Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homeland, Season 1

I watched Season 1 of the Showtime series Homeland on DVD.

I recommend this series, but I want to join Megan’s complaint about how poorly the series corresponds to reality in several salient respects.  Megan focused on its representation of the physical geography of D.C., a subject on which I know little.  But I do know a little about how the intelligence community operates, and this isn’t it.  I was appalled to see CIA intelligence officers waltzing around secure facilities with cell phones, turning their living room walls into pin boards for classified documents, and having sensitive counterintelligence discussions in bars.  In reality, we aren’t allowed to have cell phones even in the lobby of where we work.  Classified material is handled freely in secure areas, but never outside them.  And we never talk about, or even around, our work anyplace except at work.  And that’s just the stuff I know about.

The stuff I don’t know about is what the CIA does specifically, but I’m pretty sure it’s foreign intelligence.  Counterintelligence is the FBI’s mission, yet here the FBI is treated as the half-witted brother of the CIA, which seems practically unrestricted in its domestic activities short of making arrests.  That’s either poor screenwriting, or a pretty scary commentary on the CIA’s respect for the law.

One more thing.  Carrie, the central character, suffers from bipolar disorder, for which she takes the anti-psychotic drug Clozapine.  Improbably, however, Carrie is also something of a lush, even though alcohol consumption is not recommended for people with mental disorders, and is specifically contraindicated with Clozapine. Did the writers not think anybody would know this?

But all this notwithstanding, Homeland is one of the more straightforwardly patriotic TV shows I’ve seen.  It has no truck with the usual neo-Nazi tropes or other figments of the liberal imagination; it’s villains are exclusively Arabic Muslims and their American converts.  Yes, there is a “good” Muslim working for the CIA, but there are also plenty of terrorist sympathizers.  The CIA, and Carrie in particular, are prepared to play as rough as necessary to get the job done; this is presented with only a nod at moral equivocation.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Government Religion: Not the Onion

From the Colorado Springs Gazette (via

An Air Force Academy program to teach cadets to respect the religious beliefs of comrades will soon go to all Air Force bases and schools, if academy chaplains have their way.

While a target date has not been set for the program's expansion, chaplains hope to transition the Religious Respect Training Program throughout the Air Force as soon as possible, chaplain Maj. Shawn Menchion said Wednesday at the conclusion of the academy's Religious Respect Conference . . . .

Last year, the academy and its partners, including the Anti-Defamation League, developed three additional lessons that will be taught at other times: one-hour lessons during sophomore and junior years, and a two-hour lesson during senior year, Menchion said.

The training teaches cadets "to become allies to other cadets when they witness respect infractions," he said. "We're giving them avenues to address those issues. We emphasize addressing those issues at the lowest level."

The program was a major topic of discussion at the third biannual conference, held Tuesday and Wednesday at the academy.

Military and civilian attendees representing groups such as the ACLU, Buddhist Churches of America and Islamic Society of Colorado offered feedback on the program, which consists of lectures and discussions based on scenarios . . . .

David Oringderff, executive director of the Sacred Well Congregation, an international Wiccan fellowship, said he had high hopes for the program.

Retired Air Force Col. Frank Clawson, director of military relations for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also said he was pleasantly surprised by the difference the program made in the academy's culture in two years.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

William Bradford

Ye Governor of Ye Colony


Monday, November 19, 2012

An Officer and a Lady . . .

From the Fayetteville Observer (via

AF General Touts Women's Role in the Military

Let’s assume for a moment that the “touting” herein is in good faith.  The problem I have with these kinds of speeches and the reporting of them is that the first sentence reporting a contrariwise speech – “AF General Criticizes Women’s Role in the Military” – inevitably says that the general was relieved of command by the end of the day.  So notwithstanding their knowledge of the truth of the matter, what else is an AF general likely to say about women in the military except to “tout” it?

[AFMC commander Janet C.] Wolfenbarger, the U.S. Air Force's first female four-star general, spoke about the advancement of women in the military Monday night as part of the Fayetteville State University's Chancellor's Distinguished Speaker Series.

To the best of my recollection, I have never heard a female cleric speak on any subject that wasn’t a variant of, “Look at me!  I’m a woman preaching!”  That may not be strictly true in the case of female generals, but it’s pretty close.

Wolfenbarger was among the more than 150 women who entered the Air Force Academy in June 1976, the first time women were allowed in the U.S. service academies.

Several male cadets were concerned about the admission of women into the academy, Wolfenbarger said.

"Their fear was that standards would somehow be lowered as a result of women being a part of the student body and that consequently their experience would some how be diminished," she said. "I, along with my female classmates, spent the next four years proving that the standards did not have to be lowered . . . ."

Um . . .  yes they were.  And there are no end to the USAFA alumni who assess the current kinder ‘n’ gentler regimen as being much easier than it was.  These changes are advertised as making the training environment more “professional”.  Maybe, but if a general is saying it then I assume it’s a lie.

Army ROTC cadet Tara Jaime, a junior majoring in sociology, said the general's comments about the advancement of women in the military were profound.

