A Marker

The AP provides a marker against which to test the upcoming inauguration. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson's inauguration was also challenged by a women's march:
The 1913 women's march, timed to get maximum publicity by coinciding with the inauguration, was not without controversy.

According to the Library of Congress' American Memory archives, crowds in town for the inauguration — mostly men — surged into the streets and made it difficult for the marchers to pass, forcing them to go single file at times. Women were jeered, tripped, shoved and spat upon, and police did little to assist them or quell the unrest. Some 100 marchers were taken to the hospital with injuries.

The participants included Helen Keller, the deaf and blind political activist and author. She was so unnerved by the disruptions that she was unable to speak later that day at Continental Hall.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson authorized a troop of cavalry to help control the crowd, according to the archives.
Sometimes historical perspective can be helpful.

It Is No Longer the Case that Living Men Have Walked on the Moon

Rest in peace, Eugene Cernan.

Much of John Lewis' District is Pretty Nice, Actually

In the interest of keeping score fairly -- I did my undergraduate work at Georgia State University, smack in the middle of John Lewis' district. I also lived on the eastern part of that district at one time. That part of Atlanta was, at that time, full of drugs and hookers and run-down storefronts. It was a fun place to be at the age I was in those days. There were empty warehouses for parties, and those run down storefronts could be hired cheaply enough that even young people could afford to open a punk-rock-themed coffee shop or whatever. On the other hand, it had a real crime rate. Atlanta was the murder capital of America at points during those days. But I was young enough that this only added to the sense of adventure.

The intervening twenty-plus years have seen an ongoing expansion of Atlanta's wealth, and that district is not the crime-and-violence haven that it used to be. First, the Atlanta police turned an abandoned factory into a major precinct headquarters right at the center of the drug-and-prostitution trade. That dried up very soon afterwards. Then, all that money coming into Atlanta felt safe expanding into the area.

Today the eastern area is full of stores like Whole Foods. A lot of the fun aspects of the place are gone. They were replaced by less crime, more green space, and upscale shopping. There remain some nasty areas, in a kind of ring between the true downtown (where Georgia State is) and the nicer areas in the east and west. The district compares favorably on some measures with Georgia or America as a whole, and unfavorably on others.

Insofar as it's proper to judge John Lewis' performance in Congress by his district, I think it must be said to have improved during his tenure. I'm not sure that it is all that proper to do so: these are mostly state and local duties, not Federal concerns. But if that's the conversation we're going to have, it's poor grounds for criticism of the gentleman from Georgia.

Another Look at Ideas on Male Physique

Since the discussion below turns on what is a reasonable ideal for a male body, here's another cartoon. This was sent to me by the strongman friend of mine some time ago as as defense of his own approach; I'm not sure where it originates.


This kind of conversation is always fraught, as questions about aesthetic ideals for a man (or a woman) touch on a lot of different levels of meaning. So it's worth reposting this cautionary image as well:

MLK Day

One of Dr. King's remarks was addressed against what he called "white moderates," the progressives of his day. This is from the "Letter from the Birmingham Jail."
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.'
I have an obvious sympathy for the sentiment. Sometimes it is necessary to do radical things when you find the government, or indeed power of any human kind, resolutely on the side of injustice.

How radical? MLK's niece declares that she voted for Trump. That's a deep cleaving cut from the party of the "white moderates," of whom Hillary Clinton was the most recent and most iconic avatar.

UPDATE: MLK's son meets with Trump at Trump Tower, says good things about both Trump and Lewis. Radical days indeed.

This Was An Insult?


I mean, you know, he could use a bigger beard.

No Snakes in Iceland

Lars Walker's review of this book is quite complementary, and suggests that many of us might enjoy it.

Burning Up the Stage

Apparently our boy Sturgill decided to throw down on SNL this weekend.

Well, won't we all....



These guys are just toooo cute, by half.

The Non-Stick Axe

You will want to get yours today.

The Government as Vandal

Stonehenge is an irreplacable archaeological treasure. One of the known facts about it is that much of its meaning has to do with the things that were underneath it. In addition, of course, over time even structures that were originally on the surface pass underground -- that is why we speak of archaeological "digs."

