Jul 31, 2013

Bradley Manning (2)

Manning took an oath and violated it. Pledging to defend the Constitution and obey lawful orders from military superiors is not the equivalent of "I'll get back to you."

Setting aside the wisdom of any given foreign policy or military adventure, state secrets are necessary to implementing  those policies. There are sound practical and moral reasons for secrecy. There are none for revealing information about our military plans, abilities, or intent. Nor is there justification for publicizing our own assessment of enemy capabilities.

Manning is probably guilty of doing just that, though he may be sincere in denying intent to release operational information. That he couldn't possibly have read more than a fraction of his huge data dump is proof enough of a cavalier attitude -- at best -- toward the lives of his fellow soldiers, vulnerable in the sand and in the city rubble of the Afghanistan civil war.

Distilled to its essence, the Manning excuse constitutes a true and partially relevant statement: "Our government keeps us in the dark to avoid embarrassing itself by stamping "secret" on every report  revealing its blunders. Because citizens have no facts, they are unable to form reasonable judgements."

He violated his oath, he argues, in order to create a debate about over-classifcation for the sole purpose of making politicians and bureaucrats look good. The view that his real motivation was something else -- to be a somebody at long last  -- has merit, but the fact is that the debate occurs, a good and useful thing.

The most obvious point concerns the helicopter attack on Afghan civilians. Charitably phrased, it was an error. It may have been something more malign. In any case, who can doubt that the over-riding reason the video became top secret was someone's desire to hide the blunder, in part to protect the military from awkward questions about its tactical competence, in part to keep Afghanis from questioning our devotion to winning their hearts and minds, in sum a cover-our-ass maneuver made possible by governments' self-proclaimed right to declare anything, simply anything, a high state secret for purposes of national security.

Had Manning stopped there, his claim to moral heroism would  have been stronger.


Jul 30, 2013

Bradley Manning, Jailbird

My moral compass won't settle down to a cardinal point on the Manning case.

Begin with the boy-man himself, a classic reject by three cultures, America, Wales, and the United States Army. Even his chosen cults, the society of hackers and the community of gay men did not embrace this physical runt with anything approaching  his massive emotional needs.

Bradley Manning: The mythical Army misfit called Sad Sack, come to life and  writ large, an inept soldier made even more miserable by a an unbelievably bleak personal life,  a young man lacking even the wit to mask the manifestations of his  dispirited soul from family, chance acquaintances, and Army colleagues.

Unstressed by more responsibility than his personality could bear, Manning might have ambled through a harmless and reasonably contented life. He might have been a salesman of the year, a wheel in a local Kiwanis, president of his neighborhood home owners association -- anything that might have given him an identity short of accountability for arcane secrets to embarrass nations.

Manning did not authorize himself to sit at a computer a few key strokes away from military plans and sensitive letters between diplomats. Some one in authority gave that order, and others refused to countermand it even after he slugged a superior, locked himself in fetal positions, and posted details of his top-secret office on Facebook.  So dare we suggest courts-martial of the senior officers responsible for Manning's monstrous misassignment?


Nevertheless, he is guilty. He promised the nation he would not broadcast our leaders' nasty secrets, and he broke that promise. We are left to ponder, "How guilty?" And to consider the collateral good from his legally treasonous acts.


Jul 29, 2013

The Hayseed Gun Market: Yep, another country auction

I didn't go for the firearms; nothing there I cared to own.  My goal was to steal* a power washer. I failed.

Nevertheless, I stuck around and recorded hammer prices for those of you keeping track.

--Thunder Hawk black powder rifle (straight line; plastic stock) $60

--Another one $75

--Hawes SA .22/.22mag, vg/exc $240

--Browning Buck Mark .22  as NIB  $400

--Ruger 77, .308 Winchester - laminated wood stock, as new, $440

--Howa 1500  .270 Winchester, fancy laminated stock, cheap scope, as new $525

--Ruger GP 100, .357, scope, as new, $610

--Ruger Super BH, .44 mag., stainless, straight optical scope.  as new, $700

--Another one, identical but with magic battery driven Buck Rogers scope, $700

Two 26.5 mm flare pistols (ComBlock? Didn't look closely) @$100


I did leave a very few dollars with the clerk, biting on four nice new chairs for the commandant's conference table. The old ones were becoming matted with chocolate lab hair beyond the capacity of any vacuum cleaner. The new ones are, OEM,  in a better color, about like chocolate lab hair. Besides they're slightly smaller and on better casters and lend my headquarters a gracile, elegant, air,  not to mention smelling much less like a wet chocolate lab.


