The Evil of Prison:

I've written occasionally about the failures of the prison/rehabilitation system with which we attempt to correct criminals, although I have no personal experience with it. Here is someone who tested it, just to see how bad things could get. How bad? Roughly as bad as Abu Ghraib in just six days, even though the people selected to be guards and the prisoners were rigorously examined and subject to a background check.

Even if you have limited sympathy for convicted felons, consider what being a guard does to these men. Read through the history of the experiment, and then answer me this: if this is what prison does to free men who have always chosen to be good -- guards and prisoners alike in this case -- would it not be better to return to the old method of capital or corporal punishment for serious felonies?

Long prison sentences are a recent invention of modern society, after all. We have only been doing things this way for a couple of hundred years or less; we could stop doing it.

An Ugly Reminder

An Ugly Reminder

This story from Texas illustrates an ugly reality. According to the story, a married woman called her lover while her husband was playing cards. The husband came home early, to find the two having sex in a pickup truck. The wife screamed "Rape!" The lover tried to drive the truck away. The husband shot the lover. A grand jury has indicted the wife for manslaughter, but not the husband.

I will not comment in detail on any criminal case based on press reports alone, especially not this early in the proceedings. But as described in the article, the result is correct. If you're confused about the "manslaughter" you might want to check the definition under Texas law. A person is guilty of manslaughter if he recklessly causes the death of another person. Yelling "rape" under those circumstances certainly has the potential to cause death, even though someone else fires the bullet; and it shows an extreme lack of care for another person's life, yet there is no specific intent to kill as required for a murder conviction. ("Provocation" has nothing to do with this case, as some readers might think; the husband has every reason to think his wife is being kidnapped, and will be taken away and raped or killed, and the story betrays no reason to think he could stop it with lesser force. This has nothing to do with revenge.) Without researching Texas law, I can see a case for calling it "criminal negligence," and I would not be entirely surprised if she received an offer to plead to the lesser offense.

The reporter seems to think this has something to do with "Texas justice" but the basic idea works in any state I know about. It is an ugly fact that, important as the right to bear arms is, it comes with a price. If millions of people are ready and able to shoot, as they should be, sometimes the wrong person will be shot. With open eyes let us accept it. Let us also remember that rape is a horrible thing, and "rape" is a life-or-death word, to be used without hesitation when it really happens, but never at any other time.

Violence / Morality II

Less Violence, II:

Joe promises to return to the subject he brought up last week. In the meanwhile, the Pinker article is now in the clear should anyone wish to read it in preparation for the discussion.

Adventures with bad horses

Adventures with Naughty Horses:

The horse company is down by the Etowah River, which forms a natural fence to one of the fields. At least it seemed to until this morning, when Mabeline the Bucking Queen decided to go for a swim.

We discovered this when a guy on the other side of the river started yelling at the owner's wife (really, she is the main partner in co-ownership). He said that one of her horses had swum the river, and was headed toward the highway. This information was relayed to me, along with a suggested crossing point ("If you go down by the middle field, the river is much less deep there.")

So I ran across the field, took off my boots, rolled up my pants, and began to cross the river. I discovered that it was not in fact very shallow at all once you got about halfway out. Still, I managed the crossing with no difficulty beyond being in to my upper chest. (Later, the lady herself wandered down to see if I had returned to the mare, in company with a young woman. She said, the younger lady reported to me, "Wow, I guess I was wrong. If he crossed here, he got soaked.")

The next piece of bad information turned out to be "toward the highway." The river is crossed by a state highway about two miles north -- it is audible when the big trucks go through. Anyone who had the slightest sense would, therefore, have intended "toward the highway" and "north" to be the same direction.

However, the road this guy lives on departs the highway to the south, then turns west and back north again, but terminates before returning to the highway. It is shaped like the letter J, with the highway making the top line on the J, and this fellow living near the end of the curved line on the side heading back up toward the top of the J. Being the sort of person who buys a house in the country and then apparently never goes outside, he had no sense of direction at all. He meant that the horse was headed in the direction that, if you were going that way on the road in your car, would eventually lead to the highway.

In other words, south.

And the guy was long gone.

It took about fifteen minutes for me to examine the area and determine that there was no evidence of a northbound horse, and very strong evidence that suggested it was unlikely: dogs in the area, fences she would have had to cross, and an older gentleman who reported having not seen any horses. He might have been napping, but he seemed to be busy with a woodworking project.

