Friday, October 31, 2008

Old School


If you want a good way to start a fight (if not an intramural knife fight to the death over a foreign minister's wife!), just ask a collection of gun nuts, firearms fanciers or people who take responsibility for themselves, "What's the best carry gun?"

It is a great way to while away the hours!

Essentially you want a pistol that carries like a bitsy Beretta .25, hits like a .30-06, is accurate like a Pardini .22 rimfire match pistol, and is as reliable as a hammer. (And not just any hammer, but something like an Estwing Sure Strike solid steel hammer.)

Today, thanks to the genius of the market (and as an entirely unintended consequence of the high capacity magazine ban enacted under Bill Clinton), there is a broad variety of handguns eminently suited to personal protection, and handgun ammunition has benefited,and massively, from brilliant designers attempting to build a better bullet.

If there is a down side to these new and probably better options, it is that they tend to appeal to our cupidity for newest-fastest-lightest-polymerest-differentest. Sometimes new junk crowds out old classics.

The revolver pictured above is one of those old classics, and it remains the pistol I have carried most often. It is a Colt Cobra, in essence an aluminum alloy framed version of the famous Detective Special. Humphrey Bogart carried many a Detective Special (and its longer barreled brother, the Police Positive Special) in films noir in the 1930s and 1940s.

The precis from Wikipedia is an accurate description and summary of the Cobra. It is a light weight, six shot revolver. It is somewhere between Smith and Wesson's "carry revolvers" on the J frame and K frame in size. To my hands, the J frame is too small, the K frame is a little bit big, and the Colt D frame is just right for a six shot .38 Special. (The Colt D frame is close enough in size to the Smith and Wesson K frame that speedloaders for the two are interchangeable.)

My version from the 1950s has a slightly shorter ejector rod, and slightly smaller sights, than my early 1960s version, but the sights are still sharp, distinct, and dialed in for standard 158 grain .38 Special ammunition. If you pull the trigger without moving the sights, the sights will be dead on with this handgun load. The trigger pull stacks slightly towards the end, but is smooth, and well suited to my handgun shooting preferences. I find I shoot better with a long smooth trigger stroke, vice a short crisp trigger stroke, which is only proof once again that I am a weirdo.

For me, it carries easier than a modern, double stack autoloader of about the same size, something to do with its dimensions and where its thick, and where its thin. It is more accurate than I am, and when I maintain a modicum of practice I find it an easy revolver to shoot quickly and accurately.

In places, the bluing on the frame is worn. Where the bluing is intact, it presents a finely polished finish that will never again be offered on a standard production handgun, and the grip frame and topstrap are matte blued to provide a pleasant, and subtle, two-tone effect.

It does not have tons of power, nor oodles of bullets. It is a defensive firearm, almost purely. It is a tool for a free man to have, with which to defend his life, his liberty, and his God-given, inalienable rights.


I like it just fine.

Frum and Williamson Knife Fight to the Death over Anne Applebaum!

We remember Anne Applebaum's column in Slate complaining about how anti-intellectual the GOP has become, and how it prevents her vote for John McCain? (Yes, it was she who I referrred to as the Polish Foreign Minister's Wife.)

This has caused a schismatic knife fight to develop over at the National Review. Just as the bloodiest wars are civil, the very best knife fights are among intellectuals (said in context) over schismatic deviations and heresies.

The short version: Kevin D. Williamson wrote a blog post attacking Anne . . . the Polish Foreign Minister's Wife's Slate article. David Frum, in his own NRO blog, charged to the defense of the Polish Foreign Minister's Wife, pointing out that she was "the author of the definitive history of the Soviet Gulag."

Frum's concluding paragraph was in the "more in sorrow than in anger" mode of fake sincerity:

Anne is my friend, and of course it angers me when my friends are criticized. But this is not personal. How small has the house of conservatism shrunk when it can find no room for Anne Applebaum? What has happened at NR when this generation's greatest living expert on the crimes of communism can be dismissed as an unserious and dishonorable person?
Yes, yes.

Engaging in a bit of Maoist self-criticism, Mr. Donaldson clarified his ideological deviationism, umm, I mean, he pointed out that he thought Anne Applebaum really was a swell gall, just kind of, you know, elitist.

My broader point is that Barack Obama isn’t only a presidential candidate — he’s a class marker, an item of conspicuous consumption. Applebaum is at pains to distinguish herself from the “mob” supporting McCain, and I am amused by how often Obama’s supporters marvel that he was editor of the Harvard law review, as if that were a qualification for the presidency rather than a qualification to sit on the Senate rules committee. I don’t think it diminishes Applebaum’s work, or personal integrity, to note that she has presented in this article a case that is not convincing, therefore, “It's Hard to Believe Anne Applebaum.”
The problem with Maoist self criticism, however, is that sometimes it makes you want to leave a shiv in the back of your accuser. Donaldson concludes:

Frum is absolutely correct that in these disappointing times some conservatives have become far too ready to “read out” those with whom they disagree; I wouldn’t presume to do so with anybody of Anne Applebaum’s standing, of course, or David Frum’s, though I’m pretty sure that the Big Tent isn’t quite big enough to include Senator Obama, whatever his other virtues.

Ha ha, ha ha! Yes, indeedy! Some conservatives have become far too ready to "read out" those with whom they disagree . . . no one of Anne Applebaum's standing, of course, or David Frum's.

Wait, some conservatives . . . far too ready . . . "read out" . . . does that jog a memory? Why yes, yes it does!

David Frum in 2003, that memory is jogged. I think it was called "Unpatriotic Conservatives." Wasn't it? (Why yes, yes it was!)

From the very beginning of the War on Terror, there has been dissent, and as the war has proceeded to Iraq, the dissent has grown more radical and more vociferous. Perhaps that was to be expected. But here is what never could have been: Some of the leading figures in this antiwar movement call themselves "conservatives."
Sounds like disagreement!

These conservatives are relatively few in number, but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world — the commitment that inspired the founding of this magazine — in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies.

Sounds like reading out!

And who were these anti-war conservatives who were junking the commitment to American interests and values, ignoring threats and appeasing enemies?

You may know the names of these antiwar conservatives. Some are famous: Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak. Others are not: Llewellyn Rockwell, Samuel Francis, Thomas Fleming, Scott McConnell, Justin Raimondo, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese, Jude Wanniski, Eric Margolis, and Taki Theodoracopulos.

No one of Applebaum's standing, of course, or Frum's . . . umm, wait a minute? I have read, and widely, the vast majority of the men Frum read out of the movement. Perhaps I'm blinding myself, but if I compare any one of these men, let alone take them in aggregate, to David Frum, the comparison is . . . well, how do you compare something to nothing? (The nothing, that would be Frum.)

Just as sacred cow makes the best hamburger, the very best knife fights are intramural. Like a picador, man. Like a picador.

Note: Edited to replace "along" with "alone" in the penultimate paragraph. My bad.

Zen interventionism, if you will

Justin Raimondo is quite possibly my favorite commentator, with a focus on anti-war issues, and takes a look at Obama. His take is very similar to mine, in fact, his take generally informs mine. (I've been reading every day for about ten years.)

He writes of mail he receives whenever he cautions that Obama is not the antiwar candidate some (many) people take him to be:

The common assumption of these letter-writers is that Obama is just trying to "pass," so to speak, as a warmonger. Once he's in office, peace will break out all over. What evidence do we have for this? None whatsoever.
And in conclusion?

But – and I hate to tell you this, but somebody has to -- the politics of fear and deception have not been patented by the Republicans. Look for the Democrats to add their own ingredient to this bipartisan recipe for overseas disasters: the politics of guilt. White liberal guilt, to be sure. We'll be smack dab in the middle of Africa's feuding tribes faster than you can say "Samantha Power."

And that's the best case scenario. In the worst case, the Dennis Ross faction of Obama's emerging foreign policy movers and shakers will maneuver us into a confrontation with Iran, and relations with Russia will deteriorate to a new low as NATO escalates its eastward expansion. In any case, those who are working to effect a fundamental change in American foreign policy have a duty to take Obama at his word -- hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Justin Raimondo is not popular among the neocons/anti-jihadist right. And there have been times when I thought his work had holes in it, places where my own knowledge pointed in a very different direction than that in which Raimondo pointed. But as I have said in the past, I expect my heroes to have feet of clay. Neither his unpopularity with the crazier, more interventionist neocons nor his occasional misstep are reasons to miss his thrice-weekly columns at, however.

Obama is a blank slate, I believe he has consciously so modeled himself, and if we see in him what we wish to see, based on nothing more than our own preferences and Obama's airy generalities, then who is the fool? Is it Obama? Or is the fool us?

