John of Arrgh! over at Milblogs points to a post by Tigerhawk that is spot on.

Confront your shame and honor the heroes

The following articulates something I've sensed out of a lot of people over the past few years, and even 20 years ago when I enlisted.

There is something deeper, though. I think we resent the all-volunteer military. It is a constant rebuke to those of us who might have done more for our country, but decided not to. When the heroes are draftees, we can honor them for having risen above the misfortune of their low draft number. They lost the lottery, and still they thrived. The draftee is not different from us in the choices he made, he simply made the most of his bad fortune. We imagine we might have risen to the same challenge.

When our soldiers are volunteers, however, many of us are both mystified by the decision that they made and embarrassed that we did not make the same decision. We are ashamed by their heroism, because it reminds us of our own self-indulgence. We then compound the insult by not recognizing our own weakness and honoring the heroes in spite of it.

People do what they do for their own reasons, of course. It may not be weakness or self-indulgence. But then it just might be those things too.

Update: I confused Tigerhawk with Iowahawk. All fixed now.
WTF, over?

Is this for real?
The Respect MP George Galloway has said it would be morally justified for a suicide bomber to murder Tony Blair.

I just don't have words vile enough to describe this sort of behavior.



Soldier's Dad at MilBlogs has a short but outstanding post on what things were like in what are now the world's trouble spots when he was a soldier.

We are all confident that America's fighting forces are good, and on balance bring good to wherever they go. I've rarely seen it so concisely demonstrated, however. There is a chain of events in the region starting with the collapse of the USSR and leading through the Gulf War, 9/11, and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A great deal of the extraordinary positive change has been brought about by US involvement. It's easy, in the daily noise of our enemies and the negative press, to forget just how far we have come in a generation.


A New Hummingbird:

Purely a link for nature-lovers. My mother, believe it or not, sends. ("Why even Father Lonergan had a mother." "What'd you expect?!?")

Birth of a hummingbird. Be sure to click "Next Page" as you watch it.

Congress Gone

Turn Them Out:

I'll buy some of these, too. What a disgrace. Is there a good way to turn out every single member of Congress, without electing anyone else to take their place?

On Dogs

On Dogs:

I talked to Sovay a bit ago. She was complaining about James Dobson (sp?), whom she says is among the most important people in America.

"He said he had a dachshund pup who was sleeping by a warm radiator," she told me, "and he'd told the dog to move. But it was 'defiant,' so he picked up a switch and whipped it for an hour."

I'm not sure who this Dobson fellow is, but I hope he never comes down Georgia way if that story is true. Doing violence to a dog where I come from is the sort of offense that will get you in serious trouble.

Sovay was telling me about going to the dog park -- this is a nifty idea they have in Maryland that we should do more in various places, where you have in a public park a fenced-off section where the community's dogs can get together and run and play -- and a guy thought his dog was being knocked around by another. So he walked up to the other fellow's dog, picked it up, and threw it through the air.

"We all just left," she said. "He hasn't been back. Nobody was willing to deal with him after that."

I told her that, where I came from, if you picked up a man's dog and threw him through the air, you'd probably get yourself shot.

Sovay said she wouldn't murder anyone over such a thing.

"Not murder," I replied. "Where I come from, dogs are a part of the family."

Well, I suppose what matters in the end is that you achieve a common peace. If people understand the rules and abide by them, most of the time, I guess you've got what counts out of civilization.

All the same, I like our way better. You pick my dog or my child and throw him through the air, you'd best have your insurance paid.

But that's probably just me. I still think we should re-legalize duels.

