Saturday Night Firefight

Part of the Nantahala National Forest burned tonight, but not a very big part. The National Weather Service warned that the high winds would make for a fire hazard, and sure enough they blew down a power line. That caused a fire, which the high winds quickly fanned up and over the ridge and down into the next valley. We managed to contain it between the road and a nearby cold water creek, plus some artificial fire breaks created by guys with leaf blowers. That worked until the Forest Service got up there with a bulldozer to plow in a proper fire break.

Whose Lamentations?

Conan The Barbarian Acquires Biology Degree So He Can Know Whose Lamentations He's Hearing

Bonus: The Babylon Bee's Man Of The Year Is Rachel Levine



This Would Be A Good Year to Plant A Garden

Thirteen percent of global calories won't get raised this year due to the war in Ukraine.

The US has an option here: suspend ethanol for the year, and use that corn for food instead. That violates the dearly-held Green policies of the current administration and those in power in Congress, however. 

As Predicted

"Scientists, gender law scholars and philosophers of biology" have weighed in on the question of what a woman is and -- exactly as predicted yesterday -- they want to be clear that a biologist couldn't tell you either.

Slandering Americans Overseas

The 'very good people on both sides' slander aimed at Trump is bad enough, but -- as David Reaboi points out -- it is amazingly awful to slander American citizens as Nazis while in Europe supporting a government that actually has an openly neo-Nazi wing, the Azov Regiment.

Ukraine may still be worthy of support because they are being invaded, and we are supposedly devoted to opposing wars of aggression. Or they may be worthy of supporting because it is in our national interest to tie the Russian military down and degrade it, so that it is less of a competitor. 

However, if you support Ukraine it's not because you're opposed to Nazis in some sort of principled way. You're siding with a government that has formally integrated Nazis into its military; and while the government has suspended political parties that have any sort of pro-Russian agenda, the Nazi political party associated with Azov is still licensed to operate.

Army Approves Lower Standard for Women

The ongoing saga of the Army's new fitness test has reached a crescendo. As you will recall, the Army declared it was getting rid of its 'old fashioned' fitness test -- which consisted of a two mile run, pushups, and situps -- in favor of a new-fangled "Combat Fitness Test" that would test a wider range of capacities more directly related to the things you'd really do in combat. Unlike the old test, too, they declared that the test would be both gender neutral and age neutral.

It turned out that 65% of female soldiers failed the new test, which would have had to result in their expulsion from the force. The rest scored notably lower than male soldiers, which would have made them less able to obtain promotions as enlisted promotions are partly based on fitness scores. So, they started talking about redesigning the test -- but not, we were assured, in a way that would hold women to lower standards.

The next step was to admit that women would have to be scored only relative to each other, and not relative to the men in order for them to remain promotable under the new system.

That was not sufficient either. The test will now scrap the events women couldn't pass, and allow both women and older men to pass with lower scores

At this point, then, the ACFT has comprehensively failed: it will neither be age nor gender neutral, it will not hold women to equal standards, it has eliminated test of combat-related capacities that are difficult for women, and it has become thoroughly a political exercise designed to produce desirable results rather than to serve as a fitness exam. In addition, it still has the logistical problems that come from swapping from equipment-free events like running or pushups to tests that require equipment to perform. 

Comprehensive failure is becoming the norm, I notice, whenever the brass gets involved.

Beware Fitness & Good Health

Fitness especially may lead to terrible things. Allegedly Nazism, that perennial fear of leftists even though it’s a form of socialism. 

After discussion of how fitness is now feared as yet another gateway to right-wing politics, the author makes a good point: the left is who is building all these gateways. 
The Left has made a habit out of forbidding things that are normal or even admirable to pursue—physical excellence is just one of those things. Raise doubts about transgender pronouns or election integrity and you—moderate, well-adjusted, not-even-all-that-political you—are suddenly a potential Unabomber.

If you wanted to force people into the arms of conspiracy theorists, you could hardly come up with a better strategy than to pathologize normalcy and make observing basic facts into a thought crime.

Who among us can define woman, though? 

A Sword of Eisenhower

Well, it passed through his hands anyway. It originally dates from the tenth century.

The Definition of a Woman

FOX News mischaracterizes Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson's response as a "refusal" to give the definition of "a woman." She did not refuse so much as she claimed an incapacity to define it, stating that she was not a biologist. 

