It's the little things they get wrong...

From the Washington Post: "Thousands of e-mails that have been released by the State Department as part of a public records lawsuit show Clinton herself writing at least six e-mails containing information that has since been deemed classified."

No, that information was always classified, she just violated the law by failing to mark (and treat) it as such. Classified information is classified because of what it is, not how it is marked. And I expect much of her defense will revolve around "well I didn't KNOW it was classified since it wasn't marked" (which is a pathetic excuse and immaterial to the crime itself anyway).They have not been deemed classified now, they have merely been exposed as containing classified information.  They were classified when she wrote them.
"In response to questions . . . Mr. Pagliano’s legal counsel told the committee yesterday that he would plead the Fifth to any and all questions if he were compelled to testify,"
To me, the solution seems simple. Offer him total immunity to any charges relating to the actions he took in that timeframe (but NOT to lying to Congress). He then cannot plead the Fifth as he cannot incriminate himself with his testimony. We shouldn't really care about prosecuting this guy, we should care about nailing his lawbreaking boss to the wall.

Nothing to See Here

The President has advised us to ignore Iran's Supreme Leader, so all that 'Death to America' stuff and the Ayatollah's 416-page book detailing his plans to "outwit the US and destroy Israel" can be safely set aside.

Are we also supposed to ignore the Revolutionary Guards' top commander when he explains that "(the US and the Zionists) should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine”?

Probably, since his orders come from that "Supreme Leader" guy. We've already been told that nothing he says really matters.

An Odd Thing To Be A Felony

As Ricochet’s Tom Meyer points out, the third-degree charges—which constitute a majority of the total charges—actually stem from the pictures Copening had of himself. The implication is clear: Copening does not own himself, from the standpoint of the law, and is not free to keep sexually-provocative pictures, even if they depict his own body.

But consider this: North Carolina is one of two states in the country (the other is progressive New York) that considers 16 to be the age of adulthood for criminal purposes. This mean, of course, that Copening can be tried as an adult for exploiting a minor—himself.
None of the charges really make a lot of sense, since the other pictures were of his girlfriend and she willingly took them herself and sent them to him, in return for the pictures of himself he sent her. This business of transmitting naked photos of yourself to potential suitors is an odd practice, and I would advise against it if we have any teenage readers. It is not a great idea for a host of reasons, even where you won't face felony charges for doing it. And I would certainly advise you that if a young lady does send you naked photos of herself, you should immediately remove them from your phone and under no circumstances ever transmit them to anyone else nor allow them to fall into anyone else's hands. A gentleman's discretion is never better exercised than where a lady is concerned.

Still, as inadvisable as the practice certainly is, it is also rather clearly different from the child pornography that I assume was the real point of the NC law. In any case, the 16 year old girl also faced charges for taking a photo of herself, and plead guilty to them. The charges the young man is facing, however, are felony charges that could send him to prison for up to a decade.

Killing Tunisia

An incredibly sad piece on Tunisia after the terrorist attack on the beach:
Look at Tunisia’s resort city of Sousse on the Mediterranean. Two months ago, an ISIS-inspired nutcase named Seifeddine Rezgui strolled up the beach with a Kalashnikov in his hand and murdered 38 people, most of them tourists from Britain.
The police shot him, of course. There was never going to be any other ending than that one. And before the police arrived, local Tunisians formed a protective human shield around Rezgui’s would-be foreign victims. “Kill us! Kill us, not these people!” shouted Mohamed Amine. According to survivor John Yeoman, hotel staff members charged the gunman and said, “We won’t let you through. You’ll have to go through us.”
Tunisia’s hospitality and customer service are deservedly legendary, but that was truly above and beyond. It’s how Tunisia rolls, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. Tourists are not going back.
The loss of the tourism trade is badly hurting the city, but they have a treasure in their people and their culture. I hope they can find a way to recover.

I love puns

This is mostly for Ms. Cass, but I'm sure the Hall will appreciate it as well.

Taylor Swift: A Socratic Dialogue

In spite of my best efforts, I do occasionally find myself exposed to popular culture. As a result, this is amusing.

Flat curves

Trump is confusing me on the tax front:
As with many of Mr. Trump’s policy ideas, confusion seems to be keeping interested parties from knowing exactly how to respond. In an interview with Fox News last week, Mr. Trump said a flat tax would be a viable improvement to America’s tax system. Moments later, he suggested that a flat tax would be unfair because the rich would be taxed at the same rate as the poor.
“The one problem I have with the flat tax is that rich people are paying the same as people that are making very little money,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think there should be a graduation of some kind.”
Does this man understand that a flat tax means one that's not progressive? That a tax code can't be both at the same time?  The most charitable construction I can put on this is that he'd like the code to be pretty flat until you get to the super-rich, then do a hockey-stick.  Unfortunately, top-heavy tax structures  are notoriously unstable, yielding high revenues in good times and dropping sharply in bad times, as California is discovering.  Sometimes sticking it to rich people, no matter how satisfying, doesn't yield economic prosperity for the rest of us.

