On Following Orders and Media Coverage

In the case of the two US Navy boats captured by the Iranian navy in January, Fox News reports that the helmsman of one of the boats refused an order to take evasive action.

While a young lieutenant was the highest-ranking individual on either of the two 50-foot boats, when the order was given to evade the Iranian forces, the helmsman refused the order.

That sounds pretty bad to me. My first reaction was disbelief and thoughts of a firing squad.

However, one of the commenters there, JeffGauch, brought up an interesting point:

... if that Lieutenant wasn't the coxswain of the lead boat in the formation the helmsman was absolutely correct in disregarding the order.  Far more information than what is presented here is necessary to make an intelligent judgment.

Oddly, this fits with my experience as a rower. We often have both a coach, in a separate motorboat, and a coxswain in our own boat talking to us. The coach is in charge, but when it comes to maneuver we oar-pullers should only follow the orders of the coxswain.

New rowers often get confused by this: We can hear the coach giving maneuver orders to the coxswain, and newbs on their first or second time out will immediately start to follow them, which produces splashing, crossed oars and confusion as the more experienced rowers correctly wait for the coxswain's commands.

The Fox report does explain that the crew was inexperienced. Maybe something similar to this happened to them.

These kinds of details seem highly relevant to the story. Maybe the LT broke the rules by failing to give orders in the proper way. Maybe the helmsman broke the rules by disobeying a proper order. Either way, we need better reporters.

The Killer at the Star Club

If we're having a dance party, you can't do better than this.



Trouble may come tomorrow, but we get few enough chances to celebrate cleanly. Here's some music for a weekend of it. If you've got the energy for it, Jerry Lee has the energy for you.

The dog that didn't bark

From a commenter at Maggie's Farm: what if the Brexit vote is ignored?

I think I saw Nigel Farage in there....

...at the UKIP celebration party....





Brexit poll fail

You do have to wonder how all the smart people could keep getting so gobsmacked by popular votes:
Although most polls showed roughly equal numbers voting for each side, very different results emerged when the Independent newspaper asked people how the results would make them feel. Forty-four percent said they would be "delighted" with a Leave vote and only 28 percent would be delighted with Remain. Only 33 percent said they would be "disappointed" with an exit from the EU, versus 44 percent who said they would be disappointed staying in. The referendum resembled many such mimetic phenomena in which a people tries to work up its gumption against its elites. It is possible that two-thirds of the country wanted to leave the EU. They just didn't know whether they had elites' permission to want it.
Passion counts for so much in relative turnout. Talk is cheap.

Dads in Parks

I used to get some very hostile looks from young mothers when I would take my boy to the park, O these long years ago. So I get where this series is coming from.

But here's one with a member of the Range 15 crew.



It's good.

When the states start to go

As my FB feed noted, "Texit" is obvious, but here are the handy nicknames for each of the rest of the states when they decided to hold their referenda.

Tom Cotton for VP?

Joel and I disagree about this, but I still think Trump will last like a week and a half before impeachment proceedings start -- I mean, as he says, he's gotta be himself.

I could be wrong, but if I'm right about that, his VP choice is especially important. Today he's talking Tom Cotton. Opinion of the Hall?

It Does Seem Surprising, These Days

Headline: "Americans Confused By System Of Government In Which Leader Would Resign After Making Terrible Decision."

The Future of the Anglo-American Relationship

It appears to depend on our elections as much as their recent one. Donald Trump:
The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy. A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.
No statement from Hillary Clinton yet, but she is deeply tied to the international banks and globalist EU that will want to punish the UK harshly to avoid others taking the same path. There is no reason to doubt she'd live up to President Obama's promise:
President Barack Obama said Britain would be at “the back of the queue” to negotiate a trade agreement with the U.S. if it votes to leave the European Union, in a direct assault on the arguments of those who say the U.K. could win better deals outside the bloc. “Some of the folks on the other side have been ascribing to the United States certain actions we will take if the U.K. does leave the EU,” Obama said at a joint press conference in London Friday with Prime Minister David Cameron. “For example, that, well, we’ll just cut our own trade deals” with the U.S. “Maybe at some point down the line there might be a U.K.-US trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon.”
Meanwhile, Obama's preferred trade deal with the EU looks to be dead. That's great news in and of itself. We've talked about the anti-democratic and anti-sovereign nature of the T-TIP several times here. Killing it was high on my list of things to do anyway.

