Open Top

A Trucker's Poem:

In reference to this story, another. My father once told me of a trucker my grandfather knew at his service station, which was located on I-75 in Knoxville. The guy had recently had a similar encounter, with very similar results.

He notified his employer (and presumably resigned) with a telegram, which read:

Saw low bridge,
Couldn't stop.
Now you have
an open-top.

I didn't hear if the more recent driver composed any poetry, though given the circumstances, he'll need to be at least as inventive to explain the "accident."

Crime teams

The "Crime Teams" Story:

So there's this story from the AP:

A violent crime spike in four cities led the Justice Department on Friday to dispatch additional teams of federal agents to combat guns, gangs or surging murder rates in Mesa, Ariz.; Orlando, Fla.; San Bernardino, Calif., and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
All a long way from here. But let's consider the general tactic. The story sheds some light on the problem of Federal officers butting into local business.
The report, released Friday by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, warned of problems with federal crime-fighting task forces. It concluded the teams duplicate efforts and compete for help from local authorities while failing to communicate among themselves. The poor communication, in particular, resulted in three so-called "blue-on-blue" cases where federal agents mistook each other for criminals.

Those incidents, which the report found "put officers' safety at risk," included:

_An undercover ATF agent and informant in Chicago bought a loaded gun from an informant working for the FBI's Safe Streets task force.

_FBI Safe Streets agents in Atlanta pulled over a member of a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force whose car matched the description of a suspect both teams were looking for.

_ATF agents working an undercover sting at a Las Vegas gun show arrested a suspect for illegally buying firearms. The buyer turned out to be an informant working for the FBI — even though the ATF had taken steps to make sure there would be no overlap between federal agencies.

Fine's inspectors studied task forces in eight cities: Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Camden, N.J., Chicago, Gary, Ind., Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Nearly 130 task force members in the cities reported working on at least 45 duplicate investigations.
Let's be honest here: I'd rather have the crime. Nonviolent criminals cause me no trouble to speak of; violent criminals, encountered in the course of their felony, may be shot. Either way, I'm entirely prepared for any problems that may occur.

Federal agencies running around engaged in entrapment, arresting each other, and so forth -- that's a separate problem for which there is no easy solution. A man may deal with all but the most organized crime himself. Few men have the resources to deal with the government, when one of its mistakes enwraps him. It seems to make sense, then, to restrict Federal involvement to only organized-crime matters of the first order.

The rest are better dealt with locally, or personally.

UPDATE: This, on the other hand, is what the Federal government is for.

Blogger Roundtable post

Blogger Roundtable: Iraqi Kurdistan

My post on the call is now up.

"Tramp Stamp"


Actually, my term for this is "fashion victim".

It seems that the Marine Corps agrees somewhat. (via Blackfive.)

You want a tip for an investment opportunity? Tatoo removal technology. I figure it ought to be big business a few years from now.
Ok, they're all there now:

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2007 – The fifth and final brigade of the troop surge has arrived in Baghdad and should be fully operational by mid-July, the deputy director for operations on the Joint Staff said here today.

So, operational by mid July, which means we ought to have a good idea whether this whole thing is yielding results by September.
PSA: This should be kind of obvious, but:

New Scam Targets Military Spouses

"The scam involves a person with an American accent calling a military spouse, identifying herself as a representative of the Red Cross, and telling the spouse that her husband was hurt in Iraq and was medically evacuated to Germany. The caller then says that doctors can't start treatment until paperwork is completed, and that to start the paperwork they need the spouse to verify her husband's social security number and date of birth."

I figure that most military spouses have more on the ball than to be taken in by this, but one never knows.

Price less:

  • 1,200 additional Category I (CAT I) Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) vehicles: $623 Million.
  • Navy Multiband Terminal (NMT): $20 Million.
  • Long lead items in support of the production of Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV): $13.6 Million.
  • Repair of up to 250 AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) guidance and control sections: $8.6 Million.
  • Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) for Phase II of the T-45 Hot Section Reliability Improvement Program: $7.2 Million.
  • Supplies in support of the Navy's Ships Stores Program: $33 Million.
  • Eight Universal Modular Mast (UMM) Systems: $6.5 Million.
  • Maintenance, repair, and operations supplies: $107 Million.
  • AH-64D Apache Longbow Fire Control Radar Programs: $28.8 Million.
  • PATRIOT engineering services: $13.8 Million.
  • Construction of Permanent Party Barracks: $13.5 Million.
  • System technical support for the Abrams Tank Program: $11.5 Million.
  • Contract to upgrade, fabricate, assemble, integrate, test, and deliver the Air and Missile Defense Planning Control Systems to the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command: $8 Million.
  • Chameleon Phase VI Program: $5.4 Million.
  • C-17 Automated Test Equipment : $12.5 Million.
  • Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Capability (ELC) contract: $9.5 Million.
  • Global Broadcast Service (GBS) program: $7.5 Million.
  • 74 embedded Global Positioning/Inertial Production Units (Installs) for the CH-47F (700 and MH-47 (4) platforms, 4 Mounts for the MH-47 platform, 3 Spares for the F/A-18 platform, and 167 Contractor Depot Repairs (CDRs) for the H-1W (67), CH-47F (25), HH-60J (5), and F-15/F-16 (70) platforms: $7.4 Million.
  • Form-fit-function for obsolete subassemblies in the F-15 Avionics Intermediate Shop (AIS) Antenna Test Station (ATS) and Enhanced Aircraft Radar Test Station (EARTS): $5.5 Million.
  • LHA 6 Amphibious Assault Ship: $2.4 Billion.
  • Long-term contract for support of 44 weapons systems of the T/AV8B Harrier aircraft: $258 Million.
  • P-3C sustainment, modification and installation program: $133 Million.
  • Nine Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Satellite Communications Follow-On Terminal Communication Groups and 17 ship Antenna Groups: $27 Million.
  • Supply and distribution of food and non-food products: $2.8 Billion.
  • Sole source items on engine lines: $10.9 Million.
  • Fuel: $6.5 Million.
  • Wide area surveillance platform: $12.2 Million.
  • Light Aircraft Missile Protection (CELAMP) system: $9.8 Million.

Most capable Army, Navy & Air Force in the history of Civilization: Priceless.


Gone Camping:

I am headed to Fort Mountain for the evening. I should be back tomorrow.

I was on the DOD's "Blogger Roundup" call again today, with generals discussing the handover of the Kurdish region to local control. It was a very interesting, and rather hot, call -- once the transcript is up and I can verify some details, I'll post my thoughts on it.

Blood & Folk

Blood & Folk:

Concerning whether a new tribalism is possible, this item:

Rules 'hiding' trillions in debt
Liability $516,348 per U.S. household
By Dennis Cauchon

The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style accounting standards are used, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The loss reflects a continued deterioration in the finances of Social Security and government retirement programs for civil servants and military personnel. The loss — equal to $11,434 per household — is more than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006.

"We're on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future generations," says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana and corporate chief executive who is pushing for more accurate federal accounting.

Modern accounting requires that corporations, state governments and local governments count expenses immediately when a transaction occurs, even if the payment will be made later.

The federal government does not follow the rule, so promises for Social Security and Medicare don't show up when the government reports its financial condition.

Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.

Unfunded promises made for Medicare, Social Security and federal retirement programs account for 85% of taxpayer liabilities.
None of those promises will be kept, once we pass a threshold level. Anyone who is expecting the American government to fund their retirement will be disappointed, unless they die young.

Who will take care of the elderly, when these pensions, Social Security and Medicare die? We will, of our own, as well as we can. And we can look for no help, but what kin and friend provide.

Kinship and fighting bonds

Kinship and Fighting Bonds:

Daniel and I have embarked, below, on a discussion that requires some background information. Many Americans today aren't really versed in the heroic tradition of Northern Europe, except for having read Tolkien -- an excellent introduction, but one that leaves out some of the harder concepts. One of these is the breaking point between the duty owed to kin, of whom one is really considered a part, and the duty owed to those who have befriended you.

Americans generally consider family to be disposable, and friendship important -- older relatives can be deposited in homes, cared for by the state (Medicare and Social Security); younger relatives who are a drain on the finances rather than self-supporting can be tossed out to sink or swim. This is very different from the old way, which hampered heroes in many respects: and yet, if you reflect carefully upon it, you see that you really are only an outgrowth of your kin. Indeed, the echoes of the family are so powerful that, at times, you may wonder if you aren't just your father or grandfather reborn -- or, as I have heard many a lady lament, if they haven't begun speaking with their mother's voice. The old view posed serious problems, but it was firmly rooted in the reality of the thing. Blood kinship is important, more important than we often think today: in a time before genetics, they knew that nature is the thing that sets the limits on what nurture can do.

