Carry a Sharp Stick but Then Speak Softly

This Ain't Hell links to a heartwarming tale of a Texas homeowner who defended his (small) home with a spear. Probably took the Havamal literally: "Unsure is the knowing when need shall arise / Of a spear on the way without." Or within, either. But he should've paid attention to another part: "The hasty tongue sings its own mishap / If it be not bridled in."

In the TV interview he handled himself well but admitted that the intruder appeared to be unarmed. Now I'm convinced he was still in the right -- just looking at the invader's size, I'd say the homeowner was properly in fear of life and limb; and he stopped stabbing when the intruder retreated, which looks good on him (it shows he was after "defense" and not "revenge"). But intimate facts like that don't need to be spoken out in the open air which is full of police and prosecutors too. If someone wants to make an issue out of it (and in some places, the difference in races alone would make that likely), better to make the prosecution prove what did or didn't appear, rather than to offer it as a gift to the public.

I wouldn't wish a home invasion on anyone, but if I were faced with that situation and the press came 'round for an interview, I'd take my advice from the firm of Clancy and Makem.

Is Oklahoma next?

The shale boom that has transformed the economies of Texas and North Dakota may be about to hit Oklahoma.

The Autumn King

Hail the Equinox, and the coming of Autumn! No day of the year is more welcome in Georgia. This has been a difficult, but productive, summer. I am glad to bring it to a close, and complete its work.

Since Cassandra was reminding us of him, some of you might wonder how King Arthur Pendragon is celebrating the Equinox. He's celebrating at Stonehenge, of course. Would I could join him -- I imagine it's quite a party.

Horns of a dilemma

An interesting perspective on the Scottish independence vote at Protein Wisdom, starting with the reflection that Scotland can't have a socialist paradise if it continues to belong to the UK, or the funds to pay for it if it doesn't.  Beyond that, though, the votes didn't break down quite the way everyone expected.  Generally, for instance, my impression was that older voters said "no" while young ones said "yes," but it turns out that the very youngest voters said "no" by 57%.  Also, the Labour Party was officially against independence, possibly because the UK Parliament stood to lose so many Labour members if it lost the Scottish contingent, but the rank and file tended to vote "yes."

Death Threats and the "Sex-Positive" Blogger

So let's say you were to read that a "sex-positive" blogger was forced to go underground and shut down her efforts for a while because she was getting death threats. Who would you suppose would be the most likely candidates to be sending such threats?
The trouble began Friday when Green received a message from Tumblr user doctorswithoutboners accusing her of transphobia:

“Hi Laci. Why do you use the word ‘tranny’ in your video about Haters from 2009? … You really shouldn't be using that word as a cis girl and it's really disappointing for the people who look up to you.”

Green conceded her mistake and apologized (emphasis her own):

“Probably because I was 18 and ignorant. You are totally right and I sincerely apologize for my mistake. Before I educated myself about trans issues I had not the slightest inkling of how the word is used to dehumanize nor its place in the cycle of violence against transfolk. Now I have seen people hurt by it and seen it used as a nasty slur. Words have power, and ‘tranny’ is not a word for anybody but transfolk themselves to use because only they can reclaim it. If I knew that was in a video, it would have been long long ago removed. Consider it banished forever.”

Green took down the video, but some Tumblr users apparently didn’t find this adequate, also citing an apparent opinion Green once made about sexism and Islam.

The blogger tweeted she’d spent the morning on the phone with police and was becoming deeply concerned for her safety.
Good job, Robespierre. That'll teach her to agree with you.

I'm not sure how 'sex-positive' I am, although I certainly approve of sex in its proper and well-reasoned bounds. I'm sure not going to be forced to adhere to anyone's special-snowflake vocabulary about how I allegedly have to refer to them. Her mistake was apparently caring what they thought enough to listen to them and show some sensitivity to their feelings. Once they smelled out that she could be intimidated, it was time to pile on.

Or, as John Wayne put it: "Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness."

What we heard at the People's March

Via Reason Magazine, via HotAir:
“We live in a grotesque era where we have everything we want right now,” one protester told Foster, graciously packaging her entire movement up in one self-hating nutshell.