The Havamal says not to praise a day until evening, but -- recognizing that it still has time to go bad -- this has sure been a great day so far.

A Free Britain

They have the chance, at least, now. This vote was in their best traditions. May they make the most of it.

UPDATE: "Some who voted for Leave believe it may be possible to win further concessions from Brussels over freedom of movement. Nothing like that will happen immediately.
Europe's leaders will want to send a signal that there will be no further deal for the UK. Their keenest instincts will be to prevent contagion, to deter other countries from holding their own referendums."

UPDATE:
“The dawn is breaking over an independent United Kingdom,” Farage declared. “This will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people. We have fought against the multinationals. We have fought against the big merchant banks. We have fought against the big parties.” Turning to the E.U., the object of his loathing, Farage went on, “I hope this victory brings down this failed project.”

Much of what Farage says can’t be trusted. On this occasion, though, the thrust of his remarks was accurate. In a vote that stunned the entire world, an obdurate British public rejected the advice of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the governor of the Bank of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Labour Party, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, U.S. President Barack Obama, the head of the International Monetary Fund, and a long list of prominent economists and business leaders....

It is even possible that the U.K. could break up before the E.U. does. On Thursday, Scotland, which rejected the option of independence from the U.K., in 2014, voted firmly in favor of staying in the E.U.: the result was “Remain” earning sixty-two per cent of the vote and “Leave” getting thirty-eight per cent. Rather than acceding to the wishes of the English, who voted decisively in favor of “Leave,” it seems perfectly possible that the Scots will now (or soon) demand another independence referendum, and the result of this one could be different. “The people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union,” Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party, said as the Brexit results came in. She went on, “Scotland has spoken—and spoken decisively.”

"The status of Northern Ireland, which likewise voted to stay in Europe, has also been called into question. On Friday morning, Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party, which has representatives in the parliaments in both Belfast and Dublin, called for a referendum on a united Ireland. “English votes have overturned the democratic will of Northern Ireland,” the Party said in a statement. “This was a cross community vote in favour of remaining in the E.U. … This British Government has forfeited any mandate to represent the economic or political interests of people in Northern Ireland.”
If this vote were to bring about the independence of Scotland and the reunification of Ireland as well as the breakup of the European Union and the restoration of a sovereign England, I should think it heaven-sent.

UPDATE: "We are witnessing nothing less than the creeping break-up of Europe. It will go out with a whimper rather than a bang, and it was set in motion a decade ago by Labour politicians who saw the English working class as a superfluous force who had nowhere else electorally to go. They pushed and pushed and pushed them and today, finally, the great unwanted have pushed back. The salt of the earth were treated as the scum of the earth and, unsurprisingly, they wouldn't stand for it. The dark consequences will be felt for generations to come."

UPDATE:  A cartoon, below the fold because of one profane word given that many of you may be in offices.  Meanwhile, complaining that this speaks of a strain of anarchism rather than good English muddling through, the Economist says that proper Englishmen aren't in favor of any sort of "purism."  

For example, religion:  "The Church of England is more like agnosticism with tea."

They meant that as a compliment.

Photo finish

To my surprise, the Brexit results are still too close to call.  Minute-by-minute updates at the WSJ and the Telegraph.  Evidently Scotland and London want to stay but everyone else wants to leave.

Bannockburn

Today and tomorrow are the anniversaries of the Bannockburn, 702 years ago.

Bruce, whilst surveying the English army, wore his crown and this sparked an idea in the mind of one young English knight. With Bruce so easy for him to identify, the young Sir Henry de Bohun realised that if he killed him the Scots would suffer a most crushing blow, and that he himself would gain unrivalled admiration from his English king. The next thing Bruce knew, de Bohun was charging towards him with his 12 foot long lance ready for action. Bruce was on his Highland pony, and saw the attack coming. He waited until the last possible moment, then violently wrenched his pony to one side. The keen de Bohen went speeding past, and Bruce swung his battle-axe, crushing the armour worn by de Bohun and splitting open his skull. The eager de Bohun fell dead on the spot with the one mighty blow, which broke the shaft of the axe wielded by Bruce. His army saw their king and his act of courage, and their hearts were filled with admiration and inspiration. If any of his men had doubted his courage, surely their fears were now at rest. Bruce had shown that he was indeed a warrior king. When his commanders reflected on the risk that Bruce took, the king of the Scots pointed out that he was more dismayed that he had broken the shaft of his axe!



'Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gory bed,
Or tae victorie.

Range 15 Grosses $600K+

Only one other indie movie has ever done this well, and it had a more traditional distribution. Range 15 did it with tickets only available in the middle of the week, plus you couldn't buy them at the theater -- you had to buy them online in advance.

Oh, and we had terrorist threats.
Range 15 opened nationwide three days after the Orlando ISIS attack. Following this tragedy, credible terrorist threats were made toward the makers of the movie, prompting TUGG theaters to add additional security to many of its venues. Detective Kyle Costa and Police Chief Robert Szala were interviewed by the Herald News surrounding concerns at Dartmouth’s AMC Theater specifically. Despite theaters being on high alert, Range 15 fans were unflinching, and theaters remained packed. Two of the movie's veteran stars including Green Beret, Special Forces Sniper, Army Ranger and Professional MMA Fighter Tim Kennedy, and U.S. Army Infantry Officer Nick Palmisciano are current targets on the ISIS "Kill List," so these warnings came with extra precaution. Kennedy began publicly speaking on the subject in Army Times and Fox News Insider back in January 2016. Palmisciano more recently was identified as a high risk target and too, shared statements as of late in JDNews.

“This isn’t a community that you can rule with fear,” Palmisciano states. “Our core fans are troops, cops, firefighters and EMS. The average person hears that threat and assigns it a certain amount of gravitas. However, our fans think of it as just another Wednesday. We’re always ready, so the threat was almost a friendly heads up.” “I’ve never felt safer anywhere in my entire life than in theaters right now,” agrees Range 15 Hollywood Director Ross Patterson.
I notice no actual terrorists showed up at any of these things.

What Country Would That Be?

The Supreme Court has deadlocked on immigration, resulting in a sort-of defeat for President Obama. No precedent is set by the ruling, but the lower court is considered upheld.
Obama said Thursday's impasse "takes us further from the country we aspire to be."
What country would that be?

I aspire towards a country in which our Constitution and its traditions are upheld, and one in which the government at least is required to abide by such laws as are properly Constitutional. My sense, governed by the fact that they keep writing books proclaiming that this is in fact the case, is that the move towards unfettered immigration is favored by establishment Democrats precisely because the immigrants favor a different form of government than the one we inherited.

If America is really a philosophical project, they aspire to being a country that is no longer America. I don't have a problem with immigration at any level, provided that the immigrants are devoted to the American project. When the point of favoring high immigration is precisely to make it possible to rewrite the Constitution and change the basic project, of course I am opposed -- no matter where the immigrants might come from originally, or what they might look like. It's their philosophy I care about.

The 2nd Amendment as Palladium of Liberty

Some words from our Founders.

They were serious about this. They were also right about it. We need to figure out how to restore the local, neighbor-and-family militia function as a part of the defense of the common peace and lawful order. We've gone too far to professional police and professional armies as a defense, not that I'm suggesting disbanding the police or the Army. I mean that we'll be freer when we are more actively involved in the defense of our communities, rather than turning things over to secret lists maintained by distant agencies, or secret courts with secret evidence against us.

Guns and Domestic Violence

In general and with some exceptions, I think this author is on to something. The one thing that would have stopped the Orlando shooting, maybe, is if he had been convicted of his domestic abuse. His wife might have come forward, or the FBI might have uncovered it during its two investigations of him. Either would have prohibited him from buying or possessing firearms under Federal law. He might have obtained guns illegally -- criminals usually skip legal gun sales entirely, and obtain guns from friends or family. But it's the only law-oriented suggestion I've seen that might have stopped him.

