Bakers' liberation

Inflation vs. haircut

When a country borrows more than it can repay, its creditors can lose their investment slowly or quickly:
It's easy to moralize Greece's feckless borrowing, weak tax collection and long history of default, and hey, go ahead; I won't stop you. But whatever the nation's moral failures, what we're witnessing now shows the dangers of trying to cure the problems of weak fiscal discipline with some sort of externally imposed currency regime. Greek creditors and Brussels were not the only people to joyously embrace the belief that the euro would finally force Greece to keep its financial house in order; you hear the same arguments right here at home from American gold bugs. During the ardent height of Ron Paul's popularity, I tried to explain why this doesn't work: "You don't get anything out of a gold standard that you didn't bring with you. If your government is a credible steward of the money supply, you don't need it; and if it isn't, it won't be able to stay on it long anyway."
This goes double for fiscal discipline. Moving to a fixed exchange rate protects bondholders from one specific sort of risk: the possibility that inflation will erode the real value of your bonds. But that doesn't remove the risk. It just transforms it. Now that the government can't inflate away its debt, you instead face the risk that they are going to run out of money to pay their bills and suddenly default. That's exactly what happened to Argentina, and many other nations on various other currency regimes, from the gold standard to a currency peg. The ability to inflate the currency had gone away, but the currency regime didn't fix any of the underlying institutional problems that previous governments had solved with inflation. So bondholders protected themselves from inflation, and instead took a catastrophic haircut.

In financial markets, it is easy to move risk around and change who is bearing it. On the other hand, it's very hard to actually get rid of the risk. The biggest problems come when we think we have -- when we mistake risk transformation for risk avoidance. That's what happened in 2008, and that's what happened with Greece....

Blackwater & Systems Theory

Erik Prince is working for China's African interests, and James Polous wonders what that means.
Whatever your politics, this is a story about the kinds of perils you can best grasp when you set aside a partisan policy lens and pick up the analytical frameworks offered by systems theory. Consider how the contours of our concern about Prince shift when we think of big government as a systems problem instead of an ideological one. It’s a truism that the bigger a system, the harder it falls.... When a system gets so large that its catastrophic threats become as marginal as possible, the nature of those threats becomes difficult to see, understand, and address....

The systems-theory approach to catastrophic risk is not, of course, free from strong criticism. One of the biggest names in systems theory, Nassim Taleb, has been drawn into the political controversy surrounding the potential systemic risk created by US monetary and fiscal policy. For some, there’s a lot at stake politically in theories potentially predicting that very loose money will provoke a collapse of America’s financial system (and the world’s) — or, at least, a lot of inflation.... Rather than using systems theory as a tool for predicting painful events, we should use it as a heuristic for living what Taleb calls an “antifragile” life. Unlikely as it may at first seem, there’s a real connection between the shocking events that shake a system and our personal exercise of anti-fragile habits.

I could lay out an argument trying to persuade you of this, but I think it’s ultimately more powerful to just point back to Prince. After all, his explicit rationale for his new venture is that the US, as a system, has ceased to be anti-fragile, in both political and cultural terms.
We've talked about Taleb's ideas before. I find them insightful and, generally, persuasive. Here's a place where he makes an analogy to the kinetic:
Although I was not yet familiar with gyms, my idea of knowledge was as follows. People who build their strength using these modern expensive gym machines can lift extremely large weights, show great numbers and develop impressive-looking muscles, but fail to lift a stone; they get completely hammered in a street fight by someone trained in more disorderly settings.... I've debated many economists who claim to specialize in risk and probability: when one takes them slightly outside their narrow focus, but within the discipline of probability, they fall apart, with the disconsolate face of a gym rat in front of a gangster hit man.”
There are anti-fragile ways to train the body and the mind, too. Bicep curls build big biceps, but these five exercises train main strength: the body you build will be less sculpted, but stronger throughout. Yoga builds flexibility, but jujitsu builds flexibility and fighting power. Logic, surprisingly perhaps, is highly fragile. It trains the mind to a fine degree, but strict logic turns out to be inapplicable to almost all of human life. Analogical rather than logical reasoning, rhetoric rather than analytics, this helps you grapple with life.

The American legal environment for business creates a strict and ever-changing set of rules. Many of these rules prevent business formation without great expense. Many of the changes can be existential threats to the business. They can even send you to prison. Blackwater became a political liability -- not even an enemy, just a firm the government didn't want to talk about any more -- and thus a target.

If you wanted to create an environment in which it was wise to set up American businesses for international ventures, you'd deregulate and shrink the bureaucracies that are constantly creating new regulations. You'd reduce the setup costs for a new business, and the danger that the rules might change in destructive ways. Is that what we're doing?

Love Songs, Considered



The eternal thing, the sacred thing: or, as the article puts it, the inevitable thing, the ordinary thing, the indispensable thing.

Talking About the Queen Again



Organizers said accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof wasn’t an “isolated actor,” but a “product of a consistent pattern of state-sponsored terrorism and radicalized dehumanization in America.” The event originally was aimed at burning the Confederate flag, but later changed to focus on the stars and stripes....

“There will be no peace until we tear down this system of oppression...

"We do not believe the ideals of America are anything to be revered. We are building something that will be much better than America. While the so-called patriots yell that we should just leave, we instead choose to dream. We dream of what real freedom looks like: freedom from paramilitaries occupying our communities, beating and killing our sons and daughters; freedom from our communities being destroyed by the speculative capital of gentrification; freedom from mass surveillance; and freedom from systemic racism.

“So, we will burn the American flag, a symbol of oppression and genocide, and in the same action, dismantle our stunted, cynical expectations of what is possible in the world."
They're right, after a fashion. It was the stars and stripes that flew over the slave ships, which the Confederate Battle Flag never did. They were mostly American ships sailing out of Northern harbors, under the American flag, all the way up until Lincoln. Just ask Allen West.

It's gonna be Independence Day. At some point, maybe we need some independence from old hates. It's a bad history all the way around -- the British are no better, as they were slavers before they finished building their industrial revolution, just as the North were the leading slave traders until they had built theirs. Either we have to burn it all down, and not just the flags but the whole thing: or we've got to find a way to forgive. And forgive not each other, for none of us made this. What we've got to do, somehow, is forgive our ancestors. You have to. No matter how bad your father and mother were, no matter how bad your grandparents were, if you can't forgive them you'll always end up hating a part of yourself. Hating your country and your heritage is the same way. If you can't forgive it and find the good in it, there will always be a part of yourself that you hate too. Forgive them, and you'll find that you've freed yourself.