So why not build a subway under it?
Light pollution at one end of the tunnel will obscure the view of sunset on the winter solstice -- one of the most important dates at Stonehenge -- when thousands gather to celebrate the shortest day of the year.

And experts believe major archaeological treasures hidden beneath the surrounding landscape could be lost forever.

"Recent finds show this place is the birthplace of Britain, and its origins go back to the resettlement of this island after the Ice Age," historian and author Tom Holland, who opposes the plan, told CNN....

The government, though, is determined to press ahead with the scheme.
"Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings
,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things."

Launch

SpaceX suffered a disappointing setback with last fall's pad explosion, but yesterday it successfully completed a launch that put 10 new Iridium satellites into orbit.


Comey under fire

Around my neighborhood lately, we've been discussing whether James Comey can be fired as director of the FBI.  I gather this may not be crystal clear, but there's reason to think he can:
The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The statutory basis for the present nomination and confirmation process was developed in 1968 and 1976, and has been used since the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972. Over this time, seven nominations have been confirmed and two have been withdrawn by the President before confirmation. The position of FBI Director has a fixed 10-year term, and the officeholder cannot be reappointed, unless Congress acts to allow a second appointment of the incumbent. There are no statutory conditions on the President’s authority to remove the FBI Director. Since 1972, one Director has been removed by the President.
President Clinton fired FBI Director William Sessions, who had been appointed by President Reagan. It seems that the post-J. Edgar Hoover arrangements for a fixed 10-year term were aimed at preventing unreasonably long tenures. Congress must consent, as it did in the case of Director Mueller in 2011, to any extension of a term. There is no equivalent Congressional veto over a presidential firing, nor can Congress get rid of an FBI director other than by impeachment.

Good guy from Samaria

A "Good Samaritan" is one of those back-handed compliments, like saying "He's a good guy for trailer trash."  People from Samaria weren't expected to amount to anything.  Anyway, here's an inspiring Good Samaritan story that sounds like the people involved are all being awfully discrete, um, that is, of course I mean to say "discreet."  A state trooper trying to come to the aid of a woman ejected from a car in a highway accident comes under deadly attack from a guy who may have been behind the wheel.  A passing motorist stops and, hearing confirmation from the trooper that, yes, he sure does need help, shoots and kills the attacker, then promptly and correctly uses the trooper's radio to bring help to an accurate location.  The trooper's boss expresses his appreciation while carefully avoiding the release of any information about the hero, who sounds like a man who's been around the block a few times and is instantly being treated like a real or honorary insider.  Good on him, and on the state troopers, too.

On the Deep, Deep Wrongness of Buzzfeed

You probably think I want to talk about that Trump dossier, but I don't want to talk about that at all. I want to talk about their list of Best Irish Pubs in Each State. An outlet that goes this wrong on such a simple topic can't be trusted to get anything else correct.
“Great food, service and atmosphere. The sausage crack dip and the fish and chips were amazing.”
“We split the fried grouper sandwich, and their version of a club sandwich — and both were incredible.”
In Georgia, they named Shenanigan's Irish Pub in Dahlonega (home of Georgia's military college, the University of North Georgia, as well as the first gold rush in the United States). As it happens, I've eaten at Shenanigan's several times, most recently last night. It's a perfectly fine college bar with a few Irish pub trappings. The food is good. The beer selection is not horrible. Still, there's no dart board. The music is not Irish. The food is almost entirely non-Irish, too, mostly just American pub grub with a couple of 'Irish Pub' standby options.

I mean, it's fine. You can go there, you'll have a good time, you'll enjoy your meal, and there's a dog-friendly area on the patio so you can bring your pup along with you. There's nothing wrong with it.

However.

In the city of Savannah stands Kevin Barry's Pub. Kevin Barry was a teenager executed by the British in 1920 for Republican activities. There's a picture of him on the second floor in Liberty Hall, along with other major figures of the Irish revolution. The rest of the second floor is taken up with the Hall of Heroes, dedicated to the United States military to which Irish families have contributed so much, where portraits of fallen servicemen (and at least one woman) line the walls along with flags and unit memorabilia. By the portraits of the fallen are wire hooks designed to hold glasses of whiskey, which their comrades often buy for them and hang there until they evaporate.

On the first floor is a large music hall, in which one of the best Irish musicians in the American South plays every night. My favorite of them, Harry O'Donoghue, will be there next on 20 February.




