You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

Roland Burris Has Already Constructed His Terrifying Death Chamber

Governor Blagojevich has a sense of humor, that's for sure.

(via doubleplusundead)



Iraq's government declared today an official holiday, and issued congratulations to Christians here on the birth of Christ. Iran, after a fashion, did the same thing.

The message begins with Ahmadinejad congratulating Christians and the people of Britain on the anniversary of the birth of Christ, which Christians celebrate on Christmas Day.

"If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers," he says.
Christmas is nearly over here -- the sun is setting even now. I hope your Christmas is a good one. As for me, I had the occasion to listen to the son of an African King give a sermon while wearing the uniform of an officer of the United States; a sermon he read to a chivalry gathered in a foreign land in order to free it of a heritage of tyranny.

At the end of the last hymn, the chaplain said, "Now we must blow out the candles. Perhaps we should sing happy birthday." And we did.

Si linguis hominum loquar, et angelorum, caritatem autem non habeam, factus sum velut æs sonans, aut cymbalum tinniens. Et si habuero prophetiam, et noverim mysteria omnia, et omnem scientiam: et si habuero omnem fidem ita ut montes transferam, caritatem autem non habuero, nihil sum. Et si distribuero in cibos pauperum omnes facultates meas, et si tradidero corpus meum ita ut ardeam, caritatem autem non habuero, nihil mihi prodest.... Nunc autem manent fides, spes, caritas, tria hæc: major autem horum est caritas.

If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don't have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don't have love, I am nothing. If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don't have love, it profits me nothing.... Now faith, hope, and love remain--these three. The greatest of these is love.
Such was the reading tonight, before the hymns. It was the hymns, though.


Could Watergate Be Uncovered Today?

The Washington Post considers the question given the passage of the infamous "Deep Throat," and decides it's really gotten easier:

New technology actually makes investigative reporting somewhat easier. We can now use computers and the Internet to search records and other information, and we can use pre-paid cell phones for conversations with confidential sources. Of course, an administration under siege would also have more sophisticated resources for investigating leaks and marshaling counter-attacks in the news media and the blogosphere.

Reporters working today on a story such as Watergate would be unlikely to be left relatively alone, along with their sources, for as long as Bob and Carl were. Now, from day one, the story would be all over the Internet, and hordes of reporters and bloggers would immediately join the chase. The story would become fodder for around-the-clock argument among the blowhards on cable television and the Internet. Opinion polls would be constantly stirring up and measuring the public's reaction.

So the conspiracy and the cover-up would unravel much more quickly -- and their political impact would probably be felt much sooner. Nixon was re-elected five months after the burglary in 1972, and Watergate was not much of an issue during the campaign. That would not happen today.
But, ah -- will it remain easier?
In today's cacophonous media world, in which news, rumor, opinion and infotainment from every kind of source are jumbled together and often presented indiscriminately, how would such an improbable-sounding story ever get verified?

As newsrooms rapidly shrink, will they still have the resources, steadily amassed by newspapers since Watergate, for investigative reporting that takes months and even years of sustained work.
That final period is, as they say, "sic." Perhaps he is right that the famous layers of editing and fact-checking have already begun to unravel!

On the subject of conspiracy-outing, however, let me suggest a more dangerous problem than lack of editors: confirmation bias.

We know that the Bush administration couldn't keep a secret. It seems like the New York Times or the Washington Post broke a new story about some secret program or activity by the CIA or DOD based on anonymous testimony. Deep Throat is now Old Hat. State, CIA and even DOD are riddled with people who feel it is their constitutional right to talk to the press about secret programs if they have concerns about them.

The press hammered the Bush administration with this, year in and out. There is no doubt that Bush's high negatives track to a large degree to the unrelenting negative coverage he has received throughout his presidency. They did not bring down the President, but he certainly wasn't allowed to run any conspiracies -- not even the ones a President might ought to be running.

This is an example of the confirmation bias at work: once you have decided a person is bad, you readily believe bad things about them. Indeed, it may make something seem bad that you might have thought was good if a "good person" was doing it.

Now comes a new President, and his relationship with the press is different. They chose him. Barack Obama is our President-elect because the media wanted him to be. The positive coverage he has received over the last year is unprecedented in my lifetime; Popes don't usually get this kind of coverage.

We've seen an initial taste of the problem in the FISA controversy. If you were a strong Bush-blaster, the FISA issue was the worst thing in the world. It was about an end to civil liberties, the destruction of privacy, an out-of-control President trying to build a power to spy on the American people. If you were a hardcore Bush defender, it was about a noble man trying to use carefully limited power to fulfill his duty to keep Americans safe at home. The rhetoric was hot and heavy.

Since Obama reversed himself on FISA, it has largely dropped off the radar. People who previously derided it as the worst thing ever haven't changed their mind, as far as I know. But now the President will be Obama, a deliberate and thoughtful man of decent principles, so it's not so bad. We can take some time to work it out. The rhetoric has cooled.

By the same token, people who were glad to have Bush at the helm to guard their families must now consider whether a shady Chicago-way politician with inexplicable foreign ties can be trusted with such power.

As for the media, it elected Obama. He is their guy. If you went to them and laid out a conspiracy, gave them the phone numbers to call, gave them photos of the people they needed to interview, and just asked them to go confirm it -- would they?

Frankly, I doubt it. Confirmation bias is very powerful stuff, and lives right at the foundation of our thinking. I believe they would look at the facts, say to themselves, "There's doubtless some explanation for all this," do a pro forma inquiry just so they felt they had done their duty (the results of which would likewise be colored by confirmation bias), and declare there was nothing to the story.

If that's the case, the problem isn't the lack of editors -- and the new technology may not be enough to save us. Perhaps Obama will enjoy more leeway to carry out the conspiracies that a President ought to carry out. He is likely also to enjoy the leeway to carry out the sort that a President ought not to carry out. But we don't have to worry about that -- he's a good guy. Right?
Oh, just look at them howl. (Warning: impolite language at the link.)

And here. ("...punching hippies in the face is politically smart...") --I gotta remember that line.

And here. ("...sucktastically ineffective...")

I knew that the President-elect was going to disappoint various segments of his supporters sooner or later, but I did not expect him to do is so quickly.

As for me, I could care less who the President-elect chooses to be his whatever-they-call-the-guy-who-gives-oath. It's his inauguration, after all.

But I am amused and entertained at the reaction to it.
Warrants and the BSA:

The SoFA, or "Bilateral Security Agreement" (BSA), contains several things that will change the way we do business here. This is one:

The security pact states that as of Jan. 1, American troops may not search homes or make arrests without warrants "except in the case of active combat operations."

That will be a big change for the U.S. military _ one of several required under the security pact that allows the Americans to stay for three more years but imposes stricter oversight on their behavior.

The agreement was ratified by Iraq's presidential council on Dec. 4, and U.S. and Iraqi commanders are now meeting to lay out guidelines for how the new rules will work on the ground.

U.S. soldiers - particularly special forces - have in the past staged raids without consulting the Iraqis when going after time-sensitive targets.
This is going to be a challenge, no doubt, but it's worth it in my opinion. "By, through and with" and "rule of law" are two of the most important concepts in bringing a COIN campaign to a close. It's going to be difficult, but 'difficult' is what the US military does.
Another one who just doesn't get it.

Quite a while ago, I fisked the same sort of academic who was upset over the fact that the US no longer conscripts its troops. (I note for the record that we never actually did hear back from that professor.)

Any way, the writer of this article, one Danielle Allen (who has some sort of post at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton) manages to observe this:

Military institutions across nations and throughout time have always been important creators of culture. They strive to develop unbreakable bonds of solidarity among their members based on shared values, experiences and outlooks.

and this:

I spotted the link between military service and regional partisan divisions when I was researching not military history but Internet political communication. After spending time on political Web sites of the right and left, I noticed that posts on right-leaning sites often employed military lingo -- habits of developing monikers and jingles and of using the vocabulary of military tactics and strategy. Left-leaning sites, in contrast, mostly lacked any easily recognizable features of military language.

