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Simply so much.. 01

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — an experiment in blogging — morality transcending laws, the pope, battleships, jellyfish, & Catholic politicians ]

There’s simply so much going on that I need to try a few way of sifting and posting my daily catch. So here’s my experiment. Each day I’ll open a Simply so much post at the start of the day, adding things that catch my eye as I go, and posting either late in the day or the next morning.


The right to migrate trumps politics as usual:

The granting of asylum does not fall within the usual logic of statecraft in which a policy is considered from the perspective of the political interests of a governing party, taking into account how it will play to popular prejudices, how it fits with internal party disputes, its consistency with budgetary and other manifesto promises, its influence on the viability of other policies the government wants to pursue, and so on. None of these have standing in the face of the moral emergency of aiding refugees to regain their lives.

DoubleQuote that with Pope Francis: Government workers have ‘human right’ to deny gay marriage licenses:

It is the “human right” of government officials to say they cannot discharge duties that they believe go against their conscience, Pope Francis told reporters aboard the papal flight back to Rome on Monday.

“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection,” the pope told reporters on the plane. “But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right.

“And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”

See also the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (my emphasis):

On the most widely accepted account of civil disobedience, famously defended by John Rawls (1971), civil disobedience is a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies. On this account, people who engage in civil disobedience are willing to accept the legal consequences of their actions, as this shows their fidelity to the rule of law. Civil disobedience, given its place at the boundary of fidelity to law, is said to fall between legal protest, on the one hand, and conscientious refusal, revolutionary action, militant protest and organised forcible resistance, on the other hand.


in the Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II at the 70th Plenary Session of the United Nations General Assembly, we find the following description of IS:

I am here representing Jordan, and as a God-fearing, God-loving human being. I am here as a father who wants his children, like yours, to live in a compassionate and more peaceful world.

Such a future is under serious threat from the khawarej, the outlaws of Islam that operate globally today. They target religious differences, hoping to kill cooperation and compassion among the billions of people, of all faiths and communities, who live side-by-side in our many countries. These outlaw gangs use suspicion and ignorance to expand their own power. Worse still is the free hand they grant themselves to distort the word of God to justify the most atrocious crimes.

That phrase, the outlaws of Islam, nicely finesses the ongoing dispute as to whether IS should be termed “nothing to do with Islam” or “Islamic”.


Three variants on the meaning of Man of War:

The British Man of War, c 1750


The Portuguese Man of War:


GF Handel‘s The Lord is a Man of War, from his oratorio Israel in Egypt, 1739:


  • The British Man of War
  • The Portuguese Man of War
  • Handel’s Lord is a Man of War
  • Hm, that would have made a great post all by itself!


    Great Andreessen-style DoubleQuote:

    And that’s a really interesting nested question right about now, eh?

    How myth informs strategy

    Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — in response to a question from PR Beckman ]

    SPEC DQ Ursula Le Guin JC Wylie


    Also, Homer.

    Deadly PT Boat Patrols–a brief review/recommendation

    Thursday, January 15th, 2015

    [by J. Scott Shipman]

    Deadly PT Boat Patrols

    Deadly PT Boat Patrols, A History of Task Group 50.1 New Guinea 1942-43, by Allan L. Lawrence, Jr.

    Late last fall a good friend suggested that I read Mr. Lawrence’s book. My friend made the connection, and Mr. Lawrence was kind enough to send an autographed copy. I read Deadly PT Boat Patrols over the Christmas break and wanted to share the title with our readers. The book is about his dad and namesake serving in the South Pacific on Motor Torpedo Boats during WWII, but really what Mr. Lawrence has crafted is a richly detailed day-by-day history of not only his father’s service, but the service of his colleagues. And when I say day by day, I mean Lawrence provides the reader with a running diary of Task Group 50.1—how they were formed and made their way to New Guinea.

    Mr. Lawrence didn’t set out to write a Task Group history, however. He writes

    Originally, this project was intended to be simply a photographic essay focused solely upon the Colt 1911A1 Automatic Pistol used by my father while assigned to Motor Torpedo Division SEVENTEEN in enemy waters off New Guinea. It was intended for submission to be a renowned historical pistol collectors association for inclusion, if found worthy, in their quarterly magazine. As the project unfolded, however, it became apparent that there was sufficient material of an historical nature to expand upon the original theme.

    And “expand” Mr. Lawrence has done! Filled with many never before published photographs (many provided by the participants or their families) of both the men and their machines , but also of native populations, Deadly PT Boats offers the reader real insight (often in the words of the participant’s war diaries) into the struggles, dangers, and deprivations suffered and endured by the men who crewed these small fast boats. The book also has some hilarious recollections of these Sailors on liberty and the fun they had together in the midst of a brutal war.

