Hard At Work in the Cockpit

US Navy pilots try their hand at skywriting. "WARNING: Some viewers may find the photos in this story offensive."

A Deeper Issue at Work

Speaking of all of this, Iraq's parliament is under fire for considering "an amendment to the personal status law that would allow men to marry girls as young as 9." Well, that's what the human rights group and the US government says it would do.

As Kyle Shideler points out, what the amendment actually does is simply make Islamic law the governing law in family cases. The amendment says that when issuing decisions on family law cases, "the court should follow the rulings of religious scholars for Sunni or Shiite sects, depending on the husband's faith." Specific governing authorities for each of these fiqhs are identified so that there is no confusion as to which rulings are final. The 'marriage at 9' thing is merely a consequence of what those rulings of religious scholars have always held, not the point of the amendment.

There's a very similar issue at stake in the Alabama matter.
We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose.... That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.

I use the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men,” rather than “adult men courting 14-year-old girls,” for a reason: Evangelicals routinely frame these relationships in those terms. That’s how I was introduced to these relationships as a home-schooled teenager in the 1990s, and it’s the language that my friends and I would use to discuss girls we knew who were in parent-sanctioned relationships with older men.
She offers a number of cases of people advocating this as the ideal approach for shaping young women into solid members of society. (The idea that a sexual relationship with an older man might do the same thing for young men appears in Plato's Symposium.) There is, as defenders of Roy Moore have pointed out, plenty of Biblical support for the position. Mary herself was married to a much older Joseph at about this age, and although she remained a virgin there's no reason to think that God would have put his only son into a harmful family environment. In the case of John the Baptist, the family arrangements he was born into were about the same; and there are plenty of other examples to find.

This creates a much bigger problem, here and in Iraq. The contemporary American standard is that a proper degree of sexual consent requires a more complete equality, including in the ages of the consenting partners. A 16 year old is not thought to be able to consent in quite the right way; she's thought to be too powerless compared to a 27 or 32 year old man. But this means arguing against not merely tradition, but the exemplars of the tradition. It's not merely that Islam has done it this way for a long time; it's that Muhammad himself did it. It's not merely that Christianity has inherited an ancient Jewish tradition of marriage; it's that God himself sent his son into a marriage just like the one being criticized as immoral.

Identity Partisanship

When I saw the headline, promising a feminist/rape-culture study of the Al Franken case, I was hoping to see a much-needed, thoughtful reflection on principles and limits governing what to do about various degrees of sexual misconduct. I'm afraid she has simply elected to defend the actual standard, which is that Democrats should be given something of a pass while Republicans should be destroyed.

To her credit, this is an honest explanation of what she thinks. There's value in that.
Cynics on both the right and left will presume I am passing by this particular steam tray on 2017’s smorgasbord of feminist outrage because Franken is a Democrat, and so am I. (I was even his proud constituent for two years.) In the most superficial sense, this is true. But it’s meaningless to say it’s because I am a Democrat without asking why I am a Democrat.

I am a Democrat because I am a feminist who lives under a two-party system, where one party consistently votes against the interests of women while the other sometimes does not.... Democrats are members of the only party positioned to pump the brakes on Republicans’ gleeful race toward Atwoodian dystopia.
I get the binary choice issue, which does sometimes apply. But in this case, a Democratic governor would appoint Franken's replacement. There's actually nothing to be lost by his resignation.

Here's what she says she would prefer:
[I]f Franken genuinely wishes to be an ally to women, as he claimed in an expanded statement Thursday, here’s what I would like to see him do. First, cooperate fully with an ethics investigation, as promised. Second, declare as soon as possible that he will not run again in 2020, so other Democratic candidates for that seat have plenty of time to prepare their campaigns. Third, go on a listening tour to learn what the women of Minnesota — Native American women, Somali women, Hmong women, Karen women, disabled women, queer women, working-class women... Accept that some women will not want to talk to him at all, or will only want to yell at him for being a pig. Go anyway.

