Our Weird Country

One of the things I love most about our country is that it’s weird.  No, I don’t mean deep-fried-beer-at-Texas-State-fair and come-see-the-world’s-largest-ball-of-yarn weird.  Those are cool too, and sort of a side effect of our weirdness, but not the main thing.  The ways in which we are truly weird make us… well… misunderstood by other nations.  And often cause us to misunderstand other nations, too.

It in conjunction with our truly horrible education is responsible for how so many of our fellow citizens hate their own country and attribute to us all the ills of mankind and none of the good.

Wait, what?  Didn’t I say I love the way in which we’re weird?

I do.  The way in which we’re weird is what has made me American.  And despite that horrible side effect above, it makes us also kinder, more morally conscious, and in many ways the best country the world has ever seen in terms of our effect on the rest of the world.

The problem is this – we need to be aware that we’re weird.  We need to be aware of it when we interact with other countries.  Else, they could kill us.  It’s what happens to kids who are like us.  Or at least they get severely beaten.

I’m not going to claim our country is autistic, though it has certain things in common with it.  Instead I’m going to claim that our country is Odd.

It’s become a truism to say that all SF/F fans and authors are somewhere in the autistic spectrum.  We related oddly to people, and we have weird ways of going at life.

I don’t agree.  I think it gets swept in the autistic spectrum because it’s a fashionable diagnosis and lots of things interact.  The reason most SF/F fans/authors present as autistic is that most either have a higher aggregate IQ than normal or a higher specialized IQ than normal.  (I’m the later.  I’m a very special kind of idiot savant, relating to verbal processing only.)  But even those of us who are “just normal” as far as tests are concerned tend to be… odd in our development.  That is because the literature itself self-selects for odd.  (It’s entirely possible too that the act of reading itself self-selects for odd these days.)

I’m only saying the “in the spectrum” thing doesn’t apply because some of us are almost pathologically gregarious.  (Younger son, me at one time.)  But we still have some of the odd symptoms that we share with people in the autistic spectrum.

I’d summarize these quickly as “unable to do what comes naturally to others” or perhaps “Thinks so much they hardly do anything else.”  Or if you prefer Pratchett “has the first sight and the second thoughts.”

What this means is that many of us on letting our kids go to the blackboard jungle for the first time, cringe a bit.  We know what waits them.  Our kids generally stick out like a side of beef on a seafood buffet.  And the other kids know it too.

How many of you had their kid come home and say something like “none of the other kids wants to play with me.”  This eventually, usually, eases, as they find their own group of odds and outcasts and form their own group.  At least people like me did, usually by protecting all the LITTLE odd ones (since I was a big moose by Portuguese standards.  Only Portuguese standards.  In my day, I grew out of pre-made when I reached my adult size of five six and a size seven. It’s different now.  Better nutrition.)

But most of us spend most of our lives in some form of “Why are they doing that?” or – at a certain age – puzzling our way through mating rituals that come normally to other people.  “He’s looking at me funny.  What does he want?  How do other people know when they want to kiss?”  (This is why the first guy ever to kiss me had to ask verbally and got the answer “okay, but I never kissed so it probably won’t be very good.”  Which made him laugh.)

I made it my business to study people, and I still get faced with stuff that I go “But WHY?” particularly when it’s completely irrational.  (For instance, how is it proper in an argument over the hugos to call someone a “conspiracy nut?”  Particularly when the argument is “people don’t care as much about the hugos as they used to?”  Or to complain the other side is “armed to the teeth” – if we were, buckos, and you knew we were, you’d talk more respectfully, I reckon.)

Well, as a country the US is an Odd.  If it were a kid, it would read SF/F and be able to give you the statistics on the bestselling books going back to 1940.  It would do it, too.  In public.  At parties.  And it would dress funny, not that it’s not completely able to analyze how people dress for various occasions, but because it spent time in front of the mirror overthinking it.  “They said business casual, so that means no tie.  But you always dress a bit above the norm, right, because when you’re new to the club… so, tie.”  This would result in its showing up three hours late, wearing a tux shirt and bow tie, with a sweater over to loosen it up, cerise pants to show its playful side, a loafer on his left foot and a tennis shoe on the right.

And this is what other nations see us like.

When they “get” us at all.  Half the time they don’t get us at all, and tend to assume we’re just like them.  And we assume they’re just like us.  And both of them are close to fatal errors.

What I mean is this: deprived of a unity of blood or a reason for existing as a nation other than our constitution – words on paper and principles agreed on – we think and argue and live by our constitution.  There have only been two nations in history formed by law and the other one had blood too.

We don’t.  We’re a nation of principles, of paper, of laws.  Take our law away and we’re nothing: a group of unrelated peoples living in a common area, that’s it.  Okay, genetically some other nations have great variety, but they also have history in common.  Our history of continuous immigration means we don’t have even that.

We have the laws, we have the papers, we have the principles.

We are like a little kid who grew up in books and doesn’t understand life outside them.  He expects the principles of the books to apply in the playground: honor, duty, right and wrong.  And he’s going to be pounded on by everyone until he learns that out here that doesn’t apply, only the self-interest and the casual cruelty of the playground.

Unless she – me – is a big moose, in which case she will run around imposing honor and duty and loyalty and all those things that she read about in books, until the entire class is a very odd one and makes the teacher puzzled.

In a way the US is like me in that playground.  Because we believe in things like that nations are constituted for the benefit of their citizens, we run around making it so.  Or we fall down on the side that claims to want so – sometimes with disastrous results.

The end is that we end up making the world a better place – a place where sometimes, occasionally, even outside this nation, the welfare of individuals counts.

But it also means the rest of the world hates us.  Even our allies think we’re weird and that’s at the best of times.  When we go a little nuts and try to prove how wonderful we are by electing someone who has confessed by word and deed that he hates us, well… our allies have reasons to keep their distance.

And yet, which odd kid hasn’t tried that in the past.  “If I’m nice to the bully, maybe he’ll reform.”  And while your friends look on in horror, you give them the cold shoulder and try to make up to the bully… until he betrays you, and then you wake up and it’s back to your old friends.

It’s very important that we, as a nation, understand that the world doesn’t work like we do.  Out there, on the world playground, the rule is instinct, self-serving, and the casual cruelty of children.

It’s no use coming out with things like “China will take over being the world’s policemen and make a good one because they were once victims” – that’s not how other nations work.  That’s not how anything works outside certain pious books.  China will act according to its self interests and subjugate all in its path if it serves them.

Yes, other countries have constitutions but to none of  THOSE are a raison d’etre.  They’re more the corporate statement.  And you know how much those matter.

It’s not use saying things like “but how could Iraq have WMD, they don’t even have clean water.”

These countries have different priorities.  Study their history.  Study the history of the European wars, and the shifting alliances.  None of it matters much, other than the ego of the kings or rulers.

No other country has ever beat itself over its moral (or lack there of) contribution to History.  The English make French jokes, they don’t go “If we hadn’t invaded them, and they hadn’t—“

We do that sort of thing.  We do that sort of thing to such an extent that, our seriously misstaught intellectuals view it as proof only we are culpable.

Take slavery (please?  I don’t want it.)  EVERY COUNTRY HAS HAD SLAVES.  (And now I see some people go “whoa, every country?  But… Africa!”  Africa had slaves too.  Many countries still do.  Also, there’s nothing particularly African about slaves.  Slaves used to come in all colors and types.)  But here we have people who angst forever about being descendant from slaves and slave owners.  DUH.  That just means you’re human.  ALL OF US ARE.

What’s more, other countries had as many African slaves as we did.  Some had  more.  BUT no other country ritually beats its breast over it like we do.

As a result our gullible young and even OTHER countries think we INVENTED slavery.

Or take the fact we ritually beat our breast over the wars we entered in, and in which we weren’t angels on Earth – oh, even the Civil War, but also every other war ever, including and not limited to WWI.  WWI was the butcher shop of Europe, but do other countries worry and fret over what they did in it?  No.  Only us.

We stopped them pounding each other into nothing, but somehow we emerged the villain.

That’s because we’re the odd kid.  We don’t act the way they do, they don’t understand how we act.

Only in the US could intelligent people honestly believe the UN would be anything but what it is – a squabbling of children, each trying for his own best interests – only in the US could anyone think of world government and not realize it would be two wolves and a sheep discussing dinner.

But we think about it, and our intellectuals believed and believe in it.

Oh, and we’re a big moose.  So all of them try to pound us.

We need to teach history in schools.  Real history.  The back and forth of nations and how little of honor and duty and loyalty there is in the interplay of nations.  It’s the only way we’ll stop creating a class of overly educated idiots who hate our country because they think all others are angels.

We need to teach why we’re exceptional – and we are – and how, though we’re human, at least we try for honor and duty and all that.  We fail, but at least we try.  Other nations aren’t trying, not really.

Other nations aren’t going to understand that what we say isn’t window dressing.  Other nations aren’t going to understand that when we beat our chest we’re NOT really worse than they are.  (You see, other nations don’t admit to even obvious atrocities, much less accusing themselves of made up ones.)  We need to stop making friends with the bullies.

You know the stuff you’d tell an Odd child to help him get through his first year in elementary?  Yeah – we as a nation need to learn all that.

We’re probably never going to get “the games nations play,” not at an internal level, just like your Odd child will never get the games of dominance and one upmanship in the school yard.  That’s fine.  Most of those are nonsense, anyway.  As long as we don’t let ourselves be drawn in to one of them needlessly by someone flapping jaws about “right” and “duty.”

Staying apart and intervening only when threatened works for odd kids, and will work for us.  Stopping obvious bullies is self-protection-before-time.  Because if the bully gets the rest of the world to attack you, even you could be obliterated.

Other than that feel free to stay out of the what-France-said-about-Russia-who-heard-it-from-Egypt battles.  Most of them are just jockeying for position.

But first and foremost we need to learn what every kid who is a little odd needs to learn to survive.

When someone says they hate you, believe it.

Oh, and – It’s not only okay but it’s right and just to defend yourself.  Particularly when you’re a big moose and a berserker, not presenting as a wuss is the best you can do to PROTECT others. BEFORE you’re forced to obliterate them, let them know you can and will, if pushed too far.

Like the odd kid in the playground, like the odd adult at work, failure to learn this will cost us our lives – literally or figuratively.

460 responses to “Our Weird Country

  1. My favorite was when the Europeans sneeringly referred to Bush (and/or his foreign policy) as a “cowboy”, little realizing that cowboy is not an insult in the United States and more like like a compliment: self-reliant, brave, tough, facing all sorts of dangers and crap weather with equanimity, ARMED, and doing a hard, thankless job just for the privilege of being a self-employed contractor.

    Every single one of the above is the opposite of the typical European characteristics.

    • Yep. They don’t get us. That’s fine. BUT we should GET them.

      • One of my main complaints about multiculturalism is that they get it ALL WRONG. Other cultures ARE NOT, repeat, N-O-T just like us except for quaint differences in diet, dress and music. Chinatown is to China as Frontierland is to the Wild West.

        Comedian Robert Klein used to do a routine about how cartoons have made people obtuse to the dangers of bears. Too many of us see bears as big, lovable cuddle-muffins. No. Bears are dangerous. They a) think you are food b) think you may have food c) think you may threaten their food d) have no idea and no concern over how fragile you are. Bears do not devise cute clever stratagems to steal your pick-a-nik basket. Bears walk up and TAKE your pick-a-nik basket and half the arm holding it.

        Just so with most of the rest of this world. When they smile at you they are not being friendly, they are calculating how much they can make off of you and how best to reap it.

        BTW, Daughtorial Unit tells me the schools are equally bad about teaching Darwin. Yes, there is evolution but it is as close to what they are teaching it is as heliocentric astronomy is to Ptolemaic.

        • And, all bears are not the same. Bears are not humans in fur suits. Humans who go out in the woods should know the “local customs” of the fauna, and their abilities. E.g. brown bears in Maine are pretty laid back (compared to grizzlies). They will not go out of their way to attack you if you a) stay away from their babies and b) don’t startle them when they are munching on berries. However, they c) have bad eyesight. Which means my mother, who is a watercolor artist, carries what she calls her “bear radio” when she goes out to do landscape painting in the woods. She doesn’t need the sound while she paints, but it lets the bears know where she is 😉 There have been no adverse bear-Mom interactions due to this wise policy.

          • You are in Maine? We’re up in Blanchard Twp.

            • Just Mom. I’m in the Seattle area. No bears where I am. Coyotes and raccoons (the non-kilted kind).

              • No bears where you are? Funny when I lived over there a few years ago there were tons of them, and last I heard getting to be more. I know they treed and darted one inside the city limits either last year or the year before.

                • Given the average adult weight of those bears most likely to inhabit the NW, “tons of them” could be less than a dozen. Odds are they are all registered to vote and cast their ballots solidly Democratic, knowing which party is committed to preserving the environment.

                  • Average adult weight of a bear in the NW in my experience is between 100 and 125 lbs, probably closer to 100. Bears are the most excessively and most commonly misjudged animal for size that I know of.

                    • *chuckle* the big blacks in Southern Appalachia run about 300lbs or so (can go up to 5 or 6 in the bigger males), and are smart buggers. Had a momma black and cubs run through the family land on their way to the national forest one year. Stayed well away, because smart and shy as they are, they’ve got no idea how fragile humans are.

                    • Bears are the most excessively and most commonly misjudged animal for size that I know of.

                      That is because they are bears. BEARS!

                    • William O. B'Livion


                      Most adult female grizzlies weigh 130–200 kg (290–440 lb), while adult males weigh on average 180–360 kg (400–790 lb)

                      (Black Bear) Adult males typically weigh between 57–250 kg (130–550 lb), while females weigh 33% less at 41–170 kg (90–370 lb).

                      (Brown Bear)Adult bears generally weigh between 100 and 635 kg (220 and 1,400 lb).

                      Any of those three are possibly to be found in “The NW”. If NW is expanded to include Canada and Alaska we see the Polar Bear:

                      Adult male polar bears weigh 350–700 kg (770–1,500 lb) and measure 2.4–3 m (8–10 ft) in total length.[38] … Adult females are roughly half the size of males and normally weigh 150–250 kg (330–550 lb)

                      These are animals for which professional hunting guides consider the .45-70 *adequate*, and only because it’s a lever action and they can shoot the bear multiple times.

                      This is the animal that one hunter shot twice in the face with a .357 and it didn’t PENETRATE THE SKULL (aka a progressive voter).

                      If you’re seeing bears in the 100 to 125 pound size, you should walk away carefully because you’re NOT seeing the momma bear.

                    • Yes– 😉
                      We live in bear country so YES. Plus momma bears are very smart when it comes to getting food for the little ones. They can solve problems. My hubby knows some of the bear trappers (trap live and take somewhere else) and the stories about how they can get food out of a trap w/0 being trapped themselves would curl your hair. Plus they have the long claws that help in peeling back cans (like cars).

                      Early this year a bear got into a car, locked the doors, destroyed the car after drinking a six pack of beer in the back seat. Yes, there is a picture on the internet.

