Coffee At Borders:

This afternoon I took the wife to the Borders bookstore in Warrenton, so she could look at art magazines. She loves to look at art and flower and horse magazines. Actually, she's the biggest magazine-reader I ever met. In addition to looking at these things at the store, and then buying the ones she likes best, she has numerous subscriptions. She reads every one of them cover to cover. Last Tuesday the mail brought two of them at once. When I handed them to her, I said, "Well, there goes a week's productivity." She hit me.

(Yes, Cassidy, I know.)

Anyway, we went to Borders. After the first hour or so, I had looked at everything in the store twice and decided to just go get some coffee.

The coffee shop is upstairs on a ledge overlooking the rest of the store. That's just the way they designed it.

I went upstairs and there was this young guy running the coffee stand, flirting with his female customer. He was laughing and passing her coffee and change and receipts, and making what were intended as witty comments and trying to make her laugh. Finally, he turned and suddenly tossed her the container of cream cheese for her bagel --

-- which missed her by quite a bit --

-- and landed at my feet.

He looked abashed, looked at me, looked more abashed, and managed to get the girl out of there quickly and without any further witty banter. She left, and he watched her go as he spoke to me. He was twirling a roll of tape around his finger as he talked -- 'welcome to Seattle's coffee, what can I get you' --

-- when suddenly the tape came off his finger --

-- flew past my head --

-- and landed just behind me.

He cleared his throat. I handed him his tape back, and ordered a cup of regular coffee.

He nods, turns around and sets up the cup, and opens the tap so that coffee starts to pour into my cup. He steps away to get the cream, asks if I want cream, I don't want cream, all right no cream then -- he puts the cream back.

By this point, the coffee is pouring over the top of the cup and off onto the floor.

He turns around, sees it, and with a shout -- 'Ah!' -- he shuts it off. "Well," he said, "seeing as that cup is now scalding hot and soaked I'll, er, get you another one."

He looks at the coffee machine, and notices he has poured all the coffee out on the floor.

"Would you prefer a lighter or a darker roast?" he asks.

"Dark," I said.

"Oh, good, that's all that's left." He fetches a new cup and fills it from the "DARK ROAST" pot at the end. I paid him, and sat down to read the newspaper.

A little while later, I saw two soldiers walking through the bookstore below. They were in uniform, and I noticed they were wearing the flag patch on their shoulders. They walked up into the cafe and off to the restrooms.

While they were in the restrooms, I went over to the guy and told him that -- whatever they ordered -- he was to refuse to take their money, and just let me pay for it. I told him not to tell them who'd done it. I have a good reason for that. If someone does something nice for you, you think, "What a nice guy." But if something nice is done for you by someone unknown, you think of all sorts of different people who might have done it. You think about why these people might have done it. And that gives a better sense to the soldier of just how much they really are owed.

They got their drinks and left. I studiously ignored them, in case they were searching for a sign of who might have bought them drinks. I didn't want them to know, so I just continued to read the paper.

A little while later, the wife finally came upstairs. I asked if she wanted some coffee. She said she did, so I gave her some cash and told her to go over and get whatever she wanted, and pay the man what I owed as well. She didn't understand why I would owe anything, but I told her -- don't worry about it, he'll know. She gave me a funny look, and went to pay.

A few minutes later, I hear this exchange:

"I'd like a frozen vanilla coffee. Oh, and my husband wanted me to pay what he owed."

(It turns out another clerk had come on duty, so I hear a female voice). "Who's your husband?"

"The gentleman over there."

"Hm. I don't know. Let me ask [the name of the male clerk]."

So the lady clerk called over the other clerk, and my wife repeated, "My husband said to pay what he owes."

"Who's your husband?" the male clerk asks.

"The gentleman over there," my wife ever-so-patiently repeats.

"Oh," said the clerk. "The gentleman with the hat and the big knife?"

"Yes, that one," the wife agreed.

"He doesn't owe anything," the clerk replied. "Neither do you."

And then he opened up the register, and gave her back the money I'd paid him for my coffee.

"Your drinks are on the house."

I tried to talk him into taking the money, but he flatly refused. It's a good world, you see -- sometimes.


Are They Joking?