Ask Pogo.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thoughts on linking and annotation

I'm still evolving my annotation/linking style. In some earlier posts, I linked as often as I could, but I have tapered off. Now, for instance, in my discussion of the Winter War and Christopher Lee in the post below, I don't include a single link. Why dat?

Part of it is the revolution in search engines. If you want to know more about the Winter War and Christopher Lee, you just google, or ask, or yahoo "Winter War" "Christopher Lee" and shazam, there you have it.

If I discuss a particular article, I'll include a link.

Hey, I'm just doing what works for me, and I don't pretend I am right!

I loves me some intarw3bz!

I love the internet. The opportunity to find new information while spinning off on a tangent is, simply, a hoot to me. Maybe it's my disorganized mind?

I started off looking for information on the T-34 tank, because I was playing a video game where that tank features, and it didn't look quite right to me. A few moments of typing, and I discovered that the T-34 in the game doesn't really look anything like a real T-34. OK, problem solved!

But . . . but wait, that's not all!

From reading about the T-34 I segued neatly into reading about the Winter War of 1939, between the Finns and the Soviets. (And I think the Winter War would be a great video game, too, giving you the chance to kill Godless Soviet Commies without having to pretend to be a Nazi, but that's a different tangent on which one could spin.)

So there I am reading about the Winter War and I discover that Christopher Lee was a British volunteer with the Finns!

How cool is that?

(Note: Mr. Lee admits that he never saw combat, as the detachment of volunteers he was with was considered too valuable from a PR standpoint to risk in battle. Still. Still!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Slate explains white supremacist numerology

Slate outlines the meanings behind some white supremacist numerology.

88 and 14. As the Times article explained, the number 88 represents the phrase "Heil Hitler," because H is the eighth letter in the alphabet. White supremacists are also fond of the number 18 to represent the initials A.H. (Other tight-knit groups use a similar code: The Hells Angels, for example, are attached to the number 81.)

Weaker, I think, when they turn to the mystical skinhead significance of the number 5:

the number 5 represents resistance to law enforcement in the form of this five-word response to interrogation: "I have nothing to say."
Willing to go out on a limb with me here? Maybe it has something to do with the Fifth Amendment? Resistance to law enforcement? Right against self-incrimination? (Hey, if I said "The right against self-incrimination" that would be FIVE WORDS. FIVE. Five.)

I officially, and for real, now feel old

Rotten Tomatoes is doing a James Bond retrospective, from someone who had never seen a single James Bond movie.

The parts where he explains how seeing Goldfinger gave him a whole new appreciation of Austin Powers? That was my Metamucil moment.

Did I say "OODA-loopy" and "New York Times" in the same post?

Sometimes the New York Times is the gift that keeps on giving. Let's take David Brooks column from yesterday. (Please!) Brooks' The Behavioral Revolution opens thusly:

Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.

Over the past few centuries, public policy analysts have assumed that step three is the most important. Economic models and entire social science disciplines are premised on the assumption that people are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest.

Although I freely admit that I am only marginally familiar with Boyd's OODA loop concepts, this article seems to be heavily sympatico with Boyd's work. However, if I rightly recollect, Boyd placed the emphasis on the second stage, not the third, and explicitly noted that our orientation is heavily influenced by our own biases, predispositions and experiences. This contradicts the assumption that people "are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest." It all comes down to the question of whether our orientation is rational or not.

Brooks spends the rest of the column attempting to shift the presence of bias over to his "first O", that of perception. Although he might never have been exposed to Boyd's work, he trudges the path Boyd blazed, with a little "right wing deviationism" thrown in for fun.

If you start thinking about our faulty perceptions, the first thing you realize is that markets are not perfectly efficient, people are not always good guardians of their own self-interest and there might be limited circumstances when government could usefully slant the decision-making architecture (see “Nudge” by Thaler and Cass Sunstein for proposals). But the second thing you realize is that government officials are probably going to be even worse perceivers of reality than private business types. Their information feedback mechanism is more limited, and, being deeply politicized, they’re even more likely to filter inconvenient facts.

This meltdown is not just a financial event, but also a cultural one. It’s a big, whopping reminder that the human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.

Who'd a thunk?

Friedman on the Mullahs

So I'm reading the new column by Thomas Friedman, "Sleepless in Teheran" in the New York Times. Ordinarily I'm not a big fan of Friedman's, but in this column he advocates talking with Iran, an idea I find appealing. Even when I like some of his ideas, I'm startled by the shoddiness of his column. Now, I understand that being a regular op-ed writer is probably the newspaper equivalent of academic tenure, and so you're allowed to run free, or freer, without the rigorous scrutiny (presumably) applied to non-"name" journalists. And, of course, I am aware of the ongoing tribulations of the Times on the financial side---stock about to be downgraded to junk status, all that.

But read these two paragraphs, and riddle me whether or not an editor might have wanted to take a look at them:

After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union. And Iran today is looking very Soviet to me.

As Vladimir Mau, president of Russia’s Academy of National Economy, pointed out to me, it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. The spike in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad — and then the collapse in prices in the ‘80s helped bring down that overextended empire.

Hmm. So it was the collapse in global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union, except that it was also the collapse in prices in the '80s that helped bring down that overextended empire.

Friedman goes on a review of the economic missteps and miscues of the mullahs, the heavy social spending, the domestic subsidies of the FIRE sector (wait, I made that one up) and concludes that if "(oil) prices stay low, there is a good chance Iran will be open to negotiating over its nuclear program with the next U.S. president."

Like Thomas Friedman, I think that would be a very good thing. I still think his reach is exceeding his grasp when he writes:

That is a good thing because Iran also funds Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and the anti-U.S. Shiites in Iraq. If America wants to get out of Iraq and leave behind a decent outcome, plus break the deadlocks in Lebanon and Israel-Palestine, it needs to end the cold war with Iran. Possible? I don’t know, but the collapse of oil prices should give us a shot.

Wait, we're going to get out of Iraq, AND leave behind a decent outcome? To paraphrase Moynihan, only if we define decent outcome down. (And I think that's inevitable.) And while we're at it, we're going to break the deadlocks in Lebanon and Israel-Palestine? That's mighty ambitious.

While I can stipulate Friedman's assessment of the straitened economic circumstances Russia and Iran now find themselves in, I think he's overlooking another country undergoing some straitened economic circumstances. (That would be us, or at least, the US.) I don't mean to get all OODA-loopy here, but the process of weighing your assets and liabilities against your potential gains and your potential losses, discounted for risk, is something that has to be ongoing and dynamic. (To Mametize this, "things change.")

Personally, I want to get the Iranians back on our side. Not necessarily the mullahs, not necessarily this regime, but somehow, someday, I want the Iranians back on our side, and so when Friedman calls for ending the cold war with Iran as the key to Middle Eastern progress, I'm down with that, homey.

Doubtless all good liberals will cringe when Friedman quotes Karim Sadjadpour on negotiating with the Iranians by analogizing to negotiating with a Persian carpet merchant---and it do have a whiff of "ethno-cultural stereotyping" to it!---but it doesn't really bother me, and I think it shows a good grounding in reality. (I look forward with equal enthusiasm to Freidman's comments on negotiating with Israel being like negotiating with a Jewish money-lender. Yes?)

Unfortunately, of course, a big dollop of love for the Democratic nominee for president lies in the middle of this poorly edited but reasonably sensible article.

Barack Hussein Obama would present another challenge for Iran’s mullahs. Their whole rationale for being is that they are resisting a hegemonic American power that wants to keep everyone down. Suddenly, next week, Iranians may look up and see that the country their leaders call “The Great Satan” has just elected “a guy whose middle name is the central figure in Shiite Islam — Hussein — and whose last name — Obama — when transliterated into Farsi, means ‘He is with us,’ ” said Sadjadpour.
You know, I wish I could see the magic of Obama, but I don't. For me he's like Seinfeld: a politician about nothing, and what's worse, an uninteresting politician about nothing. While the GOPniks are running around screaming "He'll get tough on Israel! He'll sit down to negotiate with Iran! He'll slash the defense budget by a quarter! He'll yank us out of Iraq!" I find myself muttering under my breath, "If only." But I think he's just another politician, blither-blathering whatever he thinks people want to hear until he gets his hands on the keys to the executive washroom. Still, I curiously find myself loathing him somewhat less than John McCain, because I fear that McCain really would start a serious war somewhere, like with Iran or (God forbid) Russia.

I have a final nit to pick with the closing paragraph.

“When you ask young Arabs which leaders in the region they most admire,” said Sadjadpour, they will usually answer the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. “When you ask them where in the Middle East would you most like to live,” he added, “the answer is usually socially open places like Dubai or Beirut. The Islamic Republic of Iran is never in the top 10.”

