Detective stories

It turns out has quite a few free books on offer.  At first I stuck to classics, some Jane Austen and so forth, because I'm suspicious of modern fiction recommended by sites like Audible or Kindle.  In desperation during a long painting job, though, I took a chance on an author named Colin Cotteril, who turns out to be terrific.  Imagine John Le Carre on antidepressants and channeling Roger Zelazny.

So far I've listened to the first two in a series about a Laotian coroner, The Coroner's Lunch and Thirty-Three Teeth.  Unlike many coroner-based procedurals, this one doesn't try to gross the reader out.  The protagonist, a disillusioned 72-year-old doctor who finds himself the reluctant national coroner without training or facilities in post-revolution socialist Laos in 1978, is cynical but not in the least hard-hearted, more of a Jane Marple than a Sam Spade.  Actually a bit of Obi-Wan Kenobe.  The Audible version is especially enjoyable for the accents, which are all Brit.

Seasick Steve on a Friday Night

Good for all of your howling-at-the-moon needs.

Life Advice from Old Cowboy Movies

There's three times in a man's life when he has a right to yell at the moon: when he marries, when his children come, and... and when he finishes a job he had to be crazy to start.

-Red River
Today I finished something I was probably crazy to start, which I've been working on for seven years. I'm going to be offline for a bit; perhaps a week. I don't know that I'll yell at the moon, but I'll definitely celebrate with some time doing something else.

Enjoy yourselves. I'll be back.

Cybersecurity, the Old-Fashioned Way

Vice points out that our nuclear missiles are almost completely secure from cyber attack.
The technology that currently powers these nukes is notoriously antiquated. Most of the systems were designed and built during the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and ’70s, with the last major overhaul completed during the Reagan administration. Some computers in the missile base command centers still use eight-inch floppy disks....

U.S. nuclear missile base technology is ancient by modern standards, but the old machines offer almost maximum cybersecurity simply by virtue of their age. With everything hardwired and analog, the system is uniquely impervious to intrusion and meddling. That leaves some nuclear experts to ask: Why spend billions switching from a system that is relatively safe to one that’s potentially more vulnerable?
That strikes me as a good point.

Good Order & Discipline

The Department of the Navy has settled upon a regulatory change to address the Marines United photo-sharing scandal.
The statute details three conditions that will be considered a violation of Navy regulations, including if images are broadcast or transmitted: “with the intent to realize personal gain; with the intent to humiliate, harm, harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the depicted person; or with reckless disregard as to whether the depicted person would be humiliated, harmed, intimidated, threatened, or coerced,” the regs read...

In this case, detailing expectations of Department of the Navy personnel amounts to a lawful order, which can be enforced with the full weight of the justice system, from non-judicial punishment to general court martial. Sailors and Marines who run afoul of the new regs could be charged with an Article 92, failure to obey a lawful order, the Navy's chief spokesperson confirmed in a statement.
As expected, 100% of the focus is on the unauthorized sharing of the photos. There will not be any attempt to rein in the fraternizing of male and female Marines, nor their sharing of nude photos of each other so long as it is consensual. Neither will there be any inquiry into whether such an environment is really compatible with good order and discipline.

It's a half-step, but my guess is that there is no one in the leadership who feels empowered to question the place of Free Love in the military at this particular moment in American history. As with other 1960s counterculture values, Free Love is now ascendant for good and for ill.

Even in the Marine Corps.


A Vox writer comes to the dawning realization that the US government isn't capable of handling the legalization of drugs. It's a pretty good piece -- I don't raise it to mock it, but to praise the willingness to rethink a long-held position based on evidence you would likely prefer to ignore.

The basic idea is that he has come to realize that, while legalization might work elsewhere, America's particular government is incapable of regulating drugs effectively. Legalization will thus predictably bring a vast increase in drug use and the trauma associated with it. It is not that it is impossible to legalize drugs and regulate them wisely; other countries may be able to do it. Our system, however, is incapable of it.

I sometimes use a similar argument against single-payer in America. It may be that other governments can do that well, but if we had single-payer, you already know what it would look like. It would look like the VA.

Two Very Different Takes on the Same Information

The American Spectator has been developing a report from the UK's Guardian. The information in the stories is substantially the same, but the impression you get about what the story actually is will differ wildly depending on which publication you read. The Guardian report is another "Trump (or at least some people with his campaign) colluded with Russia" story. The Spectator story is not.
...John Brennan was the American progenitor of political espionage aimed at defeating Donald Trump. One side did collude with foreign powers to tip the election — Hillary’s.