Minimum Wage?

How about a "state-imposed Maximum Wage?"

Of $20 a month? That's setting your sights a little low, isn't it?

"Due to the Lateness of the Hour..."

"...I don’t know that they were going to be going to church the next morning.”

Competing Brokeness

Puerto Rico and Greece. Which one will work out better, do you think?

A More Democratic and Considered Move on the Flag

Unlike last week's mad rush, the South Carolina legislature has been considering the issue with regard to the feelings of the people. And people, even those who see the flag as essentially about history and heritage, have been moved by the events and grace at Charleston.
Among whites, 39 percent said the incident made them less likely to support the flag flying at the State House while 18 percent said the incident made them more likely to support it.... The Free Times/Crantford Research poll also found that South Carolina voters are optimistic about the prospects for the shooting to bring residents closer together: 41 percent believe the incident will ultimately improve race relations, compared to 16 percent who believe it will make matters worse. Black voters were somewhat less optimistic than whites; 38 percent of African-Americans and 43 percent of whites thought the incident would lead to better race relations.
This, I think, is the best result we can get from such a tragedy. Not that everyone should come to agree that the flag is a symbol of (and only of) hatred and oppression, but that those who disagree can come to consider and respect the views of those for whom it cannot be otherwise.

The Legislature is reconvened for the debate, though early indicators suggest the votes are there.
College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts said he was a bit surprised at the strong support in the conservative Legislature to remove the flag. But he said it likely reflects a “big public shift” that has taken place recently in South Carolina...

[T]he bills are expected to be channeled through committees, potentially delaying a final vote for several weeks.
One hopes that, to some degree, the shift works in both directions. "Heritage, not hate" is a great concept as long as it's real. This offers some evidence that it is real, that where it cannot be perceived except as hate, supporters of the flag as heritage are prepared to compromise without surrendering their view. America could learn a lot from that.

UPDATE: On the other hand, there's always the vocal (and young) minority.

Iran Deal Predictions

From Havok Journal:
5) The next US President will support the deal: H + however many days until January 2017L Despite early misgivings, courtesy of freshman senator Tom Cotton (R – Arkansas), Congress has signaled that it ultimately wants the deal to go through, as long as it gets its say. This Congress is clearly looking towards the next election and what the presumptive frontrunners will want. Instead of running interference, they’ve chosen a strategy (albeit a begrudging one) of demanding transparency in exchange for support.

Even the strong conservative holdouts who famously co-signed a letter to the Majles have backed away from the opposition camp. Interestingly, the only Senator not to affirm the transparency resolution, Tom Cotton, was one of the strongest opponents of the initial deal. The resolution also gives new Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) an opportunity to reign in some of the rhetoric by Tea Party upstarts like Cotton. Perhaps McConnell sees a need to tone down some of the language of his fellow party members leading into 2016.

Advice for Young Men

This is not a bad piece.

I was not aware of the fedora phenomenon until I encountered the famous SlateStarCodex piece worrying over the way in which this kind of young man is being punished. Since then, I've seen a few examples of the intense mockery from young women that these young men endure. I can understand the point the author at SSC was trying to make.

That it is unkind to the young men is true, as they are as he says just trying to emulate the most courtly behaviors they have ever encountered in literature or film. Whether it is unfair to them is another question.

In any case, if you are one or know one, and don't understand the mockery, read the article. It might help you out.

Taste Test: Surströmming



A traditional Swedish dish whose name means soured herring. "As long ago as the 16th century, surströmming was supplied as army rations in the 30 years war. Swedish soldiers who did not come from the area where this was staple food, as well as foreign conscripts, refused to eat it."

If it smells so bad that people were refusing to eat it during the Thirty Years' War, it smells pretty bad.

Defiance

Sen. Cruz says that states should simply defy the Supreme Court on gay marriage. I don't see how that could possibly work out well, as it didn't even work in cases (such as segregation) in which there was intense and unified opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling among the polities of many states. The American population has responded to years of all their favorite Hollywood entertainers endorsing this, combined with years of Federal court rulings all pointing in the same direction, by shifting its opinion to support for the practice. There are probably no states that can put together the unity against gay marriage that characterized the Southern Democrats' rejection of anti-segregation rulings.

On the other hand, segregation was immoral. If this set of arguments is even close to plausible, public opinion may well shift again in the coming years. In that case, the defiant will be remembered kindly by history rather than as the bigots they are portrayed as being in the contemporary press.

Much depends on what comes next. For the moment, Sen. Cruz is taking the lead boldly down a dark road. Whether that road ends in darkness, or whether joy comes with the morning, is far from clear.

Changing Sides in the Supreme Court

In the term just ending, is it true that the liberal justices voted as a bloc, while the conservatives often voted according to their judicial philosophy instead of their party interests? Yes, according to SCOTUSblog, but only if you're talking about the most important cases:
In the 26, a Justice on the left voted with the right a total of 3 times. In 2 cases, those votes determined the outcome and produced a more conservative result, because Justice Kennedy or one of the conservatives voted for the more liberal result.

In the 26, a Justice on the right voted with the left 14 times. In 6 cases, those votes determined the outcome and produced a more liberal result, because Justice Kennedy voted for the more conservative result.

I also considered the 10 cases I consider most significant. Of those, the left prevailed in 8. Those included the first 7 of the Term. (I mention the early cases to give a sense of how the results must have appeared inside the Court as the Term went along.) The right prevailed in 2, both in the final sitting of the Term.

In the 10, no Justice on the left voted with the right; the four Justices on the left voted together in every one of those cases. A Justice on the right voted with the left 4 times. Those votes determined the outcome in 2 cases, because Justice Kennedy voted for the more conservative result.

This Is Going To Be A Problem For My Hoped-For Jim Webb Candidacy

Bernie Sanders overtaking Hillary in the Democratic primary's momentum. It's true that all my left-leaning friends are huge fans of Bernie. I've yet to find anyone else willing to consider voting for Webb: Democrats want someone farther to the left of Hillary, and Republicans want a full-time Republican.

Well, I've never picked a winner yet: why break the streak?

This Guy Really Is A Priest

It's a trivial matter, sort of, except that the event at which this dishonorable action occurred was supposed to be all about equality of human dignity. He certainly showed some dignity, though not an equality of it.

The $100 million lesson

Noah Kagan was one of the earliest employees at Facebook, but was fired before it went public.  He describes what he learned from the experience.