Moreover, there was no obvious sign of where Mabeline would have emerged from the river. She isn't shod, but she is a big girl. There should have been at least occasional tracks, but nowhere by the crossing point were any such evident.

As she crossed by a point where the Etowah has confluence with a small creek, I determined she must have gone up the creekbed. Unfortunately, as you will doubtless know, creekbeds going away from the river and into the upcountry branch repeatedly. These are stony bottomed creeks, and it's been very dry lately, but there were a few places of soft ground that could be examined for tracks.

I eventually determined her route, but it took more than two hours, and the route led straight into empty country. Calculating how far she could have traveled, I figured I ought to let people know where I was going before I went after her. So, I hiked back to the nearest road (recovering the young lady, who had been dispatched by the owner's wife to search near the road).

Fortunately, someone had thought to notify the sheriff's department, and they had put the word out to local farms. It turned out she'd wandered up on one a good ways south along that route, eventually coming back out into the pasture of another farm down the way on that side of the river. They'd stuck her in a barn until they knew who she belonged to.

So that is how I spent today: crossing rivers and tracking animals, trespassing on all sorts of people's land. I didn't find the horse, but I did find her trail; and also the prints of deer, one young male bear recently in the area, and coyote; saw several live frogs and birds and squirrels; and met a kindly old gentleman at his woodshop. I also ran across a historic still, and a witch's house in the forest (I gather from her license plate, marked "CRONE," and all the Wiccan stuff around the house).

In other words, it was a great day. These horses should get lost in the woods more often.

Com Check

Com Check:

Co-bloggers, drop me an email. There are a couple of things I'd like to discuss with you, and I want to make sure I have everyone's email address so we can do it all at once.

Webb & Gun

Senator Webb and the Gun:

I must admit to serious disappointment in the judgment of Senator Webb's "possee," as the New York Times put it. I'm not so much talking about the question of hanging a trusted friend out to dry.

What I find inexplicable is that one of these two Former Marines selected a 9mm handgun as his defensive weapon. That is a direct violation of Rule 24.


Denial & Scapegoating:

The Hoover Institute has an excellent writeup on several strains of depature from reality in Western politics. Plus also one real problem that people are running from as fast as they can.

H/t: The Castle.

Welfare Reform

How Not to Reform Welfare:

A cautionary lesson from the Philippines:

A day-care center owner armed with grenades and guns held more than 30 youngsters and teachers hostage on a bus Wednesday, then freed them after a 10-hour standoff that he used to denounce corruption and demand better lives for impoverished children.
We'll be more convinced of your sincere desire to improve the lives of children when you don't threaten them with grenades.
Ducat, a 56-year-old civil engineer who has staged other attention-grabbing stunts in the past, then put the pin back in a grenade, handed it to a provincial governor, Luis "Chavit" Singson, and surrendered as Singson held his arm.

"I accept that I should be jailed because what I did was against the law," Ducat said in an interview with The Associated Press shortly before the standoff ended.
Really, even if this didn't happen to be against the law, I'd still want you jailed.

Readings on Senatorial Perfidy

Readings on Senatorial Perfidy:

The best overall post on the subject is Cassandra's, which demonstrates how cleanly General Petraeus, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Pace, were ignored. General Petraeus in particular said what he would need at his recent confirmation hearings; the Senate voted to confirm him, and then to deny him those same resources.

"We would have 45-day gaps, which would mean that part of a territory would basically be vacated to the enemy and ... you would have to fight your way back in," Pace said.
In other words, your elected representatives are playing political games with the lives of our troops, and they will pay in blood. People will die pacifying Iraqi neighborhoods, then be forced to leave and the insurgents will come back. Then our troops will return and die trying to drive them out again while the Democrats complain that the war is unwinnable. Keep this in mind the next time you hear them talking about how they 'support the troops'. Sure they support us - they support our right to come home in body bags if it helps sweep them into office in 2008.

If they really 'supported the troops' they'd either demand an immediate troop withdrawal now and face the consequences at the ballot box (face it, there is no reason for another American to die if they don't intend us to win this war, and when you read this bill, it becomes quite plain that is the one thing the Democratic Party will not countenance) or honor up and get behind the surge.
Is it fair to call it perfidy (or treachery)? I think it is, for the reason Cassandra cites: not because they are trying to end the war, but because they are leaving people in place to die, knowing full well they will refuse those people the support they need either to win or to hold their ground. We had a long discussion at (former-pro war, now anti-war blogger) the Commissar's place not long ago (co-blogger Eric Blair gets mentioned toward the end).
You can see from what I have said that I am not advocating that Congress may not re-enter the field; I do not argue that the President has authority to wage war forever, and they may not say otherwise.