More discouraging political news: poll respondents' answers vary considerably depending on whether a question reads "Public Figure X supports policy ABC, do you agree?" or "Public Figure Y supports policy ABC, do you agree?" In particular, you can get quite different results on issues like affirmative action and the Iran deal depending on whether you insert "President Obama" or "Donald Trump." Sadly, you can get different results even if you insert a fictitious "policy ABC," such as "Should we repeal the Public Affairs Act of 1975?"  You can get a good chunk of people to guess what's in such an Act, which doesn't exist.

Maybe I'm weird: I decide whether I can stomach someone like Donald Trump on the basis of what policies I think he'll support, not vice versa. His tax views aren't helping. He sure can get attention, though, which is something. He went on Twitter the other day to call Anthony Wiener a "purve sleazeball," which makes up in vivid accuracy what it lacks in propriety. Along those lines, I find a sneaking admiration for Sidney Blumenthal's powers of expression in calling John Boehner "louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle." Like RedState, I had to look up louche, a word I've been hearing all my life without attaching any very specific meaning to it: it means discreditable, disgraceful, dishonorable, ignominious, infamous, disreputable, notorious, opprobrious, shady, shameful, shoddy, shy, or unrespectable, though literally "cross-eyed" or "squinty."

H/t my morning's email from Jim Geraghty, which I don't know how to link.

'Stands to Reason' Economics Takes A Hit

Noah Smith says that economists are "a rogue branch of applied math."
Traditionally, economists have put the facts in a subordinate role and theory in the driver’s seat. Plausible-sounding theories are believed to be true unless proven false, while empirical facts are often dismissed if they don’t make sense in the context of leading theories. This isn’t a problem with math -- it was just as true back when economics theories were written out in long literary volumes. Econ developed as a form of philosophy and then added math later, becoming basically a form of mathematical philosophy.

In other words, econ is now a rogue branch of applied math. Developed without access to good data, it evolved different scientific values and conventions. But this is changing fast, as information technology and the computer revolution have furnished economists with mountains of data.
His proposed solution is to turn the thinking over to machines instead of people. I wonder how well that will work? Economic activity is based on decisions made by people for fairly complex reasons that machines don't experience. On the other hand, they'll be considering the data at a level of abstraction that will mask the actual causes of the decisions, and treat the decisions themselves as the data. Does losing the causality hurt anything? We'll find out.

My concern, of course, is that if it does work well the people literally drop out of the equation. We'll make policy as if the decisions were what counted, and not the people who make those decisions -- and especially not what they hoped to achieve by making the decisions. But the purpose of economic activity is that very thing we'll be dropping out of our system for thinking about the activity. The real question by which you should judge economic activity is how well it helps the many, many people involved achieve what they'd hoped to achieve by undertaking an economic action. If you get a job, does it help you flourish, or does it lock you into a company store? Are you blocked from making economic decisions about selling your milk or pumpkins because of oppressive government regulation, and your inactivity doesn't show up in the data because it never rises to the level of a decision that can be counted?

Just the things I think we ought to care about are the things that will drop out of consideration.

Clever polio

Life fights back, as Michael Crichton would say. Our immunization campaign against polio has been remarkably effective, but there are chinks in the armor.
A little refresher on polio vaccines: There are two, the original injectable that uses killed virus (Jonas Salk’s original vaccine) and the oral drop version that contains a weakened live virus (Albert Sabin’s formula). The oral vaccine was the first one used in the international eradication campaign, because it is inexpensive to make and can be administered by anyone. It is still used in the developing world, though industrialized countries have gone back to the original injectable.
For all its benefits, the oral version has a known issue, a combination of bug and feature. Once it is given, the vaccine virus replicates in the gut. The feature part is that, when the vaccine virus passes out of the body, it can spread through the environment of places with poor sanitation, conferring a kind of passive secondary immunization on others nearby. The bug part is that, in the few weeks it is replicating, the vaccine virus mutates, and sometimes mutates back past the artificial weakening to the original disease-causing form.
British health authorities are aware of a man of about 30 who has been shedding live polio virus in his waste since he was a small child. It's a rare problem, requiring bad luck in the mutation of the live virus in the man's childhood oral vaccine combined with a immune system disorder just bad enough to let the polio virus live and not bad enough to kill him quickly. Occasional short-term vaccine-induced polio outbreaks have been known to happen on several dozen occasions since the polio-eradication program began in the 1950s. They're a terrible problem, not only because any unvaccinated or immuno-compromised locals are at risk of an awful disease, but because vaccination programs are controversial enough in the some areas of the world without having to make suspicious communities even more suspicious of outsiders' plot to sicken and kill them with mysterious medical technology.