Heidi at Euphoric Reality points me to a story about a Nike advert that is apparently causing some objections among incredibly brain-dead kind-hearted British folk. The image in the ad is of a soccer player, who has painted himself white with a red cross that makes up his hands and arms, and from his face to his belly. The red cross is done in a ragged sort of style, with the effect that the soccer man looks a bit like a bloody albino.

It isn't the bloody-albino effect causing the protest, though, but rather:

Rev Rod Thomas of Church of England evangelical group Reform was not convinced. ‘It’s quite a disturbing image and because the paint is wet, it really looks like blood,’ he said. ‘It therefore brings to mind the crucifixion to many people, and why Nike would want to do that, I haven’t a clue, unless it is simply as a publicity stunt.’
Now, we all know -- as does the Reverend Rod, who mentions it later -- that the red cross on a white field is the Cross of St. George, which happens to be the national flag of England. It is also the flag used by supporters of England's soccer team. So, as to why you'd want to paint an English soccer player with the Cross of St. George, it takes very little imagination for a thinking man to sort that out.

As for the intentional crucifixion imagery...

That was really the whole reason for the flag.



I don't know about this, but in my part of Virginia, it's too hot to think. I trust you will all forgive me, but it's almost 9 PM, the heat index is still over 92 degrees, humidity is high and rising, and I haven't had much of a coherent thought in hours.

Blackhawk, sir, when you are ready to claim your hat, please drop me an email.

Oh, yes -- the DOD did finally decide on that contract it's been pondering over for three years. It awarded it to some firm I'd never heard of until a few days ago. I've obviously made many plans and options ready in case of such an action -- when you're working on "you might be unemployed in 20 days!" for three years, your thoughts do tend to turn to contingencies -- but if anyone out there is in possession of an especially adventurous option, I would be inclined to hear it.

Oh, Boy

Yes, I'll Brace for That:

Celestial Junk Blog warns us to prepare for the outrage:

As news reaches us that two US troopers were “slaughtered” by Islamo-fascist terrorists, we must brace ourselves for the inevitable Mainstream Media outrage, human rights organization fury, and overall international do-gooder annoyance. It’s going to be quite something as page after page of editorials from BBC to NYT scream headlines like, “US Troopers Denied Geneva Rights”, or, “Islamist Crime Evidence that Freedom Fighters are Just Terrorists”. Daily KOS will launch into days of angry profanity filled rage against the Islamist thugs who committed the crime, and even Al Jazeera will bemoan in giant headlines, “Islam Slandered Once Again by Islamist Extremists.”

Brace yourselves boys and girls, it’s going to be ugly. Amnesty will of course decry the fact that Islamist terrorists, after this sadistic act, are now even more depraved than the Abu Ghraib bum-pile perverts. Leftist blogs the world over will warn Muslim fanatics that they had better start wearing uniforms if they want to be accorded Geneva convention rights. And, the CBC in Canada and the BBC will come to the conclusion, that the murder of the two US servicemen, proves once and for all that “Terrorism is the enemy of all Civilization”.
I'd better go get ready.

H/t: The Dawn Patrol at the Mudville Gazette.


Hostis Humanii Generis

Strong words from Austria:

The EU has welcomed US president George W. Bush's statements on ending the Guantanamo prison camp, with the Austrian chancellor saying after Wednesday's bilateral summit that it is "grotesque" to claim that the US is harmful to world peace.
I think we'd all like to see GitMo closed. The problem is -- what do you do with the people there if you close it? Bush says he'd like to send them home, except a few to be tried in US courts. I have opposed, and still do oppose, the idea of using criminal courts to try terrorists: they aren't criminals, entitled to the protections of a civilization even when they defy its laws. They're hostis humanii generis, enemies of all mankind, like pirates.

That idea has some currency in odd places. Amnesty International, for example, is trying to push nations to adopt the idea of hostis humanii generis as a way of getting at nations that engage in torture:
Initially, a federal judge dismissed the Filartigas’ claims on the grounds that Paraguay’s treatment of its own citizens was not governed by international law. But the Court of Appeals rejected this reasoning. Specifically, the Court of Appeals found that torture was a violation of international law, and that torturers—like the pirates of the 18th century—were hostis humanii generis (enemies of all mankind) who could be brought to justice anywhere.

In the Filartiga v. Peña-Irala ruling, the appeals court relied on the 1975 United Nations Declaration Against Torture and All Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United Nations promulgated following Amnesty International’s first international campaign against torture. The relationship between human rights activism and success in the courtroom could not have been clearer.

