Sunday, June 29, 2008

Speaking of Texas Supergroups . . .

My old man got into the blues in the early 1970s, which pretty much meant I did too. Naturally we gravitated towards Texas artists, and it was mostly Lightning Hopkins I listened to, down in the Wards acoustic or electric country blues, generally just Lightning and his guitar. Lightning Hopkins and Willie Nelson, man, and just as Texas was full of country singer songwriters there was no shortage of great bluesmen in the state, either. Freddie King, Lightning Hopkins, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Billy Gibbons . . . anyway, a long list.

Just as The Highwaymen were a country supergroup, Alligator Records put together a one-off album featuring Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, and Robert Cray. Cray's style was always a little smooth and overproduced for my taste, but on "Showdown!" he cuts loose and stands tall and equal to the fiery Johnny Copeland and the ice-cool Master of the Telecaster Albert Collins.

The entire album is solid. Check out the picking in this cut:

Rock. Solid.

Park Your Lexus Under the Olive Tree For a Friedman Unit or Two, and Rebuild America First

Anxious in America

Published: June 29, 2008

Just a few months ago, the consensus view was that Barack Obama would need to choose a hard-core national-security type as his vice presidential running mate to compensate for his lack of foreign policy experience and that John McCain would need a running mate who was young and sprightly to compensate for his age. Come August, though, I predict both men will be looking for a financial wizard as their running mates to help them steer America out of what could become a serious economic tailspin.

I do not believe nation-building in Iraq is going to be the issue come November — whether things get better there or worse. If they get better, we’ll ignore Iraq more; if they get worse, the next president will be under pressure to get out quicker. I think nation-building in America is going to be the issue.

It’s the state of America now that is the most gripping source of anxiety for Americans, not Al Qaeda or Iraq. Anyone who thinks they are going to win this election playing the Iraq or the terrorism card — one way or another — is, in my view, seriously deluded. Things have changed.

Up to now, the economic crisis we’ve been in has been largely a credit crisis in the capital markets, while consumer spending has kept reasonably steady, as have manufacturing and exports. But with banks still reluctant to lend even to healthy businesses, fuel and food prices soaring and home prices declining, this is starting to affect consumers, shrinking their wallets and crimping spending. Unemployment is already creeping up and manufacturing creeping down.

The straws in the wind are hard to ignore: If you visit any car dealership in America today you will see row after row of unsold S.U.V.’s. And if you own a gas guzzler already, good luck. On Thursday, The Palm Beach Post ran an article on your S.U.V. options: “Continue to spend upward of $100 for a fill-up. Sell or trade in the vehicle for a fraction of the original cost. Or hold out and park the truck in the driveway for occasional use in hopes the market will turn around.” Just be glad you don’t own a bus. Montgomery County, Md., where I live, just announced that more children were going to have to walk to school next year to save money on bus fuel.

On top of it all, our bank crisis is not over. Two weeks ago, Goldman Sachs analysts said that U.S. banks may need another $65 billion to cover more write-downs of bad mortgage-related instruments and potential new losses if consumer loans start to buckle. Since President Bush came to office, our national savings have gone from 6 percent of gross domestic product to 1 percent, and consumer debt has climbed from $8 trillion to $14 trillion.

My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

I continue to be appalled at the gap between what is clearly going to be the next great global industry — renewable energy and clean power — and the inability of Congress and the administration to put in place the bold policies we need to ensure that America leads that industry.

“America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so,” Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib noted last week. “A political system that expects failure doesn’t try very hard to produce anything else.”

We used to try harder and do better. After Sputnik, we came together as a nation and responded with a technology, infrastructure and education surge, notes Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International. After the 1973 oil crisis, we came together and made dramatic improvements in energy efficiency. After Social Security became imperiled in the early 1980s, we came together and fixed it for that moment. “But today,” added Hormats, “the political system seems incapable of producing a critical mass to support any kind of serious long-term reform.”

If the old saying — that “as General Motors goes, so goes America” — is true, then folks, we’re in a lot of trouble. General Motors’s stock-market value now stands at just $6.47 billion, compared with Toyota’s $162.6 billion. On top of it, G.M. shares sank to a 34-year low last week.

That’s us. We’re at a 34-year low. And digging out of this hole is what the next election has to be about and is going to be about — even if it is interrupted by a terrorist attack or an outbreak of war or peace in Iraq. We need nation-building at home, and we cannot wait another year to get started. Vote for the candidate who you think will do that best. Nothing else matters.

That's Tommy Friedman, a big brain thinker for the New York Times.

Here's Merle Haggard, a redneck guitar picker from Okieland. In 2005. (How many Friedman Units ago was that?)

Why don't we liberate these United States
We're the ones who need it the worst
Let the rest of the world help us for a change
And let's rebuild America first

Our highways and bridges are falling apart
Who's blessed and who has been cursed
There's things to be done all over the world
But let's rebuild America first

Who's on the hill and who's watching the valley
Who's in charge of it all
God bless the Army and God bless our liberty
Dadgum the rest of it all

Yeah, men in position but backing away
Freedom is stuck in reverse
Let's get out of Iraq and get back on the track
And let's rebuild America first

Why don't we liberate these United States
We're the ones who need it the most
You think I'm blowing smoke
Boys it ain't no joke
I make twenty trips a year from coast to coast

YouTube embedding is disabled, but here's the link.

So who's the big brain now? And remember, there's all kinds of ways to run down our country, but when you're running down our country, man, you're walking on the fighting side of me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

File under "stick figures are fun"

The mortgage loan crisis, in 45 simple, albeit profane, pages.

Clickity pop here.

Warning! Some adult language.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's like I'm addicted to beating on National Review

Joe Klein's “Divided loyalties” [Peter Wehner]

Time magazine political columnist and blogger Joe Klein has posted his reaction to a column today by David Brooks of the New York Times.

Brooks credits President Bush for his decision, in the face of enormous political pressures, to embrace the so-called surge strategy in Iraq. Klein chalks this up not to President Bush’s knowledge of tactics or strategy but to Bush’s stubbornness — while Klein, who presents himself as a man in possession of enormous knowledge and sophistication about counterinsurgency doctrine, merely happened to be wrong in his fierce opposition to it. In any event, Klein admits he was wrong in opposing the surge and has proper praise for General Petraeus, which is admirable.

OK, I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Wehner says Klein regards Bush as stubborn, and lucky in his stubborness, while Wehner regards Klein as a self-regarded COIN guru, who was wrong. Yet Klein admits he was wrong and has nice things to say about Perfect Peter.

First off, the story of the surge isn't written yet. If you think back, lo, to the dark mists of time when the surge was devised and sold, first to Bush, then to America, a "reduction in violence" wasn't to be considered evidence of success. The surge was to buy time for the Iraqi government to enact certain vital benchmarks.

Wait, let me quote the relevant portion of the Man his-own-self, George W. Bush, addressing the nation in January of 2007.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.

I think the quote is relevant, since it came right after President Bush said,
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

Now, for those of you who never spent time reading counterinsurgency theory, let me 'splain something. The surge was going to reduce hostile activity in Baghdad, that was a given. It was a given because damn few people are stupid enough to stand up to the striking force of the United States military in anything resembling a fair fight. Since we're playing "world cop" let's look at it from a police standpoint. We put 20,000 more flatfeet on the ground. That's just gonna effect crime.

Violence was also going to go down in Baghdad because everyone knew that those boots on the ground were temporary. Go read your TO&E tables for the US Army. Tell me how many combat divisions we have. Look at the reserve component. Think about troop rotation schedules.

Now, if our enemy in Baghdad is an Arabic (or Persian!) Fu-Manchu, this ain't gonna be news to him. So if you're a cunning fiend, and you know there will be a temporary increase in highly trained, decisively armed shoot'n'looters, and further that said shoot'n'looters are only going to be in town for about a year . . . what do you tell your guys to do?

Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

You tell your posse to chill out, re-up their weapons quals, maybe a little intensive religious indoctrination, send 'em back home to the old lady for a few weeks, or months, to be with their family. Meanwhile you wheel and deal, calling old enemies and old friends and seeing what you can do to shore up your support in the 'hood to your north (or south, east, or west).

Let me be clear, here. You don't tug on Superman's cape, and you don't pick an infantry fight with the US Army (to say, ahem, nothing at all about the US Marines). In anything even resembling a fair fight, we will stack bodies like cordwood. We will run the table on them. We will hurt 'em, and bad.

So you tell your posse, "chill out, brothers" and in the meantime you let the occupying forces fall into a nice, sloppy little occupation-duty lull. And you watch them, oh my yes you do. You watch them and note that Sgt. Hernandez might be only medium-ranking among the company officers, but the troops hop to it when he says boo. You note down Sgt. Hernandez for an early bullet. You get to know exactly what time the commissary trucks make their runs.

Wait---this is obvious, right?

Remember: In an insurgency, the counterinsurgents have to win, but the insurgents only have to stay alive, and maintain some political viability.

Oh yeah---I still think that political viability in Baghdad is probably spelled "Moqtada al-Sadr."

So, basically, I think it's too early to write the story of the surge, for sure and for certain. Let's see what happens after a few combat brigades rotate back out. I mean, that's what we're waiting for, right?