Getting over the bad boyfriend

Good political ad.  "I'm stuck with him for two more years, I know that.  But I'm not stuck with his friends."

Another reason not to overwithhold taxes

IRS refund checks have never been part of my life, since I go to great lengths never to have too much tax withheld, or to have any withheld at all if I can help it.  This is simple matter, in my case, of not wishing to loan the government money interest-free, but it turns out there's another good reason not to do it.  It's fantastically easy for criminals to file electronic tax returns in your name and claim a fraudulent tax refund.  The con man in the video linked here found that about 40% of the dozens of returns he used to file every week would be paid within 7 days.  When the real taxpayer later files a return seeking a refund, he finds that he will have to spend months standing in line and fighting with the IRS to prove his identity.

Have a Smoke, Brother

The NYT says:
THIS weekend, the singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen is celebrating his 80th birthday — with a cigarette. Last year he announced that he would resume smoking when he turned 80. “It’s the right age to recommence,” he explained.

At any age, taking up smoking is not sensible. Both the smoker and those who breathe his secondhand smoke can suffer not only long-term but acute health problems, including infections and asthma. And yet, Mr. Cohen’s plan presents a provocative question: When should we set aside a life lived for the future and, instead, embrace the pleasures of the present?
I took up smoking cigars when I went to Iraq, and largely -- nearly entirely -- gave it up after coming back. But I figured, how much worse could the cigar be than the polluted, dust-filled air we were breathing anyway? And it was the only pleasure General Order #1 licensed, so we often smoked cigars together in the rare moments of rest. Finally, when the sky drops rockets and mortars and heavy-caliber rounds on you regularly, who gives a damn about the threat of cancer twenty years on?

Now that I'm home, and for as long as I stay, I'll smoke less -- as I said, very nearly not at all. Just once in a while, to remember bold men and brothers. That's worth any tiny risk coming from the rare single smoke, that memory almost like being with them once again.

Most likely I'll be lucky to live long enough for it to threaten me, as has always been the case. Best to live that way, anyhow. Cuts down on the meddlers trying to tell you how you ought to live.

Orpheus In The Underworld

Two armed “polygamist women” dressed like “ninjas” were subdued by a sword-wielding man during a home invasion, according to police in suburban Utah....

The women “violently attacked one of the adult males in the house who came to see who was coming,” Ian Adams of the West Jordan police department told the Guardian.

“Another adult male joined the fray in defense of the first male victim. He was armed with a sword, and using a sword…”

“I went to the bottom of the stairs and saw a couple of ninjas coming down,” the man was quoted as saying. “They were all dark gray or black, and they had black rubber gloves on and masks. All I could see was their eyes.”
Cassandra couldn't dream so well as that.

Attorney-Client Privilege?

So, what happened here?
The FBI wiretapped 2 conversations and one voicemail defense investigators for Mohamed Osman Mohamud had with Khan in June 2011 and then handed those recordings over to the prosecutor who prosecuted Mohamud and is prosecuting Khan.

In a filing in April, Khan’s lawyers moved to obtain information about the government’s minimization procedures. They pointed to 4 different privileged conversations that had been included in discovery...

While all this doesn’t explain what the tie between Khan and Mohamud is — in its response, the government actually claims it is “unrelated” and that it was not handed over to prosecutors until after the conclusion of Mohamud’s case (which would mean it wasn’t provided to the prosecutor before he indicted Khan) — it does make it clear that the government would share the privileged conversations of one defendant with that defendant’s prosecutor via the prosecution of another defendant under FISA.

