Thursday, April 26, 2007

Overprotecting the Prince

. . .I pray to Thee, not that Thou shouldst remove the obstacles that stand in my way, but that Thou shouldst allow me to overcome them. . . .O my God, show me always where my duty lies; give me strength always to do it. . .

From a prayer, found written in the prayer-book of H.I.H. Napoléon Eugène Louis John Joseph, Prince Imperial of France -- killed in action while part of the British Army in Zululand, 1 June 1879. Written in the Prince’s own hand (in French). English text from a 1974 lecture by Mr. Alf Wade, as reported in Military History Journal (Vol. 3, No. 2) (South African Military History Society).
His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales (“Prince Harry”), besides being third in line for the British throne (behind his father and older brother), is a Cornet (2nd Lieutenant) in the Household Cavalry Regiment, which is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in May. H.R.H., known in the Royal Army as “Cornet Wales,” commands a reconnaissance platoon.

The British Ministry of Defence is apparently thinking of blocking the Prince’s deployment with his regiment. H.R.H. is, quite naturally, extremely upset, as is his regiment. I can understand wanting to be careful, and I can surely understand the misgivings of more senior officers terrified of the possibility of anything happening to H.R.H. while under their command. No question, there's risk involved. But if the Prince isn't to be deployed, why is he with a regiment to begin with ?

This business is just ludicrous. Some will remember that the Duke of York (Prince Andrew), uncle of Prince Harry, flew a Royal Navy helicopter in the Falklands War of 1982. Members of the Royal House have accompanied the British Army into action, well, forever. I can’t think that anybody with the monarchy’s interests at heart would use influence to block the Prince’s deployment.

Of course the Bad Guys can, and probably will, try to target the Prince. This goes with the territory -- H.R.H. is in the cavalry for God's sake. Besides, when it comes right down to it, the British have a royal heir. Two of them in fact. Prince Harry is the Spare, and a serving, trained, officer, and he should be allowed – as he wants – the opportunity to bring credit to his House and to take his chances with his regiment. I'm sure the Prince will obey whatever orders he's given, but he should be allowed to go.

Need Some Ink for that Pen ?

V-e-t-o's a comin, you twits. Roll that bill up in White Flag Harry's banner and smoke it.

Symphony No. 39 in E flat major (Mozart)

I was listening to Mozart on the way into work: his Symphony No. 39 in E flat major (KV 543). A beautiful piece of music: I was four years old when this recording was made, and I'm convinced nobody has ever outdone Karl Böhm and the Berliner Philharmoniker on this piece. For some reason, I'm probably a much better driver when I have old Mozart in the CD player -- possibly I'm slower.

In any case, I pulled into the building lot this morning, and I wasn't done yet, so there I sat for the next ten minutes, eyes closed, listening to Herr Böhm lead the orchestra through the last two movements of Symphony No. 39 (Menuetto: Alegretto-Trio, and Finale: Allegro). Such beautiful music ! Fortunately the piece ended before anybody became concerned that I had gone to sleep, or was bonkers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thinking Bloggers

News travels fast, except of course when it doesn’t, and sometimes that’s the case in the Kingdom of Chaos, probably because we persecute the journalists too much around here. But, hey, our dungeons are clean.

Ah yes, back to the slow news issue. In any case, it seems that Southern Knight honored El Jefe, earlier in the month, by tagging him as a "Thinking Blogger." The Southern Knight said:

Kingdom of Chaos ... funny and thoughtful commentary. I am trying to become El
Jefe Maximo's minister of propaganda, but thats another story.
The Southern Knight is most generous. Thanks Knight ! Be sure to check out Southern Knight's blog. As to what Southern Knight said, El Jefe is constrained to point out that, after all, it’s the Forces of Evil, (the Bad Guys) who engage in propaganda. On the other hand, the forces of Truth, Justice and Our Side (the good guys), like El Jefe, and Southern Knight, provide information -- as I tell His Excellency, the Minister of Information, twice daily, the better to guide the censors and give a proper tone to all Kingdom of Chaos publications. . .
This said, the “Thinking Blogger” moniker thing seems to work as follows: I’m supposed to pass this honor on to five other, worthy blogs, the owners of which can follow suit if so inclined. So, here are the rules:

If, and only if, you get tagged,
1. Write a post with links to five blogs that make you think.
2. Link to the original post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme and know who thinks so highly of you.
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.
Bear in mind: I'm trying to avoid listing blogs I know are already "tagged" by Southern Knight or others, or those of people who won't want to compile lists. If any of you "tagged" blogs, don't like this, so sorry, you are under no obligation to follow suit and tag. That said, here goes. . .

If you’re looking for interesting and thought-provoking military commentary, you need to check out Westhawk. Among other things, the Westhawk's current thinking on the Iraq situation and what should be done there is very close to my own. Westhawk keeps you well filled-in on "lawfare," the implications of the growth of NGO's and many other aspects of today's changing strategic environment.

Covering the intelligence waterfront and other related and interesting things, from military aircraft procurement, intelligence personnel shuffles, to Rosie O’Donnell is "Spook 86", over at In From the Cold. If you want the back-story lowdown on what’s going down, or an angle on the big story you haven’t thought of, then going In From the Cold is a good plan.
Then. for anglophile conservative monarchists like El Jefe, there's always The Monarchist. No substitute for it, in fact. I love the Chesterton quote that proclaims The Monarchist’s credo: “the act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.” The Monarchist’s departments read like a list of the virtues the blog seeks to defend: “Loyalty, Fraternity, Liberty, Country, Gallantry, Regiment, Chivalry, Heraldry, Nobility, Royalty, Christianity.” All splendid stuff, and a gorgeous page to boot.

