Overheard at Grim's Hall:

The wee wife suggests I join a hunting club:

"And it's possible that, at a hunting club, you'd find someone you'd really li... enj... could tolerate!"

RF on Pak

Richard Fernandez on the Pak-Afghan Border Problem:

The founder of the Belmont Club has an analysis piece up today at PJM. It points, again, to the problem we face in dealing with non-state actors: they use the state system as cover. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have found a place where, for diplomatic reasons and reasons of stability, the Coalition will not enter -- so they rest there in relative safety. Iran, meanwhile, is able to use American desire to avoid conflict -- including our own Congress' defiance -- to give safety and security to bad actors it wants to encourage in Iraq.

This is a situation that cannot work to our benefit. If we want to see anything good, we'll have to change the plan here.

AP Horsewhip

Breaking News: Associated Press Needs to be Horsewhipped:

So, I assume you all saw today's top story from the AP, titled, "Americans underestimate Iraqi death toll." The lede says:

Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. But they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed.
So. After almost four years of telling Americans the precise number of Americans killed in every single news story, every single day, the AP has the gall to run a story claiming that Americans' awareness of that number suggests self-centeredness and inattention.

Does anyone believe that, if there had been the same obsessive focus on the number of Iraqi dead within the media, there would be the same result?

By the way, just how many Iraqi civilian dead are there? The story says:

Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated at more than 54,000 and could be much higher; some unofficial estimates range into the hundreds of thousands. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq reports more than 34,000 deaths in 2006 alone.
Well, in 2004 the Lancet estimated a hundred thousand; and in 2006 they estimated 655,000. President Bush, last I heard, had the number at thirty thousand.

So, which number are you going to remember -- the one that you see in the newspaper every single day, or the one you've heard vague reports of once in a while, with every number widely different?

Next story: many Americans can precisely recall their own telephone number, but woefully misremember their dentist's.

Cloned Cows and Puzzlement

Cloned Cows and Puzzlement

Today I ran across this story, saying that Dean Foods (which owns Land O'Lakes) will not accept milk from cloned cows. Now, I can understand why the company's doing it - they're responding to opinion polls. The customers don't want it, so they won't take it.

What I don't understand is why anybody would care if his milk came from a cloned cow. It's still a cow. It's still milk. Can anyone help me to understand?



We may be in trouble:

Chimpanzees living in the West African savannah have been observed fashioning deadly spears from sticks and using the tools to hunt small mammals -- the first routine production of deadly weapons ever observed in animals other than humans.
Chilean blogger FayerWayer has the right take on this. We'd best be getting ready, boys.

Heh - Vets

A Good Story:

CDR Salamanader has the sort of tale I'm always happy to hear.

Mrs. Z on McCain

Mrs. Chuck on McCain:

Over at Chuck Z's place, his wife has posted a little memory of hers from when Chuck was in the hospital with the injuries he suffered in Iraq. Apparently John McCain stopped by:

I had a lot of respect for the man... then I met him.

When he first walked in I was honored to meet him. He shook my hand and Alice's hand, then walked over to Chuck's bedside. After a lousy 5 minutes or so, the Jerk said (and I quote):

"Well, we all know what we're here for... let's do the photo op."
I voted for McCain in 2000, when he was running against Bush in the primary. I almost certainly won't vote for him ever again, not because of this, but because of his blantant lack of interest in protecting First Amendment rights:
He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform....I know that money corrupts....I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt.
Emphasis added. Not exactly what I want to hear from the man charged with enforcing First Amendment protections.

McCain shouldn't bother looking for me to vote for him again, unless and only unless he ends up in the final race with someone even less interested in protecting our rights. Which, sad to say, is possible given the field as it stands.


Milbloggie Awards:

They're going again. Grim's Hall isn't nominated, and I doubt I'd mention it if we were.