Back to NRO:

But then Klein goes on to say this:

The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked—still smacks—of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives—people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary—plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.

Put aside the fact that Klein himself, swept up in the success of democratic elections in Iraq in 2005, was quite sympathetic to what he now refers to as “neocolonialist legerdemain.” The “divided loyalties” charge is an ugly smear, one that ignores, among other things, the vast non-Jewish and non-neoconservative support for the Iraq war. (For example, the use of force resolution passed with 77 votes in the Senate – the overwhelming majority of which were cast by non-Jews and non-neoconservatives).

Wehner points out delicately that Klein HIMSELF was a neocolonialist back in '05! Then Wehner, frankly, loses his nut. "The “divided loyalties” charge is an ugly smear, one that ignores, among other things, the vast non-Jewish and non-neoconservative support for the Iraq war." Yeah. Hey, I'd be happy to apply the same standard to all those Arab-American foreign policy elites, checking them for dual loyalties to, oh, Saudi Arabia or (snicker) Lebanon or (chortle) Syria. Oh wait. We don't really HAVE any foreign policy elites like that, do we?

And why, exactly, is the question of "divided loyalties" a smear? Are our tribal affiliations really so shallow a thing? As a Celtic-American mixed mutt (with, doubtless, plenty else thrown into the mix!), I feel a certain tribal loyalty to Scotland, to Ireland . . . It's not exclusive, and it's not deterministic, but it's there. Sure. Why shouldn't it be?

Or is Wehner saying it's a slur to even consider that men like (the various) Kagans and (several) Kristols and Doug Feith and Wolfowitz might feel a certain, in no way reprehensible affinity for the State of Israel?

With a straight face?

Wehner continues, in a different albeit no-less-loopy vein.

And on the matter of Iran: isn’t it reasonable to assume that if Iran possessed a nuclear weapon it will pose an enormous threat not simply to Israel but to the region (including other Arab states) and the interests of America? And doesn’t it matter that Israel is among our closest allies, a nation of extraordinary achievements and virtues, and one with whom we have security agreements? This doesn’t necessarily lead one to support U.S. military strikes against Iran in order to prevent Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, & Company from possessing a nuclear weapon. If Klein is against that, fine; he should make the argument on prudential and policy grounds. But arguing that those who favor using military force against Iran and happen to be Jewish are driven by “divided loyalties” is despicable and libelous.

Whee doggies, we just need a reasonable assumption to attack them dirty Persians! I find myself asking, Is that the standard we apply? "Could be?" Why, if so, is it even a reasonable assumption? Is it because Iran has a long history of foreign aggression? (Aside from Xerxes. Gotta give Xerxes props.) Do they have, well, the Wehrmacht? Can we point to a recent event and say, "Here, this is where the Islamic Republic of Iran pursued a really reckless and destabilizing foreign policy?" If there is such an event, or events, the neocon press is not doing a good job of communicating them to me.

I think it's fair to say that a nuclear armed Teheran would dramatically reshuffle the balance of power in the Middle East. As a conservative, I'd thus rather not see them get nukes. As a Christian, I pray fervently that they don't get them. (That's because, as a Christian, I think nuclear weapons are an abomination before God, and don't think anyone should have them.) Just because I'd rather not see the Iranians be nuclear capable, though, doesn't necessarily mean I'm willing to go to war to stop them. I think the consequences of a massive series of air strikes against Iran's known or suspected nuclear sites would be, on the whole, more destabilizing and dangerous than letting them get the bomb.

I could be wrong, but that's not an unreasonable position.

Then, of course, Wehner deigns to notice the elephant in the living room (i.e., Israel---surprise!) and concludes, essentially, "and what is wrong with that?" Well, nothing---and it certainly can be argued so, from Wehner's "prudential and policy grounds." Why, then, do we not do so? Why not debate the merits of the current US relationship with Israel? What does it cost us? What could it get us? What's the worst that could happen, and how likely do we think it is? What's the best that could happen, and how likely do we think it is? I pretty much believe in the power of the marketplace of ideas (hey, Christianity's done pretty well over the past couple of millenia!), and would be game to bring the US-Israel relationship into that marketplace.

Wehner probably didn't mean that, though.

I will reiterate that I do not understand how accusations of dual loyalty could be despicable or libelous. The State of Israel exists. There is a coterie of the US foreign policy elite who are deeply supportive of Israel, and more particularly, of the policies advanced by Israel's Likud party. Some members of this coterie are Jewish. Some members of this coterie have been deeply involved with the formulation of Israeli and/or Likud strategic analysis and policy making.

Not, I say, as I put on my Seinfeld hat, that there's anything wrong with that.

Joe Klein appears to be a man who cannot control his anger and even hatred toward those with whom he has policy disagreements. It is a sad thing to witness. And those who care for Klein should do him a favor and urge him to give up blogging, which allows his unfiltered rage to make its way into print and embarrass him and the magazine for which he writes.

06/24 04:41 PM

Well, isn't that special.

She stepped out in the alley with her single shot .410

Maybe we've been too serious here, too much "gravitas" (remember THAT meme?). Well, since I'm all healthy mind in a healthy body grand-kilted-theory-of-everything I am going to steal a few minutes to brag on Texas.

Now, my kind of patriotism, or nationalism, or regionalism, isn't about "Yay we're great and you guys all suck!" So bear that in mind, while I tell you how much Texas kicks ass.

I guess you could file this one under "My long hair just can't cover up my red neck."

The clip above is the Highwaymen doing a song written by Joe Ely and popularized by Robert Earl Keen, and everything about it gets me going like bagpipes skirling and a good cup of hot coffee.

The Highwaymen? Johnny Cash. Waylon Jennings. Kris Kristofferson. Willie Nelson. Great jumping hornswaggles! These men wrote the soundtrack for my youth, and to this day I am "infused" with some of their spirit. Hard living Christian redneck commie pinkos, pretty much, with an anti-imperialist little c conservatism that helped form how I see the world. I'll modestly point out that not all of 'em were born in Texas---Johnny Cash was born in Arkansas, after all. (Let me lift a pint to diversity!)

Waylon Jennings was born in Littlefield, Kristofferson in Brownsville, and Willie Nelson in Abbot. Those are all in the GSOT, y'all, in case you didn't know.

Robert Earl Keen? Houston native (GSOT).

Joe Ely? Amarillo (GSOT).

Singer-songwriters, every one of 'em. They don't just sing their own songs, but they've written songs that just grab you, if you're Texas-inclined.

Let's take this song.

Here's the lyrics:

Sherry was a waitress at the only joint in town
She had a reputation as a girl who'd been around
Down Main Street after midnight with a brand new pack of cigs
A fresh one hangin' from her lips and a beer between her legs
She'd ride down to the river and meet with all her friends
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

Sonny was a loner he was older than the rest
He was going into the Navy but he couldn't pass the test
So he hung around town he sold a little pot
The law caught wind of Sonny and one day he got caught
But he was back in business when they set him free again
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

Sonny's playin' 8-ball at the joint where Sherry works
When some drunken outta towner put his hand up Sherry's skirt
Sonny took his pool cue laid the drunk out on the floor
Stuffed a dollar in her tip jar and walked on out the door
She's runnin' right behind him reachin' for his hand
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

They jumped into his pickup Sonny jammed her down in gear
Sonny looked at Sherry and said lets get on outta here
The stars were high above them and the moon was in the east
The sun was settin' on them when they reached Miami Beach
They got a hotel by the water and a quart of Bombay gin
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

They soon ran out of money but Sonny knew a man
Who knew some Cuban refugees that delt in contraband
Sonny met the Cubans in a house just off the route
With a briefcase full of money and a pistol in his boot
The cards were on the table when the law came bustin' in
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

The Cubans grabbed the goodies and Sonny grabbed the Jack
He broke a bathroom window and climbed on out the back
Sherry drove the pickup through the alley on the side
Where a lawman tackled Sonny and was reading him his rights
She stepped into the alley with a single shot .410
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

They left the lawman lyin' and they made their getaway
They got back to the motel just before the break of day
Sonny gave her all the money and he blew her a little kiss
If they ask you how this happened say I forced you into this
She watched him as his taillights disappeared around the bend
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

Its Main Street after midnight just like it was before
21 months later at the local grocery store
Sherry buys a paper and a cold 6-pack of beer
The headlines read that Sonny is goin' to the chair
She pulls back onto Main Street in her new Mercedes Benz
The road goes on forever and the party never ends

Now, if that doesn't capture the zeitgeist for you, I don't know what would. There's the desperation of small town America. There's the redneck outsider, the rebel in trouble with the law. There's the pernicious influence of "city folk." (Hey, it WAS a "drunken out-of-towner" who put his hand of Sherry's skirt.) There's doomed love, and ruthless pragmatism, and shotguns and dead cops.

It is as perfect as "Breathless." Heck, I think it's the redneck Breathless.

And no matter which version I'm listening to, Ely or Keen or the Highwaymen or anyone else who's done it, I just about always get goose bumps over the line "She stepped out in the alley with her single shot .410."

Proof of Iranian cooption of al-Qaida?