Transparent rigor

A surprisingly sane take on climate science from a guy who was politically connected enough to serve as Energy Undersecretary in Pres. Obama's first term:
We can and should take steps to make climate projections more useful over time. An international commitment to a sustained global climate observation system would generate an ever-lengthening record of more precise observations. And increasingly powerful computers can allow a better understanding of the uncertainties in our models, finer model grids and more sophisticated descriptions of the processes that occur within them. The science is urgent, since we could be caught flat-footed if our understanding does not improve more rapidly than the climate itself changes.
A transparent rigor would also be a welcome development, especially given the momentous political and policy decisions at stake. That could be supported by regular, independent, "red team" reviews to stress-test and challenge the projections by focusing on their deficiencies and uncertainties; that would certainly be the best practice of the scientific method. But because the natural climate changes over decades, it will take many years to get the data needed to confidently isolate and quantify the effects of human influences.
Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is "settled" (or is a "hoax") demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.
Society's choices in the years ahead will necessarily be based on uncertain knowledge of future climates. That uncertainty need not be an excuse for inaction. There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.
But climate strategies beyond such "no regrets" efforts carry costs, risks and questions of effectiveness, so nonscientific factors inevitably enter the decision. These include our tolerance for risk and the priorities that we assign to economic development, poverty reduction, environmental quality, and intergenerational and geographical equity.
Individuals and countries can legitimately disagree about these matters, so the discussion should not be about "believing" or "denying" the science. Despite the statements of numerous scientific societies, the scientific community cannot claim any special expertise in addressing issues related to humanity's deepest goals and values. The political and diplomatic spheres are best suited to debating and resolving such questions, and misrepresenting the current state of climate science does nothing to advance that effort.
Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.

"Who Are You?"

From the Archives, 2008:
The most dangerous question Sen. Obama has ever had to face is, "Who are you?"
Archives, 2010:
From the New York Times, today:

"Who is Barack Obama?"

The danger isn't, though, the one that Bob Herbert expects: that we'll answer the question for him in a way that will be a negative for his agenda.

The danger is that there may be no answer at all.
Today's Wall Street Journal:
At this dramatic time, with a world on fire, we look at the president and ponder again who he is.
It turns out that the question was less dangerous to him than to the rest of us. A pity we didn't take more interest in it.

Tex Likes Quizzes on Saturday

...and it's still Saturday, for a few minutes.

Here's one on Ancient Scotland.

A Scientific Theory of Chess

As part of an article about a major feat in Chess, an introduction to the governing body:
As the tournament began on Aug. 27, Carlsen was mired in an ongoing faceoff with FIDE, the international governing body of chess. There are a few things you should probably know about FIDE—or the Federation Internationale des Echecs, if you’re feeling continental. FIDE is, by all accounts, comically corrupt, in the vein of other fishy global sporting bodies like FIFA and the IOC. Its Russian president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has hunkered in office for nearly two decades now, was once abducted by a group of space aliens dressed in yellow costumes who transported him to a faraway star. Though I am relying here on Ilyumzhinov’s personal attestations, I have no reason to doubt him, as this is something about which he has spoken quite extensively. He is of the firm belief that chess was invented by extraterrestrials, and further “insists that there is ‘some kind of code’ in chess, evidence for which he finds in the fact that there are 64 squares on the chessboard and 64 codons in human DNA.”

What Science Is, and Is Not

Though apparently a conservative on the right side of many things, when Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is no Aristotle.
A little history: The first proto-scientist was the Greek intellectual Aristotle, who wrote many manuals of his observations of the natural world and who also was the first person to propose a systematic epistemology, i.e., a philosophy of what science is and how people should go about it. Aristotle's definition of science became famous in its Latin translation as: rerum cognoscere causas, or, "knowledge of the ultimate causes of things." For this, you can often see in manuals Aristotle described as the Father of Science.

The problem with that is that it's absolutely not true. Aristotelian "science" was a major setback for all of human civilization.
The first 'proto-scientist' represented a setback? A setback to what? A tradition that didn't exist?

It turns out that Gobry is wrong about almost everything he says about Aristotle, starting with what Aristotelian science is about and how it connects to the search for what Gobry calls "capital-T Truth." One of the distinguishing features of Aristotelian sciences is that they are separate. There is a science for every genus. Where there is not a proper genus to unify a field of human endeavor, no science is possible. This is why dialectical logic and rhetoric are not sciences, Aristotle says: they aren't restricted to one genus, so we can't have scientific knowledge of them. We use logic in many fields of inquiry, and rhetoric in political and ethical problems. We can't separate them cleanly enough for scientific knowledge, we can just study them as a kind of art.

