It's Nice to be an Influence:

Although sometimes I feel bad when my passing comments inspire prolonged reflection, I do find it gratifying when a mathematician agrees with me:

I am hesitant to apply the label witch-doctor to doctors who study and attempt to heal minds, but the label may be valid. First, a quick case-study.

If a person comes before a mental health examination for anti-social tendencies (with or without any noted predilection towards weapons ownership), the possibilities are:

(1A) The person is a danger to himself and others, and the examiner decides that he must be locked up.
(1B) The person is a danger to himself and others, but the examiner decides that he should not be locked up. (This could happen through several modes. Two possibilities are that the examiner misjudges the level of danger, or the examiner misjudges the examinee as not being dangerous.)
(2A) The person is not a danger to himself and others, but the examiner decides that he must be locked up . (Here the examiner erroneously diagnoses a non-dangerous person as dangerous.)
(2B) The person is not a danger to himself and others, and the examiner decides that he should not be locked up.

Given that this is a prediction of future actions based on present observations, and that the future actions cannot be compared to a control-case in a lab, I can agree that such determination is much closer to the activities of a witch-doctor than the activities of a scientist.

A determination that a person is likely to be a danger to himself and others requires a lower level of proof than the determination that he certainly will be a danger to himself and others in the future. A prediction that a person certainly will engage in pychopathic murder is a prediction that requires omniscient foreknowledge. Absent such certainty, it is very hard to distinguish between cases (1A) and (2A) given above--or between cases (1B) and (2B).
Yeah, it is. But you mean before the fact. The case is even worse than that: it's impossible to distinguish between them even after the fact, except in one case: the rare case where a 1B engages in murder or suicide. A 2A can't prove he is not a 1A; and a 1B who doesn't end up hurting anyone looks just like a 2B.

Which means what? It means that if you weight the system to 'prevent another Virginia Tech,' it will learn to treat all cases from a pro-lockup perspective. You can't really prove the guy was wrong to lock you up, so he has nothing to lose; but if he didn't lock you up and you happened to go on and do something bad, he's liable at least for criticism, and possibly for legal difficulties.

Thus, there's a strong economic incentive for a psychologist to strip liberties on any occasion they're asked to do so; and no economic disincentive, given that there is no standard of proof that can "prove" sanity or stability. There may be a moral or ethical disincentive; and then again, there may not be.

Inalienable rights aren't, sadly, in a practical sense -- our government has busied itself finding ways to alienate them almost from the moment it proclaimed them. Putting the power to alienate a man from his rights in the hands of people who have no reason to do anything else, and no final, scientific and falsifiable standards against which their decisions can be challenged, is no way for a liberty-loving people to act.

Corb Lund

"So, What's it like out there in the Country?"

Kind of like this.

Also like this.


From Armed Forces' Journal:

This appears to be Yingling's full article that the Post was summarizing. He's earned his opinion, as noted below; but I wonder about his idea that involving Congress in the general officer selection process is likely to overcome the problems of politics. If anything, it seems likely to worsen them in key ways. For example:

To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War. The money required to prevail may place fiscal constraints on popular domestic priorities. The quantity and quality of manpower required may call into question the viability of the all-volunteer military. Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face. Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.
Congressional confirmation procedures are something we've seen a lot of over the last several years. Does anyone really believe that these procedures ever, ever, ever even once, "reward moral courage"?

Let's say you want to be on the Supreme Court. Or an ambassador. Whatever. Does it help or hurt your chances if you've ever expressed strong opinions about any controversial topic?

Reward moral courage? That's the best way I can think of to make sure that no one of moral courge is ever considered for the post.

I like the idea to make review of the intellectual products of officers a part of their selection process. As long as it's done by other officers, that is -- the review has to be for quality, not merely quantity or popularity, which means that someone who actually understands the military science and history behind the writings does the review. Besides, to all evidence most Congressmen can't think their way out of a wet paper bag, and that's before they get into committees.

That review can only be a substitute for actual combat experience, in any event. We do have long periods of peace from time to time, and we do have generals who are from non-combat branches. For combat officers, the only thing that counts is success on the battlefield.

Yingling is right to say that some of the answers to 'what it will take' are shocking; but not merely the answers about price and manpower. It's hard to imagine any Congress having the stones to approve a general who says "It's fun to kill the enemy"; but General Mattis, who did say that, has been one of the most successful generals of this war.

