A New Banner:

My beloved and faithful wife has given me a gift: she has sewn a large cloth banner in the colors of my heraldry.

I've decided to replace the poor, computer generated image with a small photograph of the beautiful banner. I truly have the finest wife in the land, the fairest and most wonderful.

The Natural Right to Arms:

Dave Kopel believes it most important that the Heller decision considered the right to self-defense a natural right, pre-existing the Constitution. This gives the rights protected by the 2nd Amendment even greater stature than if they were "merely" Constitutional: one can amend away a protection that isn't a natural right by adjusting the Constitution, but a state that gives away your natural rights is a tyranny that justly provokes rebellion.

Since we are talking about Catholic moral history this week, follow this link to Kopel's piece on the Medieval Catholic development of a notion of a right to resist tyranny. As he correctly points out, Aristotle and the Greeks had a clear notion of this right, but it faded as Classical learning faded. By 1000, it had to be rediscovered by the Church.

However, he overstates the degree to which the right was lost in the Dark Ages. Scholars in the Church may have needed to rediscover it, but it was a felt and living tradition outside the monk's cell.

For example, Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims (approx. 805-881 A.D.), an important advisor to King Charles the Bald of France, wrote a pair of treatises distinguishing a king (who assumed power legitimately and who promoted justice) from a tyrant (who did the opposite). Yet even Hincmar argued that even tyrants must be obeyed unquestioningly.
"Even Hincmar" may have done so, but it was not the standard understanding of the folk of the Early Middle Ages. Þorgnýr the Lawspeaker made the point clear when speaking to King Olof the Swede in 1018. He spoke to the King as the head of the common folk of Sweden, and made clear what Dark Age Swedes thought of tyranny:
But if thou wilt not do as we desire, we will now attack thee, and put thee to death; for we will no longer suffer law and peace to be disturbed. So our forefathers went to work when they drowned five kings in a morass at the Mula-thing, and they were filled with the same insupportable pride thou hast shown towards us. Now tell us, in all haste, what resolution thou wilt take.
Emphasis added. The point being, this wasn't a one-time threat made in 1018: it was a threat with a resonant history. Nor was this pagan Sweden: Olof had been baptised in 1008, and remained Christian to his death. He was married to a Christian girl, and married his daughter to Yaroslav I of Russia, the son of St. Vladimir the Great.

So, when Kopel points to 1187 as a relevant date, he's vastly overstating the case.
As Glanvill’s famous 1187 treatise on English law explained, when a lord broke his obligations, the vassal was released from feudal service. If a party violated his duties under an oath, and the other party suffered serious harm as a result, the feudal relationship could be dissolved diffidatio (withdrawal of faith).

Historian Friedrich Heer explains that the diffidatio “marked a cardinal point in the political, social, and legal development of Europe. The whole idea of a right of resistance is inherent in this notion of a contract between the governor and the governed, between higher and lower.”
What Ranulf de Glanvill's 1187 piece cites is an understanding well-established in the Anglo Saxon law, if not the Norman one. As Glanvill was attempting to codify the "common law" developing around the courts of Norman England, he was doubtless encountering traditional English concepts as well as imported ones. The Anglo-Saxons certainly understood removal of bad kings, and the Witan -- the counsel of elders, the great men of the kingdom -- did so twice, in 757 and 774 A.D. Yet the Anglo-Saxons were also in the habit of consulting with the Pope when it was advantageous:
In the early years of Coenwulf's reign he had to deal with a revolt in Kent, which had been under Offa's control. Eadberht Præn returned from exile in Francia to claim the Kentish throne and Coenwulf was forced to wait for papal support before he could intervene. When Pope Leo agreed to anathematize Eadberht, Coenwulf invaded and retook the kingdom; Eadberht was taken prisoner, and was blinded and had his hands cut off.
Eadberht Præn was in exile at Charlemagne's court during the time he was out of Kent. The Pope appears to have taken Coenwulf's side not out of a sense that his claim to Kent was superior -- it had belonged to the Præns before -- but because Præn was a former priest.

In any event, when William the Bastard in 1066 went to the Pope for the right to rule England, there was precedent. But when the Witan selected Harold Goodwinson instead, there was also precedent. The question was resolved by force of arms at Hastings and elsewhere, and by the erection of powerful castles that could assert control of the land. By 1187, law had replaced force in many cases, and we can see that there was enough of a body of workable precedents arising across the land to need codification. (In addition to which service, Ranulf de Glanvill provided remarkable service as a fighting man, capturing the knightly king William the Lion of Scotland, serving as Sheriff of Yorkshire, and eventually dying on Crusade.)