This is why Aristotle spends so much time asking whether it is proper to have a science of different fields of knowledge. If you read the Metaphysics, which is the part of Aristotle's work most closely connected to anything like "capital-T Truth," the very first question he treats is whether there is a subject matter for this science. You can have a science of biology, because it treats living things. You can have a science of physics, because it treats motion. What sense would it make, Aristotle asks, to have a science of everything? Each has its own separate science, after all, so what point is there to trying to unify them? What's the subject matter that makes this a sensible project?

The answer is that Metaphysics is the study of existence itself, not of anything that exists. The idea is not to put it all together and get to a knowledge of the ultimate causes of, say, your horse in the pasture. It's to try to understand what is necessary for existence of the sort we observe to be possible.

Now as for all this being a setback, the slightest acquaintance with history would disprove the remark. (As, also, the remark about Aristotle being the first among these -- even if you only read Aristotle, you would discover the names of dozens of men whose work he references and considers.) The boom in Islamic civilization in the early Middle Ages came as they encountered and translated Aristotle, which is what changed them from a merely warlike collection of conquerors into a civilization proper. When their translations in Arabic were recovered by the Spanish during the reconquista, it produced a scientific and technical revolution that was revolutionary in the West. Without it, there would have been no development of the kind of science we do today at all. The foundations were laid by the recovery of Greek thought.

Further, it is not Aristotelian but modern science that believes you can unify the fields of knowledge. That is why you hear talk of 'unified field theories.' Aristotle thought you should study animals under one science, and motions of things under another, and chemical reactions under another. Modern science thinks that motions are produced by physics, which at a higher level of organization is chemistry, and certain kinds of chemicals become biochemistry, which ultimately leads to biology. Many Determinists have argued that everything, including the fields we call psychology or sociology, will prove to be reducible to physics -- with adequate knowledge, we would get to the ultimate causes of everything.

Well, sort of. The problem of existence, Metaphysics, isn't solvable that way. Commonly physicists respond that this means it is a non-problem, one we should ignore as not very interesting. Of course things exist; we can observe them. Why ask how it could be possible for there to be something rather than nothing? Obviously it is possible, and as far as we know it's not possible for there to be nothing (indeed, the laws of conservation suggest something like that).

By the way, who knows the story of how Einstein came to his revolutionary theories? It turns out it wasn't by careful, systematic observation. Gobry's picture of how modern science work doesn't even apply there: what Einstein did was philosophy, starting with a return to the Greeks and the problems they raised.

The other thing that he's wrong about is the idea that we could do 'scientific' studies of things like welfare issues. You can't, because you can't control and repeat in what are called 'social sciences,' but which are properly arts and not science at all (as Aristotle would have told you). That means your theories about what would have happened if you'd done something else instead are non-falsifiable. This is a problem raised by Karl Popper.

The other problem is that you can't control for variables in these very complex fields. To do a truly scientific experiment, you should hold everything constant except one variable. There is no potential to do that in a study involving human beings, especially human beings who are going about their lives in an uncontrolled fashion.

What we get in these artistic studies of human behavior and thought is only an analogy to science. It is characteristic of analogies that they always break at some point, because the only way to have an analogy that doesn't break is for the analogs to be identical (in which case you don't have an analogy at all, you have an identity). It may be worth doing -- we learn a lot from analogies. All our political and ethical reasoning is ultimately based on analogies, and those projects are worthwhile. But they are not, and cannot be, sciences.

History is not a science; if you try to do history as a science, your efforts are only analogous to science. Sociology and psychology and 'political science' are often conducted in analogical ways to science, but they don't offer control of variables nor can their theories be falsified.

That's why there are still all those Marxists in all those fields.

I'm sympathetic to a lot of Gobry's project, but he needs to go back to school and rethink his basic understanding of science -- and learn some history.

Friday Night MV

Ain't it a shame.
(Sung, appropriately enough, by Bon Scott)

(sorry, couldn't resist)

"Westminster vows never to allow vote on anything that matters ever again"

House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, said: “An 84 per cent turnout, rallies in the streets, and intelligent, informed debates are all the stuff of nightmares.

“By some dreadful miscalculation the future of this nation was, for a brief time, in the hands of the people who live in it.

“Never, ever again.”
You know what happens if the right people don't have the power.