Could any of that be due to the fact that most Arabs probably don't speak Farsi? How much business does the Islamic Republic conduct in Arabic? Is there any anti-Sunni prejudice, or any anti-Sunni policies, in effect in Iran? I, frankly, have no idea, but wouldn't be surprised if there were. Then again, people frequently voice admiration for revolutionary leaders while preferring to maintain their own safety, security and stability.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Because NATO doesn't stand for North Atlantic anything . . .

Bush Endorses NATO Membership for Albania, Croatia

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2008 – President Bush kicked off the weekend by signing agreements endorsing Albania and Croatia as NATO members and called on other Balkan and former Soviet countries to join the alliance.

And as they used to say on the late night tv commercials, "But wait there's more!"

As if letting Albania (!) and Croatia into NATO isn't enough, the Most Socialist President in US History also extends the hand of friendship to other nations yearning to breathe free:

Bush reiterated U.S. support for others to join NATO, including Georgia, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, and Serbia if it chooses. These countries “remember the pain of tyranny,” and, as a result, “treasure the blessings of liberty,” he said.

Russia only gets one finger, and it's not from the hand of friendship.

Remember, kids, just because its called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization doesn't mean it has to have anything to do with, you know, the "North" or the "Atlantic" or any of that nonsense. Besides, the Adriatic is very, very similar to the Atlantic. Both, for instance, are salty and wet.

Ha ha! That "other George W." that President George W. Bush used to talk about, he was so silly! All his blither-blather about avoiding "entangling alliances" and suchlike! Ha ha! Ha ha!

Ha ha! That "other George Bush" that President George W. Bush is related to, he was so silly! All his blither-blather "promises" to the Soviet Union that NATO would not be expanded if German reunification was permitted! Ha ha! Ha ha!

Cathy Young gets her mad on

Cathy Young is no supporter of the Russian Federation. She has engaged in a tussle with Glenn Greenwald over the South Ossetian War of 2008, which I attempt to parse here.

The initial impetus for the dust-up came when Greenwald wrote a post at Salon about “Our diverse and vibrant democracy.”

One of the two major presidential candidates is repeatedly lying to the American public about one of the most significant geopolitical events of the year. The other candidate has adopted the lie because doing so is more politically expedient than refuting it.

As a result, the vast bulk of the American citizenry has a completely false understanding of a war that took place this year between our "stalwart ally" and our New/Old Scary Enemy (namely, that the New Scary Enemy launched an unprovoked attack on our sweet and innocent democratic ally). That lie is then used to depict the New Enemy as a Grave Threat and to justify proposed NATO membership for the victimized ally, an extremely dangerous policy which all four major candidates, with varying degrees of qualification, fundamentally endorse (thus further eliminating any discussion, debate or dissent over it).
Ms. Young was not going to take this! Posting at Reason, “Sympathy for the devil: why is the American left making excuses for Putin’s Russia?”, she wrote that Greenwald’s take was “blatantly false—and reveals much more about the mindset of the left than about the state of American democracy.”

Ms. Young asserts that no one (save only Moose Killin’ Sarah Palin) thinks the Russian actions were unprovoked, simply “serious aggression” and, later, “naked aggression” (from McCain) which was “unacceptable” and “unwarranted” (the latter two from Obama). Ms. Young further asserts that this view is dominant in Europe, linking to a Council of Europe resolution. That resolution notes that:

5. However, the start of shelling of Tshkinvali without warning by the Georgian military, on 7 August 2008, initiated a new level of escalation, namely that of open and full-fledged warfare. The use of heavy weapons and cluster munitions, creating grave risks for civilians, constituted a disproportionate use of armed force by Georgia, albeit within its own territory, and as such a violation of international humanitarian law and Georgia’s commitment to resolve the conflict peacefully.


6. At the same time, the Russian counter-attack, including large-scale military actions in Central and Western Georgia and in Abkhazia, equally failed to respect the principle of proportionality and international humanitarian law and constituted a violation of Council of Europe principles, as well as of statutory obligations and specific accession commitments of the Russian Federation as a member state. It led to the occupation of a significant part of the territory of Georgia, as well as to attacks on the economic and strategic infrastructure of the country which can be deemed to be either a direct attack on the sovereignty of Georgia and thus a violation of the Statute of the Council of Europe, or an attempt by Russia to extend its influence over a “near abroad” state in violation of its accession commitment to denounce such a concept.
I didn’t know that counter-attacks, however excessive they might be, constituted aggression, let alone serious or naked aggression. Perhaps Ms. Young counted on few people clicking through to read her links. (In fairness, Ms. Young does prefer to use Obama’s “unacceptable and unwarranted” language.)

She then asserts that “Clearly, what irks Greenwald is not that Russia's actions in Georgia are viewed as unprovoked but that they are viewed as (to quote Obama) unacceptable and unwarranted.” Maybe she’s right—but I don’t see it that way. From my reading of Mr. Greenwald’s post, what irked Greenwald was that the lie “is then used to depict the New Enemy as a Grave Threat and to justify proposed NATO membership for the victimized ally, an extremely dangerous policy which all four major candidates, with varying degrees of qualification, fundamentally endorse.” In other words, my impression is that Mr. Greenwald was referring to the dangers of expanding NATO membership to Georgia, without debate.

But back to the Rolling Stones post: Ms. Young accuses Russia of engaging in “blatant provocations toward Georgia, apparently including the downing of a Georgian reconnaissance drone over Abkhazia.” Ms. Young glosses over the last paragraph of the AP report, which reads:

The observers’ report said both sides had violated an Abkhazia cease-fire agreement — Russia by shooting down the drone and Georgia by flying it over Abkhazia.

The blatant provocation, then, was shooting down a UAV which Georgia had (in a blatant provocation?) flown over Abkhazian airspace.

Well, whatever. Then Ms. Young concludes “Sympathy for the Devil” with a confusing paean to the good old days when the Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union:

When Cold War-era leftists pleaded for a more understanding view of the Soviet Union, they were at least arguing on behalf of a power that, despite its abuses, at least outwardly embraced many "progressive" ideals: free medicine, housing and education, extensive social services, secularism, women's rights, relative social equality. The Putin/Medvedev Russia is the opposite of everything today's left supports: It's a land where billionaires flaunt their $20,000 watches and $350 million yachts, social services are slashed to a minimum, religion is entangled with the state, ethnic bigotry flourishes, labor unions are trampled, and homophobia is rampant and officially condoned.
Ah, the good old days!

Indeed, in his follow-up post, “The Russia/Georgia conflict and the tactics of 2002" Greenwald writes, that those who
“oppose the ill-conceived, dangerous plan to turn Georgia into a U.S. protectorate through NATO membership and other entanglements -- are smeared as Putin apologists and guilty of sympathizing with, acquiescing to, and even supporting Russian tyranny.”

Now I know neither Mr. Greenwald nor Ms. Young, but have read a reasonable selection of their articles and postings, and I have never seen Mr. Greenwald display any particular affection for the Russian state. He’s writing about the dangers of expanding NATO to include Georgia, folks, not implying that we should join with Russia to stamp out a revanchist Georgia!
In the tit-for-tat world of the blogosphere, Ms. Young felt the need to further clarify her position, in a post at Reason under the title "Cathy Young Responds to Glenn Greenwald Re: The Left and Putin's Russia.” She makes five main points, none of which seem relevant or on-point to me, and concludes that:

Do I think Greenwald loves the Putin regime? No, of course not. Do I think his (often deserved) revulsion at the Bush administration's policies has turned into a knee-jerk tendency to be against whatever the "neocons" are for, and consequently into a very real moral blind spot? Yes, and this blind spot is nowhere as evident as in Greenwald's glib, reprehensible dismissal of Georgian democracy.

Of course, if she had actually addressed the issue of potential accession into NATO by Georgia, she would have been responding to Greenwald’s post, and not simply praising our plucky little democratic pal Georgia.

Alexander Cockburn is not in the tank for Obama

Writing in the Independent, Cockburn (and it's pronounced Coburn, I now understand) writes that he's "been scraping around, trying to muster a single positive reason to encourage a vote for Obama."

Obama's run has been the negation of almost every decent progressive principle, with scarcely a bleat of protest from the progressives seeking to hold him to account. The Michael Moores stay silent. Obama has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines. He is more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain, and has been the most popular of the candidates with Washington lobbyists. He has been fearless in offending progressives, constant in appeasing the powerful.

Monday, October 27, 2008

So the wife of the Polish Foreign Minister is for Obama

So the wife of the Polish Foreign Minister writes this column about why she can't vote for John McCain. I hadn't read too many of her columns before I realized she had a kind of a forward policy approach to foreign policy and a particular hard-on for Russia. That was BEFORE I knew she was the wife of the Polish Foreign Minister.

The article was in Slate.

A few howlers leapt out at me. Maybe she is absolutely correct in her comments, but that's not how it looks to me.