Getting Paid in China

I promised Bthun I would relate this story, which I'm surprised to discover I haven't posted before. It relates to my time as a professor of public speaking and English, at a college in Zhejiang province, China. This was several years ago, now.

I had gone to China with my wife, who was invited to take a resident-artist position with the China Academy of Art. It was a cultural exchange program; the first year she was to study speaking and writing Mandarin, and the second year she was to be an artist. In fact, we had to leave before the first year was out, due to the collapse of her health and the terrible quality of Chinese medicine. (Although, it turned out I was the one who had contracted tuberculosis -- and then killed it myself, before we got home, with no better medicine than unfiltered Chinese beer.)

In any event, shortly after we arrived I was contacted by the vice president of a local college, who had a job offer for me. I was not there on a working visa, and it would be illegal for me to take any such job -- but the man who had arranged the job was also the official in charge of approving my visa, so I didn't worry about it too much. We had a brief negotiation on rates of pay, and then I went to work.

About a month into the job, I still had not been paid. I asked my fellow professors (all Chinese nationals, except one lady from New Zealand) if this was usual. They assured me it was: this college, which was one of China's first private colleges, took tuition in at intervals. The college had to cover its capital expenses first, and so there was a period of time during which no one got paid. All back pay would be forthcoming, I was assured.

Two months in, still no pay. I asked around again, and began to hear that in fact, some of them had been paid. All of them, really.

So I went to the lady in charge of payment, and asked when I would be paid. "Maybe today!" she said cheerfully. Thus reassured, I went on about my business.

Well, it wasn't "today," nor the next week, and the week after that I went back and asked again. "There has been some trouble," she said, "but we are sure to pay you any day now."

Hm. By this point it was getting cold, and I had only summer clothes... and the building we lived in would not be heated during the winter, we were told, as the government had decided not to spend the money on heating it this year. Communism is wonderful.

So I went to the vice president and asked him about my money. I informed him that I'd been promised by the lady who paid people that I might be paid any day now, for several weeks, yet no money had appeared.

This, it turns out, was a major violation of Chinese etiquette on my part. I embarrassed her terribly by going to her superior with a complaint. The poor woman hated me forever after that. She was doing, she felt, nothing wrong. In China, it is considered polite and proper to lie, if the lie will make people feel more comfortable and happier. She was doing what she had been raised to believe was proper: helping me not worry about my pay, by assuring me it could come at any time. And I had repaid her kindness by humiliating her in front of her boss.

All that said, her lie wasn't exactly of the "white" variety. In fact, the truth was that there was no possibility it could have been "today," as the college had come to the realization that it couldn't legally pay me at all. The visa issue meant that, should they transfer funds to my accounts, they would be in trouble with the government.

The college did intend to pay me, my friend the vice president assured me, but it was having to launder the money out of petty cash transactions, and it might be some time until they had enough such laundered cash to pay me three months' backpay. Still, he would make certain that it was done.

Shortly thereafter, I was given a big fat envelope full of 100 yuan notes, complete with portraits of Chairman Mao. I was never happier to see the man. After that, the college paid me faithfully, always in cash, always discreetly.

I told you all that to tell you this story:

After we decided to go back to America to get treatment for my poor, increasingly sick wife, I contacted the college to let them know I was going to be leaving. I apologized for cutting out on them before the end of the year, and explained about my wife's illness and need to get her home.

The vice president said he understood, and wanted to meet me to give me the last of my pay. I said that would be fine, as I wished to make a donation to the school. I had accumulated a lot of English-language books from the big foreign-language bookstore in HangZhou, and didn't want to try to ship them home. I thought the college's library could use them, as I had examined it and their collection of English-language literature was very small.

So, I packed the books into a suitcase, and took them down to meet the vice president. He'd chosen to meet me at the front gate of the university where my wife was studying Mandarin. I walked down there one morning just at dawn, and waited for him to show up.

Chinese universities are a major point of cultural pride for the country, so they are given all the incidents of state power and authority. This includes a formal guard: Chinese Armed Police stand watch at the gates. I was standing there, under the eyes of about four of these gentlemen, who must have found me a fascinating sight: a big Western man, with a long forked beard (I hadn't shaved the entire time we were in China), and a giant cowboy hat. Also, a suitcase.