Who's War Against Whom?

The new JSOC book gets a writeup at the Daily Beast, with the very strange title "Inside U.S. Commandos' War Against Iran." As becomes evident immediately, it's really that Iran's been waging war on us.

I Knew Blumenthal Would Be in the Clique

Last Saturday:
I've been reflecting on it more since we last talked about it, and I think maybe the most likely case is that the Hillary State Department -- or at least her clique of advisers and aides, as well as non-DOS personnel from her faction like Sidney Blumenthal -- were just completely careless about classification. It's less likely that they downloaded or wrote down information from the TS system to transfer onto the private email server than that they summarized what they'd read on the TS systems in unclassified emails. Quite possibly she and they believed this was perfectly safe to do, as they controlled the server and were only talking to other members of the trusted in-group.
Hillary’s classified missives weren’t sent to just State Department personnel. She also disseminated highly classified information to private citizens who did not have security clearances. In this 2009 e-mail exchange, for example, Clinton sent confidential classified national security information to Sidney Blumenthal, a shady former Clinton White House operative who the Obama White House banned from federal employment... The bulk of Hillary Clinton’s message to Blumenthal was redacted, under codes 1.4(D) and 1.4(B) because classification authorities determined it contained classified information “which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security[.]”

An Unlikely Reading of Plato

A philosopher writes:
Imagine, for a moment, if, during the tense final hours of the recently concluded negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 world powers, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif decided to set aside their remaining differences regarding the inspections regime and stockpiles of enriched uranium and turn for a moment to the fundamental questions that divide the two nations. Not differences in policy but in first principles.

Imagine Secretary Kerry explaining to his Iranian counterpart the philosophical roots and anthropological assumptions of American liberalism. And imagine Foreign Minister Zarif similarly providing an account of the Islamic republic. Imagine this debate continuing, fueled by endless cups of tea, long into the night, as Kerry discusses, say, John Locke and James Madison and the American founding, and Zarif discourses on Mulla Sadra and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Iranian revolution, as they argue about the nature of the human being, the purpose of the political community, the origin of law, and the meaning of justice.

And imagine that, as the morning sun finally rises over the city of Vienna, the two exhausted statesmen slump back to the negotiating table, now with a more sophisticated understanding of and respect for one another, and, over strong coffee, hammer out the final niggling details of the agreement in an amiable and conciliatory manner.
I can imagine everything except that last part. Fully understanding that you are negotiating with someone who has a vastly different idea about justice is not going to encourage you to negotiate in a "conciliatory manner." It's going to completely undermine your confidence that your partner is negotiating in a manner you would recognize as just. How can you take a huge risk like this on someone whose view of justice is so different from yours?

Plato gives us a picture of something quite like this in his Protagoras. Socrates shows up at a house where several other thinkers are gathered. He is accompanying a friend of his who wants to study with one of these thinkers, Protagoras. Socrates tests the quality of Protagoras' teaching by engaging him in a philosophical debate of just the kind the fellow here is proposing. It does not end in agreement, friendship, or anything good: in the end, they are exhausted with each other and firmly set in their disagreement. Both positions, though, have been proven untenable: Socrates argues that virtue is knowledge but that it can't be taught, whereas Protagoras argues that it isn't knowledge but that it is his business to teach it. Neither position even makes sense, yet they have both given their reasons and are committed to them. Socrates is the better man, the dialogue implies, because he is at least willing to admit that his position can't be true. The discussion, though, doesn't increase their friendship or mutual understanding. It only increases their desire to be rid of each other.

Eventually almost the whole of Athens felt that way about Socrates. It's why they killed him.

Should the Senate go nuclear on the Iran deal?

Interesting poll results on the public's view of the Iran deal.  If you're white, black, hispanic, young, old, male, or female, the chances are you think it will make the world less safe.  The only demographic that slips over the 50-yard line toward support is Democrats.

Jim Geraghty threw out the idea last week that the Senate should defeat the deal on a majority vote.  Allahpundit picks it up and runs with it:
The question is, what do you do once the filibuster’s been nuked? If the GOP decides to pass a resolution declaring the Iran deal a treaty that requires two-thirds of the Senate to approve it, Obama will veto that resolution. That shouldn’t matter — since when is Article II contingent upon the president’s assent? — but you’re looking at a court battle at least, and the public will be bewildered after weeks of “does Obama have the Senate votes to protect his Iran deal?” headlines suddenly switch to “GOP changes rules on voting to block Iran deal.” They should have pounded the table about the treaty requirements from the beginning. Since they didn’t, though, maybe Geraghty’s plan could operate as a compromise solution, one that wouldn’t stop the deal but might embarrass Obama. If they nuked the filibuster, they’d at least get their resolution of disapproval to Obama’s desk, something Democrats are nervous about right now because of the message of no confidence it would send internationally in Obama generally and the Iran deal specifically. Iran may lose confidence that the deal will survive and look to back out. At a bare minimum, forcing a veto would be a political humiliation and a way for Republicans to wash their hands publicly of the outcome of this charade once it’s implemented. It’s a way to lay the whole thing in Obama’s lap. Having squandered all of their leverage, it’s probably the best play Republicans have left.
I'm trying to apply Cassandra's test to this approach: do we really want to sink to the level of some tactics just because we face them? Cassandra would make an excellent appellate judge, by the way: scrupulously fair, able to think through complicated ramifications, and determined to find rules that will serve equally well no matter whom they are applied to.  I don't want to see the filibuster undermined; on the other hand, it's been undermined, and I'll like to keep some balance in where it still applies.