                    • Sometimes [genericsearchengine] is not your friend. Knowing Grizzlies reach 600 – 800 lbs I had thought black bears and brown bears would be in the 300 – 500 lb range, so I tried looking up the info.

                      Three Bears of the Pacific Northwest is apparently a heavily linked children’s book about a teddy bear that falls out of a passing RV and makes friends with a black bear and a brown one. This not seem a promising source of the data I sought.

                      The site on black bears offered by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife seemed more promising but contained some … odd information. The Do’s and Don’ts in Bear Country segment had some rather basic advice, familiar to anyone who has ever lived in an urban area, such as avoid direct eye contact, don’t leave valuables out, if approached don’t turn tail but do call out loudly, and if the bear attacks, fight back aggressively.

                      I found the section on “Preventing Conflicts” especially informative, and had not had any idea that trained professional conflict resolution therapists were available to provide arbitration and adjudication services. It is important that we make efforts to resolve conflicts amicably through discussion rather than combat.

                    • I hunt bears 100-120 days a year on an average year look at 80+ bears a year, this is with hounds so it is generally at close range and if in a tree I have lots of time to study them. Out of those bears usually about 10-15 are killed, some of which get hung on scales (not usually the larger ones because anything over 250 is extremely difficult to pack out whole). While black bears do get in the 300-500 range (bigger back east and down in California where the food supply and length of year they are out feeding is different) I stand by my statement that your average bear is 100-125 pounds. If pressed I would have to say that estimate is possibly a little high, I have seen a lot of sows that are so old their teeth are worn practically to the gums that won’t tip the scales at over 100, unless they are just ready for hibernation and packing 4-6 inches of white fat.

                      Since this conversation originated around Seattle I was using Washington, Northern Oregon, and Northern Idaho as the definition of NW.

                      By the way my gun of choice is a 45/70, I love the Marlin Guide Gun, it is a great gun to pack, short, light, and lever action. In addition the 45/70 is a great close range cartridge with plenty of umphh but because of the large slow bullet is not bad for overpenetration (very important when shooting a bear with dogs all around it). That being said practically any rifle cartridge will work fine on a black bear if the bullet is placed right, unless it is a fragmenting varmint type bullet. I have used 45/70, .308, .270, .223, 30-30 and probably others I can’t think of right now, with perfectly satisfactory results and have seen many other calibers ranging from 450 Marlin to 22 Hornet used effectively. If legal I would be perfectly comfortable with a 22 mag if chambered in a reliable rifle I was comfortable with. Pistols on the other hand suck in my opinion for bear hunting, I to have seen a .357 slide around a bears skull rather than penetrate, and even the 44 mag I pack as backup is decidedly unimpressive.

                    • Hunting or study? I know the black bear a neighbor got netted more than that in hamburger, and that’s before the roasts and jerky. It was a fairly big bear, but not Godzilla.

                      Guess it depends on if you’re counting the yearling, or two year old, or adolescent and such as “an adult” and how long the average wild bear lives…. no idea where the technical is there, although I seem to remember some two year old bears can breed.

                    • The two black bears I saw in MA in the last couple of years were bruisers. The brown bear that crossed my path in the NH White Mtns in the late 1980s looked consistent with what bearcat is saying.

                    • “That is because they are bears. BEARS!”

                      How true. The Indo-European root for bear is the one that leads to “ursus.” Or to the Indian Rakshasa. (Yes, it lost its association with bears; India’s bears are not formidible enough.)

                      How do you get “bear” from the same root? You don’t. It comes from a root meaning “brown.” Like the Fair Folk, one calls them by an euphemism.

                    • I see people talking about “brown bear” in NE US. I do not believe that is in their range. What we find in the US (except for around Yellostone, Glacier NP, Montana where we also have grizzly bear ) are called “black bear” but they come in colors from black to cinnamon.

                      Some argue that the Alaskan “brown bear” are just a well fed subspecies of grizzly bear.

                    • SPQR, yes, I gather you’re correct. In fact I gather that brown-colored black bears are not found back East though that’s what I remember seeing. I allow that my memory is a quarter-century old and the critter crossed the trail briskly & was back in the woods without indicating it noticed me.

                    • Brown bears and grizzlies are the same thing. There are some minor differences (the last time I looked it up in the hunting regs, a grizzly is a brown that lives further than 50 miles from the Alaskan coastline, with the exception of Kodiak Island Grizzlies.) Coastal bears are usually bigger than interior bears, because they get the all-you-can-eat salmon buffet every summer, and milder winters to hibernate through.

                      Black bears are a different species of bear, but they have a color range from brown (cinnamon bears, we call ’em) to blue-grey (the fairly rare ‘glacial bear), with black as the most common color.

                      Polar bears are a different subspecies of bear, and always white, very dangerous (the ones fresh off the pack ice don’t understand the concept of moving things that are a threat/not food; they will come try to eat your helicopter/truck/you and not give up). Strangely enough, in the incredibly rare occurrences when they get stranded on land over the summer and there’s a brown bear far enough north to overlap ranges, andthey meet and they’re both in heat and one’s male and the other female, a hybrid bear can be born and raised. Weird looking bears.

                    • Okay, looked it up this morning and then had to leave, and cannot for the life of me find the link tonight; but according to what I saw this morning the average harvested black bear weight in Washington State is 116.5 lbs (how they figured this out since all you have to do is have a tooth pulled and the hide sealed I have no idea). Didn’t find any information on Idaho or Oregon, but from my experience the sizes are comparable except for Southern Oregon having larger bears due to food sources (acorns) and the shorter hibernation period. (many times the big boars will not hibernate at all, just lay up for a few days during a cold snap)

                    • Cyn, I would like to drink with that bear.

                  • In North America, the short-faced bear was a species of bear that was even bigger than Browns or Grizzly. It became extinct about 11 thousand years ago. It was thought to be a far more aggressive bear than our grizzly bears are, and of course the black bear.

                    Since Clovis people’s show up in archeology about 13 thousand years ago in North America, I like to think we humans decided that North America was a nicer place without short-faced bears.

                • Depending on where in the blob she is, there may not be; they seem to like the stuff that has a pretty direct line to the mountains. I think the one a few years back was in Tacoma? Ditto the mountain lion, though I may be confused with that one down in Cali, the idiot response was similar. (“Oh, no, how could they shoot the poor animal that was just running scared… in a residential area… full of kids… and had already IGNORED some tranq darts, and they take a long time to work anyways….)

                  • There is also It’s their land too and we have to adapt to them. 🙄

                    I am happy to share my property and public lands with wildlife—as long as it recognizes what the dominant species is.

          • Perhaps even more important is whether they are wild bears or garbage bears that habitually go after human garbage and so have lost their fear of humans.

          • Heh. Starting to become bit of a problem in Finland, due to the fact that bears are once again becoming common, but they have been very, very rare in most parts of the country for several decades before this. I moved in forests a lot during the 80’s and saw bear tracks only once, now sightings – both of tracks and even of the animals themselves – are becoming somewhat common even close to cities.

            And most of us have no damn idea how to deal with the animals. There have been a few encounters when a human got attacked, and every time the newspaper articles get a load of comments where people complain how the person should not have gone where the bears lived (a few have happened on jogging trails right next to human habitation), and on those couple of cases when a bear attacked an armed hunter and got shot, how the poor bear was only minding its own business in its own home, the forest, and the bad people scared it and it was only defending itself… (as I recall in one case the bear had the man’s head in its mouth when his partner shot it, oh that poor little bear…)

            There is hate too. I except that the first time a child (maybe one who has gone berry picking, or is waiting for the school bus in the dark on the countryside) gets attacked and either badly injured or killed the haters may very well gain the upper hand in those areas where the bears live, at least for a while, and the bear lovers are going to be partly to blame for what will happen to their beloved bears after that by having done their best to limit hunting or any other measures which might make the animals keep the habit of avoiding humans (poaching happens now too, but it’s not that big a problem, except possibly in the reindeer country where predators possibly dangerous to the reindeer have tended to have somewhat sparser populations than in the rest of the country, who knows why…).

            And yes, the added bit of a problem with our damn gun laws. If you are not a licensed hunter (and even then it kinda should be only when it’s a hunting season for something) you can’t have a loaded one with you.

            • Dogs are useful– if they’ll let them harass any bear that gets in the area with bear-chasing hunting dogs, they can be “taught” that humans are a pain to be avoided.

              • Maybe somebody will get that idea sooner or later. One hopes. But it’s not being done now, unless some individuals have gotten the idea in those areas where the bears are becoming a problem.

                Which is kind of embarrassing, considering Karelian beardogs are a popular breed here.

        • Zaklog the Great

          This is why people are insisting Islam & Christianity are morally equivalent. Really? Please show me a Christian nation where apostasy is an executable offense. Please tell me about the Christians who make a practice of gang-raping women for the “crime” of dressing immodestly. Is there such a thing as a good Muslim? Sure. But there’s a deadly strain of Islam that simply has no counterpart in Christianity.

          But you’re right. I’m sure they’re just like us and want to greet us with a smile if only we’d open our arms.

          • Or disembowel. 50/50

          • It is an official teaching of Muslim authorities that Muslims must live in Muslim countries; it is forbidden to live outside them. (Not, you note, rigorously enforced.)

            Many Christian writers have observed that living in Christendom can make it hard to be a Christian.

            • Zaklog the Great

              I’m starting to think it would be much more accurate to call the Western world post-Christendom. Europe and America are draining dry the final benefits of a Christian society, completely unaware of what has blessed them to live as they are.

              If the leftists succeed and completely drive out Christianity, well, totalitarianism a la 1984 will be just the start.

          • William O. B'Livion

            How far back in time am I allowed to travel to do this?

            • The statement appears to take present tense: “Please show me a Christian nation where apostasy is an executable offense”

              I would venture that means no time travel allowed.

          • “But there’s a deadly strain of Islam that simply has no counterpart in Christianity.”

            In modern Christianity, sure, but it used to exist until it killed itself – and a sizable chunk of the German population – off around 300 years ago.

            The religions of the Book have a tendency to be right bastards until they are thoroughly chastised. For Jews it was the Diaspora, for Christians the Thirty Years War. It looks like Muslims are in the beginning stages of this. Which is why our policy in places like Syria should be to keep the conflict raging as long as necessary.

            • “In modern Christianity, sure, but it used to exist until it killed itself – and a sizable chunk of the German population – off around 300 years ago.”

              That’s the point. Cristianity no longer operates according to their 1600-era rulebook. Islam still operates according to their 1100-era rulebook.

              • And that’s our current task. To figure out how to get Islam to transcend its barbaric rulebook. Preferably in a manner that does not involve the expulsion from or substantial depopulation of their homeland.

                That’s why I have no patience for those who claim that “Islam is the problem.” They’ve decided that the only solution is to tell approximately 1 billion people to convert or die. Not only has history shown that approach to be somewhat less than effective, we in the West currently lack the political will to execute it. So their “plan” is to wait around preening until enough westerners die at the hands of fanatics to push us to the brink of genocide. There’s no harm in assuming reform is possible and exploring means of bringing it about. We can always kill them in the morning.

                • Unfortunately they are more of a “total” faith than Christianity ever was meant to be BY SCRIPTURE. Their scripture is for a political as well as a religious system. Christianity isn’t.
                  What this means is that we’d need to change EVERYTHING about them.
                  I’m sorry, the only way to motivate that kind of change has a really high butcher’s bill and might not end well. At least the one example we have (Japan) seems to be trending towards self-extinction.
                  I don’t know what to do anymore than you do, but “changing their minds” is not as easy as all that — again, they’re not Americans. Culture PERSISTS.

                  • There is something of a contentious question how many people are muslims because they believe and how many are muslims because they fear for their lives if they tell the truth. One of the things that the Vatican gets right is their position that people should be free to leave their faith of birth, that conversion is a right. If Islam were to accept that, it would allow for a powerful negative feedback every time they started doing crazy things, like sawing heads off with blunt knives while shouting God is great.

                    That may not solve all of the problem but it would likely solve much of it.

                    • While it is not a faith I follow now, I was raised a Latter Day Saint. For all it’s faults, one thing the church got right was it’s 11th Article of Faith (the Articles of Faith being about as close as a religion that believes in ongoing revelation and a living prophet can have to a “creed”) “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all other men the same privilege, worship who, how, or what they may.”

                      Yep, “Freedom of Religion” is built right into the LDS faith’s belief system.

                  • Even the ones living here who have become citizens are NOT Americans. Their culture is their religion, and is antithetical to everything that makes Americans what they are. Taqqiyah is alive and well in Islam, and is used to bind Christians in political chains, even here in the west. If you haven’t read the Koran, do so. Modern Islam is the same as ancient Islam, and it’s just as bloody of tooth and claw as Mohammad was. The only way for Christendom to survive is to fight back just as hard or harder. Anyone who says different is either woefully uninformed, or just plain arrogant and stupid. Those on the Left that spout this “let’s all get along” garbage answer to all of the above.

                    • You’re trending close to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. You say that all of Islam is arrayed against us. I point out the 990 million Muslims who, by their actions, don’t have anything against us and you reply that either they aren’t true Muslims or they’re lying to us. The first is a fallacious argument and the second is untestable.

                      There are around 1 billion Muslims on the planet. If each and every one of them were interested in violent expression of their beliefs we would be seeing megadeaths a year and Israel simply would not exist. Israel exists and the annual death rate in this war is well below 100,000. Therefore one of the postulates must be incorrect. I’m confident that the number of Muslims is accurate to within the order of magnitude necessary for my argument. That means that violent expression of faith is NOT common enough in the Muslim world to be a defining characteristic of Islam.

                    • Good point. The problem is, according to their “Book”, individual jihad is always an option in the event of disgruntlement.

                    • Read the Koran, IF they follow the teachings of their holy book everything Mike said is true. I judge someone’s faith by the way they follow the teachings of that faith, if a Christian the way the follow the Bible depicts whether they are a good Christian, bad Christian, or non-Christian professing to be a Christian. The same should be applied to Muslims and the Koran.

                    • Read my second paragraph again. I don’t have to read the Koran in a language it wasn’t written in and from a completely foreign cultural mindset, because it doesn’t matter who you consider a Muslim. The only thing that matters are the people who consider themselves Muslims and – more importantly – consider themselves the subjects whenever we discuss Islam and Muslims. The empirical evidence indicates that the overwhelming majority of those people have little interest in spreading their religion by violence.

                    • How would you know? We don’t survey the muslims well enough to know this and don’t ask the right questions when we do. There’s also the problem of fear in stepping out of line too much because a small, but non-zero minority in the ummah will try to do something violent about it if they catch wind of it and I don’t think we do a very good job of protecting the right of dissent inside Islam in the US.

                    • As someone staying very quiet for years to hide that I wasn’t like the rest of my group — SF/F — politically, I garantee there is the same sort of thing inside Islam worldwide. How many? No one knows.

                  • We have different cultures, but we are all fundamentally human. There are some things in common, including survival instincts, greed, and no small degree of laziness. If we can make separating mosque and state the easy way to get rich and avoid getting dead I think we’ll see their culture come around. Indeed, a strong driver of the current war was the frustration felt by conservative Muslims at the westernization of their young. That’s why bin Laden’s first demand was the complete isolation of the Muslim holy land from the West.