EPA must consider costs

Today's third opinion reverses a D.C. Circuit decision, and rules that the EPA interpreted its authorizing statute unreasonably when it concluded it need not consider costs in implementing environmental regulations concerning power plant pollutants, especially mercury. The usual suspects dissented, making it a 5-4 split. The case is captioned Michigan v. EPA but normally is referred to as "Utility Air."  The EPA will still have discretion in how to consider costs; the Court ruled, for instance, that it need not conduct a formal cost/benefit analysis, whatever that means.  We'll find out on remand, I guess.

Gerrymandering: voters rule

The Court's second decision today upheld the power of a state's voters over their legislature in a dispute over how gerrymandering concerns should be resolved. Per SCOTUSblog, "In 2000, Arizona voters amended the state’s constitution to give control over redistricting of federal congressional districts to an independent commission. This case is a challenge by the state legislature to that transfer, on the ground that it violated the Elections Clause" of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Kennedy joined the four liberal Justices in a 5-4 decisionhttp://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-1314_kjfl.pdf, which upheld the voters' right to override the legislature's redistricting process. SCOTUSblog further noted that the Supreme Court has several times already declined to address the constitutionality of gerrymandering per se. This decision also does not address the constitutionality of gerrymandering, but only whether the voters (via state constitutional amendment) or the legislature shall have the ultimate say over the drawing of federal congressional district lines. Scalia's dissent suggested that he didn't disagree with the voters' right to control redistricting--he would have dismissed the challenge for lack of jurisdiction--but he joined the dissent out of displeasure with the reasoning of the majority. The four dissenting justices (led by Roberts) objected that the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the redistricting power to state legislatures, not the state populace. The majority, in contrast, acknowledged the state voters' right to rein in their legislature's approach by amending their state constitution to require delegation of the redistricting process to an independent commission. The SCOTUSblog interpretation was that the opinion favors new legislators over incumbents, and therefore has little effect unless the state is undergoing a political shift.

Cruel and unusual death penalties

SCOTUS has issued its final opinions for the year, as well as a list of the new cases it will hear next year.  The first decision upholds Oklahoma's use of an anti-anxiety drug that a lower court found was virtually certain to induce unconsciousness before the state administered a paralytic drug and a heart-stopping drug.  The case arose after anti-death-penalty advocates successfully pressured drug companies to stop making barbiturates available for the death-penalty process, in response to which Oklahoma switched to an alternative method of inducing unconsciousness.  The argument then shifted to whether the alternative drug was adequate; the Court ruled today that the lower court had not committed clear error in accept expert testimony to the drug's effectiveness, and that Oklahoma was not required to prove that the new drug was as effective as the ones that no longer were available.

The oral arguments had been reported to be unusually violent for this staid forum.

Justice Alito delivered the majority opinion, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas.  Justices Scalia and Thomas issued a separate concurring opinion, not disagreeing with the reasoning, but responding to a dissent issued by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, who expressed a renewed plea for the Court to take up the constitutionality of the death penalty.  Justices Kagan and Sotomayor did not join in this plea, which led observers at SCOTUSblog to wonder whether they, like past liberal Justices, had grown less vehement in their opposition to the death penalty after spending some time on the Supreme bench.  Instead, Kagan and Sotomayor issued a separate dissent addressing only the issues concerning Oklahoma's choice of consciousness-terminating drug.

When bad things happen to good birds

Nature, red in tooth and claw, and the webcam viewers who have to deal with it.  (Don't worry, you're not going to find yourself in one of those awful TV commercials about abandoned pets.)

Truck Stop at the End of the World

A cheerful song from the end times, as they were envisioned in the Cold War.



Don't worry about the scales: they're reading megatons.

The Sorrow of Schadenfreude

I can't enjoy it, because the situation is tragic. Still, I can recognize that I ought to feel it. From progressive site anongalactic:
While America was distracted by a the Confederate flag debacle, the U.S. Congress forfeited the entire economic future of the country by quietly passing so-called “fast-track authority” which will allow President Obama to approve the TPP “free trade” agreement.

The TPP, as you may have heard, outright surrenders U.S. sovereignty to multinational corporations, handing them total global monopolies over labor practices, immigration, Big Pharma drug pricing, GMO food labeling, criminalization of garden seeds and much more. In all, the TPP hands over control of 80% of the U.S. economy to global monopolists, and the TPP is set up to enable those corporations to engage in virtually unlimited toxic chemical pollution, medical monopolization, the gutting of labor safety laws and much more.

Plus, did I mention the TPP will displace millions of American works as corporations outsource jobs to foreign workers? While corporations rake in the profits from new global powers, everyday American workers will lose their livelihoods and their jobs (not to mention their pensions)....

While Amazon.com was frantically deleting Confederate flag products from its website and everybody was going bat-crap insane over the 1970’s comedy TV series Dukes of Hazzard and its use of the so-called Confederate flag on a hot rod car, Republicans and the President were busy committing outright treason at the highest levels: surrendering American sovereignty and economically enslaving all of America’s future children.

And that’s the tragic irony of all this: While the political left falsely believed it was denouncing slavery by pressuring every online retailer and government entity to ban the Confederate flag, the U.S. Congress was busy enacting a whole new level of total economic enslavement for everyone, regardless of their skin color.
There's that "treason" word again. It could possibly be deserved, this time, depending on how bad the treaty really is. Since it's still secret, we can't be sure.

The Decline of an American Sport

Headlines from my father's favorite sport:

19 January 2014: NASCAR is turning off fans both old and new.

26 August 2014: As popularity, and seating, wane, NASCAR explores capacity to change

25 February 2015: What has happened to the once high-flying sport of NASCAR?

25 April 2015: Even as attendance and TV ratings drag, NASCAR still has lots of dedicated fans.

So, what you need is a way to get that dedicated hard-core of fans more committed to turning out and tuning in. That should be easy! Remember your roots! How'd stock car racing get started?



That's right: it's that old moonshiner, bootlegger spirit, fast cars racing through the hills on old dirt roads. The law might not like 'em, but they were fast and they were bold and mostly they were just looking out for their family and friends. This is a formula of proven success. Why, I think there was a wildly popular television show once on this subject. Maybe even a movie or two.

Shouldn't be hard to fix, right?

Beware

I'm awfully pleased Douglas is posting here now; I always look forward to his comments.  But his first post, with its aside about "a constant stream of inanity," almost discouraged me from posting this, from Ace:




















Almost.