"In your face, Republicans!"

Apparently this is yet another example of John Stewart driving the national agenda. If you don't watch television, you probably didn't know there was an issue with the name of a mountain in Alaska. You almost certainly didn't care about the issue you probably didn't know about. But now you're being mocked for losing a debate you didn't know we were having, about an issue you didn't care about. It's really important, the mockery.

That Kentucky Clerk

You have to admire the guts of a woman who tells the Supreme Court that it can go jump. Dad29 wonders if the US Marshals will be sent to forcibly remove her from her office, while pointing out that the Obama administration has ignored SCOTUS rulings on several points lately. Ed Morrissey takes the responsible conservative line and points out that the government must obey the rule of law, and that someone who works for the government ought therefore obey the law or else resign. Of course, that's true for the President and the EPA, too.

Agreement and dispute

From a C.S. Lewis essay, "On the Reading of Old Books," to which AVI drew our attention at Maggie's Farm:
We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.


Excellent clickbait site.  Most of the images have nothing to do with bricks, but these were two good ones:

Carbon-testing the Iranian side deal

Powerline's Scott Johnson summarizes the investigation into the secret side deal allowing Iran to control its own nuclear inspections, as reported by Fred Fleitz in IBD/NRO:
When the AP’s George Jahn first broke the story of the secret side deal with Iran on Parchin, the side deal was viewed as so absurd that it was attacked by the left-wing media as a forgery. In the spirit of President Obama, the forgery was imputed in some precincts to Israeli intelligence. The side deal, with its self-inspection provisions — text here — is indeed absurd but, unfortunately, it is the real deal.
Johnson concludes:
[I]t’s hard to see how anyone in Congress can vote for it in light of this deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to conceal from Congress its effort to drop a crucial benchmark needed to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement.
Is it hard?  Do we really think the Senators who are planning to vote for it are struggling with their decision?

Volk und Land/Raza y Tierra

From Victor Davis Hansen, "How Illegal Immigration Finally Turned Off the Public":
Sometime in the last five years, the public woke up and grasped that Latino elite activists were not so much interested in illegal immigration per se, but only to the degree that the issue affected other Latinos. Were 3,000 Chinese illegally entering California per day by ship on the Northern California coast, Latino activists and politicians would probably be the first to call for enforcement of federal immigration law.

Alright, Let's Tie This Together

The main theme there is "Scotland the Brave." 'Land of the flowing river / land of my high endeavor! Land of my heart forever, Scotland, the Brave.'

Steve 'N' Seagulls vs. the Finland Women's National Ice Hockey Team

I'm kind of off in the academic version of a cage match at the moment, but randomly ran into this and had to share. I think we've seen the Steve 'N' Seagulls before, so here the Finnish bluegrass metal cover band is again. The real fun starts about halfway in.

And "Itchy Fingers," because -- flaming bagpipes.

Let's Have a Song

It's September, after all.

Not a Professor

That was fast.
On Monday, West Point law professor William C. Bradford resigned after The Guardian reported that he had allegedly inflated his academic credentials. Bradford made headlines last week, when the editors of the National Security Law Journal denounced a controversial article by him in their own summer issue:
As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits. We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.

That's A Good Question

I assume someone fed her these questions, but they must have talked her through the concepts so that she could understand the answers. Well, had she gotten many answers!

The Hell You Say

Headline: "Green Berets have growing doubts of duties with skittish political leadership."

Why read?