I have said specifically that they may use their Art. I powers to rescind the authorization and demand an end to the war. That isn’t explicit in the Constitution, but I think it’s a fair reading.

All I have asked is that we not cut off forces in the field from their support. If we aren’t going to support them, we should bring them home. If we aren’t going to bring them home, we should provision them.

You say the political class owes them nothing, but I disagree. They are owed something by every American, and the political class most of all. They are the ones who, when called, answered. They are the ones who left home and family, slept in dust storms, who have bled and died in the service to the will of the political class.

If that debt goes unanswered, there will be a price to be paid by our society. I do not know, in all truth and honesty, how to begin estimating it.

If that debt is not merely unpaid but denied — if people come to believe, as you have suggested, that the debt does not even exist — the price will be higher. The faith of a people in their nation reaps a beautiful interest in every endeavor that nation undertakes. A failure of faith, especially among that class that might be willing to volunteer for service, likewise exacts a usury that our nation will be sorry to pay.
The Senate has chosen to ignore that debt of honor. It intends, instead, to leave men in the field, but cut off their reinforcements. This is a dishonorable act, and a failure of faith. This is not what our fighting men deserve.

"They are men who give service and loyalty to us. I will return their service by serving their interests; and I will return their loyalty with my own, as fiercely as they have given."

Not the slender majority of Honorable Men and Ladies in the United States Senate.


On "Texas" Ribs:

Any recipe that calls for a Phillips-head screwdriver can't be all bad.

UPDATE: Six hours later, I can report that the recipe is a good sight better than "not all bad."

This sounds like an interesting book

This Sounds Interesting:

Boomsday, a novel in which younger people refuse to pay Social Security benefits for the Baby Boomers, on the grounds that (a) such payments would be ruinous, and (b) the Baby Boomers were probably, in aggregate, the worst generation in American history. Point (b), at least, is true -- but only in aggregate. Some of the best people I've known in my life have been Boomers, whom I'd hate to see cast into the Outer Dark of age without the help they've relied upon in their budgetary forecasts.

So, here's my own "modest proposal" -- let's individually take care of those Boomers to whom we feel a personal debt, either as parents or teachers or for other good reason. Otherwise, let's end Social Security with the last of the WWII generation. Any Boomers who neglected to serve the next generation well enough to have loyal friends in it can fend for themselves, since it was only themselves they were ever interested in to begin with.

I'd say that was a reasonable compromise.


Grim's Been Quiet. What's He Up To?

Why, watching things go bang:

Click on that image and look at the 'tracers.' Those are the fragments of a wax bullet in .45 caliber, loaded into the brass for a .45 Long Colt. That cartridge is special in another way: no powder, but a shotgun primer. The result is an explosion with enough force to spit the wax bullet out and fragment it, but only to drive the fragments for a few feet.

That means you can bust a balloon with it, but it's no threat to anyone more than a few feet away. Just the thing for a bit of Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

If you're familiar with rodeo, this is most like barrel racing or pole bending. The difference is that you've got to unload two single action .45s while you race, with a five-second penalty for each missed shot.

It's a timed event, so riders get a move on:

There are ladies too, like this grinning girl:

The ladies competition is in a different class, but this is one of those sports where men and women can compete fairly closely. The best lady riders I saw ran only a few tenths of a second slower than the best men, but the gun penalties they incurred meant they were rated as having run five or ten seconds slower. Still, if they could manage the guns well enough to get a 'clean run,' they wouldn't have been that far off from the top scores.

Here's a picture of some of the tack for one horse, named for Forsyth County Georgia's own "Junior Samples" of stock car racing and Hee-Haw fame. Note the Yosemite Sam conchos:

Junior is a smart horse, which is why his rider didn't do very well. Roy Roger's horse Trigger was billed as "the smartest horse in the movies," but a smart horse is a danger. The problem is that they think for themselves, and come to conclusions about the proper course of action that are different from their riders'. As a result, they do something other than what you expect, which is a good way to get hurt.

All the same, with some argument, Junior finished his course.

It was an enjoyable weekend. No, I didn't do any such riding -- it was my first encounter with the event, and I have no horses trained for it. You want to be sure your horse is very comfortable with guns going off by his ears before you try to ride him in an event like this, I assure you.

Does seem like fun, though. Rodeo with guns. Not bad.