Good Reading

Some Excellent Finds:

XKCD produces a map of the internet, graphed according to a particularly insightful compass rose.

I'm a little late in getting around to reading "Why We Fight Over Foreign Policy" from the Hoover Review, but it's a good piece. It explains, in a fair-minded way, the three main streams of thought in American foreign policy debates, and why an honorable person can hold any of them as predominant.

As the piece notes, there are bad actors in all schools: pure politicans of no principles who assert whatever happens to be of party or personal benefit. This is not that useful in understanding those scoundrels -- rather, it is a chart to understanding the good-hearted people who are suckered into voting for them.

That's highly useful in itself. One thing America needs is more of a sense that most of us are decent, for whom the Federal Government is at best a parasite, and at worst a common foe. The politicians are the problem. Those other Americans who seem so alienated are still trying to do something right, according to their own understanding.

The end of milblogging

The End of MilBlogging:

At least for the Army -- BlackFive reports.

New Poem

New Poem:

Russ Vaughn has turned his imagination to the current impasse over military funding. Russ isn't trying to be nice, so if you're easily offended by slaps at the Democratic leadership, you probably won't enjoy his poem.

On the other hand, if you're easily offended by the Democratic leadership, you'll probably enjoy it a lot.

Can't sleep?

Apparently their Patrons were Having Trouble Sleeping:

Or so I'd guess:

Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of ``An Inconvenient Truth,'' former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming.

They'll also find the Gaia equipped with waterless urinals...
Isn't the correct way to say that, "They'll also find that the Gaia isn't equipped with working urinals"? Having stayed in a place like that in China, let me assure you, the environment does not benefit.



Over at Arts and Letters Daily a note has been posted about a new book from the Tolkien estate.

Ostensibly, the tale of the Children of Hurin was written by J.R.R. Tolkien during his lifetime. Like many of the stories hinted at in the text of the Lord of the Rings, the tale of Hurin and his children was set in Middle Earth. Tolkien penned many versions, revisions, and emendations of these tales as he worked on his mythology.

After the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, his son Christopher took up the task of gathering and publishing what he could of these writings. Some tales were published in the collection titled The Silmarillion. Other tales (and fragments, and original versions, and emendations) were published in a multi-volume History of Middle Earth series. This series read more like a scholarly study of Tolkien's work than a novel.

Now one of the major elements of Tolkien's mythology has been published as a complete book. It is the tale of The Children of Hurin.

The tale does promise much of what we saw in the Lord of the Rings: a focus on a few individuals caught in the middle of a titanic struggle between good and evil. Like in the epic war against Sauron, the evil side has the stronger army. However, in this story (set in what would be ancient history to the hobbits who saw the War of the Ring), the hope of victory is scant.

The tale that unfolds around the family of Hurin is a tale of curses, fate, courageous resistance against evil, murders, attempts to hide from fate, and the evil will of the Dark Lord--primarily manifested through one of his servants, a malicious dragon.

Other tragedies can be found in the vast mythological world that Tolkien created. However, this tragedy was the one that Tolkien poured most of his thought and energy into. The story that resulted contains many elements which can be found in other tragedies--especially the Norse stories which Tolkien loved. But The Children of Hurin also contains many elements which are the result of long thought about the nature of evil, the virtuous response to evil, and the multifarious ways in which evil presents itself in the world.

Like Tolkien's other writings, this book is one that is worth reading, and reading again.
Washington, Jefferson, Today:

Thanks to bthun, who wrote to point out that on this date in 1789, Washington delivered his first inaugural address. The page links to numerous other pages, including the online libraries for the papers of Madison and Jefferson. You can search their documents for anything that interests you -- including each others' names, should you like to read their correspondence.

Also at the Jefferson site are several historical articles. I thought the one called "American Sphinx" was, in spite of being a few years old, remarkably telling. It begins with a Jefferson reenactment, which drew four hundred people in small-town New England. It ends with an Iranian dissident:

At the end of August, The Washington Post published a long story on a wealthy Iranian named Bahman Batmanghelidj. His picture looked familiar, and then I recognized him as the philanthropist I met in Worcester. It turned out that Batmanghelidj was rallying opposition to the Merchant and Ivory film on Jefferson, which supposedly sanctions the story of Jefferson's liaison with Sally Hemings.

"Americans don't realize," Batmanghelidj warned, "how profoundly Jefferson and his ideas live on in the hopes and dreams of people in other countries. This movie will undercut all that. People around the world will view it as the defining truth about Jefferson. And of course it is a lie."

Well, yes, it almost certainly is. But then so is a hefty portion of the more attractive sources of Jefferson's image. Batmanghelidj's crusade was just the latest skirmish in the escalating struggle over Jefferson's legacy. The stakes are high, as can be seen in the stark formulation of James Parton, one of Jefferson's earliest biographers: "If Jefferson is wrong, America is wrong. If America is right, Jefferson was right."
It's remarkable the power these great men still hold, two hundred years on.