What's truly sad about this response is that it won't even satisfy the intended clientele. By implying that only a biologist could define 'a woman,' she is conceding that the answer is related to material biological reality. It is not, then, a matter of felt or claimed or chosen identity. It's something about one's physical body.

This is the kind of absurdity that must eventually collapse, but it may well not collapse quickly enough to avoid putting this person -- woman? -- on the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: The Federalist points out that Judge Jackson has used the word "woman" extensively in her legal rulings. 

Socrates got himself killed by talking to 'experts' who used terms that it turned out they couldn't define. My favorite of these dialogues is the Laches, on courage, but perhaps more to the point is Euthyphro. There the question is whether Euthyphro can define "piety," a serious matter because he is doing something many thought impious at the time -- bringing a suit for murder against his own aged father on the word of a slave. It turns out that his definitions could not hold up to inquiry, leaving him open to the charge that he was acting as if he had confident knowledge on a deadly subject he did not in fact understand. 

Jackson evades the danger of being tested on her definition by refusing to give one, but her regular usage of the term implies that she is subject to the same critique. If you have regularly issued judgments on the subject of women, you are acting like you know what a woman is -- how else could you make any sort of reasoned judgment about them? Yet she claims to be unable to explain it, except that by implication it is a matter of biology. Indeed, she has testified under oath that she cannot define the word that has been the subject of so many of her judgments.

Quoting Jesus to Justify Invasion

Jesus is a much sterner figure than many people imagine, thinking of him as the King of Peace, Love, and Forgiveness -- which is not wrong, but not complete. It is not impossible nor even incongruent to think of Jesus as one who 'brings not peace, but a sword,' or who encourages his followers to 'buy a sword even if you have to sell your coat.' 

Still, it's harder to see him justifying an invasion.
Speaking to the crowd in a turtleneck and down winter coat, Putin said he ordered the invasion "to get people out of their misery, out of this genocide, that is the main reason, the motive and purpose of the military operation that we began in Donbas and Ukraine," according to The Washington Post. Russia has repeatedly accused the Ukrainian government of committing genocide in separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.

"And this is where the words from the Scriptures come to my mind: 'There is no greater love than if someone gives his soul for his friends,'" Putin continued, paraphrasing John 15:13.

Both the Post and ABC News translate the Russian word душу (dushu) as "soul," but most English translations of the passage use "life." 

If in fact a genocide was occurring, as he claims -- and perhaps believes -- it might work. One of the justifications of the Iraq War was that Saddam was engaged in a sort-of genocide against the "Marsh Arabs," and there are arguments in Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars that state that anyone who could stop a genocide has 'a right, at least, to try.' Walzer himself opposed the war, but the arguments exist whether or not he thought they fit the particular facts. 

So maybe, insofar as Putin truly believes these claims (and especially if he were right to believe them).

Push-Button Tyranny

A well-considered article in Tablet magazine warns of the perils of Trudeau-style cancelation without trial. It is a more dangerous power than may be apparent without such consideration. 

An Odd Correlation

Jordan Schachtel, a journalist who has been voicing a lot of skepticism about Ukraine, notes an odd correlation between vaccine status and support for risk military action in Ukraine.

Or perhaps not so odd: the same correlation shows up in Canada.

It's easy enough to guess why this is the case: those who have been inclined to take booster doses are more likely to be heavily exposed to information sources that have tended to portray this as the wise and responsible course; those same sources happen to be all about Ukraine right now. Those skeptics, by contrast, have been learning to discount those same sources and to trust alternative media -- which is more likely to be skeptical of the government here, as well. 

(Should you be skeptical of our government's support for Ukraine? The government there has barred opposition political parties -- but not formally neo-Nazi parties who are integrated with their armed forces -- and seized control of the media. Of course, it's wartime; on the other hand, those are totalitarian moves that contrast sharply with the narrative we're seeing in these pro-Ukraine US media sites. Make up your own mind how skeptical to be; I'm not here to tell you that.)

Maybe this all says less about Ukraine, and more about how deep the division is in our own society. Or maybe it says that this division is mostly a product of information choices, and otherwise might not be so deep after all. If it were possible to address that effectively, perhaps we would come together.

Or perhaps not; the divide may be more deeply rooted than where you get your news.

If you're interested in the Ukraine conflict, however, here's CDR Salamander on Russian amphibious operations.


Happy springtime. The weather here is beginning to feature some nice days, but still freezing at night. There’s an eagle soaring on a thermal in the valley below.