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Grim
Interests: history, philosophy, mythology, military science.
Recent Activity
It is, I should add, exactly the kind of cheap piece of trash that you'd imagine it to be. I gave it to a boy who had recently seen Temple of Doom for the first time.
Toggle Commented 9 hours ago on Dear State Department at BLACKFIVE
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I have one of those! That exact model. The guy at the pawn shop where I got it offered it to me for free if I would buy any other thing in the store.
Toggle Commented 9 hours ago on Dear State Department at BLACKFIVE
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Following today's events in Egypt, where your Secretary of State and his people were put through a metal detector before being allowed to visit the Egyptian President, you should issue uniform swords to all ranking diplomatic personnel. You have diplomatic immunity, after all; and the sword remains a powerful symbol where you are going. Not ceremonial swords, either. Real swords. Albion makes some good ones. Make it clear that you are carrying a weapon, and defy them to stop you. If you need any assistance in effecting this policy, don't hesistate to write. Actually, you probably should anyway. Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at BLACKFIVE
Better, WP. The fall of the religiously mixed town of Tal Afar to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) raised the specter of deepening sectarian violence. It came as the U.S. government announced that it was drawing down staff at its embassy in Baghdad. We remember Tal Afar for its gratitude to the Brave Rifles. "In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful "To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life. "To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months. "To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope.... Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life. "Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families." -NAJIM ABDULLAH ABID AL-JIBOURI Mayor of Tall 'Afar, Ninewa, Iraq I knew many of the al-Jiborui tribe. Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
A lot of us have actually been to Iraq, so when you report that a town has been taken by one side or the other, tell us which town! A Shiite militia seized control of an Iraqi town Saturday, blunting the advance toward Baghdad of radical Sunni fighters in a sign that the widespread mobilization of paramilitary forces may be starting to have an impact. Well, perhaps it is 'blunting the advance,' but I can't say for sure since no names of any towns appear in the first twelve paragraphs. By the time we get to Samarra -- which is apparently not the town, as fighting is reported as ongoing there -- the article has apparently lost the thread of which town the militia seized. Did you forget to ask? Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
The first half of this recruiting commercial may be a candidate for the sidebar. Female readers especially may want to skip the second half of the recruitment pitch. H/t: Terminal Lance. Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
Good to see Outlaw Jimbo back, eh? Back in 2005, I wrote a piece on practical advice for those who want to carry arms openly -- a practice that, properly done, is one I think very worthy. But there are some best practices. 1) When wearing arms, go out of your way to be polite and courteous.... 2) Start off with less intimidating weapons. Once your neighbors and the people you meet daily have adjusted to the tactical folding knife on your belt, carry a sheath knife. Once they've seen you with that a few times, carry an older revolver in a leather holster. Yes, this is irrational -- there's no reason to fear a semiautomatic more than a revolver. But the fear you're trying to ease is irrational. You'll achieve the end faster and more smoothly if you are sensitive to that. It won't be long before people are used to seeing you wearing your pistol or knife, and it won't bother them at all because they know you and have always found you to be upstanding. 3) You may find it helpful to carry to one side of the small of your back. In this way, you will frequently meet and begin talking to people before they notice the weapon. At that point, they will already have had the positive experience of dealing with a courteous person -- almost all of the intimidation that they may feel will be gone. 4) Be especially kind to the elderly, the disabled, animals and children. This is the right thing to do in any case. If chivalry and courtesy are to be defended, they must be lived. 5) Step your openly carried weapon down a level (or two) if you are going somewhere where there will be few other men, and lots of young mothers with their children. In this circumstance, you must do whatever you can to be a reassuring rather than an intimidating presence. As the law allows, you may still of course carry whatever you like concealed. Awareness of the local culture is also important. In the university town of Athens, Georgia, a lawfully and openly carried knife -- I can well attest -- garners no objections, but a pistol would scare people. Since the point of the exercise is to persuade by gentle pressure in the right direction, you should keep that in mind. On the other hand, in the nearby town of Commerce, Georgia, it's not at all unusual to see guys walking down the street with a pistol on their belt. (You may wonder how crime rates in those cities compare -- this page contains a helpful chart.) Respect the people you're trying to persuade, and give some thought to what the experience is like for them. You want them to trust you to be armed around them, after all. Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
