Trophy Pic

A Trophy Picture:

I've spent part of the week cutting stumps out of the ground with a mattock and an axe. I've only had my free (i.e. non-work, non-blogging) time to devote to this, and my little boy has been "helping me," but in spite of those problems I've managed to cut out six stumps in the last couple of days.

The boy did finally find a way really to be helpful, which was to haul off the smaller stumps in his Radio Flyer wagon. His mother thought it was so darling she had to get a picture. I don't trouble you with boy pictures much, but I was proud of him. So, here he is, working with his father. Still only three, and hauling stumps around like a lumberjack.


Merchant Marines:

FbL, standing in at Villanous Company, reminds us that Merchant Marine day is coming up on Monday, 22 May. In honor of Grim's Hall friend JarHeadDad, I'd like to pass on the celebratory wishes.

Also, the song in comment #2, which is outstanding.

Heave Ho! My Lads! Heave Ho!

Give us the oil, give us the gas
Give us the shells, give us the guns.
We'll be the ones to see them thru.
Give us the tanks, give us the planes.
Give us the parts, give us a ship.
Give us a hip hoo-ray!
And we'll be on our way.

Heave Ho! My Lads, Heave Ho!
It's a long, long way to go.
It's a long, long pull with our hatches full,
Braving the wind, braving the sea,
Fighting the treacherous foe;
Heave Ho! My lads, Heave Ho!
Let the sea roll high or low,
We can cross any ocean, sail any river.
Give us the goods and we'll deliver,
Damn the submarine!
We're the men of the Merchant Marine!
I've never heard this song, but I can tell it's a rollicking piece by the look of it. Maybe JHD will sing it for us, and I'll put it up as a Grim's Hall podcast.


My tastes in Country Music, as with many other things, tend toward the traditional. I am not a fan of the high gloss suburban pop that currently passes for Country Music on the radio. Consequently, I am always on the lookout for good traditional artists. One such band is the John D Hale Band. Their new CD “One of a Kind” is an absolute must have. Simply put, they play Country Music as it was intended to be played. Their song “Rebel Soldier” is worth the price of the CD alone. However, the whole CD is great.

While I am making music recommendations I will also mention Dale Watson’s newest CD, “Whiskey or God.” This CD is also a must have. This is another CD without a bad song. If you buy this CD you are getting more than your money’s worth.

Do yourself a favor and check out these artists.



Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette is the founder of the MilBlogs Ring. He's started a new group blog which he describes as "The Corner" for MilBlogs. It's almost certainly needless to say it, but the reference is to National Review's charter blog, where their writers chat and present ideas in a boozy less formal way than their lengthy pieces.

I gather from Mrs. Greyhawk's comments that they're aiming at keeping up that "less formal" spirit.

PYW Confirmed

Grim's Hall Movie Club: Paint Your Wagon Confirmed

Apparently I'm not the only one who would enjoy watching this movie again. How's this weekend sound for everyone? Is that enough time to see it, and aim for a discussion on Monday?

Grim's Hall Movie Club

Grim's Hall Movie Club: Paint Your Wagon

I believe it's time for another movie. Unless anyone has a better suggestion -- which has happened -- I'd like to propose Paint Your Wagon. Although a comedy (and a musical!), it is an insightful movie about the human condition. Starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood as gold miners on the Western frontier, it treats the rise and fall of civilization, the problems of men and women, marriage and polygamy, sin and virtue, and a number of other topics.

In addition to which, it's a tremendously funny movie. It can inspire serious thought -- I wrote about it once in regard to insurgent propaganda -- but it will also inspire a few good laughs. That might be just the ticket, this time. Our last two choices have been serious, heroic movies, and perhaps we need a break.

I'm glad to entertain alternative suggestions. One of the movies we'll have to do soon, I think, is Tombstone.

France M Perfidy

France Explained:

All you need to know about France, ever, from the Ministry of Minor Perfidy.

Trackback Death


I've pulled the trackback code. Never could get it to work right.

AL Karpins

Armed Liberal & Karpinski:

AL at Winds of Change had lunch with Janice Karpinski. He wrote me beforehand to ask if I had any questions I wanted asked, kind fellow that he is. I have to admit I had little useful advice to offer -- he seemed to know what needed to be asked before he turned up at my door.

