Monday, March 31, 2014

Imperialism by another name . . .

I have been critical of the notion that any people seeking to govern themselves are required to meet an external moral standard in order to merit the opportunity.  Likewise, I reject the notion as applied to Crimea:

In addition, Walker ignores the other two crucial distinctions I drew between the Kosovo and Crimea cases. First, the Putin regime is likely to adopt the same repressive policies in Crimea as it has in Russia itself: persecution of political dissenters, repression of gays and lesbians, and others.  The present Ukrainian government, while far from ideal, is has not engaged in comparable human rights violations.

I do not dispute that Russia’s armed imposition of a secessionist referendum on Crimea is a troubling precedent at best from an international law perspective, as Putin likely knows.  But a generalized right of secession, properly implemented, is a formula for peace:  whatever “repression” Russia has in store for Crimea, it is a repression that the Crimeans have apparently chosen for themselves, while Somin’s hedges are just another formula for Leftist imperialism.

Similarly, Somin’s concern about “repression” is a reflection of contemporary American obsession with homosexuals.  On the other hand, if you are a member of Right Sector murdered by police, eh, not so much.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

No Bargains

“’You are a stranger here, El-ahrairah,’ said the Black Rabbit.  ‘You are alive.’

“’My lord,’ replied El-ahrairah, ‘I have come to give you my life.  My life for my people.’

“The Black Rabbit drew his claws along the floor.

“’Bargains, bargains, El-ahrairah,’ he said. ‘There is not a day or a night but a doe offers her life for her kittens, or some honest captain of Owsla his life for his Chief Rabbit’s.  Sometimes it is taken, sometimes it is not.  But there is no bargain, for here what is is what must be.’”

“El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inlé,” Watership Down


Monday, March 24, 2014

“Yoooo Stooooopid Bunny!”

“We’re doing well here,” Hazel began, “or so it seems to me We’re certainly not a bunch of hlessil any more.  But all the same, there’s something on my mind.  I’m surprised, as a matter of fact, that I should be the first one of us to start thinking about it.  Unless we can find the answer then this warren’s as good as finished, in spite of all we’ve done.”

“Why, how can that be, Hazel?” said Bigwig.

“Do you remember Nildro-hain?” asked Hazel.

“She stopped running.  Poor Strawberry.”

“I know.  And we have no does – not one – and no does means no kittens and in a few years no warren.”

It may seem incredible that the rabbits had given no thought to so vital a matter.  But men have made the same mistake more than once – left the whole business out of account, or been content to trust to luck and the fortune of war.  Rabbits live close to death and when death comes closer than usual, thinking about survival leaves little room for anything else.  But now, in the evening sunshine on the friendly, empty down, with a good burrow at his back and the grass turning to pellets in his belly, Hazel knew that he was lonely for a doe.  The others were silent and he could tell that his words had sunk in.

-- “Kehaar”, Watership Down

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Random Thoughts . . .


Obama to Award Medal of Honor to 24 Army Vets

Associated Press | Feb 21, 2014

WASHINGTON - Seeking to correct potential acts of bias spanning three wars, President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans following a congressionally mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients were not bypassed due to prejudice.

The Pentagon said the Army reviewed the cases of the 6,505 recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars and found an eligible pool of 600 soldiers who may have been Jewish or Hispanic. The Army also worked with the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, the Jewish War Veterans of the USA and the American GI Forum, the largest Hispanic-American veterans group, to pinpoint potential medal recipients.

I don’t claim to understand, forensically speaking, the demarcation between the DSC and the CMH.  But how many of those 5905 white Gentile DSC recipients might have turned out to qualify for the CMH under the Pentagon’s current standards had their cases received the same reconsideration as the Jewish and Hispanic candidates?  I’ll bet a lot more than 24.

Foreign-Made American Flags Banned by US Military

Fox News | Feb 21, 2014

Under a new law signed as part of the 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, any flag purchased by the Defense Department is required to be 100 percent made in America. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who wrote the legislation, said he did so for economic as well as symbolic reasons.

The legislation has been historically difficult to pass in part due to trade agreements, as well as the fact that flags made in China, the largest importer, cost significantly less than ones produced in the United States. An estimated $3.3 million worth of American flags are imported from Beijing each year.

Dale Coots, marketing manager for Annin Flagmakers, in Roseland, N.J., said the new legislation is a positive step, but says other issues regarding flag imports remain unresolved, including the Federal Trade Commission’s lack of enforcement on flag labeling.