Reforming an institution the size of the VA is extremely difficult. It may not, in fact, be possible to reform it. If it is, though, it is a monumental challenge. MikeD says it's like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. Here's his first three bites: Every hospital administrator of a VA hospital that has hidden "bad numbers" is to be immediately fired. Their position is to be given to the next in line at that same hospital. They are to be given explicit warning that bad numbers may be concerning, but that hiding them are grounds for immediate termination. So too for the VA hospitals where patients were sickened by unsanitary instruments. That strikes me as an excellent first step. For a second step, require all VA hospitals to undergo an investigation into their backlogs by anoutside third party agency. The days of the fox guarding the hen house must end. And for a third step (or perhaps step zero?) Shinseki must go. Period. Once again, five years is more than sufficient time to demonstrate leadership and take action to turn things around. He has done nothing but demonstrate that he is incapable (or unwilling) to do so. He must go. The fact that he has not even offered his resignation is indicative to me of his attitude towards command. He does not accept an OUNCE of responsibility for the malfeasance that has occurred under his watch. Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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Spent a couple of days last week with Uncle Jimbo and his girl, who are good people. Apparently Special Forces training teaches you how to grill an awesome steak. Any time I get together with Jimbo or Wolf, it looks and sounds a lot like one of "The Damn Few" Ranger Up videos. Here are two of the best ones they've put together, to help your imaginations along. Thanks for having me. It was a blast. Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
Obviously acceptance is not universal at this time, or we wouldn't have been debating the issue for five years (and really somewhat longer). Nevertheless, at one time it was the commonly accepted belief -- before the latter half of the Cold War, when proxy fighters became important enough to both sides that there was some effort to legitimate them. International organizations like the Red Cross are often the front for such efforts. The alternative belief, that this is just a law enforcement matter, has never been universally accepted as was the old belief (that these are matters of the laws of war). The IRA is a kind of special case, since the very thing at issue was whether or not Ireland was properly under the legal jurisdiction of the UK. Of course the UK's position was that these were criminals defying lawful authority; the US adopted a similar position toward the Native Americans as soon as it was able to do so. Still, I think that Chief Joseph (say) was plausibly not a subject of American law by right.
Toggle Commented Apr 7, 2014 on Final Decision on the KSM Trial at BLACKFIVE
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I am not an expert at estimating crowd size, as I almost never attend rallies or demonstrations or even concerts. Still, it was pretty crowded in the square while I was there. It was a damned miserable day, though, I can remember that very clearly. The rain was cold and the wind was bitter. As for the efficiency of the courts, as you can judge from my remarks to Mr. Sparkle (above), it strikes me as wholly beside the point. The issue is competence. This isn't a matter for the Federal Courts; it's out of order to use them.
Toggle Commented Apr 3, 2014 on Final Decision on the KSM Trial at BLACKFIVE
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You're free to disagree, of course, and there may be some difference in the British and American systems that is informing our assumptions about what right looks like. To me, the idea that the Federal Courts are the right place for this looks like a kind of category error. It would be like a private in the USMC, accused of war crimes and violations of the UCMJ, demanding that his original trial be conducted in civilian court rather than by a court martial; or a man accused of violating state laws against murder in Georgia demanding to be tried only in Federal Court. It's not really germane whether the Federal Court does, or does not, offer a greater level of protection for the rights of the accused. It's a question of which court is really competent to consider the offense. I don't see any reason to believe that a US Federal Court has any right to try KSM, a non-US citizen, for things he did in a foreign country (Afghanistan and/or Pakistan). There's some precedent for doing it, because America is strong enough to do what it likes, but that doesn't mean it's right to do it. This kind of violation of the Geneva Conventions, on the other hand, is rightly considered by a military tribunal on the terms of the Conventions themselves. It's just the right place to do this work. Separately, I didn't mean by my remarks about torture to endorse the practice; rather, to condemn it. On the question of whether justice can be 'seen to be done,' I can't imagine that our probable enemies are going to be any more impressed with a Federal Court than a military court (and indeed, if I'm right, they ought to be even less impressed by the arrogation of jurisdiction by the US Federal Courts to apply American Federal Law to matters in their own countries). It would be somewhat like the way Saddam reacted by being tried, not by a US court, but by an Iraqi court: he denied that the court, and the government it represented, had any lawful standing to try him at all. (Immanuel Kant would have agreed with him, insofar as he was the sovereign of Iraq; but not insofar as he was its ruler, a distinction that you British have but that we Americans, like the Iraqis, lack. I'm reading that from Kant's Metaphysics of Morals, 6:317).
