Miles in Shoes

Miles in Shoes:

The New Yorker begins an article by describing a Southern politician of the old sort.

Big Jim Folsom was six feet eight inches tall, and had the looks of a movie star. He was a prodigious drinker, and a brilliant campaigner, who travelled around the state with a hillbilly string band called the Strawberry Pickers. The press referred to him (not always affectionately) as Kissin’ Jim, for his habit of grabbing the prettiest woman at hand....

Folsom would end his speeches by brandishing a corn-shuck mop and promising a spring cleaning of the state capitol. He was against the Big Mules, as the entrenched corporate interests were known. He worked to extend the vote to disenfranchised blacks. He wanted to equalize salaries between white and black schoolteachers. He routinely commuted the death sentences of blacks convicted in what he believed were less than fair trials. He made no attempt to segregate the crowd at his inaugural address. “Ya’ll come,” he would say to one and all, making a proud and lonely stand for racial justice....

When the black Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., came to Montgomery, on a voter-registration drive, Folsom invited him to the Governor’s Mansion for a Scotch-and-soda. That was simply good manners. Whenever he was accused of being too friendly to black people, Folsom shrugged. His assumption was that Negroes were citizens, just like anyone else.
Thus we begin on a journey of discovery that proves that Folsom was a wicked man. His 'proud and loney stance for racial justice' is proven, by the alchemy of modern thought, to be a kind of evil. The magic begins here:
Folsom was not a civil-rights activist. Activists were interested in using the full, impersonal force of the law to compel equality. In fact, the Supreme Court’s landmark desegregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education ended Folsom’s career, because the racial backlash that it created drove moderates off the political stage. The historian Michael Klarman writes, “Virtually no southern politician could survive in this political environment without toeing the massive resistance line, and in most states politicians competed to occupy the most extreme position on the racial spectrum.” Folsom lost his job to the segregationist John Patterson...
It ends here, after a traipse through literary theory and To Kill A Mockingbird:
Orwell didn’t think that Dickens should have written different novels; he loved Dickens. But he understood that Dickens bore the ideological marks of his time and place. His class did not see the English social order as tyrannical, worthy of being overthrown. Dickens thought that large contradictions could be tamed through small moments of justice. He believed in the power of changing hearts, and that’s what you believe in, Orwell says, if you “do not wish to endanger the status quo.”

But in cases where the status quo involves systemic injustice this is no more than a temporary strategy. Eventually, such injustice requires more than a change of heart.
What we are being told here is that the wickedness of the mid-century Southern progressive is that he wasn't a revolutionary. He believed in changing people's hearts, in kindness, in respect to all mankind. He didn't hate enough: because if he'd been the best kind of man, he'd have known he should hate Bull Connor. As the author puts it, in a Mockingbird reference, "[T]he hearts-and-minds approach is about accommodation, not reform. At one point, Scout asks him if it is O.K. to hate Hitler. Finch answers, firmly, that it is not O.K. to hate anyone. Really? Not even Hitler?"

That dismisses outright the gentler, hearts-and-minds approach to changing a society. The kind of person who -- again, from Mockingbird -- states that you can understand others only if you "climb into his skin and walk around in it" are not suitable, according to the author, for fixing real injustice. The slow, quiet, decent method is not workable.

In fact, that was the very warning that was raised by progressives in the South during the Civil Rights era -- that pushing too hard, too fast, would cause a backlash that would make change even more difficult. The Civil Rights movement achieved all of its goals, eventually, but it did drive out the progressives, and the era saw bombings, murders, brutality, and other horrors.

The author asserts that it was necessary, because the Jim Crow system was so ingrained that slow and peaceful change could never be enough. Perhaps; but if you had looked at Chinese society during the Maoist era, you might well have thought that there was even less hope there. The Red Guard tormented the people, spies were everywhere, violence was fielded against intellectuals and, eventually, anyone who spoke at all. The government blithely demanded the people produce ingots for steel production, even though it meant they had to melt down their tools for farming. Tens of millions starved. The government refused to ask for outside aid, preferring to watch its millions die than admit the failure of its Communist planning.

Maoist China was a clear competitor for "Worst Place and Time in Human History." There was no obvious progressive movement at all. Yet now -- at a similar remove from the Civil Rights Movement -- you can see how remarkable the changes have been. In the South, where there was such a movement, who knows? Big Jim Folsom was elected governor of Alabama, after all. It's not like he was a fringe politician.

Today, Cassandra writes to warn against treating the Left from an 'us v. them' perspective. It's wise advice, though I dissent -- as I always do -- from her affection for the law. It's a conditional good only, if it is well-written and employed justly. Mao had courts and policemen too.