For matters nautical, drop anchor over at Eagle Speak. The proprietor, or rather, the Captain, "Eagle1" – has always got interesting nautical scoopage, with good maps and explanations even us landlubbers can follow. If you want to know what going on off the coast of Yemen, or about pirates stirring up trouble in the Straits of Malacca, this is a good port of call.

Finally, if you want to get away for awhile from the rantings of political gasbags, airplanes and things that go boom, have a look at Candidly Caroline. Caroline writes from Austin, a town I’m rather attached to, possibly because of my days there in connection with a certain Large Orange institution. Well, Caroline went to the Other Place, but writes thoughtfully on Austin, music, kiddos, romance, food and other things without which life would be dull indeed.

A New World

Columbus found a world, and had no chart, save one that faith deciphered in the skies.

George Santayana

. . .Still to England I say
Good night, forever, good night!
For I have crossed the Rubicon
Let the bridge be burned behind me
Come what may, come what may. . .
The croakers all say we'll rue the day
There'll be hell to pay in fiery purgatory
Through all the gloom, through all the gloom
I see the rays of ravishing light and glory!
Is anybody there?
Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?
I see fireworks!
I see the pageant and
Pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out. . .

William Daniels as “John Adams” delivering lyrics of “Is Anybody There ?” in 1776 (1972) directed by Peter H. Hunt, written by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

Thomas Payne

One of the amazing things about history is what seems of monumental importance to the people living through it appears insignificant to their successors when viewed back through the looking glass of a far distant future. Similarly, real historical events -- hinges on which the destinies of nations and peopls turn are sometimes so huge and fundamental that those who see them miss it, somewhat in the way in which an ant cannot comprehend a great tree that suddenly appears in his path.

Kingdoms and thrones and powers. . .Oh my.
Now, space travel is worth something because, at last, there is someplace to go. Probably if the astronomers have found one place . . .LOTS of places.
This changes everything now. We probably won't live to see it, or even our children, unless God and science are kind, but science fiction is soon to be no fiction at all. It's all coming, see. Voyages and colonies and empires and starships, as when the Earth was new. Maybe another America someplace in the stars, another Earth even. . . someday. Of course, all the idiots will hate it and fight it, but they're gonna lose. Now that we know it's all really Out There, nothing at all's going to stop our children, or their children from going.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fun, Good and Interesting Things: Latest Edition

I first did this list back in May of 05 and again in August of 06. . .Much of it is the same, but some not. As I've said before, it just seems like an appropriate time to, reflect again on Fun, Good and Interesting Thangs (FGIT), as sort of a reminder of the blessings that have come my way in this life. . . I don't get to do all these, or experience them all anymore, but they are all well liked by moi. This is a by no means exhaustive list, nor is it in any particular order.