                • Jeff, you have to find a way to permit reinterpretation of the Quran. That’s been banned (in effect) since the 1100s with the “closing of the gates of inquiry.” Until something pushes the main groups to agree that the Quran can be taken metaphorically and that what worked for Bedouin in the 800s (when the thing was most likely composed, despite Islamic tradition putting the revelation between 600-620) doesn’t necessarily apply to modern times, we will have peaceful individual Muslims but a pathological political/religions system.

                  • One can always hope that David Goldman is right and Islam is dying as a viable culture. Then the major problem for us is surviving that process with minimum damage to ourselves, since it’s presumably going to be a very violent one. Presumably what will be left after that may be finally ready to leave the past and start adjusting, or at least parts of it will.

                    Or, it’s your problem. Most parts of Europe are probably goners, at least as significant operators if not completely as cultures (for a while at least, I do hope there will be enough left that it will be possible for some future generations to rebuild) unless there are going to be some rather radical changes here in the very near future.

                    Otherwise – well, trying to trick them to fighting each other more than outsiders might not be that bad a strategy, if it would be possible to do that. There already are all those sects which seem to have no love for each other, and are quite happy to slaughter each other when not distracted by their hate for Christians, Jews, Hindus or some other group. Let them stew but try to keep the problems from boiling over, too much, into other areas? (Well, that would require stifling all impulses of doing good too, I guess)

                    • If we are in for another Ice Age, or even a “little Ice Age” like the 1600-1850 period was ‘blessed’ with, all sorts of things might come to a head. Right now, the US alone could feed 2/3 of the world at modest levels. We export more food than we import or consume, and most of what we import is stuff that won’t grow here (bananas, some citrus, lots of fish, etc.). Even a modest drop in average temperatures will have severe consequences for much of the world, as far as growing food is concerned. Most of the Islamic World cannot feed itself, even at near-starvation levels. When there’s less for everyone, guess who’s going to feel the pinch the most. Hint: it’s not the countries that actually, you know, GROW food. There’s only one way for people to move if the ice sheets begin to form, and that’s toward areas that stay somewhat warm during the summer months, and where food can be grown. That one thing could cause a major bloodletting, and people fight over land where they can survive. If you really want to write a dystopian novel, write about what happens when a worldwide industrial society comes up against a growing ice sheet on much of its food-producing land. There’s also the very strong possibility that reality would be much worse than any fiction anyone could write.

                    • Don’t tell me about that, I happen to live right next to the area where the European ice sheet originated, last time. Okay, the Norwegians would be even worse off, considering their land has actual mountains. So, which countries are most likely to welcome Scandinavian refugees? 😀

                    • Texans are big-hearted people, and we have lots of land. We’ll gladly accept your women!

                    • Just the blondes, or do you take a bit darker haired individuals too? Most common alternative is actually somebody who used to be a blond child, but whose hair darkened to about mid-brown or a bit lighter by their teens. Most often with blue or gray eyes, though.

                    • What, no redheads? Well, I suppose we can get those from Ireland. Gotta complete the set after all:-).

                    • Oh, we have some of those too, although they are rare.

                    • We’ll find room for ’em somewhere.

                    • I personally prefer Brunettes, myself. But I’m not in Texas.

                      And my wife might complain.

                    • If we are headed into a new ice age, don’t worry, it’ll all be man-caused, and the only way to get rid of it will be to wreck our economy.

                      On Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 3:13 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > pohjalainen commented: “Don’t tell me about that, I happen to live > right next to the area where the European ice sheet originated, last time. > Okay, the Norwegians would be even worse off, considering their land has > actual mountains. So, which countries are most likely to welcome” >

                    • YOU ARE A BAAAAAD WOMAN. Think shame on yourself. To the corner without books.

                    • Without books? NOOOOOO!!!!! Isn’t that against the Geneva convention?

                      (Can I at least have pen and paper?)

                      On Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 5:19 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > accordingtohoyt commented: “YOU ARE A BAAAAAD WOMAN. Think shame on > yourself. To the corner without books.” > Respond to this comment by replying above this line > New comment on *According To Hoyt * > > > > *accordingtohoyt* commentedon Our > Weird Country . > > in response to *Jasini*: > > If we are headed into a new ice age, dont worry, itll all be man-caused, > and the only way to get rid of it will be to wreck our economy. On Fri, Sep > 13, 2013

                    • I was going to say it sounded like cruel and unusual punishment to me. 🙂

                    • From what I know of Finns (you are Finnish, yes?), particularly those who immigrated to the U.S., I’ll happily second jabrwok. We’ve got room. Hair-color not a concern…how’s the bone structure? 😉

                    • Yep, I’m Finnish. As for looks, western Finns look like Vikings. Eastern ones have some light Asian influence, so add a hint of Slav, and even occasional slight Mongol type of touches to the Viking look. I’m half and half, myself. Unfortunately getting a tad long in the tooth, though. 🙂

                    • Well, then, the door’s open. Since I believe the value of a people is not confined to their genes, we’ve got room for young and old and in-between. We might have some political standards that trip of few of your neighbors up, though.

                    • Pohj– I had wondered about the Asian influence. I met a Finn family when I was on a plane, leaving Panama (the country). They adopted me for the flight (I even wrote to them for awhile until I moved to Germany.) It was strange because they said I looked like home. 😉

                      I had thought up to that point that Finns were a depressed people (all that ice and cold)… maybe it was because they had spent three weeks in Panama, but they were quite lovely.

                    • Yep, sun can do that to us. There is a marked difference between the middle of winter and the later parts of summer, especially when the summer has been a good one. As a group we tend to be noticeably more social during the latter period. 🙂

                    • Mike, read Ringo’s Last Centurion for a pretty good look at how that could play out in the near future.

                  • I’m not saying that the solution is going to be easy, or that it won’t involve bloodshed. But I think that if we start with the idea that the Quran is the Word of G-d and as such must, in its entirety, be true we can show the impiety of the doctrine that later passages overrule the earlier passages. Once you do that Muslims have to acknowledge that the later passages can only shade the earlier ones, and vice versa. And now we’re back into reinterpreting the Quran.

                • I don’t know what everyone means when they say Islam is the problem, but I mean the ideology promoted by the Koran and supported by various writings is the problem. If you follow a rulebook that says everybody has to either join or die, etc, then the rule is the problem.

                  No solution proposed, it’s still in the “identify the problem” phase– I’m rejecting race, location, heat, regional culture, etc. Religion might be considered culture, but that’s getting a bit too in the weeds.

                  • But that’s my point. If everyone who considered themselves Muslim followed the rule of “join or die” then we would be seeing quite a bit more killing around the world. Since we don’t see that level of violence it follows that the “join or die” rule is honored far more in the breach than in the observance. It’s a bit like those laws saying cars must be preceded by a man carrying a red flag. They’re still on the books, but if nobody enforces them are they still laws?

                    • No, if 1% of cars on the road had a man walking in front of them waving a red flag there would be chaos. Not only would such laws then be taken off the books, but having someone walking down the road waving a red flag would be outlawed.

                    • And if 1% of Muslims (that’s around 10 million) believed in spreading their faith by force there would be chaos beyond imagining. So the violent spread of Islam is effectively not a tenet of the religion.

                      Religion is about beliefs, not books.

                    • People can believe lots of things they don’t act on. I support the 2nd Amendment, but I don’t have any guns. I’m sure you can think of examples of your own. Most Pre-Revolutionary War Americans didn’t fight the British either, but many supported the rebels. Likewise most Muslims (I’d guess) supported ObL and like the idea of dominating the infidel, they just don’t have the ambition or will to do it themselves.

                      People are inherently lazy.

                    • And if 1% of Muslims (that’s around 10 million) believed in spreading their faith by force there would be chaos beyond imagining.

                      No, if 1% actually did it… and looking at the middle east, “chaos beyond imagining” is a good thumbnail. It helps to remember that different flavors often don’t consider other flavors to be “real” Muslims.

                      Religion is about beliefs, not books.

                      Religions are about teachings, which are often set down in books with an accompanying tradition (also often written down) and spread by some sort of an authority group.

                      Your examples are based on your evaluation of what they’d do if they “really” believed a set thing, ignoring the far easier teachings that a significant number seem to delight in living up to. (Mohammad did a very good job of building a religion that appeals to some dark aspects of human nature, especially for his origin culture.)

                    • They’re still on the books, but if nobody enforces them are they still laws?

                      Yes, because that’s what “laws” means.

                      It’s kinda like that old thing that Lincoln supposedly said, about “how many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg”– Islam is the stuff that’s giving us trouble. Even when you ask scholars who consider themselves Muslims, but don’t do all the evil stuff, they’ll often admit that the convert-or-die stuff is perfectly in keeping with the religion.

                • William O. B'Livion

                  That’s why I have no patience for those who claim that “Islam is the problem.” They’ve decided that the only solution is to tell approximately 1 billion people to convert or die.

                  There’s another option. Change the religion until it’s NOT a problem for the rest of us.

                  The Christianity of 2013 is not the christianity of 1813 or 1613. There is no reason the Islam of 2013 must be the same as the Islam of the 1500s.

            • It’s a lot like acquired immunity to the local raging disease. Once you’ve made it past the Teutonic Knights and the Spanish Inquisition, you’re past the virulent form.

              • It made a great line, but: Spanish Inquisition was not as advertised, and the problem was the “Spanish” bit.

                Which may be able to be turned around into support of it, since the whole gov’t-in-religion thing is at the root of objectionable stuff, and Christianity separated the two. (Judaism would take all month to figure out along the same lines, what with the whole “being spread all over” thing, but Israel seems rather good about it.)

                • Yes. The Holy Inquisition was usually more humane and reasonable than the secular authorities, at least during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The Spanish turned it into a far nastier institution within their own borders, to the point that it began to consume their own state and economy.

                  • Even it had its points. The reason why Spain had many fewer people killed as witches was that the Spanish Inquisition demanded that witchcraft be held to the standard requirements for evidence.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      In addition, they held belief in witchcraft as a superstition and at least one of them commented that stories of people being hexed occurred mainly when witch hunters visited a village. In other words, nobody had problems with witches until the witch hunters arrived.

                    • The other thing, which they shared with the Anglosphere, is that they didn’t practice civil asset forfeiture to the witch hunters. France and the Germanies, OTOH, allowed that particular perversion, and had persecutions 1,000 times greater by some estimates.

                      Civil asset forfeiture is a blight.

                  • You might enjoy that historian’s other stuff– he started writing a series when, after 9/11, a ton of folks started coming to him so he could assure them of what they “already knew” about it being our fault because…crusades!

                    • so he could assure them of what they “already knew” about it being our fault because…crusades!

                      Sigh. And if the crusades justify Muslim attacks today, then the crusades, themselves, must have been justified because of the original Islamic wars of expansion, The first crusade was only a bit over 300 years (not bothering to look up the exact dates) after Charles Martel turned back the Muslims from France. The last Middle Easter Crusade related to the Middle East (Siege of Belgrade) was in 1456, 557 years ago. So if 557 years isn’t long enough to “let it go”, then 300 years certainly wasn’t.

                      Quod Erat Demonstradum.

                    • There you go using logic and reason against vile progressives.

                      Might as well shine a spot light into a black hole.

                • Larry Patterson

                  It made a great line, but: Spanish Inquisition was not as advertised, and the problem was the “Spanish” bit.

                  Right. We also had an Inquisition in Portugal. But laid back in the Portuguese tradition. My reading of the history was that the Inquisition began as a reaction to the Moorish invasion. Then it metastasized. I may be misinterpreting my reading of this history due to the laid back nature of the Portuguese now. At least in Algarve. Sarah is from the North, and those guys are more ‘marafados’ than Algarvios.

                  • It came from Spain (I wish I were joking) as a condition to some Royal marriage and it went on to the early eighteenth century, too, because Portuguese will hold on to ALL bad ideas. Like most inquisitions it was the state leaning on the church. A good idea to keep those separate.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      One “problem” with the Spanish Inquisition was that it was Spanish and Spain was the Super-Power of Catholic Europe. The Protestant rulers wanted their people to fear/hate Catholic Spain so were very willing to paint Spain and its Inquisition as very Dark and Evil. Of course, they also had to make the practices of the Spanish Inquisition as being much worse than their own treatment of criminals/dissidents. Also plenty of the stories about the Spanish Inquisition made it out to be “Secret Rulers” of Spain instead of them being controlled by the Spanish monarch.

        • But diversity requires us all to think alike.

        • “Chinatown is to China as Frontierland is to the Wild West.”

          Pretty much. We have a prejudice that everybody wants to be like us. As far as prejudices it is not bad, and even has some evidence (we met everybody’s cousin who immigrated to the US and DOES want to be like us). But it is still incorrect. Those US immigrant cousins are a self-selected group.

        • Have no idea how fragile you are. I read this great book on grizzly bear attacks that suggested that many people who were attacked but not eaten appear to have been subjected to the kind of “spanking” they would give to their young. They got confused over us being fellow bipeds. “Hey, idiot, this is our patch!” WHAM!

          • If you are attacked by a grizzly or brown bear the time honored solution of ‘playing dead’ might work (personally I vote for making the bear dead before it has time to make me play at something it is all to likely to make a reality) because often they are chastising you. With black bears however it is a different story, the theory being that when they attack they are almost always viewing the attackee as food, playing dead will only result in you getting eaten alive.

            • I know this sounds horrible, but the advice of experts if you have a firearm for defense when a bear attacks is to shoot it in the shoulder, then worry about killing it when it has fallen.

              • I had considered that muscle, fat and skull density made a head-on shot against a charging bear a bad idea — “electing Obama to convince people to reject liberalism forever” level of bad unless you are carrying a hand cannon of scale to risk breaking your wrist/elbow/shoulder.

                • Oh, in case you were curious, yep, the Benghazi/Beirut is the new talking points. Also “Beirut was a worse debacle than Syria” (coohee, what are they smoking, precisely?) It’s in all the blogs..

                  • I was going to say true as far as it goes for us, but I was mentally replacing debacle with catastrophe, Syria is not yet as big a catastrophe for us, because we haven’t went in yet. Debacle, it’s hard to have a bigger debacle than Syria… but I have confidence in the Obama administration, give them time and they’ll manage it.

                    • “Syria isn’t as bad as Beirut” — stipulated, for the sake of argument.

                      So what?

                      Correction: So Effing what?

                      Obama’s foreign policy is not as (obviously) disastrous as Carter’s.
                      Obama’s economy is not (yet) as bad as Ford’s or Carter’s.
                      Obama’s IRS scandal isn’t (apparently) as great as Nixon’s.
                      Obama’s governmental metastasis isn’t as bad as Johnson’s. Yet.
                      Obama’s Benghazi performance is less of a Charley-Foxtrot that JFK’s Bay of Pigs invasion.
                      Obama’s golf scores aren’t as bad as Eisenhower’s.

