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.