Natural Law and the State Department

Natural law has a strange place in the American system. The Declaration of Independence is framed in terms of natural law, but the American Constitution really is not: it's formally capable of endorsing any sort of governance for any sort of reason, provided the Article V processes are followed. America has become less and less attached to traditional natural law conceptions over its long life, outright hostile to them in some cases, and in any case its constitutional vision of liberty very much does not entail pursuing the virtue of citizens. Our constitutional liberties are about being left alone, not encouraged in virtue by the state.

This appointment is surprising, then: the US Department of State has elected to appoint a trained philosopher to pursue natural law ends in our foreign policy. The New Republic is critical, seeing in it nothing more than an attempt to oppose gay rights; but really, they should be much more worried than they are. Natural law theory sets up a structure of the good in human life that is far more completely opposed to the progressive vision than they imagine.

But conservatives ought to be careful, too. Changing the mission of the state from 'leaving you alone to find your own good' to 'encouraging you in virtue' is the sort of sea change that could -- if the vision of the good is captured by progressives, and swayed away from the natural law roots -- empower the state in many ways we should oppose.

I'll leave it to you to work through the arguments. The discussion is open, as always.

Mark Knopfler in Italy

Statistical Lies

Drudge has two great stories today that turn on the same deceptive use of statistics.

Annual Global Index Rates U.S. 128th Most Peaceful Nation on Earth
Of nine global regions, Europe emerged as the most peaceful, followed by North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The Middle East and Africa rated as the two least peaceful regions.

And there is a growing trouble spot much closer to home for Americans.

“Central America and the Caribbean had the largest deterioration, especially in safety and security due to widespread crime and political instability,” the research said.
It's More Dangerous to Live in America than Travel Abroad
After traffic accidents, the second-most-common cause of death was homicides. But to put the 132 Americans who died this way in 2018 into perspective, Chicago alone had 561 homicides that year.
So the truth is that the United States has a near-zero homicide rate, if you except certain neighborhoods in certain cities. However, if you read the whole nation as a unit, it looks like the USA has homicide rates very similar to Central America -- which is exactly what you'd expect, since the instability in those countries is pouring over our border and into our cities.

Is it safer to travel abroad than to stay at home if you live in the 54% of American counties with zero murders a year? That changes the picture a bit, doesn't it?

Is the United States the 128th most dangerous country if you live in that majority of counties (which make up the VAST majority of land area)? No, it's one of the safest nations on earth, exactly in line with the nicest places you could find.

So how scared should you be about being murdered? Well, it depends; but if you're worried, you should really be worried chiefly about immigration. Otherwise, it's the easiest thing in the world to move out of the 2% of counties that cause 51% of the problem.

Unreliable Professionals

I'm a regular user of VPN (Virtual Private Network) software, even on my home connection. One of the things I like about it is that occasionally I learn new things. For example, logging into the news tonight, I found out that I must be connected via Ireland because I saw a bunch of stories I'd never have otherwise seen.

Ireland just voted in abortion recently, as you may recall, scandalized by a case in which a mother died of sepsis. They didn't vote in unrestricted abortion, however: they were reacting to the particular case and were trying to prevent future similar cases. So abortion can occur for medical reasons, not for any reason.

Now they've got their first full-blown scandal, as a doctor signed off on an unjustified termination. The family is outraged, as autopsy tests on the aborted child show it did not have the alleged medical condition.
Tóbín also stated that the family were shocked “by allegations that the medical professionals signing off on the abortions have a commercial interest in the companies that produced the fatally insufficient test”.

“This week, the bereaved family were shocked to hear that the State Claims Agency will indemnify the private company that carried out the fatally insufficient tests,” he said.

“They are furious with the Taoiseach for stating in the Dáil that this is a confidential issue.

"They believe he is seeking to sweep this illegal abortion under the carpet. Will the Government change the law, institute guidelines and carry out a fully independent investigation?"
The unreliability of medical professionals is a real problem. Our own opiate scandal turns on government funding for expensive drugs that end up being sold on the black market, after they are prescribed to people who make their living collecting prescriptions. Doctors are trusted not to be part of this, but they are. And thus the government ends up paying for a massive public health crisis twice: once to cause it, and again to try and fix it.