This is one sign that our public sphere already suffers from a division between military and non-military cultures. The division is not trivial, and without institutional change it is likely to be durable.

And finally this:

It is time to think seriously about a structure for national service -- both military and non-military -- that could successfully integrate young people from different regions of the country so that they will come, at least, to understand each other. We need to weave a fabric of shared citizenship anew.

As I said then, (and I don't really think I can say it any better now):

A universal duty to service is already there. It exists whether or not there is a draft law. To fufill that duty, all it takes is to walk into a recruiting station and say, “I wish to join.” The professor could have done that at anytime in his life. He appears to have chosen not to. In short, the professor himself is at the heart of the professor’s argument that there is a disconnect between the citizenry and the military. Enough of the professor’s generation decided that a draft was unnecessary and made its feelings known quite loudly that the draft was abolished. And now the professor is complaining because there isn’t a draft?

She manages to make the connection between military culture and "the" culture at large, (I wonder if she read Martin van Creveld's "The Culture of War", he talks alot about the military and culture in that book), notices the distinct lack of military jargon on left-tard sites, and can only come up with the idea that we'd better draft people so that they 'weave a fabric of shared citizenship anew'. Oh, and its supposed to be both 'military and non-military' too.


All those people on left-tard sites could have joined up. but they didn't. They. Did. Not. Of their own free will. 40 years of academia, movies, books, radio, rock and roll etc, etc, etc, running down the military will do that, you know. And now she wants to change it? Good luck with that.

The duty is there whether it performed or not. All you have to is Do. Your. Duty.
I was treated to a sword fight and abundant array of cheese and crackers!
PASSERSBY in Central London have been treated to the bizarre spectacle of two mediaeval knights fighting to decide what is the best cheese.

The two warriors clashed in Baker Street on Thursday in a
joust for the title of "King of the Blue Cheeses". In the blue, smelly corner was Saint Agur, representing the French cheese of the same name, and in the other blue corner was St Ilton, representing Albion's own Stilton.

Advertising I'm sure Grim would approve of.

Holiday Season in Iraq

Holiday Season in Iraq:

You are probably unaware of this if you're reading it in America, but this is also holiday season in Iraq. The Hajj season is winding down, having been ongoing here for quite a while now. Thousands of Iraqis have traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the rites of the trip to Mecca. This week is one of the great festivals of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha. Iraqis are celebrating by, among other things, touring Saddam's palace in Babylon. But it's a major celebration all around. I gather that the sheep market is booming, as sheep are used as sacrifices to honor ancestors; apparently sales this year are strongly outpacing last year's.

The media aspect of this war is a well-known difficulty. It's not just that AQI needs only to set off one bomb, anywhere in the country, to make the reporting on any given incident all about them. That's true, and it's a problem -- if they set off a car bomb and kill a dozen or forty people, you lose track of the fact that literally millions more people went about their day untroubled by al Qaeda.

But there is another problem, which is that when al Qaeda isn't able to carry off even a single bomb on a major holiday, there's little news to be found at all. This time, every one of those millions of Iraqis enjoyed their holiday with no violence; but I'd guess that around 1% of America even knows there was a major holiday here last week.

As a consequence of this dual difficulty, every last news story the average American hears about the war is about something violent that AQI did. The truth is that all the extremist groups put together are now only trouble on occasion; and much of the time, no trouble at all.

This place will get more interesting in January, however. The new Bilateral Security Agreement is going to change the way business is done here in some significant ways. I'm not sure how many of those ways have made the press yet, as I don't get a chance to read as much of the news as I'd like. I'm not going to talk out of school about it; let's just say that it's interesting in several ways, and a wise reader who wants something to think about will watch carefully how it is implemented.

However, whatever difficulties it has for us, it represents two invaluable things: a movement to the rule of law, and a chance for the Iraqi people to realize that they really are in control of their destiny. Their laws, and their votes, shall rule this land.

That, I think, is the hardest of Saddam's legacies to purge -- getting people to stop waiting to be told what to do, and to stop believing there is some conspiracy at work in their lives. It's the real gift of our microgrant strategy. The economic gain of such grants is powerful, don't get me wrong. Alexander Hamilton structured American policy after the Revolution to create small pools of capital in private hands, and out of those pools flowered an ever-growing economy.

These microgrants, though they seem small, can help to do much the same thing. Yet more than the economic output of these very small businesses, we're giving them a chance to realize that they have a chance to make a life for themselves. They can buy the tools to repair tires on these rickety old vehicles toddling down the roads. They can fix the vehicles. The guy who owns the vehicle, he may be delivering things for a living, or getting a little money from each of several friends in exchange for giving them a ride to work in a nearby village or town. The farmers bring their crops to market, and people have money to buy them.

There are bigger Civil-Military Operations as well -- canal cleaning for irrigation, filtering programs for drinking water, schools, repairs to public buldings, parks for children, and so forth. These are certainly also important. In the end, though, I think it will be the microgrants that really matter. They target the people who are ready to learn that lesson, and ready to take another step on their own road.

I'm guessing you didn't see it on the news, and you probably won't. I've seen it, and met some of the people involved in it. They're proud of their work, and I hope you're proud of them.

And make some cars that people want to buy, while you're at it, too.
So just who is threatening you, Congressman?
Back at his home, Emanuel appeared "beet-red," according to an ABC News cameraman who was invited inside by Emanuel to use his bathroom this morning.

"I'm getting regular death threats. You've put my home address on national television. I'm pissed at the networks. You've intruded too much, " Emanuel said, according to the cameraman.

I'm thinking that cameraman is going to need a porta-john from now on, though.

This looks pretty bad. Of course, if the congressman would quit farking lying through his teeth, maybe the reporters would farking go away.

But maybe not. Jeez, and I thought it was going to take till the summer for Obama's administration to screw up.

Dude, there are sharks circling, and you are the crew of the Indianapolis. And you farking did it to yourself, you silly retread.

You just had to lie about it.

You. Just. Had. To.

Tell 'em, Ed.
Yeah, that's it. It's the fault of the British!

The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe which has left hundreds dead was caused by the UK, an ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu described the outbreak as a "genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British".

So I'm guessing here that Mugabe and his minions have decided on the Let's-tell-the-biggest-farking-whoppers-possible approach to this crisis.

If you wrote this up as a novel, people would make fun of you at how stupid it sounds.

And American Digest proves it.

And as he says, "It's not the crime, its the cover up."

And as I said in comments elsewhere, Obama and his team better get their heads out of their collective butts on this one becuase it will dog them.

And now it is, with stupid crap like this. How stupid are they? And how stupid do they think we are?
The Chicago Way.

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges alleging that they and others are engaging in ongoing criminal activity: conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits for Blagojevich by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a United States Senator; threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich; and to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions – both historically and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect January 1, 2009.

Well, that didn't take long. Now, if the reports are true, and Rahm Emanuel tipped off the Feds, then this gets all sorts of interesting.

"Hello Mr. Fitzpatrick. I got a present for you; the governor of Illinois. Now, be a nice chap and don't bother looking any deeper into what Mr. Rezko knows. Capishe?"
"Forget it, he's rolling."

The Reverend Wright, at the pulpit again.
"At the 11 a.m. service, Wright belittled "baby milk believers," who, he said, suffer a delusion that politics don't belong in the pulpit. He pointed out that "Luke the evangelist, not Wright the radical" lambasted the oppressive policies of the Roman government in the Gospel story that recounts Jesus' life.

"Any preacher who dares to point out the simple ugly facts found in every field imaginable is demonized as volatile, controversial, incendiary, inflammatory, anti-American and radical," Wright said, taking time out to note the thousands of Japanese civilians who died 67 years to the day when American warplane dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. (Actually, Dec. 7 marks the day when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.)"


Bringing the Law to Justice:

With regard to the evil treatment of civilians in the warzone by the media and academia -- we were talking about the HTTs, but also about any other contractors -- Joe remarked in a recent comment:

It may help that we actually have a working mechanism to hold civilians criminally liable when they step the wrong way - I remember from 2004-05 the nightmare of trying to do that, and being filled with the wish that whoever couldn't be punished, should go.
That's more or less the opinion of Deborah Colson on the upcoming Blackwater Worldwide case. She says, "Contractors perform necessary and often courageous service, but letting even a few act with impunity stains our reputation and undermines the credibility of our efforts."