*Since Eric Holder reads my stuff, looking for a way to jail me, by "steal" I mean "get it cheaply."  It's like, y'know, Eric, a figure of speech.

Jul 28, 2013

Taking a Chance on Spam

Blogger seems to be doing a better job of trapping spam. So, since we all hate it,  we'll try turning comment moderation off.

You really ought to hear it done by Ella Fitzgerald.

Things are mending now 
I see a rainbow blending now 
We'll have a happy ending now 
Taking a chance on love 


Also, she's beautiful.

Death Dawn

About that time of day I'm a little sleep-drugged and wobbly. Chore One is to set the Mr. Coffee gurgling. In my altered state, that requires intense concentration
lest I omit the coffee, the filter, or the water. *

In the groggy process this morning something flickered in my port side peripheral vision, maybe twenty yards south of the uncurtained kitchen window, near the pickup. I registered two adolescent rabbits. No big deal; they're all over the place. Then something dark whooshed down from a nearby cottonwood.

The lucky bunny found shelter under the truck. The hapless sibling was last seen squirming in talons a dozen feet up and climbing.

The light was poor so I can't be sure, but I offer odds that the bandit was a rough-legged hawk even though they shouldn't be here in this season. They are scheduled to spend summer in the arctic north, making little hawks, but perhaps the settled science of global cooling offers an explanation.


*(I know people who can bound out of bed and instantly whip out a bowline on a bight with the left hand while jotting down differential equations with the right. I hate them.)

Jul 25, 2013

Lazy River Sing Your Song

Even miles and miles above the head of navigation at St. Anthony's Falls, the Mississippi is a substantial river, wide, deep, and fast. We have claimed a 13-mile stretch of it as our own ...

....including Moose Island,  a pebble and shingle bar named for a GOOD Dog of treasured memory. This time we made it our lunch stop, premium sausages ludditically cooked (pick up some wood and set it on fire; sorry Mr. Coleman).

A thirteen-mile paddle is by no means a heroic endeavor, but it it often strains ancient muscles and even younger sedentary ones. Not so this trip, even though the evil shape-shifter raven whistled up a goodly wind in our faces.

Wisakedjak held the more powerful magic this day, and his current vanquished the raven wind, permitting what you see -- three canoes and a (barely visible blue) kayak rafted for a free drift down to Clearwater. We actually paddled perhaps one-half of the distance, maybe a little less.

Lazy is good, of course, but there's always one guy who overdoes it. We woke him up when ever it was time for Cokes or sandwiches.

Jul 24, 2013

My latest pome

I be not a ze, nor am I a zir.
My dad took a look and said I ain't her.

So "him" I am stuck with for all of my alls,
a captive of both those imperious balls.

It's pleasant enough for this hillbilly, hence
I harbor no envy for androgenous prince.

Or princess mayhap, depending, you see,
on the position ze chooses when needing to pee.


For crying out loud. 

Jul 20, 2013

Note from a displaced hilbilly (teaser)

It's called "Big Wood Jack Pine Savage."

You, errrr, drink it.

Stay tuned.

Jul 17, 2013

More fun with headlines

A guy shouldn't josh about a death, but, but, but...

Please don't hate me; blame the potato-headed Des Moines Register for:

"Missing Tuber's Body Found in Cedar River."

I apologize again, but I can't help it that I yam what I yam

Holy Shorts

For once in my life I'm ahead of the prep curve for a little trip later next week.

--The camper is open and airing out nicely.

--The forgotten stuff in the camper refrigerator is in the trash. It, too, is open to the summer breeze so that I need not wear breathing equipment as I perform the straight-bleach procedure.