One of these places is the real thing. The other got some nice reviews on Yelp. Buzzfeed can't tell the difference, and that's a huge problem with the kind of journalism that they represent.

Tab Dump Before Pizza

Interesting tabs I have open but don't have time to write much about ... and pizza is calling.

This is long, so I'll put most of this below the fold. Here's a preview:

Michael Wolff's "The Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance, Explained"

Kurt Schlichter's "Sorry but Our Fight against Liberal Fascism Has Only Just Begun"

Robert McReynolds, "Empire, American Style,"

Plus, Princess Leia, vintage air travel maps, and a huge trove of declassified CIA maps.

ESR on Soviet Ideological Warfare against the US

In 2006, Eric S. Raymond discussed "ideological warfare" used against the United States by her enemies. I ran across this recently and it's an interesting article.

I disagree with his claim that Americans don't expect ideas to matter because what really matters is material prosperity. That is, we think crime, terrorism, etc., are the effects of economic problems, not ideology. That probably is the view of secularists, who became increasingly numerous from the late 19th century on, but not of all Americans. However, his point is to debunk the view that ideology and ideas don't have consequences, so I am happy he's on my side (ideas have consequences) overall.

The interesting part begins with:

By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions. Yes, the Nazis did this, through organizations like the “German-American Bund” that was outlawed when World War II went hot. Today, the Islamists are having some success at manipulating our politics through fairly transparent front organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.


...

On a different level, in the 1930s members of CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.

Americans hearing that last one tend to laugh. But the Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.

And they've been very successful. Below are some of the ideas Raymond identifies as promoted by Soviet disinformation programs.

Fight Like a 6-Year-Old Girl

A lesson from a Marine.

I think Ace or someone said this was relevant to Trump's treatment of the media recently. I forget. But good advice. I've probably avoided some butt-kickings by aggressive displays of excessive optimism myself.

What Happened to Civics Education?

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, recently had an article in Minding the Campus which explains in some detail how civics classes have been hijacked to undermine American-style democracy. Going under names like "the New Civics" and "service learning," it makes civics classes in particular and, wherever the SJWs can, any and every class from K-Ph.D. into courses in progressive propaganda and activism.

I've seen this myself, and agree that it is ubiquitous, though the power the SJWs have varies greatly from school to school and department to department. Schools of education are eaten up with it.

I highly recommend the whole article if you are interested in American education today. If you do, remember the name Paulo Freire; I'll come back to him in a future post.

Here's an excerpt from the report Wood discusses:

National Findings: Traditional civic literacy is in deep decay in America. The New Civics, a movement devoted to progressive activism, has taken over civics education. “Service-learning” and “civic engagement” are the most common labels this movement uses, but it also calls itself global civics, deliberative democracy, and intercultural learning. The New Civics movement is national, and it extends far beyond the universities. The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as “progressive activism.” The New Civics redefines “civic activity” as channeling government funds toward progressive nonprofits. The New Civics has worked to divert government funds to progressive causes since its founding in the 1960s.

The New Civics redefines “volunteerism” as labor for progressive organizations and administration of the welfare state. The new measures to require “civic engagement” will make this volunteerism compulsory.  The New Civics replaces traditional liberal arts education with vocational training for community activists. The New Civics shifts authority within the university from the faculty to administrators, especially in offices of civic engagement, diversity, and sustainability, as well as among student affairs professionals. The New Civics also shifts the emphasis of a university education from curricula, drafted by faculty, to “co-curricular activities,” run by non-academic administrators. The New Civics movement aims to take over the entire university. The New Civics advocates want to make “civic engagement” part of every class, every tenure decision, and every extracurricular activity.

Trump Does Counter-Intelligence against the IC?

From And Still I Persist:
After Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States, he began to interview many different individuals for possible Cabinet and Administration positions. Immediately, there were nearly daily leaks as to whom was being considered for what position, and whether a given individual’s stock was rising or falling. After this had gone on for a few weeks — with sometimes wildly differing information coming out of Trump Tower and its environs — I talked with my close friend and co-blogger, Bruce Henderson, and wondered if Trump was carrying out a classic information security exercise: giving specific bits of information to specific individuals and then seeing if that information showed up in the press the next day or so. If it did, then the source of that leak was unmistakable identified. Henderson thought it plausible, but there was no way to prove that this was going on.