She writes that it's "his rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party" that, finally, repulses her. My ears pricked up at this!

Her take on what constitutes a rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party is, shall we say, different than mine. Way different. My first clue to this was her praise of John McCain as "a true foreign-policy intellectual."

Bomb-bomb Iran.

A true foreign policy intellectual.

Bomb-bomb Iran.

A true foreign policy intellectual.

Then my suspicions were confirmed: Mrs. Polish Foreign Minister is one of them there National Greatness conservatives, she loves America because of all this power we've got (we had, we've got, we had, whatever) to throw around.

Her admiration for John McCain stems from his foreign policy pointy-headedness, his respect for budgetary sensibility and his disdain for torture, and his willingness to betray conservative principles on issues like immigration and, well, mostly just immigration. All that is trumped, however, but the aggressive anti-intellectualism of his party. And Moose Killin' Sarah Palin.

She doesn't come across as too enthused about Obama, however.

Barack Obama is indeed the least experienced, least tested candidate in modern presidential history. But at least if he wins, I can be sure that the mobs who cry "terrorist" at the sound of his name will be kept away—far away—from the White House.

Let's keep them peasants and their pitchforks in their place, dern it!

Everything I need to know, I learned from Lord Palmerston

“Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”

Everything I need to know, I learned from Smedley Butler

War is a racket.

Conversations with Mikheil Saakashvili on Obama the Anti-War Candidate

The New York Times had a puff piece with Mikheil Saakashvili. (For the life of me, I keep on typing "Mikhail" which was the accepted Latin transliteration of Микаил and am tempted to type it, now, as Mik-HEIL just for cheap Godwin laughs. No, I don't like Saakashvili, not one bit.)

The article's title was "An American Friend."

No, not the Wim Winders film.

While John McCain's enthusiasm for military interventions, and the fact that his chief foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann is, err, was, a lobbyist for Georgia are well known, Obama enthusiasts prefer to think of their candidate as "anti-war."

Here's Saakashvili:

Did you watch our presidential debates? It sometimes seems like the one subject the candidates agreed on is the necessity of supporting your country, a former Soviet satellite state that has recently been warring with Russia. I was personally very surprised that the candidates were so passionate about Georgia. Of course, John McCain has been many times to Georgia and knows it firsthand. Obama said absolutely all the right things.


Do you think Georgia will be accepted into NATO in December, when the next vote is scheduled? It’s the $100 million question. I was reassured by Senator Obama, who said that we should have a NATO Membership Action Plan. Whether we get it, we’ll see.

As Pat Buchanan wrote at the height of the South Ossetian War of 2008,

From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, U.S. presidents have sought to avoid shooting wars with Russia, even when the Bear was at its most beastly.

Change? Hope? Admittedly, the belief that we should undertake military commitments to defend Georgia are a somewhat novel change, and one I hope no one seriously considers, but then again, I rarely get the change I hope for.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Stealers Wheel

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.

The Tan Fuhrer

Well, word "on the street" is that we're looking at a historic election this year, with forces of hope and change set to sweep away the ancien regime, and inaugurate Barack Obama as the once and future king. I mean, next president.

For me, this brings to mind the phrase that Jeff Cooper used to use to refer to the right Rev. Jesse Jackson---"the tan Fuhrer." Jeff Cooper was a Marine officer in WW2, holder of a master's degree in history from Stanford, and chief promulgator of the "New Technique" of handgun shooting. I'm pretty sure everyone knows who Jesse Jackson is.

While the election has not been held, it sure looks like Barack Obama is set to be the tan Fuhrer for real and for true.

What? I'm calling the Democratic nominee for president a Fuhrer? Well, that kind of goes with the office, these days. As someone once remarked, "It'd be easier if this was a dictatorship, as long as I'm the dictator."

For the last eight years, the Republican party and Republican activists have enthusiastically supported the expansion of presidential authority under the rubric of the "unitary executive." The Republican party and Republican activists have fervently argued in favor of "signing statements" wherein the president signs a bill into law while reserving the right to ignore those parts of the law that he finds unduly restrictive of his "inherent authority" or disadvantageous for the good of the nation. For six years, the Republican party and Republican activists have argued that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by the legislative branch back in September of 2001 established a de facto and de jure regime under which the president could do, well, just about anything he wanted to. You know, arrest US citizens without 4th Amendment protections. Use "enhanced interrogation techniques" (i.e., torture) on foreigners at home and abroad, and on US nationals, at home and abroad. Wage war on such nations, states, peoples and groups as he finds planned, authorized, committed or aided the attacks of 9/11.

(Note: I really wish that I could have typed, in place of "the Republican party and Republican activists" the phrase "conservatives." However, none of that was conservative.)

Well, shazam, as Gomer Pyle used to say.

Here's a news flash: that power is still going to be in the executive come January 20 of 2009.

In the event that Barack Obama does become president, I imagine that the Republican party will rediscover its enthusiasm for a restrained executive, will rediscover its belief that legislation ought to undergird exercises of presidential authority, and in short will rediscover that actions have consequences.

Good luck with that. You did it to yourselves, caught up in the heat of the moment, convinced of the righteousness of your cause, convinced that electoral politics, like international politics, had arrived at the end of history. You have sown the wind, and now you will reap the whirlwind.

Remember, as Bill Clinton once said, "You can't love your country if you hate your government." Hey, hasn't that been an operative meme over the last eight years as well?

If I did not look forward to the day when my daughters would be able to read over this blog and see what their old man had said, I would dip into my reservoir of truly explicit USMC language and express my true opinion of the Republican party, and Republican activists.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall . . .

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the most centralizing-executive-power, invading-other-countries country of them all?

I've probably used the Nietzsche quote before, where he warns that when you stare long into the abyss, the abyss stares long into you. And I've thought about Bill Buckley's quote that to defeat the evil Godless Commies, we had to become, if not evil Godless Commies ourselves, then at least Soviet-Lite. And I know I've thought some about projection, about seeing reflections of ourselves in others, particularly in "the Other" (which, for all my life, hasn't been Obama, but the Soviet Union).

And so America, and Americans, look at the Soviet Union. Wait, did I say Soviet Union? I meant to say "Russian Federation." And so America, and Americans, look at the Russian Federation, and what do we say?

We say that Vladimir Putin has concentrated executive power in his administration while reducing the power of the legislative branches.

We say that Russia is an aggressive and expansionist empire looking to control the world.

We say that Russia overreacts militarily to provocations.

We say that Russia uses energy policy as a political weapon to control or influence other states.

We say that the Russian news media is in the hip pocket of the Putin/Medvedev tag-team administration, and doesn't provide accurate information on "what's really going down."

We say that Russia destabilizes the international order by recognizing new, made-up states, basically taking a whiz in the face of the Westphalian system.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, those faults we see in them are ours, that's all.

Let's see here. Concentrating executive authority? Think about the unitary executive theory and signing statements. ("I'll approve this law, except the parts that I don't like, because I'm the president.") Aggressive, expansionist empire? Just how many countries do we garrison at present, voluntarily or involuntarily? Military overreaction to provocations? Compare and contrast the very limited incursion into Georgia with our ongoing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Energy policy as a weapon? Look at the pipelines and ask yourself again about Afghanistan and Georgia and why we're now BFF. News media in the hip pocket? The "liberal benchmarks" of the New York Times and the Washington Post are enthusiastic cheerleaders for the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, carrying water for the PTB. Destabilizing the international order with made up states? That's spelled K-O-S-O-V-O. (Or is it K-O-S-O-V-A as the Albanians prefer?)

We have become what we beheld, and strangely, we are content.

Note: At or about 8:38 a.m. CDT on 28 October I revised this post, because I stupidly wrote "Russian Republic" when I meant to say "Russian Federation." My bad.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Man, there's that whole "privatizing the costs, socializing the benefits" meme again

Karen DeCoster rips up on AIG for partying like it's 1999, on the USG dime.

Ordinarily, you don't hear DeCoster talking up government regulation of private businesses. Ordinarily, that's because that's just not one of the arrows in her quiver.

Then again, these aren't ordinary times.

Ordinarily, I don't much care for populist mobs of peasants (that'd be me, hi Mom!) with pitchforks and pitch torches storming the commanding heights of the von du zus and other elites.



Wait, ordinarily do people who run big businesses so throughly into the ground as to demand eleven-digit federal bailouts get million dollar a month consulting fees? ELEVEN DIGITS, folks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cognitive dissonance kicking in . . . .

A post at National Review which approvingly quotes an article at the Ludwig von Mises Institute?

As my dear old Nanny might have said, "Well I swan! My eyes got as big as teacups!"

Institutions worth more than liberty

Anthony Gregory writes in the American Conservative, reviewing Justin Raimondo's Reclaiming the American Right.