Pro-Life Views Unconstitutional

Kirsten Gillibrand thinks it's OK for Americans to hold such views, so long as they are never allowed to serve as judges. (She also thinks that 'Separation of Church and State' is a Constitutional requirement, which is a widely held but inaccurate view.)

UPDATE: Or maybe it's porn. I can remember when liberals were pro-porn, but apparently that's changed.

"Fully Automated Luxury Communism"

I assumed this was a satire piece playing off AOC's call for a right to luxury apartments, until I saw it was published in the NYT. Of course then it is not; at least, not intentionally.
So we have to go beyond capitalism. Many will find this suggestion unwholesome. To them, the claim that capitalism will or should end is like saying a triangle doesn’t have three sides or that the law of gravity no longer applies while an apple falls from a tree. But for a better world, where everyone has the means to a good life on a habitable planet, it is an imperative.
So, for a better world, the law of gravity mustn't apply and triangles will have other than three sides? Was that what you meant to write down?


The in-group/out-group orientation varies strongly among American ethnicities and political groups.  Skim down this brief article to find interesting charts.  The wokeness of white liberals resembles that of strong conservatives only in an intense response to the sight of someone being taken advantage of because of his ethnicity.  "Very strong" white conservatives light up on this score, but are as indifferent as white moderates or mild conservatives to the routine conscious empathy exercises often characterized as woke privilege-checking.  They ignore that sort of thing unless they see active injustice, which registers weakly with moderates but stirs up strong conservatives and (even more) liberals.

White liberals are the only group who consciously identify more strongly with their out-groups than their in-groups.  Otherwise the differences in in-group preference among other races and non-liberal whites are minor.

There are no charts here attempting to distinguish among political groups within any ethnicities but white.

Rules Against the Spirit of the Age

Quillette has an article today about a quest begun in 1977 by an underground academic journal to fight against misuses of the language.
The Underground Grammarian is an unauthorised journal devoted to the protection of the Mother Tongue at Glassboro State College. Our language can be written and even spoken correctly, even beautifully. We do not demand beauty, but bad English cannot be excused or tolerated in a college. The Underground Grammarian will expose and even ridicule examples of jargon, faulty syntax, redundancy, needless neologism, and any other kind of outrage against English.

Clear language engenders clear thought, and clear thought is the most important benefit of education. We are neither peddlers nor politicians that we should prosper by that use of language which carries the least meaning. We cannot honorably accept the wages, confidence, or licensure of the citizens who employ us as we darken counsel by words without understanding.
The effect of these corrections was, the article claims, to teach attentive readers to distinguish 'between reason and rubbish.'

It reminds me of the long-defunct Texas Mercury, from which I adopted Grim's Hall's house rules for debate.
As we see it, modern society has all the important ideas of life exactly backwards: we are completely against the belief in sensitivity and tolerance in politics and raffish disregard in private life. The Texas Mercury is founded on the opposite principles- our idea is of tolerance and polite sensitivity in private life and ruthless truth in politics. Be nice to your neighbor. Be hell to his ideas.
I later added a persistent identity requirement, i.e., not that you had to use your real name, but that you had to pick a name and stick to it. Arguments against anonymity are mostly addressed by persisting identities, which end up carrying honor and being subject to shame in a sufficient way to cut down on the bad behavior associated with true anonymity. In return, the ability to use a persisting pseudonym enables the freedom of debate that our "cancel culture" seems designed to destroy -- and that culture was already sufficiently in sight in 2003, when I started this blog, that I chose to do it pseudononymously.

These old ideas have been underground for a long time. Be clear in your thinking, precise in your language; be polite to people, but ruthless to ideas. It's no wonder such things are suppressed. All of those concepts are deadly dangerous to powers that be who oughtn't to be so powerful as they are.

Tennessee Ernie Ford Sings Civil War Songs

YouTube recommended one of these after "The Lincolnshire Poacher," and so I started listening to the two albums of Civil War songs, one North, one South, that Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded. Here's one from each.

King Donald I

According to the world's most reliable news source, the Babylon Bee, England has been forced to crown Donald Trump king after a strange woman lying in a pond lobbed a sword at him.

The pic is worth the click.