That's fair enough. Discipline is the soul of the army, and that goes for those who carry "Geneva Conventions Accompanying Forces" IDs like I do, too.

There is a trend within American law, however, that I find absolutely disgusting. It arises from the concept that the process is meant to be adversarial, and the prosecutor should therefore attempt to bring the maximum penalty the law permits as their opening position. This means "the maximum penalty we can find any possible way to imagine the law considering."
Among the hurdles the government now faces:

_Whether U.S. law permits civilian contractors to be charged in the United States for crimes committed overseas. Prosecutors must convince a judge that the guards can be charged under a law targeting soldiers and military contractors — even though Blackwater works for the State Department.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that, if not for Blackwater, military personnel would provide diplomatic security. In that way, Blackwater could be seen as supporting the Defense Department's mission.

_Convincing a jury that a drug law intended to crack down on assault weapons should be used to pump up potential penalties against the guards. The five men are expected to be charged with assault or manslaughter under a provision in the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act that requires 30-year prison terms for using machine guns to commit violent crimes, whether drug-related or not.
I couldn't disagree with this kind of thing any more than I do. The state should advocate for justice: for a just application of the law. Attempting to find innovative ways to put people in jail far longer than is just should be a form of prosecutorial misconduct. In my opinion, it should be itself a crime.

Look at the position we're in here:

1) The prosecutors intend to claim that the law -- which specifically limited itself to DOD employees -- should apply to State Department employees because 'they are supporting the DOD mission' by performing a function that the military would otherwise have to perform.

OK. My job includes arranging meetings between US government employees and tribal figures in Iraq in order to address and avoid problems. That's obviously a diplomatic function: the military's only doing it because the State Department lacks the personnel and resources to devote FSOs to it. Therefore: if I'm arrested on any future charge under this law, I'll just claim that the law shouldn't apply to me because 'I'm really performing a service that supports the State Department's mission.' Right?

No, that's obviously not right. I work for DOD; the law was written for me. Blackwater's guys work for the diplomats; the law specifically doesn't apply to them. Furthermore, the State Department knows it could get military escorts and doesn't want them. It feels that would make it subordinate to the military, rather than equal and independent. Thus, if they weren't using contractors, they'd have to provide State Department GS-series guards. Blackwater isn't supporting 'the military mission,' but State's desire to remain independent of the military.

The law was written this way for exactly this reason. Now the government wants to put the law into force in a way precisely contrary to the reason the law was composed.

If the government won't play by its own rules -- and the law are its own rules -- why should anyone trust them with the power to enforce the law?

2) Does the prosecution seriously intend to argue that a law designed to punish the use of illegal machineguns inside America should apply to the use of formally licensed machineguns in a warzone, in the contracted service of our State Department?

If they do, do they understand that they have just raised the penalty for any crime involving those machineguns to a minimum 30 year sentence? Let's say you shoot someone you believed was an insurgent, but the jury decides (based on 'witness statements' from Iraqis who hate you, and who aren't available to be cross-examined in court) that you were wrong to believe that. So you've committed something like manslaughter (in a firefight, in a warzone). 30 years, minimum.

Both propositions are totally unreasonable. A law composed for illegal machineguns in a peaceful area shouldn't apply to lawfully-carried machineguns employed in the licensed service of the US government itself. Likewise, while mistakes should be prosecuted, 30 years is a massive sentence to set as the minimum for any possible 'violent crime' given the difficulties specific to prosecuting people based on unavailable witnesses, for actions taken during the confusion of a firefight, in a warzone.

I fully support the application of law to the battlefield. More than that, though, I want to see justice done. That should be the aim of the law. I know this is the system we have, but I don't like it one bit.
I hate blood sucking nazi zombies.

Soldiers' Archangel:

Apparently SA is looking for a new, full-time director. It's good to see them doing well and expanding their operations. Here's the posting, if any of you are interested.

Short position description for
Soldiers’ Angels Executive Director
Soldiers’ Angels, one of the nation’s largest military support groups, is seeking
nominations and applications for the position of Executive Director. The ideal candidate
will be an entrepreneurial leader who has the vision, creativity, energy and experience to
continue the work of the founder and to place the organization on footing to serve the
future needs of our military and their families. Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the
Executive Director will provide strategic leadership, empower and motivate the senior
volunteers and oversee all day-to-day operations. The Executive Director will also be
responsible for hiring support staff and other key employees. Areas of responsibility
include: financial management, volunteer development, program oversight,
internal/external communications, and fund raising.
The successful candidate will have:
Prior significant leadership experience in a multi-faceted non-profit organization
Demonstrated ability to work effectively with volunteers, staff and donors
Knowledge of and appreciation for the military and their families, preferably through
prior military experience, active duty or civilian
Strong communications skills
Experience in financial planning and management
This position also requires the candidate to demonstrate:
In-depth knowledge of fund raising program development and administration, including
direct mail and major giving functions
Experience in marketing, public relations, and media relations.
Cover letter and Resume should be mailed, before January 15, 2009, to:
Soldiers’ Angels
Attn: Executive Director Search Committee
1792 East Washington Blvd.
Pasadena, California 91104
Or emailed to:
If you email the documents please use the Return Receipt function to ensure that the send
was successful.
I nominate Cassandra.
Georgia On My Mind:

Well done, folks. Jim Martin's not a bad guy or anything, but -- in spite of my relative pleasure at Obama's early appointments -- I'm glad to see that there is a filibuster option to restrain the worst impulses of the incoming Congress. It'll be good for all of us: for liberals by keeping them from overreaching and angering the centrist majority, and for conservatives by offering some protection for at least their deepest convictions. The millions of members of the NRA, for example, should breathe a little easier today.

Some have said that the race was a test for Obama. I'd say that was not true in any broad sense of the word, but it is worth noticing just how strong the shift was in Sen. Chambliss' direction. He went from 49% in the general to 58% in the runoff.

What's interesting isn't really the magnitude of the spread or the shift, but the fact that the spread is almost precisely what it would have been in a normal election year. It shows none of the wave-strength that the Democrats had in the general election. These numbers are normally what we expect to see in a Georgia race -- 58/42 R/D is usual for a statewide race.

That may suggest that the general election was a spasm of anti-Bush/anti-incumbent feeling that has now been expiated. Well, that's what elections are for: letting you throw the bums out once in a while. This could be a warning that the population hasn't shifted left in any significant way, but was just in a really foul mood towards the Republican party. Once the anti-incumbent fever was spent, things snapped right back to normal.

You could also argue that this was a runoff in which Republicans were more motivated in Georgia, as they were the last chance to prevent a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. In that case, the general population may have shifted left, but they are feeling good now after the general election and didn't think it mattered much to get out again so soon. In that case, apathy rather than -- well, "change" -- is the problem for Obama and his new coalition.

We'll need more data to know which is closer to correct. As we've know since the Greeks -- and as Shakespeare also believed -- 'the mob' is full of passion, but quick to turn. It's also quick to disperse, and just wander away.

Monty McFate

Monty McFate and the Human Terrain:

She's been invited to speak at the Southwestern Anthropological Association meeting (h/t InstaPundit. She's the one who came up with the concept of the Human Terrain System. This led to the rise of the Human Terrain Team (HTTs, which operate at the Brigade level) and Human Terrain Analysis Team (HTAT, a Division-level asset).

Honestly, it's one of the most positive developments to come out of what we call the war on terror. The HTT helps the Army understand the culture it is operating with, in order to limit misunderstandings, reduce friction, and therefore act as a cooling factor on insurgency growth. That means fewer insurgencies, shorter insurgencies, and therefore fewer dead and wounded noncombatants where we come to be involved.

The core objection seems to be that HTTs "enable" targeting, which is somehow a violation of ethics for an anthropologist. It's been my experience, however, that the Army was already pretty good at targeting. What the HTT does is make targeting less necessary.