1. Parties.
2. Double entendres.
3. Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.
4. BMW 3 series.
5. A decent Merlot – from Chile not California.
6. Pancakes.
7. Seaside, FL.
8. Dancing.
9. A trip to the Museum, when not in a hurry.
10. A place near Sealy, TX.
11. Tea -- iced or hot.
12. Hiking.
13. A quiet afternoon with a book.
14. Camping.
15. When the Heir is happy.
16. Da Beach.
17. When SWMBO is happy.
18. 18-year old Scotch (preferably Macallan).
19. Dinner and Drinking with pals.
20. When the Heir is in the mood to tell me the kiddo gossip.
21. Jenny McCarthy.
22. Popcorn -- with plenty of butter.
23. E-mail.
24. Cats, in particular, FLINKY, MILO and SUNSHINE, the High Patronesses of this Blog.
25. Watching Lefties go Bonkers.
26. Sunsets.
27. Thunderstorms when I don’t have to be anyplace.
28. Going to a Movie with SWMBO.
29. Snail-mail. (I love to write and receive letters: See #23).
30. Flags, particularly those of Texas, the US and the Confederacy.
31. A clear night, with lots and lots of stars. . .
31. Sleeping late -- anybody who bugs me before 10 a.m. on a weekend is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD.
32. The GoGo’s.
33. Some stuff by the Carpenters.
34. Occasional computer video games.
35. Hershey Bars -- plain chocolate.
36. Deutsche Bier.
37. Deutsche Marschmusik.
38. A chocolate cake from Three Brothers Bakery, Houston.
39. Gossip.
40. Old Books.
41. Miniskirts.
42. Grapes (red, seedless).
43. Regular Coke.
44. Italian Food.
45. Rome.
46. Blueberry Pie.
47. A stay at the Four Seasons, or the Lancaster (Houston, Texas).
48. 80's music.
49. Flirting.
50. Military History.
51. Dolphins.
52. Australians.
53. Guns -- shooting them and a quiet afternoon cleaning them afterwards.
54. A fire – fireplace or campfire.
55. The frogs and crickets making noise, about sunset.
56. The British.
57. Blackened Redfish or Snapper.
58. Black Coffee – very strong, piping hot.
59. Mozart's Symphonie Nr. 31 in D-Major "Pariser Symphonie" (KV 297).
60. Austin, Texas (keep it weird, but pray they learn to drive !)
61. Roller Coasters.
62. Winston Churchill and all his books.
63. Writing in my journal (where I put all the stuff I won't tell the blog).
64. George Strait.
65. Barbecue – specially brisket.
66. Ball caps (on weekends, I can't ever decide which one to wear).
67. The Washington Post, except for the editorial page.
68. Ronald Reagan.
69. Keeping my friends’ secrets.
70. Paris -- standing in Place de la Concorde looking down the Champs Elysees.
71. Riding my bike early in the morning, when I make it out of bed.
72. Holding Four Aces.
73. Attention.
74. Irish Whiskey (Jameson's).
75. Cigars (only occasionally, when SWMBO won't catch me).
76. European history.
77. Chit-Chat about nothing in particular (see No. 39).
78. VanGogh.
79. The Buffalo River valley, Arkansas.
80. Gustave Courbet’s The Sea (1867).
81. Dogs.
82. Nice shoes.
83. Chess.
84. A good Cosmo, or three.
85. A window seat on the plane.
86. Kate Winslet in Titanic.
87. Deeply intense conversations about abstract political or historical happenings.
88. Ernest Meissonier’s Campaign de France, 1814 (1864).
89. "Pie Jesu" (by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Requiem 1985).
90. Strawberries.
91. Robert E. Lee.
92. NFL Football Games – when I don’t have to drive.
93. Kissing.
94. Wildflowers in late April -- go out between Sealy and LaGrange, TX and drive with the windows down.
95. SWMBO’s cooking.
96. An afternoon at the bookstore.
97. The Driskill Hotel, Austin.
98. Boats and ships.
99. John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1892-93).
100. Biscuits or Biscuits and Gravy.
101. The Heir’s face when asleep.
102. Masraff’s (Restaurant), Houston, Texas.
103. Le Musée de l’Armée, Paris.
104. The Forum Romanum, Rome.
105. Swim-Up Bars.
106. The Godfather (all three parts).
107. John Sanford’s Prey novels.
108. FLINKY when she Meows at my study door to be let in.
109. The smell of the ocean and listening to the waves. (See #7, # 16).
110. The color red.
111. The Band of the Coldstream Guards.
112. Chicago (before Cetera left), Boston, and the BeeGees, or most 70’s/80’s bands.
113. Stuffing my head with pointless trivia.
114. Late night phone calls.
115. Late movies.
116. Irish bars .
117. Pizza.
118. Clocks that tick loudly.
119. The color black, specially when paired with # 41.
120. The Heir when he says “But I have a question.”
121. The film Cleopatra (Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison).
122. Late nights drinking in smoke-filled bars with obscure bands playing.
123. Buying flowers.
124. The color blue.
125. Sudden, spur of moment road trips.
126. Ceremony -- the more traditional and pointless, the better.
127. Hearing train whistles a long way off.
128. My book collection.
129. New and different tee-shirts.
130. Cilantro.
131. Interesting perfume.
132. SWMBO’s Tales of Office Politics.
133. Avoiding my office's own Office Politics.
134. A nice sirloin, medium, with some mushrooms.
135. St. Clement, Chardonnay (’03).
136. An afternoon snooze.
137. Flying a kite.
138. Touring old battlefields.
139. Howard Pyle's The Battle of Bunker Hill (1897).
140. Anything with Clint Eastwood in it.
141. The Heir petting MILO.
142. An evening at a play.
143. The New Car smell.
144. Shiner Blonde or Foster Lager.
145. Anything about or to do with Theodore Roosevelt.
146. John Wayne movies.
147. Falling asleep – that point when not quite awake, but not asleep yet either.
148. Maps.
149. Golf, as long as we're not keeping score and somebody snuck in a flask.
150. Going bump in the night.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boris Yeltsin, R.I.P.

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin has apparently died. Already a consequential figure by 1980, (CPSU boss in Ekaterinburg) -- nobody would have ever predicted that he would be one of the most consequential figures of the second half of the 20th Century -- which he was.
Americans have ample reason to regard President Yeltsin favorably. Whether his policies as President were a blessing for his own country is still an open question.
I hope to have more to say on President Yeltsin later, but I'm busy today, so it will have to wait. Meanwhile, requiescat in pace.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Reveling in Defeat

The Austin Bay Blog dissects the Harry Reid Surrender Declaration better than anybody else. Our soldiers in the field, and their parents have been told by the Majority Leader of the United States Senate that they're suckers. Would Senator Reid be happier if the soldiers deserted ?
How do you suppose Iraqis who chose to support the pro-American government feel about their decision just now ? Former South Vietnamese who might live in your neighborhood, victims of the last Lefty sell-out, could probably give you a clue.
In not unrelated news, the Vermont Senate voted 16-9 to demand the impeachment of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. All six Republicans in the body, joined by three courageous Democrats, voted no.
The text of the Vermont Senate's impeachment resolution (SR 16), as introduced, is here. The prime mover in this disgraceful piece of legislation is the war in Iraq.
These people WANT the war to be lost. The domestic enemies of our war effort do not care that the premature withdrawal of American troops would likely lead to a greater bloodbath; do not care that premature withdrawal would make the efforts of our dead and wounded meaningless; do not care that their games to undercut Bush by screaming "we've lost !" and "impeach now !" encourage our enemies everywhere. These pusillanimous, craven villians are conniving at the defeat of our country by foreign enemies.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Donkey With a White Flag

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, while US troops are still engaged with the rebels in Iraq, told the whole world that the war in Iraq is lost. I'm sure it is, if Harry and his crew have anything to do with it. I'd imagine anybody stuck with those clowns in their country would lose a war.

