Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes:

While tooling around on Hulu last night, I found an ad for a new Sherlock Holmes movie that is to be coming out. It will have to be good indeed, if it is to compare with the best of all such films.

Now, that's a classic.

Fistful $$$

A Fistful:

Hulu is running "A Fistful of Dollars" for the next thirteen days -- the Yuletide, roughly.

I'm sure few of you need to rely on it. I think I have a copy or two of the thing around here somewhere. But it's always nice for those who might be away from their collections, if they can get past the international filters.


"A Really Cool Book About Vikings":

Our friend (and occasional co-blogger) Joel Leggett had a very nice review of Lars Walker's recent book, West Oversea.

Those of you looking for Christmas gifts might want to support one of our friends and fellow-Hall members; and from what Major Leggett says, it sounds like a very appropriate gift. I have been meaning to get a copy myself.

The Force of History

The Force of History:

So cites Carlin Romano, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education. He wants those outraged over the recent Swiss minaret ban to think deeper:

Forgive me if I, too, do not weep that 57.5 percent of the Swiss, now hosts to a largely moderate Muslim population of Turks and former Yugoslavs, want to keep their country a quiet car among nations. I am still busy weeping for the Armenians, the first people in their corner of the world to officially adopt Christianity, almost eliminated from history due to regular massacres by the Muslim Turks among whom they lived for centuries.

Is bringing in the Armenian genocide too big a stretch when contemplating an electoral act about urban design rather than a state policy to implement ethnic cleansing?... What about the Crusades? The Inquisition? America's genocide of Native Americans? Church bells and belfries? Jordanian denial of citizenship to Jews? Nineteenth-century European colonialism in the Mideast? Islamic discrimination against gays, Jews, women, Christians? Serb persecution of Muslims in Bosnia? The Battles of Tours (732) and Lepanto (1571)? Wahhabi fundamentalism? Swiss collaboration with the Nazis? Swiss protection of Jews from the Nazis? It's enough to make one's head swim.

Perhaps we'll all need "Advanced Context" as a required liberal-arts course once the anarchy of cybercommentary takes over all intellectual debate. Allow me, then, in this amorphous, pluralistic environment, to return to the Armenians. Because it may well be that persuading people about appropriate context in large moral matters can't be done a priori, but only, so to speak, pragmatically—you juxtapose the context you think relevant with the issue at hand, and see whether it makes a difference to what anyone thinks.
If that's the standard, you may as well not bother. Analogies to history never persuade anyone of anything they don't already believe. For one thing, it's too easy to grab a different analogy that 'proves' something different, and argue its relevance instead.

For another, there are often radically different interpretations of the same event. The phrase "O. K. Corral" has been invoked on the floor of Congress numerous times as an argument in favor of gun control measures that would limit firearms to policemen and officers of the law. If such measures are meant to avoid the O.K. Corral, how to interpret the fact that it was precisely such a law that precipitated it? It was the attempt to enforce Tombstone's gun control law that was the proximate cause of the gunfight. A even worse problem is that the survivors of the losing side got themselves deputized by the Sheriff and went after the town and Federal marshals. A police-officer-only model of gun control would have done nothing to avoid the shootout, or reduce the violence that followed it.

The one thing that did reduce the violence is the very thing that Congress most hates to consider: citizen vigilantes, who informed the participants that any future shootouts had better be conducted outside of town or there would be some hangings. This maneuver was so effective that historians still have trouble deciding exactly what happened in the rest of the war between those factions, as very little of it occurred close enough for nonpartisan witnesses to view.

So we might respond: 'If I were to accept your proposed context of the O. K. Corral, then, Senator Such-and-So, logic would suggest that we could reduce dangerous violence by avoiding gun control laws, but endorsing lynch mobs.'

Will that convince him, even after you've accepted his context? Of course it will not. This is because his historical argument has nothing to do with why he was pushing the policy; it was merely a tool for him. Destroy that argument, and you have still not touched his reasons for wanting the policy.

These are likely to be emotional, not logical: as with our discussions on Aristotle, it is normally the non-rational part of the soul that determines ends. The rational part determines means. All he will learn from your argument is that he needs a different means to his ends.

If you want to change his desired ends, you need a non-rational argument. Beauty is such an argument: love is. History is not, but myth can be.

That is one very good reason why we need to make myths as well as histories. We need them both.