I have been working with ours quite closely, expect to be working with them even more closely going forward, and I am glad they are here. Of course (as you will recall) I also hold a Master's degree in History, and value the very skills they offer: an ability to harmonize the military culture with academic rigor, and to help men trained in military honor to understand the workings of tribal honor.

I do think the academy should want to help, for patriotic reasons but also for humane ones. As I've written on occasion, the best education for a Westerner seeking to deal with this set of problems is to read the heroic epics, such as the Iliad and the Heimskringla. If you understand our own roots in very similar cultures, you can start to see how warriors can make a peace when no one else can -- as well as what kinds of things break such peace.

For more, here is Dr. McFate at SWJ.



It's been interesting over the last few weeks to watch the Obama camp begin to make appointments for its administration. I've been struck by three clear themes:

1) Every lecturn that Sen. Obama spoke behind while running for President had the word "CHANGE" on it in big bold letters. He constantly repeated that his opponent was "more of the same." Yet his appointments show a man who isn't the least bit interested in serious changes: he's largely reappointed the Clinton administration, except where he's keeping parts of the Bush administration.

2) In particular, the appointment of Sen. Clinton to Secretary of State combined with the primacy of Clinton loyalists in other posts is nothing short of an admission that she was really the better candidate in the Democratic primary. It is an admission that she was the only one of the two who was really a serious candidate.

It is to say, "OK, we won, we're in charge!... now, Mrs. Clinton, if you would kindly take over?"

3) Obama's appointments, in spite of this, have generally been solid choices. I say this in spite of my grave irritation at the outright, cynical manipulation shown in point #1 (and about which Jeffrey was absolutely right -- he often said I should simply ignore anything Sen. Obama said or did on the campaign trail). I say it in spite of something like astonishment about point #2: that a man so empty of qualification or loyalty would put himself forward for the office, or that Americans would consider him seriously.

Yet here we are, and I must confess that if he was reckless to put himself forward, he has not been reckless in at least these early critical choices. He has selected to put the Clinton team in charge even though it makes him look bad, because they were the best choices available from the Democratic side. He has chosen to retain the Bush appointments to Defense even though it completely undoes his mantle of 'change,' or his alleged superiority of judgment over those who ever supported the war or the Surge. Again, though, they are the best men for the job: and being better than anyone even in the Clinton team, he has kept them.

That's fairly impressive work, and I am glad to say so in spite of everything. Meanwhile, Syd mentioned a Spencer Ackerman piece; here is one by him that I thought was insightful. He rightly points out that the Undersecretary of Defese for Policy position is very powerful, and will apparently be retained by a Bush appointee and Gates loyalist.

SOLIC isn't as powerful as he suggests -- or nearly as powerful as I think it should be, having worked with them in the past -- but they do have authority that turns up in interesting places. Ackerman passes on speculation that LTCOL Nagl might be in the running for the SOLIC posting, which would be a strong appointment indeed. We'll see if that proves out.

And of course then there's Paul Volcker, an appointment that ties him to the Washington of Ronald Reagan. Reaganomics! Greenspan's predecessor! Again, a strong choice: but nothing like a change from the Washington of old. He is the Washington of old: of 1979-1987.

I begin to wonder if this Obama hasn't been just riding the whirlwind the last two years: running for President just to build his stature for a later run, he suddenly found a national mood willing to take anyone who was just new and different. Carried to office by that mood, he now wonders, "What on earth do I do now?" And so, he has chosen appointments who can bear the weight suddenly thrust upon his unready shoulders.

Obama himself seems to be saying that it's the other way: that he is the man who can take the Washington of old and change it. His remarks of the other night, that we have to 'remember where the vision of change is coming from,' support that concept: that he believes that he will work some alchemy on these structures and people, and change their nature from lead into gold.

All of his appointments have more experience than he does. Almost all of them are older than he is. Unlike him, they have established networks with deep roots: the Clinton network, which will now be based out of the Office of the Secretary of State instead of the White House, reinforced by all the other network members who will enjoy lesser postings; Gates' network, which is well established at the Pentagon and through the Combatant Commands; Volcker's networks through the financial community.

What he is doing here is planting trees, if you like. You can think of each of these powerful, older figures as a tree with roots represented by their network of supporters and allies. He has chosen the trees well. I'm glad of that, and I appreciate it from the new president-elect. Once the roots of these networks are spread throughout his government, though, he will find the trees difficult to move.

Field Report

Field Report #1:

Greyhawk said he wanted to hear some reports. I've said below that the violence is a shadow of what it was a year ago. About this time last year, AQI cells south of Baghdad were attacking checkpoints with technicals (i.e., a civilian truck with a heavy weapon mounted on it, DSHK-type machineguns in this case). They crashed one and burned the town of Hawr Rajab, in retaliation for their loss in a 24-hour battle with the then-new Sons of Iraq movement in that area. Arab Jabour was Indian country. All that is gone.

A year ago, we were setting up new combat outposts in division-level operations, led by hardened US combat forces. Today, we're handing over those outposts to Iraqi units, who are not just 'in the lead' but doing the heavy lifting in many places.

Back in September, I talked with Colonel Caraccilo, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne. His brigade had replaced 2/0 MTN when it came to Iraq. Later, 2/3 HBCT left, and 3/101 assumed their battlespace as well as what they held from 2/10. He told me that his brigade was leaving soon, and would be replaced only by a transition team of about 1,000 soldiers: a battalion-sized element, replacing what had been the territory of two brigades only a year before.

The Order of Battle is a little hard to discern from over there, but I can tell you that is just what happened. Now the real force in the area is the Iraqi Army, with the transition team advising and assisting. 3/101 AASLT did its RIP/TOA with the 17th Iraqi Army -- not a US unit.

My job over here is to coordinate between our Human Terrain Team and the civil-military operations and information operations teams. My focus is on helping the military to engage the tribes and tribal culture, a task made far, far easier by the extraordinary legacy left to me by the soldiers of the 2/10 and 3/101. They took the job seriously when they were here, which makes it easy for us today. The others here currently also take it seriously -- the Army understands it is the real work of the COIN effort, and has made arrangements. We have Arabists and translators, social scientists and historians to back up the soldiers and officers of the remaining American forces.

Is it worth it? The Dora district in Baghdad held an art festival this week.

A bare foot, visible only to the ankle, ascends into a black abyss as a bright yellow comet passes overhead.

The darkness in the painting represents the life that Saddam Hussein stole from Iraq and the comet the hope of peace that U.S. forces brought, says artist Farouk F. Rafeik.

Rafeik’s work is part of something unthinkable one year ago: an art show in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, once one of the most violent enclaves in Iraq.
We've heard a lot of things about this war and what its legacy will be: but plainly, we haven't yet heard everything there is to hear.

Angel Food

Angel Food:

Entirely by coincidence, I had a chance to eat some cookies from our friends at Soldiers' Angels. They weren't sent to me, of course, but to an NCO I work with out here. He gladly shared them out with everyone, so I started my Thanksgiving morning with some very good snickerdoodles.

Fuzzybear tells me that I have the 'Angel Bakers' to thank. So: thank you.


Happy Thanksgiving:

It's already Thanksgiving morning here in Iraq. Having been here for last Thanksgiving too, I can attest with some confidence that Uncle Sam will do his best to make sure his nephews and nieces have plenty to eat today. It may not be quite as good as Mama's turkey, but it won't be too bad, and there will be plenty of it. It's still a full day of work, of course, and some places are better than others in terms of what can be provided. Still, there is nothing that can reasonably be done that will be left undone.

We're all thankful, I think I can say with some confidence, that there is a safe place back home where our families can live and grow in peace. We're thankful that someday even the longest deployments end, and 'we go rolling home,' as the old song says.

Keep yourselves safe and happy today. Feast and be merry.

"This is not news, this is just the Marines."

Heh. Ooo-rah. Get some, you jar-heads.

(hat tip to Ace)
Nature doesn't play favorites.

