I Suppose It's Only Natural

Given all the rain we've had lately, you'd have to expect a tide to roll.

Where the Republican Hopefuls Went to College

I'm not sure why Lindsey Graham is still listed as a "hopeful," but ok.

Fiorina has a bachelor's degree in "Philosophy and Medieval Studies." She'd fit in around here quite well.

An Excellent Article

On religion and war, on why the 21st century will see the resurgence and not the death of faith, and on what Christians, Jews, and Muslims should do to make that resurgence wise. The author is a rabbi, and a thoughtful one.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Maybe not autumn music, but Jimmy Buffet has a number of good, under-appreciated tunes. I understand the first is about his grandfather, a tall-ship captain back in the day.

"We Need To Repeal Gun-Free Zones"

Gun Owners of America has a thorough rebuttal of the President's speech.

Nihilism, Plus Security

Consider these password security questions, whose answers are a little hard to dig up on the internet.

The Pack Almost Stopped the Oregon Shooting

A heroic US Army veteran charged the murderer in Oregon. He was shot five times, but fortunately survived and is recovering. If he'd had the tools to go along with his brave heart and strong will, he might have prevented these crimes.

A US Air Force vet at the school's veteran center nearby actually did have a handgun, and moved to intervene along with a number of other veterans. Unfortunately, they obeyed lawful authorities who herded them back inside their own building for their safety.

The government is the only thing that kept American citizens from stopping this attack. We need to comprehensively rethink the role of citizens in dealing with these sorts of distributed threats. The pack response to a threat of this type is exactly the right one. It has worked time and again, sometimes in spite of the government's best efforts to prevent it from working.

If you are a pro-government sort, perhaps it will help to remember that the citizen is also a kind of officer of the government. We entrust the office of citizen with a number of functions central to the common peace and lawful order, such as voting for other officers of the government, serving on juries, and the power of making citizens' arrests.

This is the only office adequately enough distributed to answer a threat of this particular kind. It is also the least likely office to devolve into tyranny, because its power is the least concentrated and most distributed among the American people.

We can take these guys. They are generally weak, full of anger but without virtue. It is only the differential power created by stripping Americans of our means of self-defense that allows them to carry out these attacks. We can stop them.

UPDATE: Loyalty is a two-way street. The wounded Army vet who fought for our fellow citizens is being supported by his former unit mates. You are invited to participate.
This is from some of Chris' 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment Brothers:

"There is a PayPal set up to help Chris in his recovery. It's on our NPO 5/20 brotherhood set up to help our brothers we served with. The website is 520brotherhood.org the PayPal link is on the page just earmark for Chris Mintz and it all goes to help his recovery and bills"


There's also a "Go Fund Me" account that's been set up:

He's going to have a lot of bills while his broken legs heal, which is going to put him out of work for a while. We need to take care of each other. He did his part.

Giving value for the wage

A developing story that should be fun to watch:  Remember Joe Wilson, the shady "yellowcake" ambassador at the center of Scooter Libby's conviction for misleading federal investigators?  He has sued a company called Symbion for nonpayment of $20K/month in consulting fees.  Symbion, which builds projects of some sort in Africa, is quarreling with Mr. Wilson over the services he was supposed to provide, including perhaps special access starting in 2009 to then Secretary of State Clinton.  Symbion has countersued, alleging that Wilson took credit for things he didn't really cause, such as Clinton's visit to a Symbion project.  Clinton's email, heavily redacted to obscure "confidential" issues (though of course she never used her private email for state business, let alone classified business), suggests that Wilson was accustomed to approach her via Sid Blumenthal, and that she was at least in some degree open to his advances.

The dispute already has turned up gossipy bits about Wilson's use or abuse of company perks, in true "master of the universe" style, and his subcontracting of work to another shady ambassador, since indicted on federal charges.  But what will be really fascinating about this suit is that, in order to get his pay, Wilson will have to prove that he delivered on things like access to Clinton.  If I were he, I'd hire a food taster.

Publicans and sinners

Pope engages in quasi-political action; shock ensues.

Whoever Has No Sword Is To Sell His Coat...

Early updates on the shooting in Oregon.

The President has issued his predictable call for more gun control. Every time one of these thing happens, he sees a need to strip more Americans of arms. I see a positive demonstration that the police can't protect you, and a duty to try to protect my fellow citizens, and thus become more firmly intent on never surrendering my arms nor the right to bear them. This is the sort of thing that could have been stopped, but once again, the victims were disarmed under color of law.