He did good, too. If you haven't seen his post, you'll want to see it.


The Last Ride:

What no enemy could do, the Pentagon has done. 2nd Force Recon is standing down.

I never thought I'd live to see that. It proves the objection made against JF Kerry's campaign promise to increase special operations forces, though: there are only so many men who can live up to that standard. To make a new SOCOM unit, even the USMC had to resort to cannibalism.



I have only two comments on Bush's major address on immigration, neither of which are very enlightening. Still, for what it's worth:

1) Bush is right to say that securing the border is a primary duty of a nation. If we cannot control the border, we have no right to the territory. We can, of course; it's just a question of how. More Border Patrol is part of it, but I think we also need to engage the citizens more. We are seeing that, both in the Minutemen and in the use of the civilian posse. These are trends that I think will continue, and increase, and that the government will have to learn to accept -- and ought to learn to embrace.

2) As regards illegals being offered amnesty-lite: Bush said one thing that I thought was insightful. Normally, when we use the phrase "pay your debt to society," it's purely a figure of speech -- indeed, a very misleading one. There is nothing in going to prison that pays your debt to society. Just the opposite: society is harmed again by having to feed you, house you, pay for your medical care, and pay for professional guards to watch you. Going to prison doesn't pay your debt to society at all. You leave prison owing society more than ever before.

This is one reason I totally oppose the idea of restoring felon voting rights, which seems to be an idea being touted in certain circles. They haven't paid their debts to society by serving their time. They haven't paid at all.

Now, an illegal immigrant who has avoided prison -- who has paid his taxes, or can and will pay up on his back-taxes -- who has not otherwise caused trouble -- that's a case of someone who might be in a position to "pay his debt" for breaking the law. It might make sense to accept that idea -- if the punitive measure Bush proposes is real enough, and assuming he does go to the "back of the line" behind those who've obeyed the rules.

All that said, point #1 is the first order of business.

FT Iran

The Financial Times on Iran & Indonesia:

I'm a little discomfited by finding all these MSM reports agreeing with me on the subject. Nevertheless, I can't see where the analysis is wrong.

WTF Hyde?

Henry Hyde Demands No Respect for War Dead:

What would we tell a member of a foreign legislature who said that Bush should be blocked from giving a state speech in their nation, because he visits Arlington?

The controversial visits of Junichiro Koizumi to Yasukuni shrine may jeopardise a planned inervention by the Japanese prime minister to Congress during his upcoming visit to the United States. An American MP has asked Koizumi for assurance that he will stop visiting the shrine as a pre-condition for making a speech to a joint session of Congress at the end of June.

The request was made by Henry Hyde (82) in a letter addressed to the Speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert. “Without this assurance, the visit of Koizumi to Capitol would dishonour the place where Franklin Roosevelt made his famous ‘Day of Infamy’ speech, the day after the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbour (December 1941).” Hyde said “a speech by Koizumi to Congress is welcome because it is made by a representative of the one of the most loyal allies of the United States”. But, he added, “for the generation that remembers Pearl Harbour, a visit by Koizumi to Yasukuni after his speech to Congress would be an affront”. One of the war criminals venerated there is Hideki Tojo, who was prime minister when Japan attacked the United States. Hastert has not yet replied to the MP’s letter.
It's true that Tojo is honored there, but the Yasukuni war shrine is hardly a shrine to Tojo alone. It's a shrine to all Japan's fighting men who have died in her wars since the Meiji restoration in 1867. A visit to the shrine isn't a celebration of Pearl Harbor, but a necessary civic function: honoring those who have believed in your nation, and upheld her cause. Any nation must be able to do that, if it is to be a healthy nation. A people should be able to mourn the destruction of war, while honoring the courage of their fighters and the sacrifice of those who served.

It would be as if Germany refused to let Bush address their legislature because he visited Arlington, where a few men are buried who partook in the firebombings of Dresden. Do not five decades of peace and friendship soothe, at last, these wounds?

We have fought and beaten both Japan and Germany, and that was long ago. We have also raised them up, and helped them to their feet; and they have been, for more than a generation, allies. Their political systems, once authoritarian, are ever greater democracies -- even the Japanese system, still dominated by a single-party, seems to be approaching the point that a multi-party system will break through. It will not happen in this election, but it seems likely to happen soon.