Toggle Commented Apr 3, 2014 on Final Decision on the KSM Trial at BLACKFIVE
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My reasons don't really have to do with the cost or security implications: those are good reasons not to have the trial in downtown NYC, but not viable as reasons to have it done by tribunal instead of Federal court. A military tribunal is the course of action prescribed by the Geneva Conventions, in cases where it is unclear whether or not someone is an unlawful combatant. The intention of that aspect of the Conventions was to protect civilian life, by drawing a clear line between combatant and noncombatant. The punishment for failing to adhere to that can be as high as death, and we shouldn't make use of worse punishments than death (although KSM has apparently been subjected to such tortures as we permit ourselves), so there is really no need for a criminal trial at all. A status hearing is sufficient to satisfy our responsibilities. That seems to me to capture what is really at issue in the case of groups like al Qaeda, for which (like brigands or pirates) the punishment is due simply for membership. That's the norm I want to enforce, a norm that no civilian court is even competent to consider. This is a matter for military tribunals by right. Five years ago when we were talking about this, of course, we hadn't gone as far as killing American citizens, by drone strike, without any due process beyond the consideration of some secret group of Presidential advisers. A military tribunal, by men with names and ranks and responsibility for their decisions, has always been the just and proper way to proceed. It is what our ancestors passed to us after the Second World War, for reasons that seemed wise to them having passed through that fire, and which continue to seem wise to me.
Toggle Commented Apr 2, 2014 on Final Decision on the KSM Trial at BLACKFIVE
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The KSM trial will not be held in New York City, in spite of Holder's continuing belief that NYC is the right place for it. B5 has been on this for a while. Almost five years ago, Jimbo and I attended a rally promoting this decision. We're pleased to see the administration come around. Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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This is a good piece.
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Apparently British recruiting came up with the slogan "Tomorrow's Army" and "The Army that's Going Places." This ad is newly relevant. Also, h/t Ranger Up, the following joke. Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
All right. I'm giving you this because I understand the importance of symbols to revolutionary movements, and I support the revolution. I still think it's a strange place to draw the line -- we've been talking about "the Ukraine" since at least the 1700s, and it still leaves them with a country called "Borderlands," which suggests that there is a kind of priority being given to other countries for whom you are the border. But I'll support them, if this is where they've decided they want a symbol.
Toggle Commented Mar 5, 2014 on On Ukraine at BLACKFIVE
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Now, it may be that I spend a lot of time reading things written in earlier centuries, but I'm under the impression that "the Ukraine" just means "the borderlands," i.e., it's a plural of the sort that we often find in nation names that refer to plural areas ("The Netherlands," or "The Philippines"). In any case, it carries an article in French and German sources as well as English ones. Certainly I intend no negative connotations, and support their independence. On the other hand, I reflexively oppose changes in grammar where perfectly good old standards are suddenly found to be offensive (for example, the decision to say that it is horribly sexist to say "If someone is cold, he should put on a coat" rather than "...they should put on a coat").
Toggle Commented Mar 4, 2014 on On Ukraine at BLACKFIVE
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I often support revolutionary movements, especially when they aim at things I also value, or when there are good strategic reasons for doing so, but also because I think revolution is very often a good in itself. As Edward Abbey said, a revolution is good because it transforms a slave into a man (if only, he added, for an hour). If a state is genuinely legitimate, it will not need to worry about a revolution. If it does, its claims to legitimacy are highly suspect. In this case, the revolution looks to a common heritage and set of values in the West, and serves as a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin. So in addition to the general good of revolutionary movements, both the additional goods are also present.
