The Equinox

Happy Autumn, boys and girls. Now follows my favorite time of year: the time of fire.

Dangerous Radicals

Living on the edge, dangerous and radical:  that's the traditional family.  I think Dr. Althouse really means that it sounds radical to her. Nor is she the first. Here is what Chesterton had to say about the commitment:
Now betting and such sports are only the stunted and twisted shapes of the original instinct of man for adventure and romance, of which much has been said in these pages. And the perils, rewards, punishments, and fulfilments of an adventure must be real, or the adventure is only a shifting and heartless nightmare. If I bet I must be made to pay, or there is no poetry in betting. If I challenge I must be made to fight, or there is no poetry in challenging. If I vow to be faithful I must be cursed when I am unfaithful, or there is no fun in vowing....  For the purpose even of the wildest romance results must be real; results must be irrevocable. Christian marriage is the great example of a real and irrevocable result; and that is why it is the chief subject and centre of all our romantic writing. 
What is being proposed is a genuine adventure -- a great and terrible risk, undertaken for no other reason than the romance of it. It is a very high and fine way to live, but perhaps it is only for the brave.

USMC Airpower

The recent attack on Bastion in Afghanistan has delivered the United States its worst airpower defeat since, depending on how you count, either Vietnam or WWII.
"The last time VMA-211 was combat ineffective was in December 1941, when the squadron was wiped out during the 13-day defense of Wake Island against the Japanese."

He spells out some more of the details of the attack:
Eight irreplaceable aircraft (the AV-8B has been out of production since 1999) have been destroyed or put out of action – approximately 7 percent of the total flying USMC Harrier fleet. Worse yet, the aircraft involved were the AV-B+ variant equipped with the APG-65 radar and AAQ-28 Litening II targeting pods – the most capable in the force. Given the current funding situation, it’s likely that the two damaged AV-8Bs will become spare parts “hangar queens” and never fly again. A Harrier squadron commander is dead, along with another Marine. Another nine personnel have been wounded, and the nearby Marines at Camp Freedom are now without effective fixed-wing air support. The USMC’s response to this disaster will be a telling report card on its leadership and organizational agility.
That squadron commander was Lieutenant Colonel Otis Raible, reportedly a hell of a Marine. I've heard a lot of good things about him in backchannels since the attack.

Book of the Duchess

One, called Closer, showed Prince William’s lovely bride, the Duchess of Cambridge, without her bikini top on. The other, the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, showed some bloke who died in the seventh century without his bikini top on. In response, a kosher grocery store was firebombed, injuring four people. Which group was responsible? Yes, frenzied Anglicans defending the honor of the wife of the future supreme governor of the Church of England rampaged through Jewish grocery stores yelling, “Behead the enemies of the House of Windsor!
That's how you get things done.

Hank Aaron

No offense to Governor Walker, but I'd rather have a beer with Hank Aaron, too. Of course, he was kind of important in Georgia when I was a boy.

Good Point

"But how is the claim that America "respects all faiths" supposed to appease people who burn churches?"

James Taranto gets one right.

Four Years Late

The Washington Examiner has put together a piece that explains some parts of President Obama's history that have gotten relatively little play in the press. There were some honorable exceptions back in 2008, but few major media outlets were interested in the story.

The Examiner piece is a good read, but if you're pressed for time, Cassandra has produced an excerpt and commentary on key bits.

Yeah, But Not The Right Campaign...

[NATO] has all but ended combined operations with Afghan army and police forces at the tactical level, requiring general officer approval for exceptions....

Three years after doubling down on an unachievable mission, trust between NATO and Afghan forces is at an all-time low. Already this year, there have been thirty-six of these insider attacks, killing fifty-one NATO troops, most of them Americans.

Even before the latest policy announcement, Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey acknowledged the severity of the problem, declaring, "You can't whitewash it. We can't convince ourselves that we just have to work harder to get through it. Something has to change" and admitting that "It is a very serious threat to the campaign."
What that means is that the commander of a Brigade Combat Team -- who is an O-6, a Bird Colonel -- cannot approve a combined operation for any unit under his command.

Let me put that another way. It's not just that the platoon leader can't approve it. He's a lieutenant. But his boss, the company commander, is a captain who probably has a tour as a platoon leader behind him. He can't approve it either.