Milblogs Go Silent

Milblogs Go Silent:

I'm sure that most of you are familiar with the problems MSG Grisham has been having with his local school board. His command is in a difficult position, and I sympathize with their desire to have good relations with the local government. I'm sure that it makes perfect sense for them to believe that telling him to cool it is a good response, since it will make the pain of the principal go away, and he (unlike she) is under their authority. Soldiers are often asked to be the adults when the civilian world pitches a fit, and to suck up the sacrifices needed to make that same world feel comfortable and good about itself. This is generally unfair, but part of the honor in service lies in just how much more weight you are bearing than those who choose the easy life.

Still, were I forced into such a situation, and were it my commander, I would want him to support me. And were I in C. J.'s position, I would want my friends to support me. So, though I imagine I can see where the command is coming from, the Golden Rule suggests we should back our friend, and ask for him what we would want for ourselves.

Several Milblogs will be going silent for the day in solidarity, including BLACKFIVE and this one. The originators of the concept prepared the following statement and asked that I publish it.

Army Master Sgt. C. J. Grisham has always led from the front, from combat that earned him the Bronze Star with V device, to doing right by the men he led. His honesty won him readership and respect, from the White House on down. Yet, when he stood up for his children in school, his command did not stand by him. You can read more at Military Times to get the full story.

Please donate via PayPal; or you can log into PayPal on your own, go to the send money page, and put in his email: dj [underscore] chcknhawk AT yahoo DOT com; or, you can send donations directly to:

Grisham Legal Fund
c/o Redstone Federal Credit Union
220 Wynn Drive
Huntsville, AL 35893
Please write "Grisham Legal Fund" in the memo line if you use this option.

Milblogs have been a vital link in getting accurate news and information about the military, and military operations, to you. Today, many milblogs are gone and others are under attack from within and without. Today, you have the chance to imagine a world without milblogs, and to do something about it. Make your voice heard by writing your congressional representatives and others, and by making donations as you see fit.

John Henry & Mushrooms

John Henry & Mushrooms:

Joe's remarks on John Henry made me recall a famous story. It was retold in the version I first encountered by Taisen Deshimaru, a Japanese zen master and martial artist who taught widely in the West. I wrote, in the comments below:

Joe just needs to come down and spend a week splitting wood with me. After that, I think he'll have a new appreciation for old John Henry. After all, he sure was a hammer-swinger.
A fair response would be for my good friend Joe to bring a pneumatic woodsplitter along with him. Actually, my neighbor has one he's offered to loan me anytime I want it, but I continue to split wood with an axe. Perhaps this is why:
Master Dogen had gone to China to find true wisdom, to understand Zen. He studied many things but he did not really understand. In those days the religion of Buddhism, of Zen, was very widespread in China and he went from one temple to another. Nevertheless, he was not satisfied with the teaching he received so he decided to go home to Japan.

Then one day he came to another temple. It was summer, and very hot. There was a very old monk there working, drying mushrooms. Old and frail as he was, he was spreading the mushrooms out in the sun. Master Dogen saw him and asked him, "Why are you working? You are an old monk and a superior of the temple. You should get younger people to do this work. It is not necessary for you to work. Besides, it is extremely hot today. Do that another day." ...

The old monk's answer was most interesting and has become famous in the history of Soto Zen. It was a satori for Master Dogen. The monk said to him, "You have come from Japan, young man, you are intelligent and you understand Buddhism, but you do not understand the essence of Zen.... If a young monk helped me to do the work, if I were to stand by and watch him, then I could not have the experience of drying these mushrooms."
What was the line from that movie? 'A duellist of the wood-cut school'?

In any event, it's not without value. I don't know that the pneumatic drive could do it better than me anyway, since most of the work is in moving the wood into the right position for splitting, and then stacking it once it is split. You wear out your back with those parts, which no machine seems to want to do.

Splitting is easy. It is a joy. So, I imagine, was driving the steel for John Henry: to be a man moving in the image of his creator, as Johnny Cash put it. Or another -- Thor's hammer and Dagda's club; or the tales in the front of the Kalevala about the breaking of the great tree in the morning of the world. That's a thing men have done for a long time, and gods before us; and we are men who still do it.

That thing is valuable in and of itself. Perhaps it is the chief value.


Sir Winston:

Remembering Churchill:

Winston Churchill led the life that many men would love to live. He survived 50 gunfights and drank 20,000 bottles of champagne. He won the public schools’ fencing cup and rode in the last cavalry charge of the British Army. He created British Petroleum, invented the combat tank, and founded the states of Jordan and Iraq. And of course, by resisting Hitler, he saved Europe and perhaps the world.
It's true: many's the man who would have loved to live a life like that.

A Republic Descends

Rumors and Portents:

A rumor, which has been out there several hours now with no one stepping up to deny it that I can find:

According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn’t fall into line.

Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a “naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson’s vote.” They are “threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?” asked the Senate staffer.

Indeed, Offutt is the headquarters for US Strategic Command, the successor to Strategic Air Command, and not by accident. STRATCOM was located in the middle of the country for strategic reasons. Its closure would be a massive blow to the economy of the state of Nebraska, but it would also be another example of this administration playing politics with our national security.
Meanwhile, signs point to a Congress losing its grip:
A House subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine its national champion,


The legislation, which goes to the full committee, would make it illegal to promote a national championship game "or make a similar representation," unless it results from a playoff.
The Supreme Court sits in council, and wonders at the laws put before it.
You can serve federal time for interstate transport of water hyacinths, trafficking in unlicensed dentures, or misappropriating the likeness of Woodsy Owl and his associated slogan, "Give a hoot, don't pollute." ("What are you in for, kid?" your new cellmate growls.) Bills currently before Congress would send Americans to federal prison for eating horsemeat or selling goods falsely labeled as "Native American."

"Is that the system we have, that Congress can say, nobody shall do any bad things?" an exasperated Scalia asked Drebeen.
What is going on in Washington, D.C.?

Ballad of John Henry

The Ballad of John Henry:

'I'll die with my hammer in my hand... but I'll be laughing.'



I already know what I'm getting for Christmas... it's a Stihl chainsaw. Thanks to everyone for their recommendations, and good stories about woodcutting past.

Following the spirit of Cassandra's post, here is our tree. It's a six foot cedar I cut off the property (with a single blow of the axe -- not a giant tree, I mean to say).

"Fine and dandy, Grim," you might be saying, "but what's at the other end of that rug?" Well, that's the other part of Cassidy's post I should emulate.

It's not Buckaroo's first Christmas with the family. It is, though, the first year that he and I will be here at the same time.

Finally, on the friends-and-family side, I'd like to direct you to The Donovan's latest. All I can say is that, when you reach one of these livestock moments, it's important to chose your soundtrack carefully. All the best, John.


On Cures for Homosexuality:

National Review offers a backhanded 'defense' of a practitioner.

Therapists such as Mr. Cohen are an object of special hatred for organized homosexuality, and that lobby probably has never had so prominent a voice as Miss Maddow’s. To be sure, Cohen is a distinctly unsympathetic figure. His psychotherapeutic work is pure New Age goo, but that is to be expected: Psychotherapy is pseudoscience. At its least destructive it amounts to idle chatter; at its worst it is a reality-displacing religion substitute, advancing beliefs that are every bit as fundamentalist and anti-rational as any desert jihadist’s, if not so violent.

In this context, there is nothing uniquely offensive about Mr. Cohen’s brand of pseudoscience. America offers a splendiferous bouquet of preposterous belief systems from which the connoisseur of the absurd may choose....

Miss Maddow, strangely, made much of the fact that Mr. Cohen is not a licensed psychotherapist, as though being a chartered practitioner of witch-doctoring were preferable to being a freelance operator.
I think that was meant to be encouraging!

Domestic Terrorists

...And Just To Round Out the Morning:

Greyhawk discusses domestic Islamic terrorism, and cites a piece from Small Wars Journal.

The great concern from a strategic perspective is that governmental officials will start to drink their own 'spiked punch' and delude themselves into believing that the many terrorist incidents listed in this essay are in actuality the actions of mentally unstable and delusional individuals and nothing more. This would mean that our domestic intelligence and interdiction capabilities are performing flawlessly with the ensuing pats on the back, 'atta-boys', and political kudos being exchanged....

What is now needed is a governmental and federal law enforcement debate focusing on the broader spectrum of the domestic radical Islamic threat. This new debate on 'Ones and Twos' should revisit conventional views on terrorist groups and their organization. Specifically, while non-state warfare can be waged by larger radical Islamic cells, i.e. those which have been successfully interdicted such as the 2002 Lackawanna, New York (Muktar al-Bakri et al); 2005 Lodi, California (Hayat family et al); 2007 Fort Dix, New Jersey (Duka family et al); and 2009 New York (Najibullah Zazi et al) groups, it must also ask whether cells composed of ones and twos are not now also part of this threat spectrum....

In the process, some consideration should be given to openly informing and educating the American public about the broadening radical Islamic threat spectrum.
I expect the consideration will focus more on the reasons not to do that, which include: 1) the government's belief that the American people are perpetually just that close to becoming an anti-Muslim lynch mob, and 2) the danger of increasing a perception in the Muslim world that America sees itself as at war with Islam. America's policy, since 9/11, has been to state loudly and frequently that we do not believe radicalized Islamic teachings are the true faith of Islam, and to declare respect for "mainstream" or "moderate" or "true" Islam as one of the great religions of mankind.