After all that, I would like to see him support a qualified progressive woman, who will carry on that important work, to run for his seat.
What if, as is not unlikely, he doesn't really 'wish to be an ally to women'? What if he just wants this to all blow over so he can go on enjoying the exercise of power? "Listening tours" are a great way to let everyone release their anger without actually accepting any change; talking about something feels like doing something about it. That's exactly why Hillary Clinton went on "listening tours" on a regular basis. It was always about letting angry constituents vent, so that she could go right back to exercising power. Even if Franken announced he was not going to run in 2020, by 2019 he could change his mind and say, "You know, I've learned so much, I feel obligated to carry all these lessons back to Washington. I can use my greater experience and seniority to be effective for women in a way that no newly-elected junior Senator could."

This approach to politics doesn't get you anywhere because it consents to being divided, which as everyone knows comes right before being conquered. You've self-segmented your market, making it all the easier for the powerful to sell themselves to you. They'll never help you because they don't have to in order to get your vote. They can devote themselves to helping the people who still have something to trade, like campaign donations or sinecures for friends and family. Nothing's going to change if this is the approach. They'll just take a break, have a 'listening tour,' and then get right back in the big chair.

How About Some Fine Bluegrass?



UPDATE:

Perhaps some music, generally. Here's an old favorite for the office.



And another.



And after the office.

Christopher Tolkien Steps Down

Personally, learning the greatest Tolkien scholar, and a man who has honored his father in an exemplary way, has left the care of his father’s legacy to others feels like reading the end of LOTR where Galadriel, Elrond and the other great elves leave Middle-earth. There is a keen sadness, but admiration and beauty as well.
The article goes on to explore the ramifications.

"Like a Thunderbolt from Thor"

Ladies and gentlemen, John Thune.

Doug Jones for Senator from Alabama

I know some of you are from Alabama. You can do what you want and retain my respect, but if you want my advice, consider the Southern Democrat this year. Not only for the obvious reasons, but for the very reason he's taking fire from the Left as well.

Little Round Top, Gettysburg. Three times Col. William Oates of Alabama led the Confederate forces to take it. Running out of ammunition, Col. Joshua Chamberlain of Maine had his men fix bayonets to desperately repel the attack. What brought those two brave men, one from Alabama and one from Maine, together was war—two sides believing so strongly in their cause that they were willing to die for it. Those times are past, long ago, and our country is better for it. But now we fight too often over other matters. It seems as if we're coming apart. I want to go to Washington and meet the representatives from Maine and those from every other state not on a battlefield, but to find common ground, because there's honor in compromise and civility.
That's exactly what Democrats need to hear. They'll be glad enough to win a seat in the Deep South that they never expected to see again, maybe they'll even listen.

Plus, Roy Moore is simply not fit for office. All the current turmoil aside, he thinks the Constitution is compatible with religious tests for office. It was reasonable to oppose him even before we found out anything beyond his understanding of Constitutional law. Maybe you don't think that 30+ year-old charges should matter that much; maybe his long history of apparently faithful marriage shows that he's past whatever problems he had as a younger man. Maybe you don't believe the charges against him. But he still believes in violating black-letter Constitutional principles, and that's got to be enough.

Can We Get Some of These in the US?

"Thor's Tipi bar," a Christmas experience. Talk about cultural appropriation!

Looks awesome, though.

Building the Wall

Some Corps of Engineers documents suggest this thing may be happening.

The Gifts of God

On Thursday morning at St. Dominic’s in San Francisco (I was moving around a bit this week), the priest celebrating the 8 a.m. Mass said, “This is a safe place, where you can commune with God.” Days after the massacre in Texas, to anyone who just happened to be walking in without context, it may have sounded like an act of defiance or a tempting of fate.
The late, great Lewis Grizzard used to tell a story about a flood and a preacher. The preacher was sitting on his roof, the floodwaters rising, and a rowboat came by to save him. "Don't worry about me, pass on!" the preacher shouted. "I'm a man of faith. God will provide for me."

In a while, the waters were higher and another boat came by. The preacher's answer was the same. Later, with the waters lapping the roof where he was sitting, a Coast Guard helicopter came by. He said the same thing to them.

Next thing you know, he found himself before the Pearly Gates. St. Peter was there, and asked the preacher what he was doing in Heaven so early. "I don't know," the preacher said. "There was a flood, but I kept telling everyone that I was a man of faith and that God would provide."