But his boss, the battalion commander, is a Lieutenant Colonel. He was probably a company commander two tours ago, but then he pulled at least one tour as a staff officer either at the battalion or the brigade level. If he's the commander now, he was probably the operations officer for a battalion. As the ops officer, he supervised and was personally responsible for the writing of all the written orders that moved troops around the battlefield. That's a serious job. Whoever holds that job -- the battalion ops officer, Major Whoever -- he still can't write an order approving such a mission.

But a guy who was Major Whoever last tour is now is the battalion commander. He was good enough at that job to get picked up for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel with appointment to a command spot. At this level things are getting pretty competitive. He's somebody who was good as a company commander, outstanding as a major, and has now out-competed a bunch of his fellow LTCs -- the ones who lost out are now pulling operations officer gigs at the brigade, or similarly employed elsewhere. This guy was good enough to get command. He can't approve the mission either.

And his boss can't approve the mission. He's a full-bird colonel, who perhaps was a battalion commander on his last tour. Not only that, he was one of the best battalion commanders: one of a few battalion commanders who got picked for further advancement in line combat command. Now he's back, commanding a brigade in the same country where his unit has probably deployed multiple times in a ten year war. He outranks all but a few hundred guys in the entire army. Most of those guys are not in Afghanistan, making him perhaps the highest ranking officer in a hundred miles. He still can't approve any platoon or company in his area of operations taking a walk outside the wire with an Afghan unit.

He has to go to Division for permission. That's the first level at which you'll find an actual General Officer. Probably he has to talk to the Deputy Commanding General, Maneuver, (DCG-M) for whichever division has command of his area. Maybe he has to bring it up with the actual Division Commander, a two-star general.

That guy is going to approve whatever his brigade commander asks him to approve. But only so many missions can get pushed up through this many levels of abstraction. That's significant friction, as Clausewitz would say.

You can't fight a war this way, but apparently the administration has no intention of fighting one. They just don't want to finish losing it until after the election. Our soldiers and Marines, airmen and a few bold sailors are buying them that time. We ought to know for just what they are being asked to barter their blood.


I can't help but notice that all these places are in big cities. I was always taught that the best barbecue was sought on the road.

Try this one, for example, if you're ever up in northwest Georgia. If you're traveling north from Atlanta, swing off I-75 on I-575, then take GA 372 until you see the sign for the little town of Ballground. There's a little back road off 372 that will take you to Two Brother's Barbecue, home of great ribs and tangy sauce, and good ice cream too.

Any good ones that you folks have found on the back roads?

UPDATE: Another one you might try is Backwoods Barbecue, up Long Branch road near Dahlonega. If you're coming from Atlanta, take Georgia 400 to the end and keep going straight when the superhighway ceases, and the two-lane blacktop begins. It's only open on the weekend, though.

Oh, I Get It! It's a Full-Employment Act!

IRS estimates approved by OMB say that we'll need 80 million man-hours a year to comply with Obamacare regulations -- as they stand. Naturally, new ones are coming out all the time.

All this time we've been criticizing the President for not having a plan to deal with unemployment. It turns out he's been shrugging off that issue to go to fundraisers because he's already taken care of it. This is going to create 2 million new jobs by itself: two-million full-time bureaucrats doing nothing but processing paperwork related to Obamacare.

Wait, you ask; how will the economy absorb the need to pay an additional two million full-time salaries, which add absolutely nothing to the actual productivity of said economy? Well, you know, shut up.

UPDATE: Actually, even more jobs are in the offing. Now that I think about it, those two million jobs are just what is necessary for compliance. But we'll also need even more new regulators whose job it is to ensure that the compliance we are paying for actually took place. So we'll need oversight, investigative officers, managerial positions... a whole new wing at every major regulatory agency.

No doubt the economy will be able to support all these new bureaucrats without any difficulty whatsoever. After all, it would be nice if it could.

UPDATE 2: Edward J. in the comments points out that I divided by hours/week instead of hours/year. Actually, it's only 40,000 new bureaucrats -- that won't make any serious damage to the unemployment rate. On the plus side, while it still doesn't add anything to the productivity of the nation's economy, it's a far smaller drag on it. So there's that, at least.