-- House-sitter Carrie and her Magic Alsatian are firmly engaged. (Yes, magic. He makes undesirable people disappear.)

-- A seldom used camper locker incubates .22 rimfire ammunition, about 220 rounds in those nice old Winchester plastic boxes.  Or maybe I forgot it. Anyway, it picked up a skim of that nasty white oxidation. All is tumbling in corn-cob kibbles as we speak. When shiny it will be repackaged against the possibility that I am ambushed on a lonely road by a reinforced company of the 82nd Airborne.  Note to self: Clean and oil the Ruger Standard before departure.  (The TMR Legal Review Section advises me to warn you against tumbling live rounds. Freeken lawyers.)

--Most important, I have deployed resources from the almost-rag bag. Tees and other of my delicate underthings which, with luck, have exactly one wearing left despite rents and tears and long-retired elastic.   Not meaning to preach,  but this is perhaps the most vital travel advice you'll ever receive.  Throw them away dirty. You'll be traveling lighter on the  trip home...

-- ... Unless of course you stop at out-of-the-way flea markets and swap meets and thrift stores, picking up miscellaneous interesting stuff as you continue your eternal quest for that $12 Artillery Luger.  (I, of course, would never indulge in that sort of nonsense.)

Jul 16, 2013

The B-37 and the Coop

No, not this air plane.

And not this Coop

This One

Who makes his living as a steely blue-eyed reporter for the Catatonic News Network where, last evening, he interviewed Zimmerman Juror B-37 and bombed.

Anderson in Duuhhh Moment No. 1:   Did you know what went on out  there that night?

Juror B-37:  No one knew exactly what went on but (goes on to  patiently explain what the evidence led jurors to believe occurred.)

Anderson, later, creating Duuhhh Moment No. 2:  Did you know  what went on out there that night?

Juror  B-37:  Look you brain-dead whack job, you need to either seek treatment  for your short-term memory loss or stop doing interviews that last more than 40 seconds. It was a stupid question in the first place, but I answered it 'cuz I know I'm in a  special-needs studio. Now I'm out of here. No, hold it. Why don't you stop picking your toes long enough to crack a dictionary and look up the meaning of "circumstantial." 

Jul 13, 2013

Scoop of the day: Zimmerman rearmed

In the post-verdict evacuations, the most most entertaining -- though least useful  -- is the Huffington Post, output,  and I really think those silly geese are having a collective coronary event. I proffer as foundation the HuffPo lede headline: Zimmerman is  NOT GUILTY ... BUT NOT INNOCENT.

Yes, in huge flaming red, perhaps caused by a burst of legal/journalistic insight. Huff discovers that George Zimmerman wlll get his KelTec 9 back simply because he has never been found gulty of a disqualifying offense.

The knock-knock jury

By decree of all the news jockeys, I am required to identify this  period in American History as "Verdict Watch."

In the latest high-drama instant, the cable channel I have on for background noise has decided the jury is considering manslaughter because it asked the judge to clarify the manslaughter instruction. She responded she will do so only if they clarify what they want clarified.

It is no secret that I find Zimmerman not guilty of any crime. That was the opinion before the trial opened. After doing my damnedest to listen with an open mind, like a juror, nothing changed it.  Nor did my conviction that he is morally culpable for bad judgement.

It wouldn't surprise me if jurors are of a similar opinion but looking for a loophole to allow legal punishment for merely stupid acts.  Should that principle enter the law, about 90 per cent of us (raising hand) would be hoping for a nice, straight cellie, smaller than outselves.

Since this is one of those famous hard cases which make bad law, I doubt a manslaughter conviction will create a case-law landmark, but it would still be a setback for the moral right to defend yourself, to  turn us back into English-like subjects, strictly obligated to wait for the Bobbies as the thug bangs our head on the cobblestones.

Jul 5, 2013

Zimmernan again - a drive-by

If  Zimmerman doesn't walk, it won't be for lack of prosecutorial effort.

And if the Japanese who harbor no love for their Middle Kingdom neighbors want to create a satirical anti-Chinese anime,  all they have to do is cartoonize Dr. Bao and put his words, verbatim, in the balloons.