"The Battle of Vienna" the movie

Well this isn't a bad way to inaugurate my privileges at the Hall (Thanks, Grim!)-
Epic battle, heroic leader, Winged Hussars, it looks to have it all:
I came across this link to a new movie slated to be released in October Titled "The Battle of Vienna"- at least in Polish.  Unsurprisingly, it centers on Polish King Jan Sobieski.  It looks like the English title will be "September 11th, 1683", interestingly enough.  No idea if/when it will be released here, or through what channels.  It's nice for us though, that it's in English, with Polish subtitles.
Of course, it reminds me of past Hall favorite:
 
Maybe more 'diversions' like this movie can start to point us back to things that matter instead of a constant stream of inanity from our entertainment-industrial complex.

Doubling Down on "Treason"

Dr. Michaelson argued (see post immediately below) that Supreme Court decisions that radically overturn state laws should have a 9-0 consensus. This is to limit the sense of the People that the decision is radical, and make it easier for them to accept a limit on their sovereignty. If they are told that they may not pass laws of a given type, at least they can see that the Court is united in its belief that such laws are incompatible with the basic structure of our republic.

This would have been a great limiting principle on the Court's power. Unfortunately, the duty Dr. Michaelson wants to assert is a duty not to dissent.
Did The Four Dissenting Justices In Gay Marriage Case Just Suggest Treason?

In controversial cases, is the role of jurist to inflame controversy, or quell it?...

The four dissents in the landmark case on same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges.... [w]ith invective and hyperbole, they pour fuel on the fire of the controversy over same-sex marriage. Rather than merely state their views and disagreements, they use heated language to accuse the five-person majority of imperialism, a “putsch,” and worse.

Thus, the unprecedented calls of elected officials for open revolt against the Supreme Court—a shocking display of treason—are now accompanied by calls from within the Court itself that Obergefell is illegitimate, and the Supreme Court itself no longer worthy of full respect....

These are, as the saying goes, fighting words, and more importantly, they are words that will inspire others to fight. They are what some call “stochastic terrorism,” the broadcasting of a message so incendiary as to inspire some “lone wolf” to violence—if not actual violence, then precisely the kinds of anti-democratic, anti-American defiance we have already seen among some politicians.
Treason, treason, treason. You must feel very secure in your positions of power.

Judicial Supermajority

Dr. Jay Michaelson argues that a responsible Supreme Court overturns the will of the People as expressed in their state laws and constitutions by putting together a 9-0 decision. That way, the already-controversial decision is easier for the population to accept:
In Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case which found race-based marriage bans unconstitutional, Chief Justice Earl Warren built a 9-0 consensus—just as he’d done years earlier in Brown vs. Board of Education. He knew that a country divided by race ought to be united, if possible, by a Supreme Court mindful of fundamental values—even if the Court was, as the constitution requires, overturning the will of the majority.
It turns out that the rule he devises here isn't that the Court should take such radical action only when there is in fact a 9-0 consensus that such action is necessary. That would be a great rule, one I'd be happy to support, as it would be a limiting principle on a fairly radical power of the Court. We have similar supermajority standards for the other more radical powers of the Federal government: to amend the Constitution or to enter into a treaty that binds the United States both require legislative supermajorities.

In fact, this suggestion strikes me as much better than the one currently under discussion, i.e. to make Supreme Court Justices' tenure contingent on continuing Congressional approval of them. A supermajority requirement doesn't fiddle with the balance of power between the branches, and further, one of the good things about the current structure is that it cools democratic passion by continuing the input of previous administrations on current decisions. That represents a good power-sharing function, and often the Court is the only hope of the minority currently out of power that its views will still be considered by the party currently holding the levers. I should not wish to see that function change.

On the other hand, a supermajoirty requirement could be structured to restrain Court radicalism very easily. Any time that a Court ruling would require us to believe that the People had ratified a right without realizing it, they should require a 9-0 consensus. Any time we have to assume that laws that have continued to be in force without interruption since the ratification of an amendment were really invalidated by that amendment, there should be a 9-0 consensus. And perhaps any time multiple state constitutions have to be overturned, there should be a smaller supermajority -- 7-2, perhaps -- given that the state constitutional amendment process is already a supermajority process (and that anyone can escape a state constitution they find oppressive by simply moving to another state).

Unfortunately, that's not Dr. Michaelson's point at all. It's such a good point, though, I thought it deserved its own post.

A Theological Matter of Some Urgency

So it's Ramadan, which means that Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink from sunrise until sunset. That's troublesome when Ramadan falls in the winter time, as it sometimes does because it is a lunar month and thus drifts about the Gregorian calendar, but it's harder when it falls in summer months.

It turns out it's harder still given recent Muslim immigration to Sweden.
Muslims in the Arctic Circle are urgently coming up with new rules for Ramadan when they are banned from eating during the day - as the region will have 24-hour sunshine.

A Swedish Muslim association says new guidelines are being drawn up for the fasting month, which begins on June 18 this year, as members of the religion are not supposed to eat until sunset.
It strikes me that this is a real problem for the claim that these rules were given by God through the angel Gabriel to Mohammad with the intent that they should stand as eternal and perfect rules for human beings in all times and places. Clearly they should revisit Averroes' suggestion that, occasionally, a little ijtihad might be necessary: and perhaps ask if, given this manifest example, they should not apply the rule more widely as the philosopher suggested.

A Problem With External Reality

Mark Steyn, noting the degree to which the country shut its eyes to the world outside yesterday:
~George Orwell in a famous passage from 1984:
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
Two plus two equals five. A severed head plus "Allahu Akbar!" equals "Nothing to do with Islam." Network screenings of Gone With The Wind plus Uncle Ben's rice equals blatant incitement to mass murder. A nice chichi gay couple at 27 Elm Street and a firebreathing imam and his four child brides at 29 Elm Street equals the social harmony of a multiculti utopia.

Where is this story headed?... What Marx called the internal contradictions of capitalism have nothing on those of "diversity".

And so the leader of the free world lights the White House LGBT as the tourist corpses are removed from their sunbeds.

Then Why Issue The Report At All?

Kissing up to Iran: that's a job for the most dishonorable man in America. Fortunately, he's the Secretary of State.
A report issued Thursday by the Department of State repeatedly refers to sex reassignment surgery in Iran as “gender-confirmation surgery.”

