Ballad of the Devil's Backbone Tavern

The Ballad of the Devil's Backbone Tavern:

Since I got away with the last language warning (and why not? It's my place; but I do try to make it comfortable for everyone) I'm going to post this video. It's of a favorite song of mine, live from Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Georgia; and this version of the song isn't very good, to be honest. The story that starts it, though, is worth the price of admission.

It's set in East Nashville, which is an interesting place, if you've been there.

Lions Ate Him

"Lions Ate Him"

Dad29 has a picture of a pretty little cat who was seen up his way.

It happens that we've had quite a few mountain lion sightings down in my neck of the woods lately. Georgia's seen a large growth over the last thirty years in its urban regions, where city folk from around the country have been moving in search of jobs and sunshine. As a result, there was something of a panic when the local news reported a "lion" in Gainesville, Georgia.

Back when Gainesville was known by its original name -- "Mule Camp Springs" -- people wouldn't have been so shocked to learn that lions were about. As for the experts who 'don't believe there are any native big cats to Georgia,' I don't know where they got that concept (although the boys in Elijay think the state government just doesn't want to admit to them being there, because that would trigger Federal protections for them). The historical records of Forsyth County, Georgia, show that one of the original white settlers in the area was a woman who strangled a mountain lion with her bare hands. Anybody who doubts that is welcome to drop by the fairgrounds in Cumming, Georgia, where the records are on display. In those days, you had to get permission from the Cherokee nation if you were non-Cherokee and wanted to live in the area. They didn't deny her, and who would?

At any rate, the big cats are sure enough native. They just haven't been quite as public for a while. That's changing everywhere, though, isn't it? And good that it is: we could use a few more predators to eat some of our surplus city-folk help ensure the white-tailed deer population remains healthy and free of sickness.


Mirabile Dictu:

So, you know that "pay czar"? Well...

The pre-weekend information dump included an announcement by the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department that the federal government proposes to extend its control over pay packages beyond financial institutions which received bailout funds.

According to the press release, the government proposes to monitor and, if need be, veto pay packages at any banking institution subject to federal regulation...

This is an earth-shattering development in the annals of government control
, yet because the information was released on a Friday, it has received little press attention relative to its importance.

One can understand the bargain made where a company receives federal funds to stay in business. By accepting the funds, which must be repaid, a measure of corporate and shareholder freedom was sacrificed.

But to base government control of salaries on mere regulatory jurisdiction would give the government control over much of the economy, essentially any business involved in interstate commerce. This is the harm which many of us feared from the Trojan horse of the bailouts.

Why not regulate law professor salaries (horrors!)? After all, educational institutions are tax-exempt and thereby receive a de facto federal benefit.

Or doctors? Particularly if Obamacare passes, there will be a federal interest in making sure doctors have the right financial incentives.

Or lawyers? At least those who are admitted to practice in federal courts. There is a federal interest in making sure that the federal resources used to fund the courts are not wasted.

Or truck drivers? They use roads built with federal highway funds (with a touch of stimulus funds thrown in).... And the list could go on and on.
Of course, areas where the government sets salaries tend to do quite well for themselves, as the trend is always to higher pay and gold-plated bonuses. Wouldn't you like a GS job?

Abortion Kills More

The Harvest:

Today featured some news that has had me wondering.

Abortion kills more black Americans than the seven leading causes of death combined, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2005, the latest year for which the abortion numbers are available.

Abortion killed at least 203,991 blacks in the 36 states and two cities (New York City and the District of Columbia) that reported abortions by race in 2005, according to the CDC. During that same year, according to the CDC, a total of 198,385 blacks nationwide died from heart disease, cancer, strokes, accidents, diabetes, homicide, and chronic lower respiratory diseases combined. These were the seven leading causes of death for black Americans that year.
That doesn't hold for the general population, wherein heart disease alone kills more than abortion. Still, it reminded me of a comment douglas made on the recent evolution post. He wrote:
[Life span statistics for the middle ages] tend to be a bit misleading, as the infant mortality and childhood disease mortality rates were so much higher, it drives the curve down aggressively. If you made it to twenty five, you had good odds of living to at least sixty or better.
That's right, of course; but I wonder what it would do to our "life span" statistics if we included the aborted as if they were really people.