St. Peter looked at him and said, "We sent two boats and a helicopter, what did you want?"

I'm reminded of the story as we face this business, which is not otherwise a laughing matter. The Church, though, is in the same position. They were a safe place, where you could go to commune with God. They could be again. But they should reconsider the work of Geoffroi de Charny, of Raymond Lull, of the anonymous author of L'ordene De Chevalerie. The Church used to make knights, in other words, not for ceremony nor for charity but to stand as swords against evil.

These are the gifts God sent to make you safe. Denying them is denying the gift, while refusing them their chance to serve in the manner for which they were made.

"Hiring Lunatics"

That's how Michael Yon describes the Army's move to permit wavers for recruits with certain mental disorders.
People with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the Army under an unannounced policy enacted in August, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

The decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018. To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.... accepting recruits with those mental health conditions in their past carries risks, according to Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010 and is an expert on waivers for military service. People with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have those issues resurface than those who do not, she said.

“It is a red flag,” she said. “The question is, how much of a red flag is it?”

While bipolar disorder can be kept under control with medication, self-mutilation — where people slashing their skin with sharp instruments — may signal deeper mental health issues, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Well, or it may not. I knew a Major who had a huge brand on his arm that he'd gotten from his college fraternity. He was a good officer. Likewise, the Army has been forced to ease its policy on tattoos recently, too. Tattoos are similar to scarification in most respects. Tattoos were looked upon similarly as a sign of mental health or adjustment issues when I was young; now they're close to full acceptance as a mode of self-expression.

The best way to know that someone has their issues (whatever they may be) under control is to see that they have led a successful life. Maybe they drink a bit too much; lots of soldiers do. Maybe they used to cut themselves as a teenager. Nevertheless, they've held jobs of increasing responsibility, they've managed relationships with stability over a long period of time, they have achievements under their belt. 'Warning signs' are just warnings; sometimes ignoring a warning doesn't cause any problems at all.

The problem is that Army has to make decisions about this while people are still young enough that they haven't been tested yet. They are often going to be the first test that these young people might pass -- or might fail. That's a tough spot to be in: if only recruiting 40 year olds was practical.

A Saudi View on Reforms

While I assume the author is employed by the Saudi state to say this, frankly I wouldn't mind seeing a little reform along these lines among our own governing parties.
Corruption has always been the Kingdom’s worst kept secret.... Up until this point, the default expectation among ordinary Saudis was that an official is corrupt. If, by chance, he proved not to be corrupt, the people would go out of their way to praise him for having integrity. And, up until recently, no one expected anything to change.

As such, news of the arrests came as a surprise. Saudi citizens were hit with unprecedented live coverage of arrests of a handful of princes, former ministers, and bureaucrats, some of whom have been around for more than twenty years, and were always perceived to be above the law or “untouchable”. Given the widespread usage of social media, including WhatsApp and Twitter, the Saudi public is very familiar with the personalities involved as well as the ins and outs of the alleged cases of money laundering, bribery, and misuse of power.

While some in the West fret about a “purge” of business elites and political enemies, most Saudis are eagerly following and cheering what they see as a historic step forward for the Kingdom’s justice system.
There's so much corruption at the higher levels of our government that it's hard to say where such a purge would have to end. Nor have we much reason to be confident in our institutions, should they attempt one.

I don't know that the Saudis are definitely getting a good deal here either, but I can certainly understand their enthusiasm for anyone who seemed inclined to make the attempt.

Honor

I hope that this story proves to be untrue, but if not, the Green Beret in question showed a high degree of personal honor.
The mysterious death of US Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar is under scrutiny after the Green Beret, who was killed by strangulation, reportedly declined to accept money from a dubious scheme.

A Daily Beast report, sourced from five service members in the special-operations community, says that a portion of funds used to pay informants in Mali for intelligence were allegedly pocketed by members of the elite SEAL Team Six. The SEALs' actions were reportedly discovered by Melgar, who eventually turned down the money when he was offered a cut.