In any event, Kopel makes a worthy and interesting argument. But when the Catholic Church went looking for ideas on the right to resist tyrants, they had more to draw upon than Aristotle. It is a natural right indeed, one well recognized by the folk of the Dark Ages. If it was occasionally denied by some tyrant kings, and sometimes by some of their allies in the Church, it was nevertheless deeply felt by the folk of Europe.

Congrats Steyn

Congratulations, Mark Steyn:

I see that Mark Steyn has been vindicated by a kangaroo "human rights" court that previously had a 100% conviction rate. Not too shabby, mate.

STEK can be trusted

"This You Can Trust"

We sometimes overpraise guns. I know a boy who loves the things. I tell him: A gun can always jam, misfire, or blow up in your hands; it can overpenetrate and kill someone you love on the other side of your target. A gun is like a snake: it serves a purpose in nature, a purpose that no other creature quite manages to serve, but it is a foolish man who trusts one. They must always be regarded as perilous to you, as well as to your enemies.

You must select them and their ammunition carefully, see them carefully maintained, and handle them always with great care. That is not to say that you should not have them: just that you must always take care with them. They are not to be trusted.

A blade, on the other hand, a blade you can trust.

I noticed this evening that my favorite custom knifemaker has a fine tactical knife for sale, although I do not know the reserve he's asking; and a fine Bowie knife, also. I say they are knives. They stand in the place between knives and swords, and might rightly be regarded as either: but they are well-forged, I know from experience with his work. The best smiths I know look at his work and speak well of it.

If you are interested in such things, look.

Not Helpful

Not Helpful, Boys:

Dana Milbank gives the view from the other side on yesterday's hearings: "When Anonymity Fails, Be Nasty, Brutish and Short."

This is an occasion when Congress' role is to clarify the lines. If they don't like the lines the administration drew, they are free to draw new ones -- that's Congress' job.

It's reasonable for them to want to interview the authors of the existing rules, for the purpose of helping construct the new ones. What's going on instead is not an attempt to resolve a tricky question of ethics, but an attempt to frustrate each other and hurt each other politically.

Neither side is covering itself with honor in this debate. We deserve better from our government than this.

Best Laid Plans

The Best Laid Plans:

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The idea that video games and explicit media content are a threat to society is demonstrably false. Whatever evidence there might be that violent media content causes violent behavior, or that graphic sexual content stimulates unhealthy sexual behavior, there is a simple test that invariably proves otherwise. Buy the game and then take some time to play it over the next few days or weeks — however long you feel is necessary for a proper test (keep in mind that Grand Theft Auto IV involves at least 25 hours of narrative development, more if you actually decide to play the game instead of just following along with the story).

After you're done, ask yourself a few straightforward questions: Do you want to go outside and steal a car? Do you feel the need to obtain a missile launcher? Do you feel like having sex with a stripper? Or, to more accurately represent the sort of reasoning involved in media-effects claims, do you feel that having sex with a stripper is now a real possibility for you?
From Newsday:
Teenagers who police say went on a video-game-inspired late-night crime spree were arraigned Thursday after police say they mugged a man outside a New Hyde Park supermarket and menaced motorists in Garden City with a baseball bat, crowbar and broomstick.

The teens told detectives they were imitating the Grand Theft Auto video game series where players steal cars, beat up other characters and score points for committing crimes, authorities said.

Police have identified at least three victims: a man they said was severely beaten and had his teeth knocked out during a robbery; a would-be carjacking victim who called 911; and a driver whose van was smashed with a bat.

WTF? Buried Alive

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:

I was looking over Memeorandum this evening, and I see there's a whole knot of liberal blogs bent out of shape over something that happened on the floor of Congress today. It was during the hearings into the memos that had to do with the use of harsh interrogation techniques, some of which some people consider to be torture.

I believe that prohibitions on torture are wise, moral and correct. I think America benefits from a refusal to use torture. We should play this game fairly, though. We disagree somewhat on where the lines are, but there nevertheless are lines that are recognized by all Americans.

John Yoo testified, and was asked by the Honorable John Conyers:

CONYERS: Could the President order a suspect buried alive?

YOO: Uh, Mr. Chairman, I don’t think I’ve ever given advice that the President could order someone buried alive…

CONYERS: I didn’t ask you if you ever gave him advice. I asked you thought the President could order a suspect buried alive.

YOO: Well Chairman, my view right now is that I don’t think a President — no American President would ever have to order that or feel it necessary to order that.

CONYERS: I think we understand the games that are being played.
The liberal bloggers are apparently under the impression that this was an insightful question, and that it is deeply revealing that Yoo didn't answer with a clean denial that the President has the authority.