"An American flag is considered a textile," she said. "And a lot of flags that sell online don't have any origin label, which is required under U.S. law."

Annin Flagmakers, which has produced American flags since the 1820s, will not benefit from the new law because the company employs more than 500 workers. The federal government only takes bids from small businesses in flag purchases, she said.

This is mostly meaningless in the big economic picture, but I’m curious whether or not the 500-worker cap on flag manufacturers has been applied to the Chinese companies with the same rigor it has been apparently applied to American companies.  But if the cost is a problem, wouldn’t lifting this cap be the way to go?

Obama Tells Pentagon to Plan for Afghan Pullout

Associated Press | Feb 25, 2014 | by Julie Pace

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has ordered the Pentagon to plan for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year should the Afghan government refuse to sign a security agreement with the U.S, the White House said Tuesday.

Better late than never.  Yes, cutting your losses is hard.  Do it anyway.

Defense Budget Would Cut Troop Pay and Benefits

Feb 24, 2014 | by Brendan McGarry

The U.S. Defense Department is proposing limiting troop pay raises, reducing housing allowances and cutting funding for commissary stores because of automatic budget cuts, officials said.

The proposals to curb personnel costs, which the officials said consume a rising share of defense spending, include limiting troop pay raises to 1 percent, reducing housing allowances by an average of 5 percent,

According to my final leave-and-earnings statement, my housing allowance was almost 20% of my salary, although in ranged to almost 25% depending on my rank and where I was living.

cutting some $1 billion in commissary subsidies -- which will likely mean higher prices for troops and retirees

Commissary shoppers pay cost plus 5%.  But that 5% surcharge, if I understand correctly, may not be used for operating expenses.  It only funds construction.  That may have something to do with why our commissary seems perpetually under construction, but only three of the twenty registers are open at a time.

-- and higher health care fees for some retirees.

"The savings will enable us to sustain a well-trained, ready, agile, motivated and technologically superior force," Hagel said during a briefing Monday afternoon at the Pentagon. "Although these recommendations do not cut anyone's pay, I realize they will be controversial."

I’m not sure “not cut anyone’s pay” means what Hagel thinks it means.

Monday, March 17, 2014

From Rabbit’s Creation Myth

And Frith called after him, “El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so.  All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you.  But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning.  Be cunning and full of tricks, and your people shall never be destroyed.’  And El-ahrairah knew then that although he would not be mocked, yet Frith was his friend.  And every evening, when Frith has done his day’s work and lies calm and easy in the red sky, El-ahrairah and his children and his children’s children come out of their holes and feed and play in his sight, for they are his friends and he has promised them that they can never be destroyed.

-- “The Story of the Blessing of El-ahrairah”, Watership Down

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Liberalism, Then and Now

Watership Down was the first PG-rated movie that my Mom ever took me to see in a theater.*  I read the Richard Adams’ book in my early 20s, and am now reading it to my children.

The 1972 novel was widely and critically reviewed when it came out, and I was sufficiently impressed with it that I looked up those reviews in the Contemporary Literary Criticism.  Most of them, drawn from publications across the political spectrum, could be described as enthusiastic but guarded:  the reviewers were flummoxed by their inability to pigeonhole it in a particular genre (and, indeed, it arguably spans several).

In retrospect, one of the interesting things about the liberal reviews was their reaction to the author’s heavy-handed environmentalism.  To recap for those unfamiliar with the story:  the rabbit protagonists are forced to flee the Sandleford warren when it is bulldozed for a housing development at the beginning of the book.  The rabbits are understandably upset by this, and mankind comes in for some rabbity criticism for killing critters for non-food purposes.  Today, of course, this kind of anti-development environmentalism dovetails nicely with upscale urban liberal priorities, but I surprised to discover that apparently this wasn’t as obvious in 1972.  Several of his liberal reviewers back then almost demanded that Adams come clean about his agenda:  are you saying we shouldn’t build houses for people?  How can that be good for the poor?

Today, in contrast, “the poor” are mainly just a prop in the elite war against the middle class. 

As a child, I was confused by the movie’s poster art:  it was not until I re-watched the movie as an adult that I realized that what I had always thought to be a sinking ship (a “watership” going “down”, get it?) was actually the silhouette of a rabbit caught in a snare.  I found out last week that my wife had the exact same misapprehension when she was a child.