Money graf:

Conservatism today is not too ideological or insufficiently traditional. Rather, it is ideologically devoted to the wrong traditions. It sees the U.S. empire, the police state, the Republican Party, and other right-wing symbols as proxies for freedom, as institutions worth more than liberty. It has adopted coercive nationalism and utilitarian collectivism and cast away the traditions of constitutionalism, freedom, and natural law on which bourgeois values depend.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

To be, or not to be . . . not to be.

I'm sorry, that's just about the most hilarious shite ever, enough to have made The Last Action Hero not quite the worst movie ever made. And that's without taking into consideration that I got the worst grade of my life by submitting a paper arguing that Hamlet was a comedy.

The only band that matters

Everything I need to know, I learned from Miller's Crossing

If I'd known we were going to cast our feelings into words, I'd have memorized the Song of Solomon.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Leonard Cohen

I've seen the future, brother, it is murder.

Tribal politics

What's wrong with tribes?


The Texas tribe. The American tribe. The Christian tribe. The teuful tribe. The "Western-Civ" tribe. The Scottish tribe. The gun-nut tribe.

Moynihan was wrong.

All politics is not local. All politics is tribal.

It all depends, of course, on how you define your tribe.

So, how come you don't have an M16 (or AR15) yet?

Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: I think you oughta get yourself an M-16.
Sergeant Major Basil Plumley: Sir, if the time comes I need one, there'll be plenty lying on the ground.

I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When did Obama decide to run?

After watching the first season (or first day) of 24, I can't help but think that, maybe, just maybe, it was after Dennis Haysbert won America's hearts as the first black POTUS.

Games people play

Obama plays poker.

McCain plays craps.

Putin plays chess.

Nope, don't mean nothing. Nothing! We're America, dammit!

No, I WAS wrong

I remember, back in the day, back when Sandbox I was winding down, I thought Poppy Bush (т.е., George Herbert Walker Bush) was flat out wrong to not pursue Saddam Hussein's forces back into Iraq, all the way to Baghdad, and remove him from office.

I was wrong.

I was so very wrong. I was focused on "could we do it?" and not on "and then what would happen?"

I've mentioned the Coen Brothers' movie Miller's Crossing in the past, because I dig on it so much. Now I'm thinking of an exchange between Tom Regan and Leo O'Bannon.

I don't have me the transcripts, but the exchange went something like this.

Leo: You do anything you can to help your friends, the same way you do anything you can to kick your enemies.
Tom: No, Leo, you do things for a reason.

It just works out better if you've thought through the reason.

Looking back on my enthusiasm for getting rid of Saddam, my face flushes crimson. Maybe Poppy really SHOULD have gone to Baghdad, but that ain't the way it looks to me.

Guns and butter?

While thinking back on the "most conservative administration in history" (excuse me while I hack up a lung laughing, no, wait, I really CAN keep a straight face) it occurs to me that we need a new phrase to describe the "guns AND butter" philosophy espoused by the Bush the Lesser Administration.

I think I know what to call it.

You work it as a contraction, you take parts of both words and fuse them together.


And butter?


Oh, if that crack about "most conservative administration in history" above got your goat, let me enumerate. We've had massive new unfunded liabilities to seniors (Medicare drug benefits), lavish tongue baths to diversity, strong presidential action to "regularize" "undocumented" workers, centralization of the state organs of security, back-breaking simultaneous paeans to Islam as the religion of peace combined with kill-the-dirty-towelheads xenophobia and two and a half wars funded by Japanese and Chinese credit.

And the trend lines, o my droogies, they ain't looking so good.


I've traveled some in the Former Soviet Union, and worked for a couple of years in Kazakhstan (with side business and pleasure trips to Mongolia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan), and I always enjoyed talking to people about their lives. I've always been interested in the Soviet Union, and its predecessor and successor states.

I can't claim this as authoritative (i.e., "I could be wrong!") but a lot of people talked to me about the way things were under Brezhnev (and his successor party heads).

By that point in time, pretty much no one believed in the "Soviet system." No one really believed that the workers of the world should unite and cast off their capitalist oppressors.

But there was some stability, and if you were smart and worked hard and had some luck and knew the right people, you could make some money, have some status, do okay for yourself.

In Russian, adding "-schina" to someone's name turns it into a new noun, meaning "Age of X" or "reign of X". I don't think anyone's used the term Brezhnevschina before, so it's my very own little term of art.

For me, it means, "We all know it's a fraud, but there's still money to be made pretending, so we keep on going through the motions."

So . . . would that make it the Bushschina? I mean, here, now, for us.

We still talk the smack: freedom, democracy, capitalism. Does anyone still believe that smack? More particularly, does anyone still believe that the United States Government represents that smack?

I suppose I can take comfort in the more euphonious-sounding impending "Obamaschina."


Monday, October 20, 2008

Everything I need to know, I learned from Ronald Reagan

"Trust, but verify."

It sounds better in Russian, of course.

"Верить, а проверить."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Everything I need to know, I learned from Scarecrow


had a talk w/G-d last night,
this was his offer:
all my sins forgiven,
all my debts paid,
everyone i ever fucked over or fucked,
reborn and made to feel clean,
no more pain for my eyes,
bulldozers and tanks
rust into anthills,
nothing more ever dreamed of
or manufactured to melt the skin,
hunger not even a word,
only one language - love.

all this,
all this,
or I could have stars on my boots.

And you should see them babe,
everyone wants a pair.

Note: I copied this poem down from a journal, probably twenty years ago, and have no idea where it came from, nor who, beyond the nom de plume, the author is. I humbly plead "fair use" in reproducing it here, and will provide proper citation if it is produced to me.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Percy Shelley

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Bill Bixby.

"Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

I likes me some meat

I am prone to self-doubt. I mean, "I could be wrong" as the title, that's filed under "Clue, Some Kind Of." Sometimes I wonder if I've secretly turned all left wing, gone all prog, like a piece of meat goes bad in the supermarket if it sits there too long. Generally this is preceded by a putative conservative calling me some variation on faggot Godless commie.

Fortunately, the internet is full of places where I can easily check if I have succumbed to a, shall we say, more sinister political belief. (Umm, that's sinister as derived from the Latin term for left handed, playing on the popular understanding of the "left" and "right" wings.)

It doesn't take much roaming around for me to conclude that I fit in with "good movement leftists" about as well as I fit in with "good movement rightists," which is to say, not at all.

The left, we can posit, don't really dig on meat. This is not to slander the fine barbecue-loving Democrats that make up, one hopes, most of the Democratic Party, but speaks rather to the more rigorous adherents of the fringes. Vegetarians, vegans, Veejer (wait, that was Star Trek Something or Other), PETA advocates, or just folks who prefer to think that meat is generated, pre-shrink wrapped, in supermarkets around the world. I'm going out on a limb, here, and I don't have the statistics to back me up, but I'd venture that those folks are mostly left wing.

That's one of the ways I can tell I'm no commie pinko. Because just between you and me and the fence post, I likes me some meat. Hell, I loves me some meat.

I believe I am evolutionarily a carnivore, with the whole "eyes in front" thing going for me, with the whole "growed to rip flesh not chaw cud" teeth thing going for me. I believe I digest meat better than grains, and from time to time I see internet headlines about how our brains require amino acids found in meats to fully develop. Hey, all that could be nonsense.

What isn't nonsense is how much I likes me some meat.

I likes me some cow.

Like the commercial from a few years back said, "Beef, it's what's for dinner." For me, beef is the staple, it's the everyday thing. It's a floor wax, and a dessert topping! From the high-falutin' filet to the lunch bucket ground hamburger, it's the little black dress of the carnivore's feeding wardrobe. You can accessorize your beef just about any which way and it'll turn out satisfactory. We've cracked the code on beef, plus we're relying on cow farts to stave off the oncoming Ice Age. Fart, Bessie, fart!

I likes me some pig.

I pity observant Jews and Muslims because they have done themselves out of pork products through their piety. There are atheists out there who posit that every religion is a sham and a fraud, and while I don't buy into that (in my heart of hearts I do think I have a spiritual relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that I'm racking up karma points by attempting to walk with my Savior and that there is, in the end, a Plan however I am unable to fathom it, but I'm just saying) I think in such a case a good faith argument could be made that getting to eat pork is enough reason to do some schismatic heresy-shaking. Unlike beef, pork to me has a distinct, wonderful yummilicious distinctness. (Beef is pretty much "just meat.")

Bacon? Foshizzle my nizzle. Ham, either thick sliced steaks or honey glazed slices of just hocks tossed into the red beans and rice? Shut yo' mouth good. One time back in the day, one of my Daddy's clients sent him a peppered ham, had a good, thick, 1/4" rind of peppers on it. I remember the taste of that ham TO THIS DAY, I tell you. Ahem. To this day.