Bomb Threat at UGA

So today Athens, Georgia was turned upside down for a little while in the middle of the afternoon by an old-fashioned bomb threat. Actually, the threat wasn't super specific about just what was going to happen, just that 'if you want to live' you should 'stay away' from a particular building 'at 12:15.' Said building, named after former lieutenant-governor, Governor, and Senator Zell Miller, is a rather large and cavernous brick building that probably took an hour or more to clear once they got the dogs up there to do it.

I mention all this because I've been a little amused by some friends who are foreign-born but teaching at UGA. They are acting exactly like soldiers in Iraq after their first IED or mortar strike. Nothing happened, just an empty anonymous threat, but you'd think they'll be needing PTSD counseling.

It's all this media coverage of school shootings and whatnot. It's got people scared out of their minds. Crime and violence are actually down across the board, but you can't say "boo" without terrifying people. It's not healthy to be this heavily swayed by images on TV.

The Challenge of Authority

One of the most damning facts about Rotherdam was the ways in which the police departments not only did not stop the abuses, but lost evidence and suppressed reports that might have compelled an earlier settlement.

There's always a general problem of 'who watches the watchmen?' How much bigger is the problem when you discover that the watchmen have an especially troubling record compared to the general population?
There is no more damaging perpetrator of domestic violence than a police officer, who harms his partner as profoundly as any abuser, and is then particularly ill-suited to helping victims of abuse in a culture where they are often afraid of coming forward. The evidence of a domestic-abuse problem in police departments around the United States is overwhelming. The situation is significantly bigger than what the NFL faces, orders of magnitude more damaging to society, and yet far less known to the public, which hasn't demanded changes.
That's a substantial charge. What backs it up?
As the National Center for Women and Policing noted in a heavily footnoted information sheet, "Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24 percent, indicating that domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than American families in general." Cops "typically handle cases of police family violence informally, often without an official report, investigation, or even check of the victim's safety," the summary continues. "This 'informal' method is often in direct contradiction to legislative mandates and departmental policies regarding the appropriate response to domestic violence crimes." Finally, "even officers who are found guilty of domestic violence are unlikely to be fired, arrested, or referred for prosecution."
Florida adopted an automatic reporting scheme for police domestic violence in 2008, and found that the number of incidents on record doubled. Police Chief Magazine, taking the problem seriously and trying to study it as you would expect a group that is both law-enforcement and journalist in its makeup, tracked all the news reports they could find.
Data on final organizational outcomes were available for 233 of the cases. About one-third of those cases involved officers who were separated from their jobs either through resignation or termination. The majority of cases in which the final employment outcome was known resulted in a suspension without job separation (n = 152). Of those cases where there was a conviction on at least one offense charged, officers are known to have lost their jobs through either termination or resignation in less than half of those cases (n = 52).
There's a lot more at the link.

So, what to do about this kind of thing? I've seen a lot of suggestions that police wear videocameras on duty at all times -- I noticed some police wearing them just the other day, actually -- and the automatic reporting seems wise. Automatic firing based on a conviction? Increased legal penalties for those who engage in these acts 'under color of law,' as we used to say in civil rights legislation?


AEI reports that there's a move afoot to ensure that schoolkids learn some basic civics facts:
[On September 17,] the Civics Education Initiative announced its intentions to introduce legislation in seven states—Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah—to require students to take and pass the same exam required for immigrants to become US Citizens before receiving their high school diploma or a general equivalency degree.
The article also mentions a sense among civics teachers that they feel overshadowed by the emphasis of STEM. That's understandable, perhaps, but surely it would be helpful to the knowledge of civics for students to learn, via STEM studies, that the way to answer a number of questions is to consult the unambiguous facts, so far as they may be available to us, in an initial inquiry. Lots of civics questions may be imponderable matters of opinion, but not questions like "how many votes does it take to override a veto" or "which party holds a majority in the Senate at the present moment."

War for the Greater Middle East

If you follow Andrew Bacevich's writing, you probably can guess that this online course is not going to be very complimentary to the United States or its policies. Still, if you want to hear in detail how his argument is put together, looking back several decades, the course is free.


As Long As There's One Hundred

Since we're doing Scottish songs of independence, here's a folk tune about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. The chorus is from the Declaration of Arbroath.