The Nairobi mall attack

Someone has pieced together eyewitness accounts of the terrorist attack a couple of years ago in Nairobi, which don't sound quite like what we heard at the time:
Nura and his two colleagues were having an early lunch of beef stew with chapati while the mechanic worked nearby when a call came through on the radio. “All units: Shooting going on at Westgate. Robbers inside.” Nura spoke on the phone to his commanding officer, who told him to get to the mall “and do whatever is necessary to handle it.” Nura left his plate of food on the table and jumped into the car. He was excited, eager even. As the unmarked squad car sped up the road, Nura hung out the window, waving his radio and shouting at drivers to move out of the way.
News of the assault was beginning to spread via frantic phones calls, texts, and WhatsApp messages. Westgate is in the heart of a Kenyan-Indian part of the city, and the close-knit community there knew better than to rely on the authorities to send help. Instead, the call went out to the community’s own licensed gun holders, who were organized into self-appointed armed neighborhood watch units.

A Few Choice Words For The U.N.

...and then, no words at all.

Let's Play A Game

The New York Times published an article called "27 Ways to Be a Modern Man." Low score wins.

I have to confess to numbers 4, 5, and 11 (although not for 'modern' reasons -- I just refuse to use Twitter). That's a score of three for me.

You might be curious about number 16: "The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away."

That's not me. Oh, I sleep on the side closest to the door, in part because of the possibility of intruders. But if I get up to deal with one, my wife can sleep in.

Knowing her, though, she'd probably go for her Glock. Who wants to be left out of a good time?

Let's not be hasty

From Ralph Peters:
Want to know how low we’ve sunk? The president of France just repeated his demand that Assad has to go. Secretary of State John Kerry, following the pattern of his surrender to the Iranians, has already said that, well, maybe Assad can stay for a while until there’s a “managed transition.”
Never before has a US presidential administration combined such naked cowardice, intellectual arrogance and willful blindness. We don’t have a president — we have a scared child covering his eyes at a horror movie. And Putin knows it.

The pickle crisis

Lileks has completely internalized the media narrative on income inequality.  He could write these things in his sleep now.

Meet Your Meat

I assume you know the punchline to the joke about the pig with the wooden leg.

This only works with a certain kind of city folk. The rest of us knew where the meat came from, have cleaned and dressed our own meat, and understand how this works. You don't eat it while it's a cute piglet. You eat it once it's a mean old hog that would be just as happy to eat you, too.

What Do We Do Now?

Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club mourns the coming to pass of several of his core predictions. Fernandez, who also writes under the pen name Wretchard the Cat, has long written a strategically insightful narrative that strikes a kind of middle position between what you hear from me and what you hear from Cassandra. This stretch of his post, for example, couldn't have been written by either of us, but might have been written by a committee designed to edit our work into a common theme.
Fred Feitz at Fox News makes a brave but conventional attempt to outline a strategy to recover America’s position in the Middle East. It’s worth reading but suffers from the assumption that the same set of actors in Washington who landed us in trouble will do different things in the future. That is an assumption which Ted Cruz’s epic speech on the corruption in Washington does its best to refute.

Cruz explains at convincing length that Congress — the Republican Party included — has been bought off. The whole place is rotten; there is no balm in Gilead nor cavalry to ride to the rescue. In Cruz’s telling political America stands condemned because it is financially, morally and internationally bankrupt. If that’s what Obama has done Cruz explains that’s what the Republicans helped him do.

To the question “what do we do now” Cruz’s answer is “don’t wait for Washington”.

The virtues of Cruz’s indictment are also its limitations, because while his speech accurately portrays the oncoming danger, it does so at the cost of convincing the viewer that America had it coming. Washington in Cruz’s characterization is not the result of bad luck but the accretion of national vices. In that sense, there is about Cruz’s analysis the flavor of Crime and Punishment.

The problem with the retributive narrative is that it sounds too much like a story from out the old books and most politicians, reluctant to sound hokey, are loathe to take it up, however true it may be. For in the retributive story there is one unpleasant feature; disasters continue until the sinners “repent” and repentance is something most of us are by and large averse to.

Much as the voters despise politicians, most of them are attached to life as it is. They love the normal; the predictable, the comforting and the routine. Therefore they love without realizing it the liberal narrative, which falsely promises a painless progression from cradle to grave without the need for virtue, courage or even industry.
There's a lot of worth in what he has to say after that, where he talks about the way forward. It's worth taking a moment to realize that the last week -- as the last six months -- have involved a coming-to-be of a new world and a passing-away of the world we knew. The ramifications have only begun to appear in reality. What we knew is slipping away. We will have to be bold, but the good news is that we will have the opportunity to be bold. The death of institutions and easy assumptions means a birth of possibility. New things will come to be, and we will have at least some power to shape them. We must be wise in what we make of that potential, insofar as it is in our power to shape.

How Dark Were the Dark Ages?

The regulars here probably know a lot of this, but I learned a few things from this video, and it packs in a lot in just under six minutes, so I thought I'd post it.


Congress saved the A-10 today. It's not often that I have much good to say about Congress, so let's take a moment to recognize them for having what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.

None of us deserve to vote

Oh, not seriously, that's just Jimmy Kimmel's tagline.  More Kimmel man-on-the-street video to make you feel good about the franchise.