She's right that domestic violence is often (not always) tied to mass shootings, but even more, that it's often tied to later murder of the person being abused. She's also right that close family, the ones licensed by law to apply for restraining orders, often know well before anyone else that someone is likely to commit irrational violence. That adheres to my principle of thinking of citizens as performing that key militia function in the defense of the common good and lawful order. Just like the Rangers have peer reviews, sometimes citizens' militia members might need to say, "Not this guy, though -- he's going to kill somebody for no good reason." We can't make that a general power of citizens, because some would use it as a backdoor to disarming everyone. But it might make sense to do it in a way restricted to those most vulnerable to domestic violence, who are also therefore in the best place to know when someone is violent in this way.

There's room for something here that I think reasonable people could agree to doing, even if she hasn't got the specifics mapped out yet.

Provincialism

One thing that caught my eye in Grim's post yesterday about what Northerners secretly think was the idea that New Yorkers don't have to go anywhere, because everyone comes to them eventually.  That was probably fairly true for a long time, when New York was still on the make.  After a while, it becomes an attitude of decay; the rest of the world does eventually start building alternatives when you act like you can sit around waiting for them to come acknowledge your awesomeness.

Google links if that's a paywall:  South Carolina boost from Panama Canal expansionNew York not ready.  Too busy working on those sugary drinks and salty restaurant offerings.

Congress is Protesting Itself

So, following a filibuster, Republicans agreed to votes on four gun bills earlier this week. All four lost, as all four deserved to lose.

Now, bill supporters in the House are staging a sit-in.

Clearly they think they've got a winning issue, even though they keep coming up with ideas like Feinstein's 'Americans must prove their innocence.' On any other subject, these same people would lose their minds if someone suggested policies like this. Feinstein's bill would have a vastly disproportionate effect on Muslims, and a somewhat disproportionate effect on other minorities. It would deny them their civil rights based on mere suspicion. It would continue to deny them their rights for five years after they'd been cleared of suspicion. Why? Because they're so suspicious we can't be too careful. But if they can prove their innocence -- in spite of having no access to the charges against them, nor an opportunity to confront their accuser, nor the power to be heard in the secret courts -- we will restore their rights, presuming they can also stay off our secret lists for five years.

These same people sitting on the floor in protest would be the very ones leading the charge against any other proposal that did those things. It violates every principle of justice that they ordinarily claim.

Russians Firebombing Whole Neighborhoods in Aleppo

Funker530 has the video. It's the sort of thing you probably thought you'd only ever see in movies about WWII, but it's happening right now.

If only someone had enforced his red line like he said he would, Russia wouldn't even be in Syria right now.

Beware the Prius

Things Northerners Think

Every culture has its prejudices, and here are some Yankee ones.

I actually think the South would have fewer hick towns if it had won the Civil War, because it was the war and its aftermath that destroyed the South's wealth. It was a very rich place before the war, with all that implies for education and civilization. It's been the poorest region of the nation ever since.

Thanks for ending slavery, though. Actually, two of my ancestors were in Sherman's army, too.

Foreign Service Officers

We were just discussing, in the comments to the "off the street" post below, the usefulness of the State Department Foreign Service officers (FSOs) and contractors who actually deployed to Iraq. Here is an article I wrote about State Department plans to reform itself to better support such embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRTs) based on a conversation we had at Foggy Bottom one afternoon when Jimbo and I dropped in for a visit. (Really, that happened. Under Secretary Clinton, even.)

In addition to that part praising the ePRT model, I also wrote another post sharply critical of the culture at State. The two things should be read together, because they paint what I believe is a fair picture of what is good and what is flawed with the State Department.

As the second, more critical post anticipated, Secretary Clinton's tenure did not result in fixes to the problems identified. Nor has John F. Kerry managed to fix the problems. The Obama administration's political appointees at State have been tremendous embarrassments.

Nevertheless, it's important to remember that core of career FSOs who aren't political appointees and who do take their duty seriously. Think about them when you read this story about the State Department revolt against Obama's foreign policy.
51 dissident State Department Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), the Dissent 51, signed a Dissent Channel cable savaging the Obama Administration’s Syria policy and implicitly attacking the Obama Administration’s inept diplomatic and military strategy for eliminating the anti-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Usually one FSO (or at most a handful) sign a dissent cable. 51 is an unprecedented number of government line officers signing a dissident document which—Obama Administration denials to the contrary—could put their careers at risk.
Then go read their memo.