Nevertheless, it is worth noticing that there has been a lot of demonizing and fury going on. If it becomes de rigeur for politicians to be treated this way, we'll only get the sort of people whose lust for power overrides any sense of decency for the treatment of their families. That's hardly the kind of people we want writing, or enforcing, the law.

It may be we've passed the point of no return, and that it's already the case that decent men and women will avoid higher office. Let us hope, though, that that might also change -- with time, and patience.



H/t: NR.

Shut Up

"Shut Up":

I was waiting to post this because I thought perhaps it was old, and pertained to a different situation than what we are now seeing. But no, it's from August 6th. So...

That's honestly amazing. 'I'm the President, and I'd just like to declare that some of my opponents have no right to participate in the debate. Just shut up, OK?'

So, who are these 'people who made the mess'? Republican politicians? Insurance companies? No, not them... Obama's kissing their feet to a degree that caused Reclusive Leftist to declare, "Understand that Obama is the Enemy." Which, actually, is stronger rhetoric than I think I've ever used about him, though I suspect I have more points of disagreement with him than she has.

So, Republican politicians, then. They've got 40 votes in the Senate, which isn't enough to stop anything on their own; but if they could just shut up, too, that'd be great.

The problem is, the Republican politicians aren't doing much of anything here. The heat that's coming is coming from fed up citizens, not the political class. The numbers are big:

Seventy percent (70%) of Republicans and 58% of unaffiliated voters say the protesters reflect the concerns of their neighbors. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Democrats say the protests are phony.
When 58% of unaffiliated voters are against you, you lose in a landslide. The whole Obama/Pelosi strategy is based on the concept of convincing people that these protests are just bought-and-paid-for idiots, not at all a reflection of ordinary people.
Regardless of the motives behind the protests, however, voters overwhelmingly agree that the average congressman listens most to party leaders rather than the voters they represent – by a 73% to 14% margin. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided. These numbers remain virtually unchanged since April.
I guess we'll learn something definitive on that score soon. The people have spoken, as loudly and angrily as they have in a generation at least.

What to say? What to do?

What to Say? What to Do?

Elise is very angry at how the nation has treated the murders of women by a loser unable to attract them. I wondered what to say about it, and finally decided I had nothing of use to say.

The fact is that these mass killings are with us for the forseeable future. It's not a question of guns; in Iraq, they use bombs made with homemade explosives. Such weapons are not hard to make, out of chemicals readily available anywhere and too useful to ban. We are, in a sense, blessed by the guns: we read in America on rare occasion of the death of five of a dozen, rather than fifty or two hundred.

Because the killings are always the product of the unstable and strange, it's impossible to predict where they will occur, or when, or why. Indeed, giving weight to the meaning is almost pointless. It's only accidental that these minds' hatred and rage settled on X instead of Y. No amount of education or reasoning would have persuaded them to hate Y instead of X, and certainly not to hate nothing at all. You cannot teach them that womens' lives matter, or that anyone's does.

Once I would have said: "The lesson here is that women must be prepared to defend themselves; they ought to want to seek the training, and they ought to want to seek the tools." I have decided that, too, is a fool's errand. In Iraq, for example, there remains a problem of female servicemembers being raped. Rape is usually described as 'a fate worse than death,' and for good reason. When two people have sex, even if one of them sincerely does not wish it, chemicals in the brain cause a bonding with the other. Thus the raped cannot escape the memory of the rapist or the rape. The torment cannot end, does not end for many years, I have understood from those I've known who've suffered it. Yet time and again, women who were trained to arms, required to carry them everywhere, taught to kill as well as anyone could be taught, and well aware of the danger, did not use their arms, nor make themselves prepared to use them in those moments where the danger was most likley.

Some women are suited to killing, but many are not: many, and very good women, would not kill even to save themselves from death or a fate worse than death. I don't think that's a flaw in them. So, while I absolutely believe in the right of women to bear arms, and have trained many myself in their use, I know this is not the solution that will take away the problem. It can help some women, but it will not help all of them. Neither does that fact mean that there is something wrong with those it will not help.

I will certainly say to those who can bear arms that they should, always and everywhere. Be prepared, even though it is unlikely in America that you will ever encounter violence of this sort: but if you do, you may be the only hope. To those of noble heart, be ready to lay down your lives at any moment in the defense of the weak and the innocent. Evil exists. We must be ready to die at all times, in our souls and hearts as well as otherwise.