Now chicken and lamb, they have their place, as do all of God's other little critters. About venison, enough words simply cannot be said, so I shan't say a thing. And I've had some mighty fine elk and moose. Huh, that brings Palin to mind, who was, by causing mass anti-hunting spasms, probably the inspiration for this post. But other meats, they are of tertiary importance compared to beef and pork, and I want to get to sleep sometime tonight, and if I start going off on individual meats, I'll be here all night.

Loves me some meat. Yeah I do.

In my way, I'm a sensualist, a hedonist. Not a libertine, mind you (although I could be wrong) but a hedonist. I try to relish the sensations of the physical world, like the feel of grass between your toes, the pleasant itchy annoyance of a mosquito bite (somewhere in Clavell's Shogun someone says "life is pain") and oh my goodness gracious the taste of meat in your mouth. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's evil, maybe it's rotten, but you can't deny that meat tastes good in your mouth, even if it's "good like a fresh hit of crack" good. (Or wait, are kids these days just doing meth? Damn, it's hell to get old.)

I love ripping meat apart in my mouth. Bite down, there's that big explosion of flavor, sometimes a rush of juices, something primeval about it, something very rooted, something very grounded. Something very traditional. (We just do those traditions a lot more than people throughout history have been able to.) It's not a pellet, it's not something plasticized and hydrogenated for your protection, not something shot through with preservatives and processed into nothingness. (Even a hot dog, hey, lips and assholes, man, as they said in the East Texas poultry business, "parts is parts.") It's something real. It's something that was living, and not "living" like a plant turns towards the sun and produces phyloplankton, but living like it had a face and a heart.

And because I have a conscience, which means I'm a liberal . . . or maybe a conservative, I get confused, but anyway . . . the meat that tastes the best is meat I've made for myself. "Making meat" is another way of saying "getting your deer" and it sums it up in wonderful, beautiful, brutal simplicity. I won't lie, I'm no great hunter, I'm barely even a hunter, been hunting six or seven times and only bagged one deer and one pig. Both Bambi and Wilbur were thoroughly consumed, and with great relish, I will point out.

Aside from the health benefits of being leaner and free of hormones, antibiotics and other stuff of the nightmares of Upton Sinclair, meat you make for yourself is more moral. Rather than being industrially produced and processed, meat you kill for yourself has probably lived a more or less free existence, running around and rutting and fighting and mating and, you know, eating acorns. (Not, sadly, ACORNs.)

So yeah. I'm no commie pinko, because I likes me some meat.

Wait---John McCain, and Barak Obama?

Now, I don't care what form of political belief you subscribe to, but I find it inconceivable that these two clowns, who I have referred to as Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber, are the best that America can do.

As someone else once said, if you want to disprove evolution, just compare George Washington and George W. Bush.

And if you think I was favoring Mad John the Bombing Clown McCain over Barack "I saw the first season of 24 and know America is ready for a black President" Obama, then, please, feel free to mentally transpose Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber in the initial paragraph of this post. Trust me, I won't bitch. For me, really, it's a coin toss as to which is worse, it's like asking, "Do I use the straight razor on my left wrist first, or my right wrist?"

We're looking at a choice between a socialist big government true believer and a socialist big government true believer. And here I thought G-dubs and Al Gore's 2004 throwdown was as low as America could go! See Marx on Hegel, under the heading "History Repeating: Tragedy and Farce."


(You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. )

Everything I need to know, I learned from John Prine

"I ain't a-hurting nobody, I ain't a-hurting no one."

Funny How Things Change

I could be wrong, you know.

There’s plenty of things I don’t understand about this world. Nietzche said that if you stared long into the abyss, the abyss stares long into you at the same time. Of course, in one of my favorite movies, Blazing Saddles, someone quoted Nietzche to the effect that what does not kill us makes us stronger, and the response to that was, “Blow it out your ass, Howard.”

I like movies. I think a movie can be just as legitimately an art form as a fine novel, or a lovely song, or even a sonnet or an ode to a Grecian urn. Of course, there’s plenty of junk movies out there, to go along with junk books, songs, sonnets and odes. (I think Ode to Billy Joe would be one of the latter, but I haven’t seen it in years and years, since the mind of man remembereth not.)

Maybe one of the reasons I like movies is that I’ve watched a bunch of ‘em. Back when I was a kid growing up in Texas, in the Reagan years, I had a yen for what you might call fine cheese. By gum I liked movies where the evil Godless Communists took it in the neck at the hands of the right thinking forces of freedom. Now some of them were so bad that even I couldn’t really enjoy them. One of those “so bad” movies was Red Scorpion with Dolph Lundgren, which I even remember now only because, as it turns out, Jack Abramoff was involved in the production. (We should have figgered him for a no count sumbitch on the basis of that movie alone, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Anyway, I think that the two movies I’ve got stuck in my mind now are pretty good. At least, they made an impression on me, and I remembered them fondly, enough so that I bought them when they came out on DVD, just to have. These movies are Red Dawn and The Beast, or perhaps The Beast of War. We seem to be living in strange times, because those movies resonate with me lately in ways that are, umm, diametrically opposite to the way they used to.

Red Dawn was widely dismissed as a crackpot fantasy when it came out, because it was about a Soviet invasion of the United States. A quick precis of the film runs like this: Godless commies invade America, a few high school kids E&E (escape and evade) their way up into the Colorado mountains and begin a resistance movement, using their high school mascot as their code name. Go Wolverines! Written by Kevin Reynolds and John Milius, and directed by Milius, Red Dawn featured names that would later go on to, arguably, bigger and better things, names like Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson (who looked yummilicious in her tattered cammies and is arguably responsible for some of my fetishes to this very day) and Charlie Sheen, and some fine vintage performances by skilled hands Ron O’Neal, Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton and Ben Johnson.

Let’s face it, you just don’t see Ben Johnson and Superfly working together just every day, do you?

Milius managed to push all the right buttons with this film. An opening scene shows a bumper sticker saying “You’ll take my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers” and immediately after, a Soviet paratrooper is, in fact, prying a gun from the cold dead fingers of its owner. The Cuban colonel in charge of the operation has his men go to the gun dealers and collect their 4473s to get a record of who’s been buying guns. Liberals, it is fair to say, just hated this movie, despite how yummilicious Lea Thompson looked in her tattered cammies.

The Wolverines set up their operation, up in the mountains, and enjoy some successes against the Soviet occupiers, including some lifted closely from then-current events in Afghanistan (which will tie into the second film’s discussion, below).

The scene that sticks in my mind, though, comes when one of their own has turned against the Wolverines (appropriately enough, the mayor’s son), and they find out that he’s swallowed a tracking device. They execute the mayor’s son and one of the Soviet troops who’d survived only to be captured.

Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen): What's the difference, Jed?
Robert ( C Thomas Howell): I'll do it.
Matt Eckert: Shut up, Robert!
[to Jed]
Matt Eckert: *Tell me what's the difference between us and them!*
Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze): Because WE LIVE HERE!

Because we live here. That’s enough reason to kill an intruder in your country. He’s an intruder in your country. Protecting your home is one of the oldest, and best, reasons to fight.

Because we live here.

I actually had a dream about this scene. I dream a lot, I’ve got enough Irish in me to be all dreamy and lyrical sometimes, and mostly I don’t remember my dreams too well, but I remember this dream, because it was just about that scene, except it wasn’t Matt and Robert and Jed talking. It was Ahmad and Suleiman and Ali. And it wasn’t a captured Soviet invader, and a turncoat American, that they were talking about executing, it was a captured American invader, and a turncoat Iraqi.

Because we live here. Reason enough, ain’t it? When you boil it all down? Now I’m not talking about some wetback from Chapultepec looking to wash dishes and cut lawns and send his money home to Mama and Papa and the family, I’m talking about foreign invaders on your soil, foreign soldiers who are in your country to fix it.

Somehow these days I just see Red Dawn through whole different eyes.

The other movie I wanted to talk about today is called The Beast of War. It was a pretty small drama, about a Soviet tank during the invasion of Afghanistan. During operations, the tank gets cut off from the rest of its unit, and takes a wrong turn, and is being stalked by the mujahadin. Directed by Kevin Reynolds (there’s that name again) from a play by William Mastrosimone, The Beast of War features George Dzundza at his scenery chewing best, a very young Jason Patric, Stephen Baldwin and Stephen Bauer. Interestingly enough, it was filmed in Israel.

Quick precis of the film: the cut off tank is being stalked by the mujahadin, and the tank commander, played by Dzundza, slowly flips his lid. He executes one of the tankers, an Afghan who manages to combine being a good Communist with being a good Muslim, and then abandons his tank driver, played by Jason Patric, for protesting the murder. Patric asks for mercy from the mujahadin, who take him prisoner. Eventually, he helps the mujahadin to destroy the tank, and is then rescued by a Soviet helicopter.