Consider, though: You're a lawyer. You're testifying before Congress, about legal matters. A Congressman asks you for an opinion on a matter you've not only never studied, but never imagined. Are you going to render a firm opinion?

Of course not. You'll say something very much like what Yoo said -- 'Honestly, I've never thought of that, and can't imagine why it would ever come up.'

Furthermore -- Can the President order people buried alive? What?

I think we understand the game, yes. Congress should be trying to clarify the line between torture and 'harsh interrogation,' not fuzzing it up worse.


Another beauty from today's hearings in Congress.
“I can’t talk to you because Al Qaeda may watch C-SPAN,” Addington said.

Delahunt responded: “I’m sure they are watching. I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington, given your penchant for being unobtrusive.”

Allah says it can't be as bad as it looks, though the Congressman's own explanation is simply to deny that he said any such thing.
Delahunt said he was just trying to express that he was glad to see Addington. Delahunt said he recalls saying “I,” not “they,” during the testimony – though the video, broadcast on C-SPAN, shows he was talking about Al Qaeda.
Ace doesn't buy that:
He meant exactly what he seemed to mean. For these bastards, Al Qaeda is not the enemy; only Americans who stand between themselves and political power are. In some situations, Al Qaeda is a genuine ally in the real war.
Freudian slip, or botched joke combined with a bald-faced denial?

Oh, well. At least he didn't suggest that the Bush Administration might start burying people alive. Next question: "Could the President order you to build a big pit in the ground, and light a fire in it, and douse people in alcohol, and then throw them in the fire?"

We captured a tape of insurgents doing that while I was in Iraq, so you know, we wouldn't want to risk a torture gap.
Looks like the Supreme Court affirmed the Heller Decision. (I'm watching the SCOTUS blog)

The right to bear arms is an individual right.

Quoting the syllabus: The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditional lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

Get your copy of the decision here (.pdf download--right click and select 'save target')

I want my machine gun, NOW.

Ethics Video

Mandatory Ethics Training Video:

I was asked to review this video, which is the Joint Contracting Command's proposed ethics video for civilians working in Iraq and Afghanistan. I haven't quite decided what I think about it.

I did like it better than the suggested alternative:

Betraying Trusts

Rape and Death:

It's not uncommon for the SCOTUS to come up with something I think is flatly wrong, so it is no surprise to see it done today. Today they held that raping a child can't be a capital crime.

I would suggest, given recidivism rates in child molestation, that molestation of children under 13 should always be a capital offense. Furthermore, given that prison has proven to be a failure at rehabilitation, I see no reason that forcible rape, even of adults, should not have death as a potential penalty at the discretion of judge and jury. Rape is every bit as awful as murder, and may be far crueler. More, unlike in murder cases, the victim has to continue to live with the crime.

There is no reason they should also have to live with the rapist.

The Eighth Amendment certain did not prevent the execution of rapists, even adults, "where the victim's life was not taken" at the time of its ratification. It was only in this century that the SCOTUS -- not the Congress or the several states -- decided that was unacceptable.

Now the SCOTUS says we must "not expand" the use of the death penalty to child rapists; but this is no expansion, it is a simple restoration of how things were actually done at the time of the passage of the Eighth. The court has been acting unreasonably on the point for decades, and is getting worse as time goes along.

The Incas and Bad Philosophy

The Incas and Bad Philosophy:

Since we were debating -- somewhat far afield of the original topic -- relative blame for the destruction of the Aztecs and the Incas, it is worth seeing what an earlier expert had to say about it. (h/t: Arts & Letters Daily.) Montesquieu was one of the Enlightenment thinkers, who developed the idea of "the separation of powers" into a doctrine that is now the basis for numerous free governments.

Also germane to the discussion: Montesquieu was educated at the Catholic College of Juilly, where Saint Genevieve stopped one day to pray -- and a spring burst from the ground. The miracle, and the sense that the waters were holy, caused it to become a place for pilgrims to visit; then an abbey formed there to serve the pilgrims; then an orphanage for the children of knights killed on Crusade. The abbey became a royal academy.

If the Church is to have the blame for what Cortez did in its name, then they must also have the praise for the saintliness of a lady; for the faith of the pilgrims; for the kindness to the orphans; for the teaching of the monks; and for the instruction of wise men whose ideas blossomed into the foundation of our modern age. Later thinkers, who have no interest in the Church or the glory of its God, nevertheless stand on their shoulders.

If you will blame them for a wrong of their ancestors, then you must also give them that due. If they are forever to blame for wrongs, then let them be forever praised for the right.