Michael Ledeen has argued, for quite some time, that Iran is the root of all evil. Well, at least that Iran has operated in a meaningful operational way with al-Qaida. In National Review Online's group blog, The Corner, Ledeen provides a link to an Asharq Alawsat newspaper commentary by Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of al-Arabiya television.

Writes Ledeen:

Read it all. He knows what he's talking about. And if you have time, please tell George Tenet and his experts, who spat at the very idea that Sunnis could work with Shi'ites.

Very well, then. I clicked on the link.

I am . . . unmoved.

The article is short, and Ledeen quotes but one section, where al-Rashed asserts that "The paradox is most striking in the case of Al-Qaeda, the most extremist Sunni organization, which has joined, in the full sense of the word, the Iranian apparatus." Immediately after this phrase, however, al-Rashed writes that the alliance began "in the wake of the defeat of Al-Qaeda and the organization's flight from Afghanistan to all Sunni countries."

Very well, then. Please note that al-Rashed is saying that al-Qaida did not cooperate with Iran until after the US invasion of Afghanistan.

al-Rashed asserts that al-Qaida fled from Afhganistan "to all Sunni countries." Yet the only country he talks about al-Qaida fleeing to is . . . Iran. That would be Shia Iran. Huh.

al-Rashed continues, "We were initially puzzled by the rumors that Iran had arrested a group of fleeing Al-Qaeda members who crossed its border from Afghanistan, only to realize later that the story had far deeper implications." He never says who "we" are, or why "we" were initially surprised by Iran's arrest of al-Qaida members. Could it be because al-Qaida is theologically opposed to the Shia sect of Islam? Could it be because the Iranians have a similar opposition to Sunnis? al-Rashed does not say.

al-Rashed submits:
Like any other extremist Sunni organization, Al-Qaeda does not consider Shiites and other Muslim sects to be Sunnis or followers of the Prophet's family, and therefore it must fight against them. I do not want to give further evidence of Iran's pragmatism. It is an extremist, theocratic Shiite regime that holds Sunnis as infidels.

So extremist Sunni organizations consider the Shia to be infidels, and the Shia Iranian regime reciprocates the warm feelings. Yet al-Rashed doesn't want to give "further evidence of Iran's pragmatism." Huh.

Somewhat confusingly, al-Rashad then states "Proof of this is that Iran's followers committed massacres and evicted people from their homes in a way unprecedented in Iraq's history." Umm, proof of what? Proof of Iran's pragmatism? Or proof of Iran's hatred of the Sunni? I must be low on the blood level in my caffeine, but I cannot make sense of this argument.

It seems to be asserting either a) Iran regards Sunnis as infidels, and thus used Shia co-religionists to purge Sunni neighborhoods in Iraq, or b) Iran is pragmatic, and so used Sunni groups to purge Shia neighborhoods in Iraq. If a) is correct, then it undercuts the thesis that Iran and al-Qaida are in cahoots. If b) is correct, then Iran is not a Shia theocratic regime, and does not really regard the Sunni as infidels, and is using them as a cat's paw against the Shia Iraqi regime. If b) is correct, it also makes it hard to understand why Ahmadinejad was feted during his recent, red carpet state visit to Baghdad.

I suppose it is possible that Iran and al-Qaida are in cahoots. This article, long on discursive commentary and dreadfully short on facts, or links, or reasoned argument, does nothing to convince me. Perhaps Michael Ledeen is a subtler thinker than I (an honest possibility), and I am simply missing the substantive meat here. But I am unmoved by this argument.

As a side note. One of the gripes against the neocons who have pushed for war, war, war is that very damn few of them have worn the pickle suit. (Pickle suit being term of art for the old green jungle camouflage utilities worn by the striking arm of the United States Government.) With that said, and recognized as at least generally true, let us take a moment to recognize Michael Ledeen's son, currently enduring OCS at Quantico. (That would be Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, y'all.)

Ledeen writes:

We're just back from the Marine Base at Quantico, where our youngest is attempting to survive Officer Candidates School. Not easy, which is one reason why the Marines are such an amazing team.


Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm not bad, I'm misunderstood.







We like to categorize things. We like to apply our reason to situations. We like to discriminate. (Discriminate is a fine word, which shouldn't be polluted, as it is today, with the very narrow sense of "racial discrimination" which is code for racism. Fine word, discriminate. Underused. When was the last time you heard a phrase like "a gentleman of discriminating tastes"?)

Our reason, of course, is not infallible. We make mistakes. We take mental shortcuts. We put things into categories that are convenient for us--and sometimes we're wrong.

I have opposed our Mesopotamian adventures from the get-go. Before that, I was very concerned about our Afghan adventures. I have regarded the presidency of George W. Bush as a stain upon America, upon American history, culture, and constitutional order.

In mainstream popular opinion, people who do these things tend to be Democrats. Thus, by the simple and natural categorization process I outlined above, a lot of people have listened to me, or read what I have written (not here, since I'm only a beginning baby blogger), and categorized me as a Democrat--and, more, as a moonbat.

It is, gentle reader, to laugh.

Human beings are complex, and thus, without in any way tooting my horn, I too am complex. In this instance, at least, I do not fit into the neat paradigm of "pro-Bush, Republican/anti-Bush, Democrat."

My concerns for the last ten or fifteen years have mostly centered around foreign policy, more than domestic. A simple reason for this is that we have, in my honest opinion, two major parties of social democrats (in the European sense) who prance around in the clothing they wore sixty years ago. The Republicans are perhaps slow socialists, and the Democrats fast socialists, but they're all socialists. And so it's foreign policy that I focus on.

Some of that is because of the time I spent wearing the pickle suit. "Pickle suit" was one of my friends' term for the camouflage utility uniform we wore when we were on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Before I joined the Corps, I sat down and thought for a long time about what being an American meant to me, and what it had meant to me (in a material sense). I didn't join the Corps because I wanted to go to war and kill bodies---but because I realized how lucky I am to be an American, and because, in my way, I wanted to stand on that wall between us and them, and to protect me and mine. As a disposable asset of the United States Government, then, I thought about foreign policy a lot. Where were they going to send me, if they sent me anywhere, and why would they send me?

In the event, I pretty much never went anywhere, and never did anything, and while I am proud of my service in the USMC, I'm not claiming to be a hard-charger or high-speed, low-drag, extreme tactical operator. I was a linguist, and that barely even qualifies as being a Marine.

Some of the time I spent focused on foreign policy was because I worked abroad for several years. I worked in former Soviet Central Asia, in Kazakhstan, and I spoke the language at work and at home while I did it, and I read a lot more European and Asian news reports. Suffice it to say, I was exposed to points of view beyond those of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and People.

Those things, together with where, and when, and to whom I was born, have all influenced my perception of the world. I know I see things differently than my father did, and than my grandfather did, and differently than people of my generation who grew up in other circumstances, other regions, other countries, other classes, other religions, other, in other words, stuff.

Religiously, I am quite Christian. Socially, I am quite conservative. Politically, I am quite libertarian. Legally, I am quite the constitutionalist, and by that I mean in the Ron Paul mode. My parents received and read both Ron Paul and Gary North in the late 1970s, and I have, on and off, continued the association. It is for the foregoing reasons that I have been appalled at the George W. Bush administration, and my objections include each category (religion, social theory, politics, and legal theory).

I could be wrong, but I think that in none of the categories set forth above do I have much agreement with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in America.

Why, then, do I so loathe the actions taken by the Bush Administration?

I am not as conversant with Augustine's just war theory as I should be, perhaps, but I think our Afghan intervention clearly qualifies as just (i.e., in response to an attack) and that our Mesopotamian adventure does not. Despite the hysterics of the pro-war faction in early 2002, Iraq had not attacked the United States. Saddam Hussein had been a client of the US, not that this is much of an endorsement. After all, we cooperated with Joe Stalin, and he's at the top of my personal list of monsters. Saddam, too, was probably a monster. Many regimes are headed by monsters, though, and as some dead white guy once opined, America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.

As a conservative, I am loathe to take giant steps. "Look before you leap" is kind of a watchword of mine, and the times I have leapt without looking have frequently reminded me why I want to look, before I leap. For the entirity of my life, the United States had pursued a more or less traditional balance of power foreign policy. The Cold War gave us a neat categorization of good and bad, and the possession of nuclear weapons made the case for careful balancing. After 9/11, a certain frenzy seemed to overtake our foreign policy elite. We spoke in nearly apocalyptic terms of an end to evil, of remaking the world to remove whatever root causes were behind these heinous attacks.

The main reason I had voted for George W. Bush the first time around was that I really liked his criticism of Bill Clinton for being, ahem, internationally adventurous. I remember, with the disappointment of a jilted suitor, Bush's comments about a more humble foreign policy. These things comport with my conservative instincts. Change the world? Ha! How'd that whole "New Soviet Man" thing turn out?

It turned out about like I'd expected. Man is not a blank slate. Afghans are Afghani, Americans are American. Where and when and how you're born, and how you're raised, those things are important. (Isn't this, after all, self-evident?) We can change things, we can make progress . . . but we can also make mistakes. There's nothing wrong with making mistakes. I remember an old line about how the only people who never make mistakes are people who never make anything.