* My father had taken me to see Smokey and the Bandit the year before.

Monday, March 10, 2014



Air Force Lt. Doubles as NFL Cheerleader

Apparently, some people are saying that Lt Quaco’s extra-military avocation is not “representative of [Air Force] standards”, but what I want to focus on is that while some enlistees sometimes have after-hours employment delivering pizzas and such, I’m not aware of any precedent where an officer holds two full-time paid positions simultaneously.   Mormons cadets in the Service Academies are allowed to resign without prejudice to fulfill their mission obligations and return, and newly commissioned Academy graduates have been given leaves-of-absence to pursue NFL careers before returning to serve their military obligations.  But in these instances, the officers did one thing at a time.  I’m pretty sure that the Air Force is giving Lt Quaco low-demand make-work to allow her cheerleading time.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Secular Saints Go Marching On . . .

Trumwill writes:

When deciding where I want my wife and I to land, I sometimes say “I don’t want to live in a place where I am the only vote on the school board in favor of teaching evolution.

It is thoroughly depressing the degree to which the Left controls the public education system. Up until recently, I would have thought this was was a function of Big Ed / Teacher's Union power, but at least in Φ's lily-white little burg, the truth is more complicated. I volunteered to serve on a parents committee that (among a dozen other "stakeholder" committees) interviewed candidates for school superintendent. With a couple of partial exceptions, I was the only conservative among the 20 or so participants, and the loudest voices were liberals. I asked a school board member why the group was so unrepresentative and he told me that this was who the volunteers were. (The truth of this is also more complicated: the opportunity was not widely advertised; my wife found out about it by accident, and people who worked in public education were suspiciously overrepresented. Still.)

But I have my doubts about how useful "evolution" is as a proxy for Liberalism. I was actually surprised, once I became a public school parent, how little evolution plays a role in the elementary curriculum. As I have blogged many times, I don't really have a problem with evolution as long as it stays in its own sandbox, which, on the internet at least, it never does. My older daughter, in contrast, is a strong creationist. I don't have a problem with this either -- if anything, I am proud of her for her informed non-conformism -- but I have warned her that if she follows her ambition of pursuing biological sciences, she will have to get used to working within an evolutionary paradigm.

I can think of several possibilities why the virus of aggressive evolution has apparently run its course. It may be that the issue has been gamed out, that the forces of Organized Creationism have fought evolution to a draw, at least in our district. If this is true, I haven't heard about it, and I see no evidence for it in any other aspect of the education program. More likely in my view is that the Left has lost interest. Evolution was their preferred vehicle for anti-Christianity, but Christianity has been driven out of the schools regardless. Another motivation is that the implications of evolution have become more apparent, leaving the Left discomfited. It could be that the Left decided that the constituency for evolution-as-atheism was never going to be very large, and it was better to find a new fault line.

Which they did.


In the three grades to which my own children have had some exposure, the curriculum has said exactly nothing about Roger Williams, Lord Baltimore, John Smith, George Oglethorpe, Henry Hudson, and William Bradford. It has said nothing about Alexander and Patrick Hamilton, John Adams, John Jay, James Madison, and John Marshall. It has said nothing about the Missouri Compromise or the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Louisiana Purchase may have come up (Sacajawea, natch), as was the Northwest Ordinance (which created our state), but that's it.

So no American history in the elementary grades. What do they teach?

Martin Luther King. Harriet Tubman. Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges. And then back to Martin Luther King in a Never. Ending. Cycle. I do not exaggerate when I say that not a week or two went by that my children were not given a book or a reading or a lecture or a movie about !!Diversity!! It became a game for us: they would come home and say, "Guess what we learned today!" and I would be able to guess the answer in four tries merely by running through the list of names above.

Several things about this.

First of all, as someone who cares next to nothing about Black History, I can easily rattle off a longer list of names from my own elementary education 35 years ago, and maybe muster a sentence or two about them: Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington. I remember learning about Huey Newton and Malcolm X, as well, although to be fair, that may have been in high school. So if the point is make sure that Famous Blacks Are Included, then the overemphasis on the Big Four is doing a disservice. Not that they shouldn't be included in a study of American history. They should. But remember, my children aren't actually being taught American history.

