Sacred Things

More from Joe Bob Briggs

After a career in movie-making, he's learned a few things -- things he finds himself alone in saying out loud.
Sometimes, I am prone to point out, we don’t need a strong female character for this.

We might, in fact, need a weak female character for this particular story. Or, more likely, we’ll need a complex person for whom the words “strong” and “weak” are relative or irrelevant because she’s, you know, a human being.... I could go scene by scene through the complete works of Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, and Marilyn Monroe and make notes in the margins of their scripts that would read something like this:

strong moment
weak moment
neither-strong-nor-weak moment
moderately strong
moderately weak

...on and on, ad infinitum, because all three of those women have played multiple roles with multiple points of view that can’t ever be summed up by the words “strong female character” or “weak female character.” You could do the same with male characters. Superman is not interesting unless Kryptonite exists.
As always, there's a lot more at Taki's place. Some of it relates to this new Arthurian adaptation of the story of Lancelot du Lac. (But see also here.)

Happy "World Turned Upside Down" Day!

According to the All-Knowing Wikipedia, on this day in 1781, "British forces led by Lord Cornwallis officially surrendered (pictured) to Franco-American forces under George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau, ending the Siege of Yorktown."

Painting by John Trumbull


This Seems Like A Big Deal

Samantha Power claims that all those unmasking requests made 'in her name' weren't made by her. Now these are NSA documents, highly classified, and in several cases the names of the individuals unmasked were leaked to the press (also illegal). So if she's telling the truth, somebody (or multiple somebodies) were filing fraudulent requests to violate high levels of classification at least sometimes for political purposes.

A cop I used to know down here in Georgia once told the story about how a bunch of teenagers camping down by the river had been target shooting beer cans for fun. When he arrived, they tried to explain that the gunshots he'd heard had really just been fireworks they were setting off for fun. Now, in those days, possession of fireworks was illegal -- shooting a .22 on your own property was just fine. So their excuse got them into a kind of trouble that the truth would have avoided, just because it sounded to them like fireworks should be less of an issue than guns.

Maybe Power screwed up in the same way today. Could be she lied about this, not realizing that this claim makes the situation very much worse than if she'd just admitted to unmasking people using her lawful authority to do so.

Or maybe we've just found a rathole. Either way, Power turned this into a story today.

A Bike for Henry

So, I don't do charity appeals very often at all; you can give or not as you like, and I won't ask. But a friend of mine who does a lot of mission work knows a guy in Nicaragua whose motorcycle wore out. He works for Ruby Ranch, itself a charity helping local kids. They'd like to buy him a new bike so he can get up and down the territory to help the kids. Nobody's made a better appeal to my very limited charitable nature in a long time. So I sent some money, and I figured I'd pass it on to you. Do what you like.

"How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America"

A warm review of a controversial new book.

Hafþór Blows the Gjallarhorn

The NFL is having a tough time right now -- College ball fans will note that UGA is #3 and undefeated, for those seeking an alternative.

But there are some things left to like in the pro game.

It is Blasphemy to Vote for My Opponent

Indonesia does democracy a little differently.
Mr. Basuki, 51, who is ethnic Chinese and popularly known as Ahok, was the incumbent governor and was handily leading in opinion polls over Mr. Anies and other candidates when he was accused of violating a blasphemy law by citing a verse from the Quran in a speech in September 2016 to argue that it was acceptable for Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim candidate.

Hard-line Islamic groups held large street protests — one of which turned violent — demanding that he be jailed or summarily executed.... He was convicted by the North Jakarta District Court on May 9, three weeks after being defeated in a runoff by Mr. Anies, who is Muslim.

While Mr. Anies was not publicly accused of orchestrating the street protests against Mr. Basuki by Islamic radicals, he did openly court their support and flaunted his own Muslim credentials in campaign advertising.
So it's blasphemy for a non-Muslim to cite the Koran as an authority? Imagine if he'd cited the Bible.