I'd like to quote a passage from the Hollander translation of The Saga of the Jomsvikings, as an introduction to the difficulties of the old system.

Before the passage begins, King Harold has gotten a bastard son on a woman he pretends not to have known. That woman lives in the household of a man named Palnatoki, who trusts her word as to the father, and raises the son -- his name is Svein -- as he would have raised a son of King Harold who had been sent to foster with him, as was often done in those days. Harold is furious, but Svein grows to be a strong warrior, and with Palnatoki's help, raises fleets of vikings so strong that Harold has to deal with him. At first Harold tries to buy him off, but finally he leads a fleet of his own to destroy Svein. The King's fleet traps Svein's, blocking the mouth of a river where Svein's fleet is sheltering.

Palnatoki shows up at this point with a fleet of his own, to help Svein. Palnatoki goes ashore and finds where the King has camped, and shoots him dead with an arrow wrapped in gold wire. The next morning, Palnatoki and Svein join forces and, capturing the King's fleet between them, force it to submit and accept Svein as their new king.

Somewhat after, Svein holds the arvel to assume his inheretance. Palnatoki attends:

Palnatoki with all his followers entered the king's hall. The king [Svein] welcomed Palnatoki cordially and bade him and his men take the seats he had assigned them. And then the banquet began....

A man called Arnodd, one of the king's attendants, was standing near the table. Fiolnir handed him an arrow and bade him carry it to all the men until some one woiuld acknowledge it. Arnodd went first to the center of the hall where the king sat, then toward the door. Then he returned toward the center and stood before Palnatoki and asked him whether he perchance recognized the arrow.

Palnatoki said: "Why should I not know my own arrow? Let me have it, it is mine."

Deep silence reigned in the hall, to hear someone acknowledge the arrow as his own.

The king said, "You, Palnatoki, where did you part with this arrow, the last time you shot it?"

Palnatoki replied: "Often I have been indulgent to you, foster son, and so it shall be this time: I parted with it from my bowstring the time I shot your father through with it."

The king said, "Stand up, my men, at once, and lay hands on Palnatoki and his followers. They shall be killed, all of them. There is now an end to the good relations between us."

Thereupon all the men in the hall leaped to their feet. Palnatoki then drew his sword and cut his kinsman Fiolnir in two. He and his men gained the door, because every man there was so much his friend that no one wanted to harm him.
Questions for discussion:

1) What are Svein's three conflicting duties? Which is most important?

2) What are Palnatoki's? What justifies his killing of his kinsman?

3) The men who allowed Palnatoki to escape -- are they serving the king well, or badly? Are they praiseworthy or blameworthy for acting in this way? Is there a way in which they are protecting him, or are they putting their own friendship ahead of their sworn duty as members of the king's company?



Bill Whittle wants to build a new Athens (don't forget to read part two as well).

The idea is of an online city-state for those interested in the ancient virtues -- courage, justice, temperence, and their companions. That is obviously the sort of thing I would like to see also.


Flags replaced with swastikas in Washington State.

In the words of Hank Williams Jr, I'd like to catch those bastards with my .45.
I hope the Sheriff's office is able to catch some of them; although I think the local Vigilance Committee would be better suited to administer justice.

Goodbye, Lady

Goodbye, Lady:

Once, a long time ago, I wrote the only thing I've ever written about Cindy Sheehan:

Cindy Sheehan is a grieving mother. I sympathize entirely with the motivation. I cannot imagine what the loss of my son would do to me; I would be grateful to the world, I think, if it refused to judge any action I took for at least a year or two afterwards. And so, applying the Golden Rule, I shall refuse to judge her.

I hope she finds the peace she needs. I have no use for those who are using her to further their ends -- nor those who are so heartless as to speak ill of her, in the depth of her pain.