But as a conservative, I want to be able to mitigate the effects of our mistakes. Not only do I want to look before I leap, but I want to be able to "leap back" whenever possible. What if I leap into quicksand? Let's try Policy A---and let's not commit to it entirely, not before we've shown that Policy A actually works, and does not provoke Counterpolicy B, or Unintended Consequence C. To me, this seems like common sense. (I could be wrong.)

As a libertarian, I am, on general principles, suspicious of the motives, means, and ability of government to achieve its stated goals. Many people conflate "libertarian" with "libertine"---and, indeed, an awful lot of mainstream libertarianism is of the abortion-on-demand, huff hash, spit on the Pope and burn the flag sort. I'd call that libertinism, too. But my libertarianism is different. (Yes, I'm special. Wheee!)

My libertarianism does not worship the market. (I worship God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ who redeemed us of our sins.) I know that the market can make wrong choices, sometimes hideously wrong. But I favor freedom, the ability of people to choose for themselves how they'll live. I think that freedom of choice is one of God's gifts to man, and that maximizing that freedom will lead to the least bad outcome.

As a libertarian, I don't think I need to comment overly on why I'm opposed to the massive centralization of state authority in the hands of the executive branch of the United States Government. We need fewer laws, not more. Some old Italian guy once said that the more laws you had, the more corrupt your state was going to be. Once more, I think that this resonates with "traditional American culture."

From a constitutional standpoint, I think the Bush Administration has provoked, or nearly provoked, a constitutional crisis. The recent Supreme Court decision regarding Gitmo detainees? I think it was prompted not only by social concerns about human rights, but also institutional pushback from the judiciary. If you think back to the Padilla case, the executive branch of the United States Government asserted that it had the right to arrest an American citizen, on American soil, without a judicial warrant, and to detain such an American citizen indefinitely, in an undisclosed location, without benefit of counsel or appeals to judicial remedy.

Friends, that's a pretty bold rethinking of our constitutional order.

The executive branch of the United States Government has also given the thumbs-up to enhanced interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, stress positions, and "light pokes or shoves" that have resulted in numerous deaths among US detainees. In order to approve these techniques, the executive branch of the United States Government asserted that the president could countermand US statutory law, treaties signed by the United States, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and common/constitutional law. Constitutionally speaking, I ain't down with that.

Now lest the foregoing sound too liberal, let's play "Well, what would YOU have done?"

I would have gone into Afghanistan with fire and sword, with the explicit and avowed goal of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden for terrorism and a direct attack upon the United States. I would have told the Taliban that they could either step aside, or step up. If, as it eventuated, Osama bin Laden had sought refuge in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (former North West Frontier Provinces), I would have pursued him with, once more, fire and sword.

And I would have made explicitly clear to the states in the region that once we got Osama bin Laden, we were going home. We would stay until we got him, and then we would leave. Afghan for the Afghanis! Pakistan for the Pakistanis! We would not be coming to bring them the benefits of Western civilization, we would be coming on a manhunt and, if necessary, a punitive raid. But we WOULD NOT BE STAYING. After Jefferson smashed the Barbary pirates, did we stick around? No, we sailed for home and good beer and smiling wenches and a victory celebration. The job was done---let's go home.

I would have treated captured members of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban as Enemy Prisoners of War, or Prisoners of War (EPW/POW, depending on your vintage). I would have said, "They are scum and they do not deserve this, but we'll treat them that way anyhow, because we're better than they are." (And by "better" I do not mean some limp, pallid moralism, either. By "better" I mean that it is my honest belief that a limited government, socially conservative free market society simply kicks butt.)

My idea for going into Pakistan has been mocked, and eyes rolled at it. Yet today, we're still sending Predator drones to make Hellfire strikes into Pakistan, which looks more and more like Cambodia to me, only, you know, drier. We have invested ourselves into the protection of the Afghan government headed by Hamid Karzai. Why? Why do we care who runs Afghanistan?

I'll admit, initially, I was scared of our intervention into Afghanistan. How many empires have the Afghans stymied? (Lots. Alexander the Great, the British, and the Soviets, to name only the most prominent.) The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized the problems all those empires had had with Afghanistan: they stayed. Afghanistan is like a hot potato: it's easy to grab ahold of it, but it's hard to hold onto it for long.

Well, I never wanted to hold onto it. In, out, punitive raid, smash some stuff, kill Osama bin Laden, and come back home to a big pulled-pork barbecue.

As for Saddam Hussein? Well, he'd still be feeding people into the wood chipper if I was king, I guess. Monster, yeah buddy, but the world is full of 'em. Tough for the rest of the world, I guess, but no real business of America, so long as vital American national interests aren't too threatened. (And I'd draw a mighty thin list of truly vital American national interests, too.) At the risk of being all Christian, let's remember that Saddam Hussein's government included a Christian as vice-premier, or vice-president, or something like that. Figger the odds on the next time that happens in the Middle East, why don't you.

So here, in brief, is my argument about George W. Bush. He bought into this world changing nonsense that he mocked when he was a candidate. He took his eye off the man who really did hit us on 9/11, to go after targets of opportunity elsewhere. He decided that the mission of the United States was to bring freedom and democracy to the Arab/Muslim world. He decided that if the president does it, that means its not illegal. (Cf., Richard Milhous Nixon.) He let the PATRIOT ACT, a laundry list of power-grabbing by police and intelligence agencies, whip through Congress without review or approval. He's burdened America and Americans with vast new bureaucracies like the TSA and the DHS, and he's used America's striking arm as a police force in civil wars in both Iraq and Afhganistan. He bet that we could change the world, and I think he bet it all on one roll of the dice.

Now, was there a potential upside? Hella yes there was. If we could change the world to make it more like America, that would be a good thing. If we could bring freedom and democracy to the mostly benighted Arab/Muslim world, that would be a good thing. If we could make "them" more like "us" then that would be a very good thing.

I don't know if the things I outlined above would have worked. I'll be honest: they might only not have worked, but they might have worked out worse than what the administration actually did.

I'm just saying, when I express my honest loathing for the Bush administration, don't you drop me into the moonbat wing of the Democratic party category. I've got my own reasons for loathing them, and they're conservative, Christian, libertarian, constitutionalist reasons.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

All the news . . . that fits our agenda

I used to read National Review, although I never subscribed. I still read the online edition, although mostly as a form of cardiovascular exercise. (I mean, heart racing, blood pressure spiking---that's got to be a form of exercise, doesn't it?)

I've noticed, though, that when bad news comes out, the corridors of NRO echo with the sound of silence.

Although you wouldn't know it from reading the Corner, "A Senate hearing Tuesday is investigating the origins of aggressive interrogation techniques used by the United States against terrorism suspects." That's from Voice of America.

The AFP headline was Harsh interrogation methods stain U.S. image, endanger soldiers: experts.

Slate's was It Was Top Down, Stupid.

said Military lawyers objected to harsh interrogation techniques.

The LA Times: Torture began at the top.

In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank wrote "Abu Ghraib? Doesn't ring a bell."

As for the National Review, and it's blog The Corner . . . well, they talked a lot about how Barack Obama is kinda freaky. And Ireland and the EU treaty. June 2008 archives here.


Cause we all know that the NRO was against them there enhanced interrogation techniques. Right?

You know, my kids, when they were very little, thought that just by ignoring something it was as if that thing didn't even exist.

But that's when they were REALLY little.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our least bad option: If I was king

OK, I've taken flak (mostly in other fora) for complaining about what I regard as huge strategic blunders in our Mesopotamian Adventures. Fine to throw spitballs, people say, but how about offering up something constructive?

OK, so here I go. This could be our least bad option as regards Iraq. If I was king, or if I had any sway at all in international relations, here's the line I'd push. The thing for the United States Government to do is to begin good faith and arms' length negotiations with Moqtada al-Sadr. If you squint a little bit, you could spell Moqtada al-Sadr "Saddam Hussein." No, really.

The "conservative" pundits I listen to and read seem to regard al-Sadr as a sock-puppet for the Iranians. That's not my take. He's Shia? No kidding. And so are the Persians. He's also far more explicitly anti-Persian than, say, Nouri al-Maliki. (You remember al-Maliki, right? "Our boy in Baghdad"? The Prime Minister? The one who was just paying a state visit to Iran?)

One of my underlying convictions is that what politicians call themselves doesn't really matter. I look at our Congress. Now, if you're a true liberal, ask yourself, how many of my representatives really believe like I do? If you're a good conservative, ask yourself, how many of my representatives are really concerned about the things I'm concerned about? Try and be honest. Look at how some new cause celebre (Darfur, gay marriage, telecom immunity) appears and wow shazam boy! Don't they get worked up.) Not a whole lot seems to change, though. Does it?

Here's a newsflash. Joseph Stalin was a Stalinist. He wasn't a Communist. (Not that this should be taken as an endorsement of Communism, mind you!) Look at history. Were the kings and shahs of the ancient world really dedicated to the principle of the diving right of kings and shahs as an idea, or because they happened to be the kings and shahs with all the divine rights? You ever watch Elmer Gantry?