A Surprising Lack of Sympathy

You are probably aware of the "Me Too" campaign currently trending on social media, in which women are supposed to post those words as a hashtag to show that they've been subject to sexual harassment. I'm surprised at how little sympathy it is eliciting in my heart. People who have long read Grim's Hall know that I am the sort of man who sometimes is sympathetic to women's suffering. This time, though, I'm not feeling very moved at all.

It is because, I realize, these same people who are "Me Too"ing all over the place are the ones who have been chiding me and my culture for my entire life for our relationship to women. I come from a culture of ritual courtesies between the sexes. Women are "ma'am" from the time they are toddlers until they die. Strange men are "sir." Doors get held open. Chairs get pulled out. And all I ever hear, these last decades, is how this kind of formal courtesy is demeaning. It puts women on a pedestal, it doesn't take them seriously as human beings, it sets up 'power relationships' that get analyzed to death. These expressions of respect that my culture engages in are supposed to be canonical expressions of Patriarchy and the oppression of women. It's the whole thing that had to be destroyed, and they've been at the work of destroying it hammer and tongs for decades.

So now they want me to feel their pain about the rude and aggressive behaviors they find themselves subject to? Well, I don't harass anyone. I don't endure it in my presence. I was trained that way as much by my mother as by my father, who had been taught by their parents, as their parents before them. This latest round only hardens my convictions that they were right all along. Those who went about breaking the world my ancestors made are reaping what they sewed and, if they want to reap otherwise, they'd better think about changing what they're planting.

The Vikings Stopped on Watling Street

A long-recognized gap turns out to have a less-than mysterious explanation. First the mystery:
The north-south divide has been the butt of jokes in Britain for years, but research has shown the Watford Gap, which separates the country, was in fact established centuries ago when the Vikings invaded Britain....

Adams was struck by the absence of Scandinavian placenames south-west of Watling Street, the Roman road that became the A5. “There might be one or two names, but I don’t think there are any, and there are certainly hundreds and hundreds north-east. Clearly the Scandinavian settlers stopped at Watling Street,” Adams said.
And then the explanation:
“I began to notice that all the rivers’ sources stop pretty much on the line of Watling Street. North-east of that line, all the rivers flow into the Irish Sea or the North Sea. South and west of it, they all flow into the Severn or the Thames.”...

“These days, we’re unaware of which way rivers face and where they flow out to. It doesn’t make any odds to us. We just put bridges over them. But, for most of history, such things have mattered. Your natural trading routes are along rivers and all the medieval monastic estates used the rivers as their arteries of power. So clearly the geography of power has always mattered … Geographically, it slaps you in the face as soon as you figure it out.”
I have always thought that people who really love a place show it when they understand the way the rivers flow. But that is dependent on the modern sensibility, in which it really doesn't matter to you which way the rivers flow for the most part. You'd only need to know if you cared about the place. For much of history, and never more than for the Vikings, where those rivers go was a big deal.

I don't often recommend video games, but if you want to get a sense of this, try this historical semi-simulation. It's not super cheap -- you have to buy the base game plus this add on, or else one of the extended editions that includes it. Still, it's got a pretty good map of the western part of the Viking world.

Pavlovian Discourse

Since I've made similar arguments regarding terms like liberal, conservative, right, and left in American political discourse, I thought I'd link this article by Theodore Dalrymple on discourse in European politics. It begins:

Some words in the press are used not only for purposes of shorthand but also as Pavlovian bells to get the ideological saliva running. They have only to be printed or uttered for thought to cease, and since thought is often painful and poses the danger of arriving at unwanted conclusions, such words offer protection against such pain and discomfort. Among them, for certain people, especially in Europe, are poverty, liberalism and austerity (the list is far from exhaustive). 

He discusses each term in turn as used in Europe. The paragraph on poverty applies equally well on this side of the pond, I think.

Dancing shoes

Make you wanna dance:

Sometimes a songwriter comes up with a killer riff.  You know you're in good hands with those first four beats.

What Mitch McConnell could do

I'm not a Mitch McConnell fan.  Kim Strassel, however, makes a good case that he did an outstanding job keeping judicial slots open under President Obama and continues his winning streak in getting the same slots filled with conservative jurists under President Trump.  It probably shows what he could be doing on other conservative issues if he actually cared about any of them.  In any case, I'm glad he cares about this one.