                      Breast cancer isn’t as bad as pancreatic, getting shot in the leg isn’t as bad as getting gut shot, Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t as creepy as Ed Gein, Russ Meyer wasn’t as bad a director as Ed Woods, [Insert detested book title] isn’t as unreadable as [Insert detested book title], the Monkees weren’t as bad as the Cowsills, and the ’64 Mets weren’t as bad as the ’35 Braves.

                      A caller this evening to Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, a retired command sergeant major who in thirty-five year career wrote thousands of evals, said he would, if charged to write an eval for the current CinC, rate Obama quotidian.

                  • Yeah, and now Reagan would have been thrilled by the Obamaphone program, too. Or so the head of the FCC is proclaiming.

                • Yes, a bad idea, but my hubby when he was 12 killed a black bear that wear with a gun loaded with bird shot. One of the pellets went up the bear’s nose and into its brain. It dropped at my hubby’s feet. He was damn lucky.

                  • Dang –brain stutters

                  • I did that with a deer one time, but I’ve never encountered a bear out hunting. I’d like to keep that record intact!

                    • Glad to hear. Part of our safety training year as a child was my father would talk about bears (black and Grizzlies) and what to do when we met either one. Since we were in the mountains, it was a good reminder. We had safety lectures on cougars and moose as well. So of course we spent the entire time rolling our eyes. 😉

                    • The only one that spooks me is moose, and even then a little common sense is usually all that is needed. Just remember a moose is like a semi, if it wants the right-of-way LET IT HAVE IT.

                    • My wife and I like to go to Grand Lake before the official tourist season opens. That way, the wildlife hasn’t fled for the high mountains, and the lakeside isn’t crowded with fishermen. There are quite a number of moose and elk that winter in the Grand Lake area. I was coming back from fishing one evening, and encountered two moose between me and my car. They were laying down, and didn’t seem to be aggravated. I took a chance and walked around them to my car. Neither one moved, even when I came within fifteen feet of them. Two weeks later, a man was seriously injured by a moose in the same area.

                      If you’re in Colorado and you want to see wild animals, the two best places are Grand Lake and Ouray, down near Durango. You have to get there before the tourist season begins, though, or they’ll all have disappeared into the mountains.

                • William O. B'Livion

                  There was an article in a (probably guns and ammo) magazine in the early 80s about a gent who went bear hunting with a hot loaded .357. He was going in after the bear when it charged (note, this is from memory) and shot it in the face twice. He then (being more agile than smart) sidestepped, placed the muzzle just below the ear where there’s an opening for the jaw and fired.

                  He found the first two bullets between the bear’s skull and it’s skin.

                  Mr. Rocket Surgery decided that this meant he should use a .44 next time.

                  Hmmm…Maybe I should get a 10mm.

                  • “Hmmm…Maybe I should get a 10mm.”

                    I don’t think a 10 is that hot. I guess for an auto it is
                    hmmm where’s my book– about 100 fps over a 357 mag with the same weight bullet

                    • William O. B'Livion

                      Huh. You’re right.

                      For some reason I had it wedged in between the .41 and the .44.

                      Oh well, I’ve got a .44. That’ll have to do.

                  • The ONLY way I would hunt bear is with an H&K fully-auto 7.62mm rifle with military loads. Forget aiming for the head — I’d shoot directly into the chest if it were standing, and at the shoulder/neck if it were approaching me. If he’s running away, I’d probably let him go. I do NOT put myself at a disadvantage hunting anything. I want to KNOW I’m the more dangerous predator. With bears, that’s always in question.

              • That makes sense considering the thickness of their skulls.

              • Problem with that, when a bear charges a broadside shot is very difficult to find, if still hunting that would be the shot I recommend, bust the shoulders down and you have time to finish it. Almost every bear I have killed has been a head shot, most at less than ten feet. Bust their skull and they go down for the count, and it takes much less of a gun to bust their skull than it does to reliably stop them with a body shot.

        • And to the extent that bears are wary of hurting humans (which the bears you’re likely to run into in the parks are to a very limited extent), it’s because bears are smart enough that many have figured out that bears who kill humans are bears who get shot by humans. It’s not that they’ve become nicer, it’s that humans have established a reputation for being too dangerous to safely kill. We should keep this in mind when we notice that most foreign countries are not eager to kill Americans. Similar principle.

      • Agreed .. but, for us to – I take the liberty of substituting here – grok them, we would first have to understand *why* grokking them is a useful thing… and that would require recognizing that, big moose or not, we’re still vulnerable.


        • Sadly, mijacat, most military “leaders” today don’t understand why we should even TRY to understand “others”. To them, they should be in awe of our military strength, and just roll over. They refuse to accept that we are also vulnerable. One of the most compelling introductions to the mind of the Ummah (the people of Islam) is Leon Uris’ book, “The Haj”. There’s another book, written by an Israeli scholar, that also provides a great deal of referenced material on Islam, but I can’t remember the name of the book or the author. I know it’s required reading at the Israeli military command and staff college. A friend of mine sent me a copy of it when I was in Germany the last time. Unfortunately, it’s one of several things that disappeared during our move back to the States. I’d be willing to bet my next month’s paycheck that none of our President’s advisors has ever read it.

  2. Interesting timing, this. I just finished reading Putin’s NYT op-ed a few minutes ago, and a glance at the first comment left me stunned.

    Say what you will about the Russians and Mr. Putin in particular. This reaching out is unprecedented. Surly our country and our leaders cannot ignore this gesture from the Russian government. We, at the very least, should meet this offer in sincerity and in the hope, that something good and lasting will come of the discussions between our two nations. The stakes are far too high to let this moment over take either one of our nations. Put aside mistrust and bad feeling for the moment, and try find and do something positive for the world. The killing needs to stop. We really can live in peace with each other if only we would really try.

    This reaching out is unprecedented, and will remain so because no one has reached out. A former KGB operative and current head of the Russian nation did not just do what you think he did.

    But we want to believe everyone shares our better natures. And we hope that everyone is striving for the same ‘live and let live’ goals we are. And…puppies!

    • Ack! Tag fail! NYT comment quote ends at “we would really try.” All following is me.

    • Russia, of course, armed Syria for 50 years and Iraq for at least 20 years. Whether the chemical weapons in Syria were home-made or sent there by Saddam Hussein in his last days in power, Russia is one of the Powers to blame for them existing in the first place.

      • Yes, and from the Russian perspective Putin’s maneuvers are sensible and guided by rational self-interest. And using what he believes is American logic deceptively to cloud American will and leave him a free hand is perfectly consistent.

        Reminds me of a comment from yesterday about how it would make more sense for Israel to align themselves with Russia because at least Russia is consistent in supporting their allies.

        Hmph. Well, yes. If they have some reason to think you’re useful as an ally. If you’re inconvenient? Or no longer useful? The story is somewhat different, and not one Israel should be interested in learning first hand.

        • I vaguely recall that the USSR briefly sent aid to Israel in its early years, thinking Israel would disorganize the Middle East to the detriment of the US. They switched over to the Muslim countries soon enough.

          • I have no knowledge one way or the other. But if true it would fit perfectly with my expectations of Soviet self-interest internationally expressed. And is wholly accurate in spirit with what I expect from Vlad the Putin.

            • Early Israelis were socialists. Kibbutz = Commune.

              Early Israeli’s not stupid. Quickly abandoned* socialism; USSR went into the antisemitism business which had long been mined by Mother (Protocols of the Elders of Zion) Russia anyway, so they knew how to work it the way Norwegian farmers knew how to grow winter wheat.

              *For some values of the word

        • Putin’s strategy is short-term brilliant, long-term abysmally stupid. He’s leading a country with a demographic crisis which is hated by every Muslim on the continent of Asia — and he’s favoring the Muslims of Asia against the United States and Europe. If he succeeds, in the next generation Russia is going to have to face swelling Muslim hordes, alone. The clear analogy is with Stalin and the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

          • All Putin is concerned about at the moment is maintaining that warm water Mediterranean port and helping Obama (reduce America’s standing in the world.) Once America no longer stands as a counter weight to Russia he expects to cut a deal with the Islamists: they accept their place or they accept nuclear devastation.

            His country’s demographic crisis will be resolved, he thinks, when his people can stride across the corpses of their opponents to their vacation dachas on the Med. Eliminating all meaningful global opposition can do wonders for your demography. (See: History/Conquering Armies/Rape)

            • Don’t forget the pipelines under construction and maintaining a stranglehold on Europe’s energy imports.

            • Once America no longer stands as a counter weight to Russia he expects to cut a deal with the Islamists: they accept their place or they accept nuclear devastation.

              He’s assuming a degree of rationality on the part of the Islamists which is not much in evidence. Though he may be more right than is immediately-apparent, because once first Carter, then Clinton, and especially Obama demonstrated that America would react to apparent insanity with appeasement, it became an obvious strategy on the part of even the saner Islamists to assume a mask of utter insanity.

              However, some of the Islamists really do seem to believe that, if it came to a war of mutual annihilation, they’d still be standing at the end. My sense of history tells me that they are making a very grave mistake if they try this against Russia, which has no compunctions against literal enslavement or even genocide against disfavored groups. On the other hand, if the Islamists get their hands on nuclear weapons, and especially nuclear missiles (assuming the Russians can’t develop a good strategic defense system), the lunatics could do a lot of damage to the Russians before being wiped out root and branch. And what was left of Russia might only have enough strength left to wreak an awesomely bloody vengeance upon Islam, before suffering a complete demographic and national collapse.

    • OT — I want you to know it’s not your fault. I TOO tried to remove the italic, and it didn’t work. ARGH.

    • In fact, what he did was more like an extortionist saying “Nice store. Be a shame if anything happened to it” and the storekeeper spinning this as “What a nice man, he’s so concerned about my store!”

    • Putin trolls USA … and of course troll bait laps it up.

    • Surly our country

      Think they forgot a comma in there. Should read, “Surly, our country.” Seriously, they don’t want to make us angry. The secret is we’re always surly.

      • Ha! I thought about correcting the original…but it was too good to lose.

      • Actually, we’re NOT surly. We’re the most open, affable nation on Earth. We just really get nasty when people make us angry. We used to be the nastiest people on the planet, and folks left us alone (see “Eisenhower”). The Democrats have been working on changing that since JFK, and Reagan only managed to reverse the trend for a short time. I suspect we’ll have a major debacle shortly, and the people of the US will get riled up and fight back, but at the moment our nation is taking the path of Chamberlain at Munich.

  3. WWI was the butcher shop of Europe, but do other countries worry and fret over what they did in it? No. Only us.

    Which is especially unfair, given that we only entered the war after it was more than half over, and on clear provocation. What we blame ourselves for is that we failed to secure the postwar peace — but we are located on another continent than both the major Great Powers (Germany and Japan) which started World War Two! One would have far more justification for blaming Russia for allowing the Fascist Powers to rise, particularly given that she bordered both of them and actually made first secret agreements, then an open pact, with Germany.

    • I do think we should apologize to other countries for Woodrow Wilson. He really did ruin the peace for everybody in the world. Jerk.

      • Of course, it’s our fault for electing “He Kept Us Out of War,” but it’s mostly Europe’s fault for going along with his stupid peace/revenge plan. Albeit Wilson was practically blackmailing half of Europe.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Not so sure about that. Wilson wanted something like the League of Nations which turned out to be garbage but WW2 grew out the the “peace” that *France* forced unto Germany. France wanted to punish Germany for the crime of “almost” beating France. Of course, France wasn’t willing to fight Germany again when Germany decided to throw away the peace treaty.

        • Sort of. If France had obtained the peace terms that Clemenceau & co. wanted, Germany would have had extreme difficulty in ever attacking France again. IIRC, Clemenceau wanted to annex the left bank of the Rhine outright, and turn the right bank into a disarmed neutral state bound to France by strong treaties (and dependent upon the French Army to protect it from Prussia). Basically, he wanted to restore the status quo ante Bismarck, dismembering Germany the way the Allies did with Austria-Hungary. That would probably have worked.

          But that was not the peace they got. Instead, the French had to compromise with the British, and worse yet, with a bunch of know-nothing American amateur diplomats. The result was Versailles, a botch of a treaty that hurt German pride without breaking up the demographic or industrial power of the German state. The worst thing to do to your enemy is to enrage him without breaking his capacity to fight.

          • France was a bit greedy in demanding reparations she knew Germany couldn’t meet. That led to the Weimar government, hyper-inflation, and the collapse of German industrial strength. The labor unions and the Communists (but I repeat myself) took advantage of the collapse, and almost gained control of German politics (they did take control for awhile in Hungary). Hitler rose to power on two promises: to reverse Germany’s decline, and to rid the nation of the Communists.

            A bit of trivia: The compound that housed my unit in Germany was built in 1919 to house a French occupation artillery unit. The 497th used the compound from 1952 to 1992. When the unit moved to RAF Molesworth, the compound was turned over to the Germans. They immediately razed all the buildings and built a housing area.

          • Either approach — being nice to Germany, or crippling Germany — would have worked to prevent Germany launching World War II. The problem is that advocates of “compromise” between the two plans won the day, and so they were just cruel enough to Germany to deeply anger the German people, without being cruel enough to Germany to render this anger wholly impotent.

            It also didn’t help that the Allies got Germany to demobilize on the promise that it would be a negotiated peace treaty, and then at the actual peace conference proceeded to dictate the peace to Germany — after Germany, through trusting the Allies, had thrown away most of her military capabilities. Hitler really did have a point about a “stab in the back,” except that it wasn’t the German Jews doing the stabbing. What Hitler didn’t want to admit (even to himself) was that the war (most especially the blockade) had eroded German morale and economic capabilities to the point that Germany had really no capability to resume the fight when the betrayal by the Allies became obvious. So he chose instead to blame external and subversive influences, with the horrid results well-known to history.

            The analogous delusion on the side of the Allies was the notion that munitions companies were to blame for the war having broken out in the first place. Nobody wanted to admit that their nations had gone to war happily and with bands playing, in the expectation of swift and almost bloodless victories. It was much easier to find scapegoats than to admit to their own errors.

  4. A nation of laws.

    Most nations have laws, and generally those laws are bent a bit for the right people and against the wrong people.

    Most nations have laws that are written down and laws that people just know (just as how much is an appropriate bribe when pulled for a broken taillight versus the proper bribe for driving drunk.)

    America is so dumb we think one set of laws, enforced equally is just enough and probably a bit too much.

    I recently saw an article based on an observation by a (IIRC) foreign exchange student expressing amazement at the high level of integrity Americans practice every day. We’re outraged over pennies when the rest of the world shrugs off pounds.

    The Japanese and Germans have excelled at manufacturing because their cultures view microns of difference the way Americans view millimetres and Third World nations view feet. Americans, OTOH, are that way about rules. We don’t much like them so they better be necessary, useful and adhered to uniformly. Push that a little and we get miffed. Push it a little harder and we get pissed. Push our noses in it and we get downright crotchety.