Serial Enablers

As everyone now knows, the Blacksburg Killer, on the day of the massacre, mailed a set of videos containing his rantings, and a "manifesto" to NBC News during the two-hour lull between his shootings.
So, what does NBC do with the manifesto and tapes -- products of a raving murderous lunatic ? Of course we know -- it broadcasts them on The NBC Nightly News. Never mind that it gives the Killer just whnt he wanted: attention to adorn the bloody conclusion of his sorry life, complete with rapt audiences of other weirdos someplace no doubt "inspired" by the lunatic's work. The nutjob wanted to make a "statement," so he sat down, did his rave and went merrily on his way shooting and killing, cause he knew full-well he'd find some media enablers.
See, there's no way this wasn't being broadcast -- Jesus Christ on a Starship with an order from the President couldn't stop it -- after all, this is news. It's also, as a psychiatrist put it to NBC's crosstown rival ABC, a "social catastrophe." No, I'm not linking the ABC piece -- it quotes the Killer's videos.
Social Catastrophe. Yeah, that's about right. I imagine it's more a ratings catastrophe for the other networks who didn't get it first. If the act of reporting itself would end all life on this planet: the TV newsies would still kill each other first fighting for an exclusive.
Israel v. Hezbollah, Duke Lacrosse, Don Imus, "manifestos" by crazies, suicide bombers saying good-bye on tape. . .I'm sure you can add to the list, seasoning as to taste. When you get tired of that game, tell me why television journalism isn't a social catastrophe ?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Russians Crack Down on "Extremists"

The Russian State Duma, (Gosudarstvennaya Duma, lower house of the Federal Assembly) taking its cue from American liberals, has passed tough hate-crime legislation to crack down on “extremists.”

The Duma has approved up to three years imprisonment for “vandalism motivated by politics or ideology.” According to the story by Mr. Vladimir Isachenkov, published by AP, the legislation “could allow authorities to punish any participants in an opposition protest if violence erupted.”

Hmmmm. Sounds pretty familiar. According to 18 U.S.C. § §248(a), and 248(b) “Whoever – (1) by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates, or interferes with, or attempts to. . .interfere with any person because that person is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or any class of persons from, obtaining or providing reproductive health services;. . .shall. . .(1) in the case of a first offense, be fined in accordance with this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and (2) in the case of a second or subsequent offense. . .be fined in accordance with this title, or imprisoned not more than 3 years or both; . . .”

To be fair, the US statute goes on to reduce the penalty slightly for "nonviolent physical obstruction." Still, I wonder if the State Duma consulted the US Code looking for drafting advice ? “Progressives” usually think that international influences on the law are a good thing. Funny if it’s going the other way. Then again, maybe the chattering leftie types, who are running around raving about “extremists” all the time – will take a Russian cue and fix the abortion law to take in other “extremists.” Hands across the sea and all.

Anyway, good to know the Russians are following the trail blazed by our Liberal heroes.

Iranian Military Claims and the Probable Reality

Spook 86 over at In from the Cold has an excellent post today on the Iranian military-industrial complex, and its reputed "accomplishments" or lack thereof. It's worth reading just to be reminded that Mahmoud "Mad Jad " Ahmadinejad and his crew, despite their frequent vaporings -- aren't ten feet tall.
True, Iran is trying very hard to equip itself with servicable military forces, but the Persians most cope with an insufficient general technical base, insufficient funds and foreign exchange, not to mention the difficulties caused by sanctions. It should also be noted that every engineer employed on Mad Jad's nuclear boondoggles is one less working on aircraft, naval armaments or tanks -- not to mention the civilian economy.
No, the Persians aren't immortals, let alone THE Immortals. But they aren't harmless either, and we shouldn't be complacent about Iran's efforts to improve its military readiness.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sounds Like Good Advice

On the need for faith and learning to love more deeply, by Bishop T.D. Jakes, of Dallas. Worth reading. Like so much of what Christian faith asks of us, the right thing to do, but so hard for us to do in practice.

The Reasons Why

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, writes in today's Los Angeles Times about the reasons for the apparently increased incidence in our society of mass-murders such as yesterday's Blacksburg Massacre. Professor Fox's excellent piece identifies five main reasons: (1) perpetrators with histories of frustration, and diminished ability to cope; (2) who externalize blame for reverses; (3) who lack emotional support from friends or family [possibly feeds Nos. 1 and 2]; (4) motivated by some precipitating event "they view as catastrophic;" and, (5) access to a weapon -- and modern weapons are exceptionally potent.
Professor Fox's piece also discusses such pertinent factors as the "eclipse of traditional community" and rootlessness spawned by higher rates of divorce and our mobile, urban population. The analysis is excellent as far as it goes, but I would add a couple of points.
First, Professor Fox correctly cites the Texas Tower Massacre of 1966 as a "dramatic turning point." In August of that year, Charles Whitman shot and killed 14 people from the observation deck of the Texas Tower, on the UT campus in Austin. "Dramatic" is the key word here. Whitman's killings occurred at the beginning of the modern media age. The wired world was still in the vacuum tube stage, but the event was captured on film and photographs and seen all over the world. The media effect is magnified today. Now that we have 24 hour cable news, the internet and You Tube -- there is no way to prevent deranged individuals from involving the whole world in their private psycho-dramas, with the innocent victims used as stage-props by crazies.
Professor Fox also cites, en passant, "the decline of church-going." Now there's a case of hitting the nail on the head. I'd go further, and say the decline of religious belief is positively pernicious, and is directly related to a higher propensity for random mass violence. If there is no God, as many claim to believe, and we are not ultimately to be judged: then why not go massacre people in big batches ? More prosaically, the decline of religion interferes with the maintenance of social order and harmony.
Professor Fox correctly points out that these events are rare, which, he says, should be "some degree of consolation." Small consolation indeed.
ADDENDUM (18 April 2007): On the decline of church-going, and the effective banishment of religion from our public square, and religion's not incidential role in maintaining the social order, Dr. Benjamin Rush, in "Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic" had this to say:

. . .Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius of Mahomed inculcated upon our youth, than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place, is that of the New Testament.
It is foreign to my purpose to hint at the arguments which establish the truth of the Christian revelation. My only business is to declare, that all its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society, and the safety and well being of civil government. A Christian cannot fail of being a republican. . . cannot fail of being useful to the republic, for his religion teacheth him, that no man "liveth to himself." And lastly, a Christian cannot fail of being wholly inoffensive, for his religion teacheth him, in all things to do others what he would wish, in like circumstances, they should do to him.
I am aware that I dissent from one of those paradoxical opinions with which modern times abound; and that it is improper to fill the minds of youth with religious prejudices of any kind, and that they should be left to choose their own principles, after they have arrived at an age in which they are capable of judging for themselves. Could we preserve the mind in childhood and youth a perfect blank, this plan of education would have more to recommend it; but this we know to be impossible. . . But I beg leave to ask, why should we pursue a different plan of education with respect to religion, from that which we pursue in teaching the arts and sciences? Do we leave our youth to acquire systems of geography, philosophy, or politics, till they have arrived at an age in which they are capable of judging for themselves? We do not. I claim no more then for religion, than for the other sciences . . .
Hat tip: El Jefe's brother W.

If You Need A Laugh . . .

. . .check out what Dennis Kucinich, Texas's own "Hurricane Sheila" and the Kumbaya caucus in the House of Representatives are pushing now.
Get out the good dope, fire up your old 60's LP's and just "Imagine." No liability is assumed by El Jefe if you are injured falling out of your chair laughing.
Hat tip: Gates of Vienna.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Blacksburg Massacre

What can one say about today's mass killing at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia ? Why the pathologically deranged must involve others in their own drive to suicide is, thankfully, beyond the understanding of most of us.
The madman is dead, but not his work: he has left us the inconsolable grief of the bereaved, ever facing the empty chair at the table.

A Step Down ?

Drudge reports that Rush Limbaugh, (who stands pretty high, in El Jefe's estimation) says that there is an 80 percent chance that Hillary Clinton will be the next US President. Assuming she survives the nomination process (which is not a done deal), I agree with El Rushbo.
Seems like the Presidency would be a step down for this would-be Empress. The scariest part about Hillary Clinton, however, is that she is by far the most rational of the Democratic presidential contenders.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus Burned at the Stake

I've never listened to Don Imus, and until today, I haven't been able to muster a great deal of interest in his current troubles. John Podhoretz, writing in National Review Online's "The Corner" says he can't stand Mr. Imus and calls him a a "loudmouthed grouch." Maybe he is, I don't know. Mr. Imus is a radio "shock jock" right ? Why is there surprise when he shocks ? But more appears to be involved here than the problems of Don Imus.

The very idea that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson could be moral arbiters about what it is permissible to say, or not say, is revolting. But Reverend Sharpton unveiled his real agenda today. According to Sharpton (via Drudge and National Review Online):
It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves. . .

Now is this about Mr. Imus, or about power ? Clearly, the latter. By the way, it's a good bet the Democrats will use this opportunity to introduce legislation reinstating the Fairness Doctrine -- the better to squelch conservative talk radio and television.

But returning to Don Imus and his problems: I wonder if Mr. Imus would be doing any better for himself if -- rather than falling all over himself apologizing to all and sundry -- he had told Messrs Jackson and Sharpton to piss off, or something maybe a little stronger ? Mr. Imus can apologize and utter mea culpas till the cows come home but it won't help him a bit. The diversity/PC power brokers will ride Imus till he's broken, becuase they can; and, courtesy of the craven suits running media and advertising boardrooms, this end appears to be fast approaching.

Mr. Imus's remarks appear to me to be quite tasteless and moronic. I mean, really, badmouthing a girls basketball team ? Whether he deserves to be burned at the stake for it is another matter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Señor Flores's Ghost

Ten or twelve miles west of Georgetown, Texas, at the junction of US 183 and State Highway 29, in rural Williamson County, sits a little burg called Seward Junction. Not much there beyond a stoplight and a gas station/restaurant, which jibes with what the Handbook of Texas Online has to say about the place. Seward Junction though, is getting less and less rural, within the foreseeable future to be absorbed into the greater Georgetown conurbation; with the latter place being ingested into the sprawl of Austin. (Poor Austin ! No matter how much the "Keep Austin Weird" crowd hates it – Austin’s growing -- much to the benefit of re-tread hippies, granola crunchers and computer geeks who like to moan about global warming while partaking in cheap shopping and decent housing).

But I’ve wandered from the subject, which was Seward Junction, the lead-in to my real subject. A bit east of the junction, maybe a mile, a sign on State Highway 29 informs you that you’re passing a “Historical Marker.”

My wife has relatives a little way up the road, so I have been passing that way, for one reason or another, for some years, and I kept meaning to stop and check out the marker. Finally, one long June afternoon several years ago, I did.