Some Dinosaur saw something like this once, but a lot bigger:

This was a meteor in Edmonton, Ontario. I hear they're looking for pieces of it now.

It's a really big universe out there. Full of all sorts of things. Sleep tight.

(hat tip to Ace.)



Saturday was a productive day for me. The buck pictured above dressed out at 155 pounds. He has a nine point rack with a 20 inch spread.  I used a Remington 30-06.

Looks like the Leggett family will be eating well this year.

Beau Geste

Percival Christopher Wren wrote a once-famous book about the French Foreign Legion, set in the period when all Europe was saddled with African colonies. The introduction will sound familiar to several of you.

And across all the Harmattan was blowing hard, that terrible wind that carries the Saharan dust a hundred miles to sea, not so much as a sand-storm, but as a mist or fog of dust as fine as flour, filling the eyes, the lungs, the pores of the skin, the nose and throat; getting into the locks of rifles, the works of watches and cameras, defiling water, food and everything else; rendering life a burden and a curse.

The fact, moreover, that thirty days' weary travel over burning desert, across oceans of loose wind-blown sand and prairies of burnt grass, through breast-high swamps, and across unbridged boatless rivers, lay between him and Kano, added nothing to his satisfaction. For, in spite of all, satisfaction there was, inasmuch as Kano was rail-head, and the beginning of the first stage of the journey Home. That but another month lay between him and "leave out of Africa," kept George Lawrence on his feet.

From that wonderful and romantic Red City, Kano, sister of Timbuktu, the train would take him, after a three days' dusty journey, to the rubbish-heap called Lagos, on the Bight of Benin of the wicked West African Coast. There he would embark on the good ship Appam, greet her commander, Captain Harrison, and sink into a deck-chair with that glorious sigh of relief, known in its perfection only to those weary ones who turn their backs upon the Outposts and set their faces towards Home.

The story begins on that trip home, when two of these men of the Outposts meet and begin a long railway journey together, the Frenchman telling the Englishman a tale to pass the time until they sigh that 'glorious sigh of relief.' For those of you also passing time until you sigh that sigh yourself, you might find it a worth and interesting tale.

- Grim
One of the wiser things I have read lately:

Killing is what happens on farms. Seriously. I'm saying this as a farmer.

City people think that farms are "where life happens." Nonsense. Farming is about killing stuff. I don't even raise livestock or poultry and I have to kill stuff.

I can get crops to grow by simply putting seed in the ground. The rest of my job is to kill, kill, kill. Kill weeds. Kill insect pests. Kill vertebrate pests. Whether by herbicide, pesticides, shooting, trapping, stomping, you name it — I spend far more time killing than I do making something grow. Mother nature takes care of the growing. I have to remove the competition. There have been days when I've trapped 50+ pocket gophers and shot 100 ground squirrels - before lunch. They needed killing, and the next day, more of them were killed because they needed killing. At other times, I've shot dozens of jackrabbits at night and flung them out into the sagebrush for coyotes to eat.

And none of that starts in with helping neighbors slaughter steers, lambs, chickens, etc.

That's farming: killing. Lots of it.

- Grim

I saw today that the new movie Australia is going to have a large number of hats of the old Aussie type. These were made by Australia's version of the John B. Stetson hat company, "Akubra."

"An iconic Australian company had to research its own history for Baz Luhrmann's epic drama "Australia" starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Sydney-based milliner Rosie Boylan contacted Akubra over two years ago, wanting hats the company hadn't made for some time. Over 20 different styles, ranging from military to period hats of the era, were made especially for the film."

I mostly wear Stetsons, but I do own an Akubra hat, and the wife has worn one as her primary hat for nearly a decade. They're rabbit fur felt (Aussies are always looking for another excuse to slaughter rabbits), and so not very waterproof -- but lightweight, and good desert hats. I may order one of their old military style hats for this deployment, in fact, once the (wet) winter months pass, and the heat starts kicking up. Beaver felt is better for the cold and rainy months, but heavy for the desert summer.

If you're inspired by the movie to want one of these things, the only American company to sell Akubra hats is David Morgan's company on the West coast. Don't buy from him. He charges way too much. Thanks to the miracle of the internet (and easy currency conversion via MasterCard and Visa) you can order directly from The Strand Hatters in Sydney.

If you like Fedora (or Indiana Jones) style hats, they have quite a few of these; as well as some American Western designs, and of course the classic Aussie hats. As long as the rabbit fur felt is adequate for your needs, they're sturdy, fairly cheap, and long-lasting.

- Grim
Greetings from Baghdad

I've been on the ground for about a week. When I look at how much this place has changed from a year ago, I don't recognize it. I'll be primarily working alongside the Human Terrain Team, working with and mapping the tribes and ISF.

AQI is not even a shadow of what it was a year ago. They have no safe havens in this area, only a few bed-down areas they have to run through. The various Shi'a extremists are disaggregated badly. There are still some EFP networks and IED networks that manage to operate, but on a greatly reduced scale. IDF here was daily a year ago; I haven't encountered any, and talking to folks, it sounds like there's little anywhere.

There are still dangers, but what has been done here is amazing. I'll keep you informed as things come into the open sources, and are free to discuss.

- Grim
Yeah. I think Instapundit has this right:


I am now officially entertained.
And in other news, Eric moves to France...

Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat and accept the position of secretary of state, making her the public face around the world for the administration of the man who beat her for the Democratic presidential nomination, two confidants said Friday.

The apparent accord between perhaps the two leading figures in the Democratic Party climaxed a week-long drama that riveted the nation’s capital.

Mrs. Clinton came to her decision after additional discussion with President-elect Barack Obama about the nature of her role and his plans for foreign policy, said one of the confidants, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the situation.

Mr. Obama’s office told reporters on Thursday that the nomination is “on track” but this is the first word from the Clinton camp that she has decided.

“She’s ready,” the confidant said, adding that Mrs. Clinton was reassured after talking again with Mr. Obama because their first meeting in Chicago last week “was so general.” The purpose of the follow-up talk, he noted, was not to extract particular concessions but “just getting comfortable” with the idea of working together.

A second Clinton associate confirmed that her camp believes they have a done deal. Senior Obama advisers said Friday morning that the offer had not been formally accepted and no announcement would be made until after Thanksgiving. But they said they were convinced that the nascent alliance was ready to be sealed.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton fought the most competitive Democratic nomination battle in modern times, one that polarized their party for months and left bitterness in both camps. But in asking Mrs. Clinton to join his Cabinet, Mr. Obama signaled that he wants to turn a rival into a partner, and she concluded that she could have the most influence by accepting the offer.

The decision followed days of intense vetting and negotiations intended to clear any potential obstacles to her taking the job due to her husband’s global business and philanthropic activities. Lawyers for Mr. Obama and former President Bill Clinton combed through his finances and drew up a set of guidelines for his future activities intended to avoid any appearances of conflict of interest should she take the job.

People close to the vetting said Mr. Clinton turned over the names of 208,000 donors to his foundation and library and agreed to all of the conditions requested by Mr. Obama’s transition team, including restrictions on his future paid speeches and role at his international foundation.

As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton will have had a powerful platform to travel the world and help repair relations with other countries strained after eight years of President Bush’s policies. But at the same time, she will now have to subordinate her own agenda and ambitions to Mr. Obama’s and sacrifice the independence that comes with a Senate seat and the 18 million votes she collected during their arduous primary battle.
The Death of Shame

No wonder children don't believe rules matter anymore:

Texas A&M International University in Laredo fired a professor for publishing the names of students accused of plagiarism.

In his syllabus, professor Loye Young wrote that he would “promptly and publicly fail and humiliate anyone caught lying, cheating or stealing.” After he discovered six students had plagiarized on an essay, Young posted their names on his blog, resulting in his firing last week.

“It’s really the only way to teach the students that it’s inappropriate,” he said.

Young, a former adjunct professor of management information systems, said he believes he made the right move. He said trials are public for a reason, and plagiarism should be treated the same way. He added that exposing cheaters is an effective deterrent.

“They were told the consequences in the syllabus,” he said. “They didn’t believe it.”