Good Advice

Every candidate — hell, everybody — simply must assume henceforth that their every word and email, thanks to technology and the Bush administration’s overwrought defensive reaction to 9/11, is being monitored, taped and weaponized, if need be.
As far as "everybody" goes, maybe; but if the NSA is really recording everything you say, they're being remarkably circumspect about it. Elements within the CIA seemed to love to play politics with leaks to the press during the Bush administration, and occasionally even in this administration (for the agency's own benefit, rather than against the President). The NSA may have access to tons of our secrets, but if so they seem to be responsible stewards. That in a way is refreshing, an oasis of encouraging professionalism just where it is most needed.

Still, whether you wanted to fight on this hill or not, here you are and there's a fight. Fortuna audaces iuvat!

Dentistry magic

My neighbor has been making treks to a teaching hospital in San Antonio, where he is receiving stellar care at excellent rates.  He's having a whole series of dental implants -- the sort of treatment that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, when the automatic course would have been to extract his teeth and replace them with dentures.

My wealthiest relative made a fortune in the 1960s with a newfangled process for casting and producing dentures very quickly.  Apparently the traditional process had required a much longer and more uncomfortable procedure for the patient as well as an extended delay in manufacture.

Some months back, I believe I may have mentioned an article about an experimental treatment being developed in Japan that offered hope for treating infected roots that up to now would have required a root canal.  Today's news brings word of a new Japanese "tooth patch" made of a very thin, flexible layer of the primary ingredient in natural tooth enamel.  The material is draped onto a tooth and fixed in place with lasers.  Early versions are transparent and invisible, but work is underway to make white, opaque versions for cosmetic purposes:  capping without grinding.  The tooth patches should help dentists eliminate tooth sensitivity resulting from worn-enamel and exposed dentin.

Pain-free chewing into old age is a very recent development in human history and one of the crowning glories of civilization.

Rethinking the First

It turns out that there is a freedom-of-religion angle to the publication of topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Chi editor Alfonso Signorini told Sky News that he did nothing illegal, according to The Guardian.

"I published them with a conviction that they are pictures of a modern contemporary duchess," he told Sky News, which said that off-camera Signorini had described her as "resembling a Greek goddess".
I suppose if one took this as a way of honoring a fertility goddess...

...but no. She is not a goddess, even if she might resemble one. She is a lady, and a good and true lady to her husband by all accounts. The temptation is understandable, but that is just why we have the prayer that contains the line, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

It's an odd thing to say that something like blasphemy against a woman can lead me to places that actual blasphemy against God cannot, but I find it is the case. Perhaps I stand convinced that "The Lord is a man of war," and therefore that he needs no defense. The Duchess is far richer and more powerful than I am or hope to be, but she is not all powerful; and a man ought to defend the right, as well as he can.

Perhaps we have been wrong about this after all. There may be limits to speech that we ought to respect, and enforce. Having made that admission, perhaps we ought to rethink the whole matter, and be sure how far we are certain of our ground.

How Big is the Current Fiscal Problem?

Five senior fellows at Stanford University's Hoover Institute answer the question: the problem is on the verge of becoming impossible.
The problems are close to being unmanageable now. If we stay on the current path, they will wind up being completely unmanageable, culminating in an unwelcome explosion and crisis.

The fixes are blindingly obvious. Economic theory, empirical studies and historical experience teach that the solutions are the lowest possible tax rates on the broadest base, sufficient to fund the necessary functions of government on balance over the business cycle; sound monetary policy; trade liberalization; spending control and entitlement reform; and regulatory, litigation and education reform. The need is clear. Why wait for disaster? The future is now.
By the way, did you know that we are currently giving several billion dollars a year to America's major banks? Not lending, giving.

Maurice Keen

I learned today that the great Maurice Keen passed on this last week, his death overshadowed by the other news of 11 September.

His most famous work, Chivalry, remains the best general history to serve as an introduction to the topic. Nearly thirty years' work by historians and scholars of medieval literature has added a great deal to our understanding of the topic, but I am not aware of anyone who has brought the advances together into a form so solid, enlightening and useful. Whoever does is likely to stand heavily in his debt, as even now there is much in his work that cannot be improved upon.