It seems that someplace near what’s now Seward Junction, back on 18 May 1839, Lieutenant James O. Rice and some Texas Rangers attacked a party of Indians and Mexicans near the Little River, killing three, and capturing about 600 pounds of gunpowder and lead (for making shot), 114 horses and mules, plus camp equipage. According to Walter Prescott Webb’s The Texas Rangers: “[j]udged by its results, this is probably one of the most important Indian fights that ever took place in Texas.” One of the three men killed was Manuel Flores, a Mexican agent.

Note the date. This little fight was just three years after the fall of the Alamo and Sam Houston’s victory at San Jacinto. Despite the Treaties of Velasco (14 May 1836) extorted by the Texans from a captive President-General Santa Anna (momentarily cut down to size), the Mexicans never, ever really recognized the independence of Texas. Almost before the ink was dry on the Velasco treaties, and right up to the start of the Mexican War in 1846, quite a bitter little war, sometimes cold, sometimes hot, raged on the Texas frontier.

Señor Flores was what we’d call now a “covert operative.” He seems to have been working under cover for the Mexicans on the US/Mexico border for a long time. According to The Handbook of Texas Online, in pre-Texas independence days, Señor Flores, then living in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana -- carried on an illegal trade with the Caddo Indians and did his level best to get them to disaffect from the United States. When the Texas Revolution got underway, Señor Flores unsuccessfully tried to enlist the Caddos on the side of the Mexicans, and got out of town just ahead of the US troops coming to shut him down.

And then, in 1839, here we find Señor Flores, in central (then western) Texas, trying to stir-up the local Indians against what Mexicans saw as despised filibustering Yanquis and their pretend republic. Santa Anna was Mexican President again, after having redeemed himself in the “Pastry War” (when the French took Veracruz to collect some debts in 1838). Santa Anna, losing a leg in that conflict (and satirically referred to sometimes thereafter as “the Immortal Three-Fourths”) wanted to send an army back into Texas, and Señor Flores and friends were doing the preparatory work.

The invasion didn’t actually happen until 1842, when the Mexicans occupied San Antonio, briefly, leaving after the Texas Army beat General Woll at Salado Creek. But expected Indian support for the invasion didn’t materialize. . .

No question, Lieutenant Rice and his Rangers did a good day’s work that May afternoon, sending Señor Flores and some of his friends straight to Hell. According to Webb (cited above), Flores “. . .had on his person papers revealing the plot to unite all the Indians on the frontiers of Texas for a general war which was to be aided by a simultaneous attack by a large army from Mexico.”

But when I pass near Seward Junction, I don’t think of Lieutenant Rice, the supposed Indian plot, the Texas Rangers, General Woll’s abortive invasion, or even the Immortal Three-Fourths – who could never get it quite right. I think instead of old Señor Flores.

He must have been a man, eh ? Operating basically alone, in the middle of nowhere, out on the frontier, first against the US, and then against Texan settlers who would have cheerfully roasted him alive on a spit (and with bloody good cause too !). Dealing with Indians who probably didn’t like him much either, who were constantly weighing, in their own interests, the possibility of a double-cross; and, would have as soon roasted him alive on a spit as take his money and guns. Pressed for results by a more or less incompetent far away government. But there he was, Agent Flores, in there kicking, doing his whole duty for his ungrateful country. Whatever the Mexicans paid him, it can’t have been enough.

Señor Flores was the enemy, and I’m glad he went down that day in May, so long ago. Still, what a stud. I haven’t dropped by and communed with Señor Flores’s ghost in awhile. But I owe him a cerveza.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

STS-116 Spacewalk

Okay, this is a gorgeous photograph. It is an honor to have the citizenship of a nation that can accomplish such splendid things. Go to Wikipedia here to get your own copy, and to read about the photograph.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Mad Jad Says Soup's On

"With great honor, I declare that as of today our dear country has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale," said Iranian "President" Mahmoud "Mad Jad"Ahmadinejad, today. "Vice President" Gholamereza Aghazadeh (spell that one without looking !) added: "[n]ow we are entering the mass production of centrifuges and starting to launch industrial scale enrichment, another step toward the flourishing of Islamic Iran."
Count me a skeptic. It's possible Mad Jad and crew are on the level, but there's a good possibility they are not. In any case, even if the Iranians can already make nuclear fuel in big batches, a feat which is definitely Rocket Science -- to get any military use out of it, they still have to produce a warhead design, put it into production, and mate it with a delivery system. Each of those steps is technically quite difficult.
Maybe the Iranians have squared all of these circles, despite the best efforts of the US and some others to cut off financing and necessary supplies from abroad. It's certainly possible, but I doubt it. So why are the Iranians doing this -- making this particular claim -- now ?
Diplomatic reasons, of course. From where Mad Jad sits, Iran probably has as much diplomatic leverage with the interested Great Powers (US, EU, Britain, Russia and China) now, as it is likely to get. With time, the Iranian position is quite probably going to deteriorate.
The US has a beleaguered, weak President, who can't even keep the female speaker of his parliament (forgive me the casual sexism, but that's probably how it looks in Persia), from making nice with the US's enemy, Syria. The Israelis (America's puppet, so the Iranians think), are also led by a weak Prime Minister, and have their hands full with the Syrians. In any event, the Iranians are probably sure that the Democrats, for the moment, will make sure Bush does nothing.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Blair is, if anything, more reviled at home than Bush is in America, and is on his way out. The British have just endured the kidnapping of British military personnel by Iran, complete with a televised auto de fe ritual -- without more than a squeak of protest. The British Lion is toothless. The Euros and Chinese really don't care about Iran, as long as they keep making money, as long as the United States is kept cut down to size, and, in the Euros case, as long as the Iranian secret services don't incite the local Muslims to go on car-burning rampages.
But there are clouds on the horizon. For the Iranians, the most ominous has to be the stiffer Russian attitude towards the Iranians since mid March. There are a couple possible reasons for this: first, perhaps the GRU has given Putin evidence he believes concerning the real objectives of the Iranian nuclear program. A Muslim nuke would not be something the Russians would be too happy about. Also, there is the question of money. The Russians have given the Iranians quite a bit of aid -- both military, and on supposedly non-military projects, such as nuclear reactors. The weak point of the Mullah state is financial -- the Iranians spend quite a lot of foreign exchange importing refined gasoline, consumer goods, military equipment, etc. I wonder how they're doing on paying the Russians ?
Also, Iraq, at some point will settle down, whether under the American installed regime, or under some other government. No doubt the Iranians want to grab what they can, in terms of a Shiite puppet state, or friends running a few provinces, but they are quite likely to buy themselves long term trouble with Sunni Islamic states -- who have more money to run a cold war than does Iran.
Finally, Bush is down, but he can't be counted out. Maybe the quasi-socialists in the Democratic Party can keep him corralled, but maybe not.
All things being equal, there's a lot to be said for the Iranians trying to achieve "nuclear power in possession" status now -- whatever the actual status of their nuclear programs. Once Iran is recognized as a nuclear power, the political pressures in Europe and the US against doing anything to destabilize the mullah regime will become overwhelming. Iran will have succeeded in acquiring North Korean status: a virtual hunting license to make trouble where it wants to, without fear of any retaliation, for fear of provoking a "nuclear power."