Those of us who can must be likewise ready to kill, that we may defend those who are not. It is important to do this, and to do it while remembering that those who are not able may be better than us. If you can remember that their gentleness and kindness may make them better than we are, you serve them humbly: ordinary people, who mean no harm.

If there is more to be said than this, I don't know what it is, unless it is prayer. Perhaps you know.

Order of ST. George

The Order of St. George:

Lt. Col. Edward Bohnemann, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division performs the traditional knighting for Sgt. 1st Class Byron Grier during his induction into the Order of St. George at Fort Hood's Iron Horse Gymnasium, July 22. Grier was one of three senior noncommissioned officers at the ceremony to receive the award, which is granted to armor and cavalry leaders for their dedication to duty and leadership. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Organized v. Disorganized

Organized Protests:

This marks a strange moment in American life. Ordinary citizens have come together to protest a government initiative. The government has apparently decided to declare the dissent inauthentic, and to suppress it using a combination of rhetoric and force.

It is not the first moment when protests have been declared to be the work of organized agitators, and bands of men deployed to drive them off. That was a regular feature of the early union movement, with union organizers (branded Communists, only sometimes with justification) being targeted by hired strikebreakers.

In those days, though, unions were poor and poorly represented. Though honest and hard-working, they were easy to marginalize because their experiences were not like those of the broadest part of the population. It was not difficult to convince Americans in the middle that they were dangerous, and in need of being brought to order.

The protesting groups today are composed of middle-class Americans, the most normal and ordinary sorts of people. The government has turned against these groups sharply, apparently under the belief that it can marginalize them according to the old formula.

That cannot work, however, because these people are quite mainstream. Iowahawk makes the point in satirical fashion, but quite well. Look at the examples of an organized protest -- the formatted signs, easy to read on television, or the uniforms of t-shirts, so that TV viewers will know there are large groups of people in agreement with the protest.

The opposite images -- just folks showing up in whatever they were wearing that day, amateur lettering on signs, etc -- are also available. Keep that in mind when you look at stories about these protests, because it is an excellent point.

For example, look here, at protestors that were simply locked out of the town hall meeting. (Union members were admitted through a side door, for the benefit of TV cameras inside.)

Take a look at these dues-paying members of AARP:

The White House is actively organizing a movement designed to show support for its programs, having just stated that 'organized' opposition was illegitimate. The Speaker of the House is dreaming up swastikas; scrambling to cover for her, the Huffington Post did manage to uncover a single swastika on one of those hand-lettered signs. It had a circle and a strikeout through it: 'No swastikas,' in other words.

Peggy Noonan, very much a Beltway insider, writes that the Congress is simply shocked. They knew there was hostility, of course -- that's why there was such a push to get this done before August. Nobody knew just how hot it would be. It's as hot as it has ever been in my lifetime.

I remember attending a HillaryCare "town hall" back in the early part of the Clinton administration, where an administration spokesperson came down to tell us about how great it would be. There were quite a few stiff questions about the plan then, too. Finally, in frustration, she said: 'What you really need to understand is that you'll get whatever health care you need, and it won't cost you anything.'

The audience burst out in uproarious laughter, with hoots and hollering thrown in for good measure.

Nobody seems to be laughing this time.

Clausewitz Today

Clausewitz Today:

Here is a review of On War at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Von Clausewitz remains the standard text for military science's beginnings. Though other introductory material now exists -- the Marine Corps' Warfighting, for example -- there is still a great deal of value in the book.

The reason it is so valuable is that the basic concepts remain powerful. Clausewitz was writing in the Age of Napoleon, but even in the age of maneuver warfare -- even in the age of Air/Land Warfare -- even in the age of Hybrid Warfare, the basic concepts he described exist. There is an enemy, with a structure that has to be attacked. There is a population, which is the key to final victory. There is friction in every action.

Vegetius, a Roman writer of the fourth century AD, said, "Let him who desires peace prepare for war." Carl von Clausewitz sharpened the point: "The fact that slaughter is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms." Darfur has made clear that that is not just a metaphor.
Just so, though denying that fact has been the strong hope of many people who wish it was not the case. For one such competing view, see here.

Now that's a boy

Now That's a Son To Be Proud Of:

Down Australia way, they still make boys fit to be men once in a while.

THE nine-year-old son of a spectator king-hit at a children's rugby match punched and hit the alleged attacker to try to get the strongly-built steel worker off his father.
"King-hit" appears to mean a blindside attack, followed up by pummeling the man while he's down. Here's a nine-year-old boy who looked at a giant of a man who had knocked down his father, and was hurting him badly: and decided the right course was to attack. That's a boy to be proud of, as I trust his father must be.