Speaking at the release of the State Department’s annual human rights report, Secretary of State John Kerry said of the designation that “There is nothing sanctimonious in this,” emphasizing the need for “humility” in the face of the U.S.’ own racial inequality.
So, is the point that this is a human rights abuse or not? The US government also engages in "gender-confirmation surgery," particularly of prisoners like Bradley Manning, but generally only on request. We apparently wouldn't want to be sanctimonious about Iran doing it by force, under threat of death for noncompliance. So why bring it up at all?

They must really want this deal bad. Such a deal it is, too.

A Nice Piece

From Small Wars Journal.

Animal PR

What modern animals would look like if we drew them the way we reconstruct dinosaurs.

The spice trade

How to create a black market in salt, pepper, and sugar, and incidentally nurture some budding adolescent entrepreneurs.  We'll need special SWAT teams next.

The focus is supposed to be on "hungry, needy kids," but I suspect this model would start working only if they could get some hungrier, needier kids.  Traditionally the approach worked well with hospitals, jails, and abusive orphanages.  These kids get to leave the premises every afternoon, so there's a limit to how far you can jack with them.

Apologizing for Slavery

Will the Democratic Party officially apologize for supporting slavery and the Klan, asks the American Spectator? The history is doubtless known to all of you, but perhaps not in the detail spelled out in this article.

The idea of an apology and formal repudiation of slavery is not a bad one. I assume this part is a nonstarter:
And instead of raising all those millions for the next election? How about raising some millions from all your rich donors to pay black Americans for the damage you have done to them since the inception of your slavery/segregation and race-based party in 1800? Damage that has now, yet again, brought violence and tragedy from someone inspired by your ugly history. It would seem, at a minimum, that now is the time to apologize for — instead of ignore or hide — that history.
It's a new idea for reparations that I haven't heard before, associated with the party most responsible and most interested in them. I'd be willing to chip in.

All of my early American political heroes have a slavery problem, especially the big three: Washington, Jefferson, and James Jackson of Georgia. Washington and James Jackson were both heroic men of noble ideas and personal courage, men who believed in and lived the principles of limited republican government. Jefferson and James Jackson were men who believed in a society that still makes sense to me today, a society that supports a greater degree of liberty for people economically as well as politically by supporting small farmers and businesses in which people own their own means of production. Jackson in particular ran personal risks and paid a personal price to bring about such a society in Georgia. Two of these men, Jefferson and Jackson, were founding figures in the Democratic Party.

And yet all three of these men, and many others for whom a great deal that is good can be said, were not just owners of slaves but supporters of the practice. Jefferson was certainly alarmed by slavery as an institution -- he called it 'having a wolf by the ears' -- but just because he was afraid of the consequences of ending it he made no steps to do so. Rather to the shame of the American Revolution, several of Washington's hundreds of slaves effected their escape and gained their freedom by fleeing to a nearby British warship. Like the American Revolution itself, we want to endorse it and these men wholeheartedly -- but we have to say, somehow, "except for slavery." We have to sever that tie, at least conceptually, in order to see the good in them and in what they did.

One cannot apologize for them, but the institution might formally make apology for itself. Perhaps it ought to do so.

UPDATE: In a related story, the Pope apologized this week for the Church's persecution of a Christian sect called the Waldensians during the 15th century.
The Waldensians, who now live mostly in Italy and Latin America, were founded by Peter Waldo in France in the late 12th century. He gave up his wealth and preached poverty but as the movement grew it came into increasing theological conflict with the papacy. The movement, an early precursor of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, was branded as heretical and in 1487 Pope Innocent VIII ordered its extermination. Some 1,700 Waldensians were killed in 1655 by Catholic forces commanded by the Duke of Savoy....

During a visit to Jerusalem in 2000, Francis' predecessor Pope John Paul II asked forgiveness from Jews for their persecution by Catholics over the centuries.
There isn't any very good reason the Democratic Party couldn't do the same.

Things You Are Not Allowed To Say Or Do

A helpful guide from the University of Wisconsin.

I have trouble taking some of their examples seriously. "That's so White of you"? I read that in a book, once. I have a sense that it was Greenmantle or The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, though I can't find it in the etexts of either book.

Others are very strange. It's a microaggression that there is an overabundance of liquor stores in "communities of color"? I assume the liquor stores are there because it's profitable for them, so the abundance (or lack thereof) is within the community's control (even lacking zoning laws). Furthermore, what sense does it make to describe this as a microaggression? No one decides to create an "overabundance" of liquor stores: they decide to open one more. If they are misjudging the community's demand for liquor, the punishment will be delivered naturally by the market via the loss of their investment.

Certainly people should be courteous. I wouldn't want to be misunderstood as advocating discourtesy. Still, part of courtesy lies in not willfully giving offense, and another part lies in not willfully taking offense where none was intended.

More on Brotherhood

Via a friend on FB, there have been four more black churches burned in the last week. I wouldn't normally link to Daily KOS, but this issue transcends such matters.

Disparate impact

This eventful week's third blockbuster Supreme Court decision mostly upheld the use of "disparate impact" arguments in housing discrimination cases, but nevertheless prohibited the quota system.

The case arose out of accusations that Texas officials had violated the Fair Housing Act by awarding federal tax credits in a way that kept low-income housing out of white neighborhoods. The Fair Housing Act bans discrimination “because of race”; Kennedy concluded that it therefore “may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping,” absent a showing of deliberate racial discrimination. The ruling is consistent with the Court's previous interpretations of two other antidiscrimination statutes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

A new and important restriction on the use of disparate impact, however, is that the plaintiff must show a causal relationship between the defendant's action and the resulting statistical anomaly; the bare anomaly is insufficient. If the causal link is there, the plaintiff need not show proof of state of mind:
A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant’s policy or policies causing that disparity. A robust causality requirement is important in ensuring that defendants do not resort to the use of racial quotas.... Policies, whether governmental or private, are not contrary to the disparate-impact requirement unless they are “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers.”... Remedial orders in disparate-impact cases should concentrate on the elimination of the offending practice, and courts should strive to design race-neutral remedies. Remedial orders that impose racial targets or quotas might raise difficult constitutional questions.
This approach is just about exactly the basis of Edith Jones's decision below in the Fifth Circuit, so yay, Edith, as usual.

Justice Alito mischievously pointed out that minimum-wage laws could rightfully be accused of disparate impact.