Comprehensively Missing the Point

Defenders of Planned Parenthood have managed to get the 5th Circuit to force the release of the unedited videos to the public. In the eyes of the defenders, the unedited videos -- all caps in the original -- "PROVE they did nothing wrong."

The people making these videos set out to prove that Planned Parenthood was an ongoing criminal enterprise profiting from the unlawful harvesting of fetal tissues. I think the videos, even the edited ones, failed to prove that claim.

That isn't what people are upset about who have actually watched the videos. No one is upset that Planned Parenthood might have been violating some technical regulation about the exact manner of extracting fetuses in order to better harvest organs. No one is soothed to learn that, thank goodness!, the regulations have all been scrupulously obeyed.

What people are reacting to is the horrifying state of what is legal, not the accusation that something is criminal. To learn that the practices are legal only makes it worse.

There is a huge difference between proving that Planned Parenthood obeyed the law, and proving that "they did nothing wrong." The whole video series is a carnival of horror, discussed over lunch or in an easy manner, sometimes a vision of little feet.

Upton Sinclair wrote a book called The Jungle that he hoped would cause people to become outraged about the working conditions of the poor in food factories. Audiences were horrified, but not by the things Sinclair thought would horrify them. They were horrified to learn how their food was made.

By the same token, the people who are defending Planned Parenthood over these videos are comprehensively missing the point. They are talking right past everyone who is upset or disturbed by what they've seen. For some reason, they just don't see what is bothering anyone about all this.

It is a shocking sort of moral blindness.

Changing of the Guard

Philosopher Jeffrey Woolf, who has a strong background in Medieval thought, notes that his native country of Israel is undergoing a moment akin to a moment in early American history.
There comes a time in the life of nations, that the founders cede dominance to others. It happened in the United States in the 1820’s. In his magisterial study of Andrew Jackson, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., describes how Virginians and (to a lesser degree) Bostonians strove mightily to maintain their control over the nation that they (and their fathers) had founded. They sought control of its resources, its policies, its values and its culture. They saw all of these being usurped by the uncouth pioneers on the western fringes of the country. These were represented by their bête noire, Andrew Jackson (himself, ironically, a Virginian). As Schlesinger notes, the declining elites made their last stand in the Supreme Court. In the end, they failed.
In Israel's case, the founders were secular and not very interested in reviving religious Judaism. It was a much more popular country in Democratic circles back then. In reviewing this history of government shutdowns, I notice that back during the long era of Democratic control, shutdowns were sometimes resolved in part by increased support to Israel. In those days, this was a concession to Democrats.
Shutdown #9: Tip O'Neill takes on a nuclear missile and wins

When did it take place? Dec.17-21, 1982
How long did it last? 3 days
Who was president? Ronald Reagan
Who controlled the Senate? Republicans, 53-47; Howard Baker was majority leader
Who controlled the House? Democrats, 244-191; Tip O'Neill was speaker
Why did it happen? House and Senate negotiators want to fund $5.4 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively, in public works spending to create jobs, but the Reagan administration threatened to veto any spending bill that included jobs money. The House also opposed funding the MX missile program, a major defense priority of Reagan's.
What resolved it? The House and Senate abandoned their jobs plans but declined to fund the MX missile, or the Pershing II missile (which was a medium-range missile, while the MX was intercontinental). They also provided funding for the Legal Services Corp., which provides legal support for poor Americans and which Reagan had wanted abolished, and increased foreign aid to Israel above what Reagan wanted. While Reagan criticized these moves, he grudgingly signed the bill following a short shutdown.

Shutdown #10: So you can have your missiles but Israel gets some, too

When did it take place? Nov. 10-14, 1983
How long did it last? 3 days
Who was president? Ronald Reagan
Who controlled the Senate? Republicans, 55-45; Howard Baker was majority leader
Who controlled the House? Democrats, 271-164; Tip O'Neill was speaker
Why did it happen? House Democrats passed an amendment adding close to $1 billion in education spending. They also cut foreign aid below what Reagan wanted, adding money for Israel and Egypt but cutting it substantially for Syria and El Salvador, and cut defense spending by about $11 billion relative to Reagan's request. The dispute wasn't resolved before a short shutdown could occur.
What resolved it? House Democrats agreed to reduce their education spending request to about $100 million. They also funded the MX missile, which they had successfully cut funding for during the last shutdown battle. However, they kept their foreign aid and defense cuts, and got a ban on oil and gas leasing in federal animal refuges. The spending bill also added a ban on using federal employee health insurance to fund abortions, except when the mother's life was in danger, similar to the ban already in place for Medicaid (see above). That wasn't as partisan an issue at the time; it was a win for anti-abortion members of both parties (including Reagan and O'Neill) and loss for pro-choice Democrats and Republicans (including Baker).
It is an interesting fact that this state founded along secular nationalist lines -- Jews as ethnic nation, not Jews united by faith in the God of Israel -- has been drifting somewhat away from its secular foundation. The majority there still consider themselves secular, but a rising intensity is on the side of those who are faithful. It's a counterexample to the thesis that modernity and secularism go hand-in-hand, and not the only one.