Prior to his death, Melgar reportedly told his wife of the problems he had with two of the SEALs, and was going to elaborate further when he went home, the Daily Beast said.
The story holds that he was choked to death during martial arts practice, and that the claim that he had died unexpectedly because he was drunk proved false on medical examination. I hope that there proves to be another explanation, and that the investigation shows that no pilfering of cash was taking place. It is never proper to take accusations as proven simply because they have been forwarded in the press. The press report follows an official notification that the NCIS is investigating his death as a homicide, so in time we should see the evidence formally presented.

There is No 2nd Amendment Jurisprudence

So I gather from the fact that people keep writing these 'assault weapon' bans the way that they do. The Miller decision protected weapons precisely because they had a military use appropriate to a militia; the AR-15 is the single best candidate for protection under that doctrine today. Its similarity to the military's standard rifle means that extant training regimes can be immediately brought to bear as necessary to training up a militia with Army or Marine Corps personnel, should that be necessary; many of them share ammunition with existing military supply chains (though some use the .223 Remington, which can be fired from a weapon chambered for 5.56 NATO but not vice-versa).

Thus, if Miller is in any sense guiding our understanding of the 2nd Amendment, the AR-15 should be protected from Federal bans. It is the single most obvious choice for a militia weapon currently in existence.

Meanwhile, under Heller (which cites Miller to expand on it, not to replace it), the standard is that weapons protected are those "in common use for lawful purposes." The AR-15 is one of the most commonly-used rifles in the United States, for lawful purposes including self-defense, hunting, sport shooting, and for those who wish to be prepared to render militia service if necessary.

Every one of these laws seems to be designed for the express purpose of voiding what 2nd Amendment jurisprudence there is, effectively meaning that there isn't any that proponents of gun control are prepared to accept.

Boxing People In

I have a friend who talks the same way about Donald Trump voters, except on the male/female rather than white/black divide.
...the deepest rift is with the apologists, the “good” Trump voters, the white people who understand that Mr. Trump says “unfortunate” things but support him because they like what he says on jobs and taxes. They bristle at the accusation that they supported racism, insisting they had to ignore Mr. Trump’s ugliness. Relying on everyday decency as a shield, they are befuddled at the chill that now separates them from black people in their offices and social circles. They protest: Have they ever said anything racist? Don’t they shovel the sidewalk of the new black neighbors? Surely, they say, politics — a single vote — does not mean we can’t be friends.

I do not write this with liberal condescension or glee. My heart is unbearably heavy when I assure you we cannot be friends.
From June of last year, we were in a binary choice between surrendering the Constitution or accepting Donald Trump as President. The Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court was going to be filled by the next President, and a President Clinton was going to appoint a fifth doctrinaire "living Constitution" Justice. The 'living Constitution' is of course no Constitution at all; if the Constitution means whatever the powerful would like it to 'evolve' to mean, then it means whatever the powerful want. A constitution that means whatever the powerful want it to mean is not in fact a constitution at all, because a constitution's purpose is to restrain the government's use of power. The choice really was between the end of a Constitutional form of government, or this bullying blowhard from Manhattan.

That's not a great choice. Some went one way, and some went the other. It disturbs my friend, and this writer, that some could stomach voting for Trump in spite of his 'unfortunate' remarks. It disturbs me that some could stomach voting for Clinton in spite of the fact that it would have meant the end of a system of Constitutional limited government; indeed, I think they saw that as a feature rather than a bug of a prospective Clinton presidency. At long last, the Constitution would never hobble them from using the government to pursue the goods they wanted. We would hear the Supreme Court rule that the Constitution existed only to limit Americans' freedom to exercise racism or sexism or whatever-else-ism, never that it forbade the government from exercising some power 'to do good.' Rather than restraining the government, the Constitution would have been nothing more than one more weapon for the government to exert itself against the people.

What I just said will sound to them as if I meant, "I couldn't vote for Clinton because she would have turned the Court into a weapon against my right to exercise racism and prejudice." The real issue is completely opaque to those making these arguments. Indeed, I think this writer is so invested in the identity politics that it might not be possible to sever the issues conceptually. Perhaps the writer imagines that this sense of the indivisibility of identity from justice, which seems so self-evident to him, must necessarily be equally in the minds of everyone else as well.