About this time, a black car pulls up and the vice president gets out. He starts speaking to me in English, which he can do quite fluently, having lived in America for several years. Our friends the Chinese armed police, however, don't speak it.

After a short chat in English, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a very fat envelope for me. I take it and thank him, and then pass over the suitcase.

It was about this time I suddenly realized what this must look like to the cops. I started making my apologies and goodbyes, so I could get out of there.

"No, no!" my friend replied. "You must count the money, to be sure it's all there. I want you to tell all your friends at home that you were paid faithfully, so they might come work for us!"

Well, what could I do?

I opened the envelope and counted through a fat stack of 100 yuan notes. It was probably two months pay for me, at the rate a Western professor can command; so it was doubtless a year's income for any of those cops. And I counted it out right in front of them.

Then I put it back in the envelope, shook his hand, and left. He picked up the suitcase, put it in the car, and drove away. I was just sure that, any second, I'd be grabbed up and hauled off -- but nobody tried.

That night I related the story to my best friend in China, an Australian gentleman from Freemantle. His face was so red with laughter by the end of it, I thought he might keel over dead on the spot.

Well, the police didn't hold me up, and a few days later we had a mighty spree in Shanghai. I didn't figure the yuan would be worth much outside of China, so we spent almost every scrap of it in the one night we were there before we flew out of PuDong.

One of the happiest moments of my life was feeling the wheels of that 747 break free of Chinese soil. It was a grand adventure, but Communism is not for me.


Bush Administration to provide housing assistance until March 2009.

Can we say RINO? Talk about getting pissed off.

When hurricane Rita nailed Beaumont, Texas... my kinfolk drove to home depot and began purchasing supplies to get things done: cleared land, re-built where needed, re-roofed, etc. A few of the local university professors (friends of the family) were aghast when they saw the new construction, "how did you get FEMA to re-build so quickly?" Look, FEMA didn't build the homes or purchase the land... that's the homeowners job. It's also your job to get off your ass and find work and re-build your life. Living off the tit is not a good life strategy.

I do not understand the entitlement mentality.

Hawk Pet

General Petraeus' Comments:

Greyhawk has posted key excerpts of General Petraeus' talk on Iraq, with a link to the full transcript.

[S]o what I asked was, "Hey, come on, it's about dusk, let's go -- we'll fly around the city a little bit." And we flew around. And so -- I mean, it was unbelievable.

This is a day in which I think there was a car bomb in Iraq, some of Iraq’s seven million citizens were affected by that, but you could not have told that from what we saw over the city. There were three big amusement parks operational. I'm talking about, you know, roller coaster kinds of -- these are not just a couple little merry-go-rounds in small neighborhood parks. Restaurants in some parts of the city were booming. Lots of markets were open. The people were on the street. There were -- there had to be a thousand soccer games ongoing. They're watering the grass in various professional soccer fields -- the soccer leagues.

You know, all of this is actually so foreign, I think, in the mind of most people who see the news and of course do see that day's explosion or something like that. And actually there is a city of seven million in which life goes on, and again, citizens are determined to carry on with their life.
These are the people Reid, Pelosi, Obama and the rest want to abandon.

Less Polite

A Less Polite Rebuttal:

Joe was saying the other day how much he admired David Kilcullen's kind yet thorough rebuttal of Luttwak's writings on COIN theory. If you'd like to see the less-polite version of that, here it is.

I’d like to follow up Dave Kilcullen’s commentary about Dr. Luttwak’s specious article. Dr. Kilcullen is too much of a gentleman to suggest that someone has not taken their medication...
I thought Kilcullen did a good job, myself.

Wicca Thing

Wiccans win Memorial Case:

I see that the long-running case involving the use of pentacles as gravemarkers in military cemetaries has concluded, with the Wiccans winning a concession from the Bush Administration. This is good news from my perspective: anyone who fought and died for America ought to be shown the utmost respect, to include allowing him to be buried under the symbol of his choice.

Over at Winds of Change, Australian blogger David Blue takes Bush to task over the long delay in resolving this, and for other reasons. I think Mr. Blue is perfectly correct in his general stance. We've discussed pagan religious rights here at various times since 2003. Here are a few of the highlights:

A series of posts on the founding traditions of the country --

Thomas Jefferson against the idea that America was founded on Christian principles (and he would know);

John Derbyshire and Roy Moore on the same question;

Paganism in schools and public places, and the Viking heritage in American legal traditions.