However, a recent letter (reproduced at the post above) from the Director of National Intelligence suggests Trump actually did this and showed a leak within the Intelligence Community.

Something we may find out during Trump's administration is the extent of partisanship in each part of the bureaucracy. What if we find out the IC in general is partisan? How could a problem like that be solved? These are the folks who have permission to hide information from us and lie to us for our own good, whose job is ideally proper management of information, but who could easily manipulate it for their own purposes, all protected from scrutiny by law.

Some time ago we talked about Trump requesting private security guards. Maybe he needs them. Maybe he also needs his own private intelligence team. And now that I'm thinking about this, didn't some people in the Bush administration feel they needed a team that went around the normal IC channels?

Obama DOD Just Trolling Us Now

Headline: "US Army Wants Biodegradable Bullets That Sprout Plants."

Of course we'd need to make different bullets for every conflict in order to avoid the environmental hazard of invasive species.

Universal Surveillance in 2 Easy Steps!

Step one was just taken by the Obama administration.
In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.
Step two is just to get your corporate allies in the telecoms to make sure that all information bounces off at least one satellite and/or 'network switch abroad' so that the NSA can legally collect on them.

Actually, you know what? I'll bet that was step one.

This sounds like one of Glenn Reynolds' regular riffs: "They said if we elected Trump, the government would dodge search warrant requirements in order to spy on us like never before.... and they were right!"

Fusion GPS

A report from the Weekly Standard -- I wonder whether or not they're on the enemies list, but if they are this is a good way to start working to get off of it -- on the firm behind the disinformation about Trump. These aren't Russians, they're hired gunslingers for outfits like Planned Parenthood.

Shame is Good for You, Isn't It?

So argues Plato, a new article explains.
Shame presupposes that we ought to know better but flout the rules regardless. This is precisely Plato’s point about moral knowledge: we already possess it, we already know the right way to live a just and fulfilling life, but are constantly diverted from that noble aim. For Plato, then, shame is a force that helps us resist the urge to conform when we know it’s wrong to do so. Shame helps us be true to ourselves, to endure Socrates’ needling, and to heed the moral knowledge within. A man without shame, Plato says, is a slave to desire – for material goods, power, fame, respect. Such desire is tyrannical because, by its nature, it cannot be satisfied.
That isn't the end of it, the author argues, as an apparently shameless society -- he is thinking of our own -- is really wrapped up in self-censorship instead.
Visibility is a trap,’ wrote the French philosopher Michel Foucault... What he meant was that allowing oneself to be watched, and learning to watch others, is both seductive and dangerous. He drew upon Jeremy Bentham’s 18th-century plans for a ‘Panopticon’, a prison in which inmates are observed from a central tower manned by an invisible occupant, his watchful eye seeing but unseen. The idea was that the prisoners would internalise the presence of the spectral watchman, whether or not anyone was actually inside, and behave of their own accord. ‘Morals reformed – health preserved – industry invigorated – instruction diffused – public burthens lightened,’ Bentham enthused.

According to Foucault, the dynamics of the Panopticon bore an uncanny resemblance to how people self-monitor in society at large. In the presence of ever-watchful witnesses, he said, physical coercion is no longer necessary. People police themselves. They do not know what the observers are registering at any given moment, what they are looking for, exactly, or what the punishments are for disobedience. But the imagination keeps them pliant....

So what would Foucault make of the current digital media landscape? In many ways, the modern surveillance state – enabled and expanded thanks to new technologies – is a shining example of the Panopticon.... Foucault’s central claim is that such monitoring is worrisome, not just because of what corporations and states might do with our data, but because the act of watching is itself a devastating exercise of power. It has the capacity to influence behaviour and compel conformity and complicity, without our fully realising it.
If that is right, it's noteworthy that the self-censorship tends to run exactly counter to what Bentham thought would happen (which is generally true with Bentham). People participating on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere certainly do try to present a prettier version of their lives than they really live. But they don't try to hide their sexual longings, say, or their unpopular political opinions.