Heroic Flags

Get Some, Russ:

We'd be better off if more folks thought like this:

Arriving early for my flight, I found myself grumpily grumbling about the hassle of airline security and as I struggled to get my metal-studded western belt back through those damned harder-to-reach loops and pull my boots back on, the thought blossomed in my brain momentarily, that given the opportunity, I would gladly don the uniform once again and join the mission to seek out and take out some of the terrorist bastards who were causing me this too early-in-the-day aggravation. As I proceeded down the concourse, I indulged myself with the thought of laying the sight blade of an automatic weapon on some Muj and sending his raggedy butt smoking off to Paradise for causing me to be sent through all this airport security: not exactly a balanced trade-off, I know, but hey, they started it.
In response to Steve Schippert's excellent piece on fighting and politics, "Clint" wrote in to say:
While you may believe that the country has changed, the truth is that as the world becomes smaller, our perspective has become more broad. No longer are we restricted to the one-sided, self-preservating view of the world that you seem to admire.
Damn right I admire it. The alternative to the 'self-preservating' view used to be called "suicide."
It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront.
Every man is born to a flag. He ought to defend it, if it is a good flag; or destroy it, if it is a bad one. This business that 'we must understand that our flag isn't better than any other' is nonsense. It is our business to make it better than any other, or to rend it out of the world. That is the heroic life.


On Gullible Leftists:

Greyhawk has some theories.

Why MacBeth

Why Did Jessie MacBeth Do It?

Blackfive, reaching out to try and understand a troubled young man.

There must be a word in Latin

There Must Be A Word in Latin:

Perhaps our Eric Blair can help us sort out the puzzle that Mark Steyn lays before us:

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, in a quintessentially McCainiac contribution to the debate, angrily denied the Senate legislation was an "amnesty." ... He has a point. Technically, an "amnesty" only involves pardoning a person for a crime rather than, as this moderate compromise legislation does, pardoning him for a crime and also giving him a cash bonus for committing it. In fact, having skimmed my Webster's, I can't seem to find a word that does cover what the Senate is proposing, it having never previously occurred to any other society in the course of human history.
I think it occurred to Vortigern. I'm not sure, however, just what he called his policy of providing bonuses to Saxons who would "do the work Britons do not wish to do."

Bird Flu

Bird Flu:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says to make sure your will is up to date. On the other hand, Doc Russia says it's just a good time to check your emergency supplies. Both -- as of this weekend -- are medical doctors (Congrats, Doc!).

By coincidence, Kim du Toit has reposted his grab-and-go bag advice. And here's Doc's, on a first aid kit for lifesaving.

I am, myself, unconcerned with such things as living and dying. I have a son -- so long as he lives on after me, good enough. Still, I supply this information as a service to the readers.

GHMC: P-Wagon disc

Grim's Hall Movie Club: Paint Your Wagon

There is, in retrospect, way too much to talk about with this movie. Anything you folks want to discuss, I'll be more than happy.

I'm just going to go into one aspect of the film: the way that the prophecy comes to pass, and what it says about the film's ideas on sin and virtue.

This is a question worth considering, because the film is steeped to a surprising degree in Christian ethics. It assumes an audience -- 1968 was almost the last time you could assume it -- that is equally familiar with the details of Christian ethics, and that will share the farmer wife's shock at the idea of a woman having a husband whose name she did not share. In addition, at the end the film resolves all the moral issues it raises in favor of the accepted mainstream Christian ethics of the day. In other words, it's not poking fun at Christianity. It's taking it quite seriously. Christianity isn't the joke: Christianity is the context that makes all the movie's jokes funny.

No-Name City's doom is foretold by the Parson, shortly after his arrival. He sees all the departures from mainstream Christian virtue (to name a few: polyandry, drunkeness in the streets, prostitution, gambling, Sabbath-breaking, etc). He arrives on the veranda of Ezra Atwell's hotel and gives his prophecy:

No-Name City!
No-Name City!
The Lord don't like it here!

No-Name City!
No-Name City!
You're reckoning day is near!

No-Name City!
No-Name City!
Here's what he's gonna do:

Swallow up this town,
And gobble it down,
And good-bye to you!

That is, of course, precisely what happens.

However, the first person to "sink into the pit!" is the Parson himself (although he finds Ben Rumson there to greet him -- "Welcome to hell!"). The two men have to escape from the bull while the city collapses around them, and the prophecy is re-sung with enthusiasm. The Parson's eventual fate is not shown -- he is last seen in a collapsing building -- but Ben Rumson escapes the chaos, afloat in a bathtub with one of the ladies of the evening.