A post on Pagan charities that help the poor.

A post on Yuletide feasting that celebrates the old heathen heritage (right next to a message about the Pope's midnight Mass -- the juxtaposition seems natural to me, since the West is itself a juxtaposition of Christian and pagan traditions).

A post from 2005 taking "the Raving Atheist" to task for attacks on Forn Sidr, celebrating it somewhat, and holding forth against Atheism.

A post from 2005 on prayers at public meetings.

There's more if you want to prowl through the archives. I realize that Wicca is a little, er, whimsical in some of its historical claims. That said, there are serious issues at the back of all this, issues of freedom and tradition and one binding point of honor: the respect due to our war dead.

Congratulations to the victors, then.

Democrats debate

Democratic Debate Tonight:

The AP notifies us that we can watch/read about the debate tonight between eight Democratic Party hopefuls. The article says:

For their first debate, the White House hopefuls are trying to dampen expectations for themselves so that any bright moments will seem like home runs.
With the exception of Mr. Richardson, I'd have to say they've succeeded admirably. He needs to work harder -- I'm convinced he could be a real contender and a good President, which is apparently the opposite of what I'm meant to think.

Now, John Edwards and Barack Obama -- there are some guys who know how to lower your expectations!
Your tax dollars at work:

What is Applied Research Laboratories doing, and why do they need $928 million dollars to do it with?

I'm just curious. Very curious.

When I get round to it, I'm going to put together a database of all these contracts, and what companies and where they are, and what congressional district they're in, and what contributions are being given by who to whom.

I want to see who is connected to who. I'm just curious, that's all.
More on Iraqi Police training:

Mike Totten and Patrick Lasswell have been driving all over Norther Iraq (otherwise known as Kurdistan) and file these two reports of the same incident with video from Kirkuk (which isn't really Kurdistan but probably will be someday):

Mike Totten
Patrick Lasswell

I sometimes wish cops could do this and not get fired for it in the US.

Sometimes a fool needs to be smacked upside the head.


Totten and Lasswell are consistently posting interesting reports. They bear watching.

(hat tip to Instapundit)

The Winner

The Winner:

Some wise words from old Country music singer Bobby Bare:

The hulk of a man with a beer in his hand he looked like a drunk old fool
And I knew if I hit him right why I could knock him off of that stool
But everybody they said watch out hey that's the Tiger Man McCool
He's had the whole lotta fights and he's always come out winner
-- yeah he's a winner --

But I had myself about five too many and I walked up tall and proud
I faced his back and I faced the fact that he had never stooped or bowed
I said Tiger Man you're a pussycat and a hush fell on the crowd
I said let's you and me go outside and see who's the winner
Well he gripped the bar with one big hairy hand then he braced against the wall

He slowly looked up from his beer my God that man was tall
He said boy I see you're a scrapper so just before you fall
I'm gonna tell you just a little bout what it means to be a winner
He said now you see these bright white smilin' teeth you know they ain't my own

Mine rolled away like Chicklets down the street in San Antone
But I left that person cursin' nursin' seven broken bones
And he only broke ah three of mine that makes me the winner
He said now behind this grin I got a steel pin that holds my jaw in place
A trophy of my most successful motorcycle race

And each morning when I wake and touch this scar across my face
It reminds me of all I got by bein' a winner
Now this broken back was the dyin' act of a handsome Harry Clay
That sticky Cincinnati night I stole his wife away
But that woman she gets uglier and she gets meaner every day
But I got her boy that's what makes me a winner

He said you gotta speak loud when you challenge me son cause it's hard for me to hear
With this twisted neck and these migraine pains and this big ole cauliflower ear
And if it wadn't for this glass eye of mine why I'd shed a happy tear
To think of all that you gonna get by bein' a winner
I got arthritic elbows boy I got dislocated knees
From pickin' fights with thunderstorms and chargin' into trees
And my nose been broke so often I might lose if I sneeze

And son you say you still wanna be a winner
Now you remind me a lotta my younger days with your knuckles a clenchin' white
But boy I'm gonna sit right here and sip this beer all night
And if there's somethin' that you gotta gain to prove by winnin' some silly fight
Well okay I quit I lose you're the winner

So I stumbled from that barroom not so tall and not so proud
And behind me I still hear the hoots of laughter of the crowd
But my eyes still see and my nose still works and my teeth're still in my mouth
And you know I guess that makes me the winner
That's advice for me and you, JarHeadDad. And maybe one or two others around here, although I suspect most of you are smarter than me. :)


In Honor of ANZAC Day:

A hero and a Scot. Hat tip to bthun, who was kind enough to send the article.