But perhaps -- the author suggests -- they are engaged in confession. By confessing themselves of the things they would once have been ashamed of, they find online a community of people who endorse their views and desires. Shame is a social process, and discovering that there is a community that will approve of the things you were ashamed of really is liberating in the sense that it destroys the reason for feeling ashamed. The desires will be endorsed, they will be approved, if not by everyone by a large enough community that you can feel like you've found 'your people.'

That leaves one genuinely shameless. Does it also, then, leave one a slave to desire -- as Plato feared? Liberation from one thing means slavery to another, is that it? Or is there a road of genuine freedom to be found here?

"Fantasy Island" in the PRC



Personal Tailor is a richly satirical movie with hints of hilarity and decadence. I suggest a dark red wine with it.

A favorite line, possibly mis-remembered: "We all hate it, so it can't be tasteless."

Update: It's free on Amazon Prime right now.

Rathkeltair

Named for a city in ancient Ireland, here's a band that combines modern sounds -- and songs -- with the traditional pipes.



They're regulars at the Stone Games, so they're a band I know well. Here they are performing in Ohio. I've never actually liked their rock bits all that much, but they're devoted to them. Their best bits are their take on traditional songs, though: advance to 20:25, and watch them throw down on "Atholl Highlanders," an impressive song in its traditional form. It belongs to a non-government military unit in the employ of the Duke of Atholl, a private army long maintained within Great Britain. It has an interesting history, one that includes Queen Victoria and Prince Faisal of "Lawrence of Arabia" fame.



That must have been a fine visit. I imagine that the Arabs with Faisal understood the Scots of those days more or less perfectly.

Don't Miss This One

The "Barnacaster," a four string guitar made with a barn wood slab.

HAHAHAHAHAHA

The Hill published a piece from an Assistant Professor of Political Science, calling for "a new election" given the accusations against Trump.

First of all, how could such a thing even be possible given the complete absence of Constitutional warrant for it? He gets around to that at the end.
If it is determined that Russian efforts did indeed put Trump over the top in an incredibly close election, then the next step would be to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a one-time special election to be held as soon as possible.

This would be far from easy, but it is possible with the support of a two-thirds majority in each chamber of Congress, followed with ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures.
Oh, is that all? Presuming Congress and 3/4ths of the states were up for it, we'd be ready to start this new election in a year or two, then? Just to give one little roadblock, Georgia's legislature only meets 40 days a year, and you aren't on their agenda -- nor could you be, until you get Congress to pass that proposed amendment, by which time the 40 days will be up. Maybe the Republican governor will call them back for a special session? If not, you'll have to wait for next year.

Who runs the place in the meantime?

He doesn't give an answer to that, but it's kind of an important question. This has to be done in eight days to avoid a magnificent Constitutional crisis. Who'd be President while we wait on the Congress and the states to work out this special warrant for a one-time election. Not President Obama -- his terms are up. The Constitution clearly says to seat President Trump, but that's the one thing you want to avoid. So we need some other solution.

Maybe we could appoint a warlord Ceasar, um, declare martial law, without a sitting civilian Commander in Chief -- you didn't think this through at all, did you, Prof?

All the same, The Hill published it.

Allah on Ethics

It is easy to forget, given the fireworks, that the real point of today's presser with Trump was for him to announce his solution to conflicts of interest arising from his business. Allah didn't forget.
If you want to defend this dubious arrangement, your best move is to shrug and say that Americans knew what they were getting when they voted for him. And increasingly, that is the chief argument you hear in his defense. Not that a trust run by his family is ethical, not that it’ll stop special interests from funneling cash to Trump through legal means, but essentially that Americans don’t care anymore if the president is corrupt or not. I mean, the alternative last year was Hillary Clinton. We might as well let lobbyists start dropping off burlap bags filled with cash with dollar signs on the side on the White House doorstep.
He has a good analysis of the weaknesses of this particular approach, which he still says is "better than nothing."

UPDATE: TNR isn't too impressed either, although I'm not sure I buy their argument that it makes things worse. Donating revenue to the Treasury may in some sense represent Trump 'merging his business and the Federal government,' but not more than donating any other foreign gift to the Treasury -- which is a standard practice for US officials receiving foreign gifts.

The Intercept: Deep State at War With Trump

So they claim, and you can read their report and make up your own mind. The Intercept is fairly credible, although it sometimes takes risks with the people it is reporting on. That's a hazard of reporting on secrets, though. This report is by Glenn Greenwald, whom I didn't take to be credible not that long ago -- but he's done good work lately, I have to admit.