However, our friend Fuzzybear Lioness is nominated, and really wants to win. She even says it will make her smile. I'm sure you all know what Fuzzy does for our injured troops, and so you ought to want to make a fine lady like that smile if you can.

Since it would mean something to her, please vote for her here.

And, since I'm going to the trouble of mentioning it, I'll point out that BlackFive is nominated in a separate category. As one of the BlackFive bloggers, I should probably ask you to vote for us. On the other hand, Michael Yon is up there too, and I wouldn't hold it against anyone for voting his way. He does some outstanding work.

No better companion

No Better Companion:

Ross at The Ministry of Minor Perfidy wanted to share part of the eulogy for his father.

That light scattered and glowed, and I think I have not seen more perfect mornings than those. Dad would quietly slide the canoe into the water, slip in, and paddle into it all, with only the sound of water trickling from wood as he faded into mist. I often saw him come back, but I rarely saw him leave.

There’s an early time for experiences, a less crowded time, and I think Dad had a yearning for paths less occupied. If we look around and see multitudes in comfort, that urge to look elsewhere has truth. As a kid I was too tired from being too energetic to wake up when peace and beauty emerged.

We’ve got a capable family, with lots of doers and shakers, engineers and boat-makers. In some ways I’m like that too, so as a young man and even sometimes as an adult I’d see Dad looking out over the water, or from a balcony, or just at a fire…and I’d wonder what he saw. I’m not an artist so I doubt I’ll ever see it his way, or remember it the same way…but watching Dad watching embers arcing up from the heat of a fire lit sparks in me that persist to this day, that have given me warmth and comfort, to recognize and accept, to appreciate the natural beauty around us all. That’s something we never see unless we stop and look.

When we stop and look we are sometimes enchanted, or even entranced and held there, in a timeless state of contemplation. I know I could not have become the person I am without learning that from him, without being curious about his state of mind in those times, and finding that same place within myself.
I did not know the man, and would not wish to intrude on the grief of his son. I just want to remark on how I was struck by those lines, because of their similarity to an American hero named Francis Parkman. Parkman was described in Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge's work on the subject of great American heroes. Most of their heroes, they noted, were famous for "deeds of war and feats of arms," but Parkman was mentioned for other reasons.

He too was a capable man, trained in chemistry at a time when education was far less usual. He also had an eye for the things of the forest, and the less traveled places, and an eye that saw deeply into things. When at last he grew too ill to carry on his expeditions, grew roses so he could explore horticulture.

Parkman wrote one of my favorite lines, one that perhaps this later gentleman would have enjoyed. "For the student there is, in its season, no better place than the saddle, and no better companion than the rifle or the oar."

That is a worthy and truthful lesson.

The graphic makes it worthwhile, before you even get to the text.

An American Congress has got itself into a war it can’t win. It is stuck. Can’t move forward, can’t move back. And Congress is starting to take casualties. It doesn’t know which way to turn. It’s a quagmire.

The situation is dire, and congressmen everywhere are increasingly beleaguered. They have been unable to come up with any strategy for success, but more seriously, they haven’t been able to agree on a strategy for failure. One of their leading lights, Rep. John Murtha, has already been reduced to an object of derision and the danger is he will drag more of them down with him.

Congress spent four days … four days! … yammering earnestly, and then cast a strong, uncompromising, forceful non-binding resolution with a self-negating caveat.
He goes on from there.

Another interesting item

Some Good Music:

Another blog I ran across while drifting through those sites is this one, which is devoted to traditional music from Nicaragua. The video/music clips are worth a listen. I thought this simple but dignified piece was excellent.

UPDATE: Also, try "The Black Dance."


William Walker:

Here's an article I ran across while looking over some Central American blogs -- The Last American Warlord. William Walker, a native of Tennessee, was shot by firing squad in 1860 after a career as a pirate, adventurer, con man and warlord. It's a piece of history they probably don't teach even in his hometown, but apparently one that our neighbors down south still remember.