The six students received F’s and were reported to the school, but their grades may not stand because of Young’s blog post, according to

It appears the students were right to doubt that there were consequences for cheating. In this case, the only consequences were for attempting to hold cheaters publicly accountable for their actions:

Young, who also operates a computer business in Laredo, was terminated for violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that prohibits the release of students’ educational records without consent. But he said he does not believe he infringed on anyone’s privacy.

“You have to hold them accountable,” he said. “If you don’t, you hold a grave danger of having an illiterate society.”

Renita Coleman, a UT assistant professor who taught a journalism course on ethics in the spring, said there are better ways to handle plagiarism.

“I don’t think that it serves anybody well to publicly humiliate them,” she said. “It doesn’t teach anybody that it’s wrong.”

Coleman said each university has specific guidelines for dealing with cheating, and situational factors should be taken into account. She said she has dealt with repentant plagiarists who weren’t punished severely since they said they learned a lesson.

“Admitting your mistake and making an effort to fix it goes a long way,” she said. “Motivations matter.”

Coleman added that privacy should be considered in the instance of plagiarism.

“It’s not the same violation as, say, robbing a house,” she said. “It’s not something that’s an illegal act.”

Without having read the act in question, it's hard to comment on the letter versus the spirit of the statute. I do, however, recall one or two of my professors announcing that anyone caught cheating would be issued a failing grade immediately and that they would also be actively persecuted to the Gates of Hell. I, for one, took that warning quite seriously (not that I was ever inclined to cheat).

This could have been what teachers love to call a "teachable moment". In point of fact, it became one.

I'm not sure the lesson was a positive one.
Well Al-righty Then....

Continuing our bizarre series of posts on the prospective First Lady, ponies up with a full length homage to Mrs. Obama's booty. Color us unsurprised:

Free at last. I never thought that I -- a black girl who came of age in the utterly anticlimactic aftermath of the civil rights movement -- would say the phrase with any real sincerity in my lifetime. But ever since Nov. 4, I've been shouting it from every rooftop. I'm not excited for the most obvious reason. Yes, Obama's win was an extraordinary breakthrough and a huge relief, but I don't subscribe to the notion that his capturing the White House represents the end of American racial history. Far from it. There is a certain freedom in the moment -- as in, we are all now free from wondering when or if we'll ever get a black president. Congratulations to all of us for being around to settle the question.

But what really thrills me, what really feels liberating in a very personal way, is the official new prominence of Michelle Obama. Barack's better half not only has stature but is statuesque. She has coruscating intelligence, beauty, style and -- drumroll, please -- a butt. (Yes, you read that right: I'm going to talk about the first lady's butt.)

If the vast legion of pundits infesting the airwaves and pages of our newspapers are to be believed, this election addressed many nagging issues that have long plagued the American electorate. If today's salvo from Salon is to be believed, November 4th was a day that will live in... well, let's just say it will continue to ripple through the American psyche for some time to come.

We believe we'll leave you to read the whole thing, as the saying goes. We couldn't possibly do it justice.


Meeee-ouch, Girlfriend!!!

Grim's Hall Fashion Week

Oh yeah. While Grim's away, the mice will play...

Yikes. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

If Michelle Obama's such a great dresser, what was she doing in this red butcher's apron?

At no time would what she wore be more significant than on the night of November 4 2008, when, win or lose, the eyes of the world would be upon the Obama family as the four of them processed on to the stage in Grant Park, Chicago. If Michelle had dressed herself and her daughters for defeat, she could hardly have chosen anything more saturnine. Seven-year-old Sasha was dressed from head to foot in black: black dress, black hose, black shoes. Ten-year-old Malia was just as black about the legs, but her dress was blood-red. Any colour is better than pink, but these robust choices hardly strike one as girly. The girls' odd outfits were clearly chosen as foils to their mother's dress, which was all black with an eye-burning red panel that splattered itself down the front like a geometrical haemorrhage, held in by a criss-cross sash of black.

The red extended upwards almost to the neckline, and downwards to mid-thigh,
petering out top and bottom in a sort of cast-off splatter. The effect of the strong contrast was to turn a mere frock into a poster in the most disturbing colours known to man, the colours of chaos. The juxtaposition of a rectangle of red on a black field is what we might expect to find on a flag or a shield. Coral snakes and venomous spiders signal their destructive potential by the display of similarly violent contrasts.

For several years, Michelle has been listed among the world's best-dressed people. In the 69th poll run by Vanity Fair to establish the International Best Dressed list for this year, she came top of the women. There is no possibility that her choice of election-night dress reflected mere inadvertence - because in a presidential campaign, nothing is left to chance. Even her decision to wear dresses - as distinct from suits, whether with pants or skirts - was calculated to foreground her femininity. Her kitten heels make sure that her bigger head never out-tops her husband's. Curiously, at the same time as the fashion press is lauding her relationships with designers, Michelle has been at pains to emphasise that she shops downmarket. In June, when she was invited to guest-host an NBC talk show, she chose a Donna Ricco black and white "tank leaf print dress" in stretch cotton sateen, which sold off the peg in selected boutiques for $148 and online for a mere $99. Within a day, the dress had sold out and women were queueing up to place orders for the reissue. In October, Michelle told Jay Leno that the three-piece yellow ensemble she was wearing on his show was from J Crew (total cost about $450).

Historically, Michelle was much less likely to be seen wearing Donna Ricco or J Crew. The purple silk sheath dress that she teamed with a black Azzedine Alaïa belt for her appearance at her husband's side when he won the Democratic nomination was by Chicago-based Maria Pinto. That dress earned universal praise for its elegance, boldness and simplicity, though some jibbed at its sleevelessness.

For election night, Michelle went further upmarket. Her sensational dress was designed by Narciso Rodriguez for his next spring/summer collection. The original is at least eight inches shorter than the Obama version, and the neckline a good six inches lower. The splash of red, rather than pouring halfway down the thigh, ends above the crotch and extends from hip to hip, with a small flare on each breast, avoiding entirely the butcher's apron effect. The Grant Park version of this cute and sexy dress was a travesty.

Rodriguez is saying nothing. We may never know if he agreed to wreck his design by customising it for Michelle - or how he felt when he saw that she was wearing it with a black cardigan. The Obama organisation used to be proud to tell us that Michelle doesn't have a stylist. I bet she does now.

This is just bizarre. Right after the election I thought - for about a second - of commenting on the future First Lady's choice of dress. When I first saw it I was a bit surprised because it evoked the image of a black widow spider so strongly that I was momentarily shocked.

When I saw the original design on Wonkette, however, all I could think was, "Haven't we seen enough ugliness in this campaign?"

I thought the Obama girls looked just lovely. Although I'm not sure I would have chosen those colors, the stores are full of little girls' dresses in black and red these days. Times have changed and it seems odd to expect the Obamas to act differently from the rest of America. This is the culture most people embrace. As everyone keeps reminding us, "This isn't a conservative country anymore." OK. Got it. So why all the criticism from the left and from feminists? Too "edgy"? It's not as though the girls were dressed like Britney Spears - they looked very demure and ladylike. Reading all sorts of dire omens into her choices seems a bit much, and taking snide potshots at two little girls just seems beyond the pale.

I happen to like clothes, rather a lot. I pay attention to fashion on other people, but I was always taught that it was the height of bad manners to make snide comments about the way other people look or dress. Consequently, I can't imagine what makes people think it's acceptable to take swipes at the future first family. Words can still wound, and people don't stop being human beings when they step into public life.

I don't understand where this idea that being trashed goes with the territory came from? I didn't like this sort of thing when it was done to Chief Justice Roberts, and I took exception to it. I didn't like when it was done to the Bushes. I find that despite my political opposition to Senator Obama, I don't much care for people who want to go picnicking on his family.

But maybe that's just me.


Project VALOUR-IT Update:

Today was the worst day of CRC, so I haven't had much time.

I do want to do my part, though.


I Hate the AP:

Today's headline: "US military to abandon Iraqi cities."


OK, let's review the Surge strategy:

1) Address raging violence in Iraq by getting off the FOBs, and out into combat outposts where you can secure the population.