Invincible ignorance

H/t Bookworm Room:

Killing women

This Hot Air OpEd gets it right about yesterday's execution of Kelly Gissendaner for the murder of her husband almost 20 years ago.  Gissendaner was not the trigger man; she got her boyfriend to do it for her.  He cut a deal, turned state's witness against her, and will be eligible for parole in seven more years.

Should this seem like a miscarriage of justice?  It's much like the way we get an ironclad case against Mafia boss in exchange for a lighter sentence against the underling who did the wet work.  It just seems weird because we're not used to seeing a woman in the role of mastermind.  We also don't like the idea of the boyfriend testifying against her to save himself:  wasn't he supposed to be acting as her white knight in knocking off the husband?

Double Standards Are Fun For Everyone!

Unfair! "The Huffington Post is also pushing the 'Chaffetz was mean to Richards!' narrative, especially after New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney accused Chaffetz of "beating up on a woman.'" So disrespectful!

Fair! "Planned Parenthood paid protestors who threw condoms at Carly Fiorina." That'll teach her!

"Hate Crimes" Require Crimes, Don't They?

A famous basketball star -- who happens to have converted to Islam, and is thus perhaps especially sensitive to criticism of that faith -- paints himself into a corner.
The U.S. Department of Justice describes a hate crime as “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt 
and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin,
 religious, sexual orientation, or disability.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated the number of hate-crime victims in the U.S. to be over 250,000. And, though we cherish our right to free speech in this country, we also acknowledge that we are not entitled to say anything we want when it can cause others to be harmed. When those who have governmental authority, such as police, or who command wide attention from the public, such as candidates and pundits, express contempt for any group, it emboldens the bigots to crawl out from beneath their tree stumps to openly express their prejudices because they believe they have tacit approval from those in authority. Princeton economist Alan Krueger suggests one significant cause of hate crimes is the “official sanctioning and encouragement of civil disobedience.”
Why is he in a corner? He is also in the class of those "who command wide attention from the public, such as candidates and pundits." And he has also endorsed civil disobedience. Quite recently, in fact.

Beyond that, though, there's no crime here to consider a hate crime. Political speech by candidates for office is a protected first amendment activity if anything is.

The Justice Department is perhaps largely at fault. Their definition, which he partially cites, ought to be highly controversial:
Hate crime is the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, or disability. The purveyors of hate use explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence, and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims, leaving them vulnerable to more attacks and feeling alienated, helpless, suspicious and fearful. Others may become frustrated and angry if they believe the local government and other groups in the community will not protect them. When perpetrators of hate are not prosecuted as criminals and their acts not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations.

Of all crimes, hate crimes are most likely to create or exacerbate tensions, which can trigger larger community-wide racial conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. Hate crimes put cities and towns at-risk of serious social and economic consequences. The immediate costs of racial conflicts and civil disturbances are police, fire, and medical personnel overtime, injury or death, business and residential property loss, and damage to vehicles and equipment. Long-term recovery may be hindered by a decline in property values, which results in lower tax revenues, scarcity of funds for rebuilding, and increased insurance rates.
First of all, the Department of Justice doesn't get to "define" hate crimes. Congress does that. Does Congress have a definition? Indeed it does. Congress defines a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

The shift that DOJ is trying to make is the shift from "a criminal offense" to "verbal threats of violence" or even speech by government or "other groups" that leaves people believing that they are less safe. That makes it into the article. Carson's statement that he wouldn't support a Muslim candidate for President -- none are running -- is read by our basketball player cum pundit as: "Because of him, Muslims are now a little less safe as they walk home."

Really? Because a black Republican from the South declined to support a Muslim candidate for president who doesn't exist? Well, it doesn't matter. It's enough that they believe that they are.

Why Do Men Get Off Easy In The Abortion Debate?

A rhetorically clever piece by one Emily Hauser. The sleight of hand that makes it work is this:

1) She elides all opposition to elective abortion with the particular objection raised by the Catholic Church.

2) She then points out that most of the people she'd folded into the Church's argument don't share the Church's position on non-martial sex. Hypocrites!

Of course, the one group of people who actually do hold the argument she attributes to the whole class -- that birth control is almost as sinful as abortion, and that sex outside of marriage is dangerously sinful -- also hold the position on non-marital sex she denies to members of that class. The Church could not be clearer about its position on sex outside of the institution of marriage. It's against it, if you haven't heard. I assure you that they go to some trouble to convey that message on a regular basis to their membership, men as well as women.