It's an interesting read, anyway.

FU Hil

Ah, Clintona:

I wasn't going to mention the Hilary(!) comment about removing the Confederate flag in South Carolina. I mean, they took it off the state house, and put it on a flagpole down on the grounds. But now it's got to go from there too, she says, "in part because the nation should unite under one banner while at war."

I wasn't going to mention that, but Army Lawyer at MilBlogs remembers her comments about "withdrawing within 90 days," and wonders about the nexus of those two positions.

"Here," he says, "is a picture of the proposed banner we should all unite under."

Well, it was only "in part" for that reason.

Blame Grim

Howdy All,

First I'd like to say that you can blame this post partly on Grim. I'm taking a course on ethics and he mentioned in the comments section some time ago that philosophical papers would be nice to see.

I find myself wondering if this is Hall material and if it's worth reading without a knowledge of the texts I used (Elements of Moral Philosophy - James Rachels); of course those musings are likely because I am nervous about posting it up for review. Although I would ask that y'all take as many whacks as you feel necessary at it.

Moral Skepticism
The scope of this paper is to explain moral skepticism, provide two arguments supporting it, provide a major objection to each argument, and discuss if one should believe in moral skepticism. Moral skepticism, as defined by Rachels, is the doctrine that there is no such thing as objective moral truth. It is not that we cannot know truth, it is the idea that moral truth simply does not exist.

My first argument for moral skepticism is centered on the idea that if there were any such thing as an objective moral truth in ethics, that we should be able to prove all moral decisions as either good or bad. We cannot prove all moral decisions as either good or bad; therefore, it is impossible to have objective moral truth.
A major objection to this argument would be to attack its soundness. The premise that we cannot prove all moral decisions as either good or bad may not be true.
Regarding goodness, nowhere in Rachels, or this course, has ‘definite proof’ of goodness been defined. If I could find a majority of people who believed that torturing children for fun was morally good, is that a proof? Most of the arguments for what is ‘good’ that Rachels makes can be reduced to the idea that the societal majority defines the goodness and that should be accepted as the logical proof, i.e. the used car-salesman is a shady character who cheats his customers. Nowhere does he provide a logical proof of the good, he merely relies on the outrage of his audience to support his logic.

My final argument for moral skepticism is centered on the idea that it is morally permissible to break many of the already established objective moral standards. Homicide is universally condoned as an immoral act, yet there are instances where homicide is morally justified. Since many of our established moral standards have exceptions, it stands to reason that they all have exceptions and are not objective moral standards.
A major objection to this argument is to attack its validity. I’m not sure that the conclusion follows from the premises, as it discusses an objective moral standard whereas the premises allude to an absolute moral code.

Finally, should we believe in moral skepticism? Frankly, I don’t know. I believe that Rachels makes many good points, but I feel that some of them are flawed. I think that moral skepticism may allow an ‘anything goes’ type of mentality and I see the intuitive truth that we need some objective moral standards to provide social cohesion. However, I find myself leaning towards the Cultural Relativists argument as I don’t feel Rachels has done a good job attacking that argument. His attacks are:
1) We could no longer say that the customs of other societies are morally inferior to our own. I disagree as there is no logical reason why a Cultural Relativist could not practice cultural elitism. Just because he admits they hold there own truth, is no reason to say that allows them to retain and practice those truths. I believe that Rachels may be confusing tolerance and acceptance.

2) We could decide whether our actions are right or wrong just by consulting the standards of our society.
I don’t feel he has proven anything other than his disdain for a Traditional society, traditional in the vein of Mircea Eliade, Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist, etc. Further he overlooks that people consult their society daily as regards moral questions in order to determine if they are in fact good or bad. That Rachels is uncomfortable with the traditional Indian caste system is not enough reason to discount it.

3) The idea of moral progress is called into doubt.
I simply do not agree. Traditional society knows that cultural progress must be approached with some trepidation, but it must also be grown from the cultural traditions itself. Moral progress is not hampered or placed in doubt, it is championed by the Traditional culture albeit slowly and carefully.