Now, my take is that Moqtada al-Sadr is a man we could work with. (Let's face it, we need one.) He's probably got the street cred, he's got as good a substitute Iraqi Army as the one we're renting now, he's more anti-Iranian than the guy we're backing, and he's young and a comer.

If I was king, I'd be on the phone saying, "Moqtada, baby." Yeah if I was king I'd talk like a Hollywood producer. "Moqtada, here's the deal. We came in to Iraq to make a splash, maybe our motives weren't as clear as we would have hoped. Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant, true. Long term, though, we can't run this show on our own. We need an ally. This is a tough neighborhood. Here's the deal. We'll stop harassing you, and negotiate an accord with you personally to withdraw from Iraq. You'll be the man who ended the occupation, and you'll be golden.

"Here's what we need. We need you to maintain Iraq as a strategic counterweight to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not launch war against them, not stonewall them. We agree with you that the Islamic Republic's model isn't right. You are Shia but you are Iraqi, and you can work with us to keep untold thousands from dying. Iraq can be the pivot between the predominately Sunni-run Arab world and the Shia-run Persian Islamic Republic.

"In order to do that, you'll have to find a way to get along with your Sunni brethren Iraqis. This will be hard, but that's one of the reasons we want to work with you: we think you can do it.

"If you need help with Al-Qaida in Iraq, we're here to help. If you'd prefer to settle this internal matter internally, well, we'll be ready to begin a wind-down of our presence in Iraq."

I could be wrong about this. Maybe Moqtada al-Sadr really is a monster, maybe he really is a Persian sock-puppet, but I don't think so. I think cutting a deal with a popular local is the only way for the US to go forward. At present, our policy is not working, and we ought to remember the First Law of Holes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What a marvelous turn of phrase!

I'll admit it. Like many Americans, I seem to be a sucker for an English talker. Maybe it's residual American inferiority, maybe it's that the British really do have better rhetoric---oh, for a Question Time here in America! Whee doggies!

The English talker for whom I am a sucker at the moment is Peter Hitchens, elder brother to Christopher, and in many ways his "evil twin brother." (Or at least mirror image.)

Peter Hitchens blogs at the Mail Online. In his weekly column, he comments on Lady Margaret Thatcher thus:

Margaret Thatcher wasn’t much of a conservative, despite her rhetoric, which is why she helped destroy many of the best things about Britain, turning it into the EU-ruled, comprehensive-schooled, morality-free, car-infested, Sunday-trading Tescoland it has become.

What a simply marvelous turn of phrase!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hey what happened to the Wednesday Things?

Well, it's Friday, so this isn't a "Wednesday things I like" post.

A songwriter I like.

Willie Nelson.

He's not for everyone, goodness knows. He's special to me, though, if only because I grew up on him. Live performance, radio, long playing records, eight track tapes, cassettes, compact discs and MP3s---I've listened to Willie Nelson on as many formats as I've listened to music in, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

He's done traditional country music, standards (for instance, the wonderful "Stardust" album), movies ("Barbarossa") and television (playing a cat-food eating retired Texas Ranger on "Miami Vice"), and enough weed to power America for a month, if it was converted to bio-diesel. He was hailed on "King of the Hill" as not only a Zen-golfer and traditional country music demigod, but blessed with the label of "alternative" as well.

For me, Willie Nelson was the face of "outlaw country." Those other guys? You know, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Tom T. Hall, David Allan Coe---they were just tag-alongs. I'm not saying that's the way it was, but that's the way it was for me.

If Willie Nelson had never sung a note, he'd deserve a hallowed spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame just for writing songs like "Crazy" and "Hello Walls" and "Half a Man" and "Mr. Record Man." Come to think of it, I think he wrote all those songs before he ever did sing a note (on vinyl, at least). He writes, he sings, he acts, he gets in trouble with the IRS, he works for things he believes in (Farm-Aid).

In case it seems that I'm highlighting his very early career, please understand that it's not to cover up later failures. Albums like "Red Headed Stranger" and "Pancho & Lefty" are from the middle of his career, and strong like Hulk. Given his widely known fondness for the wacky 'baccy, it's no surprise that he can pull off lagniappe such as the "Countryman" disc, where he takes on reggae. I'd mentioned his strong songwriting skillz, and will add that he can take a song and put his stamp on it no matter who wrote it. (Growing up as a child, Ray Charles owned "Georgia" until I started listening to the very different Willie Nelson version--and then Willie owned it. And Ray Charles just rocked, too, so that ain't no small praise.)

My dad met Willie Nelson in downtown Houston one day, and told me that Willie was a "pure soul." That's always stuck with me. He seems very genuine. Like his fellow hard-living, dope-fueled superstar, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson's life is informed by his Christianity, and the gospel tracks of Cash and Nelson both are, like Elvis Presley's, among the strongest parts of a monster-strong repertoire. I don't know how deep Willie's theology is, but I can feel his love for Christ in gospel cuts like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Family Bible."

And hey, if he didn't burn a spliff on the roof of the White House during the Carter administration---well, he should have.

Пешком, с руксаком

Another glorious day, so far at least. I took the large ALICE pack, with the fifty pound sand bag (and a half pound of duct tape to keep it subdued) to Memorial Park again, and puffed around the three mile track in a haze of heat.

In a kilt, of course.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Hey--regarding Iran, if all options are on the table---isn't talking to them an option?

Monday, June 9, 2008

I used to really respect Thomas Sowell

It is to weep. I used to read, enthusiastically and with approval, Thomas Sowell's articles on economics and the state. On the war, however, I think he is just silly. Unfortunately, this time I really do come to bury Caeser and not to praise him.

Now that the two parties have finally selected their presidential candidates, it is time for a sober-- if not grim-- assessment of where we are.

When the very first sentence of a column is a lie, it does not bode well for where the column is going. There are these things called "nominating conventions." In America, that is where the two national parties finally select their presidential candidates.

Not since 1972 have we been presented with two such painfully inadequate candidates. When election day came that year, I could not bring myself to vote for either George McGovern or Richard Nixon. I stayed home.

This year, none of us has that luxury. While all sorts of gushing is going on in the media, and posturing is going on in politics, the biggest national sponsor of terrorism in the world-- Iran-- is moving step by step toward building a nuclear bomb.

Hmm, in 1972, the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, already had the bomb—and was building more of them.

The point when they get that bomb will be the point of no return. Iran's nuclear bomb will be the terrorists' nuclear bomb-- and they can make 9/11 look like child's play.

Wait—this is a common enough refrain. Iran’s nuclear bomb will be the terrorists’ nuclear bomb? This presupposes one of two conditions. Either a) Iran is coterminus with the terrorists, or b) Iran, upon developing the bomb, will hand it over to the terrorists. (There may be a further option, but I can’t see it.) If Iran is coterminus with the terrorists, what’s up with all the jibber-jabber about Saddam Hussein (PBUH?) being Hitler, to which we were subjected a few years ago? Maybe there’s a difference between Hitler and terrorists. From my general understandings, Hitler liked a tightly run ship of state. As to the second presupposed condition, it is difficult for me to imagine that any state would, upon receiving or developing the nuclear bomb, promptly turn around and let others play with this really cool toy.

I think it’s safe to say that getting the bomb is an entre into the Big Boys’ Club, in terms of state prestige and seriousness. To the extent that states choose to share weapons technology with allies, my reading is that they prefer to share with state actors. When they arm less formally constituted groups, they tend to give them low-tech weapons. (Kalashnikovs and Katyushas, or in our case, M1 carbines and M60 tanks.)

Did, for example the USSR provide state of the art fighters to Warsaw Pact allies?

As to the possibility of a nuclear detonation making 9/11 look like child’s play, well, umm, yes. Of course. See, cf., Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Compared to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or for that matter, Dresden, or Doolittle’s firebombing of Tokyo, or the Blitz, the casualties suffered on 9/11 really weren’t that high.

In terms of inflicting casualties, 9/11 was a mere firecracker. While it did edge out the casualties suffered in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 2400 dead on 7 December 1941 were sailors and Marines, and there was also the small matter of the sinking of two battleships, two destroyers and a minelayer–a big chunk of America’s ships of the line.

A nuclear attack on America would make 9/11 look like child’s play because (militarily speaking) 9/11 WAS child’s play.

All the options that are on the table right now will be swept off the table forever. Our choices will be to give in to whatever the terrorists demand-- however outrageous those demands might be-- or to risk seeing American cities start disappearing in radioactive mushroom clouds.

Asinine and ridiculous. The Soviet Union got the bomb. Hey, that turned out all right, and looking back now we don’t break down into shivers and bed-wetting. But that’s looking back now. At the time, we were terrified of a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union, or simply a flood of T72s coming through the Fulda Gap. Trust me—I lived through it. Red China got the bomb. Maoist China was an abattoir on a scale to make Nazi Germany’s killings look like a street gang on a rampage, and almost enough to make Stalin look like a piker. (Making Stalin look like a piker, or even almost so, takes some doing, when we’re talking about a willingness to break eggs in pursuit of an omelet.) Somehow we haven’t seen our cities going up in radioactive mushroom clouds under Chinese nukes.

Now pay attention here, because this is important. States that get nuclear weapons don’t get them to use, they get them for credibility and influence.