Dzundza is superb in this film. You can regard him as a madman or simply as a desperate military leader, and be none too far off in either case. When his character, Daskal, was eight years old, he’d fought against the Nazis in defense of Stalingrad, earning the nickname Tank Boy, since his comrades would tie a rope around his waist and lower him onto Nazi tanks, to place Molotov cocktails under turrets and cannon.

Patric too is quite good in The Beast of War. He plays Koverchenko, a sensitive intellectual who is nonetheless a fairly good soldier, and who believes in the rightness of what they’re doing. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, after all, to combat Muslim extremism, to bring, if not exactly democracy, but modernity and civil rights for women and stability to the country. Yeah, you probably see where I’m going with this one. Koverchenko is appalled by the brutality displayed by Daskal.

Daskal gets most of the good lines. He’s a tanker, all the way through, and it’s obvious that he loves his tank. When a Soviet helicopter spots the tank and offers them a ride home, Daskal refuses. “Get back in the tank,” he says. They ask him why. “Because I said to.” They say that they’re going home. He says, “Yeah. In the tank.” The troops ask why they can’t take the helicopter. “Because we’re tankers.” After the tank is crippled, he says, “Out of commission, become a pillbox. Out of ammo, become a bunker. Out of time, become heroes.” He's talking about blowing themselves up.

It is the tension between Koverchenko and Daskal, obviously, that fuels the movie. Initially, Koverchenko respects and fears Daskal for his efficiency and military skills, and for his history in fighting for their homeland, but eventually he is forced to ask, “How is it that we’re the Nazis this time, sir? How is that?”

I carry no brief for the late and unlamented Soviet Union. Stalin was a butcher, but the Nazis DID invade the Soviet Union, and the Soviets suffered on a scale that I, as an American, find almost literally incomprehensible. I saw the burial mounds outside of Kiev, just great heaping hills where they’d put the bodies. I had bad dreams about it for a long time. The battle for Stalingrad made Kiev look like a picnic. The Soviet Union did monstrous things, both within and without its borders, but the change from Tank Boy, fighting in defense of his homeland, to Daskal the crazed invader, is a change that I am worried about.

I’m not saying that the U.S. military is the Nazi party, or the SS, or even the Wehrmacht. I served four years of good, faithful and honorable service in the United States Marine Corps, and remain proud of the service I gave, and glad I gave it, to this day. But like I say, there are things I don’t understand. I don’t understand how our Department of Defense is involved in dang near every country, everywhere in the world. I was proud of my country when I served, which, thank God, was during peacetime. I thought we stood for cornball shit like Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Later on, I lived and worked in Kazakhstan for a few years. I met some former Soviet troops, including some who’d served in Afghanistan. They were just guys now, you know. Drivers, salesmen, computer techs. They’d done their time, got out, and moved on. They’d been proud of their country when they served. They thought that the Soviet Union stood for cornball shit like Truth, and Justice, and the Soviet Way.

Like I say, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand.

A while back, I found an article that William F. Buckley had written in the 1950s, talking about how, to defeat the Soviet Union, we had to become somewhat sovietized ourselves. We had to have a strong, standing military, we had to have a strong executive, we had to sacrifice some of our liberties, in order to remain free. We did those things, and we outlasted the Soviet Union. Sometimes I think back on Red Dawn, though, and wonder if it might not have been better if we hadn’t made those sacrifices, and that it might not have been better if the Soviet Union had invaded us, and we’d gone up into the hills, and potted Soviets at long range with deer rifles, and fought and beat them the American way. During World War Two, the Japanese thought about invading the United States, and concluded that 200 million or so cowboys hiding behind every cactus with a deer rifle would put a crimp into their plans. Sometimes I think we looked long into the abyss, and the abyss, she looked long into us right back. Sometimes I think we learned all the wrong lessons from the Soviet Union.

Now all things old are new again. We’re the ones invading, err, liberating, Afghanistan, and Iraq, from the forces of Mussulman reaction, we’re the ones putting in quota systems to ensure equitable female representation in the parliament, we’re the ones bombing a desolate country, we’re the ones using helicopter gunships and unmanned aerial vehicles with Hellfire missiles against villagers with jezails and Short Magazine Lee Enfields and Kalashnikovs, scenes that boiled our blood in Rambo III. But the mujahadin aren’t freedom fighters any more, they’re terrorists.

And sometimes I wonder, how is it that we’re the Soviets this time? How is that, sir?

NOTE: I wrote this three or four years ago. There's not that much I'd change, come to think of it.

Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife: A Kipling Interlude

I ain't got any words to say about this: to my mind, it speaks for itself.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

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 Rome.

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 cease.
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 neighbour 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 Peter 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 wabbling 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!

Joe the Plumber? Joe the UNLICENSED Plumber?

Where have I heard something like that before?

Oh yeah.

Archibald "Harry" Tuttle

Little flick by some Brit. "Brazil" I think it was called.

Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

Late breaking update: Umm, Tuttle was HVAC, not plumbing. Still, a guy with a wrench, and no license.

In times of crisis . . .

I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that in times of crisis, you have to cling to what you believe in.

Like, say, a philosophy of limited government. I heard the Decider blathering on recently about how no one is happy with, you know, having the government assume control of the commanding heights of the economy, but it was a time of crisis.

Like, say, the Constitution of these here United States. Ordinarily, we at least pay lip service to quaint anachronisms like the "Bill of Rights." (You know, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, thus, part of the Constitution, thus, the supreme law of the land.) But, because some people out there don't like us---and thus, we are in a time of crisis----we need to put them aside. Just, you know, temporarily.

Look, when things are easy, things are, well, easy. Easy times don't test your beliefs. Hard times test your beliefs. When things are easy, you can just go merrily along, and not worry too much about your beliefs, because your beliefs aren't being tested. It's when everything goes tits-up, it's when things get hard, that you have to cling to what you really, no I mean really really, believe in.

Do you believe in free markets? Well then, believe in them, and when things go bad, keep right on believing in them. If you believe in free markets, when the FIRE sector of the economy goes into the toilet, you keep right on believing that free markets are the way to resolve the issue. Look, if that mass of sliced and diced, securitized and monetized aggregated mortgages is suddenly revealed to be so much sound and fury, signifying nothing, then the way to resolve the issue is to let the markets find the natural price. If that price is a lot less than we've been pretending it is, then we've been wrong about the price. The only true price is a price something will sell at.

Do you believe in the Constitution? Well then, believe in the Constitution. Separation of powers, strictly enumerated things the government can do, and courtesy of the 9th and 10th amendments, a long and unenumerated list of things the government can not do. If you believe in, say, freedom of speech, or double jeopardy, or the requirement of probable cause before issuance of a search warrant, or wiretapping, or things like that, then you have to believe that those things are true, even in a crisis.

Saying that you believe in the Constitution, except when it's inconvenient, such as in a time of crisis, is saying that you believe in the Constitution not at all, because it is in crisis that we reveal ourselves.

Let me analogize. I spent four years in the United States Marine Corps. I was not a grunt (i.e., combat arms, i.e., infantry, armor or artillery) and I served during peacetime. I was proud to be a Marine, I was an heir to a long history of general Marine ass-kicking-ness, I took the job I had to do seriously. But no one ever handed me an M16A2 and said, "Hey there, Teuful, there's bad people coming and we need you to delay their advance while we reposition for a counterattack. And by the way, this is a one-way ticket." I talked the talk, but I never had to walk the walk. Now, in a time of crisis, would I have saluted smartly, done a quick function check on my rifle, and held the line? Would I have dropped my rifle and headed for the hills like a spotted-ass ape? Would I have held fast to my beliefs? Or would I have thrown them over like so much "well that was then and this is now" po-mo rationalization?

I'll be honest: I don't know.

I think--I like to think, I prefer to think, I do, in point of fact, think---that I would have done a quick function check of my rifle, said a prayer, and held the line. But I could be wrong about that. I didn't face that kind of "time of crisis" during my service.

Let's say you believe in marriage as a covenant between two people and God, that marriage is a unification of two halves into one whole, and that you will cleave only unto your spouse, for better or for worse, through good times or bad, until death do you part. But then, you start arguing with the Old Lady/Old Man, and harsh words are spoken, and then the Cute Chick/Hot Stud you work with, or see in the course and scope of your daily life, throws you a wink and a nod. (And as we all know, a wink is as good as a nudge, eh wot?) Well, you know, it's a time of crisis . . . .

Amidst the snark

Got a brother-man in pain right now, medevaced to Hamburg with five kidney stones. I talked with him on a spotty connection and he told me some icky-ooky stories. I don't want me no kidney stone, nosirree!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lew Rockwell on the MSM

"The normal range of opinion is from Pravda to Izvestia."