So for these reasons, I have left Cultural Relativism as a possibility; but I do not believe that we should follow the path of a true moral skeptic.

Welcome home 2/8

Welcome Home, 2/8:

The first of the 2/8 Marines are home, with 900 more to follow this week. We don't comment on every deployment here, but the 2/8 get special attention because they are the unit of Grim's Hall co-blogger Major Joel Garret. (ed. Smile when you say that. Oh, I am.)

Welcome home.

Iraq - Victory and Time

Iraq – Victory and Time

The writers at Victory Caucus have been discussing the question of “What is Victory?” and good on ‘em, but there’s another question I haven’t seen discussed much, namely, “When is victory?” Some commentators write as if the fight against jihadist terrorism in Iraq is lost already, or the current effort is the eleventh-hour-last-chance shot at winning it. The underlying thought seems to go like this: If there is still considerable terrorist activity going on after X years have passed, then the war is lost. X, however, is often set at “however much time has passed right now” or else “very soon,” and the basis for doing this isn’t stated. Often it seems to be nothing stronger than that the commentator, himself, has grown tired of the war.

General Casey has stated that the average lifespan for an insurgency in the 20th century was nine years, and General Myers, three to nine. I don’t know where the figures are from (perhaps someone can tell me?). I don’t know, for example, if they're counting Tito's partisans from WWII (insurgent victory brought about by foreign military defeat; not useful for the problem under discussion)– but even if they’re not, because it’s an average, I’m inclined to treat it as low (every bell curve has a right half, too). The “Malayan Emergency” lasted twelve years and the Red Brigades were active for eighteen (though the really horrible part of their career was a little shorter than that). In addition, judging by jidhadist propaganda, one of the enemy’s biggest morale boosters is Vietnam – which they cite as proof that our will to fight is weak, and we will crack if they hang on long enough. Our involvement in Vietnam lasted about ten years, and that suggests we’ll need a few years more than that to defeat this “glass-jaw” myth. These factors lead me to think that 15-20 years is a realistic figure for X.

(That kind of timeframe also gives the Iraqi Army time to develop a new generation of senior leaders -- officer and especially NCO -- to enable them to act independently.)

I’m not distinguishing between different groups here, because I’m interested in the question of how long a die-hard Iraqi jihadi group might realistically be expected to keep fighting, assuming that the IA and the Coalition keep fighting back and don't give up. Also because this is a first approximation for me.


To Destroy History

To Destroy History:

The Belmont Club has a video of the smashing of tombstones by Azerbaijani attempting to erase the history of Christian Armenians in what is now their territory.

Asked about it, the government declared that it was impossible they could have destroyed the cemetery, as there were never any Armenians there at all.

There is a certain evil to that, which rises above the normal evils of the world. It surpasses even the evil by which a people is pushed out of a land, which has been the story of all human history, even in the island nations: the earliest histories of Ireland are recorded in The Book of Invasions. Yet that book points to the honest way, the way that honors and remembers the men who came before you. It is one thing to say, as Chingachgook did in the movie version of Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, that:

The frontier moves with the sun and pushes the Red Man of these wilderness forests in front of it until one day there will be nowhere left. Then our race will be no more, or be not us.... And one day there will be no more frontier. And men like you will go too, like the Mohicans.

And new people will come, work, struggle. Some will make their life. But once, we were here.

It is another thing to say, "There were never any Mohicans." "There were never Armenians here."

The truth, of course, is that there are still Mohicans, and the Armenian graves did truly rest in those hills. And neither are the last of we frontiersman gone, even if the frontier is harder to define today.

A curse on those men who seek to destroy the past, in the hope that no one will then be able to dream an alternative to them. May they fare better than the ones they have taken as enemies, but only this much better: may we always remember them, and spit.