2) Engage the population in providing its own security through militia ("Sons of Iraq") checkpoints and other solutions that the US will pay for.

3) Train formal, Iraqi government-run police and soldiers as the long-term solution to Iraq's stability.

4) Get Iraq to take over paying the militia forces, so that the GoI is in full control of its internal security.

5) Pull back onto the FOBs into overwatch to give the GoI a little buffer to ensure that it is able to maintain security without an active Coalition presence.

6) Go home, leaving behind a free and secure Iraq.

So really, the proper headline is "US military one step closer to triumphant homecoming." Or, "Surge strategy advances toward victory."


Project VALOUR-IT:

You've probably noticed that the annual Project VALOUR-IT fundraiser is on. Doc Russia tapped us for the Marine Corps team. If you want to donate, and mark it USMC, we'd appreciate it.

Why should you? Read this, by the autor of Joe's favorite online comic, "Schlock Mercenary."

When I consider the sacrifices of the men and women who serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces I question my worthiness. It is to them I speak right now.

You fought for me long before I was born. You fight today, that I might not have to. You disciplined yourselves, obeyed orders, and faced your worst fears that I might be an undisciplined, disobedient coward.

I hide in my basement and write comic strips. You walk down the middle of the street in clothing that screams “target.” I pay for my mistakes by getting occasional hate-mail. You pay for everybody’s mistakes with your blood. In a world where it is increasingly unpopular to be an American you wear a flag on your shoulder when you go abroad, while I lounge comfortably behind the borders you and your brothers across the generations have secured.

I am humbled to find servicemen and women reading and enjoying Schlock Mercenary. Sometimes I am asked whether I have ever served in the military. I never have. I considered it briefly, but I was afraid. You, however, were not afraid. Or if you were, you were also wise enough to know that fear is a thing to be faced, and it is the one thing that MUST be faced before you can face anything else.

It has taken me twenty years to learn that lesson. You bought those twenty years for me, affording me the opportunity to learn about courage while comfortable.

When I consider your many sacrifices I find myself unworthy of them. But I accept them with gratitude, and applaud you with a sense of awe. Thank you for doing what I cannot.

You amaze me.
Project VALOUR-IT is for the ones that have paid some of the highest prices. The only ones who have paid more are beyond earthly help.

Vet's Day

Veteran's Day:

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone. Today is Range Day for me: M9, M4, and Glock 19. We went through the PMI ("Primary Marksmanship Instruction") classes yesterday, which was a source of great amusement to everyone. There's only like two people here who weren't former military, and so the class (like almost everything in the week of CRC pre-deployment) is pro forma. Especially for the USSF guys. ("Oh, really? This thing is called a 'magazine release'? What does that do?")

Looks like Baghdad is heating up for us. I'd guess there's a two-part mindest at work in the new insurgent push. They probably believe the election shows that the mood of the country is ready for the war to end, and a push now will force a lame-duck President to back down. They'll be disappointed. What happens after January I can't say, but I'm sure we're not going anywhere until then.

The other party they'd like to motivate is the Shi'ite factions in the government of Iraq. If a US response to the new bombing aggravates local Shi'ites, or if it moves too slowly and is not able to stop the bombings, it could turn sentiment against approving the Status of Forces Agreement; that would mean an end to US combat operations on 1 January.

The US military has to move with the right balance to address the problem without creating new hostility. That's hard work, but it's been the work of the last two years. It'll be done right.

That might stand as a good reason to remember and celebrate Veteran's Day: that this is what the military does. This is why we honor veterans, if anyone has forgotten.

Our favorite young conservative Republican weighs in with his $.02:

He has a plan, if nothing else.

"I would rather have a lucky general than a smart general."

Either Napoleon or Frederick the Great or Eisenhower said this (or Eisenhower nicked the quote from one of the others) and I am beginning to think that President-elect Obama is lucky. I think we all know people like this. I know I do. People who always get the dice roll they need, or pull that card, or meet that right person, or always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Coincidence? I dunno.

It seems to me that in the circumstances of his birth, his upbringing, his start in politics and how basically in every step along the way, he has lucked out. Things seem to be going his way.

So far.
Dogs. They know.


Have Some Sympathy:

Although we're all disappointed by the results of yesterday's election, remember that it could be worse.

Obama's reported comment about his supporters was just harsh.


Rest in Peace, Michael Crichton:

I hadn't realized he was an older gentleman, so I was surprised to hear of his passage. Of course he is respected in this house for his attempt to make Beowulf accessible to modern readers; although the truth is that most people who saw "The 13th Warrior" probably never understood the connection. Still, in spite of the movie's flaws, "Grow stronger!" remains very good advice.

I also love the movie for its fearless use of Greek, Latin, and Norse -- without subtitles.

Shoulda Hung OUt

You Should Have Hung Out, Hunter:

You would have loved this.



From The Corner:

1)  We got this the old-fashioned way: we earned it.  The other side took the fight to us, and we never took the fight to the other side, except coyly and obliquely.  That's not a mistake we should make the next time.  "Honorable campaigns" are for losers.  Next time, call 'em as they really are, not as you wish to see 'em.

2)  Where was Bush?  Once again, and right to the bitter end, he let his passion for "loyalty" supersede what was stragetically right for the party, not to mention what was best for the country.  I think his reputation has nowhere to go but down; yes, he got one big thing right, 
but he got everything else wrong.   Enough of this family in our 
country's politics!

3)  Good riddance to Liddy Dole, the woman who gave us the national  drinking age of 21 and a host of sozzled underage college students.  She won't be missed.

4)  Hillary comes out smelling like a rose, plus unbloodied.  She and Bill are already scoping out 2012.

5)  Time to clean house.  McCain should have been president in 2000, not in 2008.  No more "it's my turn"  for the last loser.  We need to be looking for our candidates in the ranks of returning war vets — think Eisenhower in '52 as the model — and let the Dem's shifty lawyers run the country for a couple of years.  Then hit them across the board with  people who know how to lead.   Gen. Petraeus might be a good place to start.  Lots of junior officers, too. 

6)  You know what?  McCain never did sell himself as a leader.  He sold himself as a maverick. 

7)  One upside: McCain/Feingold is now dead, as is public financing.  Talk about being hoist with your own petard!

8)  That Gang of 14 thing really worked out well, didn't it?  Say good-bye to the courts.  And we were so close...

9)  Joe Lieberman was worse than useless.  When he could have made a difference, he didn't cross the aisle to caucus with the Republicans.  
Now, it doesn't matter.  Thanks, Joe. 

10)  Age matters.  McCain ran an "honorable campaign" because he never really understood in his heart that the other guy had no intention of doing so; he didn't "get" Obama's generation, or Axelrod's..  Obama would lie about public financing, "oppose" gay marriage but also oppose Prop. 8 and never see it as morally contradictory.  The world that McCain understood and operated in is vanishing, and tonight is visible evidence. 

11)  Unlike the Democrats, let's show some class in defeat.  That doesn't mean lie down and roll over: it means fighting for what we believe in, doubly so now.  But their sneering childishness is not for us; and now that they've won, they won't be able to control it even in victory.  This is an unlovely party filled with unlovely people, as America's about to find out once the Obama pixie dust wears off.

12)  Understand, once and for all, that the old media is part of the Democratic Party now.  Ignore it.  Never send Michele Bachmann onto Hardball again.  Never send Sarah to play nice with Katie.  We need to develop and create our own work-arounds — Fox, talk radio, NRO, etc. — and use them.  Don't play by their rules: make our own.

Damn right!! I am not going to roll over for these collectivist, freedom hating, socialists! As my Daddy told me a long time ago “We’re Andy Jackson’s boys.” (As such me and mine take pleasure in distancing ourselves from the Democratic Party, a party that celebrates its retreat from the principles of Jefferson and Jackson)  Thats right Daddy, we don’t bend the knee to anyone!


The Election Ends

"May Have Been The Losing Side. Still Not Convinced It Was The Wrong One."