Not only are we fighting two counterinsurgency campaigns in Muslim countries, but there remains the global recruiting problem. And, indeed, to the degree that the government appeared to be coming out against Islam, the domestic terror problem is actually increased as a threat. Muslims who now don't feel alienated from the United States might come to feel alienated, when the government starts putting out documents explaining that their community's members might pose a threat even if they aren't affiliated with any known terrorist or radical group.

You could begin and end the report with paragraphs on how radicalized Islam is not true Islam, and reiterating America's respect for true Islam; you could put a watermark on every page that stated "Americans respect and honor true Islam!" Even so, a report that suggests that Muslims 'even in ones and twos' are potential terrorists is going to have a negative effect.

What would be wiser would be to harden the American population against a generalized threat. To a certain degree, the population has been hardening itself for some time. Liberalized conceal-carry laws are one way that the population has become much more capable of self-defense. Another is the massive surge in firearm and ammunition purchases since the election of President Obama.

Anyway, that's your cheery report for this morning: domestic terrorism, Iranian nuclear weapons, and an American population that is beginning to speak openly of the need for civil war. I don't suppose boredom is going to be a problem for anyone these next few years.


Iran's Mask Slips:

It was never a very convincing disguise anyway, but this puts paid to it.

The technical document describes the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which independent experts confirm has no possible civilian or military use other than in a nuclear weapon. Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint.

“Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, there is no civil application,” said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which has analysed hundreds of pages of documents related to the Iranian programme. “This is a very strong indicator of weapons work.”


Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: “The most shattering conclusion is that, if this was an effort that began in 2007, it could be a casus belli. If Iran is working on weapons, it means there is no diplomatic solution.”
It was always difficult to imagine the Israeli prime minister who would endure Iran's nuclear program passing a certain point. That was true even if you could make a plausible claim that it was for civilian, peaceful use.

If Iran follows through this time on its pledge to swap fuel for uranium, it might buy time for some other approach to be tried by the community of nations. However, this exposes their negotiations for what many of us have always suspected that they were: merely a ploy. A ploy to do what? Why, to buy time!

The diplomatic options therefore become much less attractive, even if Iran actually does follow through on the swap. It's clear that they're continuing to refine uranium; all the swap does is push out the time until they have enough for a bomb. However, if they need that time anyway to overcome the remaining techincal challenges -- including this one, which they have apparently been trying to solve since 2007 -- they stand to lose nothing from the swap. They do gain the appearance of cooperation and good faith, however, which might protect their program from military action... just... long... enough.


Dad29 says, "Gadzooks!"

And a hat tip to the gentleman for the photo.

"Prepare for war: live free or die." This kind of thing is a good argument for freedom of speech. Some would say this kind of thing is incitement, but you can't incite people who aren't already pretty mad. If they are mad enough to be incited in Missouri, the boys in D.C. are lucky if someone thinks to warn them in time to head it off.

And how much time do we have? If this fellow speaks for more than himself, the idea is to give 2010's elections a chance. Since you'd have to allow time to see if the change did work, though, I'm guessing you'd want to push out your prospective timeline for the shooting to start until summer 2011. That should be about the time that we should be rotating troops home from Afghanistan in large numbers. They may come as our soldiers from Iraq have come, well-satisfied with victory; or they may come angry, if the timeline aspect of the war plan proves only to leave the Taliban in control of areas their brethren have died to defend.

That will be an interesting few months, I expect. If you wish to head off that war, and we should all wish that, there is still time. Much hangs on Afghanistan, and much on how long it takes for Congress to abandon this lust for spending that has overtaken it. We should support our fighting men, and try to rein in the politicians.

Wren Song

The Wren Song:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds:

Some people theorise that the Wren celebration has descended from Celtic mythology. Sources suggest that the Druids used the wren in augury and might have studied its flight, amongst other birds, to derive predictions about the future. It may also have been introduced or influenced by Scandinavian settlers during the Viking invasions of the 8th-10th Centuries.

Various associated legends exist, such as the wren bird being responsible for betraying Irish soldiers who fought the Viking invaders by beating its wings on their shields, in the late first and early second millennia, and for betraying the Christian martyr Saint Stephen, after whom the day is named. This mythological association with treachery is a probable reason why in past times the bird was hunted by Wrenboys on St. Stephen's Day....
A merry song, with an interesting tale behind it. How well suited for the season, and the Hall!
Decorating the Hall:

What? The catapult is a holiday tradition, here.