Little wat ye wha's comin

This "Highland Muster Roll" is said to date from the Fifteen, the first of the two disastrous Jacobite Rebellions, one in 1715 and the other in 1745.

The Stuarts were less than impressive as a royal house, though hard to beat from the point of tragic romance and inspiration for centuries of really good novels and music.  The memorable Mary Queen of Scots wasn't easy to take seriously as a monarch.  After she languished in prison for years and was beheaded by Elizabeth I, her son became James I of England (and VI of Scotland) in 1603, when Elizabeth died without issue.  We'll cut James I some slack because of the Bible.  After his death in 1625, however, his moderately useless son and successor Charles I channeled his grandmother by contriving to get himself executed by Parliament in 1649.  Then, after an Interregnum of eleven years, in 1660, Charles I's son Charles II was ecstatically welcomed back in the Restoration, but the honeymoon didn't last long.

On his death without legitimate issue in 1685 (his impressive list of little FitzRoys notwithstanding), Charles II was succeeded by his younger brother James II (and VII of Scotland).  James II got everyone's knickers in a twist with his crypto-Catholicism and other unpopular traits.  After producing two reasonably solid Protestant daughters, he terrified everyone in 1688, in only the third year of his reign, by producing a male Catholic heir, the man who would have been James III but instead comes down to history as James "the Old Pretender."

Upon the birth of the Old Pretender, James II's elder daughter Mary had to be asked to come over from Holland with her husband William of Orange, who was also a Stuart of sorts.  James II, having fled to the Continent in 1688, was conveniently considered to have abdicated.  (He made an abortive attempt at recapturing his throne in 1689, then took shelter with Louis XIV of France until his death in 1701.)  William and Mary assumed the throne jointly in 1688 as Mary II and William II (and III of Scotland).  They produced no heirs.  After Mary's death in 1694 and William's in 1702, Mary's younger sister Anne reigned until her death in 1714, leaving no surviving issue despite 17 pregnancies.  At this point, the succession becomes hopelessly confused, because James II and his son and grandson were still pressing their noses against the windowpane from exile, but when the dust settled everyone had agreed that the great point was never to let anyone associated with James II get near the crown again.  In 1707, planning ahead, Parliament had passed an Act awarding the throne in advance to a second cousin from Germany called George, who was maternally descended from James I.  George I ruled from 1714 through 1727 and was succeeded by George II.

Meanwhile, James II's son, the Old Pretender, entertained designs on the English and Scottish thrones in a more or less serious fashion for his entire life (he died in exile 1766), of which the Fifteen, in the first year of George I's reign, was the most serious example.  The Old Pretender's son Charles (a/k/a the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie) carried on the family tradition in the equally disastrous '45 Uprising, during the reign of George II, after which the whole Stuart business was more or less thoroughly crushed.  The Young Pretender died in exile 1788.

The Georges may have been Stuarts of a sort, but they associated themselves more strongly with the name of Hanover.  The name George lives on in a series of infuriated Jacobite Rebellion songs about little German nitwits names Geordie.

Game Time

The Loom of History

Bill Whittle closes with an urging to "get sensible people behind the loom of history." I'm surprised a man of his education does not know who weaves on that loom. The poem is in Njal's Saga.

Blood rains from the cloudy web
On the broad loom of slaughter.

The web of man, grey as armour, is now being woven;
The Valkyries will cross it with a crimson weft.

The warp is made of human entrail;
Human heads are used a weights;
The heddle-rods are blood-wet spears;
the shafts are iron-bound, and arrows are the shuttles.
With swords we will weave this web of battle.

The Valkyries go weaving with drawn swords
Hild and Hjorthrimul, Sanngrid and Svipul,
Spears will shatter, Shields will splinter,
Swords will gnaw like wolves through armour.

Let us now wind the web of war
which the young king once waged
let us advance and wade through the ranks
where friends of ours are exchanging blows.

Let us now wind the web of war
and then follow the king to battle
Gunn and Gondul can see there
the blood-spattered shields that guarded the king.

Let us now wind the web of war
where the warrior banners are forging foreward
let his life not be taken;
Only the Valkyries can choose the slain.