BB: YouTube Radicalizing People into Conversations

Rubin is just one example of the right-wing extremism that is sucking rabbits and children into the clandestine tornado vortex of YouTube mind control. While he claims to be politically liberal on many issues, he regularly has right-wing guests on his show and doesn't even murder them on the spot. "Rubin films his show in his garage," said Guy Ouifaund who used to work in the covert mind-wiping division at Google and YouTube. "There is no better place to do something sensible, like surprise attack a right-winger with a chainsaw and clean up all the evidence. Instead, he has civil conversations with these people, treating them like human beings."
Honestly, I don't know how people find the time to watch these things, but I can't imagine they're destroying the world.

American Legion, China Post 1

A new book, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Post, tells especially the story of their World War II heroics.
During the early years and prior to the invasion and subsequent occupation by Japan in 1938, the Post conducted operation much like any other Post within the American Legion.

Following the Japanese occupation the membership shifted focus and much of their work consisted of clandestine operations, intelligence gathering and reporting through their established business connections. In effect operating a Shanghai underground.

On December 8, 1941 following Pearl Harbor, all U.S. expats were gathered up and incarcerated in "civilian detention facilities" like Pootung Prison. During that long incarceration, Post members continued their intel gathering and reporting through a vast network of established civilian contacts.
They went on to be the home Post for members of the Flying Tigers. It's an interesting story some of you might not know.

CONFIRMED: David Bellavia to Receive Congressional Medal of Honor

Here's an interview with our old friend, whom you may remember from the BLACKFIVE days. It's not been officially announced, but I know for a fact that it's been in the works for some time. Once the official announcement is made, I'll be eager to congratulate our friend.

UPDATE: The White House's official announcement came out this morning. Congratulations to David Bellavia, a man the old BLACKFIVE crew is proud to know.


Why Not? Two and a Half Hours of Rebel Songs

Johston's Motor Car

He didn't quite get it back per order, but the damn thing's been found. It'll go back now, I suppose, only a little bit late.

The Nightingale song, if you know the whole thing, is the same bit as the Gentleman Soldier song from last week. Folk songs and all that.

Outlaw Country, Medieval Edition, Re-imagined

This was one of the great films. It's a shame it didn't take off. It's all about liberty by law, the American way, as prefigured in the Medieval.

It was anti-Prohibition, too, as any decent liberty should entail.

Outlaw Country, Medieval Edition

It's a tune still used by British intelligence on their 'numbers stations' out North Korea way.

It's the right season for it. But don't come out poaching my way; not of the bears, at least. If I catch you with a deer, that's one thing and I might share it with you, but if you kill a bear on my land you'd best not let me find you. All bears are under my special protection.

Introduction to Aristotle's Ethics at Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College is offering a free course on Aristotle's Ethics, "Introduction to Aristotle's Ethics: How to Lead a Good Life," taught by college president Larry P. Arnn. Here are the topics:
  1. The Good
  2. Aristotle's Politics and the Nature of Man
  3. Happiness
  4. Character
  5. Deliberation and Choice
  6. Courage
  7. Justice
  8. Practical Judgment 
  9. Friendship
  10. Contemplation and Action
The course is open to start whenever you want. There is a forum if you want to post back and forth with others taking the course.

There is a short reading from Aristotle, 2-4 pages or so, for each lecture, and the video lectures take about 30 minutes or so. It seems designed to take about an hour or so per topic.

I'm slowly working my way through it, and it's interesting so far. I would recommend it if, like me, you haven't had much time for studying Aristotle but wish you had.

Towards Noble Speech

It is a form of rhetoric American politics has abandoned, argues Titus Techera, in part because it seems undemocratic: "they exalt some men, usually fallen soldiers, above the rest of us — and, too, because they allow politicians to assume high authority, greater than the merely political, to speak to the nation about the nation as a whole."

Yet it is not necessarily anti-democratic to recognize that some men are better than others. The democratic aspect is reinforced when we realize that those better men are just as often found among the ordinary man of the countryside as among the rich, those thought well-born, or those thought well-educated. Indeed, in today's speech, President Trump does us the democratic service of being an elite-born, elite-educated, rich member of the politically empowered who is manifestly not the equals of the men his task is to praise. He may be a better President than he is often given credit for being, but he is nevertheless not the equal of the Boys of Point du Hoc.*

It is no insult to say so. Reagan didn't claim to be. Few men alive should dare, and of those who might, I can't think of any who would.