Why would the Parson suffer a worse fate than Ben Rumson, who is among the chief sinners ("Go pray outside, Parson, where the Lord can hear you better")? There's nothing to indicate that the Parson is a hypocrite, which is the usual crime of religious figures in movies. He really seems to believe all the things he says. He really acts on the beliefs. He has the gift of prophecy; the Lord does indeed, in the film, carry out his threats.

It seems to be the case that the Parson is just damned annoying in his certainty.

That is to say, he is possessed of the sin of Pride. This is (so the Medievals thought) the worst of the deadly sins. Ben Rumson is without pride: he covets his own wife, but not so much that he won't share her with another husband. He loves to drink and fight and gamble, but he is wholly honest about the fact that he is a sinner -- his early conversation with Pardner lays out his sins as honestly as could be desired by the Biblical admonition to "confess yourselves to one another."

The Parson is virtuous, but sure of his virtue; and Ben Rumson is sinful, but honest about his sins ("A man has his creed; and mine is all greed," he sings, although in fact he's most generous with Pardner at every point). He does have some virtues -- he works hard, he faithfully keeps his bargains with Pardner and his wife. He honors the contract of marriage (according to his own understanding of it as "mining law") and also his proposed terms of partnership.

Is that why?

Or, alternatively, is it a restatement of the problem of the Book of Job: that virtuous living is no guarantee of success in this world? That suffering belongs to all men, even the best men, and that success or punishment in worldly affairs is not proof of the Lord's favor or disfavor in a larger sense?

Just like the Book of Job, the movie ends on a contradictory note. Rumson rides off into loneliness and the certainty of despair (his occasional "melancholy," as he calls it, he says is "a disease common among mountain men" -- as I can attest myself). Pardner, the best man in terms of traditional ethics, gets all the rewards, just as Job finds at the last that he is given rewards to more than make up for all his suffering.

The movie, if it is echoing Job, echoes it very well. We must not expect virtue to be rewarded and vice punished; and yet, virtue is rewarded and vice is punished. Yet there is no sense of hate or disdain for the honest sinner: Ben Rumson rides off, "pushing on to another wilderness," beloved by all he leaves behind.

Yeah, it's a grand, rollicking comedy. At times it celebrates vice and sin gleefully. Yet it presents us with a picture of genuinely moral men, within the real confines of human limitations. There's not an evil character in the entire film: not though they kidnap, brawl, booze, wench, steal, and eventually witness the divine destruction of their city.


HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH! Good one, China!

From Chinese Aggression Watch:

China has no covert agents in the United States trying to buy military gear on its behalf, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

"The so-called allegations that China is conducting intelligence collection on military or science and technology in the United States are purely fictitious," spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.
Oh, that's beautiful! I'm wiping the free-running tears from my eyes, I'm laughing so hard. Outstanding joke! Well done!

Prosecution of Journalists

Prosecution of Journalists:

Attorney General Gonzales says that we may soon begin prosecuting journalists for revealing classified material. The vehicle is the Espionage Act of 1917, says the article, although in fact that law no longer exists as such, having undergone major revisions -- an oddly sloppy bit of writing. I wonder if it is intended to elide the laws which do exist today (18 USC 793 and 794) with the disreputable history of the actual Espionage Act, in order to color the debate about this.

That tendency to "color debate" through selective reporting and releases of secret information is, of course, the reason we've come to the point of considering prosecutions. The government has long winked at this sort of thing, recognizing that the American people are suspicious of attempts to crack down on the free press. Yet the tendentious reporting on GWOT efforts since 9/11, particularly in Iraq, has worn out the patience of many Americans. It appears that many journalists are willing to print anything that will help them color the debate to their desired shade, without regard for the damage to our national interest or the number of our fighting men who might be killed over it.

That said, I'm against these prosecutions, and won't -- should I be called to serve on a jury, which of course I shall not be -- agree to convict any journalist on these sections of the USC. I agree that we need to be cracking down on this business, but we need to be cracking down on those doing the leaks, not those doing the reporting.

There are two reasons for this.

The minor reason is that the Attorney General's reading of the law would make it a capital crime to publish information about troop movements.