Of course the thug proves to have previous problems with abusing those unable to defend themselves. All of the British lands seem to have this issue: somehow their jurisprudence has gotten to a point where a man can use the strength he was given to assault women, children, and the defenseless, and yet be free to do it again.

The Last Great War in the Ukraine

The Last Great War in the Ukraine:

I believe this is an art form I have never before observed, practiced with an extraordinary degree of both talent and development.

(H/t: Arts & Letters Daily.)


We May Be In Trouble:



There is no excuse for anyone being able to out-cowboy the United States of America. Something's not right.

Lars Book

West Oversea

Our friend and occasional commenter Lars Walker has apparently been so modest as to fail to mention to us his new book, trusting perhaps that everyone would simply find out on his own. :)

I see that the reader review mentions two things that ought to draw the eye of many who frequent Grim's Hall: Norse mythology, and Robert E. Howard.

Discordant Images

Women and Discord:

I spent part of the night reading (with a glass of porter and a fine Gurkha cigar) from Dr. Elizabeth Hallam's Chronicles of the Crusades. The book is mostly a collection of translated primary source writings from the period, both Western and Arabic. There are some sidebar pieces of analysis by the good doctor.

The Crusades are full of fascinating stories, reaching all levels of humanity. There are visions of saints and rivers of blood, chaste knights and unchaste nuns. The oath taken by the crusaders under Richard the Lionheart and his companion kings spent the greatest bulk of its words on regulations governing gambling by Crusaders while on the pilgrimage.

Here are a few notes that I thought were interesting:

Nicetas Choniates, a historian of the Byzantine empire, chronicles that the armies of the Second Crusade had "women riding astride horses... more masculine than the Amazons." Such women appear again in the chronicles of the Third Crusade at the siege of Acre, where they fought the Turks "with huge knives, bringing back severed heads in triumph." (p. 142)

Eleanor of Aquitaine's presence with the Second Crusade, however, went virtually unnoticed by the historians present for the Crusade itself. The importance of her presence, and that of her ladies, was created later by that sort of writer who -- having taken no part in the war himself -- seeks to excuse defeat by blaming it on those who did fight. A convienent excuse for those who want God to favor the righteous, the women were blamed for everything from excess luggage to excess lust. Not, that is, by anyone actually present: by people writing years later, from the safety of home.

The unchaste nun mentioned above (and mentioned on p. 73 of the text) sought out the highest authorities of the First Crusade to wail about her ravishment by a Turkish lord. She was granted forgiveness for whatever sin had been in such unlawful union, but then soon after, a messenger from that same Turk appeared to offer her a chance to join him for another such adventure. She disappeared, perhaps in the hope of winning her ravisher to marriage and Christianity, and thus making all good. So we believe, though Albert of Aachen adds after noting that potential hope, she might have gone simply "because her own lust was too much to bear."

Women made vows to go on Crusade from the earliest, the book notes, but often redeemed them for cash: this was a useful way for women who were not physically capable of the war of the day to participate in the great calling of their era. Yet even from the beginning many went in person, especially those who could afford to field a small army of followers who would add weight to the venture.

In this way, the women of the Crusades were exactly like the men. The old wisdom was that Crusaders were mostly second-sons and young men without other hopes for advancement. More careful scholarship in recent generations has proven otherwise: the Cross was taken most often by established men with much to lose, who mortgaged their holdings for the chance to clean their souls.

It's a more interesting story than we have allowed ourselves to believe it.

Iraq Trends

Iraq Trends:

Things in Iraq seem to be going better than I'd expected. The death rate has declined since the handover of the cities to Iraqi control, although that may be temporary. It would be wise of an insurgent group to take a low-level approach until they're familiar with the ISF's new procedures. I still expect to see some high-profile attacks exploiting those weaknesses once the various insurgents feel they understand the new lay of the land. Nevertheless, it's nice to see.

Meanwhile, politics continue. Iraq the Model correctly describes the debate. What I noticed back when I read Iraqi newspapers every day was that both sides of the debate -- what he calls the "Federalists" and "Nationalists" -- are using the term democracy. The Federalists claim the flag of 'consensual democracy,' which is to say, they say that giving the three major ethnic/religious groups quotas maintains everyone's consent to participate in the democracy. The Nationalists state that they want a 'democratic system,' which is to say, a more direct majority rule.