The position they do in fact advocate is not advocated by others because the others don't share the assumptions. Most Americans who oppose elective abortion do so not because they also believe that birth control is sinful. Actually, even most Catholics believe that birth control is OK. The figures are 82% of American Catholics and 89% of Americans generally. So if you asked most Americans why they don't come down hard on men for having non-marital sex if they oppose abortion, they'll answer: "Birth control is readily available and cheap."

By the same token, most Americans are totally OK with the idea of pre-marital sex. The numbers here are not quite as one-sided: 60% of Americans think pre-marital sex is OK. That's still a strong majority.

So the answer to the question about why you don't blame men for having sex outside of marriage is, for many Americans with concerns about elective abortion, that they don't blame anyone for having pre-marital sex. They just think they should use birth control.

It's a strange argument to field in any case. The reason the moral weight of abortion is on women more than men is a product of the fact that the decision to have an abortion has been placed, by our courts, wholly in the woman's hands. One has moral responsibility for one's voluntary actions. No man may take the voluntary action of demanding an abortion. They might still be held to responsibility if they voluntarily advise or assist in the commission of an abortion -- and the Catholic church, by the way, considers such men to have excommunicated themselves from the Church. They are not held to a lighter standard: indeed, they are said to be in some peril of Hell.

No, just because people on Ms. Hauser's side of the argument have largely gotten their way before the courts, the moral responsibility has shifted to those who have the actual choice under the law. Moral responsibility lies on female shoulders because the law places the choice exclusively in female hands.

Should we undertake to blame men for having pre-marital sex "equally" with women in the way Ms. Hauser suggests, by the way, her side of the argument would be up in arms. This practice -- when directed at women -- is called "slut shaming" and is said to be a violation of the human right of self-determination of women. It would be odd indeed to advocate, as a solution to any problem of any sort, an increased effort to violate what you believe to be human rights.

I have no problem saying that men should certainly marry before sex -- or, at least, be in such a relationship that should a baby come along, marriage is an easily imaginable transition that was probably going to happen sooner or later anyway. I think that is wise and appropriate advice. But it is very clear to me that it is a minority opinion, even among many fellow Americans who have good strong reasons to be opposed to elective abortion.

Good Sense, Unheeded

Garry Kasparov warns that the speeches at the UN were devoid of meaning. It's one of the most sensible things I've read recently, as one might expect from a master chess player turned political activist.
Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow.... [E]very listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.

Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies.... He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.

In other words, Mr. Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Mr. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway.
On the subject that occasioned our President's incredibly offensive and disgraceful comments on the Iraq war, Kasparov said this:
A look at a map of Iraq and Syria shows that the rise of ISIS was a logical response to American abandonment of the region’s Sunnis. A group like ISIS cannot thrive without support from locals, in this case Sunnis who see no other way to defend against the Shiite forces of Iran and Syria that are slaughtering them by the hundreds of thousands.

In world affairs, as in chess, you have to play the position that’s on the board when you sit down. Criticizing George W. Bush for starting the Iraq war in 2003 does not change the fact that in 2008 there was no mass refugee crisis or massive ISIS army on the march. Support for al Qaeda had been undercut by negotiations with Sunni groups in Anbar province, a game-changing policy that was as responsible for reduced violence as the surge of new American forces.

The American exit and Mr. Obama’s refusal to deter Mr. Assad ended any possibility of security. The people had to fight, flee or die, and they are doing all three in horrific numbers. It’s important to remember that the waves of refugees reaching Europe are not running from ISIS. They are fleeing Mr. Assad—who counts on active support from Iran and now Russia.
That is not limited to Syria's Assad, but is true of Russia's allies in Iran as well. In Tikrit, Iranian backed militias destroyed the city after "saving" it from ISIS. Having taken control of it, they demolished it and abducted hundreds of Sunni citizens. Near the UN building today where these meaningless speeches were being given, thousands of Iranian Americans gathered to protest the murder of thousands of dissidents by the Iranian government. In Iran it's done not with "barrel bombs" but under color of law. Somehow, mysteriously, all of the regime's opponents are found to be guilty of drug trafficking, which in Iran is a capital crime.

There's a house cleaning ongoing at the Pentagon, too, pushing out those who continue to argue that we need a stronger response to Russian moves.
The Pentagon's top official overseeing military relations with Russia and Ukraine is resigning amid the ongoing debate within the Obama administration over how respond to Russian moves in Ukraine and Syria.... Farkas is a veteran defense policy hand, having served as a senior adviser to the U.S. European Command, executive director of a congressionally mandated commission on proliferation and a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. As assistant secretary of defense, she traveled widely as part of the ongoing international standoff with Russia over Ukraine. All along, however, Russia has been a deep point of contention between the White House and the Pentagon.