In Commentary Magazine, Gary Saul Morson explains how he thinks many young students are chased away from studying literature.  The whole essay was good, but I particularly like this discursion into empathy.  It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis remarked about the insistently inward-looking habit of the ill.  It's also a good warning about the perils of victim status.  Not that I am often victimized, having a comfortable life, but on the rare occasions that it happens I recognize these same results in myself:
Chekhov’s story “Enemies” describes a doctor named Kirillov, whose son has just died, comforting his grieving wife as his face displays “that subtle, almost elusive beauty of human sorrow.” We empathize with him, not only for his grief over his son, but also because of his empathy for his wife. It’s a chain of empathy, and we are its last link.
Then the wealthy Abogin arrives to beg the doctor to visit his dying wife, and the doctor, with extreme reluctance, at last recognizes he has no choice. When they finally arrive, it turns out Abogin’s wife has only feigned illness to get rid of her husband long enough to escape with her lover. As Abogin cries and opens his heart to the doctor “with perfect sincerity,” Kirillov notices the luxurious surroundings, the violoncello case that bespeaks higher cultural status, and reacts wrathfully. He shouts that he is the victim who deserves sympathy because the sacred moment of his own mourning has been ruined for nothing.
Nothing makes us less capable of empathy than consciousness of victimhood. Self-conscious victimhood leads to cruelty that calls itself righteousness and thereby generates more victims. Students who encounter this idea experience a thrill of recognition. Kirillov experiences “that profound and somewhat cynical, ugly contempt only to be found in the eyes of sorrow and indigence” when confronted with “well-nourished comfort,” and he surrenders to righteous rage.
In this story, each man feels, justly, that he has been wronged by the other. And so neither receives the understanding he deserves. We empathize with both but also feel that they could have chosen instead to empathize with each other. But, as the author explains: “The egoism of the unhappy was conspicuous in both. The unhappy are egoistic, spiteful, unjust, cruel, and less capable of understanding each other than fools. Unhappiness does not bring people together but draws them apart.” That is still more the case when unhappiness makes us feel morally superior.
This was good, too:
Many years ago, when Northwestern student course evaluations appeared in book form, I came across a response to a course on Dickens: “Don’t take this course unless you want to read a lot of Dickens!”
And this:
Students will acquire the skill to inhabit the author’s world. Her perspective becomes one with which they are intimate, and which, when their own way of thinking leads them to a dead end, they can temporarily adopt to see if it might help. Novelistic empathy gives them a diversity of ways of thinking and feeling. They can escape from the prison house of self.
H/t Maggie's Farm.

Planning ahead

James's comment below reminded me that I hadn't frequented Dr. Boli's blog in ever so long.  Among this week's offerings is a link to a website displaying gravestones, which they prefer to call monuments.  And very monumental they are!  Prepare to stretch your eyes.

I have explained to my husband that it's of no importance what's done with my body--give it to science, cremate it, whatever--but I would appreciate his keeping any funeral tackiness to a minimum.  Of the monuments pictured on the linked site, perhaps only the winged lion would suit me.  Or just skip the monument.  In any case, if the word "Celebration" or any canned music is included in my exequies, I will haunt him to his own unlovely grave.  Bagpipes would be appropriate.

Update:  the NPH tells me he recently saw a site illustrating innovative funeral-home viewings, like laying the deceased out in a lawn chair or--and I know this will be as popular a theme here as on Dr. Boli's not-to-be-missed comment thread--on a motorcycle.

Searching for that link also yielded this one, which is pinky-swear not a spoof despite the employment of the word "awesome" in the title.  It's the Martha-Stewartization of memorial services, and I guess it was only a matter of time before this sort of thing spilled over from what we see at weddings already.  My favorite touch:

Also, you know the iconic half-buried Cadillacs? I'd like Airstreams.  Something awesome.

Comma love

I'm a nerd, the first to admit it, so I'll admit enjoyment of columns about heated controversies over grammar.  I'll even declare my true colors right up front:  I like and use the Oxford comma.  Lawyers mostly don't, so I've never been in the habit of quarreling over it when riding herd on vast swarms of lawyers all collaborating on the drafting of documents that can go into the thousands of pages.  All that ever was particularly important to me was that we pick a rule, any rule, and then try to stick to it throughout the document.  Which comma rule?  I decline to argue the point, or the choice between "data is" and "data are."  Actually, the Nate Silver piece adopts the view that surely makes the most sense:  take a poll.

Now, who would have thought that the Oxford comma would win the linked poll?  General reading suggests that it's almost dropped out of common use, something of interest--per the  article--only to people passionate enough about grammar that they're willing to describe themselves as "expert."

You might describe me as a language atavist.  I rarely split an infinitive in writing, or even dangle a participle, and I still make the distinction between "may" and "might" that has almost completely disappeared from modern English.  I haven't yet taken up the craze for "zhir" or "zhwangi" or whatever it is, and I'm really grumpy about the kids on my lawn, or I would be if I had a lawn and there were any kids within a mile or so.

Carbon Dating the Oldest Koran

Biblical scholars worry sometimes that we don't have very early Christian documents -- you are probably all familiar with the debate over dismantling mummy masks in the hope that the writing on the inside will prove to be of historic interest. Nobody thinks, however, that any Christian document predates Jesus.

Scientists now think the Koran predates Muhammad, though, which will be very interesting if it proves true. Muhammad is supposed to have recited the Koran, bringing it into the world directly from the Archangel Gabriel.

British Scandals are Weird

This one involves a spy who was found dead naked inside a locked duffel bag, after hacking Hillary Clinton's email server. Theories on how that happened include 'it was an accident.'