The Filartiga case led to dozens of other cases over the next two decades against human rights violators found within the United States, including Ferdinand Marcos and Radovan Karadzic. Under the ATCA, the federal courts accepted claims of torture, extra-judicial killing, prolonged arbitrary detention, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Amnesty and I agree that there are enemies of that type -- people for whom civilization should set aside its protections. The questions on which we differ are these:

1) Which protections should be set aside? Amnesty for example, is willing to set aside the protections of jursidiction and national sovereignty. I am willing to set aside the protections accorded to "ordinary decent criminals" by the Western criminal court system, and pursue these enemies instead as unlawful combatants subject to the laws of war.

2) What punishments should these enemies of mankind face? Amnesty, though willing to set aside crucial parts of the justice system, wishes even humanity's worst enemies to be treated with a special gentleness: they oppose not only the death penalty, but also "supermax" style prisons that would allow you to separate people who might try to recruit others to their poisonous ways. I think that torture should be forbidden, but that execution for terrorists and unlawful combatants who hide among women and children -- because they glady endanger the lives of women and children -- should be permitted, following a proper military hearing on their status according to the forms of the Geneva Conventions.

3) Who exactly are the enemies of mankind? For Amnesty, they are mostly government officials -- which is a wise position, honestly, a wiser one than the United Nations system credits. The UN system believes that rights belong to states, and the "rights" of individuals are to be protected through the various nation states. This is why Cuba is now on the UN's Human Rights watchdog group.

For me, I am glad to agree that government officials can be the enemies of mankind, and that the worst ones ought to be hounded out of the civilized parts of the world. But these terrorists, these people who hide among the innocent and murder, they really are like the pirates of the 18th century. Lawless, stateless, mobile through the uncontrolled parts of the globe, they prey and murder and wage war against mankind.

The old idea ought to be upheld. GitMo has been our place for sticking these enemies of mankind while we decide what to do with them. It is, I think, a mistake to go through the courts, and accord criminal protections to these people -- giving them the status of criminals is too good for them. They are barbarians, outlaws, and ought to be treated as such.

Meanwhile, let's remember Austria's kind words, for which I thank them.
The more things change, the more they stay insane:

Feuding families bring road to a standstill

I can just hear Irene Ryan yelling "There's gonna be a feud?"

Lucky that isn't Appalachia. There'd be a body count already. Heh.



Addendum to Last:

The Geek with a .45 notices a little tampering with a review of the new Superman:

In "Superman Returns" (written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris from a story they cooked up with Singer), the caped crusader for truth, justice, etc. (Brandon Routh) returns to crime-ridden Earth after a five-year detour...

Truth, justice, etc?
Commenter Rick C notes that the trailer contains a similar formula:
Perry White demands to see if he still stands for "truth, justice--all that stuff."

I'm guessing that devotion to The American Way would be one of those 'ancient and archaic' views I keep reading about. The movie company, of course, intends to sell the film overseas -- indeed, I have heard that overseas profits are now at least as important as domestic take to some films. They don't want to go to the trouble of making an "international cut" of the film that drops the American rhetoric, and Hollywood has been out of the business of trying to sell the world on "the American way" for a long time. So, rather than make two editions of the film, they simply write the script to avoid any references to anything as 'ancient and archaic' as patriotism.

Shall I bother to get angry about that? What would be the point? The producers are money-chasers in the extreme, and the actors are mostly anti-patriots by sentiment. The latter can't be convinced by any argument of the rightness of pro-American movies, and the former have already been convinced by the only argument that matters to them -- profit margins. Nor is it worthwhile to get angry at them for caring only about the profit margins, as it is clear that Hollywood is dying. As it becomes easier to make independent films of a similar quality (this one was done years ago now, and is at least as good conceptually, and almost as good actually, as anything Lucas produced), independents will arise to produce the domestic, patriotic content that Hollywood can't afford. It is bound to the mass-market model, and that model is dying. Just as Americans will soon be making films for Americans again (so, why see a billion-dollar Hollywood job that insults us?), so shall every nation have films appropriate to it (so, why see a Hollywood job that doesn't really care about us Basques/Hindus/Whatever?). Their days are numbered, their span is dwindling, and their light is going out of the world.

So be it. Once great men lived there, kings, gods -- once, but long ago.

Why Patriotism

Why Patriotism?