Marriage

For those of you who'd like to read the decision instead of the commentary. The ruling is that no state may prohibit same-sex marriages; as a natural consequence, each state must recognize same-sex marriages authorized by other states. The right to same-sex marriages is ruled a fundamental right, with which (under the 14th amendment) the states cannot interfere without due process of law. (The Fifth Amendment places the equivalent restriction on the federal government.)

I would call it a privacy-penumbra case, squarely in line with Griswold v. Connecticut, which forbad the state to interfere in a married couple's decision to use contraception.  That is, it seems to be based less on identity politics than on limiting the government's right to interfere in intensely private intimate relations--but maybe that's just the part of the reasoning that resonates best with me.  Bear in mind also that it is a restriction on state power, not a prohibition of individual discrimination, which is a creature of statute.  That is a controversy that will continue to rage, especially since this decision neither expressed nor disavowed a First Amendment ground for refusing to participate in a wedding ceremony that violates one's religious convictions.  The Court did say that religious institutions have a first amendment right to advocate against same sex marriage. Roberts is leery of protections that are limited to advocacy: "The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to 'exercise' religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses." What will happen, he wonders, "when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples"?  Alito echoed these concerns, but mostly in terms of a fear of branding opponents as bigots unless they confined their opposition to private whispers.

Roberts read aloud a dissent in which he appeared to welcome gay marriage but deplore the decision to get there by judicial fiat rather than democratic process. (Those of us with memories extending beyond 24 hours may be amused by this comment from Justice Roberts: "But this Court is not a legislature.") In contrast, the majority opinion stated "While the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right." Roberts also makes the slippery-slope argument: "It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage."

Scalia read aloud a dissent that was dripping with contempt for the legal reasoning of the majority:
If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.
Thomas balked at including homosexuality within "life, liberty, or property," and scoffed at the sloppy grafting of due-process on equal-protection jurisprudence by means of the dreaded "synergy."

A Month of Disasters for the Infidels

Coordinated attacks in France, Kuwait, and Tunisia. The attacks combined with a propaganda statement calling for a month of disaster for infidels seems to recognize the burgeoning US/Iran alliance that our administration is intending to leave as its major foreign policy legacy. The most deadly attack was on a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait, but the attack in France was on an American-owned chemical plant, where at least one person was decapitated. The attempt to destroy the plant did not succeed. I would like to know more about how they planned to destroy it: chemical plants could be destroyed in ways that cause much greater damage than simply shutting down the equipment.

The world keeps insistently knocking at the door.

The Queen's Guard



"His gun is jammed," the observer states, suggesting that the misunderstanding of the situation here was even greater than it appears.

One wonders how long this beloved British tradition of having the guards ignore tourist antics (to the point of being laid hands on) will continue. The guard is a symbol of the Queen's authority, and a symbol of the state. In the age of terrorism, that makes them a target for those wanting to send a symbolic message of their own. The guard here was righteous and correct in his response.

Rule of law

OK, I'll talk about the words even if the concept of meaning has taken a small beating this week.

You know, if they'd said "state exchanges," I could see the argument for ambiguity. That might mean either "an exchange operating in a state" or "an exchange established by a state, as opposed to one established by the feds." How anyone can think "exchange established by a state" is ambiguous in a statute that involves both kinds is really beyond me, particular with evidence that the whole point was to give states an irresistible incentive to set up their own exchanges and not dump the task onto the feds. The states' refusal to set up their own exchanges became a conceivable choice only after the S. Ct. struck down the Medicaid penalty as too coercive, which is the main reason the remaining law now strikes many people as "internally contradictory." That is, it always was a little bizarre that state exchanges would be denied subsidies, but no one paid much attention because they could barely entertain the notion that it would ever happen--and it never would have happened, in all likelihood, until Justice Roberts re-wrote the ACA the first time.

The only way to read "exchange established by a state" as "exchange established by anyone you like" is to demand a certain result and twist the words and standards as necessary. Which is pretty much what the majority opinion announced it was doing: it said the plaintiffs' interpretation was right, but going along with it would be too inconvenient.  So the trial court said the language was unambiguous and meant what the White House said. The appellate court said it was ambiguous but meant what the White House said. The Supreme Court said the most obvious reading was that it meant the opposite of what the White House said, but it would be re-interpreted that way anyway because we wish Congress had written something different or at least had employed competent draftsmen.

This doesn't surprise anyone about the liberal judges or even Kennedy. Many of us hoped that Roberts's bizarre "it's a tax/it's a floor wax" approach the last time around was an aberration, but now we see it wasn't, at least not when the stakes are high.

A commenter I appreciate at Megan McArdle's site has been asking people for months now to provide her with an example of improved language that would make "exchange established by a state" unambiguous, if your purpose was to make it clear that exchanges established by the feds would not be eligible for subsidies.  She never gets any takers.  The most frequent response amounts to "Huh?"

There's been a lot of yelling back and forth about U.S. v. Gore and Heller and Citizens United and whether rightwingers are really consistent about precision of language. I won't for one instant try to argue that you can resolve constitutional disputes without dealing with flexibility and ambiguity in the use of language, especially centuries-old language with a long history and a complicated context. But King v. Burwell was a statutory interpretation case. That's a special animal, where we have precise and useful tools for deciding when the judicial branch should intrude on the legislative branch's prerogatives. The rule is: first the language has to be ambiguous, and only then can you consider the drafters' intent.  That's not just my personal opinion of the rule; it's the formulation of the rule confirmed by the majority opinion in King. v. Burwell.  If the language is not ambiguous, but the law still stinks and is unworkable, you send it back to Congress for fixing.  If Congress has changed its mind in the meantime, tough.

In this case, I personally would have found the drafters' intent a slam-dunk once Gruber shot his mouth off, but let's assume he was lying when he first shot his mouth off and not when he retracted all his previous statements. The fact is, we shouldn't be looking at intent at all, because the argument that the language in question is ambiguous is laughable. Yes, it's "only five words in a 2,000-page bill," but they happen to be the only five words in 2,000 pages that bear directly on the point in dispute. Very, very disappointing, even for someone with no illusions about the Supreme Court consisting of saintly and courageous geniuses.

Ho Chi Minh Posters Are Still On Sale on Ebay

They are. And Che, of course.

Polls on the Flag

We've heard a lot about what the media, business, and political classes think about the flag issue. What we haven't heard about is what the people of South Carolina think. The last time this issue was decided it was done by a deeply contentious debate in which both sides argued their positions forcefully, and when compromise was finally reached they locked it in with a guarantee that it would only be altered if there was a 2/3rds majority vote in favor.