Second, I object to the obsession. I would probably raise objections to any obsession of neutral poiitical content. I especially object to obsessions that bring my daughter home to tell me that she's tired of being told how her ancestors are always cast as the bad guys.

Few of the students believe this propaganda. But they are exquisitely sensitive to taboos and the power that enforces them. In Junior High School, no profanity is unfamiliar to them, but honest discussions of race leave them in utter terror.

And it terrifies their parents, too. In private discussions, they have admitted that they have noticed the propagandistic nature of this curriculum, even when they have no political axe to grind. But nobody dares speak up. Which I believe is basically the point of the exercise: make people afraid.

Monday, March 03, 2014

AFGM, the PPACA Edition


Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To: All Personnel

Cc: BIG-ORG BigWig

Subject: AFGM 2 to AFI 36-2406, and the Evaluations Process changes

This AFGM is applicable to RegAF, Guard and Reserve personnel.

1. Effective 1 January 2014, Air Force Guidance Memorandum (AFGM) 2 to AFI 36-2406, Officer and Enlisted Evaluation Systems, will take effect. The new AFGM incorporates three major changes to the evaluation process. The first change defines "organizational climate" and makes it mandatory to discuss during all feedback sessions for all Airmen. The second major change will be the consideration of "organizational climate" on all evaluations. The third change defines "command climate," and makes it mandatory to discuss during performance feedback and mandatory to consider on all commanders' evaluations. The following paragraphs provide additional information, however you will need to review AFGM 2 to AFI 36-2406 in detail to ensure compliance.

2. In addition, the Performance Feedback Forms were revised to include organizational climate for both officer and enlisted. On officer forms, "organizational climate" is located under the Leadership performance factor. On enlisted forms, it is located under the Primary Duties performance factor. Effective 1 Jan 14, it is mandatory to discuss organizational climate during feedback sessions for every Airman. Since commanders are accountable on a more significant level, it is mandatory that "command climate" be discussed during their feedback sessions.

3. The Performance Reports were also revised for evaluators to take into consideration an Airman's contribution to promoting a healthy "organizational climate." On officer forms, "organizational climate" is located under the Leadership performance factor. On enlisted forms, it is located under the Primary Duties performance factor. Effective 1 Jan 14, it is mandatory to consider organizational climate for every Airman. "Command climate" must be considered when a commander is being evaluated.

4. The revised Officer and Enlisted Performance Reports (AF Form 707, 910 and 911) as well as revised Performance Worksheets (AF Form 724, 931, and 932) will be available on 1 Jan 14. All evaluators must use these new forms for any performance report closing out on or after 1 Jan 14, and for all performance feedback conducted after this date. Any evaluations closing out on or after this date using the old forms will be returned for correction.

5. The OPR for this message is the Air Force Personnel Center Evaluation Section (AFPC/DPSIDE) 550 C Street West, Suite 12, JBSA-Randolph, TX 78150-4714, DSN: 665-2571 (email: For specific Title 32 questions, contact NGB/A1P Force Management Branch,


From: Me

Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To: Division Chief

Subject: RE: AFGM 2 to AFI 36-2406, and the Evaluations Process changes

Where are the forms? Where is the AFGM everyone is supposed to read? I googled it and can't find it. The first of the POC email addresses listed is dead, and the other one is unresponsive.


From: Division Chief

Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Cc: BIG-ORG BigWig

Subject: RE: AFGM 2 to AFI 36-2406, and the Evaluations Process changes

Where can we find the AFGM? One of my guys looked for it on line and couldn't find it.


From: BIG-ORG BigWig

Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To: Division Chief

Subject: RE: AFGM 2 to AFI 36-2406, and the Evaluations Process changes

According to BIG-ORG PARENT COMPANY nothing is actually out yet to include the forms. Hopefully HAF and AFPC are putting the finishing touches on it as we speak!!



Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2014 10:41 AM

To: All Personnel

Subject: RE: Revised Forms


We have a clarification. The Air Force sent out the new forms on the 31st
via email, but has since updated the AF Form 911 on E-pubs. The
E-publishing website through AF Portal takes precedence over other editions.

Additionally, they are having problems with error messages with the Feedback
forms. We are awaiting further guidance and updates.

Thank you for your feedback and patience through this transition.

[To be specific, none of the forms would open on our existing form readers. It would be another month before the readers were updated to match the forms. But the forms now work, and the guidance was eventually published, so now the Air Force can claim to be "doing something" about "sexual harassment".]