Whoever, in time of war, with intent that the same shall be communicated to the enemy, collects, records, publishes, or communicates, or attempts to elicit any information with respect to the movement, numbers, description, condition, or disposition of any of the Armed Forces, ships, aircraft, or war materials of the United States, or with respect to the plans or conduct, or supposed plans or conduct of any naval or military operations, or with respect to any works or measures undertaken for or connected with, or intended for the fortification or defense of any place, or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life.
Now, we all know that the enemy reads the newspapers. You could argue that it's not your intent that they should read what you write, but you know perfectly well that they'll read it. An application of this law to journalists would not simply target bad writing about the war -- which is the problem -- but almost all writing about it.

This includes the very best writing: the kind that supports the fighting men. Consider Michael Yon's calls of alarm from Afghanistan, which criticize government policy from the point of view of a man who desperately wants us to succeed. A lot of what he's written in the past concerns the "condition" or "disposition" of US forces -- as a term of law, that could mean his piece Gates of Fire, one of the finest pieces of war journalism to come out of Iraq. Yet it confirmed, if the enemy wished to know it, LTC Kurilla's injuries.

That's a capital crime, if Gonzales' reading of the law is correct.

Is it? We as citizens are entitled to form our own readings of the law -- indeed, it is a duty, and is itself a part of the lawful process. That's why we have juries in the first place: to determine whether the government is fairly applying the rule of law, and to prevent the law's misuse.

This brings us to the second reason. Gonzales' defense of his potential prosecutions is incoherent:
Yesterday, Gonzales said, "I understand very much the role that the press plays in our society, the protection under the First Amendment we want to promote and respect . . . but it can't be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity."
Speaking as an American citizen with an interest in preserving or recapturing the rights endowed to free men by their Creator and secured by the Founders, that is not correct. If the free exercise of the press is a Constitutional right, then that exercise can't be criminal activity. It can be immoral, destructive, wasteful, hurtful, and bad, but it can't be against the law. The First Amendment doesn't say that you have a right to do things, unless they're illegal. It says Congress lacks the authority to make laws about those things at all.

It's a pre-emptive strike.

The kind of speech that the Founders most wanted to protect was political speech -- which includes the right, however deplorable the practice, to color the debate through bad reporting or slanted terms. Journalists can say whatever they want. Even if I think they should be beaten with sticks for it.

Not buying it? Consider this post at Euphoric Reality, called "Terrorism in South Texas." Now, I find the style of journalism here to be hideous -- consider the quick slide from "dirty bombs" to "IEDs," though "IEDs" being set off in America should be enough to convice you that it's serious; or consider the music that they play when they show the patch jacket. I don't like journalism that pitches at emotive responses instead of giving you the facts.

Nevertheless, I think this report is the "flip side" of the NSA report. Yet it's really only different from the NSA report in its intent. This intends to shore up a hole in US security; the NSA report intended to create one. Otherwise, they are not distinguishable.

The journalists in this case are guilty of a crime under Gonzales' reading of 18 USC 793, punishable by up to ten years in prison. They transmit the contents of classified US government documents relating to homeland security:
Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Why would they do this? They do it to show us that there's a problem that needs attention. That there is a problem the government won't tell you about. A serious problem.

That's what the First Amendment is for.

Go after the leakers. The press is free. It needs to do its job better, but it isn't the function of the prison system to make it do so. You'll have to wait on the market.
Wretchard over at the Belmont club, notes this list of the six most important US overseas bases, as seen by Foreign Policy magazine.

Andersen Air Force Base & Apra Harbor, Guam;
Balad Air Base/Camp Anaconda, Iraq;
Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria;
Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory;
Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba;
Manas Air Base, Kirgizstan

I note the following DoD press releases announcing the closing of logistics installations in Europe:
Bettembourg, Luxembourg
Hythe, United Kingdom
Eastcote and West Ruislip, United Kingdom.
Eygelshoven, Netherlands.

As the Roman Empire shifted troops off the Rhine to points east after the 1st Century AD in response to changing situations, so is the US shifting too.

Look for more of this in the coming years.
I think this was some sort of inside joke.