A Hidden Bombshell

In the reporting on this Russia business:
...the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus.
The FISA court turned them down? As of 2013, the FISA court had denied only 11 requests for surveillance warrants in 33 years -- .03%. Sometimes they do ask for more information first, but even that is unusual.

It makes you wonder whether the request was particularly weak, or if they were particularly sensitive to the potential scandal from spying on a major Presidential candidate.

UPDATE: BBC says it was rejected a second time, only to be approved in much narrowed form in October.

CNN Makes the Enemies List

Their organization is terrible, and they are purveyors of 'fake news.'

How long until the media regrets giving Trump a weapon like 'fake news'? Twenty minutes ago?

My late father-in-law used to call CNN the "Communist News Network" -- he was a veteran, and after his time in the military (an original member of the US Air Force, having started in the Army Air Force) he worked on DOD's aerospace programs for the rest of his career. Sometimes he'd call them the "Clinton News Network," and I'm not sure how much of a distinction he saw between Communists and Clintons in any case.

I wonder how he'd react to Donald Trump, if he were still alive? I imagine he'd be appalled at the man's manner, but not entirely so at the man's sentiments.

DKM: Blood



I suppose it's obvious that this anthem is built around Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

Trump Blackmailed by Russia?

So says this report, but there's a few things that draw my eye.

1) The information was provided to Trump. It's not being held as a weapon to use against him in the last few days before he takes office. It's a warning, perhaps, of vulnerabilities he doesn't know he has; or it's a play at leverage from an intelligence community that would like to be closer to their new boss. (Don't think a clandestine service guy wouldn't think of this. If he didn't at least think of it, he's not competent at his trade.)

2) The information was provided to Obama. He's giving a farewell address tonight, not girding his loins up to do something unprecedented. That suggests that the information we're seeing in the press should be interpreted minimally rather than extravagantly.

3) Nevertheless, this is a big deal if true. It's not a crime to be the victim of spying (otherwise, we'd have yet another reason to put Hillary in the dock). There are crimes that can come from how you respond to being blackmailed. Right now, we don't know enough to know if any such things happened. Indeed, Trump may not have been at all blackmailed as yet: he may have been surprised to learn the information existed.

There's a lot to know yet before we can come to any conclusions. It's not even certain if any of this is true. All the same, it's something to keep an eye on. Even if it turns out that Trump just took a bunch of easy money from Russian outlets, it's not too far a walk to bribery -- and bribery is one of the two Constitutionally specified impeachable offenses. If you get as far as treason, well, that's a capital crime.

Strange place to start a new administration, and again, what we have in front of us is a leaked comment about a report that the President has seen in full and isn't taking super-seriously. Still, a citizen's duty is what it is. All partisanship aside, we'll have to keep our eyes open and do what duty and the Constitution commands. It may come to nothing, but we cannot be sure it will.

UPDATE: NBC says the intel agencies didn't show the 'compromising material' stuff to Trump, because they deemed it false. That's odd, though, because Trump sounded at his presser like he thought he had seen it. (Quite a presser, too -- it's going to be an interesting administration.)

Conservatives Are Objectively Better Looking

Some of us, obviously.

No, really, that's a thing the Washington Post is putting forward. So go preen, brothers and sisters.

UPDATE: Maybe this explains how this happens. (Possible content warning -- I haven't read but the headline.)

"Clock Boy" Lawsuit Dismissed With Prejudice

As you may remember, there was a case in Texas of a boy who built a "clock" in a briefcase and brought it to school. A teacher thought it looked like a bomb and called the police. The student was Muslim, a huge mess was made by his father about the incident, and President Obama invited the kid to the White House.

A minor offshoot of this event was that our friend Uncle Jimbo of BLACKFIVE fame was interviewed about the case on television in his capacity as a former Special Forces NCO. He said, on the air, that the so-called clock was the detonation side of a suitcase bomb -- and that he ought to know, having been taught to build the things by the Army. He was later also interviewed on the Glenn Beck program, wherein he pointed out that all this attention and legal action suggested that the whole thing was a setup designed to get publicity. As a result of this, Jim was one of the many people who got wrapped up in the overarching lawsuit filed by the family against anyone who said anything other than that this was a clear-cut case of an innocent youth mistreated by prejudice.