Obama pushed out his previous defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, after he urged a stronger American response to Russia's aggression. Hagel also questioned the president's strategy for arming so-called moderate Syrian fighters against the Islamic State, a program that has since all but imploded in an embarrassment for the administration.
The President's dead set on all this. Nor can the anger of voters control him during the meantime: as we saw in the Iran deal as in the Obamacare vote, he's quite willing to suffer at the polls in order to get his way.

2017 is still a long way away, and until then we are in freefall.

Unprintable Responses are the Only Ones Appropriate

President Obama actually had the audacity to say this:
No matter how powerful our military, how strong our economy, we understand the United States cannot solve the world’s problems alone. In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land. Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed. And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary.
Yeah, that's not how that happened, champ.


About the Trump candidacy, Jim Gerraghty observes in his newsletter this morning, "There will always be an appetite for someone who comes along and insists the solutions are easy." Fair enough, but it's also true that this argument works particularly well when the powers that be have accomplished astonishingly little in recent years, always with the explanation that it's all very difficult, and we wouldn't understand the complexities. Leaders like the unlamented soon-to-be-departed Boehner radiate the impression that they don't accomplish much, not because it's difficult or complicated, but because they can't see the point. Trump looks like a hero by seeming to get down to brass tacks: the brass businessman, focused on effectiveness and the bottom line.

I'd feel so much better about it if I thought he really agreed with me on the bottom line. In that way, he may be much like Boehner, but slightly more likely to achieve whatever his goals turn out to be.

Jeanne La Flamme

Medievalists.net has a piece up today about a figure from the early Hundred Years war, who did "the boldest and most remarkable feat ever performed by a woman" according to a chronicler of that age. Her husband, a candidate for the rulership of Brittany, was captured by French perfidy. While he was the prisoner of the French King, that king invaded Brittany to try to put his own favored candidate on the throne there. Jeanne organized a defense of a city, Hennebont, against the French army.

While the siege was ongoing, she dressed in armor and rode about the town on a big warhorse, encouraging the defenders. But when she saw an opportunity, she took it:
And now you shall hear of the boldest and the most remarkable feat ever performed by a woman. Know this: the valiant countess, who kept climbing the towers to see how the defence was progressing, saw that all the besiegers had left their quarters and gone forward to watch the assault. She conceived a fine plan. She remounted her charger, fully armed as she was, and called upon some three hundred men-at-arms who were guarding a gate that wasn’t under attack to mount with her; then she rode out with this company and charged boldly into the enemy camp, which was devoid of anyone but a few boys and servants. They killed them all and set fire to everything: soon the whole encampment was ablaze.

When the French lords saw their camp on fire and heard the shouting and commotion, the assault was abandoned as they rushed back in alarm, crying: “Treachery! Treachery!” The valiant countess, seeing them alerted and the besiegers streaming back from all sides, rallied her men and, realising there was no way back to the town without grave loss, rode off in another direction, straight to the castle of Brayt, some four leagues away.
It's hard for us today to celebrate the killing of boys and servants by professional soldiers, but it occurs regularly in the Hundred Years War if they are present as a part of the army's logistical train -- doubtless you remember such a scene from Shakespeare's Henry V. They were performing an important part of the war effort, and as such they end up taking a soldier's chances.

In any case, Jeanne and her party escaped the French. She returned after five days with reinforcements, and was able to re-enter her city. She continued the defense until the arrival of English aid, which routed the French. Eventually her son would become the ruler of Brittany.

Jeanne went on to fight in a sea battle on her way to England to obtain further aid for her people. Escaping from the French fleet to the harbor of a nearby town, her forces stormed and captured that city and used it as a base for further war against the French and their preferred candidate. She was an important leader of her husband's faction during his imprisonments, of which there were two, and after his death. Her son eventually won the throne, although it is not clear if Jeanne knew it. Later in her life, for reasons we do not know, we are told that she went mad. The English put her up in a castle under the guardianship of one Sir William Frank, a knight of Edward III's.

Waves of... Undulation

Germany kicks it off, as is usual.

Becoming a Crew

A former Blackbird pilot shares a story.

Why do women join the USMC?

In this post's comments Grim links to this article, in which the author makes his point about why women join the Marine Corps. In short:

"Why do you think women join the Marines? Because they like the food? No, they’re in it for the same basic reason that men are – the lure of proving themselves, of being elite. That’s why those enlisted Marines have signed up for infantry training. It’s also why nearly 400 Army women have signed up for the Ranger training, a number far beyond what the Army was prepared for. And these are just the women already in the Army and the Marines, the ones who had the Combat Exclusion Law staring them in the face and joined anyway."

Well, if you're looking for me to disagree, you're wrong.

Water on Mars

I'm sure you've all seen the NASA release of today. It's big news.

Secretary Mabus Ignores the Marine Corps

Despite considerable backlash from within the service, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said again Monday that the Marine Corps infantry and Navy SEALs will open up to women, no matter what.