Violence and Sympathy

The Washington Post asks why the media hasn't covered the attempted assassination of Donald Trump as a major story. Indeed, it's arguably the second assassination attempt -- that one guy jumped the stage and Secret Service had to stop him.

It may be because we don't worry that much about criminals who are morons. This guy built his plan around stealing a cop's gun, which might have worked if he'd had a plan for dealing with the cop. As it was, he apparently believed that (a) he'd be able to get a cop's gun away from him while the cop was free to fight back, and (b) that he'd be able to do so in such a way that he'd still have time to get some shots off. Clearly, this is not a professional we're talking about. The Post article makes a similar point: perhaps we don't think this guy was a serious threat.

Instapundit suggests it's because some wish the attempt had succeeded. Jazz Shaw at Hot Air points out how obviously different the narrative would be if another politician had been the target.
Can you imagine the coverage we’d be seeing if someone had attempted to shoot Hillary Clinton? The same could be said if it had happened with Barack Obama in the summer of 2008. Questions would be debated on air for weeks on end about the evil lurking in the hearts of men and why someone would be so desperate to prevent the election of the first black or female president. But when someone plots for more than a year to kill Trump, travels across the country to find an opportunity and then launches his attempt, it creates barely a ripple in the media pond.

And what of the fact that Sandford is an illegal alien?
I'm going to give another reading. I think it's because seeing Trump as vulnerable to violence might create sympathy for him.

Brexit polling shows that the "Leave" camp suffered a significant hit when a neo-Nazi killed a British politician on the "Remain" side. This is, in point of fact, completely irrational. Whatever your reasons for thinking Britain should stay or go aren't in any way touched by the fact that some psychopath happens to kill an innocent third party: it is the sort of act that shouldn't have any impact at all on your political judgment on this entirely unrelated question.

But humans aren't fully rational beings, and sympathy plays a huge role for some people in deciding what they take to be right and wrong. The thought that you might be on the side of a neo-Nazi, or have been against that nice young woman who was brutally killed, will sway some voters. The fact that the "Leave" camp is really mostly not neo-Nazis, or that the "Remain" camp has some deeply anti-democratic ideas and imperils the future of British common law and self government, is lost at least for a while in the emotional imagery.

In the case of Trump particularly, the narrative building around him is that he's an entirely unsympathetic character. It's not hard to build that narrative, since large parts of it are true. He's disrespectful, heedless of the truth, careless with his language, and apparently shameless. But he is human, and therefore he is vulnerable. If people came to see him that way -- if he actually got shot, for example -- it would pierce that image and make him a more sympathetic character.

If that happens, people might become more inclined to do what Byron York did last week: give Trump's proposals a sympathetic hearing. That can only happen if you are inclined to think well enough of the guy to look past what he actually said (which is often careless and poorly constructed) and try to find the best possible interpretation of his point. Still, when York did it, he found a core to the argument that isn't absurd, and in fact is pretty well-supported by the evidence.

My guess is that the press understands this at some level, and -- being almost exclusively Democrats -- the last thing they want is people giving Trump a sympathetic hearing. Play him as a strongman -- he's happy to play with you -- and he looks unsympathetic in the extreme. Play him as a vulnerable human being, and people might take a second look at what he's saying. If they do so in the spirit of sympathy, they might find what York found. And then he might win.

Lord Patrick Devlin, Call Your Office

An important point buried at the end of a Reason article on why gun control wouldn't work better than Prohibition:
Those defiant gun owners will also be included in the jury pools chosen to sit in judgement of unlucky violators scooped up by law enforcement. That situation will likely replicate the difficulty prosecutors had in getting convictions of Prohibition scofflaws in the 1920s and marijuana law resisters today. "[I]f juries consistently nullify certain types of criminal charges (charges for possession of a small amount of marijuana, for example), this can render an unpopular law ineffective," wrote John Richards at the LegalMatch blog after a jury couldn't even be seated in Montana.

"If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don't follow them, then you have a real problem," Connecticut Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R-District 35), told the Hartford Courant when large numbers of state residents flipped the bird to lawmakers and defied the new gun law.