American Outlaws

Your government is about to approve that Iran deal without even a vote in Congress. The White House really wants Congress not to vote. Congress seems ready to go along with that.

There's going to be a rally in DC on 9 September. It's headed by Cruz and, yes, Trump. We'll let that go for now.

I'm thinking of riding up. Who among you would join me?

More lists

We're having a little spate of "lists of best English novels," the newest entry being from Tyler Cowen.  I find that I have read and enjoyed half of his list, but lack the slightest inclination to read the other half.

As usual a spirited argument develops in the comments thread.  Surely the value of these things is not to settle once and for all which are the best books, but to find out something about books that other people are prepared to recommend wholeheartedly.  I'm often surprised when I finally get around to reading a "classic," but the surprise can just as easily take either of two forms:  (1) Why, this is delightful, what took me so long? or (2) What in the world do people see in this dreary mess?  I bogged down immediately, for instance, in the copy of "The Way We Live Now" that I downloaded on the recommendation of the recent Guardian List.  Oh, no, not another exhaustive examination of the wasted life of a young narcissist who spends beyond his income and can't face reality?  If I get 50 pages into a novel and still haven't met a character whose future I care about, I'm in trouble.  The narrative voice had better be something pretty special in that case, and I suppose Mr. Trollope and I don't see eye to eye.  Too bad, because a "drawing room" novel is usually just the thing for me.

Education of the future

If I were a young person choosing a field of work or study, I'd be inclined to give coding a shot.  It sounds wide open for people willing to keep learning something new.  Business applications for nanotechnology would be attractive as well.

This WSJ article suggests that colleges aren't focusing on the right training in the coding field.  It's still largely a self-taught skill pursued by the passionate, and boy, are they rock stars if they turn out to be good at it.

Tennessee Too?

My family's been from Tennessee since the 1700s. So it's of some concern to me to see our civilization washing away there.
Not to play this stupid game, but I’m curious: Why does “they/them/their” turn into “xe/xem/xyr” instead of the more logical “zey/zem/zeir”? Also, why isn’t “they/them/their” proper usage for someone who’s trans, whether singular or plural? I mean, purely in terms of how it scans, “xyr” is an abomination.
The whole thing is. If anyone ever asks me what my pronouns are, my answer will be "F*** you." And I'm about as courteous a fellow as you could want to meet. You know perfectly well what 'my' pronouns are. You can see the beard and the scars. Don't bother me with your bullshit.

Not a Tenured Professor

West Point Professor William Bradford argues in favor of targeting Islamic holy sites, attacking those opposed to the war on terror as a "fifth column."
In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.

Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.

“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote.
West Point would like you to know that he wrote this before joining their faculty, and that his views are his own and none of theirs'. The article in question has been taken down, the journal says that publishing it was a "mistake," and they've published in its place a rebuttal explaining that the piece you can no longer read was wrong about everything.

Bradford appears to have a colorful history of being denied tenure for his unorthodox views. He's hugely productive as a scholar, but productive of things that make people's heads spin. Some might argue that this is part of a professor's job, at least if he's a law professor or a philosophy professor! But not, apparently, his past employers.

Our leaders are on the job

Protecting us from the dread dangers of dihydrogen monoxide.


Lady and the Trump

Jimmy Kimmel has fun with Trump's response to Jorge Ramos at a recent news conference.

The man's a clown, but I can't deny enjoying the "eeks" he draws from the commentariat. "Well, I never!"

Thieves of Liberty

A filibuster was originally a sort of pirate, raiding in Latin America for profit. What they are stealing this time is a future in which Iran doesn't become a nuclear power, and a future in which Iran doesn't immediately receive tens of billions of dollars to fund terrorism. Everyone agrees that Iran will use at least some of the money it's about to receive to fund terrorism. The President agrees. The Secretary of State agrees. The Secretary of Energy agrees. A majority of Americans wants Congress to reject the deal. And we're not even going to vote about the wisdom of doing it.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to filibuster the bill altogether, and unless at least four more Democrats promise to vote against the deal, Reid may succeed. Critics of the deal are outraged at the idea that Congress’s only chance at oversight of the initiative might not even get a hearing on the Senate floor. The White House is also reportedly pushing for the deal to be filibustered, so that Obama won’t have to veto a resolution disapproving the signature foreign policy accomplishment of his presidency. Such talk has prompted Congressional Republicans to consider moving the legislation first in the House, where passage is assured.
We didn't vote when Barack Obama was named the Democratic nominee for President either, remember. None of the votes in the primary elections were counted. He was named by acclamation. There had been a huge debate about that all year long, as early voting states votes were going to be discounted by the DNC. Hillary Clinton ran all year on the principle of "count everyone's vote." She herself was the one to propose setting everyone's vote aside.