I found that the politics don't work out quite the way you'd expect. We spoke with some sheikhs who were Sunni, and you'd think they'd tend to Federalism and the protection of Sunni interests through quotas. Instead, they were strong Nationalists, because they were looking at the Arab/Kurd division in the north as the key issue for the future. They are almost certainly correct.

Sunni/Shia reconciliation appears to be proceeding, with IFCNR's plan for transitioning the Sons of Iraq being put into practice. It's one of those 'a little at a time' things, but that's how Iraq is.

Overall, having been home for a little more than a month, I'm pleased at what I see looking back. BillT, and others still there: my respects, gentlemen.

USS Jason Dunham

The USS Jason Dunham:

I hear this destroyer will do 31 knots. The two men who share the honor of the ship's name and class had a lot in common.

Lies, DL, Stats

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics:

Now this is an interesting chart:

At the link, the fellow talks about where his numbers come from, in case anyone wants to take a closer look.

I'd like to see some sense of the movement of the states to "shall-issue" concealed carry permits. Then we can tie that trend line not just to "How Many Guns Do People Own?", but also "How Many People Are Carrying Guns in Public?" I suspect you'd see some correlation with the downward slope.

[UPDATE: Ack! I see that was actually worked in already -- it's in the dim grey bars in the background, rather than a trend line. It looks like there is no obvious correlation, unless there is a 'critical mass' of concealed carry states that served as a tipping point for the trend. In such a case, criminals could easily move efforts at first, but at some point there would be no more places to go except the few hard-control states. There, criminals would be in direct competition with each other, so there would be some sort of ecology at work limiting the total harm done. Alternatively, of course, there could simply be no correlation at all; it could be that concealed carry rates have no appreciable effect on gun deaths, as counterintuitive as that would be for both the gun rights and gun control crowds.]

H/t: Gwa45.

A Christmas Story

"A Christmas Story"

The founder of a small business wrote a story about his father's last, great gift to him.

The paper tore away easily and revealed a severely plain crate made of fiberboard and masonite, that bore no markings of any kind. It was nailed shut. I had never gotten anything delivered in a crate before. It conjured up images of turn-of-the-century archaeologists digging through excelsior to find some precious object buried within, like mummies in sarcophagi. My Dad just smiled and got up, a few loooooong minutes later returning with a small steel pry bar (Craftsman, of course.)

“Careful, now,” was all he said.
It's a good story, though Eric may mock the Anglophilia on such open display.

It also underlines the concept of the Vision of Beauty, which in this case has informed a man's whole life and work. One thing that I notice from the story is how he never thought to ask just what it had cost his father, while the man was alive to ask: but now, as years pass, he wonders more and more about the sacrifice involved.

There speaks a man who has learned about making sacrifices of his own.


Torches and Pitchforks:

Politico reports:

Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.
Given their performance, they are getting off easy. The police do seem to be taking a hard line in defending public officials, though. Even so, I was surprised at this report, which I saw at Dad29's place.
During the motorcade when the president was arriving, there were several vehicles following the limo that contained the secret service. All of the vehicles had all the windows rolled down, and back hatch open on the SUVs with the men holding their, I assume assault rifes, machine guns, drawn on everyone lining the streets. Needless to say it took my breath away at the sight of them, and made my friends and I dizzy with fear. I have seen the secret service before, but never like this. While they were intimidating, I never felt in danger. The guns were not drawn when the motorcade was leaving the event. But I turned on a local talk radio program as we were leaving and all the calls were about witnessing the guns being pointed at them and nothing else until the end of the program.
I've seen the President's motorcade, but never did I encounter this particular unit with open windows -- the Counter Assault Team, as they are called. Apparently, at some point in the last few years this has become standard practice to judge by these pictures. It's not just M4 carbines, either.

I'm afraid the pitchforks aren't going to do much good. :)

Seriously, though, these guys aren't there for protestors. Their job is to protect the President against a disciplined attack by terrorists or paramilitary forces. It's kind of an oddity, since I don't know that there has ever been such an attack on any Presidential convoy; further, you'd expect a VBIED threat rather than terrorists ginning up a fire team to take on the convoy.

Still, it's never a bad idea to be prepared for contingencies. While the President -- any President -- is the most replacable man in the world, having a full-time understudy and a predetermined chain of successors, we do have actual enemies out there. Some of them are capable of staging an attack on his convoy, if they put enough planning into it.

The Secret Service aren't the President's enforcers. They don't exist to execute his orders. They exist to protect him, and have power to override his orders if they feel it is necessary to his immediate security. They are, therefore, properly viewed as an independent and honorable company, entirely separate from the politics of the day or the occupant of the office.