Keep an Eye on This Story

Normally if a journalist were to call out a serving military officer as a liar, I would instinctively take the side of the officer. For one thing, it's an inappropriate use of the language of honor targeting a man who is forbidden by regulations from responding in kind. A military officer may not be speaking the truth -- goodness knows I've seen a few PAOs and general officers tell whoppers -- but they are saying what has been approved for them to say. They really aren't free to speak otherwise, not without resigning their commission. Unless the offense is so grave as to justify resigning your commission over it, such an untruth is not a matter of their personal honor but the honor of their organization.

The US military is an organization that has a vast treasury of honor from the sacrifices of its members in pursuit of human liberty and against totalitarianism. Unfortunately, of late, the leadership has been expending rather than adding to that treasury. The winking at child sex slavery by Afghan allies, going so far as to punish American servicemembers who stood up to it, is a moral disaster.

The distortion of intelligence to please their civilian bosses in the White House is less severe as a moral matter, but nevertheless represents a departure from the strict standards of honor that underlie victory at war. If you do not rigorously represent the truth to higher command in a military model, command decisions will depart more and more from the reality on the ground. Even in the best of cases, as explored by von Clausewitz, the fog of war distorts the ability of higher command to understand and act correctly to win victories on the ground. If you have not been faithful to your duty, but have allowed pleasing distortions into the intelligence, this will worsen. Honor is very much concerned in this story, and the honor of some ranking figures at US Central Command.

Still, the reserve is vast, even if lately the influence of the civilian commander has led many officers astray from the path of honor. Normally, as I said, if a military officer is challenged by a journalist, I'd assume the officer was in the right.

There are three factors at work in this story that make it hard to be sure one way or the other.

1) I don't know who all of her sources are, but I do know people who have at least plausible access to parts of the truth. What she's hearing isn't too different from what I've heard. There have been so many false rumors about this story that it's hard to know what to take seriously, of course, and even well-sourced reports have proven not to hold water. Still, there's a lot of smoke -- it's not implausible to think that there could be some fire. At the least a formal investigation would clear the air.

2) I know this is a matter that has been under the close and personal supervision of that civilian leadership, which has provided the distorting effect in the other cases where military honor has lately fallen down. The idea that there is pressure from above to make this happen distorting military decision making is sadly not at all implausible in this environment. On the other hand, the particular officer most concerned is MG Miller, who is a serious guy. When he says -- and he has said this directly -- that there was no pressure from above him, I tend to think that's probably true. He's probably not an easy guy to press in any case. So was the pressure from below him? Or was it only in the minds of the instructors, who were imagining pressures from above that did not actually exist?

3) Finally, some of the responses against her -- not so much the PAO's response, which was staffed, but the swarming responses on social media -- have the feel of "community organizing." If there is a coordinated effort to suppress the story, there's a reason why people feel that it is important to suppress the story. If she were dead wrong, the thing to do as her opponent would be to get all the facts out and show how wrong she was. Of course, these reactions could be being made in ignorance of whether she is right or wrong. In that case, they might just be a white-cell response to try to shut up someone who is being critical of "progress."

I don't claim to know for certain what is going on here. I do think an investigation is not a bad idea. Journalists are supposed to press for the truth and not simply accept the claims of authority. It's good even for the military if they succeed, as a rule: the journalists who broke the story about ignoring Afghan child slavery are doing a service to all the men and women who were being pressured to accept the practice.

So we'll see how this shakes out. For the moment, I'm withholding judgment even on the probabilities of the truth pending further information.

Important, if true...

That phrase has resonated with me since I first read it (on Cass' blog, if I recall correctly), because it prepares the field for an important point about the internet.  We are bombarded with facts and factoids daily, some of which are accurate others... well, let's just say that they may be true, from a certain point of view (ala Obi Wan Kenobi).  I.e. it's a lie.  But if something we read ends up being true, then it can be very important.  If it is untrue, then at best it's an object lesson about believing everything you read.

Systemic Change

Slate Star Codex warns against it, without committing to opposing it. The "system" in question is global capitalism.

It's an interesting and thoughtful post, as usual from this source. Less usual is that it is constructed in the form of a dialogue for large parts of the argument.
Bob: I really do sympathize with you here, of course. It’s hard not to. But I also look back at history and am deeply troubled by what I see. In the 1920s, nearly all the educated, intelligent, evidence-based, pro-science, future-oriented people agreed: the USSR was amazing. Shaw, Wells, Webb. They all thought Stalin was great and we needed a global communist revolution so we could be more like him. If you and I had been alive back then, we’d be having this same conversation, but it would end with both of us agreeing to donate everything we had to the Bolsheviks.

Alice: Okay, so the smart people were wrong once. That doesn’t mean…

Bob: And eugenics.

Alice: Actually…

Bob: ಠ_ಠ

Alice: Fine then. For the sake of argument, the smart people were wrong twice. That still doesn’t…

Then They Shall Know That My Name Is...