That lawsuit was just dismissed.
During the lengthy hearing, Judge Moore pressed Mohamed’s lawyer, Fort Worth attorney Susan Hutchison, to provide any facts that would suggest that Hanson and the other defendants had said anything false or defamatory about Mohamed or his son during the television broadcasts. After spending a painfully embarrassing 15 minutes flipping through reams of paper, Mohamed’s lawyer was unable to provide any such evidence.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Moore took the matter under advisement but informed the parties that she would rule by the end of the day. Today, the Court published Judge Moore’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit against Hanson and CSP with prejudice.

ATTN Progressives: You'd Have Hated Hillary's Cabinet, Too

Don't take my word for it. The New Republic has it broken down for you.

Descending dove


Czech Gov't: No Limit on Terrorism Hunting License

Not what you expect from Europe, but minds may be changing given the steady drumbeat of attacks.
Now the country's interior ministry is pushing a constitutional change that would let citizens use guns against terrorists. Proponents say this could save lives if an attack occurs and police are delayed or unable to make their way to the scene. To become law, Parliament must approve the proposal; they'll vote in the coming months.

The Czech Republic already has some of the most lenient gun policies in Europe.
They have some of the most lenient gun policies in Europe, but it's unconstitutional to shoot terrorists?

Minds may be changing, but there's a long way to go.

Law Enforcement Spox Feel Much the Same as the Military

It's not a poll like the Military Times piece, but this article does capture the perspective of leaders of police organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the kindest words for Obama came from a former Bush Administration official.
"You can’t in all fairness say that Obama is anti-police,” said Larry Thompson, a former deputy attorney general under George W. Bush. “If you read his statements, they’re not anti-police. But I do think the department and the administration have been too quick to point an accusatory finger at the police when these incidents have happened. Whether that’s accurate, it’s a perception you have to deal with and I think it will change under Sessions.”
Some of the others didn't feel it was at all unfair to suggest that the President was anti-police.

I suppose if I were a left-leaning individual who was afraid that Trump was going to usher in an authoritarian regime, I would be worried by these clear demonstrations of affection for him by police and the military (and especially the military over-represented on the front line, meaning the enlisted, the Army, and the Marine Corps). I suspect I would read this as confirmation that 'my side' was going to be quashed, and that the police would feel that they had a free hand to do some quashing without fear of repercussions from on high.

But, as AVI says, evidence is ambiguous. I think that's similar to the point Tom and I were discussing from Aristotle, the other day:
We must be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly and in outline, and in speaking about things which are only for the most part true and with premisses of the same kind to reach conclusions that are no better. In the same spirit, therefore, should each type of statement be received; for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.
Of course, 'what is most probable' can look quite different to two different people who bring different assumptions to the table. You aren't going to get a scientific proof that could calm the heart.

I had a similar conversation recently with someone who is genuinely afraid of Trump and what he represents. She was worried that his administration plans to shrink the National Security Council down to around 150 people, from about 400. "But that's the size it used to be," I said, "and the reason President Obama grew it so much is that he likes to run things from the White House, rather than giving the departments more of their own head. Shouldn't you be relieved that the NSC is shrinking, and that career bureaucrats at the departments will thus have more control over the day to day operations of the government?"

She was not relieved. I imagine she would be no more relieved to learn that the police are looking forward so strongly to Jeff Sessions.

What Could Go Wrong?

Down to the most dangerous few left in GitMo, President Obama decides to transfer 18 or 22 to Saudi Arabia.

On the upside, there's always a chance that the Saudis will behead them.

Rand Paul: Time to Kill Obamacare

He's got another answer he likes better.
What should we replace Obamacare with? Perhaps we should try freedom:

1. The freedom to choose inexpensive insurance free of government dictates.

2. The freedom to save unlimited amounts in a health savings account.

3. The freedom to buy insurance across state lines.

4. The freedom for all individuals to join together in voluntary associations to gain the leverage of being part of a large insurance pool.
The biggest problems with Obamacare are, from my perspective, these:

1) It makes my health everyone else's business, which means that everyone else in theory has an interest in telling me how to live.