Lordi, the Finnish Heavy Metal band, has won the Eurovision song contest.


Anybody know whatever happened to GWAR?

I say again, Heh.
This is rather cool, if you think about it.

Modern artillery. For Sale. In the USA.

Is this a great country, or what?

Rice Beer

Who'd Have Thought?

Who'd have thought a German protest could improve my opinion of Budweiser?

IT IS brown-gold and alcoholic but, then, in the scathing verdict of German beer fans, so is paint thinner.
The Germans are furious that Budweiser will be the official tipple for the World Cup, which starts next month. The American lager has secured a near-monopoly of beer sales inside World Cup stadiums and within a 500m radius of the grounds, supplanting more than 1,270 domestic breweries.

And what most upsets the fans is that Budweiser — advertised as the “King of Beers” in the US — fails to meet the ancient German standards for purity, which stipulate that beer can be brewed only from malt, hops and water. Budweiser uses rice in its production process and therefore does not qualify as a beer in the German sense.
Captain Ed joins in the condemnation of "Budricer," but -- not so fast, says I.

When I lived in HangZhou, China, we bought beer the way you used to buy milk: the local store had a fresh shipment from the local brewery every day, and you returned your used bottles and got the day's supply. They gave you a deposit back on the bottles, and took them back to refill them for tomorrow. The water wasn't clean, so you either drank (imported) bottled water, or local beer. The poor had to boil their water to get by, but the real problem wasn't biologicals, it was pollution -- and that you can only get out by filtering, which is part of the process in producing a lager.

(An aside -- we bought milk, too, but China largely doesn't "do" refrigeration. Thus, meats are usually either fresh-killed or, more often, dried or otherwise preserved; and the milk was powdered. I used to buy a kind that had a picture of a Holstein cow on the front, and advertised in their best attempt at English: "Free contaminated milk.")

Every city in China has its own local brewery, and the local brewery in HangZhou makes what is called XiHu Pijiu -- that is, "West Lake Beer," named after the lake by the city where Song dynasty poets and Emperors would lounge. This stuff was made not just partly, but largely with rice (and what would you expect?).

The first time I had it, I thought it was horrid.

The second time, not so bad.

But by the end of our several months there, I'd come to like it quite a bit. I'd buy it today, if it were shipped overseas at all.

I haven't had a Budweiser (as opposed to Bud Light, which I drink sometimes) in quite a few years. I might have to give it another shot.



What kind of an idiot could actually believe that Marines were begging for food in Iraq? We've seen a lot of evidence of a complete breakdown in connection between the military life, and the so-called "elite" of the Blue states. I've never seen a clearer example than this, though.

Our fighting men may be tired, lonely, oppressed by media hostility and regulations that govern their every move, but they aren't hungry. If anything, we go a little overboard in the other direction. At I MBC, I listened to Specialist Mike Moriarty of the War Tapes talking about guarding a convoy that turned out to be refrigerated trucks of ice cream and cheesecake. "I love ice cream. I love cheesecake," he said. "But if it means guarding fewer convoys every month..."


A Curse:

People use the term, "he cursed him out" only in the informal modern fashion. We tend to forget that it has a real, formal and ancient meaning.

Doc Russia calls a formal curse on the head of a former Marine. You won't see this often.

Tal Afar

The Mayor of Tal Afar Visits Fort Carson:


An Iraqi mayor stood before troops lined up on the lawn at Fort Carson on Friday morning and said only two words in English.
But those two words brought the crowd to its feet.

"Thank you."

It was a telling gesture from Tal Afar Mayor Najim Al Jibouri, who spoke for about 20 minutes in his native tongue praising the 3rd Armored Cavalry for saving his city from certain ruin....

"Are you truly my friends?" he asked through a translator. "Yes. I walk a happier man because you are my friends. You are the world to me. I smell the sweet perfume that emanates from your flower of your strength, honor and greatness in every corner of Tal Afar. The nightmares of terror fled when the lion of your bravery entered our city."
Hat tip Andi at MilBlogs. Speaking of hats, check out the Stetson on the Colonel.