Rockwell asks, "Are the Media Hurting Obama?"

Everything I need to know, I learned from Solzhenytsin

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Miller's Crossing

"Nobody knows anybody, not that well."

Everything I need to know, I learned from Gen. Mattis

"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet."

Everything I need to know, I learned from Roadhouse.

"Be nice, until it's time to not be nice."

Everything I need to know, I learned from Bill and Ted.

"Be excellent to each other."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Primer popping, enhanced by FastFire

As you may know, I am probably an inveterate gun-swapper. I'd like to think that I've mostly gotten past the point of thinking each new toy is going to be "tha best evah" but, well, who knows.

Today I ventured out to the shooting range on the West Side of town (should I call this the West Side Story? No, probably not), to put some rounds through a 9mm, and a .45.

The 9mm is a Smith and Wesson, from their "gun of the month" phase of things. It's one of the first metal framed Smith autopistols I've owned, the other one is the bigger and heavier version of this one. The 9iq (9mm In Question, pronounced "Nick" of course) is a S&W 6944. If you're all hep to 3d Gen S&W terminology, you probably know what that means, or can, at least, make a stab at breaking it out. Most people AREN'T hep to S&W terminology, so I'll spare you the google-fu.

The 6944 is a double action only (DAO) version of the S&W "minigun." The minigun (which ain't, when all is said and done, all that mini, btw) was originally released in the 2d Gen of S&W autopistols, and was a bobbed version of the main line "59" derivatives. (The 659 was the big stainless steel version, the 459 was, I think, the big alloy version, etc.) It's a twelve shot 9mm. Note: the S&W DAO pistols "halfway pre-cock" the trigger, so repeat strikes on a dud primer are out.

I was shooting offhand, unsupported, at 7 yards. Not a real long way, but pretty decent groupings---especially since I was switching from left hand to right hand after each shot. I used a mix of Wolf and Magtech 9mm ball ammo (115 grains in both cases).

Verdict? This is a decent little pistol. Recoil is mild, the trigger ain't bad at all (somewhat short and heavy compared to a Beretta 92D I'd picked up earlier), and while it's not tiny, it's significantly smaller than the 5946 that is its big brother. With a double stack magazine, it is a little fat through the butt.

The other pistol I shot was a Glock "21/30." Thanks the the miracles of polymers, by the time I got it the butt had already been trimmed from the full size "21" butt to use the shorter, ten round, magazines from the Glock 30 (hence the name). It's got about an inch more barrel than the smaller Glock 30, "and I'm the only kid on the block."

I've shot the 21/30 before, and like it. I prep the trigger---taking up the slack, and then letting it break, and when I do things right, it is a pretty dang accurate little popper. The new thing today was that I'd put a Burris FastFire on it. I was inspired by the use of red dot optics on fighting rifles/carbines in our current Mesopotamian adventure. Actually, I'd liked the idea of red dot optics for a long time, I just never got off my ass and put one on a pistol until now.

The FastFire is a virtual dead ringer for other small reflex sights---Trijicon makes one, and the progenitor was the J-Point and then the Docter Optik sight. It is small and lightweight, although it DOES bulk up the pistol some.

Since it's a red dot sight, I tried to focus on the target, and then move the dot over the target. Yowee and shazam!

I only ran fifty rounds through it---forty rounds of Magtech .45 ACP ball, and ten rounds of Winchester ball. At first I alternated left hand and right hand, then said, "Let's pretend I'm really a lefty." (No cracks, please!) I stuck to the left hand, using a modified Weaver stance---left arm only slightly bent, right hand pulling back with right fingers wrapped around left hand. I put ten rounds into a single chewed out hole. Oh it was bigger than "one round of hardball" but not by all that much.

Now, the way it's set up at present, the FastFire attaches to a mounting plate which is attached to a dovetail blank which goes where the rear sight used to be. That means it rides at least 1/4" higher than it would it the slide was milled to accept the FastFire directly. I want to shoot this setup some more, but the initial results were very gratifying.

Reflex sights? There may be something to the idea after all!

At the same time, now I think I need to try out a laser sight

Not quite shoes, not quite mittens . . .

Check these out: Vibram Five Fingers.

As the title of the post says, they're not quite shoes, they're not quite mittens. Naturally, one of my friends dubbed them "shittens." (Note: later on my beloved sibling pointed out that they're more like "shoves" since mittens don't have separated fingers. But "shoves" don't flow like "shittens" do, do it?)

Since I try to be somewhat self-aware, I can freely admit that my interest in these shoes, err, mittens, err . . . these things, probably grew out of my deeply conformist decision to start wearing pants again. Hey, it's tough to find a job where wearing a kilt is a part of the job description! I got a call or two from a pipe band, but the only musical instrument I play is the radio.


There's the good, and the bad, about these shoes. I'll start off with the bad.

They look silly. Remember, this is coming from a guy who wore a skirt for a few years! They look a little too . . . slipperish. While "shoe" or "footwear" is a pretty elastic concept, here in the Greater West we tend to bring certain "social constructs of shoeness" to the table. (OMG, I'm sounding so SO MARXY!) And we expect shoes to completely cover the top of the foot (for men, anyway), and probably to have laces or buckles or something. I have actually thought about a "top cover" for these shoes, to give them at least a "deck shoe" appearance. Sometimes I dare to think really goofy thoughts.

Let's see, what's the other bad part about these puppies?

Well, so far as I can tell, it's just the looks. (Now we see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!)

Well, I lied. I'm still working out my ability to easily slip into these shoes. The toe pockets require sliding your foot in just right, otherwise you end up with two toes awkwardly squeezed into one toe-pocket. (Can we call them toe-pockets? Or would just "the toe" be better?) If you consider taking ten or fifteen seconds to get the toes aligned just right a drawback, then there are two drawbacks.


They breathe very well. The Vibrams have basically only two components: the Vibram sole and the stretchy nylon-type material. The body of the shoe breathes well, and doesn't build up heat. Foot sweat is a non-issue. When I drove up to Gainesville recently, I wore the Vibrams for the second leg of the trip up, and I'd been wearing my Keene sandals before that. The Keenes were freshly washed and air-dryed, and still my feet got warm and sticky and sweaty after about an hour on the road. Switching to the Vibrams, my feet were cool and dry the whole way up.

Road feel. You get better "road feel" from the Vibrams than you get with almost any other shoe. Let's compare with a "traditional" running shoe, shall we? (Note: what we think of as "traditional" these days is very damn seldom related to any kind of tradition with history behind it, witness "modern traditional" running shoes like those churned out by Nike, Adidas et al. Long dang way from a Chuck Converse, is all I'm saying.) A traditional running shoe will provide lots of support, lots of cushion, lots of orthotic influence. The Vibram takes a completely different tack. If a Nike insulates you from the road, like a mid-1970s Lincoln Town Car, the Vibram is a MG TC. They let you sense it all, the transition from asphalt to concrete to grass to sand.

You can wiggle your toes. Maybe it's only become important to me after seeing Die Hard, but I do a lot of toe wiggling. Side to side, up and down, all kinds of goofy stuff. Essentially, the same kind of hand stretching exercises, only below your knees! Your toes are not pinched together inside a shell with the Vibram, and the nature of the sole allows independent toe movement. Jerry Lee Lewis could play an arpeggio on the piano with his toes, if'n he was wearing Vibrams.

They may be silly, but I like them. I have worn them a good bit lately, and they really do feel like you're going barefoot. To me, that's a good thing. I'm not sure how much credence to put into the "barefooting movement" in terms of health claims, but I know that these are very comfortable.

I've worn them "just walking around", and driving, and even two times to Memorial Park, where I huffed and puffed around in a three mile circle with a fifty pound pack on my back. Even at the park, while my feet did feel much more "muscle sore" than in the past, there was none of the "bad pain." ("Bad pain" is the pain that doesn't comply with USMC definitions of pain as "the weakness leaving your body" but more along the lines of "dude I broke something.") Walking on rocks was a touch uncomfortable, but that thin sole IS Vibram, so it wasn't nearly as painful as being barefoot. Walking on gravel wasn't painful at all, but kind of "stimulating."

So there you have it.


Despite their unorthodox look, I can enthusiastically recommend the Vibram FiveFingers line of footwear. While not appropriate for a professional environment, I think that they represent a bold new approach to "what footwear is." Plus they represent a way to let your freak flag fly without tattoos or piercings.

So foshizzle.


You know, between watching the second season of "24", thinking about Mathias Rust, watching the ongoing shenanigans on Wall Street, wondering desperately about how to change my "gainfully unemployed" status and hearing Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber prat on about how Afghanistan is on the verge of turning into Kansas if we only send a couple more brigades, I think I've realized that I just don't know what constitutes treason any more.