  5. On slavery, examine any given American of African descent and ask yourself where would they be if their great great… grandparents had not been captured by warriors from the next village over, sold to arab slavers, then resold to a British ship captain for transport to America. My thoughts tend to mud huts and flocks of sheep or goats as best case.
    I have on occasions when I want to stir things up suggested that proper reparations for any citizen with a grievance would be to offer on the taxpayer’s dime the opportunity to restore them to whatever place and economic condition they would likely have had if their ancestors hadn’t made the trip, involuntarily or otherwise. All they have to do in exchange is surrender their citizenship and any property gained from their obviously hateful and loathsome current situation. Any takers? Any at all?

    • Look no further than those who went back and formed… Liberia.

      • One of Lincolns’ more lasting failures, that.


        • Damn, that Lincoln was precocious. He founded the colony of Liberia at the age of 11, and started the American Colonization Society when he was seven. Plus, his name was Robert Finley at the time. Crafty devil!

          • Didn’t say started, Tom. Nice try, though.


            • Mrs. Hoyt said ‘FORMED Liberia’. You identified that as one of Lincoln’s failures. Liberia was formed (and indeed independent) long before Lincoln had anything to do with it.

              What was that about a nice try again?

              • It is a nice try, as is your selective quoting here.

                What our hostess said in full was to “Look no further than those who went back and formed… Liberia.”.

                You are both asserting that “formed” is the same as “founded”, which is simply false. Having done this, you appear to be doubling down and asserting that the freed slaves sent by the American Colonization Society, as well as the shiploads of never-Americanized (or Anglicized, I suppose) slaves the U.S. and British navy redirected to Liberia upon capture, and specifically the slave-owning culture that grew up among them are somehow not Lincoln’s fault.

                I disagree. If you have some historical cites to indicate that dishonest Abe should be excused for the behavior of the colonists, present it, otherwise …


                • Look. Liberia was founded by the A.C.S. in 1820. It became formally independent in 1847. Lincoln did not send any colonists to Liberia before 1847, I can assure you. Neither the existence nor the actions of the Americo-Liberians can be blamed on him.

                  It is true that Lincoln spoke in support of the A.C.S. program, but he was not active in that program in any other way. It is also true that he proposed a similar program on a larger scale after his election as President; but he could not get the support of Congress or the public for such a scheme, and it never came to fruition.

                  I take particular interest in your attempt to blame Lincoln for the British navy’s practice of sending captured slaving ships to Liberia. I don’t know how to break this to you, but Lincoln was not the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy. He was not even so much as a petty officer — being disqualified on the trifling technical grounds that he was not a British subject and had never enlisted in the R.N. To blame him for any action of the Royal Navy is simply loony.

                  • I never blamed Lincoln for the actions of the freed semi-Americanized slaves, nor for the actions of the Brits, for obvious reasons .. however, Abe does have some responsibility for setting up the scenario.

                    That Lincoln was involved in setting up the mess that Liberia became is pretty clear, eh?

                    He did, in his role as commander in chief, instruct U.S. naval units to direct slave vessels captured to Liberia, providing additional mouths to feed, with literally no assets to their names, to a badly structured country.

                    He did, in his role as chief diplomat, work diplomatic channels with the Brits to do the same.

                    History records that both took place. It also notes Lincoln’s involvement with the ACS prior to his election to the presidency.

                    You are seriously stretching to defend disHonest Abe, I suggest explaining why you’re buying the hagiographic viewpoints to the exclusion of clear reality.


      • The problem with Liberia was that it didn’t consist entirely of former American slaves. There was a substantial native population that was subsumed into the country at its founding. For most of its history those native tribes had little political power – and the nation was relatively prosperous, until one of them seized power in fairly standard fashion for the area: a coup. Then there was the civil war against the coup. And the civil war against the winner of the last civil war. Plus the getting intimately involved in the general suckitude of the region.

    • Most simply wouldn’t exist, but I don’t think many realize that.

    • I guess it is about a decade and a half now since the Washington Post’s Africa Correspondent (a black man) came out with a book saying, in essence, THANK G-D FOR SLAVERY!!!!!!!!

      IIRC, he had been their SE Asian correspondent then was reposted to Africa, where he had the journalistic integrity to observe what that continent was actually like. Yes, great-great-great gandpa was a slave — but he had descendants, which is more than most of his contemporaries in Africa could claim. From an evolutionary/genetic standpoint, that is the only thing that matters.

    • We won’t even make them give up any education they would not have received.

      Hardly even an unusual situation, to have benefited from something evil in history.

      Everyone who has celiac disease benefits from the famine conditions in Europe after Nazi conquest; a hospital ward, filled with children actually recovering from celiac in famine conditions, was one of the first destinations for shipped in food, and when the children relapsed after bread, it was clear what the root cause was.

      The collapse of Rome produced some pretty miserable conditions, but shook up society so much that the waterwheel, which Romans had dismissed as unnecessary when you had slaves, became a major producer of energy, in due course leading to the Industrial Revolution, from which we all benefit.

  6. Like the Odd in his attempt to be liked phase, it going to take some lumps.

  7. We’re having deep fried beer at the State Fair this year? I really wish I still lived in the Dallas area.

    Maybe that’s what the rest of the world needs, some chicken fried bacon washed down with deep fired beer.

  8. My comment from yesterday got eaten, so I’ll repost here, as it is tangentially pertinent:

    Our small corner of Real America remembers what is important. On 9/11/13, the local high school had a flag ceremony, complete with military rifle salute, a speaker, and the band and students joining in the national anthem. Flags were a half-staff all over town. We aren’t dead yet!

  9. There have only been two nations in history formed by law and the other one had blood too.

    And their Laws were imposed from above and didn’t reflect their values—not without centuries of adaptation. (Thirty five centuries or so, and it’s still a work-in-progress.)

    • Yes indeed. There is a certain resemblance, though, as a lot of early Americans believed our laws imposed from above, also, or with some input. And those are the only two nations I know that when defeated blame themselves for deviating from the law.
      So we’re not brothers — but we’re certainly cousins, I think. The other nations? Unimaginably WEIRD… from OUR point of view. From theirs… well… note who the whipping boys are.

  10. I find myself thinking of Robinson Jeffers, possibly the most libertarian American poet (see for example “Shine, Perishing Republic”) and perhaps the most sfnal (take a look at “Nova” or “The Purse-Seine”). Back in World War II he wrote

    It is war, and no man can see an end of it. We must put freedom away and stiffen into bitter empire.
    All Europe was hardly worth the precarious freedom of one of our states: What will her ashes fetch?

    (Poul Anderson used to quote one of his lines as a toast: “Long live freedom and damn the ideologies.” That shows how much of Jeffers Anderson had read, because the volume it was from, Be Angry at the Sun, came out in a small print run during World War II with an apologetic note from the publisher about Jeffers’s lack of support for the war effort, and has never been reprinted.)

    • Didn’t Jeffers write ” The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”? That is one of my favorite poems. I have been inside a B-17, all the way back to the tail-gunner’s position, but not in the ball turret. I did look at the ball turret from the outside. It is a very small thing. Statistically, it was the safest position in the bomber, but emotionally, the most exposed. The ball turret gunner aimed his crotch at the enemy, along with his guns, protected only by a small piece of armor, maybe 1/4″ thick.

  11. ““China will take over being the world’s policemen and make a good one because they were once victims”

    I probably should know better than to ask but where did you find such a stupid statement?

    • ehgods — in a bunch of my colleagues blog about a year back.
      It was classic compared only to my brother saying China would end up being the real superpower because, unlike the US, China is not Raaaaaacist. I had to run to the basement to roar with laughter, because it was his house. Then I called a friend in the US and said “You wouldn’t believe–” My friend who is an Asian language expert said “He said what?”

      • Not trying to insult your brother but both statements can be made only in the state of complete, unmitigated ignorance of Chinese culture, history, etc.

        • Dur. The weird thing is he’s brilliant — but he sold his brain to Marxism.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            And it’s hard to get a refund.

          • Wew! I don’t feel so bad now. The rest of my extended family drank the koolaid. They always thought I was ODD anyway.;)

            • I’ve got family like that.

              Weird thing is, you explain stuff to them and don’t use any buzzwords, they nod their heads about things like, oh, fiscal conservatism, the stupidity of gun control, and national defense. It is only when you openly talk about their soundbites that they actually argue, which tells me they turn off their common sense when they hear “democrat” or “republican.”

              Its quite bizarre.

              • Oh, yes. Or friends and/or family who complain about things that people do which are evidence of the influence of Liberal policy-setters, but then spout things like, “War on Women”, “Racist”, etc, when talking about Conservatives.

              • I always assumed they were fairly intelligent, but I tried approaching things from a simple common sense perspective and building up from there. All I ever got were sound bites. I finally told my mother to be careful what she wished for, as I was one of those limited government “extremists” with an “arsenal” in his closet. We quit discussing it after that.

                • They tend to be particularly sensitive to properly couched ridicule, probably because their self-worth is externally confirmed. Providing them feedback of the absurdity of their premises through variations on “Do you actually think that …” or “how could [object group or person] be [false assertion] since they [undeniable valid assertion]?

                  It is necessary to perform this gently and persistently over time to avoid triggering defensive reactions. Provide evidence that contradicts their assumptions

                  For example:

                  How could George W Bush have been racist since he provided far more financial assistance to the fight against AIDS in Africa — as (you will recall) Bono claimed?

                  How can you say Bush rushed us into war when he spent fourteen months lining up the House, Senate and UN in support of taking down Saddam? Are you saying Democrats in Congress and various UN members give their assent to the war thinking Saddam would resign?

                  Mind, this is only what I have been told. My own style tends more to the “if you’d pull your head out of your arse you’d find this world isn’t the warm, gooey comfy place you seem to think it is!” This technique has not proven especially effective at changing people’s opinions, although it does help reduce my blood pressure.

                  • “Mind, this is only what I have been told. My own style tends more to the “if you’d pull your head out of your arse .”

                    Sigh..That might have something to do with it.
                    I also have a tendency to LOL reflexively when idiocy is spoken. This probably doesn’t help.

                    • Ah, fellow members in the Order of the Cluebat. If we ever meet we can share drinks and stories.

                    • (Catching up days later) yeah. That happened to me last month when someone who you’d think would be pretty savvy (a local political guy, -R after his name) said that he thought Ted Cruz would wind up in jail. I had to run into my room, but he still heard me laughing. As did his wife. awkward

                    • I’m afraid I just laugh in their face. This has the added benefit of reinforcing the “crazy boy” rep though, so it’s not all bad.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Which Ted Cruz are you talking about? There’s a Republican Senator Ted Cruz but I couldn’t find anything about problems that might result in “going to jail”.

            • I started voting common sense instead of political party back in 1972, the second presidential election I was able to vote in. At the time, I was probably the only republican (small-r) in the family. Now 80% are. It take awhile for things to catch on in the South…

          • The intellectual equivalent of fueling your high-performance Porsche with ethanol corn-likker.

        • Not wanting to start an argument by defending a position I reject as injurious to clear thought, but the view of China as not racist is valid if you use the definition of “racist” which has become popular on the Left. By their usage you can only be “racist” if you have broad institutional power and employ it to oppress other racial groups … plus a lot more nonsense that I routinely scrub from my mind with the same care I employ in wiping my a(hem. TMI. Sorry.) … but it basically boils down to the kind of contortions you need to assert that demanding black people have Voter ID is racist but allowing armed black men to stand outside a polling place waving cudgels and threatening white poll watchers is not racist.

          To properly understand this requires more reading of Cornel West and Al Sharpton than any sane person would undertake, so the Readers’ Digest is that it is a kafkatrap amounting to: If you are White you are racist and you should give black people reparations, if you are black and don’t support reparations you are a race traitor and oreo, if you are brown and don’t demand that white people stop oppressing you by allowing you to enter their country and paying you far better wages than you could earn in your home country you are a victim of false consciousness and if you are yellow and don’t support fewer people of your skin tone attending college even though they are far better prepared than two-thirds of those admitted then you are racist.

          If you disagree with these definitions you are racist.

    • Not quite the precise statement, but an equivalent of such delusional belief:

      We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country, on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks. Or if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran – itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 – to cast loose a regime that was gassing its people.

      From “our” UN ambassador, Samantha “Responsibility to Protect” Power, in a statement so mind-numbingly stupid it only got reported at “far-Right” news outlets. Anybody considering using the embedded link to read the conttext of Ambassador Powers’ statement should be advised that reading the speech in full may result in permanent reduction of IQ. Only trained lawyers, their minds hardened against weaponized drivel, are advised to risk it.

    • Stupid statements are not necessarily made by stupid people. For example, they can be made by smart people who are indifferent to the wider consequences of their self-advancement.

      Furthermore, even very smart people are capable of deluding themselves. Thomas Sowell:

      There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.

    • Pretty popular suggestion from Big-L-And-Pretty-Radical libertarians, sadly.

      The smarter ones mean it as China just being a more open and/or smarter thug than we are…..

    • Once they have worked out all the resentment which has built up from being a victim? 😀

  12. So .. let me ask a question. If you were to plan a trip – abroad – to break down the idea that “the U.S. is evil because….”, what is the shortest (i.e. fewest number of stops) possible, and what nation(s) should be on the itinerary? One should also assume a desire to reach the end of the trip alive and preferably well…


    • France. Preferably knowing the language so you can hear the natives. Greece. Italy.
      More iffy on coming back alive, but helpful for “this is not just the west” — South Africa and Morocco.

      • How critical is knowing the language? Most Americans are monolingual, if that…. will not speaking French make seeing the issues more challenging?


        • From what I have seen from the recent graduates, they are barely proficient in one language.

        • Zaklog the Great

          From what I’ve heard her say before, I suspect Sarah’s reply will be that if you understand their language, you can hear what they say about you & the world in general that you’re not supposed to understand. Even if you stay on the approved tourist path, you’ll have a little peek behind the curtain.

        • And I’ve found people are far more willing to chat and give you their opinions if you speak at least a little of their language. Like the cabbie in Munich who joked with me about the NSA and how he’d send me some stuff on a postcard, like the West Germans did to mess with the Stazi.

          • Let me clarify. I have a sister with a kid who is quite well described by our hostess today .. thinks Cuba must be wonderful because it’s not the U.S and “they stand up to us!”., thinks other countries are having their resources stolen and brought here, thinks .. well, it’s a lot of ugly-stupid.

            I have a small window of opportunity to push him .. specifically, I can give him a “generous graduation gift” .. but I want it to be one that has a chance of making a difference, and .. as many through the years have observed, “travel “broadens the mind”.

            Unfortunately, linguistically, he’s maybe got a little Spanish and maybe a few words in German, so I’m not sure where he could go and arrive at a decent clue that much he “knows” just isn’t so.

            I appreciate the input so far, but .. it is not all exactly helpful in answering where…


            • The problem is that you can’t send him to Cuba. And if you could, he’d go to the areas where tourists go. Um…

              • Zaklog the Great

                He’d get to see the kind of things that Michael Moore featured in his film Sicko. “Oh yes, look at how great Cuba’s health care system is for their average citizen. Why can’t America have something like this?”