Riding Instructor

The Riding "Instructor":

Since Eric liked the dancing horse so much, I thought you folks might like to see the coolest horse in the world. There's a reason the spotlight stays on the horse when the guy walks away.

ISF training

Iraq Security Forces Training:

Has the military changed priority away from training the ISF, as reported? No, says Bill Roggio. The military hasn't changed its priorities.

The decrease in the training of the Iraqi Security Forces Youssef is detecting is the first effect of delaying the FY07 supplemental budget. The money to train the Iraqi units has dried up.
The military's leadership has mentioned this fact to Congress four times now, according to Bill's report -- a highly unusual move, given that the military rarely involves itself in matters that are in dispute between the legislative and executive branches.

The military's priorities are what they were. What are the politicians' priorities?

Baby Shower

A Baby Shower:

Many of you will have heard the story of Marine Corporal DJ Emery.

Perhaps, to me, the most encouraging thing this week, and keep in mind that DJ probably doesn't know how bad his situation is (I doubt that he knows his legs have been amputated)...DJ was able to write one tell his wife that he loved her. Through the drugs, the pain, the horror of what he's been through, deep inside, in his core...Semper Fidelis.
Another thing he may not know is that he is now a father. Carlee Emery was born earlier this week. Joy cometh in the morning, Cassandra said.

All this you probably know. What you may not know is that there's a baby shower. FbL has the details, and suggestions should you wish to participate.

The Marines have stood by their injured comerade and his family in the best traditions of the service. If you'd like to be part of that, here's the link again.

Frustrated Young Men

Frustrated Young Men:

Today, National Review linked to this article by Ed Hussain, a British Muslim ex-Islamist and his experiences in Saudi Arabia. What struck me about it was his account of frustration, especially sexual frustration, in the Kingdom (it matched the view I read in Carmen bin Ladin's Inside the Kingdom, which gives a complementary view of great frustration among the young women). (One of the frustrations of reading about dictatorships with no free press, and so no reliable statistics, is in wondering how typical all the anecdotes are - am I getting a picture of a country or of one or two social circles?)

My mind turned somewhat to war, and the role frustration plays in inspiring young men to it. One of the classics I love to return to is Harry Holbert Turney-High's Primitive War, a very wide-ranging survey by a very interesting character (an anthropologist - his fieldwork was among American Indians, including the Flathead - who was also one of our last horse cavalry officers). In his chapter on "Socio-Psychological Motives" for war, he devotes five pages to the role of war in frustration and tension - in particular, grief, frustration, being jilted or cuckolded, were good recruiters for the Plains Indian no-retreat societies (among the Crow, there was no "society," but a frustrated young man might simply "vow his body to the enemy" and do his darnedest to get killed in a heroic way in the next fight). Interestingly (and with a forthright judgmentalism you don't find much these days) he billed the Plains tribes as poor Soldiers and likely to flee from anything except certain victory or certain death, but gave credit to these no-retreat warriors for being otherwise. I'd have to spend time with the primary sources to tell you whether there's much record of how often social and sexual frustration led young men into these groups (some would stake their clothes to the ground to make sure they couldn't leave) - but it was certainly a part. We know how Shaka Zulu used the same force. This also fits with what I remember of late childhood and early adulthood -- fantasies of being killed, preferably after performing some dreadfully violent exploit (in a good cause, of course), were quite an effective release for the endless frustrations that can come with that time, or so I found them.

I can't demonstrate that this frustration is connected with any particular events in recent history (I haven't even read McDermott's Perfect Soldiers and don't know the life histories of the 9/11 hijackers, or what role personal frustrations played in their decisions to sign up for what they did. Maybe someone who does know will have something to say in comments). It's still awful to contemplate.
The elephant in the room:

General Pace: You are being too diplomatic in this case.

“(We) don’t know how they got here. (We) don’t know if the Iranian government knows they are here. We just know that weapons made in Iran are here.”