Noble speech is a form of honor, and honor is not improper for democracies. It is as essential to the success of our form of self-government as it is for any nobility, or for any form of human organization at all. The quality of democracy is that it sometimes finds honor where the well-born might not expect it. Democracy bestows honor on such heroes all the more capably when it puts their honors in mouths of duly elected, lesser men.

*(The NRO editors give "Point du Hoc" correctly the first time, but then several times as "Point de Hoc," which is another illustration that the elite are not always better than the ordinary man. We all make mistakes like this.)

D-Day at 75

Charles Schultz was a veteran of the Second World War, having served in the 20th Armored Division (there is now only one, with armor units being usually organized at smaller scales and integrated with combined arms). Here is what he wanted children to know about D-Day.

There are numerous inspiring stories, including that of Bill Millen and the bagpipes. Via Instapundit, which has many relevant posts today, here's a very good post from a surprising outlet. Just a short part of the whole:
Taylor leads his section crawling across the beach and over the sea wall, losing four men killed and two wounded (machine-gun fire) in this brief movement. Some yards off to his right, Taylor has seen Lieutenants Harold Donaldson and Emil Winkler shot dead. But there is no halt for reflection; Taylor leads the section by trail straight up the bluff and into Vierville, where his luck continues. In a two-hour fight he whips a German platoon without losing a man.

The village is quiet when Pearce joins him. Pearce says: "Williams is shot up back there and can't move."

Says Taylor: "I guess that makes me company commander."

Answers Pearce: "This is probably all of Baker Company." Pearce takes a head count; they number twenty-eight, including Taylor.

Says Taylor: "That ought to be enough. Follow me!"

Inland from Vierville about five hundred yards lies the Château de Vaumicel, imposing in its rock-walled massiveness, its hedgerow-bordered fields all entrenched and interconnected with artilleryproof tunnels. To every man but Taylor the target looks prohibitive. Still, they follow him. Fire stops them one hundred yards short of the château. The Germans are behind a hedgerow at mid-distance. Still feeling their way, Taylor's men flatten, open fire with rifles, and toss a few grenades, though the distance seems too great. By sheer chance, one grenade glances off the helmet of a German squatting in a foxhole. He jumps up, shouting: "Kamerad! Kamerad!" Thereupon twenty-four of the enemy walk from behind the hedgerow with their hands in the air. Taylor pares off one of his riflemen to march the prisoners back to the beach. The brief fight costs him three wounded. Within the château, he takes two more prisoners, a German doctor and his first-aid man. Taylor puts them on a "kind of a parole," leaving his three wounded in their keeping while moving his platoon to the first crossroads beyond the château.

Here he is stopped by the sudden arrival of three truckloads of German infantry, who deploy into the fields on both flanks of his position and start an envelopment. The manpower odds, about three to one against him, are too heavy. In the first trade of fire, lasting not more than two minutes, a rifleman lying beside Taylor is killed, three others are wounded, and the B.A.R. is shot from Pearce's hands. That leaves but twenty men and no automatic weapons.

Taylor yells: "Back to the château!" They go out, crawling as far as the first hedgerow; then they rise and trot along, supporting their wounded. Taylor is the last man out, having stayed behind to cover the withdrawal with his carbine until the hedgerows interdict fire against the others. So far, this small group has had no contact with any other part of the expedition, and for all its members know, the invasion may have failed.

They make it to the château. The enemy comes on and moves in close. The attacking fire builds up. But the stone walls are fire-slotted, and through the midday and early afternoon these ports well serve the American riflemen. The question is whether the ammunition will outlast the Germans. It is answered at sundown, just as the supply runs out, by the arrival of fifteen Rangers who join their fire with Taylor's, and the Germans fade back.

Already Taylor and his force are farther south than any element of the right flank in the Omaha expedition. But Taylor isn't satisfied. The battalion objective, as specified for the close of D Day, is still more than one half mile to the westward.
Back in the "another grim milestone" days of the Iraq war, the press appeared to delight in reporting that the American death toll had climbed by five hundred that year, or a thousand. On D-Day, nearly as many Allied forces died as would die in the whole of our war. Perhaps they had a better cause; or perhaps it was the same cause, as some of us believed. In any case they are due the greatest honor for the weight they bore in defense of the cause of human liberty.