Much has been made of the anti-patriotic rant by one or another of the Dixie Chicks:

"The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism," Maines resumes, through gritted teeth. "Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country… I don't see why people care about patriotism."
What makes this an astonishing question is that the Dixie Chicks arose from a tradition whose most famous members have directly addressed the very question asked here. Maines can't be ignorant of the answers proposed, because no one who once made a successful living as a country music singer could have failed to encounter those responses. She will have heard, for example, John Wayne's direct answer to the question, which begins:
You ask me why I love her?
Well, give me time, and I'll explain.
And so he does, at length -- not only in the song, but in a book of the same name. John Wayne, feared and loathed by parts of the Left even to this day for his iconic power, was in love with a land of beauty -- truly, and purely, in love.

Nor can the Dixie Chicks have failed to hear "The Ragged Old Flag" by Johnny Cash, composed during the last period of native anti-patriotism. It takes a different tactic, less about the majesty and beauty of America than about her history. No excerpt will do the piece justice -- nor, indeed, do the lyrics do it justice. It was meant to be heard, and ought to be: but if you have not heard it, and have no access to it today, read it through.

I'm reminded of an old Warner Brother's cartoon -- another American icon, that -- starring Porky Pig, called "Old Glory." It features a lazy, child version of Porky, griping about being forced to learn the Pledge of Allegiance in school. He drifts off to sleep, and is visited by Uncle Sam, and given a vision of all that has gone before. On waking, he is insipired with a newfound sense of awe at what has gone into the making of his nation, and he learns and pledges allegiance in a pose of solemn respect.

Have you seen this cartoon? If not, watch it here.

What strikes me about all of these answers is this: to the patriot, they are beautiful, moving, inspiring, the kinds of things that make you want to get up and shout. To the anti-patriot, they are not convincing in the least. As the Salon article about John Wayne demonstrates, they look at the same things and shudder. As the fellow wrote:
For my part, I've spent the last three years working on a novel that features a thinly disguised John Wayne as the villainous central figure in a 13-year-old girl's coming-of-age story.
Why should John Wayne, of all people, seem villanous -- particularly to a 13-year-old girl? My wife tells me that she spent her childhood dreaming of growing up to marry John Wayne. Still, some people do think he is a secret villian, somehow dark and evil.

I think this is a point of departure, a breaking point at which there is little to say. The answers given by Johnny Cash and John Wayne do not convince: you were either convinced when you got here, or you cannot be convinced. The loyalty of the patriot is supernatural. It is like the love of a man for his mother; it pre-exists thought, but instead arises naturally.

Sometimes, perhaps, it tries to arise -- and is instead hurt or twisted by the evil and cruelty of the world. Perhaps the anti-patriots are sensitive but flawed souls who had believed in beauty and happiness, but find that beauty fades in spite of art, and the greatest sources of happiness are also the worst sources of pain. The Salon author, drawn to Wayne though he despises him, writes:
Wayne's greatness lies in his ability to embody this figure utterly while somehow retaining a hint of innocence, of hope. He's the hard-boiled man out on the frontier, after all, not trapped in the decaying, decadent city. While personal psychic redemption may be beyond him, he stands a chance of breaking clean ground for others, of protecting the women and the fresh-faced, naive young men (Montgomery Clift, Jeffrey Hunter and, most oddly, the 54-year-old Jimmy Stewart in "Liberty Valance") who wander into the unfinished, dangerous West. America might have a chance for greatness on the back of a man like Wayne, but he'll always take others to the mountain top, never get there himself. He's seen too much ugliness, in the breaking and mastering of this wild land, in the purging of the hostile natives. In himself.
Yet this is just what the patriot can do, that the anti-patriot cannot. He can love in spite of his pain; it does not twist his love into something else. The world has hurt him, yet it is still his world. The country, his mother, they are not perfect -- but they are his country and his mother. His loyalty is not diminished. He retains hope, and love, and faith.

This is precisely the quality absent in the anti-patriot. It is struck out of them, for whatever cause, a wound in the soul. People bent by such things hate as strongly as we love -- they speak of mother or country, as Maines does, through clenched teeth.

What can we do? Pity them; hope for them to heal. Otherwise, nothing. They are beyond us. Supernatural things are not for men. Perhaps a spirit will heal them. We cannot, any more than we can understand them.

They have left us.