The Cowboy Way:

The other day, bthun said:

Funny thing that... I suspect that many of us who would be able to survive and even thrive in a more primitive culture or way of living, ala the 18th to 19th century, are not the same ones who are gloating over the rise in energy prices as a means to force some eco equality or perceived social comeuppance.
I'd like to have a discussion about that subject.

For example, item one: the suggestion that meat prices will soon soar, as flooding destroys crops in great numbers.

Item two: deer populations are causing problems across the country, including disease, the destruction of forests, and crop damage.

So: here is an untapped source of meat, for the cost of a hunting license and a bullet; plus it restrains disease and saves crops at a time when crops are unusually troubled by flooding. The improvement to the environment and human health are only... ah, gravy.

We have occasionally sought extra venison from friends who like to hunt a great deal, but don't really want to eat very many deer, as a way of reducing meat costs. We'll also hunt. This year, I'm thinking of investing in a large freezer for this reason.

In addition to deer, you can save large amounts on meat by buying a half or whole beef. You can do this through local farmers as well as online -- I cite the website mostly to give an idea of the prices we're talking about. A single beef will feed your family for a year. In return for providing the money up front, you get hundreds of pounds of ground beef for about $2.60 a pound, plus numerous steaks, etc.

There is also gardening. Home grown vegetables not only taste better, they are richer in nutrients. It is not too late to start many kinds of summer vegetables, and even a small plot or a windowbox can produce tomatoes, squash, peppers, and other favorites.

Of course you can cut down on expenses by driving less, but you can also stay in campgrounds instead of hotels. Our trip to Savannah, when I returned from Iraq, was at Skidaway Island State Park; there are numerous campgrounds in state parks, national parks, state and national forestland, and so forth.

So: hunting, fishing, growing your own food, canning, all these things can be done. Even if you live in an urban or suburban area, there's a hunting ground not too far away from you in most states. You can grow food in a windowbox and can it on your stove. Some commitment is necessary to make this work in a big way, but it can work for you.

If you live further afield, you can do more. For example, we've heated our home in the winter at least partially with wood for several years, which keeps down heating oil or propane costs.

I'd like to suggest a discussion of other ways in which 'the cowboy way' can help us deal with a moment of relatively high prices. Anyone with good ideas, let's hear them.


To March to Jerusalem:

Spengler of the Asia Times has a piece that builds on what has been a long-time theme of his: a conflict between Islam and what he sees as (hopes to see as?) a resurgent Christendom.

After Pope Benedict XVI showed unprecedented courtesy to visiting American President George W Bush last week, much has been written about the Christian faith that binds the pope and the president.

It is not only faith, but the temerity to act upon faith, that the pope and the president have in common. In the past I have characterized Benedict's stance as, "I have a mustard seed, and I'm not afraid to use it."


As Father Dall'Oglio warns darkly, Muslims are in dialogue with a pope who evidently does not merely want to exchange pleasantries about coexistence, but to convert them. This no doubt will offend Muslim sensibilities, but Muslim leaders are well-advised to remain on good terms with Benedict XVI. Worse things await them. There are 100 million new Chinese Christians, and some of them speak of marching to Jerusalem - from the East. A website entitled Back to Jerusalem proclaims, "From the Great Wall of China through Central Asia along the silk roads, the Chinese house churches are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all the way back to Jerusalem."

Islam is in danger for the first time since its founding. The evangelical Christianity to which George W Bush adheres and the emerging Asian church are competitors with whom it never had to reckon in the past. The European Church may be weak, but no weaker, perhaps, than in the 8th century after the depopulation of Europe and the fall of Rome. An evangelizing European Church might yet repopulate Europe with new Christians as it did more than a millennium ago.
Conversion has become a secular sin in the West. It is easy to understand the reasons why. We had a bloody history over religious conversion, especially the time of the Thirty Years War, which informed early Enlightenment thinking. The Scots who devised most of the thinking on which America itself was based saw continuing wars, as the victors of the English Protestant split ignited a feud between Covenanter and Anglican Protestants. And so on.

Yet there is a basic command in Christianity to attempt conversion: not through force, but through persuasion and example. In guarding against forcible conversion, we have come so far as to have made it rude to attempt philosophical conversion.

Case in point: I've been running this blog for more than five years. I regularly quote Chesterton, speak approvingly of the Pope, and yet it is clear that I was raised Protestant and am not Catholic. Not one of my Catholic readers has ever tried to convert me. Not so much as a, "You know, given how moved you were by The Ballad of the White Horse, you might want to read..."