Jul 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day

In a foul mood I might  quibble with Roberta about a little of this and a little of that in her morning take on The Revolution that led to American Independence. Since I'm feeling pretty cheerful, and because it seems to me that she nails 90 per cent, maybe more, of an essence of what we are,  I'll just sneak you a sample and suggest the rest is worth a read.

...no luck runs forever and I'm half-convinced we have already passed the point where future historians will draw a line, saying, "Here the Republic ended; here the Empire began."


I've gotten away from our older Grand Old Fourth celebrations.

In a way I miss the hot court house lawn and the hotter breath of an overly excited official oration. The 1903 Springfield salutes by the VFW were fun, and "America the Beautiful" from the talent-limited Methodist Church choir was not uninspiring.  It was the first patriotism I knew. Some of it stuck, and I still cover my heart when the Flag passes by. And despite decades in the hog-wallow of American misgovernance, I make that salute without the slightest embarrassment.

Because when in the course of human events it becomes apparent that our revolution has been betrayed -- as all revolutions always are -- the core idea remains. The real Stars and Stripes of our nation is the notion of glory in free association among sovereign human beings.

Salute the Three Percenters, Then and Now


Jul 3, 2013


Zimmerman is not looking guilty of murder so far. I offer that after frittering away too many hours watching the trial, from the state's opening vulgarity through Barrister Knock-Knock's greeting to the jury to the Hannity interview.

He's being caught in tiny lies of the sort you and I and Mother Theresa would whip out in a flash to lipstick any incident which turned out badly for us, but his core story still  (again, so far) stands. Not even the most rabid anti-Zimmerman, errr, analysts on the teevee can make much of the "inconsistencies."

So the prosecution is left with orts for facts and is hoping, I thiink, to dress the table with two fat capons.

(1) The race bird, of course.  The accused is whitish. The dead person is blackish. Ergo malicious racial prejudice. The judge did well to keep the term "racial profiling" out of the arguments, but just plain "profiling" is kosher. She couldn't possibly have barred it without being laughed off the bench.  And can any jury, even a knock-knock jury, miss the state's intended meaning?

(2) The emo bird. It isn't hard to believe that prosecutors knew they had a rotten evidentiary case and carefully planned days of relative tedium as stage setting for the great close, parental sobs for such a good boy. Anyone -- any parent, anyway -- understands their grief and wishes to his Heaven that it had not occurred. But their anguish and our empathy have nothing to do with the facts of what happened that night in Sanford. I'm looking forward to seeing the legal artistry each side will use to persuade the jury to believe or disbelieve that.


Couple of sidebar notes:

--In the Hannity interview Zimmerman said he never heard of the Florida stand-your-ground law. Very hard to believe. I assume the state will get a few points from this.  More generally, you and I face some extra work in explaining that the Zimmerman defense has little, if anything, to do with stand-your-ground. It is a traditional self-defense case.

--The medical examiner's testimony that Zimmerman was not hurt all that badly is going to mislead a fair portion of the GED set. They will understand that a victim must reach some sort of injury threshhold before his right to defend himself kicks in.  "Okay. Ya gotta let the guy bang your head on concrete at least seven times and break your nose twice. Then ya gotta ask him nicely to stop before ya can shoot him." 


EDIT TO ADD: That didn't take long. Out of the gate the state is introducing Zimmerman's criminal justice course records to demonstrate he studied stand-your-ground. Teevee says those transcripts show him with a 1.5 GPA, and suggests defense may have to mount a stupidity response.

Jul 1, 2013

Reflections on the maddening science of physics

The motivation: Yet another effort to tourist-proof the dock before the Independence Day invasion.

The method: Double the designed load-bearing capacity via 4x4 piles and 2x6 cross pieces, assembled with carriage bolts.

The hypothesis: An ordinarily adept American male can install said carriage bolts -- slightly underwater -- while lying on his belly, manipulating a 9/16" wrench blindly behind a longitudinal stringer.

Conclusion: Under such conditions "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey"  becomes quite a challenging notion.