2) It distorts the market towards worse kinds of jobs, especially at the lower end. The result is to increase poverty and the hardship of life for working Americans.

3) The mandate is unconstitutional, SCOTUS notwithstanding.

It's unclear from the details in the wild whether Rand Paul's plan fixes those three things, although it sounds like he probably is gunning for the mandate.

According to Paul's Twitter account, which I suppose is how we do governance now, Trump is 100% on board with the plan.

Vox: Authoritarian States Aren't So Bad

Actual headline: "Life in authoritarian states is mostly boring and tolerable."

Of course, it's a piece about Trump.

How strange an argument for a parallel with Trump, though: "[Y]ou usually learn that you are no longer living in a democracy not because The Government Is Taking Away Your Rights, or passing laws that you oppose, or because there is a coup or a quisling. You know that you are no longer living in a democracy because the elections in which you are participating no longer can yield political change."

This last election was probably the most momentous in my lifetime, except possibly Reagan v. Carter in 1980. A few votes in a few states and we'd be facing a completely different future. If this is the measure, America must be the least authoritarian place it's easy to find. Brexit was a strike against authoritarianism too. Every nationalist movement in Europe is about telling the EU that the People of Our Nation will no longer be commanded by a distant bureaucracy of which they have no vote.

Of Course

Headline: "NBC New York Has Identified The Real Mass Shooting Threat in America: Veterans"

The article from NBC came up with 11 incidents in nearly 30 years in which an active shooter was either a veteran or active duty military.

Their bit drew a response:


The double standard is particularly glaring here.

Military Times Poll on President Obama

And now, at the last, it can be told.

Not that it's any surprise. A poll of troops finds that they are not fans of the President, 51.5% to 36.4%, a 15 point gap. More than 29% of troops rate him strongly unfavorably. Obama does better, exactly as Clinton did in Military Times polling before the election, with officers, the Navy, and the Air Force. He does worse, exactly as she did, with enlisted, the Army, and especially the Marine Corps.

On specific policies, they rate his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan very badly, as well as his preference for avoiding large-scale overseas missions. However, they rate his increased reliance on special forces positively, even though it is the flipside of the avoidance of large-scale overseas missions. Likewise, they rate positively his use of drones, which is another way he has chosen to project power instead of using large-scale forces.

As for his social engineering, the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell comes out slightly ahead in the poll (6% more thought it helped than that it hurt). The other social engineering programs have not fared as well. Twice as many servicemembers say that gender integration in combat units has hurt than helped. Transgender service loses by almost four-to-one.

Curiously, to me, the poll asked servicemembers to rate dangers facing America, but didn't ask about Russia. It did ask about China and Iran (strangely, perhaps, more are worried about China -- a major trading partner -- than about the revolutionary Islamic Republic that begins and ends the day with chants of "Death to America"). Neither are as big a concern as Islamic terrorism, which occupy the two top spots ("The Islamic State and al-Qaida" and "Domestic Islamic Terrorists").

DB: Troops Sour on Mattis

A large number of active-duty troops once enthusiastic about the choice of James Mattis for Defense Secretary have since soured on the pick after the retired general released a 6000-book reading list he plans to implement for the entire DoD after he is confirmed, Duffel Blog has learned.

Referred to by some as the “Warrior Monk,” the 66-year-old sent his reading list to the military’s entire email distribution list over the weekend. Most service members who received the 200-page email reported they were still in the process of reading it well into Monday morning....

Among the top books chosen, Mattis recommended “No True Glory” by Bing West, “Battle Ready” by Tom Clancy, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” ten of the most difficult books to read of all time, and The Bible. Marines, however, were only assigned four coloring books.

Empathy Is Not Good

Not an unalloyed good, to be sure. The classic example is that my empathy for a young woman who has been sexually assaulted -- which is quite legitimate -- can cause me to pursue harsh punishments against the person who is accused of assaulting her, without caring too much about the certainty of proof against him. There are numerous other examples along these lines, which the reader is invited to research at pleasure.

Nevertheless, until now I've not seen an argument that suggested that empathy wasn't at least a little bit good, or potentially good if properly used. Here is one that does that, reducing empathy to a kind of bias.

Unfortunately, it's in a podcast form, so I can't readily give you excerpts. But consider it, if it's a subject that interests you.