Trip to the Bundu

El Jefe was happy to escape Cuidad El Jefe this weekend, repairing with the whole court to his palace in the country, someplace in south-central Texas.
It was cold, rainy, and muddy; our pond actually made steam. Our fields are full of dandelions, with an occasional Indian Paintbrush or Bluebonnet or three. The animals in the area were all very chatty about the unseasonable weather: the cows mooing, the owl hooting and the frogs croaking. Despite my bunged-up ankle (product of a stumble last week), I had a great time trampling around with the Heir and firing the rifle at cans.
Back in the Cuidad in all its splendor and glory. (Sigh).

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Honour Satisfied ?

Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men, We always are ready,
Steady, boys, steady, We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again!
. . .
We'll still make 'em run, and we'll still make 'em sweat, In spite of the Devil and
Brussels Gazette, Then cheer up my lads, with one heart let us sing, Our Soldiers, our Sailors, our Statesmen, and King.

“Heart of Oak” (march of the Royal Navy of Great Britain)
The lyrics were written by David Garrick, an actor (1716-1779) in 1759, the melody by Dr. William Boyce (1711-1779). There are many versions of the lyrics, the text quoted above
appears to date from the Napoleonic period.

Adrian Hamilton, writing in The Independent says correctly, than Iran has won this little hostage crisis it stirred up with the British on points. Less credibly, he says that "honour has been satisfied, or, at least, dishonour avoided."

(As an aside, I do like the British spelling of "honour" and often use it, preferring it to that Yankee Noah Webster's version with the dropped letter "u." But that's another story).
Returning to Mr. Hamilton, I fail to see how he finds "honour satisfied" with the illegally detained captives thanking the Iranians, and telling them that "[y]our people have been really kind to us" and that "[w]e are grateful for your forgiveness." I could have somewhat accepted statements extracted under duress -- followed by rapid repudiation of said statments once out of Iranian control, but I find the lack of official outrage astounding.
Nelson, Howe, Cochrane and Churchill's ghosts are rolling in their graves or having apolexy someplace. This is not the spirit for which the Royal Navy of old was known. What has happened to the British ?
ADDENDUM (7 April). Marina Hyde's discussion of this matter in the Guardian online is worth reading.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Honor Thy Father

Then out spake brave Horatius,
the Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth
death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
and the temples of his gods.

Thomas Babbington Macaulay, Lord Macaulay: Horatius

Our Fathers in a wondrous age,
Ere yet the Earth was small,
Ensured to us an heritage,
And doubted not at all
That we, the children of their heart,
Which then did beat so high,
In later time should play like part
For our posterity. . .
Dear-bought and clear, a thousand year,
Our fathers’ title runs.
Make we likewise their sacrifice,
Defrauding not our sons.
Rudyard Kipling: The Heritage (via Drudge – thanks T) reports today that Keith Richards, guitarist for the Rolling Stones, snorted his father. Mixed his ashes right up with cocaine and just hoovered Dad right on up his nose: “He was cremated and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow.” Mr. Richards doesn’t really tell us why he did it, but he says “I’ve no pretensions about immortality . . . .I’m the same as everyone. . .just kind of lucky.”

The Bible tells us to honor our parents. The Romans built shrines to theirs. Now we come to Keith Richard, a "Celebrity" (the historians will say that's what we call a God). Mr. Richards is a prime end-product of the great Enlightenment experiment: a demonstration of our conceit that nothing matters except personal gratification – in this case a good buzz. In this insane world of ours, you can snort cocaine, speed, dear old Dad or anything your little heart desires, unless you're too much a loser to afford a lawyer to get you easy rehab. There’s no God, you see: so our teachers tell us. No flags, no monuments, no obligations, no duties, no culture, no honor. Just the buzz of the next high, the lights of the cameras, the clicking computers and the applause of the drones wallowing in the loathsomeness.