Lands will be ruled by new peoples
who once inhabited the headlands,
We pronounce a great king destined to die;
Now an earl is felled by spears.

The men of Ireland will suffer a grief
that will never grow old in the minds of men.
The web is now woven and the battlefield reddened;
The news of disaster will spread through lands.

It is horrible now to look around,
As a blood-red cloud darkens the sky.
The heavens are stained with the blood of men,
As the Valkyries sing their song.

We sang well victory songs for the young king,
Hail to our singing!
Let him who listens to our Valkyrie song
Learn it well and tell it to others.

Let us ride our horses hard on the bare backs
With swords unsheathed away from here.
It has something of the ring of Kipling's poem The Gods of the Copybook Headings, doesn't it? Except it was written before the copybooks, long before.

Facing Death From a Place of Safety

Boswell did, over and over:
Here we find the practising barrister, who regularly defended individuals against capital charges, reporting executions. Boswell had an unsavoury reputation as an inveterate execution goer in an age when such activity was considered prurient for a gentleman. He was not only a lawyer and man of letters; he was also a journalist in an age when reports of executions were hard news. During this period, public executions in London were carried out at Tyburn and Newgate, with as many as 15 convicts meeting their fate at the same time. Boswell diligently noted the names and crimes of the condemned: robbery, theft, escaping a prison hulk, forgery and murder. He describes a brother and sister convicted of burglary who met their deaths holding hands, only to be separated when they were cut down from the gallows.

The deaths were not always quick and Boswell confessed in his diary that executions gave him nightmares for nights afterwards and plunged him into bouts of depression. So why did he attend at least 21 public hangings? He explained it thus: ‘Dying publicly at Tyburn, and dying privately in one’s Bed, are only different Modes of the same Thing. They are both Death; they are both that wondrous, that alarming Scene of quitting all that we have ever seen, heard and known, and at once passing into a State of being totally unknown to us, and in which we cannot tell what may be our Situation: Therefore it is that I feel an irresistible Impulse to be present at every Execution, as I there behold the various Effects of the near Approach of Death, according to the various Tempers of the unhappy Sufferers: and by studying them, I learn to quiet and fortify my own Mind.’

Aside from the salutary nature of the experience, executions held an almost pornographic appeal for Boswell. He promised not to attend more executions but ultimately always gave in to his morbid compulsion. Boswell’s frequenting of executions despite foreswearing them, his philandering and his heavy drinking – along with myriad minor faults, such as impulsive acquisitiveness and chronic laziness – all indicate an underlying weakness of will (or ‘weakness of character’, as it would have been put in the past).
Is there really no difference between weakness of character, and weakness of will?

(H/t: Arts & Letters Daily)

Saltire and Slander

Are the 'neck and neck' polls in Scotland on independence wrong? We saw something like that happen in the Eric Cantor race here, so it certainly does come up once in a while. In addition to the other potential errors the newspaper identifies the samples I've seen have been very small, so it could be we don't really know what people are thinking.

There is another problem, reports The Guardian: journalists are committed to rooting against independence.
Perhaps the most arresting fact about the Scottish referendum is this: that there is no newspaper – local, regional or national, English or Scottish – that supports independence except the Sunday Herald. The Scots who will vote yes have been almost without representation in the media.

There is nothing unusual about this. Change in any direction... requires the defiance of almost the entire battery of salaried opinion.
There's a lot of that here at home, too. The TEA Party did so badly in the press in part because, in its early days when it was a genuinely popular movement, it really wanted to make some major changes -- and the press' bills are paid by relationships with existing powers. The huge defense of then-Senator Obama, which is similar to the huge defense being put on for the 'Better Together' campaign in the UK, was motivated not by a desire for "Change!" but out of a sense that he was a committed member of their own class. The movement represented change for the rest of us, but for the elite press it was the most soothing and constant of opinions that he forwarded.

Well, that all-hands-on-deck approach worked here in 2008. Maybe they'll carry the fight for their friends in the United Kingdom, too.

We'll see soon enough.

And lemme have a package of those Corn Nuts

Evidence of reverent funerals is often taken as a sign of cognitive function in early man.