    The elder Mr. Lawrence is offered in his own words:

    I like to talk about these things to anybody that is interested but you don’t find people that are interested in that kind of stuff. They’re more interested in running around with veterans plates on their cars, ya know?…I never had a dogtag—never was issued a dogtag—they said we were moving too fast. (pages 180-181)

    Mr. Lawrence continued on the carnage of PT boat warfare:

    It was really a nasty business—a mess, really, but those bastards were vicious, really vicious. And you couldn’t take them as prisoners. [Significant pause] Invariably you’d wind up with two or three dead bodies with their leather harnesses, their knapsacks and canvas all in the screws so you’d screw yourself up because you’d stall your engines out…So you’d come back on one engine the next day cutting the body parts and harness and stuff out from up between the screws and struts, ya know—diving down.” (page 182)

    If there is a weakness in Deadly PT Boats it would be the sometimes painful level of detail and the need for a good editorial scrub, but the book is a labor of love, and if read with this in mind Mr. Lawrence takes the reader along side these young men and their lives of frustration and boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.

    Mr. Lawrence brings the reader full circle and provides a “where are they now” or how the main characters ended up after the war. All in all, a good read.

    Aficionados of WWII naval history should add Deadly PT Boats to their library as valuable contribution to the genre.

    Strongly recommended.

    Aircraft Carriers and Maritime Strategy – a debate

    Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

    [by J. Scott Shipman]

    Last Friday night at the U.S. Naval Academy, retired Navy Captain Henry “Jerry” Hendrix and Commander Bryan McGrath debated the future of the aircraft carrier. My wife and I were fortunate to attend. Given the pressure placed on the Navy’s shipbuilding budget, the debate could not have been more timely. Commander McGrath argued the “nuclear aircraft carriers with air wings are the most cost effective and efficient platform to project power in the maritime and littoral realm to support U.S. national security interests in current and future security environments.” Captain Hendrix argued against this resolution. While both arguments hold much merit, I tend to side with Captain Hendrix.

    Lots of numbers and statistics were thrown around, but one issue did not enter the debate: it has been 70 years since an aircraft carrier was shot at. The lesson of the Falklands War underscores the potential power of modern precision munitions, and carriers are big targets.

    This video is highly recommended. C-SPAN also recorded the debate with a transcript here.

    Lind on “the Navy’s Intellectual Seppuku”

    Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

    William Lind had a very important piece regarding an extraordinarily ill-considered move by the Navy brass:

    The Navy Commits Intellectual Seppuku 

    The December, 2013 issue of the Naval Institute’s Proceedings contains an article, “Don’t Say Goodbye to Intellectual Diversity” by Lt. Alexander P. Smith, that should receive wide attention but probably won’t. It warns of a policy change in Navy officer recruiting that adds up to intellectual suicide. Lt. Smith writes, “Starting next year, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) with minimal studies in the humanities … As a result of the new policy, a high school senior’s best chance of obtaining a Navy scholarship is to apply for Tiers 1 and 2 (engineering, hard sciences, and math), since CNO guidance specifies that not less than 85 percent of incoming officers will come from this restricted pool.”

    ….The engineering way of thinking and the military way of thinking are not merely different. They are opposites. Engineering, math, and other sciences depend on analysis of hard data. Before you make a decision, you are careful to gather all the facts, however long that may take. The facts are then carefully analyzed, again without much regard for the time required. Multiple actors check and re-check each others’ work. Lowest-common-denominator, committee-consensus decisions are usually the safest course. Anything that is not hard data is rejected. Hunches have no place in designing a bridge.

    Making military decisions in time of war could not be more different. Intuition, educated guessing, hunches, and the like are major players. Hard facts are few; most information is incomplete and ambiguous, and part of it is always wrong, but the decision-maker cannot know how much or which parts. Creativity is more important than analysis. So is synthesis: putting parts together in new ways. Committee-consensus, lowest-common-denominator decisions are usually the worst options. Time is precious, and a less-than-optimal decision now often produces better results than a better decision later. Decisions made by one or two people are often preferable to those with many participants. There is good reason why Clausewitz warned against councils of war.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Rarely have I seen Lind more on target than in this piece.

    Taking a rank-deferential, strongly hierarchical organization and by design making it more of a closed system intellectually and expecting good things to happen should disqualify that person from ever being an engineer because they are clearly too dumb to understand what resilience and feedback are. Or second and third order effects.

    STEM, by the way, is not the problem. No one should argue for an all-historian or philosopher Navy either. STEM is great. Engineers can bring a specific and powerful kind of problem solving framework to the table. The Navy needs a lot of smart engineers.

    It is just that no smart engineer would propose to do this because the negative downstream effects of an all-engineer institutional culture for an armed service are self-evident.

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