Here is an appropriate poem from a recently-reposted lecture on the meaning and use of Viking poetry.

You must climb up on to the keel,
cold is the sea-spray’s feel;
let not your courage bend:
here your life must end.
Old man, keep your upper lip firm
though your head be bowed by the storm.
You have had girls’ love in the past;
death comes to all at last.

So, alas, it does.

Requiescat in pace.


From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Thinking ahead

Sage advice from Big Hollywood:
Now that the White House and State Department have made clear that they believe movies compel terrorists to terrorize, it's time for them to get ahead of this problem. And one thing the White House can do immediately is to pressure Sony to stop the release of director Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," which celebrates the killing of Osama bin Laden. 
I'm only saying this because, you know, the White House and the media told me movies inflame and cause terrorism. 
Think about it:  if the poorly produced and laughably bad trailer for "The Innocence of Muslims" results in chaos, murder, and the burning of foreign outposts all throughout the Middle East, how much rioting and mayhem is a big-budgeted, slickly produced, Oscar-bait blockbuster celebrating the death of the leader of al-Qaeda going to cause?
Maybe, just to be safe, we'd better not re-elect this guy.

H/t Ed Driscoll.

Another guy unclear on the concept

From Belmont Club:
It is beginning to dawn on [President Obama] that revolutions are not a dinner party; that maybe sweeping statements read from a teleprompter can never substitute for a substantial plan. He still thinks that al-Qaeda wants the same sort of freedom America wants. Maybe he misunderstands one or the other. Very possibly he misunderstands both.

Unclear on the concept

I'm not sure these guys have really thought through their business plan.  The Atlantic reports that falling Hooters revenues are inspiring management to consider how to take advantage of the growing power of the female pocketbook.  The theory is that even the male customers might enjoy an atmosphere a bit less like a stag party, and that their wives and dates would require a certain subtle alteration in the vibe just to set foot in the door.  What could we do?  I know!  Add more salads to the menu.  Another idea in the works (I'm not making this part up, either):  add some premium sports channels to the TVs, because research shows that 42% of the NFL audience is women.

And pink napkins.  Chicks dig pink.  (OK, that part I did make up.)

H/t HotAir.


I enjoy a daily feed from this site, which often has practical ideas for off-the-grid home improvement and is fairly apolitical.

When the ideas veer from practical into silly, they're at least interesting.

The micro-solar guys I wrote about last month easily made their target on Kickstarter, by the way.  They were aiming for $50K in 30 days and hit $75K.

An Economic Plan for the Second Term

There are versions of this song with far more ribald verses, for those of you interested in such things.

Don't look for work at the Sudanese embassy, though. We're out of that business, now.

Against Blasphemy

Dr. Mead has a good point.
The Islamic value — and it a worthy one on its own terms and would certainly have been understandable to our western predecessors who punished blasphemy very severely — of prohibiting insults to the Prophet of Islam clashes directly with the modern western value of free expression. To the western eye (and it’s a perspective I share), a murderous riot in the name of a religion is a worse sin and deeper, uglier form of blasphemy than any film could ever hope to be. To kill someone created in the image of God because you don’t like the way God or one of his servants has been depicted in an artistic performance strikes westerners as an obscene perversion of religion — something that only a hate-filled fanatic or an ignorant fool could do.
In general I have little enough tolerance for that sort of person who wants to offend for the pure joy of showing how smart they think they are. It's hard not to sympathize with the Muslim over the atheist who decided it would be clever to portray "Zombie Muhammad," for example. These guys are jerks, and I have no desire to end up on their side.

This Coptic Christian fellow seems better placed, because he has a genuine grievance: the Copts have suffered badly (as, sadly, have Iraqi Christians in the wake of our invasion there). The Coptic position isn't just looking for trouble for the pure joy of hunting up trouble: they have been badly handled over the last few years, and especially since the fall of the Egypt we long knew. Yet all the same, he set out to make people angry, to blaspheme as hard as he could.

We're in a bad position: supporters of democracy, but holding some 'basic truths' about the necessary conditions for democracy that few in the region believe exist. The Establishment clause is ours, not theirs; although, as it appears, we may be on the verge of making an exception to it parallel to the one they want. Islam alone may be commanding a special place as worthy of state protection, even here.