An article wonders why we engage in punishment.
Traditionally, what reasons justify punishing wrongdoing, such as criminal behaviour?

(1) Retribution;
(2) Specific deterrence or incapacitation (i.e., deterring the wrongdoer);
(3) General deterrence (i.e., deterring third-parties);
(4) Rehabilitation; and,
(5) Restitution.

Modern intellectual discourse favours the latter 4 justifications. Retribution is seen by many criminologists as primitive, if not irrational. But may a society -- i.e., a society aiming to be a just or good society -- impose punishment absent some strong conception of retribution? I am not so sure. Here is why....
I quote this section in order to point out that this has not been the opinion of the enlightened only recently. Socrates is brought up against it by Protagoras:
If you will think, Socrates, of the nature of punishment, you will see at once that in the opinion of mankind virtue may be acquired; no one punishes the evil-doer under the notion, or for the reason, that he has done wrong, only the unreasonable fury of a beast acts in that manner. But he who desires to inflict rational punishment does not retaliate for a past wrong which cannot be undone; he has regard to the future, and is desirous that the man who is punished, and he who sees him punished, may be deterred from doing wrong again. He punishes for the sake of prevention, thereby clearly implying that virtue is capable of being taught. This is the notion of all who retaliate upon others either privately or publicly.
Rational punishment does not look to the past but to the future, Protagoras says. Indeed, since we cannot change the past, the only reason -- that is, the only kind of purpose to which rationality even might apply itself -- for punishment must be an eye toward the future. Deterrence is rational. Rehabilitation is rational. Mere retribution is bestial, so he argues.

I think that the opposite is true. It is the beast who is most likely to forgo retribution. They will act not to revenge past harms, but to avoid fresh ones. They might kill you if they think you are still dangerous and sense a momentary advantage. They might just as readily avoid you to keep from presenting you with a chance to hurt them again. They will not feel any duty of honor to avenge themselves, or their families, nor to repay you for the wrongs you have done.

Retribution is a higher, not a lower quality. This is orthodox, is it not? Vengeance is the divine quality, not a bestial one. Human beings are urged to mercy and kindness toward their enemies not because it is irrational or animal to punish past wrongs, but because they are not high enough to do it well and justly. Be patient, return kindness for cruelty, and you will heap hot coals on their heads.

How fitting, then, that it was a Vicar who provided the author cited at the top of this post with his reasons. But this is not a purely Judeo-Christian view. The Ancient Greeks thought this too, those of them who were poets instead of philosophers. They also thought that vengeance and retribution were divine. Hesiod even tells you her name.

Always With The Euphemisms

If a group calls itself the "Military Religious Freedom Foundation," what do you suppose their cause is?

Right. Their cause is making sure no one in the military is free to express religion, outside of a designated chapel.

John Derbyshire noticed this trend in deceptive names for radical policy organizations way back in 2003.
The Santorum business brought to the fore an outfit called "The Human Rights Campaign." You would never know from its name that this is a homosexualist lobbying organization. I have no problem with HRC's existence — homosexuals have as much right to organize and lobby as the rest of us — but I do have a problem with that name — viz., it's dishonest. The name of an organization ought to give some clue as to what the organization is for. Why don't they call themselves "The Homosexual Rights Campaign," or "The Campaign for Tolerance of Alternative Sexuality," or something like that? If they want to be a little more in-your-face, they could go for something with a defiant or humorous twist: "The Sodomite Sodality," perhaps. Don't they understand that this straining at bland respectability just makes them look shifty?

Readers, I have decided to launch a movement for the legalization of dog meat as a marketable foodstuff. My movement will be named: "The Campaign for Truth, Justice, Harmony and Peace." Everyone OK with that?
Of course, in the ensuing twelve years, the Human Rights Campaign went on to win everything their hearts desired -- while John Derbyshire was exiled to the outer darkness, precisely for being direct and honest about his more radical views.


With apologies to MikeD, I guess it's relative.

Cheeky nandos

I stumbled today on a word-junky blog some of you might enjoy.  The author's primary interest is difference in usage between Great Britain and the U.S., explored in two ways made possible by the Internet:  comments from geographically distributed English speakers, and the Google tool that allows us to make charts of the usage of a word or phrase over time, contrasting the ".us" with the ".gb" style.

The Ghost Army

Sun Tzu tells us that all warfare is based on deception. During WWII, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops were a unit of artists, set designers, and regular guys who used inflatable tanks, vehicles, and artillery; recordings played over loudspeakers; and other means to simulate US units and deceive the German army during operations from Normandy to the Rhine. While it was serious business, they seem to have had some fun doing it, too.

The Ghost Army is an hour-long documentary that tells their story. It uses film footage, interviews with some of the veterans of the unit, and a number of sketches and paintings done by the artists during their service. It's pretty good, if you're into WWII documentaries.