The enemies of liberty and democratic self-government must be held to account. We, the people, must do this. They cannot be trusted to do it to themselves.

Justice in India

An unelected all-male village council in India has ordered that 23-year-old Meenakshi Kumari and her 15-year-old sister are raped. The ‘sentence’ was handed down as punishment after their brother eloped with a married woman. They also ordered for the sisters to be paraded naked with blackened faces.
So what's going on here is a collective punishment of the family for the sins of one of its members -- very similar to the kind of tribal fighting we saw in Iraq. You can't punish the brother because he's gone, so you punish someone else in the family. The brother was more important in his society than his sisters, so you punish two of them to try to 'even out' the offense done to the other clan.

If you asked them about the justice of punishing these two girls, they would say they weren't punishing them at all. They are punishing the family. If you didn't punish the family through this judicial process, they'd add, the other clan -- which is larger and stronger than the offending clan -- would exact an extrajudicial revenge that would be harsher, and which would probably lead to a cycle of violence. This will put a stop to the blood feud that would otherwise result. It is, in their minds, the least bad solution to a violation of a marriage contract by a member of a junior clan.

We should obviously try to stop this, but we should also understand the forces at work. In stopping it, we are guaranteeing the cycle of violence that the court is trying to avoid. Maybe that's OK -- maybe we are willing for all of these people to die, rather than that they should carry on living as they do. If you don't come with a solution that the clans will accept, though, you're saving the girls at the expense of someone else. Maybe more someones. Maybe a lot more.

Ignatius: Nothing To See Here!

Move along.
“It’s common” that people end up using unclassified systems to transmit classified information, said Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel who’s now a partner at Arnold & Porter, where he often represents defendants suspected of misusing classified information. “There are always these back channels,” Smith explained. “It’s inevitable, because the classified systems are often cumbersome and lots of people have access to the classified e-mails or cables." ...

"It’s common knowledge that the classified communications system is impossible and isn’t used,” said one former high-level Justice Department official. Several former prosecutors said flatly that such sloppy, unauthorized practices, although technically violations of law, wouldn’t normally lead to criminal cases.
It's true that the law isn't always enforced. General James Cartwright -- who, by the way, headed the list of signatories on that letter from 36 general officers supporting the Iran nuclear deal -- was being investigated for leaking top secret information to the press about a US-Israeli effort against the Iranian nuclear program. The investigation died, officially because it 'might confirm the existence of such a program.' It died just before the Iran deal was announced... but I'm sure it's merely a coincidence that he's now vocally leading the pack in favor of that deal.

So yes, there's incredible corruption. Hillary may yet go down, though: not because of the law, which is enforced only as a tool of the powerful, but because she's become a liability. If Biden gets in the race, look for her to be prosecuted as a way of clearing the field for him. For political reasons, that is, not legal ones.

So What?

An opinion piece by a man who describes himself as the scion of a family of hunters.
I see that NRA decal on the rear window of your car and my eyes narrow. I look at the back of your head in the driver’s seat and I wonder if you are a threat.

A threat to my children. A threat to me. A threat to society.
First of all, I don't have an NRA decal on my truck. I have a Cimarron Firearms decal that reads: "I'm Your Huckleberry."

Secondly, who cares what you think is a threat? You've disarmed. You can think all you want about how scary it all is, but your opinion is empty and meaningless if you can't do anything about it. If you want to be able to do something about it, well, you're going to need a gun. And that suggests, per the post below, that it would be wise to get some training and learn to use it safely and well.

The most prominent group you'd want to consult about that is the NRA. When you do, they may give you a decal. You can do whatever you want with it. I have a suggestion, but it isn't printable.

Ballads of the True West

A few selections from Johnny Cash's "experimental" 1965 album.

He was trying to capture the true spirit of the thing. I don't know how well he succeeded. But the second half of that last song sounds real familiar.

A Conservative Case for Gun Control

I think this guy has exactly one good point, so let's give it up front.
Classical republican theory restricts arms ownership to those it deems responsible enough to uphold public order. Our system of guns as a consumer good, and our democratic presumption of good citizenship, puts guns into unsteady and untrained hands.

Making sure a person is qualified to own a gun is something responsible societies do. Many families, gun clubs, and organizations like the NRA do the work of training responsible, conscientious gun owners. It's plausible that some kind of mandatory socialization in gun clubs for potential gun owners would be a good first step at preventing gun violence. It's more plausible than simply wishing for more 'good guys with guns' at every possible location for a tragedy. As things stand, this constructive, social gun culture does not encompass the totality of gun owners; gun shops certainly don't inquire about your sociability and training.