Groundhog Day

El Jefe completed the move of the executive offices of his vast and nefarious business empire this weekend, and of course, it was the usual fun experience that all such events are. I suppose, given the impending relocation of the Imperial Palace, that 2007, (Year 46 of the Jefe era), will be the "Year of Moving."

The office move is odder than most, because it is sort of Full Circle. Twenty years ago, I began what I would consider my first serious post-college employment in this same building. I started work there in 1987, and met a couple of the same people I work with now, including my boss. A couple years later, as I started law school, we moved buildings -- right next door. I worked through law school at that location, and went away for a year and a half after law school -- and came back to the Building Next Door; staying there until five years ago, when we moved off to the place we just left.

And now I'm right back to where I started. A week and a half ago, when we showed up to check the progress of construction on the space, we run right into the mailman, Harry, whom we've all known for years. I have no doubt that Harry will see that I get all the junk mail sent to me care of the space in the same building we vacated fourteen years ago, and the place we left five years back. Harry's efficient.

Today, the first day in the new space, the whole day was Groundhog Day -- or as Yogi Berra might have said, Deja Damned Vu. Five years ago, I used to go to lunch every day at a local salad joint. Five days a week, I had my table at said joint, and the waitresses were all trained, all knew to leave me strictly alone, not chit-chat, bring me my water with lemon, and leave me in peace while I read the Wall Street Journal, and some stupid book about Napoléon's wars. Sure enough, I show up there today, put my stuff down in my accustomed place, get my food, and presto -- before I can even sit down, my water and lemon are sitting there, delivered by a waitress who gives me an odd smile. I smiled back and left a good tip.

Really freaky. Things are different, but the same. I'm just older.

But I'm thinking of somebody today. I'll call her B. No, that's not really her initial, or even close, but it's close enough for blogging work. I think B knows about this blog, although I don't think she reads it, but I can't eliminate the possibility. I'll change enough facts to protect her identity and make me look good. B would understand that -- she never could stand that I was such a cynic, but she was aware of it.

Ever see Sliding Doors ? I never liked Gwyneth Paltrow much, but it's an interesting film. B is so much more interesting and better looking than Paltrow, anyway. I met B in college, and she's my own Sliding Door -- the connection that I made that turned out to be important in ways that I never could have understood or imagined at the time. B, you see, is why you're reading this. B's why I'm El Jefe, why I went to law school, why I married SWMBO, why there's an Heir, and why I'm half in the bag on a bottle of Australian '05 Yellow Tail Shiraz/Grenache (just passable) while SWMBO and the Heir are at Astros opening night.

I met B my first year at a rather large State University which might be located in Austin, but if it is, I'm not telling. We were in the same dorm, same floor, and manged to become friends. I don't know why, except I thought at the time she was really cool and the greatest thing that God ever unbagged. But we had nothing in common. I was already hyper-conservative, she was very liberal. I was uber-cynical, she was nothing if not completely utterly idealistic. She hung out with musicians and artsy types who absolutely bored me to death; I read books and hung out with people that did the same to her. (I think if I had it to do over, I'd have given the artsy musicians of this life a little more attention: everything has its place, and I'm not as uptight as once I was). Seems like B and I met at a floor beer party, and at the time, I had no idea that I had just run into one of the most important people I'd ever meet.

Anyway, we stayed friends through college, despite political differences and widely divergent interests. For some weird reason, most of my close female friends in this life have had opposite political views. Go figure.
In any case, through much of 1986 and early 1987, I wound up in the northeast. For those of you not old enough to remember getting out of school in the early 1980's, job prospects were pretty bleak: particularly for a middling-well student, somewhat slacker-like, who was resisting the whole concept of law school. In any case, I wound up in a cold climate, figuratively and literally: in New York and Washington D.C., for about a year and a half -- doing odd jobs, and missing home.
B stayed in touch, and urged me to come home, that is, back to Texas, which, for a variety of reasons, I eventually did. I will never forget loading up the car, cruising across the United States, and arriving back in Houston, Texas one evening for rush hour traffic, and so happy to be home that I cried.
To make a long story short, B encouraged me to go to paralegal school, and (smart, smart B), then hooked me up with her Dad. Mr. B -- (you saw this coming, right ?) -- was an attorney. Anyhow, Mr. B quickly took a shine to me: I think, primarily, because I wasn't like most of B's friends : I was not a musician, or an artist and thus threatening to his well-ordered world, and generally did not wear my hair long. Mr. B hired me, and there I went to work, the same place as today, all those years ago.
Probably, Mr. B's approval and my generally boring nature lost me points with B. Mr. B encouraged me to go to law school. . .which I did, where I met SWMBO, got a law degree. . .and in due course, the Heir came along. Mr. B, one of the most decent people I've ever met -- a serious liberal, who never, ever held it against me that I was so conservative, introduced me to my present employer. Never, never at the floor beer party where I met B, at Large State University, did I have any clue as to the whole chain of consequences that would flow from that one little meeting.
B was probably the most important connection I ever made; the hinge on which, unknowing, my whole life turned. For a variety of reasons, most of which were my fault, we drifted apart, and I haven't talked with her in a couple of years. But being back in old haunts, she's much on my mind. For me, B is living proof that you never know just what is going to happen in this life: that God's plans for us are inscrutable, invisible, impenetrable, unknowable. The relationship also shows that God has a lively sense of humor. And it can happen to you, too. Who will you meet today ? What will you do with what happens ?
Anyway, wherever you are B, here's to you.