I see that John McCain has called Senator Obama -- now President-elect Obama -- to conceed defeat. Our country has made a horrible mistake; that much is clear. We will raise taxes in a recession, and cut military spending during a war.

In 2004 and 2006 I wrote:

In medieval battles, often forces coming into contact with each other were nearly evenly matched. The forces fight -- Vikings and Saxons clashing at each other behind their shield walls -- until that small difference in strength breaks one of the lines. Then, pouring through the breach, the victors tear apart the shield wall and rout the enemy. Few of the losers escaped from such battles, when any did. Though the foe may have been of nearly equal size and strength, at the last that small difference led to a complete victory for one side, and complete destruction for the other.

Democracy works in a similar way. We have had a giant clash of peaceful armies, and in spite of the completeness of the rout, we must remember that their force was nearly as powerful as our own.

For those of you readers who were part of the defeated army, I salute you. You have every reason to be proud of how hard you fought, and of the dedication and steadfastness with which you struck for your cause. You can hold your heads high, knowing that you did absolutely everything that could be done.

In the next years, we must remember the 55 million. It may be that some of them can be won over, through argument or through example, or even -- on matters not of principle -- through compromise. Even when not, we must remember that they showed that America is their country too: no one can ever again claim to be backed by the "silent majority." That majority has now spoken, but it spoke on both sides.
At this writing, it is 37-40 millions for McCain/Obama. That small difference is nevertheless total in its speech.

Well, people make mistakes; so do nations. There are three consolation prizes: first, that this will give our fellow Americans who are black a new confidence that this nation is theirs equally. They can tell their children with utter confidence that they can grow up to be President. That is a wonderful thing.

The second is that the Democratic Party has learned a lesson that we used to speak about on occasion. The majority it has gained includes a large number of conservative Democrats of the old type -- many pro-life, or defenders of gun rights. Senator Zell Miller spoke of "A National Party No More," but the Democrats have rebuilt the coalition. That is the reason for their success today -- they were able to compete across the nation.

That will mitigate the worst impulses of the new Democratic Congress, but it also means that the Democratic Party itself is healthier than it used to be. The Republican Party is not, but the third consolation prize is that it has the chance to become so. A sitting party has a great deal invested in its incumbents, due to the way that the system has come to favor them. A party without incumbents is free to look for new blood -- and new blood is necessary.

Furthermore, it is available. It is not only Sarah Palin who represents the future, but the returning armies that have done so much for the freedom of the Iraqi people. From these can be recruited -- by both parties, if they wish -- a band of citizens who have personally sacrificed for the ideal of human liberty.

The moment is difficult; the future is bright. Reread the post below on "Providence." Do boldly; have faith.



Our condolences for the family of Madelyn Dunham, including Senator Obama. Many is the grandmother and grandfather that have raised a child in similar conditions, and it is hard duty. She did right by her grandchild, and that's a fine thing.



William McIntosh, the "White Warrior" of the Creek nation, had risen to the leadership of the Creeks in spite of being of mixed Creek and Scottish blood. That Scottish ancestry offered no shame to a warrior people: he was of the blood of John Mohr McIntosh (the Gaelic byname meaning, "the Great"). John Mohr was recruited by Georgia's own founder, the heroic Sir James Edward Oglethorpe, friend of the Yamacraw nation, to guard the early colony against Spanish raiders from the south. Chief William was of the blood also of General Lachlan McIntosh, who served with General Washington at Valley Forge and helped to negotiate treaties for the establishments of forts in the west during the Revolutionary war; he thereby opened the West to later expansion. General McIntosh also killed Declaration of Independence signatory Button Gwinnett in a duel. Finally, he was a direct descendant of William McIntosh, who was sent by the Revolutionary government to the Creeks to aid them in fighting the British.

Perhaps out of loyalty to this revolution, or out of loyalty to his fathers who fought for it, Chief William McIntosh made a deal that put the lands of the Creek Nation under the jurisdiction of the state of Georgia. Shortly thereafter, he was assassinated in his home by tomahawk; but the transfer of authority held in spite of his murder.

What had heretofore been forested country began to be cleared by homesteaders, who wanted a place to grow food for their families and crops to sell at market. As they cleared a particular patch of land in west central Georgia, they began to notice that the land began to erode far more than other lands in Georgia. The erosion was serious enough to be noteworthy in the 1830s. One can imagine the early farmers wondering how bad it would get. The topsoil, and their livelihood, was washing away: where would it stop?


Providence Canyon, North Rim

Providence Canyon, West Rim

Providence Canyon, Spire

It's a strange world we live in. Divided loyalties lead to murder or betrayal. Other men stake their hopes on a crop, and see the ground literally wash away from them. Hopes are dashed, lives are blasted, the work of a lifetime is lost: and an unimaginable beauty appears from the land. Long she waited there, cloaked in seemingly usual hills and valleys, waiting only the right touch to make her beautiful. How many more wait, and for what man's touch?

The ranger center proudly posts several registry sheets showing the names of famous guests. In 1967, the guest register for Providence Canyon was boldly signed: "John Wayne."


Disaster may give way to beauty.

Many things are hidden.

Here are men who did their best, and followed their vision. They did not get what they sought: Chief McIntosh was killed by his own, farmers lost their fortunes, Lachlan McIntosh slew a great man of his own cause.

Here is their mark: this is how the world received them.

Find its equal. The world loves such men. At their touch, she shows herself as only does a woman who loves.

Miss Manners

Miss Manners & The Ugly:

A fine point made by Judith Martin, better known by her pen name of "Miss Manners." She is responding to this letter:

I am a very private person, and I believe that having good manners is important, so I work hard at being polite every day. I have had a co-worker for the last two years who keeps asking me what I'm "really like."

When this happens, I answer, "This is what I'm really like," until he gets tired of it and gives up. I have encountered other people who ask me variations of this same question, e.g. "What is the real you like?"

If my co-worker ever hears me say something even vaguely negative or not entirely polite, he says with great pleasure, "Now, there's the real you coming out."

I am getting frustrated with people who assume that my slip-ups and mistakes expose more of my real character than the manners I work hard at every day....
Miss Manners notes:
Whole schools of unpleasant art have been built on the idea that only the ugly is real.

The same notion applied to people appeals to those who, like your co-worker, want to justify their own rudeness on the grounds that they are being natural, honest and true to themselves. As they undoubtedly are, more's the pity for the rest of us.
She is right; but that's only the first part of this story.

I recall a historian writing about General Washington -- sadly, I cannot recall his name -- who pointed out that Washington composed and personally copied rules of etiquette. These were not things he always did perfectly, that he wanted others to copy: he did not present himself as a Mohammed, a model for others to emulate because of a special and perfect relationship with God. Rather, the copies he made of these rules were to impress the etiquette upon himself, in the hope of making himself into the man he wanted to become.

The historian pointed to our culture of "authenticity," and noted that George Washington didn't have it. What he had was a vision of the good, and a desire to be better than he "authentically" was.

I've written about that as well:
The best people devote themselves to attempting to make real some part of that ideal beauty in their own lives. This is done through training and practice. Once you have performed the deliberation to know what is right in a given circumstance, you become virtuous by training your character so that you do that, and silence in your mind all arguments to the contrary. Eventually you should become the kind of person who can only do the right thing -- but it was freely chosen training and practice that got you there.

What Aristotle was saying in the initial quote was that we can best be sure that a man has is fully trained in a given virtue if he expresses it in sudden circumstances without time for deliberation. His character is fully formed, so that the deliberation and argument is no longer necessary: he just does what is right, without thought.

This is, for ethical decisions, precisely the condition that the martial arts aspires to teach in physical decisions. It is the condition the Japanese martial arts calls mushin, "No Mind."
The vision you are training to be is the "real you." The vision of the beautiful is the real thing. The rest of it -- all of it -- falls away. Your consciousness of being in charge of those lesser decisions may even be an illusion.

It is the vision, only the vision, that is real.
And I thought, “I will go with you,
As man with God has gone,
And wander with a wandering star,
The wandering heart of things that are,
The fiery cross of love and war
That like yourself, goes on.”