I know what conservatives are thinking: "So you think the government has the power to disqualify citizens from gun ownership?" The government will prove terrible at this task, and it defeats the purpose of an armed citizenry. And to be sure, I don't want a government that can put a gun owner in prison for having the wrong politics. And of course, this power of restricting guns — like restricting the franchise to "responsible, invested citizens" — echoes a historical tie between gun control and racist efforts to confine blacks to a lower status. And yet, we still ought to consider stronger guarantees of responsible gun ownership. Perhaps tests that aim at qualifying the character of a gun owner, rather than searching only for a criminal disqualification.
He's right about what classical theory suggests, and the wisdom of it. He's also right that the government as it stands is completely unfit to exercise this responsibility. The compromise he suggests is pushing it to the NRA. Virginia, oddly enough given that it's the site of the latest famous killing, had exactly that kind of law: a concealed carry permit is not "shall issue," but requires demonstration of being properly trained by an organization like the NRA. When I lived there, I hired an NRA instructor to come and "teach" me proper gun handling and safety so I'd have the certificate on file in order to get a license to carry.

If we had a better government, the best way to do this would be to revive common militia service. If we get back to a small, limited government on real constitutional principles including the right to bear arms, that might be the right way to proceed. For now, I wonder if it can be pushed to private organizations like he suggests, or if we're stuck with "consumers" instead of "citizens" because the government is already too untrustworthy to be allowed to determine who counts as a "good citizen." We can't trust them to prosecute clear examples of misconduct if the 'citizen' is well-connected politically, like Mrs. Clinton. We can't trust them to prosecute nobodies fairly, as in Orange County.

There's a huge national crisis in government because the government has failed almost across the board. Currently they are talking about filibustering a vote against the Iran deal, rather than debating it and voting honestly. Even though their victory is almost assured by the math, they can't allow their opponents to have a debate and a vote.

The government is sick to the core. We can talk about what a healthy government ought to do, but we can't do so while failing to take notice of the disease in our own.


Judge disqualifies every single prosecutor in Orange County, California, on evidence of systemic corruption.
In recent months, we've learned, over the objections of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD), that the agency created TRED, a computerized records system in which deputies store information about in-custody defendants, including informants. Some of the data is trivial; other pieces contain vital, exculpatory evidence. But for a quarter of a century, OCSD management deemed TRED beyond the reach of any outside authority. In Dekraai, deputies Ben Garcia and Seth Tunstall committed perjury to hide the mere existence of TRED. Those lies didn't originate from blind loyalty, however. The concealed records show how prosecution teams slyly trampled the constitutional rights of defendants by employing informants—and then keeping clueless judges, juries and defense lawyers.

The Duffel Blog Strikes Again

"Pentagon Angered at Speed of French Military Awards System."
“There’s no way Airman Spencer rates an actual Legion d’Honneur,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody. “We’ll probably just submit it as a Letter of Appreciation in his record book. It’s not like it will get him any points for promotion anyway.”

Shortly after Cody’s remarks, it was announced Airman Spencer would be nominated for the Air Force’s high non-combat award for being wounded while engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a fully armed enemy....

Hokanson further pointed out that Skarlatos hadn’t re-certified on the online Level 1 Antiterrorism Awareness module so he couldn’t possibly rate a medal for actually fighting terrorism.

And Yet She's Leading the Poll

The 'Soft Bias of Low Expectations'?

UPDATE: I checked the internals, and it's a poll of 1,563 people. So the 540 responses that are some variation of "liar/untrustworthy/criminal/corrupt/crooked" represent more than a third of total responses: 34.5%. That's not a question about whether or not people think that she's honest. It's a question about the first word that comes to your mind when you think of her.

Wasn't This Dr. Carson's Point?

A new study suggests that women's sexual orientation correlates with their romantic options.
Women in the study who were rated as more attractive — and so, presumably, could attract sexier mates — were more likely to identify themselves as completely straight than the women who were less attractive, according to a comprehensive survey of health and sexual behavior among teens and young adults.

In addition, the study confirmed that women tend to be more flexible than men in their sexual orientation, with women in the study being nearly three times more likely than men to experience a change in their orientation during the study.
"More flexible," sure, but Ben Carson got in a lot of trouble a little while ago for making a similar comment about the huge increase in male homosexual behavior among prisoners. Nobody doubts that there is more homosexual behavior among male prisoners than among males 'in the wild,' and the obvious reason is that they lack other outlets for their sexuality. You put someone in a prison and tell him he's going to be there for years, even decades, and he's got to figure out how to make a life for himself in that very long time.

Now, correlation isn't causation, and the study doesn't prove that Dr. Carson was right -- it's about women and not men, for one thing, and it's about women 'in the wild,' not women in prison. Finally, "orientation" may not change in many of these males: they may not 'become gay,' but they certainly do practice homosexuality.

Still, if on further study the correlation turned out be because of a causal effect, we'd have reason to think that Carson might be right. It would certainly be worth looking into via additional studies aimed directly at the question. Indeed, perhaps this study already suggests the worthiness of such studies. It certainly makes Carson's opinion sound less than foolish.