After watching the video Grim pointed out here, I think I know how the weapons got there.

Its kind of annoying, watching dissembling like this.

Don't you think the Soviets were saying something similar when the stinger missles started showing up in Afghanistan in the 1980's?

My Hero - Again!

The Rescue!

Greetings from me, Grim's wife. My nickname is Hyn, and you are all most welcome to refer to me so. I have not posted here before, and I shall not often do so, but please allow me a moment of your time to tell you of a small but momentous event in our house today.

I am an equine artist by profession. I have been working all week very late hours to finish up a major piece in time to ship it out today for a show this next weekend. So I have been pretty tired and worried about making the deadline. As a reward for my efforts, Grim (who is a very good cook) decided to make me fresh maple whole wheat bread, baked from scratch. The scent of this wonderful, huge loaf of fresh bread filled our log cabin with lusious aroma! Once cooled, I went into the great room, and to the kitchen attached within it, to finally help myself to this delightful treat while it was still warm enough to melt butter. That's when I heard a scrabbly, tapping noise combined with a thrum - above my head!

We like to leave our front and back doors open if the weather is especially nice. Unfortunately, we don't yet have screened doors to keep out the bugs. Now and then these really large, fat, long hornet looking things, about 2 inches long or more (!!!) fly in and get trapped up at the large bay windows high up above the main room and kitchen. These hum about and tap the glass incessantly until they either find the doors leading back out, or they die. Sometimes sparrows fly in and we have to shoo them out, and other times these cute little reddish wrens hop in and inspect the windowsills for spiders and flies and eat them, then fly out without the least bit of alarm when you walk up. Wrens are very smart about enclosed spaces, so they never get trapped in our cabin. Today, it was none of those more usual things.

Above my head was a most forlorn hummingbird, snared in a thick cobweb on the window sill. All I could see was it's wee little tail! I ran back out of the room and called for Grim - "There's a humming bird trapped in the house! Please help me get it out!" So he came to help and I dashed off to my art studio to try and find something to help me think of how to do it. When I came back a moment later, Grim was standing on top of the refrigerator and BLASTING the poor little hummingbird with a Super Soaker water cannon!!! To put it mildly, I freaked!

I got Grim to stop soaking the poor little, very, very paniced hummingbird. I asked him if he was out of his mind and he said that he wanted to wet it down enough so that it couldn't fly and would come down. (!!!) I tried to calm myself enough to think and explain why I thought that was a bad idea, hummingbirds being so sensitive and easy to panic to death! They have a very high metabolism and can burn themselves up past recovery. Not to mention that a soaking wet hummingbird can still fly just fine so I didn't think it would work. [As I attempted to point out at the time, what I was really trying to do was disturb it so it would abandon its fatal perch and try to find a different route. Not that it worked, although I remain convinced that if I'd just kept blasting it... -Grim]

I asked him to let it rest and leave it alone for a moment while we think of alternative methods. Something like a butterfly net taped to a long pole!

So I ran to find one of our young son's bug nets but found it to be awfully small. Then I remembered that when I was a reptile specialist we caught snakes and lizards that got loose and put them into pillowcases. I went and got a wire hanger from the closet and quickly stitched a pillowcase to the loop, then taped it to the longest pole we could find about the house - a heavy walking stick. If Grim stood on top of a chair, that was placed on top of the refrigerator, he could almost reach the ceiling - it's a very high peaked ceiling. The hummingbird was attracted to the light of the bay window so thankfully it was staying right over the refrigerator and very reluctant to venture away from that position. Grim tried to get the pillowcase over the wee tiny bird but it got pinned and shrieked the most unnerving screams pitifully! I yelled, "Don't smoosh it!" and Grim let it go. He tried again but the little bird kept in a panic.

The hummingbird would land, briefly exhausted, to cling on the side of the big beam that runs the length of the ceiling. Finally it landed against the pillowcase and prefered that easier perch to hang onto. Grim quickly lowered the make-shift catcher down to me and I flipped the hanging pillowcase over the frightened bird, then took the pole from Grim. I dashed out the back door and opened up the pillowcase then... poof! The hummingbird flitted off with a piping. Thankfully it wasn't so distressed that it didn't reccognize an escape when it saw one.