Yes, I know she was a radical before the war began. That means nothing. She is a Gold Star mother, and so she is due a full measure of kindness from us. May she find her peace. May those who are trying to use her get what they deserve. As for those who have sneered at her character -- no one asks you to approve of her, or what she thinks, or how she feels. All I ask is that you let her rage, and pass on, without judgment. That, at least, is only what we should want for ourselves if, under an evil star, we should find ourselves brought to her fate.
Others felt otherwise, and took her for a ride now ending.
I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.... I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost.
I don't have anything bad to say about Cindy Sheehan. Those of you who used her, though, as long as her grief was a useful weapon to you -- you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. She deserved, as does any mother of a fallen Marine, better than she has had.

UPDATE: The commenters at BlackFive point out that I misremembered Casey Sheehan's branch of service. He was a soldier, not a Marine; but the mother of a fallen soldier is due the same courtesy.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day:

Happy Memorial Day. I hesistate to link to any of the great posts around the internet today, for fear of accidentally missing others. For that cause, I will only send my greetings to your and your families, and my particular respects to those of you who are in the service or are veterans. Let us remember together.

UPDATE: John Donovan has decided to attempt the roundup post. Here's his majestic effort toward getting it all.


The Feast of Pentecost:

Today is Pentecost in the traditional calendar, a feast that celebrates the fiftieth day after Jesus' resurrection, when the Holy Ghost is said to have descended upon the Apostles. I imagine most of you did not know that; I had to look it up myself. I will tell you, though, what I did know about the Feast of Pentecost:

WHEN Arthur held his Round Table most plenour, it fortuned that he commanded that the high feast of Pentecost should be holden at a city and a castle, the which in those days was called Kynke Kenadonne, upon the sands that marched nigh Wales. So ever the king had a custom that at the feast of Pentecost in especial, afore other feasts in the year, he would not go that day to meat until he had heard or seen of a great marvel. And for that custom all manner of strange adventures came before Arthur as at that feast before all other feasts. And so Sir Gawaine, a little tofore noon of the day of Pentecost, espied at a window three men upon horseback, and a dwarf on foot, and so the three men alighted, and the dwarf kept their horses, and one of the three men was higher than the other twain by a foot and an half. Then Sir Gawaine went unto the king and said, Sir, go to your meat, for here at the hand come strange adventures.
It was also at the feast of Pentecost, according to Sir Thomas Malory, that the quest for the Grail began. Malory's version of this is the later version, in which Sir Galahad wins the Grail through spiritual perfection. The depiction of Galahad is almost blasphemy by Catholic standards, as he is shown as a man without sin. His purity is such that he can actually deserve to come into the presence of the Grail, whereas other worldly knights cannot.

There was an older tradition, in which it was Sir Perceval who achieved the Grail, though at first he was judged unworthy. Before he could become worthy, he lost everything of which a man might rightly desire, lost his mother and his home, passed by the love of a fine lady and the good things of the world that she offered him. In Malory's version, Galahad was worthy from the beginning, and the adventures he undertook were only to show his excellence. Yet, having achieved the Grail and the presence of God, he finds he has only one desire: that he might choose to die.

I mention all of this in reference to the debate, below, on the subject of Chesterton and faith. The Grail tradition shows that the Medievals felt that faith was dangerous, past a point. The pursuit of perfection was destructive to a man, even a very good man. A man to whom it was given to be Lancelot du Lac would find no joy in the search for the Grail, but only hardship, misery, and the constant sense of failing to meet the standards of Heaven.

Chesterton speaks of religion as being like a monastery with walls; and because the walls are there, the faithful can play within them without fear. Yet pass beyond the walls, or knock down the walls, and you found a perilous world in which no joy was possible.

The American experience of faith is easy, like that monastery: in churches across the country, you are invited to confess your sins and donate to the offering plate, and then relax and enjoy the promise of Heaven. The Medieval church was likewise easy: confession and penance, or even the purchase of an indulgence, permitted you to carry on more or less as you like. A man could be merry in the garden, could drink and fight and still achieve a happy end.

There was no reason, then, to go on mortifying quests after perfection. No reason but that, having felt the presence of the divine, the knights wanted to bask in it -- but so unworthy are even the best of men Christianity holds, men who sin in every thought and deed, that "becoming worthy" is far beyond their strength. So they departed on a quest born in love of God, and therefore died alone and terribly. Few enough came again to Camelot, those few as failures.

La Nef produced a two-volume opera called Perceval: La Quete du Graal (volume II is here). It is a beautiful and haunting piece when heard all together, as befits its subject.