It looks like we're close to that.
Am I right that this is the first major poll taken since the beginning of Flagmania last week?... The crosstabs unfortunately don’t break down the numbers by region and race. It’s useful to know what white Americans and black Americans think, and it’s useful to know what southerners think compared to people from other regions. But there’s no way to tell how white southerners differ from black southerners on this subject, apart from a tidbit that YouGov discloses in its summary: White southerners continue to tilt heavily in favor of seeing the flag as a symbol of southern pride rather than racism, 53/20. Among black Americans generally (not just southerners), the split on the same question is … 3/70.
I don't know what a 'major poll' is, but there's another one more focused on South Carolina that's posted in the last day.
Sixty percent of likely voters surveyed by Rassmussen Reports said the flag should not be displayed at the South Carolina capitol, while 21 percent said it should. Eighteen percent are undecided.... A plurality of Republican voters (46 percent) said the flag should not fly at the statehouse, and a majority (76 percent) of Democrats agree. Although the majority of likely voters agree the flag should not fly there, they are split on whether it is a symbol of Southern heritage (43 percent) or hatred (39 percent).... Party lines also correlate with differing interpretations of what the Confederate flag represents. A majority of Republicans (64 percent) said it represents Southern heritage, while a majority of Democrats (57 percent) said it is a symbol of hatred.
That sounds like an adequate apology for the Republican majority legislature to go ahead with it. It's a complete concession by one side of the old debate, however: not a new compromise, but a surrender of the position. I hope this is received as I am sure it is intended: as a gift of something precious to the conceding side, intended to show honor and respect for the victims of the recent shooting, and to their community which has responded so gracefully.

Banhammer

You may have seen Ed Driscoll making fun of a movement to question what liberals will ban next, given the week's successes. Upworthy responds with a list of fast food places you 'aren't allowed' to eat at any more, along with explanations of why not.

Papa John's -- because their founder was critical of the ACA. Sonic -- because they don't pay minimum wage, leaving their wait staff to rely on tips. Wendy's -- which actually pays above minimum wage, but not enough above, and they don't allow tips. Chick-Fil-A! "OMIGOD, you guys, you can absolutely never, ever, ever eat at Chick-fil-A."

If we can't drive people who disagree with us politically into abject economic poverty -- so that they can be forced into line, by having to choose between starving and making themselves subject to the corporate discipline of a responsible company like Walmart (wait! When did Walmart stop being the enemy of everything good? This is really new, right? But Hillary Clinton has an important attachment to it in her past, so...) -- if we can't do that, how will we ever achieve justice?

"A Shot to the Heart"

An Army Ranger responds to Charleston, with reflections also on the loss of friends in the wars.

A Flag That Should Definitely Be Changed

England selects a banner for its Women's World Cup team.

Totally inappropriate content warning, but it's seriously an official banner.

Overturning Revolutions

In keeping with the discussion around Tex's post, a story from Russia:
Vladimir Putin 'wants' to reinstate the Russian royal family and move them into an ancient palace once occupied by the last Tsar Nicholas II.

The move proposed by Vladimir Petrov, a law maker from Putin's party, has prompted speculation that it has the Russian leader's direct approval.... The legislator has written letters to the heirs of the Romanov dynasty, which ruled the country for two centuries before the abdication of last Tsar Nicholas II ahead of two revolutions in 1917.... Petrov has written to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and Prince Dimitri Romanovich urging them to return to Russia to become symbols of national culture in order to "revive the spiritual power of Russian people".

The leaked letter read: "Throughout the history of its reign, the Imperial dynasty of the Romanovs was one of the pillars of Russia's sovereignty."

The country now "goes through a difficult process of restoring the country's greatness and returning its global influence" and "members of the Romanov House cannot stay aloof from the processes taking place in Russia now at such an important historical moment".
Since this whole 'revolution against royalty' thing is so associated with disaster, I suppose it makes a kind of sense. The Soviet disaster was far worse than any of ours, and from the Russian perspective, that's the high point of subsequent history. Perhaps they'll adopt the old Russian flag, which is better looking than their French-Revolution-inspired tricolor.

Millstones

The worst thing about slavery was, well, slavery.  A distant second bad thing was that in the mid-19th century, Americans with deep convictions about dual sovereignty and limitations on federal power picked slavery as the ideal test case.  As a result, the lesson generations of Americans took from their struggle was that, if you give some people too much sovereignty, they'll use it to perpetuate horrifying schemes like slavery, thus undermining their supposed allegiance to the concept of freedom. Ergo, maybe this freedom experiment has gone too far.

One of the best ways to lose your freedom is to abuse it.  It's never a natural or foregone conclusion.  As Walter Hudson said today,
Therefore, when I look at the Confederate battle flag as a black libertarian, I see tragedy for all parties concerned. I see the history of racism and human indignity which motivates the current debate. But I also see the loss of state sovereignty which compromised the Founding Fathers vision for republican government. To the extent people choose to fly the Confederate flag in honor of that latter heritage, I can’t fault them.
That said, let’s be clear why state sovereignty was lost. It was lost because the southern states delegitimized it.

No running for the shadows

One of the things I like most about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is that he doesn't let media cycles spook him off of the stands he's taken on principle.  This week he signed two new gunowner-rights bills into law.

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare subsidies

With Roberts and Kennedy joining the majority, 6-3.

Update:  Scalia calls it "SCOTUScare."

The opinion is here.  I could read it, but if words don't mean anything, why bother?

Hijabs

For what it's worth, I heard a version of this argument from a Human Terrain Team social scientist who happened to be female. She put on a hijab to go out and talk to Muslim women in Iraq. What most surprised her, she told me, was the way in which it stopped soldiers from treating her as a sexual being. It's a strange fact, since it's just a piece of cloth, but for whatever reason covering the hair and head somehow disconnected the sex drive even in young soldiers long deployed at war and forbidden other avenues of sexual relief.

So maybe there's something to it. Perhaps a symbol, under the right circumstances, doesn't have to mean what we ordinarily expect it to mean. Perhaps a lot has to do, as she says, with the choice of the person who wields it.

In any case, the social scientist I knew kind of liked the effect. She didn't wear it otherwise, probably because everyone would have thought it a bit weird. But she did like the effect it had on the young soldiers around her.