                This video of John Stossel exposing Michael Moore on his claims in that film is hilarious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT_ZxPw3yV0

              • What do you think of sending him to Israel? It wouldn’t open his mind the way Tanzania would, but it’s vastly more likely he’d come back alive, much less undiseased. And if he learned nothing more than “Israel is pretty awesome, not at all evil like the press says”, that’d be a darned good start.

              • Thought I heard that some American tourists go to Cuba via Canada .. and as long as he doesn’t plan a career needing a security clearance, it’s likely to be ignored…

                The trouble is, yeah, they’d keep him in a tourist-trap-cocoon.


                • See if any of your local churches has a mission (medical or missionary, it makes no difference) in Panama. He’ll PROBABLY survive (disease and animals are far more dangerous than the populace), but he’ll learn just how poor some people can be, even in a relatively rich country.

            • Yesterday one of the young men who just graduated high school told his grandma that there is proof that the Holocaust didn’t happen. Since she had a member of her family (father) who did open up one of the camps, she told the her grandson not to go there or she would ship his ass. She was totally shocked that the young man (who she has had a hand in raising and babysitting while parents were working) would even think it.

              I know that I am “preaching to the choir,” but this is the education that all the young adults have had in our schools.

              • ship-whip– same diff? blink

                • I do that too. That same typo. But hey, he should be shipped. To Cuba.

                • I kinda liked shipped. Drop him in Israel for a bit.

                  Apart from denial of factual history, his ability to prove a negative is amazing.

                  • To be fair– other than that slip of propaganda he is a good kid…a kibbutz would be good for kids like him– and maybe he would learn something.

                  • That mystical six million number aside, the Nazis did kill as many Jews as they could catch.

                    • And after that, they were going to go after us Anglo-Saxons. They have always envied us, because whatever they do, we can do better. Oh, Germans are obnoxious, even when they’re not being Nazis.

                    • ummm… Anglo-saxons and Germans are related… even their languages are related (which is a good indicator).

                    • The Angles and the Saxons were German tribes brought to England as mercenary guards (IIRC, but it’s been many a year and my Sunday is about to kick in, meaning I lack leisure to look it up) around the time of the historic Arthur, hired by the Britons as protection against the Jutes. After a while the Angles and Saxons decided they could do a better job managing the island’s affairs and brought over more of their relatives (Having a great time, Britain is wonderful. Wish you were here!)

                      There is ample evidence in the island’s legends and myths for this interpretation, but as said, I read it when I was quite young and many a decade has passed, so I cannot readily lay hands to it. The intermingling of North Sea peoples in Britain has a long and tangled history. The “true natives” of the island would be the Picts (see: Robert E Howard’s Bran Mak Morn) and the Welsh, possibly the Celts and Gaels.

                      per Wiki:

                      Traditional accounts of the ancestral roots of the British have taught that they are descended from diverse populations: the Scots, Welsh, Cornish and Irish from the Celts, and the English from the Anglo-Saxons, who invaded from northern Europe and drove the Celts to Great Britain’s western and northern fringes; each are also thought to have a small portion of Viking heritage. However, modern studies using DNA analysis, popularized by the geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer and others, increasingly suggest that three quarters of Britons share a common ancestry with the hunter-gatherers who settled in Atlantic Europe during the Paleolithic era, “after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands”.

                      Many of the terms — Celts, Gaels — are poorly defined and used sloppily as interchangeable, adding to confusion.

                      Of course, we all know that the original inhabitants of the Isles sailed away to Tir Na Og once Man started messing up the place. 😉

                    • Nay nay! The original inhabitants where the loathsome Formori (sp?) who were defeated by those who later had an honorable duel for the fate of the islands, and left when they lost!

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Err, I thought that the Formori lived in Ireland.

                    • So’d the folks who went to Tir Na Og.

                    • Sarah: this, I think, crosses the line. While I have as much (or more) tolerance for a squeaky chew toy as anyone else, allowing this one note racist to continue rubbing his nose against our boots now bids fair to mark us with some of his stench. It isn’t as if they Progs don’t already call us racist for saying people’s skin tones shouldn’t count for more than their characters, and this character is likely to be used by them.

                    • The truly hillarious thing is that I think Justthisguy came over to bait me, because being of Portuguese ancestry I’d get upset at his claiming Anglo Saxons were superior. And then he thought he’d confirmed it because I got upset. What he missed — that inability to have rational arguments, I think — is that I WAS upset at his STUPIDITY not his vaunted superiority which… bah… I have eyes to see “superior” and also I’ve studied history. Anyone who doesn’t realize he can’t be pure ANYTHING has already failed the “superior intelligence” test.

                    • I don’t know…he was making a strong bid for purely oblivious.

                      And if it’s the same nom de arse-hole I’ve seen him elsewhere about the blogosphere with the same “I’m just stating the obvious, why you mad?” attitude.

                    • Yea– some very strange comments from “justthisguy.” The DNA record shows that if we go far back enough that we are all related… plus we are all hoomans, so what is this need to relate to a tribe of people from the far past? Unless he gets his DNA done, he can’t actually claim Anglo-Saxon heritage btw… lol I saw a program where a guy got his DNA done and found the he was closely related to the majority of people in Israel, but he looked Dane. 😉 He needs to go back and learn about genotype and phenotype.

                    • My father had a very basic Y-DNA test done, and it said his line originated somewhere in the Slavic regions, umpty-thousand years ago, who then migrated to Europe. At the level of information in the test, though, it wasn’t more specific than that. I think when I save up another couple hundred, I’ll have the Mitochondrial DNA tested (they save the original sample and can do multiple tests). I have very little information where my grandmother came from.

                    • Well – that is a good test but you need to realize that PTDNA and MTDNA are only one line. To get closer relatives and your amount of ethnicity 😉 you need the Autosomal DNA test.

                    • I’m still confused…. isn’t being “pure anglo-saxon” like being “pure half-elf”?

                      Even if you assume that the other half is human, then basic knowledge of the stuff that monk did with the peas would indicate that a “pure half-and-half” race would be everything from pure group A to pure group B– assuming that the groups are actually exclusive enough for such a thing to be measured.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      No offense intended, but you may be “over-thinking” it. Consider Anglo-Saxon as a name for a *group* not as a combination of two groups. Both of us know that there were two groups, one called Saxons and the other called Anglos. The banned person might not have known that there were two groups. He may have thought there was a group called “Anglo-Saxon”.

                    • But… how do you watch Robin Hood and not catch on to all the “Saxon dog!” talk?

                      I do generally over think it, though, so you’re probably right.

                    • I think he just meant Englishmen uber allas. 😉
                      I was just watching the reboot of Robin hood (TV series) I have no idea from when. probably the nineties. I only watch stuff when I iron, and it’s free on prime. The casting disturbs me.

                    • That’s what made it funny. Plus I thought Saxons were Germans. I could be mistook..
                      “just this muddled”

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Interesting note, the term “Anglo-Saxon” was started by the Normans mostly because they knew of the Saxons in the Duchy of Saxony and had to differentiate between them and the Saxons of England.

                    • Of course I say this (need to relate to the far past) and I am the first to proclaim my berserker heritage. lol

                    • … he can’t be pure ANYTHING …

                      I dunno about that. I mean, I’m pure awesome…

                    • Okay. Conceded, #3 son. So are the two boys. But not a pure ethnicity.

                    • I was going to quip wittily, when I realized that any endorsement of awesome as a ethnicity would implicitly condone eugenics. Ew. I’ll totally endorse awesome as a state of being, howsoever. Join the Hoyts (blood, adoption and Horde) in the State of Awesome! Human Wave abounds, with red-blooded heroism and bacon for all!

                    • I try to be pure arsehole, but nice seems to sneak up and tackle me once in a while.

                    • I’m bad at that, too. It’s why I hang out with MadMike and similar folk. Take lessons from the best, and all that. That said, Mike’s bad at it, too. He just pulls it off fairly well.

                    • My full efforts are dedicated to being purely me, as my Creator intended.

                      I keep in mind that my Creator created flatulence and therefore has an untrustworthy sense of humour.

                    • “And after that, they were going to go after us Anglo-Saxons”

                      No, after that they were going to go after the Slavs. Starting with the Poles. The only difference between the Poles and the Jews was that they were filtering out “desirable racial traits” from the population on the argument that they were really ethnically German.

                      To be sure, to be a Pole picked out as a German in occupied Poland was probably the second worse condition, since they might send you to the concentration camp to break down your resistance.

                      And in anti-English propaganda, you see a steady upgrade in the virulence. Prior to the war, they were respected foes, but things got worse and worse as the opposition went on and on. Perhaps they would have been targeted after conquest as the Polish “Germans” were.

                      Oddly enough, this often depicted the heroic resistance of the (non-German) Irish against the (German) English (and some Nazis complained that some movies were a positive menace, praising resistance to occupation in a manner that should not happen in occupied Europe). To be sure, German Teutonists, unlike English ones, thought that Celtic peoples were superior if not quite German.

                • I like ‘ship,’ as in ship his ass off to Europe and Israel to learn better.

              • Robert walked out of one of his classes when his history teacher said Israel had it coming and should it be nuked it would be a good thing. He went straight down to the administration and explained and the teacher was forbidden from talking about such things in class. Note though he wasn’t even reprimanded.

                • A friend of our family saved up a bunch of money and took the kids around the world, to places like Cambodia as well as to Paris and Jerusalem. The kids came home and got in trouble for shooting down liberal teachers with things like, “That’s not true, sir. I’ve seen the killing fields and talked to people who survived Pol Pot.” The headmaster backed the students against the offended instructors. 🙂

                  • A less expensive way of doing something like that is to find a strong missions oriented church in your community and spend time talking with the folks going on missions in other countries. This is especially efficient if you can find out when their “missions week” presentations occur.

                    I have long believed the CIA could significantly improve their intelligence gathering simply by joining some of those churches.

                    I leave it to members of the Latter Day Saints to personally witness on the insights gained by their church’s practice.

                • What a contrast. My first year of college mumble years ago, my US history prof politely greeted a Japanese exchange student in Japanese. He had learned it while a POW in Japan having been captured at Wake Island. No PC from him…

            • Depending on his willingness to listen and observe, I might suggest a brief tour of some of the former Eastern Bloc countries, centered around Prague. There are significant ‘tells’ to be seen if he’s of the mind to see.

              What makes Prague interesting is that it is becoming a center for European tourism. You can sit in one of the sidewalk cafes in old town and listen to people from all over discuss all manner of things, mostly in English. If one is willing to listen, some interesting things can be learned. And if you stay outside of the tourist center you get to meet regular Czech folk, who aren’t terribly overawed (in any sense) by Americans but don’t usually hate us, either. They’ve got a recent experience that grants them a different perspective than much of Western Europe.

              The trouble with this itinerary is that it’s subtle, and it might not immediately take root. But if he’s bright and inquisitive, it could plant the seed.

              Just my 2 cents.

              The essential caveat in these and all travel plans, check the current status of the proposed countries with Foggy Bottom and Langley. Moods change and it’s been a bit since I was over.

              • That .. could work out nicely. Let me see what I can see …


                p.s. the young are happy enough to eat and sleep cheap, especially “over there”, yes?

                • Oh yeah. And the fact that the Czechs retain their own currency with a very favorable exchange rate helps. Outside of the old town area you can find all sorts of lodging, up to full apartments with daily rates (kitchens make eating cheap), for fantastic prices. I stayed in a nice working neighborhood within walking distance (long walk, but still) of the old town and only steps away from public transpo. As for food, I found Czech food to be consistently the best of any country I visited. Part of that is personal taste, sure, and part of it was that I made a point of seeking out the local haunts. And all of it was wonderfully affordable.

                  On the lodging, I’ve gotta plug those non-tourist spots. I stayed in the same sort of place in Rome and Amsterdam and Istanbul. It gives a completely different impression. And is consistently cheaper without sacrificing decent lodging.

                • Another thought: If the budget allows I would recommend against the hostels in favor of a small room in or near a normal neighborhood. The hostels tend to be inhabited by like minded idealists, while the neighborhoods are full of people who actually live in the real world. 😉

                • True for me. I backpacked through Europe. YEH gods. The nights I spent in railways…

                  • Out of curiosity how do you think that experience (nights in railways) compares to the hostel experience? From the point of view of this thread, exposing a misguided kid? I haven’t done either, but have run into a fair bunch of the hostel types from time to time.

                    • It was thirty years ago and I was a woman traveling alone. In those circumstances, so long as you’re willing to kick drunken Germans in the voonerables, and/or hit them with your backpack until they get “I’m not a hooker” you’re fine.

                    • Really, shouldn’t kicking drunken Germans in the voonerables and/or hitting them with your backpack be the standard? Listed in the guidebooks, even?

                    • It’s a weird national thing. Not-drunk Germans can be fun, pleasant and kind of cute (one of them bought me my weight in drinks. Thank heavens I have good alcohol resistance) BUT get them drunk and they become convinced that you REALLY mean yes.

                    • Yeah, I’ve run into the pleasant sort. Somewhere out there is a picture of a young German guy wearing my kevlar (brain bucket)…he was just so earnestly thrilled at the opportunity I couldn’t resist.

                      And I’ve seen the others, as well, particularly on a trip to Cancun. Though I oddly never found myself fending them off… 😐

                  • Slept on crowded trains and railway stations? I also slept on a beach with another young woman once when we couldn’t get a room. Woke up to find ourselves surrounded by sunbathers. Southern Spain, if I remember correctly.

                • Mijacat, you look into the Slovak tourism bureau website. They have all sorts of good info on their English-language website, and your young relative will be assured of being away from the usual tourist sites (cutting edge, go there before it’s “discovered,” being ahead of the tourist curve, and so on.) There’s pretty good public transportation if your relative flies into Vienna or Prague and then takes the train. IIRC student rail and bus passes are still reasonably priced, for certain values of reasonable.

                  • Arrgh. “You might want to look into . . .” Dang it, I’ve been revising all afternoon and I can’t get my fingers to do anything.

              • Prague is a great city for tourism. The people are indeed very friendly to Americans. It was very reasonably priced when I last visited in ’06 in contrast to euro currency countries. I haven’t seen when and if the Czechs were going to adopt the euro – they’ve previously planned to do it but wisely put it off.

              • In 06, we stayed in Hotel Mucha (named after Alphonse Mucha – don’t miss the Mucha museum nor the Prague Castle cathedral that has stained glass windows by Mucha). What reminded me was that some years before our visit, Czech Republic had a huge flood on the Viltava river, and there were photos in the hotel and shops showing people canoeing down the streets.

                Hotel Mucha was outside of the tourist areas but only a few block from one of the main subway stations.

                • As a completely irrelevant point, I’m a big fan of Mucha. One of the interesting things for me in the museum was his stamp and currency work. Just really cool.

        • Combining what I have read from multiple people who have visited/immigrated from other countries, knowing the language is imperative for truly understanding. My recommendation would be to pretend you have only a half dozen words you have learned laboriously in order to get along in your travels, so they will think you’re incapable of eavesdropping on them.