If we insist on eternal shame from these nations -- if we will not let them honor their patriots, because some among those patriots were our enemies -- how will they ever be capable allies? We carry the main part of the burden of defending the free world. Partly that is because Germany remains ashamed, and its institutions and culture look on the military with horror. Japan, too, is only now beginning to recover its spirit. Even limited to "self-defense" forces legally unable to protect themselves, it has provided loyal friends and support troops in Iraq.

It seems to me we may need allies in the years ahead, with the spirit to fight a new war. We may yet need to defend the ideas of democracy. Iran's letter said that "Those with insight can already hear the sounds of shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems." If they are not indeed to shatter and fall, men must hold them up. American men and British men fight together in that cause, though the British still wear the red coats in their dress uniforms. Japanese men should also be allowed to honor their fighting ancestors, though they were sometimes our foes. We should be able to shake hands with the descendants of the samurai, put aside past differences, and meet our common enemies.

It is time to bury old disputes. There are enough new fights in the world, and the thing that really divided us from Japan and Germany -- the difference between democracy and fascism -- is long gone. Let them honor their war dead, and perhaps remember the virtues as well as the vices of those who went before.

Wrechard III

Seeking Visions:

This continues to be a discussion I want to bring back to the front. Karrde mentions that he wonders how long it will be before the catastrophic collapse of the surviving models finally happens. When will it be unavoidably obvious that we cannot continue? No one knows.

There is another matter at least as important, however: where the next models will come from. Daniel and Wretchard point directly to the answer. They come from tradition.

Wretchard's quote -- from 1 Kings 19 -- is more telling than mine on this particular point. It's not just that Elijah was in need of a vision. It's that he went back to the beginning to find it. He went back to the place where his tradition began: the place where the Ten Commandments were handed down. The answer to the question, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" is never given by the man himself: but it was a good question. Why have you returned to the beginning of things?

At Gettysburg, Lincoln returned us to the beginning: "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." He went with us back to the beginning. What he found there was new strength, but also a new charge that was not imagined by the Founders.

I wonder what we will find there.

This New NSA Story

The New NSA Story:

I've been thinking about this for some time, having first read the Froggy pieces and the piece by Kim du Toit. This is my understanding of the issues involved. I'm happy to invite anyone to explain why I'm wrong, as I am not a lawyer (but several of you are), nor a privacy activist (though at least one of you seems primed to become one soon).

1) The Fourth Amendment protects the right of the people to be secure in their "persons, houses, papers, and effects" from unreasonable search and seizure.

2) However, a person is free to turn over their papers, etc., if they wish.

3) The state of the law has been updated with the times to reflect new technologies, including telephones.

4) The right being protected, however, remains a personal right. You have a right to be free from such searches as regards things you own. You own your telephone, and you own the words you say into it. These things are protected, and the government cannot "search" them without lawful processes.

5) You do not own the records of your phone calls. That is proprietary information of your phone company. Somewhere in your user agreement, their right to collect such information and their ownership of same is explained.

6) The government is not asserting that it has a right to that information. It is not ordering anything be handed over. It is merely asking the phone company if they would mind if they, the government, looked at their proprietary information.

7) As per point 2, the company is free to turn over its papers if it wishes. Many companies have wished to do so, on the grounds that it's usually a good business decision to comply with government requests if you don't have a pressing reason not to do so.

8) Therefore, there is no possibility that this program is either illegal or unConstitutional. It violates no one's Fourth Amendment rights, and it does not violate privacy either because a person -- by agreeing to the collection of the information, even though the terms were 'in the fine print' -- has no reasonable expectation of privacy.

9) However, if it bothers you, you are free to negotiate a different agreement with a different company. Internet service providers already exist whose claim to fame is that they don't keep records and/or will otherwise protect your secrets. There's no reason phone companies can't exist on the same terms. Such plans will probably cost more, as the company is letting to of a valuable piece of property in return -- its marketing abilities based on the collection of that data -- but you get what you pay for.

Is there any point in that reasoning chain that is wrong?

A revelation

A Minor Awareness:

I remember reading of Tolkien that he thought Shakespeare marked the point at which the English language was ruined. I always thought that was one of those charming stories that couldn't possibly be true -- that even if Tolkien had said it, he was probably joking -- until I took a moment to examine my bookshelves tonight. I was looking for something to read on an evening when I've decided I've done as much work as I can.