All the things we are preoccupied with today, from the price of gasoline to health care to global warming, will suddenly no longer matter.

Just as the Nazis did not find it enough to simply kill people in their concentration camps, but had to humiliate and dehumanize them first, so we can expect terrorists with nuclear weapons to both humiliate us and force us to humiliate ourselves, before they finally start killing us.

Because, you know, the terrorists are really just like the Nazis, and the calendar is always stuck in 1938. They’re going to humiliate us, and then they’re going to start killing us. (Or, since I bet Sowell agrees with the Ledeens of the world, they’re going to keep on killing us, since they’ve been doing it for the last thirty years.)

They have already telegraphed their punches with their sadistic beheadings of innocent civilians, and with the popularity of videotapes of those beheadings in the Middle East.

Those crazy Iranians! Wait. The beheadings have pretty much all been done, and claimed by, Al-Qaida. Haven’t they? And popularity of war porn among the populace isn’t necessarily a reflection of what a government is going to do.

Also, please to note, we are facing The Terrorists. Much like during my youth, when we face Monolithic Communism, we now face Monolithic Terror in the form of The Terrorists. They are The Borg. Resistance is futile! (Somehow the Borg always reminded me of the Daleks, only goofier.) Exterminate! Exterminate!

Except Monolithic Communism wasn’t really all that monolithic. There was that whole Sino-Soviet Split thing. Heck, didn’t China invade Vietnam? And didn’t, in fact, Vietnam even invade Cambodia? (Yes.)

Now, the idea isn’t as tangible now as it once was, but Communism was regarded as a messianic ideology of vast sweep and power. It was revolutionary, it fired the mind, it absolved all crimes, it united believers into a single, mindless, monolithic mass. (Sound familiar?) Now, remember: despite the common, professed, revolutionary ideology of the USSR, the People’s Republic of China, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea, these states all either quarreled and were on the brink of war, or carried out actual invasions of each other.

They have already telegraphed their intention to dictate to us with such things as Osama bin Laden's threats to target those places in America that did not vote the way he prescribed in the 2004 elections. He could not back up those threats then but he may be able to in a very few years.

Wait, just when I was getting comfortable with the idea of the Iranians—that would be the Shia Iranians—were the bad guys, we bring Osama bin Laden back into it? Which strain of Islam does bin Laden profess? Oh, right. He’s a Sunni. Remember when Al-Qaida in Iraq, under Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was trying to provoke a Sunni-Shia sectarian civil war in Iraq? Sowell is seriously asserting that Iran would give nuclear weapons to Osama bin Laden?

This beggars the imagination.

The terrorists have given us as clear a picture of what they are all about as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis did during the 1930s-- and our "leaders" and intelligentsia have ignored the warning signs as resolutely as the "leaders" and intelligentsia of the 1930s downplayed the dangers of Hitler.

Because—remember, kids, this is important—the terrorists are JUST LIKE THE NAZIS.

We are much like people drifting down the Niagara River, oblivious to the waterfalls up ahead. Once we go over those falls, we cannot come back up again.

I agree that America’s national interests are in danger of going over a waterfall, but I disagree, and vehemently, with Sowell about the cause and nature of that waterfall.

What does this have to do with today's presidential candidates? It has everything to do with them.

One of these candidates will determine what we are going to do to stop Iran from going nuclear-- or whether we are going to do anything other than talk, as Western leaders talked in the 1930s.

There you have it. Sowell says McCain WILL STOP Iran from going nuclear. The “how” of it, of course, is yet to be determined. Oh, and the other guy will talk to the Iranians—just like Chamberlain talked to Hitler!

There is one big difference between now and the 1930s. Although the West's lack of military preparedness and its political irresolution led to three solid years of devastating losses to Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, nevertheless when all the West's industrial and military forces were finally mobilized, the democracies were able to turn the tide and win decisively.

There are several big differences between now and the 1930s. You can’t really, seriously, with a straight face, assert that the West lacks military preparedness. Can you? If you can, it could only be in the area of boots on the ground. We have cool toys by the billion. Another difference is that the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe are on our side this time. Just you try and say “Arab Wehrmacht” with a straight face. I dare you.

But you cannot lose a nuclear war for three years and then come back. You cannot even sustain the will to resist for three years when you are first broken down morally by threats and then devastated by nuclear bombs.

When a column starts off with a lie . . . . OK, is Sowell really saying that, were we hit with a nuclear attack, we would wait three years to respond? While we continued to get hit with nuclear attacks? “Whoops, there goes New York. Dang, I sure hope we don’t lose any more cities. Hey, let’s talk about global warming!”

Our one window of opportunity to prevent this will occur within the term of whoever becomes President of the United States next January.

We must act now! To do otherwise would be, umm, appeasement. You don’t want to be Chamberlain, do you?

At a time like this, we do not have the luxury of waiting for our ideal candidate or of indulging our emotions by voting for some third party candidate to show our displeasure-- at the cost of putting someone in the White House who is not up to the job.

Umm, vote Republican. This time it’s really important. This time the Republicans will be, you know, real Republicans. They won’t negotiate with the enemy, like Nixon did. They won’t bumble on foreign policy like Ford did. They won’t talk with the enemy, like Reagan did, or turn tail and run, like Reagan also did. They won’t refrain from actions that “wouldn’t be prudent” like George H. W. Bush did. They won’t massively enhance government while talking about trusting American citizens, like George W. Bush did. This time, it’s for real.

Does anyone remember the Louisiana gubernatorial race between David Duke and Edwin Edwards? “Vote for the Crook—It’s Important!”

Senator John McCain has been criticized in this column many times. But, when all is said and done, Senator McCain has not spent decades aiding and abetting people who hate America.

Hey, aiding and abetting sounds like language from a police procedural, doesn’t it? And you know, Rev. Jeremiah Wright hates America. Just like the Nazis. Who are just like the Communists. Who are just like the Terrorists (who are Muslim).

On the contrary, he has paid a huge price for resisting our enemies, even when they held him prisoner and tortured him. The choice between him and Barack Obama should be a no-brainer.

Because the Communists were just like the Nazis! Who are just like the Terrorists!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Green Revolution

Gosh the internet is fun.

In case anyone missed it in the news or the blogs, Barack Obama gave a commencement address at Wellsley recently, and called for a green revolution.

Thinks I to myself, "Haven't we already had one?"

A moment at the keyboard reveals this thing that started in 1943, called, yes, the Green Revolution. (The phrase is apparently attributed to former USAID director William Gaud in that most bizarre of years, 1968.)

I knew the general outline--hybridized crops created for greater drought resistance and higher yields, and the substitution of scientific farming for subsistence farming. The short answer, I think, is "more pesticides, more monocultural planting, and more food."

Reading the post at Wikipedia (yeah, I know, it's Wikipedia---so?), however, I got the absolute running giggles over something, and it was something that proves to my satisfaction at least that I have not slipped into liberality. At least in the political sense. (I still pour a liberal dollop of Scotch!) Funny, sometimes, how "absolute running giggles" and "liberality" (at least in the political sense) just seem to go hand in hand.

I quote, from the then-current relevant entry at Wikipedia:

A major critic of the Green Revolution, the US investigative journalist Mark Dowie, writes that the primary objective of the program was a Cold War geopolitical one: providing food for the populace in underdeveloped countries which thus brought social stability and weakened the fomenting of communist insurgency. Citing internal Foundation documents, he states that the Ford Foundation had a greater concern than Rockefeller in this area.[27]

Those . . . BASTARDS! Providing food for the populace of underdeveloped countries was meant to ENHANCE social stability!

I can imagine the thinking now: "Hmm, maybe the appeal of those godless commies won't be so strong if people have food to eat---say, would that be good for us?

Friday, June 6, 2008


Well, the ol' Cossack has gotten a good bit bigger in the gut than he likes. (Is it too pompous to do the "ol' Cossack" thing?) I've gotten bigger in the gut than I like. There's not much new about that, I've never been one of your svelter creatures.

The good news, however, is that I've decided to do something about it.

I freely admit that sloth and indolence have played a great role in my weight. Come on, now. At least for someone who is reasonably healthy, losing weight is a matter of increasing exercise and reducing calories. Those two things are pretty much the "locate, close with and destroy the enemy" parts of dieting, the sine qua non, the very essence of the thing. Most of the rest of it is just frippery.

I live a few miles away from a vast park, in the middle of Houston, one of the largest cities in America. My main route to fitness is pretty simple. I head to that park, put on a large ALICE pack with a fifty pound bag of sand (well duct taped into submission, gotta love that stuff) in it, and I walk three miles in a bit under an hour. The weight in the pack both strengthens my back muscles and provides a good bit of extra work for the legs.

Perhaps the neatest thing about it is that it doesn't really feel like exercise. It's being outside in a vast swath of pine trees and grass, going around a golf course, on a thoroughly decent running path. It is a wonderful way to immerse yourself into the ecosphere, the majesty of God's creation without all the nasty bits, like wolves or floods or hostile natives. Houston is very much a car city, and it's nice to interact with people face to face, and to start to recognize regulars.