      • Our leftists might be informative too, if you could make them talk since we do have a tendency to act polite towards strangers. But most younger Finns do speak English well, so if you went to some bar in the weekend and pretended to be oh so very disappointed in your own country, where the evil right wing has opposed all the beneficent changes which have been tried by anybody, and oh how much you admire the Europeans, especially the northern welfare states, you might very well flush some out. 🙂

        We also have lots of people who admire USA, occasionally without any qualifications – meaning it’s enough if it’s something done in America, no matter whether you are talking about gun rights or SWAT teams forcing people out of their homes while looking for a terrorist. But if you’d get any kind of violence a fight between the Finns is much more likely than any of them attacking you, so it should be fairly safe here.

        • And as for the joys of living in a Communist state – Estonia. Recent history to them. Just find a bit older Estonians. And not those who are ethnic Russians.

    • Simple answer, none. Who cares if they think we are eeevul as long as they know if they mess with us we will stomp their guts out? (okay, that would involve visiting some countries, but they would be self-selecting)

      Remember that quiet kid who sat in the back of the class and never bothered anybody, but when the bully tried to shove him around he bashed the bully’s head through a locker and then kicked his ribs in? Sure he got expelled, but when he came back nobody picked on him. That is who the US should be.

      • This is why, in the days following September 11, 2001, when lackwits were wringing their hands wondering “why do they not love us?” my responding growl was “screw that — why do they not fear us?”

        I think it would be nice if they loved us. I also think it would be nice if birds didn’t poop on my car.

        • It is better to be loved than feared, but fear is a lot easier and more certain than love.

          • I used to have this signature for my email: “It’s nice to be loved, but it’s even better to be feared than to be treated with contempt.” We used to be feared. Now we’re treated with contempt. It wasn’t just Barry, but he’s opened the floodgates.

      • I was best friends with someone like that. 6 feet tall and broad-shouldered at age 14 (he eventually reached 6’2″ and well over 300 lbs), well-muscled, and very very quiet and shy in his early teens. Every now and then someone would unaccountably assume that he was a wimp. Did I mention that he had a berserker streak, which only really got activated if someone came over and hit him?


  13. What should worry the world is what happens when the Odd Boy realizes that A) the nasty kids aren’t ever going to like him B) He has, comparatively speaking, a tenth dan black belt in Badass Mofo and C) If you can’t be loved, being feared is an acceptable substitute.

    The terrorists cannot destroy our country, but they CAN get us seriously angry. And when that happens, Hell is going to go for a walk with the sleeves rolled up. We won’t make a good Imperial Nation, at least not at first. But will WILL make an effective one, and the nitwits who have spent the last few decades trying to piss us off are going to be catastrophically sorry.

  14. How many nations are there where someone born elsewhere can become a xxx (Swiss, German, Frenchman, Scot, Japanese, Kenyan, Mongolian, etc. etc. etc)?

    That one, born elsewhere can become an American (or be born an American who just takes a while to realize it and get here 😉 ) alone is enough to make America “odd.”

    • Canada, Australia … ? I don’t know enough about Central & South America to say with certitude whether any of those nations are so broad-minded.

      I would say Israel, but that is a special case, based on peculiar circumstances.

      • I don’t know enough about Canada, but Australia certainly. With a pretty strong “you’re welcome here if you stick to our laws and leave the stinky baggage wherever you came from” – something the PC have been trying to break down for years (and have mostly failed).

        Some 15 years back there were pieces in the Australian papers by rabbis lamenting that they were losing the younger generation – because Australians were so tolerant there was nothing to stop the youngsters identifying with the wider culture. (Tolerant isn’t the right word – the Aussie culture I grew up in didn’t care what color your skin was or what religion you followed. The sole measurement was “a good mate”)

        • *chuckle* Sounds like some hidden areas of the South, were we have more in common with good black folks and good brown folks and… so on, than we do damn yanks*. *grin*

          *: note that upstate New Yorkers often count as good folks. In fact, good folks can be found most everywhere- just some places they live in a perpetual state of pissedoffedness because they are surrounded by @rseholes. For definitions of “damn yanks” see @rseholes.

          • Indeed: damnyankness is akin to damnmethodistness (my great grandmother’s term for the denomination, when the local church wouldn’t allow her and my great grandfather to marry in the church), is alike unto “expert” or “G Man.” Someone from out of town, who insists on forcing their opinions on everyone. Ad nauseum.

          • Pretty much, yes. I’ve found lots of “good folks” in the US, but I’ve mostly not had much to do with inner city either.

    • You can become a Swiss citizen if you work very hard at it and pay a considerable set of fees, but I wager you’re never really Swiss. Except in Italian Switzerland, which is a whole ‘nother country, IMHO.

      • Per a friend, who is Swiss as an American would understand it (born and educated there) he would never be “Swiss” enough to be elected because his parents originated from Austria. He thought I would be better accepted because I have a (distant) Swiss ancestor! (Good chocolate, the Swiss, but sometimes they can be nuttier than a squirrel factory.)

  15. The US has a mental disorder — but it sure-as-shit *isn’t* autism.

    Myself: I think it’s PTSD.

    The folks who emigrated here did so because they, or their parents, had witnessed horrors which would make Quentin Tarantino puke in his soup. They went someplace Very Far Away so they could steer clear of anything which might even remotely remind them of that horror-show. Then they girded themselves ’round with wards and safeguards, so if something *did* set them off, the damage they could inflict would be minimal.

    And, like the children they are, the rest of the world insisted on poking and prodding the US, because they think watching other kids have psychotic breaks is Fucking Hysterical — and then have the nerve to act surprised when the kid finally does flip his shit, and engages in some wall-to-wall counseling with the source of the problem.

    I think another one of those breaks is forthcoming.

    Do *NOT* ask me how I know all this.

    • I think one of those breaks is coming too. You know those presentiments neither of us believes in? “I stand before the gates of hell and death is at my side” is the best “feeling” I can put into words and it’s growing.

  16. Newly released video of Obama and Putin’s negotiation of the deal to relieve Syria of chemical weapons.

    Joe Biden eagerly endorsed the deal.

  17. So what you’re telling us is the USA is Sheldon Cooper, and we don’t understand why the rest of the world won’t accept the consequences of their violations of the roommate agreement? I think I get it now. Then again, I’m an odd.

  18. Hey! I resemble that remark! Not only am I an Odd, but am pretty sure I have a touch of the “A” as well (extra-flexy joints, tendency to rock and flap, strange gut issues, etc,).

    All that aside, I send my most earnest congratulations to you folks for tossing those two bozos out of the Legislature, there.

    As Vox wrote, “Molon Labe, motherf*#&@ers!”

    I suggested in a comment at Vox’s place that we all join in singing Old Hundred (AKA The Doxology) over this.

  19. I did a blog on another thing that makes America “weird” compared to the rest of the world:

    One of the thing I like best about the US is that, more than just about anyplace else in the world, it’s the land of second/third/fourth/morth chances. The ability to say “I screwed, up, but I can still make things better” and have that mean something is quintessentially American.

    It makes sense, in a way. So many people originally came to America because they were looking for a second chance. For one reason or another things weren’t working for them “back home” so they came here for a new start in a new home. This whole “try again” attitude permeates American culture. It did, anyway. Lately it seems to be falling by the wayside.

    My own life has been driven by a series of bad choices made on my part and new chances to make better choices.


    • Let me play angel’s advocate:

      Your bad choices are bad in hindsight.

      • Trust me. It is fully possible to make bad choices, full of understanding with plenty of forethought and wise counsel. It is possible to destroy your own planned future, with full forward planning and understanding that the decision will cause you nothing but grief. Sometimes you do it out of principal, sometimes spite, and sometimes by lack of imagination and panic.
        On the other hand, it can give you lots of practice in standing back up and dusting yourself off and starting again.

        • Sloth. You left out sloth. Which, as everyone who’s ever put off a term paper knows, is probably the biggest.

      • Your good choices are good in hindsight, too. And the mixed blessings of life make even more choices only good or bad in hindsight depending on the values and attitude you have about the aftermath long after you’ve moved on.

        However, the attitude of being able to get up, move on, dust yourself off and trying again – that grit, that determination, enshrined in our cowboy mythology and our sayings like “get back on the horse” – that is a part of the character and moral fiber of this land. The willingness to tackle the unknown, to explore, and to define ourselves by what we grow to be instead of what we’re expected to fit into – that’s part of this very strange and wonderful country.

        • However, the attitude of being able to get up, move on, dust yourself off and trying again – that grit, that determination, enshrined in our cowboy mythology and our sayings like “get back on the horse” – that is a part of the character and moral fiber of this land.

          Part and parcel of that attitude is that the US allows, indeed, encourages, folk to try again if things don’t go well. Look back up at what I had to say. I “missed” college right after high school. I was able to go back to school later and then turn that college into a completely new career.

          In Japan (to use one example I happen to know about) your future is set at the end of high school (even sooner actually, because high schools are competitive entry, but at least in principle one can recover from a lack there) when one takes the college entrance exams. You pass the test for a “good” school (and each school has their own tests, it’s not a “take this test and shop your scores at different schools” but individual tests “per school”) and you get into the good school, which means getting into a good job, which means having a good career which takes you down the road to a good retirement. Fail, and you might try again next year or the year after (so long as your parents are willing to keep supporting you and sending you to the tests) but once you finish or abandon that post-high-school “push” it’s over. The idea of a 30 year old man going back to school, getting a new degree, and starting over in a new career? That just can’t happen here. So there’s not a lot of point in being willing to get up, start over, and move on when your whole society says “you can’t do that.”

          In America, you can.

          • It’s my impression that in many European countries, also, a university graduate’s future is set by the school they attended. Yes, this attitude seems to be taking root in the USA as well.

            And we compound the problem with practices like affirmative action and alumni preferences.

            At the same time, we are developing workarounds with things like online education, skills testing, certifications like MCSE, etc.

            • Largely true — if you want to be president it seems as if graduating from Harvard and/or Yale is necessary if not sufficient. But such college dropouts as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates seem to have done okay. And if a Florida Gator like Bill Whittle can find success …

              • I admire people who successfully bushwhack through life without highfalutin credentials, but my remark was explicitly restricted to university graduates..

  20. Off topic today, but apparent breaking news:

    An attack in progress against the U.S. consulate in Herat Afghanistan.

  21. For instance, how is it proper in an argument over the hugos to call someone a “conspiracy nut?” Particularly when the argument is “people don’t care as much about the hugos as they used to?” Or to complain the other side is “armed to the teeth” – if we were, buckos, and you knew we were, you’d talk more respectfully, I reckon.

    Well… if facts and reason are a weapon in an argument, then the other side being armed to the teeth is a reason to make accusations like that— that would elevate one’s own lack to a virtue, since Everyone Knows that conspiracy nuts overthink stuff.

  22. Take slavery (please? I don’t want it.) EVERY COUNTRY HAS HAD SLAVES. (And now I see some people go “whoa, every country? But… Africa!” Africa had slaves too. Many countries still do. Also, there’s nothing particularly African about slaves. Slaves used to come in all colors and types.)

    Last week. Doing historical counter-factuals.

    Someone said, “what if slavery had never been brought to North America?”

    Fortunately, took it well when I asked “I’m guessing you mean racially identifiable, since a lot of the tribes did it….” and went from there to theorize about higher rates of indentured servitude.

    • I think Glen Beck turned up that the first indentured servant in the Americas was a white man, and the man he was indentured TO was black.

      • I think I first heard about this something like 25 years ago, in an NPR book interview of all places. The Black “employer” had brought suit to revoke termination of an indentured White man’s contract on the grounds that the indentured party had failed to provide service commensurate with the terms of his contract and cost of his support. The Court — obviously — found in favor of plaintiff and that’s how slaver came to the American colonies.

        I’ve no idea who the author was, nor the title of his book, and am confident that searching for it (or confirmation of the claim) would require vastly more effort than I wish to invest in such a trivial, if amusing, matter. It ain’t as if I trust Wikipedia for the fact-checkery there.

  23. Appropriate band music is what we need now. I have just loaded my Alford disc. Wait, let me cue up “The Standard of Saint George.” Ah, yes, such soothing music, but it inspires one to go out and slay dragons.

    • Yes, George is the patron saint of England, and as far as I know, my ancestors are 100% English. My people established a free republic in America, and twice won World Wars against lesser, though nastier peoples. The Krauts and the Nips never really had a chance against us. Oh, we had some help from those barefoot bogtrotters over on the smaller island.

      • As kipling pointed out, my people are stone killers, when riled up. At some times, the polite Anglo has let his inner Saxon out. Yes, a Sax is an Axe. (scramasax)

      • Isn’t George also the patron saint of Georgia?

      • I hate to disillusion you but more Germans than English immigrated to US.

        • Don’t bother justthisguy with reality. He LOVES his illusions, including the illusion that he’s pure anglo saxon (sigh.)

          • He’s as British as George I …

            … and as rational as George III.

            • Much more British than any of the Hanover Gang, including the current occupant of the throne. Why is it so hard for some of you people to admit that there are still a few of us left? Hey, we had to hire a foreign monarch, like the Swedes did. It kept us from fighting among ourselves. Of course a case could be made that all of our monarchs have been foreign since 1066.

              • Y’all should read Jerry Pournelle bragging about his Norman ancestry some time. His people came over with Bill the Bastard, and he likes to remind people about it, and how his people rode through the Temple in Jerusalem with human blood up to the bellies of their horses. He can be quite annoying about it, at times.

                • Whatever you think about the Stuarts, I do wish at least one of Queen Anne’s kids had lived to grow up. Or even one of King Billy’s, before her. He an Mary didn’t have any, IIRC. Maybe because the rumors were true that he was partial to boys.

          • Yes, Ma’am, if I had a coupla hundred dollars for the gene scan, you betcha I’d betcha that I’m mostly, if not entirely, Anglo-Saxon. (There might be some Irishmen in the woodpile, back when.)

            • I’ve had the gene scan (Christmas present), and there’s so much -ahem- cross-pollination that they can’t be more specific than “Northern European.”

              • Oh yeah. I mean, people slept around. We were fairly sure Amerindian in Dan’s ancestry was a joke or you know Fauxahontas, until older kid ran into medical issue that guarantees he has enough Amerindian to… well, probably to join a tribe if he were so inclined. Which means it’s not just the little bit WAY back. We were joking it couldn’t be my side, then I remembered how many men in my family were traveling men, and how everyone likes souvenirs. Eh.

                • Oh, yeah. But judging from my estimate of the family members I know, we were a bunch of stick-in-the-muds and stayed close to home. I would be happy to know my actual genetic ancestry, if one of you generous people out there would care to subsidize the test. I don’t think I have any Gypsies or Armenians in the woodpile, because I seem to be rather hopelessly guileless. I do seem to have the beef-headed Englishman’s impatience with abstract arguments.

          • More, he says it as if it is something to be proud of, as if Anglo-Saxon Britain was anything more than a Kwikee Mart for the Danes.

          • An interesting question – can any born-American claim to be pure Anglo Saxon, even if they are only second-generation?

            I call to mind the incident during the independance of India, wherein the British government refused to issue passports or accept as “British” thousands of people who had been born of purely UK parentage stationed overseas in India, second or third generation or more of same, and mixed-blood members of the Anglo-Indian community who had been raised with English as a primary language and their first loyalty to Britain, not India. (Anglo-Indian being a term that covered those of mixed blood and those merely raised in India, like Kipling.)