I do not own, I realized to my shock, a single work by Shakespeare. No, not even a textbook from college. I don't own any movies or recordings of his plays or poetry. I've seen quite a few of Shakespeare's plays in my time, and I've always liked them. Somehow, though, I never wanted any.

Now, probably lots of people don't own books by Shakespeare -- nothing wrong with that. Lots of people probably prefer detective stories, which I can certainly understand. But here are some things I do own, and have read:

1) The entire surviving corpus of Old English poetry, and most of the corpus of Old English period, mostly in translation but much of it in the Old English as well. These are accompanied by Old English grammars and dictionaries, to help me sort through it.

2) Several collections of Middle English poetry. These are in the original Middle English, which I can read just fine.

3) Several collections of Old Norse poetry and sagas, mostly in translation some in the original Norse. With grammars and dictionaries, per 1.

4) The histories of Saxo Grammaticus and Snorri Sturlason, in translation.

5) The histories of Bede and Geoffrey of Monmouth.

6) Copies of both the Caxton and Winchester manuscripts of Sir Thomas Malory's Arthurian writings.

That's just a start. Yet Shakespeare didn't make the cut. I do have a copy of the King James Bible, which is from the same period, but in a high version of early Modern English. In any event, maybe Tolkien really did believe it. It's a prejudice I guess I share, without having noticed it until now.


Visions and Old Kings:

Jordan asked what I meant by the post below, responding to Wretchard. I am moving my response to the front page, because it probably deserves to be here.

That [i.e., her assertion that dialogue is increasingly futile] is part of it: that we've come to a point at which we are, both sides, wasting our breath. But why should it be so?

The way the human mind thinks about complicated, complex problems is that it attacks them in stages. It is very difficult to sit down and think out a solution to, say, the problem of terrorism; or of how to achieve relatively large degrees of international peace and stability. These aren't questions you solve over your morning coffee.

What most people do is that they first study generalized models that have been developed by recognized experts; then they study the history and current events surrounding the problem; and then they try to fit the modern event to the historic model. If you're thinking about the problem of international peace, you might study a few different models that have been developed and choose between them, or try to synthesize them: say the Kissenger model, and the UN model.

I believe we're coming to a point at which our models are breaking.

Take the UN model. I think a lot of people are deeply, emotionally committed to the idea. They either refuse to see the flaws in it, or they assert that they are flaws of execution: that the UN could be reformed, improved. The real problems are basic.

1) The UN proposes to outlaw war except in self-defense, which means that only the worst sorts of wars can be "legally" fought -- wars where your enemy has been allowed to prepare, and you have counter-prepared.

2) The UN assumes a moral equality of states, and that states -- and not individual people -- are the creatures with rights that must be protected. Both propositions are fundamentally wrong. They cannot be rescued.

3) The UN requires, at the level of the Security Council, unanimity to act. Such unanimity has never been achievable. It creates negotiation death-spirals on every problem, which means that every problem worsens over a period of months or years until someone finally "breaks the rules" and deals with it.

So the UN model is broken; what replaces it? And how do you convince the people who are so deeply tied to it that it must be abandoned -- that they must start anew, looking for new ways to think about these problems?

Take another example, so you'll see that I'm talking about a major chain problem rather than an isolated problem. Consider the question of whether al Qaeda-type organizations should be treated as combatants, or criminals.

The argument of the criminal-method say that they feel treating terrorists under the Geneva Conventions does them more honor than they deserve; that they are not deserving of status as soldiers (which the Conventions do not assert -- yet this is a deep-set misunderstanding that will not be easily removed) nor even combatants, but that they are "mere" criminals.

Advocates of the alternative position point out that "mere" criminals have a huge host of rights and protections; and that criminals are a different order and type of problem anyway. A criminal may be a parasite, but he's at least attached to the civilization on which he is parasitic.

The terrorist seeks to destroy the civilization. It is nonsense to treat the two problems as if they were the same, or to extend the protections of civilization to people who will only use those protections as part of a war against its foundations.