I was too concerned about getting the frightened bird loose that I forgot to even look at it. Alas, I don't know if it was a male or female, but we have many ruby throated hummers, and also black chinned hummingbirds here. They are difficult for me to tell apart anyway. I love to sit or lay down in my garden and read, or watch the hummingbirds. They feed at my flowers and the necter feeder, litterally inches from my face and oblivious to me if I don't move. So I was extremely happy and relieved when Grim, my Hero again today, recued that poor little bird!

To top things off, tonight we heard a noise outside. I opened the door and heard the quite unmistakable sound of a horse kicking or pawing metal, such as a water trough. It was very loud and coming from our neighbor's place across the street. Grim outfitted himself with a flashlight and a rope and went over to investigate. [This is the filly I call "Sneak," because she's always slipping up behind you on the hill to run down behind you and try to spook your horse. Turns out her real name is "Dixie." -Grim]

Luckily, nothing was wrong. The owners had just returned from a trail ride and the impatient filly was objecting to not having been unloaded yet. If she had been down and trapped, I have no doubt that Grim would have done his best to free her as well! That's the kind of day we have around here and I just wanted to share.

Thank you for saving my hummingbird, Grim. And the bread's good too! :}


Ever seen a horse dance?

No? Neither have I. But I have now, as I came across this video here today.

I think the horse is having a grand time.

COIN Gravity

COIN: The Gravity Well

Because of some large images, and the size of the post, I put up my COIN post at BlackFive. We can discuss it here as well, if you wish.



We talked recently about some animal fighting sports, from the perspective of what their reduction in popularity might mean (an overall decline in human cruelty, or just the power of the current American culture to exert itself worldwide?). One of the ones you hear about most often in examples is bullfighting, which Americans often find mystifying. How could anyone want to watch the ritual torture of a bull?

My wife showed me this video this morning, which is enlightening on the point. It begins slowly, but the reason suddenly becomes obvious when first you see the bull, and realize that it means to kill the man and his mount.

The reason is cultural: specifically, it is the culture that arose from Medieval Spanish fighting traditions. It descends from the knighthood and other fighting men who arose in a world of violence and tamed it by force of arms. The bull is symbolic of the chaos and fury that the world often brings against us; and the men tame it, and feast on it, through the risk of their lives and the excellence of their skill.

That, and one thing more: the friendship of their horses. Watch the Lusitano steeds in that video, and you will appreciate the glory of Portugal's lost knighthood. Skill, prowess, fearlessness, and a willingness to engage the dangers of the world, all are on display in man and horse alike.

That is why bullfighting is popular in Spain and Portugal, and elsewhere. It is because, in spite of its cruelties, it hold up something fine that cannot be seen by any other light. The cultures that stage bullfights are celebrating their ancestry and the glory of their people. Seeing this, it is hard to say anything but: And well they ought.

St. George's Day

St. George's Day:

In keeping with the custom of the Hall, a few words of honor are in order about St. George, whom legends tell of as a dragon-slayer.

St. George is remembered as patron saint of both England and of the noble Order of the Garter. He is also remembered as patron of many other localities and professions.

Guns in Pakistan

Making Guns in Pakistan:

You should really watch this video, of what is described as "the largest illegal arms market in the world." It's in the area under the control of the Afreedis in Pakistan -- I say "in Pakistan," although government control over the area is notional at best. I don't find the video alarming, as others seem to; I think you should watch it because it's a picture of the tribal society in the part of Pakistan that is sheltering the Taliban.

A friend of mine has spent a lot of time in Pakistan, and he told me years ago about this town. (I spoke to him again last week, and by coincidence this place came up in an unrelated conversation -- he thinks this is where Bin Laden probably is, given the power and strength of the Afreedis to protect him.) My friend was, as the filmaker is, totally impressed that these tribal villagers turn out military-grade firearms with nothing more than hand tools.

Well, it is impressive, as a show of skill. But it hasn't been that long ago that all firearms were made with hand tools -- and the technology really hasn't changed very much in many years. Any firearms made of metal and wood can be made by hand perfectly well.

It doesn't matter if you can make firearms out of scrap metal and wood; so can we, if we want to (and better ones, through the miracle of computer aided design). That's nothing to be alarmed about.

What is important, though, is to understand how to engage people like this. They're basically decent: "Lots of sons and lots of guns" is a fine motto for a man's life. The tribal clashes and gangs are a problem for them: visiting this town requires taking some armed friends along for mutual protection. Yet it hasn't been that long ago that much of Europe was the same way; the introduction to Dicken's "Tale of Two Cities" reminds us of that.