Almost Home

I'll be back later today; just about eight hours' ride left in front of me. In the meantime, enjoy this piece by Joe Bob Briggs. It's at TakiMag, so there is some intentionally offensive language; that's how they roll over there. All the same, there are some very good points made about what is keeping some classes of Americans out of work.
But it gets worse. Ex-cons are not even the most forsaken job applicants.

Single moms with two or more children—forget about it.

These women apply for the lowest-paying jobs in America—manicurists, theme park employees, food servers, packagers at mailing centers, laundry workers, dishwashers, cafeteria workers, maids, tollbooth clerks—and constantly lose out because they have all these special needs. They need flexible hours. They need weird schedules. They need time off on short notice when their kids get sick....

What’s really ironic is that the people who are trying to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour are the same people who say, “Mexicans will do jobs that Americans don’t want.”

Get rid of the illegal Mexicans and see how fast that wage goes up to $15 on its own, no government intervention needed.

But, of course, that would require caring about the single mom, the ex-con trying to straighten out his life, the lonely elderly guy who wants to go back to work, the diabetes patient who needs a wheelchair because of his swollen feet, and the guy who finally kicked drugs and needs to start over.
Read the rest over there.

Joe Bob's answer -- that eliminating illegal labor will force people to hire them, and accommodate their needs -- is not obviously wrong. At least for that subset of jobs that can't be outsourced or sent overseas, if you want the work done, it costs what it costs to do here. You might even employ a few people you didn't really want to, because they have some problems they need to figure out how to work around.

One of the best conversations I had on this trip was with an Iraq buddy I hooked up with for a lunch to celebrate his birthday. He's talked two of his three kids out of going to college, and gotten them into trades. They're pulling good money during apprenticeships, and looking at nearly six figures once they finish. He plans to semi-retire in a few years by setting up a company where he arranges the work that they do, and takes a percentage for his work arranging their work. Everybody makes out, and nobody is saddled with student loans.

It's not obviously insane.

West Point's Cadet Prayer

This has been referenced here and other places recently, so I thought it might be good to read the whole thing.

Cadet Prayer
O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of Human hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth. May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural.
Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretence ever to diminish.
Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.
Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.
Guard us against flippancy and irreverance in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer.
Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country.
All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of all.

Honor and Duty Dying at West Point

"Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won."
 So says the Cadet Prayer, consistent with the best West Point tradition.  Unfortunately, it seems that this ideal is on the rocks, and the recent revelations of goings on at West Point are but the tip of the iceberg- and the rot runs deep.

The good LTC (Ret.) Robert M. Heffington (yes, that same LTC that wrote up Cadet Rapone) has written an open letter revealing the deep and profoundly troubling problems at West Point in the last decade.  He documents an institution a shadow of it's former self, stripped of any real sense of honor or duty, and that has left him- and he is himself an alumnus- considering that the institution should perhaps no longer remain open.  You can read the letter here, but be warned- it's deeply troubling in it's implications about our military, our government, and in truth, our society.

Wednesday Evening Blues

Distributed intelligence

The hive brain has let me down.  I was watching a medium-old BBC series called "Doc Martin" on Acorn TV (a good value on the net), when I found myself in a Cornish wedding scene thinking, "That's a better wedding band than the run of the mill.  In fact, I like that song.  What's that song?"  Since I could get a few lyrics, I was confident the answer would be, as usual, a Google search away.  Instead, what I got was a lot of hits to sites with people saying, "I was watching a wedding scene in that old show Doc Martin . . . ."  No one ever did figure out what the song was, though the consensus was that it was sort of close to another song and might be a variation.  Some band had its shot at the spotlight and missed.

Snippet of reggae-like song begins about 3:30, but if you like the whole scene you might try Acorn TV.

And the song it resembles:

ISIS surrender?

I admit, I've been paying almost no attention at all to the news.  Someone mentioned a large ISIS surrender to the Kurds, and a Google search of those words does yield a fair number of stories about it.  Would the rest of you say it's been getting much coverage?  I must really have been under a rock.