Yet there are legal structures in place that make it difficult to even have the conversation, or to make necessary changes. For one thing, many states (not the US) have signed a later addition to the Geneva Conventions, one that actually does extend many POW protections to terrorists and other militants. That means that making an attempt to treat terrorists "under the Conventions" won't fix the problem at the international level -- and the international level is indispensible to the fight against these kinds of groups.

Meanwhile, within the US, the SCOTUS has ordered that all such things be handled through the Federal Courts where such courts operate. Fixing that requires a new SCOTUS ruling, or a Constitutional amendment. Either requires moving the whole society to a point of consensus on the issue -- one that isn't going to come through argument, because people are arguing based on the old models to which they remain attached.

These models are broken. They don't speak to the problems we face. They can no longer serve us. Their proposals do not aid us; the understandings of issues that they suggest are wrong. They move us away from the truth, and the things we need to be able to think and say and do.

This is what I mean by the poetic reference. These models are like the ghosts of the old kings, who "grew greyer and greyer, less and less." Yet we grasp at them wildly, for our whole understanding is based on them.

When that breaks, at last, there will be a time beyond words. 9/11 was such a time for some of us: a time when we looked at the smoke, and realized that everything we thought we understood about the world was wrong.

It is increasingly clear that most people did not have that experience. Another such event will be needed -- increasingly, it looks like it will be the Iranian bomb. It might be something else. We will cling to the old models until a heavier blow breaks them. Words are wasted, because even the arguments being had between advocates of models, NEITHER of which apply.

This is what Wretchard means when he points out that the people who are accustomed to trafficking in thought are disrupted. The thoughtful ones see that the models on which their very thoughts are based have ceased to serve them. But no new models exist.

Under those circumstances, words are wasted. We must act as we can, using only the facts, and whatever weapons we find to hand.

We are, for the moment, in a time without models. We have no old kings to guide us. We must simply fight for the ground on which we stand, and wait for the vision to come.
There are many other breaking models of this type. I suspect more will occur to you.


Weapons Programs:

The New York Review of Books has an excellent piece on the development of nuclear weapons by various countries. Israel's program offers particular insights for our current difficulties with Iran:

In the late 1950s, with French assistance, the Israelis had begun to construct a large reactor in the Negev and a facility for processing the fuel rods needed to make plutonium. Then, in 1959, De Gaulle became president of France and said French assistance could continue only if Ben-Gurion gave public assurance that the reactor would be used solely for peaceful purposes. This he did, while knowing full well that the reactor was going to be used to make plutonium for nuclear weapons. The reactor was completed in 1963. During this time the Israelis and the Americans engaged in a kind of theater of the absurd. The Americans demanded inspections and the Israelis came up with one ingenious maneuver after another to avoid them. For example, the Americans were informed that the nuclear complex at Dimona was a textile factory. Before he was assassinated, President Kennedy and his experts came close to a finding that a nuclear reactor was being used to make plutonium. The Israelis went on maintaining the fiction that they had not manufactured nuclear weapons. What brought an end to this farce was the testimony of an immigrant Moroccan Jew named Mordechai Vanunu.

In 1977, after a short course in the essentials of atomic weapons production, Vanunu got a job as manager in the graveyard shift at the nuclear plant, working between 11:30 PM and 8:00 AM. Vanunu's clearance gave him access to all levels of secure sites at the plant, including those in which materials that might be used for a hydrogen bomb were manufactured. Vanunu was a political activist who attended rallies at which both Communists and Arabs were present. He was warned not to involve himself in such political matters, but he kept on doing so until 1985, when he was fired. He went to London with his story of Israel's nuclear program and photographs to back it up. These were published in the London Sunday Times and created a sensation. Vanunu was lured to Rome by a young woman, an Israeli agent, and kidnapped by the Mossad; he was taken back to Israel where he spent the next seventeen years in prison, partly in harsh solitary confinement. He is now living under tight security in Israel. It was clear from what he revealed, Richelson writes, that Israel, which has been making nuclear weapons for decades, has a very considerable and varied nuclear arsenal.
The piece also looks at a number of more recent nuclear programs, and says that the one central fact about all of them is this: they all went undetected by intelligence services.

Who Are They

Who Are They?

Heidi's got a movie she'd like you to see, called "Who are they?" It examines the lives of some remarkable men, who crossed the border in searing heat, to do jobs that others don't want to do.

How's that new pistol working out, Heidi?