Neither have any of my Protestant readers, even those of you who would call yourselves Evangelical, ever attempted to convert me to your particular church. We just don't do that anymore.

Yet this is a period when people switch religions at the drop of a hat. Neither my sister nor I still follow the religion in which we were raised. I sought out a degree in comparative religions, studying now Buddhism and now Hinduism, now Chinese folk religions and now historical pagan ones. I spoke the other day of my wedding, in which one of my groomsmen was a converted Muslim, and the other a Quaker who had become a Jew. The third had passed from agnosticism to Methodism, on the strength of a loving woman's faith. One hundred percent of the men in my wedding party had changed religions within a decade of the ceremony. People are adrift, and seeking truths to which they can moor their lives.

It is worth reflection. What do you believe is true, beyond what you can prove is true? Is there a tradition left that is strong enough, and deep enough, that you can trust your weight to it? Or must we each wander alone?

Six percent

Six Percent:

Six percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in Congress. Can there be that many lobbyists?

Of course, only three percent express no confidence at all, which is better than I would have expected. Actually, the no-confidence numbers are mildly inspiring across the board: even in the case of the much (and often justly) maligned Bush administration, 93% of Americans express at least a little confidence in it.

That suggests that Americans still have faith in the system, just not in the current actors. As a whole, they believe that Congress is doing a terrible job, but that it can be fixed.

What is not obvious is how this harmonizes with the electoral trends for this year: the solution that Americans have intuited seems to be to give the ruling party in Congress even greater control; and at a time when none of the institutions of government are receiving popular support at any level, to vote for the party that wants to increase vastly government control over the economy (nationalize the oil industry! Universal health care!). Big business' numbers are not much better than Congress', but small business is #2 (after the military) in expressed confidence, with 28% of Americans having a great deal of confidence in it.

It is also noteworthy that "the police" enjoy such great confidence, while "the criminal justice system" does so badly. Americans like that they can call someone to have a criminal arrested, but are not satisfied with what happens to the criminal afterwards.

Gallup interprets the numbers as expressing a desire for "change," which is fine; but I think we can go further. Americans will take any change on offer, versus continuing the current system. But the change they would prefer is:

1) Keeping the military strong,

2) Helping the population start small businesses, moving out of public or big-business sectors of employment,

3) Law-and-order reform to strengthen the criminal justice system's ability to deal with criminality; I would think that a vastly increased use of capital punishment for violent crimes would be very popular.

Democratic candidates are running strong this year because Americans think of Republicans as being "in charge," even though Congress is in Democratic control. But the changes that people actually seem to want have little to do with what the Democratic party platform is proposing. Almost no one wants government to grow in importance; almost no one has "great" or "quite a lot" of trust in any of its branches.

A platform based on the three points above would likely win this year. There is still time for a strong expression of that platform: a pact, like the "Contract with America." It wouldn't matter whether it was the Democratic or Republican party that proposed the platform: they would gain wide support by it.

Furthermore, it's a platform I could support, regardless of the party that offered it.

Diplomacy = Magic

Diplomacy = Magic:

Consider the IAEA comments on Iranian nuclear negotiations. The concept here is that the IAEA feels it could not maintain negotiations on Iran's nuclear program in the event of a military strike by Israel on Iran. That may well be true; but it comes alongside Iran's absolute refusal to negotiate on the issue:

ElBaradei's comments come as Iran stressed on Saturday it will not negotiate with world powers over its nuclear programme if it is required to suspend its enrichment activities.

"Suspending uranium enrichment has no logic behind it and it is not acceptable and the continuation of negotiation will not be based on suspension," Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.
That is the only thing that we really want out of the negotiations: Iran not to have the capacity to build nuclear weapons. Iran says it won't negotiate on ending enrichment, which is the thing that would give it the capacity to build nuclear weapons.

So, what do we get out of continuing negotiations? The right to maintain 24-hour camera surveillence of their enrichment activity. They won't stop doing what we'd like them not to do, but they will let us watch them do it, 24 hours a day.

I would very much like for there to be a diplomatic solution to this issue, but the IAEA tactic doesn't strike me as a step in the right direction. It amounts to stating, 'You must take the military option off the table, so we can continue watching them do what we were supposed to stop them from doing.'

The UN, through the IAEA, is doing just what people so often complain that it does: pursuing the continuation of negotiations as if it were the chief good to be achieved; sacrificing the actual good that was desired in favor of that continuation.

Again, I would love to see a diplomatic solution to this matter. But this mechanism is not producing it. We need a better way of approaching these matters than the UN system, which is once again engaged in a spectacular failure.