the revealed design of God, as shown to us primarily through Koran, but also reflected in the other Abrahamic religions.

We are invited to join this progress to a world in which the will of God prevails over all things. That is the beginning and the end of the outreach: we may submit. Won't you, Mr. President, accept this invitation?

In addition to being a declaration of open defiance, the letter is a cunning first strike. We have heard much discussion of funding or reaching out to the Iranian opposition groups, in an attempt to exploit cracks in Iranian society that might lead to internal discord and disruption. Much discussion, but we have done nothing.

The Iranians have not only spoken, but acted. This letter could not be clearer in its attempts to exploit the cracks in Western society: between Europe and America, between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, pro-Israeli and anti-Israeli; it calls libertarian and human rights advocates, Christians and even Jews, to join Iran in defiance of the Western failures to perfect the human condition. It references every claim made by any dissident organization against America's policies in the world. It works them together, and almost makes it sound rational to believe that the Iranian way -- and the Taliban's way! -- could point to a better world, with fewer evils, than this nasty abusive democracy.

This is a call to arms not just for those who might think Allah the enemy of America, but for those within the West who think America is the enemy of Europe, of their social program, of their politicis -- even to those, within America, who would oppose Bush. It is a call for an end to Western style democracy and liberalism, and the transition of the world to the service of God. It is at once a declaration and a manifesto, an attack and a defense, a statement of principles for Islamists and a stroke designed to shatter the West along our fault lines.

My respects to a master of the art. We shall see if we have any who are wise enough to reply. Or even, to understand.



Greyhawk points to an article from the Boston Globe against the POW-MIA flag. Hawk notes that the article attempts to paint the flag as being a kind of mechanism to demonize the left so the right can win elections.

The article ends on a note of conspiracy:

No wonder the grief-struck flag refuses to go away. When we Americans behold that silhouetted bowed figure -- the prison tower, the barbed wire -- we may feel the pointed shame anew, but now we recognize the unknown image. We ourselves have become the prisoners of war; it is our own government that has taken us captive. The black flag at last belongs to all of us.
I suppose the author doesn't know anyone who actually flies one of these flags, or he wouldn't dare say such a thing. I know a few men who do: some Vietnam veterans, some bikers, and families of those who did not come home. I don't think they'd much like him saying that the figure on the flag represents "all of us," we poor suffering Americans imprisoned by our evil government.

I think they only wish that their missing loved ones, or friends, were here to suffer with us.

This kind of rhetoric is exhausting. I'm tired of hearing Hollywood stars gripe about how dissent is stifled, as they give another anti-war, anti-administration speech and then go to cash their next million-dollar paycheck. I'm tired of hearing professors gripe about the crushing of their freedom to criticize the government, which criticisms still end up crossing my desk every single day, while their authors are punished with tenure and gold-plated benefits plans. I'm tired of hearing US Senators, who are paid fortunes out of the public dole to do nothing but talk, complaining about how hard it is to express opinions that draw criticism from the public. And I'm tired of journalists like this guy whining about how he 'understands' what it's like to be a POW, because he has to live in Bush's America.

Dissent can be -- not necessarily is, but can be -- patriotic. Whining is neither patriotic nor acceptable. Good gracious, people. Grow some perspective.



Sgt. Gehlen has another message he'd like to bring to your attention. CENTCOM has released new translations from captured insurgent documents on its "What Extremists Are Saying" website. You can read them here.

Cooking Out

Cooking Out:

The last few days I've been eating elk steaks. No, sadly, I didn't find time to go hunting out West. I got a whole bunch of elk from a friend. It's good stuff.

I never stopped cooking over an open fire all winter, but with the Spring here I'm back to doing it almost daily. By summer, I prefer to cook outdoors as a way of keeping the heat out of the house. In the spring, though, it's just for the sheer pleasure of being outside under the blue sky.

Edward Abbey wrote, "It's true: Every time you kill an elk, you're saving some cow's life." It is true. Elk can be used almost exactly like beef, but (like bison) is much leaner. Game meats (like skirt or flank steak) do reward extra preparation, however. If you're not used to cooking with them, here's some advice:

Take some time to score both sides of the meat in a cross-hatch fashion, so that both cuts go against the grain of the muscle. That is, find the grain of the muscle, turn your knife 45 degrees, and cut that way. Then, cut at right angles to your first cuts. With game, you want deep scoring and lots of it.

You'll want to marinate the meat in something that will break down the fibers further, so it will be tender and delicious rather than tough. Lemon or lime juice works well; garlic isn't bad. Any marinade you use on fajitas will work well; so will most barbecue marinades. Here are a couple that I like:

Marinade #1: Make a paste of minced garlic and black pepper, cut with lime juice to keep it just a little fluid. Once you've scored the meat, work the paste into the scoring. Marinate 2-4 hours or overnight as you prefer.

Marinade #2: 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce, extra garlic to taste. Pour over steak, then turn the steaks over and brush the extra into the scoring on the top side. Marinate 4-5 hours or overnight.

Either or do, or many others. The key is to get some sort of acid in there, to break down the muscle fiber.

I grilled elk steaks two days ago, using something like Marinade #2. The leftover steaks got cut up into fajitas, which I've almost finished off now. Elk goes well with pale ale, or most any kind of richly flavored beer. You'll have to ask someone else for a wine selection.

CA Done

"Crossing America II" Finished:

If any of you were interested, Kim du Toit has posted the results for his Crossing America II game. Here are the results for knives, handguns, and long guns.

Doc and I both wanted a levergun and single-action revolver in .45 Long Colt, and differed on the knives. It appears that the "standard" choice was a Marlin levergun in .44 Magnum, with a matching S&W or Ruger revolver (double-action by preference, but with the Ruger Blackhawk coming in stronger than my own Vaquero/New Vaquero choice). Kim himself went with a levergun/revolver combo, in .357 Magnum.

My final thoughts on the subject:

.44 Magnum is a fine choice, at least as good as my own choice of .45 LC. The .44 Magnum is one of the most versatile rounds available: you can get it in super-stiff, big-game hunting cartridges, or in stepped-down versions (like Winchester Silvertips) that are suitable for human foes. With a wise selection of ammunition, you could address anything from grizzly bear and buffalo to white-tailed deer or violent enemies.

.45 Long Colt is almost as versatile, and in fact isn't that different from .44 Magnum in most respects. (Here's a discussion from the Firing Line on the subject of just how similar the two are.) Either is a good choice for an all-around firearm. If you're planning on following the thought experiment out to the point of "picking the only two guns you'll ever need," .44 Magnum may be a better choice because it's easier to find commercial loads to suit you; but on the other hand, it's harder to carry a S&W M29 concealed than a Ruger New Vaquero. I'll stick with .45 Colt.

Finally, Kim's choice of the Uberti replica Winchester '73 decided something for me. I didn't pick an Uberti because I've never fired one, but according to Kim's description it's just what I'd want in a rifle. The next time I can afford a long gun, I will be buying a '73 in .45 Colt. It sounds precisely right.

Hope you had fun.


Proverbs 12:10

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
To me, the best meaning of that has always been that "You can best know a man by meeting his dog." Or by watching a dog meet him.

Yet, tonight, I remember the other meaning. See comment four.