Well... yes, you do. And like their restriction-inclined predecessors, gun controllers will have quite a mess on their hands.
This argument is most famously made in Lord Patrick Devlin's The Enforcement of Morals. His point was that, in a country that accepts freedom of conscience where religion is concerned, religion can no longer ground moral laws (because everyone has a right to dissent from any religious view). Rather than do away with legislation that was meant to enforce moral codes, Devlin proposes an alternative justification. He called it 'man in the jury-box' or 'man on the Clapham omnibus' standard. Essentially the idea was that ordinary British citizens could be trusted to know right from wrong, or in any case to work it out over time, and thus that they should be free to pass moral laws grounded on their common sense. The test for whether a moral law was valid or not was whether or not the ordinary British citizen would enforce it if called to serve on a jury. A law they wouldn't enforce had no business being a law anyway.

That's actually a fairly strict standard, since juries require unanimous consent to convict someone. It means that any minority large enough to regularly turn up as even a single member of a jury has to be considered as well. Thus, you could still have laws grounded on nothing more than 'common sense moral disapproval' of a practice. You'd just have to have a very wide consensus about what morality entails on the point.

"Benghazi without the Shame"

It’s a leap year, which means it’s even more important than usual for the Obama administration to deny the threat of Islamic terrorism. In September 2012, it fell to Susan Rice, then ambassador to the U.N., to make the rounds on the Sunday-morning talk shows and peddle the falsehood that the attack at Benghazi, Libya, was just a high-spirited reaction to an amateur video.

Yesterday—a week after the biggest terror attack on American soil since 9/11—the Rice role fell to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. This time, the administration didn’t even bother pretending it was going to tell the truth.

Political Officers

Maybe this is a partial answer to Raven's concern that he's sounding paranoid.

Without denying that a base commander has the right to control his installation, and recognizing that the USAF in particular has had issues with aggressive proselytizing, I still don't understand how this happened. This was a retirement ceremony, so even if he was the most annoying Jehovah's Witness in your command you'd think you'd let him have his party and then just go away forever.

I'm also not sure why the base commander would forbid the use of the word "God" in a retirement ceremony anyway, any more than at a wedding ceremony conducted on base.

Besides, the speech is nondenominational, just the ordinary linking of religion to boilerplate patriotism. "God bless our flag, God bless our troops, God bless America" is not exactly a call to join some particular church.

It'll be interesting to see how the Air Force explains just what happened here.

Hiring Military Officers Off the Street

Raven wrote to ask whether or not I could come up with a better way to subvert the military and introduce politically-preferred persons into it than Ash Carter's new plan. I can't, really, but there's more to be said about this than that.
The idea is controversial, to say the very least. For many in the rank-and-file military, it seems absurd, a bewildering cultural change that threatens to upend many assumptions about military life and traditional career paths....

This is a key piece of Carter’s “Force of the Future” personnel reform. Unveiled June 9, it aims to help the military bring in more top talent, especially for high-tech career fields focused on cyber warfare and space. Advocates say it will help the military fill important manpower shortfalls with highly skilled professionals and, more broadly, create greater “permeability” between the active-duty military and the civilian sector.

At the same time, it suggests eroding the military’s tradition of growing its own leaders and cultivating a force with a distinct culture and tight social fabric, which many believe to be the heart of military effectiveness. Critics worry it will create a new subcaste of military service members who are fundamentally disconnected from the traditional career force.

“They will enter a culture they don’t know, understand or potentially appreciate,” said Dakota Wood, a retired Marine officer and military expert at the Heritage Foundation. “The Marines around them will likely be challenged to appreciate them as they would a fellow Marine.”
The thing is, we almost do this now. What we do now is that we hire civilian contractors and integrate them with existing military commands. The contractors are similarly disconnected from the culture in many cases, and they lack the authority to issue orders. But that doesn't really matter much, since they aren't hired to command military forces, but to bring special skill sets to bear on the kinds of problems that are handled by a commander's staff.