In England, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night; families were publicly cautioned not to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers' warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City tradesman in the light, and, being recognised and challenged by his fellow-tradesman whom he stopped in his character of "the Captain," gallantly shot him through the head and rode away; the mail was waylaid by seven robbers, and the guard shot three dead, and then got shot dead himself by the other four, "in consequence of the failure of his ammunition:" after which the mail was robbed in peace; that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green, by one highwayman, who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue; prisoners in London gaols fought battles with their turkeys, and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in among them, loaded with rounds of shot and ball; thieves snipped off diamond crosses from the necks of noble lords at Court drawing-rooms; musketeers went into St. Giles's, to search for contraband goods, and the mob fired on the musketeers, and the musketeers fir on the mob, and nobody thought any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, the hangman, ever busy and ever worse than useless, was in constant requisition; now, stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now, hanging a housebreaker on Saturday who had been taken on Tuesday; now, burning people in the hand at Newgate by the dozen, and now burning pamphlets at the door of Westminster Hall; to-day, taking the life of an atrocious murderer, and to-morrow of a wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmer's boy of sixpence.

All these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon the dear old year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five.
Allowing for dramatic license, that picture is not wholly inaccurate.

The town shows the third-world combination of technology and poverty. Live animals roam the streets, destined to be dinner. Sanitation is not extant. But there are sparkly stickers to decorate vehicles, shiny toys, and the latest weapons they know how to manufacture with the most primitive tools. They are not haters of the world of the West, then: what they can get of it, they proudly display everywhere they can.

There is ignorance: a people who has learned to make these guns has not learned to understand them. They must know how the firearms operate since they know how to build them, but they seem not to have given any thought to the ramifications of that knowledge. The photo team finds bullets on the ground where they are walking, shattered from having been shot in the air and then falling to earth. The "place for shooting" is right over a busy street, firing without any thought for a backstop or other basic safety mechanism.

It should not be necessary to fight most of these people, even though they give shelter (for now) to people who have declared themselves our enemies. It should be possible to befriend them.

They are decent, and they want technology and its pleasures and comforts. They lack understanding we can bring them, which could improve their lives. We can see in the pictures that they also lack much of modern sanitation and health, which we can also provide.

What we need is a tribal-style client relationship with some of these tribes. We have plenty with which to purchase it; there is a great deal that we have to offer. They are plainly not religious zealots who hate all technology, however they may have been portrayed by those who haven't been out to see for themselves.

This is a place where our enemies have made a home for themselves, because it is disconnected from us and our laws and treaties. That need not be the case forever. Some of these enemies, sheltering there, have seduced their young men into the idea of fighting us as a path to glory. Most of them, though, remain there, making guns because guns are what they know how to make, and because there is a demand.

"How can you beat these people?" asks the narrarator. I have a different question: Why should you wish to?

We'll talk more about disaggregation in coming days; those promised COIN posts. This is a good place to start thinking about it, though. These seem like good folk; I like sons and guns myself. How to draw them away from those who are the enemies of the West, and create the client relationship that will let them receive America as an ally and friend?

Obit Warning

A Warning:

It's been about a year ago that I wrote a post called "Cowboy Obituaries." It celebrated the lives of two gentlemen who had died that week: the last founder of the Cowboy Artists of America, who had died in his saddle at 74, and Stuart Mazanec, who had done the same at seventeen.

I've written a lot at this point, about a lot of different topics. Once in a while, when you do that, you get email from people who are interested in what you write. Sometimes, it's someone important, whom you are always surprised to find interested in your own poor thoughts and words.

Tonight, I received an email from Stuart's mother.

We had a short conversation recently about the importance of kindness and civility. Let me add this to the weight of what we have already said. No one more important has ever written me. I never thought to write to tell her that I had said something about her son; I wouldn't have thought of intruding on her grief. I only wanted to celebrate a life well lived, though it ended at a tragic age.

I am glad that my words were a comfort to her, on the difficult first anniversary without her son. This is what I want say to you tonight, as a warning. These things you say here may have effects you don't anticipate or even imagine. Do right with your words, as you would with your actions. You may be surprised, as sometimes I have been, by the good that kind words can do.