A friend further offered the following thoughts:

1) eating breakfast every morning
2) starting to eat dinner by 7pm every evening, shoot for 6pm
3) only drink on the weekends as much as possible, just pop open the wine and beer Friday-Sunday evenings
4) be in bed by 10pm, even if it's only to start reading, the key is just be in bed by that time

I have followed these 4 rules for the last 3 months and have lost 15 pounds without trying that hard. It's my contention that if you don't follow at least 3 of these 4 rule (with turning in early probably being the mandatory one that is the key for the other 3) then it's impossible to manage weight, goals, scheduling, and really just one's overall mood. Now that my exercise regime is kicking in (which wouldn't have happened had I not built a foundation with the 4 above rules) my goal is to lose another 15 pounds by Dec 31.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

It's slim, it's trim, it's the Police Selfloading Pistol

I think I still remember the first actual for-real gun magazine I ever bought. Oh, I'd thumbed through Field and Stream before, but this was a GUN MAGAZINE. I was still at the stage in school where you got to cut out pictures and make collages. (Back in the day, this stopped around second grade, today it's probably PhD work, but that's no nevermind.)

There were three guns that caught my eye. This blurb is about one of them, and the other two were the 2" Colt Agent .38 Special and the Compact Offduty Police (COP) .357 Magnum four barrel derringer. (Yeah, I know. The COP was a stupid idea, but it looked cool.)

And the other pistol was this funky looking Kraut 9mm. Whee! For some reason, I really thought it looked cool, and this was back before video games made everyone love the HK brand.

Yep, I'm talking about a PSP, or P7.

Just in case you didn't know, the West German police, after the Munich Olympics terrorist incident, decided that they needed new pistols, and they cut a Request For Proposal for a smallish single stack 9mm. Today we've got 9mms that are a lot smaller (Kahr, Rohrbaugh, etc.) but the West German "P-series" police pistols were pretty revolutionary for their time.

Three pistols were approved: the P5, P6 and P7. Walther's P5 was a compact reimagining of the P38---with the ejection port on the LEFT side. (Funky.) SIG-Sauer's P6 was essentially a P220 cut down, using a braided recoil spring and a stamped slide with a breechblock insert. (Funky.) Heckler and Koch gave us the P7, which took funk from funky all the way to FONKY.

Like many pistols today, the P7 is striker-fired. That wasn't really so common thirty years ago. Like many pistols today, the P7 doesn't have a whole lot of levers, buttons, knobs or dials to spin or turn. Like many pistols today, the P7 gives you the same trigger pull every time.

Today we think of the Glock series as having been pretty revolutionary, but if you squint at a Glock you see a modern engineer's reworking of the basic Browning barrel lockup. (Not like that's a bad thing, mind you!) The P7, well, it went a little further than that.

The P7 uses a fixed barrel with a gas delayed blowback action. As the moniker "squeeze cocker" might imply, you squeeze the frontstrap to cock the pistol. If you've got a P7 at slidelock, you also squeeze the frontstrap to drop the slide. It's got a very low bore axis. The magazine is almost vertical and feeds ammunition into the chamber in as close to a straight line feed as I've ever seen. (This also gives the P7 a little extra barrel length for it's OAL.)

Oh yeah, and Hans Gruber used one in Die Hard.

Well, recently those German police pistols have hit the surplus market, and you can get your hands on a P7 for a good bit less than used to be the case, if you don't mind a used LEO gun (and I don't).

Mine dates to '84, and was ordered from CDNN. I'd always wanted one, and I figured that now was the time. So, what do I think, now that it's finally in my hot little hands?

WOWZA! I like it.

As I said above, by modern standards it's not really that small for a 9mm. It's about the size of a Glock 19, but with an old school magazine capacity of 8+1. Not only is the bore axis low, but the slide itself is trim and rounded. Squeezing the frontstrap is virtually silent, but releasing it gives you a loud "click."

Due to the gas-system, the pistol warms up when you shoot it. By the time I'd put a box through it (and not in any way rapid fire), the dust cover was hot hot hot. Combine that with the heel of the butt magazine release, and you don't have an IPSC pistol, or a military pistol either (in my view).

So it heats up, is slow to reload and doesn't hold a ton of bullets. Other than that, I love everything about it. Although it took me a few minutes to adapt to the trigger, I really like the trigger pull. It's not breaking a glass rod, but a short straight progression to release. Calling it "mushy" seems like an injustice, but I suppose you could.

I was shooting at seven yards, switching hands (supported) between each magazine. I started off scattering a few shots but just kept tightening up the groups as I went along. Finally I got all cocky and decided to pretend I was Mike Cumpston, and shot it ONE HANDED!

Yowza yowza woof woof!

Using a mongrelized hybrid of Weaver and bullseye stances (really, a Weaver with my weak hand tucked into my belt at the small of my back), I shot four five round groups, each going into about 3". (Hey, for me, three inches one handed at seven yards is really good shooting.)

The P7 is, without a doubt in my mind, the easiest pistol to shoot one handed I have ever fired. It's not the be-all and end-all of 9mms, but it's an enormously interesting artifact and another confirmation that Germans just love engineering.

I'm glad I finally got one.

No, it could never happen here

Police plan vehicle checkpoints in D.C. neighborhood.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Stung by an outbreak of violence, including eight killings last weekend alone, police are taking the unusual step of establishing vehicle checkpoints in a crime-ridden neighborhood in the nation's capital.

Starting Saturday night, officers will check drivers' ID and turn away any who don't have a "legitimate purpose" in the area - a plan that has drawn swift criticism from civil liberties groups.

You know, if they'd just declare martial law in the District, that'd take care of a lot of the Constitutional issues. (Not the moral ones, mind you, but the Constitutional ones.) Figger the odds, though, right?

Singin' them ol' Junta Blues

You know, at times I have wondered if its possible, theoretically, to conceive of a junta of some sort running the United States. Apparently it just means "committee" and so we could term the Bolsheviks and the Paris Commune to have been juntas. For some reason, I think of military governments when I think of juntas, but maybe that's just because junta is a Spanish (or Portugese) word, and both Spain and Portugal, and many of their colonial states, have experience with rule by the military.

Hmm, so do the Greeks, but we don't have "epitrol" as a synonym for military governance.

Anyway, while of course I prefer the sound order of our constitutionally restrained federalist republican system of government, sometimes I wonder what a revolutionary committee might do.

And so---purely in the spirit of a thought experiment, mind you---if I was going to set up and run a revolutionary committee to "right the wrongs" of our (or their) society, what would I want to do?

First of all, I'll presuppose that the revolutionary committee would be composed of sincere patriots who were reluctantly exercising their Jeffersonian franchise in what they considered to be the best interest of the nation. (However we want to define nation.)

Yes, I realize that by presupposing that politicians are selflessly acting in the best interests, etc., etc., and not feathering their own nests and stroking their own ego, I really have put myself into the "thought experiment" realm.

So, then, the ol' Cossack is head of the Revolutionary Kilt Committee, dedicating to ensuring that American men show a little more leg. (THOUGHT EXPERIMENT, folks!)

I'd want to set forth what Republicans (under Clinton) used to call a "date certain," and what they now call a "surrender date." As a patriotic despot, I'd be looking forward to the day I could surrender.

So here's my draft proclamation:

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. Before you stands me, proud patriot and reluctant tyrant. I have assumed full control of our national engines to correct various injustices, right certain wrongs and guide our (land/nation/government/people) in certain directions. I realize that this change from the settled routine inspires misgivings. Thus I wish to address you, and spell out my plans.

First point, I have seized power, and intend to hold power, for the course of ten years.

Second point, during these ten years I shall attempt to remake our society with as little killing as is necessary, although some will doubtless prove necessary.

Third point, at the expiry of this ten year period, I shall submit a referendum to the nation.

Subpoint a, in the event that the referendum disapproves of my rule, I shall resign office immediately to a caretaker committee composed of nine members, selected by and from the governors of these United States, and present myself to the International Court of Justice at the Hague for prosecution.

Subpoint b, in the event that the referendum approves of my rule, I shall resign office immediately to a caretaker council composed of nine members, selected by and from the governors of these United States and retire from public life.

Fourth point, I recognize that you retain your inalienable rights to overthrow me by force of arms and replace me with some other form of government.

(signed this day)

The Tyrant.

Sigh, I'd be such a bad tyrant.

Hoist on our own petard

I've always liked that line. First off, it's Shakespeare, and Shakespeare pretty much rocks. And not only is it Shakespeare, but it's Hamlet, and Hamlet is the model, I think, for our age. What, you think self-doubting heroes who bumble their way to glorious death are just everywhere in classic literature? Were there no Hamlet, there would be no Holden Caulfield.

I could be wrong about that, of course.

Oddly enough, my whole "I could be wrong" meme developed when I wrote an English literature paper arguing that, umm, Hamlet was a comedy. Long story, I'll tell you later. The professor was not overly impressed with my arguments.

But back to being hoist on our own petard.

I've opposed our current Mesopotamian adventure since before it kicked off. I have watched with shock and horror as one bad decision after another was taken. It has been like watching a train wreck, or maybe General Elphinstone in the First Anglo-Afghan War. I used to play a game called "Which Decision Really Was Fatal" for Elphinstone's command. But I digress.