            There was such a political stink about this that the government buckled, and the communities that identified as “British” emigrated en masse after Indian Independence to the UK, Australia, and Canada, and some to the USA.

            The British government’s argument was that, though of undeniably British blood, they had been raised elsewhere, of foreign climes and cultures, and thus were not truly British. So, too, after a time here, would not the Anglo-Saxon in DNA among us be no longer Anglo-Saxon, but American? If you have not the culture, only the genes, can you claim to belong to the land your ancestors left beind?

            • If the Anglo-Saxon in DNA doesn’t have everything, from Moor to Norman, I’ll eat my hat. Twice. With salt in it.

              • As I wrote, if I had any money, I’d get me a DNA genetic scan. Sarah does not need to do that. We already know that she is an outlier in just about every possible way. (I do thank her for being such. Really.) Hell, her native country is a geographic outlier on the end of the Iberian Peninsula.

                • Personally, as an English-Welsh-Scotch-Irish-French(including some Quebecois)-German-Swiss-Austrian-Probably Hungarian-Dutch-Swedish-American, I always look to my fellow English-Welsh-Scotch-Irish-French-German-Swiss-Austrian-Hungarian-Dutch-Swedish-Americans. Though I fear their importance in the historical record seems to have been somewhat suppressed.

            • The British government’s argument was that, though of undeniably British blood, they had been raised elsewhere, of foreign climes and cultures, and thus were not truly British.

              As I understand it, if you make your home someplace else and you’re not acting as a representative of your country (ambassador or soldier) the tradition is that your kids are of the country you’re living in, not your own birth country.

              Incidentally, this is one of the arguments against Obama being a citizen, since his father might be considered a representative of his country while his wife was too young to meet requirements for her own, and why arguments about McCain being “not really” a citizen (ignoring the born on base part) were so lame.

              • But in reality, American ideas of citizenship by birth in the country is an innovation. One that a surprising number of nations still don’t embrace.

              • I thought McLame’s problem was lack of human ancestry.

              • Ummm… not necessarily. I was born in Canada of U.S. parents. When I started having problems (about 16) with administrative problems, I was able to prove citizenship with my birth certificate, the parents marriage license, and their birth certificates. I keep a US passport so I don’t have those pesky problems although they do keep popping up (so to speak). So I am a US citizen ( Canada considers me a dual citizen even though I have denounced my Canadian citizenship–three times). I might even be considered natural born. 😉 If one of my parents had been Canadian, then I would be in a very different category according to the US Navy when I joined.

                • *laughs* Not talking US law, but the old common law stuff– I think ours was something like “at least one citizen parent who spent at least five years after becoming an adult in the US” and Obama’s mother wasn’t “qualified” because she was either 17 or 18 when she gave birth.

                  Honestly, I wish the founders had written down more about their assumptions- why didn’t those fish TELL us about the water!!!!!?!??!

                • Renounced. (LOL.) And yeah, I’ve renounced my Portuguese citizenship but Portugal refuses to admit it.

                  • Heh. Does that mean they reserve the right to hit you for taxes if you become a world-famous and stinking rich author?

                  • Yep– and government agencies don’t talk to each other. Every time I find another one that won’t serve me because I am Canadian, I have to show my passport, then sign another renouncement. *sigh. Doesn’t seem to change Canada’s mind though. 😉

        • Yes, I’m quite aware of that. As I wrote further down, my people are now a minority in the country we founded.

  24. “There have only been two nations in history formed by law and the other one had blood too.” – Ok, I’m being really dim Sarah but which other one are you referring to…?

    • Ancient Israel. Arguably modern Israel, too, but that’s more complicated.

      • Modern Israel is Jewish in the sense on nationality, not religion (and yes, that sense if frying around the edges these days). It isn’t really based on shared laws or shared ideals, but shared enemies.

        • You’ve got plenty of enemies to share, I give you that. Not that the US needs any more, but for some reason they seem to have trouble distinguishing and hatred sufficient for their needs.

          N.B. — no, I am not one of those idiots who think Israel the source of conflict in the Middle East. Israel is merely the focal point through which a millennia and a half of enmity pours.

    • Decade ago one of my college humanities courses required me to read Hegel’s Philosophy of History. One thing only has stuck with me:

      Iirc Hegel wrote that when a country gets around to constructing a world-historical narrative featuring itself, that very exercise is an indication that the nation has reached its apogee.

      I don’t know enough history to assess the claim, but it feels to me like there’s some truth to it.

      • Bah. If Hegel said it it’s backwards and up its own *ss. Seriously. I studied the poseur in three courses. Bah. And the US ALWAYS had “mythology” about itself. So according to him, we’ve been at our apogee for 200 plus years. Good. Let’s keep it up, boys and girls.

        • The kinds of mythology in Bush’s Second Inaugural Address and, worse, in Obama’s transnational multiculturalism are hubristic.

          Hubris attracts Nemesis.

          • There’s a lot of nemesis in a country. England has been “ruined” every century, pretty much.

            • I am groping to formulate the proposition that (one way for) great nations to fail is when the ruling class chooses and enforces the status quo over the disruptions of change. Grandiose mythologizing being a symptom of that attitude.

              • Um… not in this country? The myths are usually popular. Actually our upper class thinks we’re no big thing.

                • I’m talking about the myths the ruling class concocts to maintain its power.

                  The public remains patriotic but, by a substantial majority, believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. In a sense, the status quo persists precisely because the ruling class is not trusted.

                • For those with a superficial understanding of History and ready gullibility to nonsense spewed by “intellectuals” Hegel’s formulation is convincing.

                  Others of us understand that the Egyptians declared their pharaohs gods and lasted a scant 2500 years afterward. The Roman Empire agreed on the myth that Caesar was a god (and their founders demigods raised by wolves) and some 1400 years later was officially declared dead, fallen to the Ottomans. The Britons mythologized “Arthurus, rex quondam rexque futurus” and their empire barely lasted another 400 years.

                  Here in the United States we developed myths about Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill and Alfred Bulltop Stormalong and shortly thereafter the War of Southern Secession brought this nation down.

                  • Your comment implies that your knowledge of history goes beyond the superficial understanding which you decry. Great!

                    In view of the fact that Hegel was aware of Egypt, Rome, and England, please explain where specifically he went wrong in the statement I attributed to him. His book on history is a long one and my reading assignment was in a limited part of it. My memory of the passage is decades old, indistinct, and—who knows?—perhaps flawed. Please refresh it.

                    • Hegel was full of crap and counted on gullible readers?

                      Anthropology roots the nation in the clan, descended from a single mythical ancestor (often a demigod.) Thus all nations are founded on myth.

                      By plying a magician’s sleight of hand with the definition of myth Hegel directed attention to cherry-picked examples supporting his thesis while obscuring counter examples via clever handwavium.

      • My recollection was apparently inaccurate. The passage that stuck imperfectly in my memory was not from Philosophy of History, but from Philosophy of Right:

        When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known. The owl of Minerva takes flight only when the shades of night are gathering.

        Interpretation here:

        Hegel argues that it is only possible to understand an epoch, or even your own life, as it comes to an end (with hindsight). It’s not possible to understand fully what is going on around you, clarity only comes with time.

        Nicely said, though just because hindsight makes it possible to understand a previous epoch does not mean that understanding will be achieved, or widely accepted even if achieved.

  25. OK, I have to ask:

    There have only been two nations in history formed by law and the other one had blood too.

    Which other one did you have in mind, and what are the qualifications for being ‘formed by law’?

    • I’m pretty sure it is the Israelites, and the law is the Torah.

      • I’d be surprised by that, since the Hebrews were already defined by ethnicity before they received the Mosaic Code.

        • We don’t talk about it much, but they weren’t all Jacob’s descendants. See Exodus 12:38.

          • That doesn’t disqualify them from being defined by ethnicity. Are all the English descended from a single, identifiable ancestor? All the Great Russians? All the Han Chinese?

            • No, but compared to the tribal identities around there then, it was odd.

              • Actually, we don’t know much about the origins of any of the Bronze Age tribes. Probably we know more about the Hebrews than any of the others. But the account in the Pentateuch is at odds with the just-so stories that anthropologists have made up to explain what they imagine to be the usual process; so they assume that it is the Pentateuch that is wrong. (They do the same with the Romans, who have a very specific and plausible origin story that just happens not to accord with the just-so stories.)

                There are strong points of resemblance between the Hebrew and Roman origin stories, and many of the same points can be found in other traditions, particularly Germanic ones. It appears to me that the odd man out is the anthropological just-so explanation, and that the Hebrews were probably much more nearly typical than moderns tend to think.

                • The Israelites probably coalesced around escapees from slavery in Egypt. But we know they were culturally very similar to the other people of the region. Biblical Hebrew is almost identical to the language of the Phoenicians and Moabites (probably the Amonites and Edomites too, but we don’t have enough surviving texts to compare). The tribe that lived closest to the Philistine, the Danites, has some Philistine characteristics (Samson acts like a Homeric hero, not an Israelite judge).

                  It seems likely that the Israelites, similar to the Romans, did a lot of recruitment.

          • And there are indications early on Judaism we a proselytizing religion. not for very long, mind, but it wasn’t “It never happened.”

            • One of the complaints against early followers of Jesus is that they blended in with the believing Gentiles who attended worship in the synagogues, and then pushed their version of Judaism. Apparently there were a good number of Gentiles who liked Judaism, but didn’t want to go the whole way to convert (food laws, that little circumcision thing, you know). Aaaannd then that whole 70 AD mess and the Romans going after all Jews, and the Jesus followers got a leg up, so to speak (those who survived, that is). Or so the latest research and archaeology say.

            • “Not very long” was probably from the beginning until the 1st Judeo-Roman war in the 60s AD. Only a bit over a thousand years 😉

              Gmar Chatima Tova, BTW.

        • That’s why I said they had blood, too.

          • Ah! I thought you meant they had bloodshed as well as law, and were making some comparison to the American Revolution and the Civil War. All becomes clearer now.

            That said, how do you classify a country like Canada? There is no such thing as a Canadian ethnicity, even to this day, and the so-called nation was created by legislative fiat.

            • yes, but not by signing on to a “law” that is the life blood of the nation. It’s different to MAKE ourselves a nation by embracing the constitution. I think Canada has had what? Five constitutions. I’m not willing to let THE Canadian patriot through so he can lecture us, because he’s a nut bar anyway, but maybe Christopher Chupik can weigh in? (Too lazy to look it up.)

              • Actually, Canada has had two constitutions (the same number as the U.S.): the British North America Act, which established the confederation, and the current constitution, which was passed in 1982.

                In fact both constitutions specify exactly the same form of government and public institutions; indeed, the 1982 constitution even kept the unelected Senate from the BNA Act, and that was only put in because the framers of the BNA Act were snobs who distrusted democracy and wanted to imitate the House of Lords. The real purpose of the 1982 constitution was not to change the form of government, but to make it possible to amend the constitution without going hat in hand to Westminster. (Since the BNA Act was an act of the British Parliament, it required an act of the British Parliament to amend it.)

                It is certainly true that we didn’t go through the process you went through: there was no war of independence in Canada, and no Constitutional Convention as such. The BNA Act was largely a thing imposed from without. We did not make ourselves a nation by embracing the constitution; rather, the constitution made us a nation whether we would or no, and millions of Canadians are still opposed to the idea. But that does not alter the fundamental fact, which is that Canada was indeed formed by law and not by blood.

                Perhaps what this shows is that the content matters more than the category. The U.S.A. is weird, as you put it, not because it was formed by law, but because that law is so very different from the laws of any other country (including those countries that were also formed by law). The U.S. Constitution is a work of genius; the Canadian constitution (like those of Australia, New Zealand, and the other severed members of the British Empire) is the work of muddling politicians and plodding bureaucrats.

  26. I appreciate Kim and Sarah having come over here and become Voluntary Americans. This reminds me of the time I was attending Friends (Quaker) meetings. They made a distinction between birthright Friends and convinced Friends.

    With one exception, an English great-grandmother who arrived here in a (spit!) steamship in the 19th Century, I am entirely descended from British Protestants who were here before the Revolution. I am a founding-stock American. We are now a minority in the country we founded. I have no problem with letting people like Kim and Sarah in, K and S being arguably better people than I am, but some of these other millions, who just came to rip off some goodies, well…

  27. Thank you. I’ve been reading you for a while just lurking, but thank you for finding a metaphor to explain the US. I love this country, while I am fully aware of all of it warts and flaws as well. I may disagree strenuously with our current government way deep down I think I still believe/hope that one day we will be a member in good standing in the United Federation of Planets. Strange hope maybe, but then again, I always was the odd kid.

  28. Starting anew because that last was up against the right wall:

    If we are in for another Ice Age, or even a “little Ice Age” like the 1600-1850 period was ‘blessed’ with, all sorts of things might come to a head. Right now, the US alone could feed 2/3 of the world at modest levels. We export more food than we import or consume, and most of what we import is stuff that won’t grow here (bananas, some citrus, lots of fish, etc.).

    The question arises of whether any other countries could pay to import food. The US is a remarkably generous nation which might be willing to give away our surpluses, but if worldwide budgets get squeezed by economic collapse attendant to an Ice Age … Of course, that Keystone Pipeline looks less of a good deal.

    Such a novel as you propose need not be dystopian. Struggle to preserve against civilizational collapse strikes me as inherently Human Wave, like Horatio at the bridge or Roland furiously holding the pass at Roncevaux.

    • And keep in mind that with continental glaciers locking up so much water, sea-levels drop considerably, making a lot more warm land available for those willing to do the work and (and put up with the dead-fish smell for a few years.) The last time glaciers stalked the land, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula were wetter, so they wouldn’t need North American food assistance (at least, not because of bad climate. Culture and politics are a whole ‘nother matter.)

      Um, is anyone interested in this sub-thread becoming something a little more detailed, with book info for the truly curious?

  29. Since no one else has made the reference yet, I must say:
    “Increase your liberty with this one weird trick country!”

  30. I am now going to cue up “Hail to the Spirit of Liberty” by John Philip Sousa, PBUH. Curiously, he seems to have a Portagee surname…

  31. A little late to the discussion. I point out to Scouts when working on the 3 citizenship merit badges that the U.S. is the only nation in the world witiout an official censor or censorship agencym, and no way to create one because of the Constitution. That in itself makes us odd.

    Our officials and military swear oaths not to a leader or party, but to the Constitution. In Britain, when the Queen dies, all of Britain’s officers will have to swear an oath of allegience to their new king.

    The secret service is not a palace guard. Their loyalty is not to the president, but to the presidency. They protect whoever the president is, regardless of whther they like him or not. After an election, they shift. If they fail in their duties, they shift.

    Heard a story once of a French official asking a US diplomat why we didn’t just sign the Kyoto treaty like they did. After signing it for the good will, we could ignore it just like they would.(and have) The Frenchman failed to understand that a signed treaty in the US cannot be ignored.