Toggle Commented Mar 4, 2014 on On Ukraine at BLACKFIVE
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An alternative would be to cut a way out through Iran to the sea, so that we didn't have to deal with the AFG logistics (and could solve a certain other problem along the way by razing all suspected nuclear sites). That would serve as a show of national will, while releasing the pressure caused by the hostage situation. The two things together would greatly strengthen our diplomatic position, and perhaps not escalate the conflict to the point of a nuclear exchange. So if you want a war game, you could try running that one.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2014 on On Ukraine at BLACKFIVE
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Putin is a smart guy. While I have only reasons to oppose him, it is hard not to have a certain admiration for the way that he plays the 'game.' Of course, he may be playing what is in the long term a losing hand, given Russian demographics and depleting natural gas resources. Still, he's playing it well.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2014 on On Ukraine at BLACKFIVE
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I assume from your handle that you understand the importance of cargo to troops (at least in the form of chow!). They're hostages, in effect. I think their presence in Afghanistan (and our need to feed them) means that we can't even expect to bring very much diplomatic pressure to bear, because Russia would like nothing better than to find ways to put a drag on our drawdown efforts. Our presence in Afghanistan is only harming us, these days. In any case, it sounds like we agree on the situation -- no options short of WWIII, Putin has the cards and will do essentially what he likes.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2014 on On Ukraine at BLACKFIVE
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The relevant "junk" is 33,000 American servicemembers. If that's irrelevant to you, you're in the wrong place.
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2014 on On Ukraine at BLACKFIVE
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There are very good reasons to wish good things for the revolutionary movement in Ukraine. However, we aren't going to support them openly with any real strength. This is because of logistics. Not the logistical problems identified by Zenpundit -- that is, the ones that pertain to the possibility of fighting in Ukraine. Those problems are real enough, but they aren't the reason. The real reason is identified correctly by Charles Hoskinson of the Washington Examiner: our logistics in Afghanistan. He obviously has good contacts who understand how the pieces are moved. Meanwhile, there's also the problem of Afghanistan — the "real war," as Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry used to describe it. Now they want to disengage, and the Ukraine crisis creates a very uncomfortable problem: The U.S. needs Moscow's cooperation as it withdraws the more than 33,000 troops left in Afghanistan because one of its main withdrawal routes runs through Russia. The Pentagon began developing a supply route from Afghanistan through Central Asia and Russia because of frequent disruptions on the main routes through Pakistan.... Russia has allowed NATO to develop a transit hub at a base in Ulyanovsk to move cargo by air, road and train from Afghanistan through the country to its northern ports. At least a third of the cargo coming out of Afghanistan is expected to move by that route -- if Moscow doesn't shut it down. If we were going to fight a real war against Russia, of course, we could view our forces in Afghanistan as a kind of pre-positioned task force that could turn its guns around and operate for a while as a second front. That possibility is precluded by Russia's status as a first-rate nuclear power, as well as the challenge of resupply: we'd have to figure out not only how to fight on the Western front, but how to link up a reliable supply to this Eastern front. Either of those problems is huge by itself. One reason the Russians are moving so confidently is that they have done the math on this. It's possible we might become embroiled in a war because of some basic error on our part. Wars do sometime start by accident. If we do find ourselves there, we've got to tackle those huge logistical problems first. Clandestine and diplomatic support are the more likely fields of action. Even diplomatic support, however, will be limited by the need to maintain the supply lines to our forces in Afghanistan. It may well be that the Russians will look for any pretext to shut those down, because it would slow our withdrawal. Like the Norse god Tyr, we've stuck our hand in the wolf's mouth, and as long as it remains there it serves as a kind of guarantee of our good behavior. Of course, you know what happened to Tyr. By the way, ancient Viking calendars tell us that Ragnarok started on the same day that the conflict in the Ukraine escalated to a revolution. That's probably just a coincidence. Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2014 at BLACKFIVE
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