To Speak Like A Man

Jim Webb, though a Southerner and a man whose family has strong Confederate roots, adopted a modest and respectful posture in his comment on the flag matters. William Kristol, himself a Lincoln and Sherman man -- a very decent guy and a serious thinker, whom I met in Jerusalem and who might even have been thinking of our conversation in his limited defense today -- found Webb's comment to be refreshingly adult. He mentions Lincoln's second inaugural: "With malice toward none, with charity for all." I notice Webb did not undertake a vigorous defense of the flag, nor call for it to remain in place. Rather, he calls for calm, reflection, and mutual understanding. Allahpundit says it is enough to disqualify him, should he be serious about running for the Democratic nomination. Hopefully not. It is welcome, sober, and proper. The resolution of the disposition of the flag can be discussed in time, he seems to say: what matters now is to be respectful, to remember our brotherhood.

Perhaps not by accident he also published a short story today, which comes out of his time in Vietnam. It begins with a child asking his grandfather a question on the way to church. It's a question only a child should ask: did you ever kill a man?
“We’ll talk about it on the lake.” He attempted a joke. “I grew up with Ernest Hemingway. And Hemingway said you aren’t supposed to feel bad about it.”

“Who is Ernest Hemingway?”

“Some writer who never killed anybody. Except himself.”
The discussion in the story quickly turns philosophical, which suggests a ground for Webb's -- and Lincoln's -- call for an absence of malice and a focus on charity. It is a seriousness of mind entirely refreshing at the present hour. It reminds me, once again, of why I often wish for veterans of proven valor more often to seek public office.

Liberty By Law

In the run-up to my sister's wedding and the trip around it, I somehow allowed it to slip my mind that we were passing the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
But, to give it its full name, Magna Carta Libertatum (my italics - I don't think they had 'em back then) gets it the right way round. It was in some respects a happy accident. In 1215, a bunch of chippy barons were getting fed up with King John. In those days, in such circumstances, the malcontents would usually replace the sovereign with a pliable prince who'd be more attentive to their grievances. But, having no such prince to hand, the barons were forced to be more inventive, and so they wound up replacing the King with an idea, and the most important idea of all - that even the King is subject to the law.

On this 800th anniversary, that's a lesson worth re-learning. Restraints on state power are increasingly unfashionable among the heirs to Magna Carta: in America, King Barack decides when he wakes up of a morning what clauses of ObamaCare or US immigration law he's willing to observe or waive according to royal whim; his heir, Queen Hillary, operates on the principle that laws are for the other 300 million Americans, not her. In the birthplace of Magna Carta, a few miles from that meadow at Runnymede, David Cameron's constabulary leans on newsagents to cough up the names and addresses of troublesome citizens who've committed the crime of purchasing Charlie Hebdo.

The symbolism was almost too perfect when Mr Cameron went on TV with David Letterman, and was obliged to admit that he had no idea what the words "Magna Carta" meant. Magna Carta Libertatum: The Great Charter of Liberties.

Taxation Without Representation

Just as the House called a vote on Fast Track authority as the Charleston shooting became the focus of everyone's attention, it cleared the Senate's procedural barriers while no one is looking. We still don't know what it is our elected leaders are giving the President authority to do, but the last real chance to stop it (whatever it is) will be the up or down vote on the treaty. However, because of the Fast Track authority, that will be a simple majority vote -- not the two-thirds majority normally required to approve a major treaty.

This is not unique. On the Iran deal, Congress managed to work the system out so that a mere one-third of either chamber will suffice to approve whatever the President signs. Yet what little we have heard about this deal indicates that it involves a surrender of major sections of American sovereignty to foreign institutions over which voters have no control. It is taxation without representation, in other words: a betrayal of the very last, and very first, principle for which our Revolution was fought.
Everyone wants more ‘global cooperation’ but no one wants to let Big Pharma stamp out generic drugs or let Big Tobacco tell us how they’ll label their products. And no one wants some secretive global tribunal telling a state legislature how to govern. If there’s an easier case to make, I’ve never seen it. You may ask why every Democrat in Congress doesn’t make it, but we’ve gone over that. Whether they’re in thrall to their donors, their consultants, their leaders or their ambitions, whoever or whatever holds them back, they just can’t do it.
The Republicans, on the other hand, have been full-throttle in support of this, with the honorable exception of Jeff Sessions from Alabama. 'Whether they're in thrall to their donors, their consultants, their leaders or their ambitions,' the Republican party has worked harder than anyone except the President to betray the Founders and surrender American sovereignty to foreign courts.

The last vote will doubtless also occur as a surprise rush during a crisis that attracts Americans' attention elsewhere. We need to spread the word and make sure people's attention is focused on this issue, and that they are ready to deal with it at whatever black midnight it is rushed to the floor. This vote will be the last chance.

Against the Iran Deal

A surprising unity of opinion, from the right to the left, is that the Iran deal is dangerous. It offers us nothing in return for offering them everything they wanted, including cutting edge nuclear technology.

What a legacy this would leave.

Apotheosis

Death to the General Lee.

It's a beautiful sentiment. We'll just kill the whole damn thing.



Funny thing about this particular aspect. The Dukes of Hazzard was never about the issues of race. It did have a tie back to the postwar Southern mythology, though. Boss Hogg was an emblem for those Democrats, especially like Joseph Emerson Brown, who screwed up the war politically and then profited off its aftermath by aligning themselves with the northern banks ("carpetbaggers") who turned the South into a colonial economy. Enforcing a destructive cotton monoculture, they reduced free farmers into sharecroppers or tenet farmers, and extracted wealth to New York in a manner exactly similar to the colonial economics afflicting much of Latin America at the time. It also destroyed the soil, as cotton is a hugely destructive crop if farmed year after year without a break. But you had to farm it, year after year, to get the loans they would otherwise not offer.

It's not for no reason that Alabama is the home to the only statue ever raised in praise of an insect. The boll weevil did what no human could do in sixty years: it broke the back of cotton monoculture and all its allied evils. It was the beginning of a new birth, after sixty years of incredibly punishing descent into poverty at the hands of the colonial masters.

Once that sort of story was important to the left, but they have forgotten.



Anticolonialism is still a major feature of the same left that is driving this particular moment. They don't see the irony here because they don't know enough about the history to see it. Yet the Duke Boys were far more an expression of authentic American anti-colonialism than ever of racism or -- good Lord -- of "treason."

UPDATE: James Taranto, of all people:

"It does feel a bit like the collapse of Eastern European communism in 1989, although one doesn’t want to overstate the analogy."

Indeed, one wouldn't want to do that.