You know, if this had all happened say a century ago, in 1903, as Operation Mesopotamian Freedom----it would have been a lot easier. First, of course, there's what I call the "Hillaire Belloc Rule." (The difference is that we have got/the Maxim gun, and they have not.) But also---and this is what gets me to thinking of petards----America has been the prime mover behind a paradigmatic shift in how the world thinks about itself.

Today, even the most repressive regimes adorn themselves with the trappings of democracy and self-determination. (The old gag line about the more representative adjectives in the formal state title the more repressive the regime remains true, witness the DPRK. Not merely democratic, not merely a republic, but a people's republic at that!) Why do they do that? Well, it's our paradigm. It's what we do.

And some of that, I think, a lot of it actually, is due to America. As much as I loathe Woodrow Wilson (pestilence be upon him), it's hard to overlook the Fourteen Points as a revolutionary document. All of a sudden, we committed--at least for the record---to considering the good of the populations we ruled, and to open covenants openly arrived at. From Wilson and the League of Nations to FDR and the United Nations, from the Nuremberg trials to the NATO charter, we have committed---at least for the record---to abjuring war as an instrument of national policy, we have committed to negotiating, to appealing to the international community, to sitting down with a good pot of joe and talking out our differences.

Why, the North Atlantic Treaty, NATO's charter, only listed two times when the use of force was authorized, those being the event of an attack upon a member state, and pursuant to authorization of the Security Council of the United Nations! (Yes, there was also another Clinton-Serb Corollary that exists de facto if not de jure.)

"Because we can," in other words, is no longer a good enough excuse.

So here we are, hoist on our own petard. We sold the world on the commitment (at least for the record) to human rights and international law, and stripped away a lot of the "wonderful toys" (to quote Jack Nicholson's Joker) that sovereign states used to enjoy. In 1903 the limits on naked colonial power were only beginning to form, as the British discovered in South Africa against the Boers. We---well, the USG---could have stormed into Baghdad in a perfect orgy of "Krag-based rehabilitation" and no one would have said boo. Gunboat diplomacy was still not only the rage, it was still regarded as legitimate. This hearts and minds nonsense didn't play, back in the day.

(Quick note: I'm just saying "hearts and minds nonsense"---I don't think its nonsense at all. I'm pretty much in favor of human rights myself, and I think that if you're going to be running a counterinsurgency hearts and minds is the very, umm, heart of the matter. But it's fun to say hearts and minds nonsense, and so I did.)

Of course, at the time that we really ginned up our radical, Arthurian paradigm, the USG played a role on the world stage entire orders of magnitude more restrained. When we were talking up limits on aggressive war, we didn't have, so to speak, so many chips in the game.

I don't think we, as Americans, even realize what a radical world we inhabit, our world, our bubble of America. We are fat because we have won. Mankind is hardwired for a Hobbesian existence, nasty brutish and short. The Lord's Prayer begins "Give us this day our daily bread" which breaks out to "Please, God, let me feed my family today." We've beaten that, here in America. I suppose you can starve in America, but you kind of have to work at it. I remember reading Michener's Poland, and in the middle ages some seneschal or other fancy word for deputy assistant thug to the local gang boss was ecstatic because, for Christmas, his liege gave him some hog scraps. Meat!

People who can afford to eat will eat a lot, because that's how we're wired---we evolved (whether socially or genetically or both or neither) knowing that starvation, famine and death by hunger were facts of life, and the banana you turn your nose up at today might be the last food you will ever see. Ever. Before you starve to death. So you don't turn your nose up at bananas.

(Of course, if you can substitute a nice juicy fat medium rare ribeye for that banana, even better.)

Just as we're wired to gorge on food, we're wired to brutally hit back at those what hits us. We are wired for tribal violence, and deep down we all know that that other tribe? They're not really human. Not, you know, not like us. The wogs start at Calais, and in the 19th century the idea that the Irish were white was laughable---they were subhuman, apelike man-things, and Thomas Nast drew the cartoons to prove it.

This belief that the other guy really is human, as human as you and me, that's something new. (I think it's a pretty good idea, myself.) Whether based on the Christian revelation that all men are children of God, or on some generalized idea of equality springing from precepts of pure reason, civilization is a thin cloak we wear against the naked savagery of the "Real World." Panic us, anger us, rouse us, challenge our beliefs or our faiths---we yearn to lash out.

If you shoot my dog, I'm gonna kill your cat, just the unspoken rules of rap, says Jay-Z.

If he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue, says Sean Connery in The Untouchables.

Well, America has been able to feed itself amply since at least 1945, and we're still getting fat, because we can. And America has been a larger player on the world stage since at least 1945, and we're still playing by the old rules, or trying to, trapped between paradigms, full of pious and (in my opinion) sincere beliefs about the brotherhood of man, while the monster lurks within, raging to vent its bloodlust in all the old glories of slaughter, rape, уничтожение чужих (the destruction of the other).

Heinlein said we were killer apes, and I think he was right. Heinlein was as far as I can tell a pretty staunch atheist (rather, one might say, like Christopher Hitchens, except that I think Heinlien would have kicked Hitchens' butt on general principles). To him, maybe, this human rights business might have seemed as ridiculous a fad as the Dutch passion for tulips (the one that almost destroyed their economy, I mean). As a libertarian and a Christian, I have all kinds of reasons to approve of the idea that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. I don't think we're just killer apes, in other words.

I think we are, like the blues, a mixture of the sacred and the profane, endowed by our Creator with not only souls that strive, however imperfectly, to be Godly, but also with reason, with which we can strive, however imperfectly, to find a better way of doing things.

And I think, in my heart of hearts, that the radical experiment that is (or was) America has done much to better mankind, and I'm not denigrating little things like the "Green Revolution" or transistors but mostly I'm talking about ideas. I really do think that. God made us all, and He gave us faith and reason. But, Lord, it can be a hard row to hoe. It is hard to be Christ-like, we are all flawed, fallen, fallible and hopefully forgiven. It is hard to overcome the savage alpha predator instincts hard wired into us by evolution. We know we should, of course . . . . And I think, in my heart of hearts, that we have been hoist by our own petard.

I try not to judge us (yes, me too) too harshly. I think we have been trapped between paradigms, that we have given in to our sinful nature, that we have fallen short of our goal---but it doesn't mean we can stop trying.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wait, It's Still Wednesday

And I like the War Nerd.

Presents himself as Gary Brecher of Fresno, CA. Could be a nom du internet, could be a nom du pickle for all I know, could be the, umm, how do you say, nom du birth.

In the event, he writes punchy and succinct analyses of wars ancient and modern, including an encomium to the mighty RPG.

Say, is it several encomiums, or several encomia?

One of the neat things about the War Nerd is that he understands that technology and hardware aren't the be-all and end-all of war.

At present there are 139 articles posted by Brecher, and every one of them is worth a read.

In an example of synchronicity that makes me think that Foucault's Pendulum really might be behind it all, Steve Sailer has interviewed the War Nerd, here.

Apparently I'm not the only one to like Kipling

Monday, May 05, 2008

Gods of the Copybook Headings [John Derbyshire]

The indispensable Charles Murray has a fine piece in the current issue of The New Criterion titled "The Age of Educational Romanticism." Sample:

To sum up, a massive body of evidence says that reading and mathematics achievement have strong ties to underlying intellectual ability, that we do not know how to change intellectual ability after children reach school, and that the quality of schooling within the normal range of schools does not have much effect on student achievement. To put it another way, we have every reason to think — and already did when the No Child Left Behind Act was passed — that the notion of making all children proficient in math and reading is ridiculous. Such a feat is not possible even for an experimental school with unlimited funding, let alone for public schools operating in the real world. By NAEP's definition of proficiency, we probably cannot make even half of the students proficient.

Charles is at the top of his brilliant form, walking through the shed calmly, courteously, and diffidently disembowelling sacred cows as he goes:

America’s federal education policy as of 2008 is at about the same place that the Soviet Union’s economic policy was in 1990 …

The reforms were based on premises about human nature that were patently wrong …

George W. Bush is the Percy Bysshe Shelley of educational romantics …

He thinks that the age of educational romanticism is coming to an end:

I am optimistic for three reasons. First, the data keep piling up … Second, we no longer live in a romantic age. Educational romanticism was born of forces that have lost most of their power … Third, hardly anybody really believes in educational romanticism even now … it is a classic emperor’s-clothes scenario waiting for someone to point out the obvious.

It's not just educational theory. It's all the theories about human nature that our elites have been cherishing this past forty years. In an article somewhere I tagged the later 20th century as "the Age of Bad Ideas." Reality doesn't go away just because you stop believing in it.

05/05 12:37 PM

The Percy Bysshe Shelley of educational romantics! I swoon!

It Must Be Wednesday, It's Stuff I Like


The Gods of the Copybook Headings

by Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn.
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn;
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the moon was Stilton, they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, they promised perpetual peace.
They swore if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would
But when we disarmed they sold us and delivered us bound to our Foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peters to pay for collective Paul;
But though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true,
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four --
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man --
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began --
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt fool's bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins,
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!