Seeking to retain his position as CIA director under Hillary, Brennan teamed up with British spies and Estonian spies to cripple Trump’s candidacy. He used their phony intelligence as a pretext for a multi-agency investigation into Trump, which led the FBI to probe a computer server connected to Trump Tower and gave cover to Susan Rice, among other Hillary supporters, to spy on Trump and his people.

John Brennan’s CIA operated like a branch office of the Hillary campaign, leaking out mentions of this bogus investigation to the press in the hopes of inflicting maximum political damage on Trump. An official in the intelligence community tells TAS that Brennan’s retinue of political radicals didn’t even bother to hide their activism, decorating offices with “Hillary for president cups” and other campaign paraphernalia.

A supporter of the American Communist Party at the height of the Cold War, Brennan brought into the CIA a raft of subversives and gave them plum positions from which to gather and leak political espionage on Trump. He bastardized standards so that these left-wing activists could burrow in and take career positions.
Is it possible that both papers are correct in their take? The claim that Brennan was a "supporter" of CPUSA does at least track to his admission that he voted for the CPUSA candidate in 1976. He was also the CIA director when the Agency hacked the US Senate, which should have been a red line for anyone who respected democratic limits on the powers of spying.

Up or Down?

From a mostly-correct piece on the dangers of politics as comedy:
The late-night political-comedy shows... staked their territory during the heat of the general election: unwavering, bombastic, belittling, humiliating screeds against Donald Trump. Fair enough. Trump is a man who on any casual summer day during the campaign could be found inciting a crowd to violence. This isn’t the slippery slope; this is the ditch at the bottom of the hill. Once a man stands before a mob and exhorts the powerful to beat the outlier, it’s all over except for the cannibalism and the cave painting. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” said Abraham Lincoln. “Knock the crap out of them,” said Donald Trump.
Which way is down slope? Lincoln's remarks were made on a battlefield very recently interred with ten thousand men.

WeaponsMan, aka Kevin O'Brien, RIP

I don't know about you all, but I often lurked over at WeaponsMan blog, not really knowing enough to say anything of interest, but learning a great deal.  Today, sad news that after suffering a massive and sudden heart attack, and after a few days deteriorating in the hospital, he has passed away.
He will be missed, but surely, he lived!

SoA in Georgia

Republic of, that is.

Spirit of America remains a great charity, even after all these years.

Unload and Show Clear

Don't try to catch a cleared cartridge in your hand, that seems to be the lesson of this post.

But as a man of the old fashion, let me just say that this never happens with a revolver.

Five Dollar Bill

I wrote my new song on a five dollar bill
but I won't be able to sing it until
I get hot on the trail for to pick up the track
of the dirty little thief and get my five bucks back ...

An Alternative Viewpoint

Schism and resolution

Among the nuttier reasons to get your state to secede from the U.S. has got to be the hope that you'll have less to fear from terrorists if you are less associated with the guilt of America.
"When I talk to people about California independence, they always say: ‘Well, what would you do if China invades?’” says Yes California president Louis Marinelli from his home in . . . Yekaterinburg, formerly Sverdlovsk (city motto: Don’t call us Siberia), an industrial center on the edge of the Ural Mountains in Russia. “Seriously,” he asks, “when’s the last time China invaded another country?” I mention the obvious ones: Tibet, India, and the Soviet Union. There’s Vietnam and Korea. Marinelli is a young man; perhaps much of this seems like ancient history to him. It does not to the Indians, or the Russians, or the Vietnamese, or many others. “No, I mean: When’s the last time China crossed an ocean to invade another country?” he clarifies. “Only the United States does that.”
The American war machine must surely be of some intense concern to California’s would-be Jefferson Davis, inasmuch as there is no legal or constitutional process for a state’s separating from the Union, a question that was settled definitively if not in court then just outside the courthouse at Appomattox.
We have been watching a ScyFy TV series called "The Expanse," set in 2020, about (among other things) the pains of nation-building and colonial resentments on Mars and in the Asteroid Belt.  Perhaps because I was trying to do crafts while watching the first season, I found I enjoyed a lot of the characters, dialogue, sets, and atmosphere without in any being able to figure out what in the world was supposed to be happening with the many interlocking story lines.  The second season is a little tighter and more compelling.  Anyway, the characters all have a pretty good grasp of how important it is to get your hands on the occasional warship.

He keeps using that word....

Words mean things. Oh yes, they most certainly do.

So this article popped up in my twitter feed, and I'm browsing it, basically agreeing with the author's premise, but then I caught this line:

"I wasn’t a Christian for the first part of my life. I knew it, and I didn’t want anyone to be mistaken. Now that I am a Christian, I don’t want anyone to believe that I’m an atheist, or a Mormon, or a Roman Catholic, or a Hindu."