Yup, sociology.  Just the sort of education the future leaders of our high-tech military need.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Strikebreaking via Multiculturalism

From the Wikipedia article on the Ludlow Massacre, the 1914 deaths of striking coal miners at the hands of agents of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company:

To break or prevent strikes, the coal companies hired strike breakers, mainly from Mexico and southern and eastern Europe. CF&I's management mixed immigrants of different nationalities in the mines, a practice which discouraged communication that might lead to organization.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mother of All ORCAs

Via Ace and Breitbart, a truly harrowing tale of the GOPs fumbled ground game on election day.

From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions. There was a lot of "rah-rahs" and lofty talk about how this would change the ballgame.

Working primarily as a web developer, I had some serious questions. Things like "Has this been stress tested?", "Is there redundancy in place?" and "What steps have been taken to combat a coordinated DDOS attack or the like?", among others. These types of questions were brushed aside (truth be told, they never took one of my questions). They assured us that the system had been relentlessly tested and would be a tremendous success.

It gets worse. Read the whole thing.

On pain of sounding like a paranoid Florida Democrat circa 2000 . . . jeebus, but can mere incompetence really explain a Charlie Foxtrot of this magnitude?

On a lighter note: Blogger reminds me this is my 1000th post. Many thanks to all my readers and commenters for helping to make this a great six-and-a-half years.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Bye bye Davie


At least, in general. I was loosely acquainted with one of the members of Gen. Petraeus' personal security team and . . . well, they talk. Not specifically, but the gist was that he was an old goat with a fondness for the ladies.

I got to see him in action. While I was was in Kabul, I sat in a meeting with Gen. Petraeus and forty or so representatives from USAID, USACE, and the embassy. Gen. Petraeus came in, made himself comfortable, and promptly singled out a striking blonde lady (who will go nameless, but she was an "engineer" with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) down in Kandahar) for a special hey-there-good-to-see-you-again. The woman flushed with obvious pleasure that the rock-star general would remember her from his visit down south several months before. It's good to be the king, I thought ruefully.

Well, the tomcatting finally caught up with him. I can't say I'm sorry. Had it not been for Petraeus' lies testimony to Congress, we would already have quit Afghanistan.

Further Post-election Ruminations

The elementary school here in Φ's lily-white little burg held a straw poll amongst its 1st thru 6th graders. Romney won . . . by two votes. Pedro got a vote, as did "Undecided".

Steve has a lengthy post analyzing election data, including the changing splits for various constituencies between 2008 and 2012 . Some things that jumped out:

  • The two voting groups with the largest changes in voting split between 2008 and 2012 were Jews and Asians. Neoconservatives have been making a fair amount of noise for a while about how insufficiently pro-Israel Obama is. Whatever you might think about it, this seems as plausible an explanation as any for Romney’s 9% pickup. But to what do we attribute Romney’s 9% loss (from 30% to 21% IIRC) of Asians? Yes, the American electorate has been slowly dividing itself between the White Party and the Non-white Party, and I expect these trends to continue. But I can’t point to any one thing (e.g. the Wen Ho Lee case that precipitated the Asian slide towards the Democrats in 2000) that would provoke so much movement in one cycle. However, I will say this: Romney’s promise to staple green cards to STEM degrees was obvious code for throwing America’s doors open to the Asian hoard. Were it generally true, as the mainstream narrative constantly assures us, that the key to non-white votes is increasing the number of their immigrant co-ethnics, then Romney should have done better among Asians. Obviously, the mainstream narrative is wrong yet again. But I’m still flummoxed by the shift.

  • Why the falling turnout? I mean, I can give account for why I abandoned the Republicans at the top of the ticket (although I did vote Republican locally), and I understand (though do not agree with) the uninspired voters unwilling to stand in line for an hour to tap the screen for no-hopers like Goode or Johnson. But it beggars the imagination that McCain was more inspiring to Republican voters than Romney! It might be true generally that Palin was more inspiring than Ryan (my 2008 opinion) but, again, I don’t actually know the answer.

  • I mis-called this election. Notwithstanding my non-support, I expected a Romney win. I was, I think, overly influenced by his late swell in support from highly visible elites. In retrospect, this was largely a function of his increased support among Jews.

    That this president, with this record, could win reelection tells me the usual rules don’t apply anymore. Paul Kersey is right: America is going the way of Detroit, a city that continued to return the same black Democrats to power as the city slid into oblivion. Romney offered the country abundant personal magnanimity – if not charisma – and a lengthy track record of executive accomplishment against an affirmative action depressive. His adherence to long-standing Republican Party principles – what few remain of them – appeared to be genuine, more than could be said in 1988. And he ran a disciplined, agile, and well-funded campaign.

    Unfortunately, it appears that fewer and fewer votes in America are cast in sensitivity to these kinds of factors, and more and more of them are cast out of reflexive tribal loyalty in hatred of founding-stock Americans.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Today’s Military

I wrote a post a while back quoting without comment one day’s worth of headlines from articles collected by, a site that, whether they intend to or not, documents the armed forces’ apparent slide into leftism.  This prompted the following exchange in the comments.