Now, the way this works is that the actual orders don't come from staff officers. They're issued by the Operations officer in the name of the commander. These are usually set out as what are called "Fragmentary Orders" (FRAGOs) that supplement a larger, overarching order governing a whole military operation. So the staff officer puts together a part of the FRAGO that deals with his area of expertise. That draft part of the FRAGO is passed around to all the other relevant staff sections for comment or approval. Once you have buy-in, it's sent to the 3 section (the operations section) to be written up as a part of the FRAGO. Then, the finalized FRAGO is sent out under the commander's authority to subordinate units.

A civilian contractor can write these draft FRAGO parts as well as anyone else, since at no point is he personally ordering the troops to do anything. He's just advising the commander on what to order the troops to do. While working for a couple of brigade commanders in Iraq I wrote many, many orders for military forces deployed at war in just this way. I wrote orders for PSYOP detachments, for infantry and cavalry units who were doing things relevant to my area of expertise, and so forth. None of these orders were violations of the military's culture or chain of command, because they were all staffed around for approval and then sent to the 3 for inclusion in his latest FRAGO. I wrote the orders, but didn't issue them. He issued them in the name of his colonel.

Would it have been simpler if I'd been "laterally entered" into the force as a Major or LTC? Would that have been more of an affront to the military culture than having a civilian in a John B. Stetson hat writing orders for the troops?

Frankly, I think the contractor solution works better than the proposed resolution for several reasons.

1) You can readily fire contractors who don't adapt to the culture. Make Mr. Offa de Street into Major Offa de Street and you're stuck with him.

2) The troops aren't asked to think of you as a soldier or Marine just like them. The difference between who you are and who they are is clear.

3) There's no danger that a civilian contractor will someday be promoted to a position of actual authority over the troops. Major de Street might someday get promoted to a green tab position, especially if he's there for the reasons Raven worries about. He shouldn't be. Command of our soldiers or Marines should be entrusted only to those whom they have reason to regard as brothers.

Ultimately while the military regards contractors as pernicious and expensive, they solve this very problem without introducing new and undesirable features. Nor am I convinced that contractors are actually as expensive as they seem, since you only pay for them while they're working for you. The Congress is also working through a painful reassessment of military compensation and retirement, and the VA, and all the rest of it. With contractors, you just don't have that problem: the day they finish the job you hired them to do, you're done paying for them.

So yes, this is a bad idea because of the danger of allowing the insertion of politicized officers into military commands. But it's also a bad idea for several other reasons, and it's completely unnecessary because we have a reasonable workaround for the problem that's already in place.

Ash Carter has not been the most impressive SECDEF ever.

The Summer Solstice


Some appropriate music, although you're probably going to spend the whole thing wondering: "What's he going to do with that lamb?"


Nothing, I assure you, on camera.

Texit

Not the worst idea of all time.

I had a friend decades ago who was a big Texas Independence guy. He was a wonderful human being, but I had to suspect that as wonderful as he showed himself to be on every occasion, he must have some wires crossed internally even if I couldn't see them. I now realize that he was just an early adopter.

Happy Father's Day

Today we honor fathers. Neo-neocon has posted a poem from the poet Robert Hayden:

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

That seems a good beginning. Does anyone else have a favorite poem about fathers?

A Genius Idea...

...by apparently a professional economics journalist whose understanding of how capitalism works is staggering.

What would happen if corporations acted on his advice? You'd be pouring money into both the firearms industry and the firearms market. What does that mean? New entrants to the market, of course. Smaller companies like Daniel Defense already exist, serving a niche market within the niche market that is modern sporting rifles. Since you'd be flooding the market with cash and then removing the major competitors, you'd open the floor for a whole new generation of arms makers -- not publicly traded firms but, like Daniel Defense, small businesses owned by people devoted to excellence in firearms production.

They'd have money to spend on setting up shop, too, because you'd have enriched them by purchasing up their products. People who have been in the gun sales business could enter the gun production business with the billions of bucks you'd just dropped in their laps. They'd have every reason to do so, knowing that their customers were being starved of a popular item (and having the reasonable expectation that you 'good guy' tech firms were going to try to buy up all of their production line too).

This is the way to turn the gun industry from what the author calls "a financial pipsqueak" into a powerhouse. Gun tech startups would prosper wildly across the fruited plain.

It's a great idea. Go for it.

The Meme as Political Commentary

As a rule, it's damaging to political discourse. Once in a while, though, they come up with a good one.