Oh dear. So I stopped reading the article at that point and went immediately to the comments. And they did not disappoint. It wasn't quite a refight of the Reformation, but it's pretty close.

I'm always suspicious of "non-denominational" because what ever your opinions are of a denomination, it's an agreed upon set of beliefs that everybody (well, maybe not everybody) in that denomination agrees to. Or at least says they do. Or something like that. I'm always suspicious that non-denominational types are just making it up as they go, and in the end, it's like that line from the movie: "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Were You There

Continuing with the music from my church's Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.  They've been hitting on all cylinders.

I'm sad today.  My neighbors put their dog down, because she had been aggressive to passing pedestrians and they couldn't figure out how to correct her behavior and save her.  I understand why they felt they had to do it, but I'm horrified.  Nothing speaks to me about our fallen state more deeply than our deranged relations with animals.  This dog thought she was doing the right thing protecting her home.  She trusted her people and couldn't understand what they wanted from her.

Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Bach & Simon

Takes chutzpah to fiddle with something Bach perfected, but he does a good job.

10 Interesting Things about EVE Online, Whether You Play Or Not

I haven't played in more than a year; other things are consuming my time right now. But I ran across this video at Daddy Warpig's and one of the first things it talks about is that one of the diplomats murdered in Bengazi was a player. The rest are kind of interesting as well.

Stabat mater dolorosa

Go to dark Gethsemane

Go to dark Gethsemane,
You who feel the tempter's pow'r;
Your Redeemer's conflict see;
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgment hall;
View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the worm-wood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suff'ring, shame, or loss;
Learn of Him to bear the cross.

Calv'ry's mournful mountain climb
There' adoring at His feet,
Mark the miracle of time,
God's own sacrifice complete:
"It is finished!" Hear the cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die.


We once had a long discussion about the franchise, questioning whether the universal franchise was really a good idea and debating approaches. The debate took place here, at VC, and at Elise's place. Different models were offered: a Starship Troopers model that linked citizenship to military or other public service; a property qualification, for 'skin in the game' reasons; I think we also discussed some education qualification. In the end, none of it proved very persuasive, although it was interesting to see what arguments people had for and against things like the service qualification.

I think the debate was worthwhile, although it offended some readers so badly that they asked to have their blogs removed from the sidebar so they wouldn't be associated with someone who would entertain the question. Well, philosophers entertain a lot of ideas; as someone said, the mark of an educated mind is to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.

So, I'm prepared to entertain the idea. How about denying the franchise just to white men?

The idea is first justified by consequences: progressives would do way better if white men didn't vote, not just in America but across the Anglosphere. Isn't that unfair, to deny people the vote just because they don't vote the way you'd like? Why yes, the author admits:
Let's be clear, it may be unfair, but a moratorium on the franchise for white males for a period of between 20 and 30 years is a small price to pay for the pain inflicted by white males on others, particularly those with black, female-identifying bodies. In addition, white men should not be stripped of their other rights, and this withholding of the franchise should only be a temporary measure, as the world rights the wrongs of the past.
So, they won't be stripped of their rights, other than voting rights? Well, and property rights: it turns out, the whole point of this is to take their money.
At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners. After all, white men have used the imposition of Western legal systems around the world to reinforce modern capitalism. A period of twenty years without white men in the world's parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world's wealth far more equitably shared. The violence of white male wealth and income inequality will be a thing of the past.

This redistribution of the world's wealth is long overdue[.]
Ok, so, just voting rights and property rights, then. Oddly enough, there's actually a solid philosophical argument against that exact combination. It's fine to have redistribution in an oligarchy, Aristotle says, because the regular redistribution of wealth to the poor makes them willing to accept a lack of political control. But you can't have redistribution in a democracy, as this will produce violent revolt:
In democracies the rich should be spared; not only should their property not be divided, but their incomes also, which in some states are taken from them imperceptibly, should be protected. It is a good thing to prevent the wealthy citizens, even if they are willing from undertaking expensive and useless public services, such as the giving of choruses, torch-races, and the like. In an oligarchy, on the other hand, great care should be taken of the poor, and lucrative offices should go to them; if any of the wealthy classes insult them, the offender should be punished more severely than if he had wronged one of his own class.
So, denying people power for the purpose of taking their wealth is right out. If you give them the power, you can claim that they owe you compensation from their wealth. If you take the power, you have to spare their wealth. Trying to take the power so you can take their wealth reliably produces civil war.