Elusive Wapiti:  A depressing collection. [These events] are indicators that the military is rapidly moving away from being the "bastion of conservatism" it was alleged to be when Clinton was president.

Samson:  Really? Colour me overly optimistic, but it seems to me that these are policies enforced from on high, not necessarily in line with the feelings of the rank and file.

This called to mind several observations I’ve made about young people in the military recently.  As you know, I started a new job last year.  For the first few months, while I awaited my security clearance, I was sequestered away with a score or so of new hires, mostly civilian, and mostly recent graduates.  This was a fairly novel experience for me, at least in the 15 years I’ve been married.  And it exposed me to a few cultural trends that I hadn’t especially noticed before.

As regular readers may recall, I’ve mixed it up with commenters about the prevalence of premarital cohabitation.  So I might as well start by admitting that it’s a lot more common than I realized.  It’s less common among junior officers, although I’m not sure if that’s moral or structural:  officers are expected to move every 3-4 years, which makes it more difficult for relationships to just hang in limbo.  The pressure is on them to close the deal if they expect a woman to follow them from one end of the country to the other.  But I’m pretty sure that almost every one of the civilians had an LTR story that involved cohabitation.

Young civilians are also much more candid with politically incorrect racial views than when I was a twenty-something, and not just among whites.  They expect to discuss these things openly, and even in the presence of minorities, in a way that I would have been afraid to.  The cry of “RACIST!” is now more often a punch line than a charge to be taken seriously.  That said, I reserve judgment about whether these kids are the shock troops of HBD awareness, or rather they just get a thrill out of shocking grownups in general.

But the military guys are another matter.  They were all very professional – and I don’t mean that as a compliment.  In all the joking around and wide-open political discussions we had, I can’t recall once where they joined in.  They were straitlaced, humorless, and . . . kinda boring.  If the lot of them had an independent thought in their lives, they had it beaten out of them.

The Christians among us have our secret handshakes, as you can imagine, and thus we enjoy a bit more opportunities for the camaraderie of shared culture.  But in general, I don’t see much evidence of resistance.  They think whatever they’re told to think.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Question on the Morning After

What, exactly, do you call a member of the Constitution Party.

I mean, a member of the "Republican Party" is a "Republican". A member of the "Democrat Party" is a "Democrat". But it just wouldn't do to call myself a "Constitution".

"Constitutionalist" would seem like a candidate, but it already has an established definition, and is unlikely to be identified with a particular platform or even a specific worldview. Plus it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

"Constitutional" might be better. "I'm a Constitutional!" is much more likely to provoke "What's that?", which is kinda what I want.

Any other ideas? (Serious entrants only. I'm not looking for snark, e.g., "No-hoper" I already get that.)

Monday, November 05, 2012

$700K vs. “Drunk at a Party”

I have just a couple of observations about this story:

  • There couldn’t be too many Brazilian women, possessed in this case of merely above average attractiveness, and without the kind of scruples that would prohibit having sex with a stranger in return for cash, that are still virgins at the age of 20.
  • I hope somebody has explained young Catarina Migliorini that, in the event her Japanese client expects her to fulfill the terms of her contract in the first round, she’s in for a world of hurt.
  • . . . kind of like this girl:

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Thoughts on Abortion

As a Christian, I count myself a supporter of two moral propositions:

  • Abortion, like murder, is a great evil; and
  • Sex should be reserved for marriage.

I am not unsympathetic to the burdens that complying with these propositions might pose in extermis; for instance, the burden on a family faced with the prospect of caring for a severely disabled child, or the burden on that child as he grows up faced with the improbability of ever finding someone to marry.  But that sympathy does not extend to elevating human frailty above God’s instructions.

That said, I couldn’t help noticing the Oscar buzz generated by the film The Sessions, the apparently true story of a severely disabled man who hires a prostitute “sexual surrogate” to whom he loses his virginity.  Now, it may not necessarily be a contradiction, strictly speaking, for liberals to argue, as they apparently do, that someone with disabilities doesn’t have a right to life but does have a right to fornicate.  But it does seem just a little . . . incongruous.

Speaking of abortion, I read, via Ace, another media frenzy over a Republican straying off-script:

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Tuesday that pregnancy that results from rape can be “something that God intended to happen.”

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said at a debate. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Now, on the one hand, as a Calvinist who subscribes to the English Reformers’ view of the sovereignty of God, that Mourdock isn’t that far off.

The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He doth foreordain whatsoever comes to pass.

But that said . . . I’m rethinking this whole “gift of life” business.  It is true that in the Bible, as throughout history until relatively recently, children were always considered a blessing.  But I’m not sure that the phrase “gift of life” appears in the Bible in the context of children, nor am I convinced that there is a moral obligation to procreate irrespective of any other consideration.  I haven’t thought this through all the way, but these thoughts did cross my mind as I read Mourdock’s statements above, and I can’t help think that the phrase “gift of life” seems a little jarring in the case of rape-induced pregnancy.