We ought to do so, shouldn't we? A major part of the rationale for abortion-on-demand is that it allows us to focus resources on the woman and her "wanted" children, rather than on "unwanted" ones who would burden the system. ("Every child a wanted child," the slogan goes.) Thus, by eliminating these people at age zero, we're focusing more "health care" resources on the remnant. By excluding the aborted from the calculation, we're masking that cost from our understanding of where our culture really stands. The aborted child is helping to 'pay the freight' for the rest of us, because all the resources she would have used are free to be applied to the rest of us.

(An aside -- this is, I suppose, the opposite of Mrs. Palin's death panels. Here you have pushed the life-or-death decision making wholly onto a single individual, with the government taking a completely-hands-off approach. I've argued with regard to the 'death panels' that it's better if families make these decisions than if government does, deciding with love how to balance these difficult cost-to-benefit choices at the end of life. At the beginning of life, though, these statistics make clear that hundreds of thousands of would-be mothers a year stand ready to eliminate a child they ought to love, but don't "want." I suppose we should figure that into our discussion for the end-of-life too: why wouldn't people who choose 'lifestyle' over 'baby' also choose 'lifestyle' over 'grandma'? In some cases, it could be that government death panels could be grandma's only hope!)

To return to the point, however: I lack the mathematical skill to cruch the numbers with precision, but I think it would be interesting. What is America's life expectancy, calculated to account for those we choose to deny life as well as those we choose to support?

Rockwell, II


On the subject of Norman Rockwell, Bthun noted this piece as "still relevant":

Well now. True enough.

But since we're on the topic, I like this one:

Is there any one of us who can't instantly sympathize with this fine young lady? She's been physically pounded, and now is suffering the anger of authority; but look at that smile.

It pulls the punch a bit to have painted this scene with a girl, but it works very well with a boy, too. Every one of us can remember the glow of having stood up for yourself, fought the good fight, and the pleasure of standing off Those On High with the simple knowledge, in your heart, that you were right.

I hope we can all recall it, anyway. If there are any of you who can't, try it sometime.

It's quasi-political too, these days, because of the current lawsuit-driven frenzy among authorities to think of fighting among young children as a 'serious problem.' It's not, of course; it's the normal behavior of children across ten thousand years. They need to learn how and when to fight, and how and when not to fight; they need to learn to be just as well as strong and brave.

Like the parents afraid to spank lest they be called awful, though, the schools afraid to be sued have surrendered their rightful authority in the face of fear. They are protecting themselves instead of doing what is right for the children who need their guidance and care. There's no good can come of it.

On a second topic, RCL cites another fine Irish ballad.

I've normally heard this piece played more up-tempo, which strikes me as more suitable for the material (although it may be just that I'm used to it being done that way).

But since we're on the subject of virile Celtic tunes, how about this song from the Scots?

"I can drink and no be drunken; I can fight and no be slain! I can lay with another man's lass, and still be welcome to me own!"

Now that's a boast. I'd have to say, and with a smile: prove it.


Cash For Clunkers II: Home Sales

Get ready to see a new crash in this 'recovering' market:

First-time homebuyers and investors are snapping up those homes and taking advantage of low mortgage rates. These buyers can also take advantage of a tax credit of 10 percent of the sales price, up to $8,000, if the sale is completed by the end of November.

The tax credit is so important to some buyers that they are adding a clause to their contracts, allowing them to back out if the sale doesn't close by Nov. 30. However, economists note that bargain-priced foreclosures and low mortgage rates are making a big contribution to the sales boom.

"We think the housing market has touched bottom and it is now only a matter of time until home prices stabilize — something that we anticipate to occur in late 2010," wrote Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.
Home sales are spiking because of the closing window for the tax credit, as the article rightly notes, not because the market has 'touched bottom.' If housing prices are likely to fall another 11%, but you can get a 10% tax credit (up to eight grand), you're very close to buying at the true bottom of the market. If they fall 20% more, you're buying near the bottom, but it's still possibly worth doing if you plan to hold the home for several years. If you were in the market for a first home anyway, this is the time to buy: December is too late, because your home effectively costs eight grand more.

What that means is that everyone who might buy a house in the next year is scrambling to do it now. Home sales will crater on 1 December 2009, and remain in the crater for the forseeable future. Just like auto sales following the end of "Cash for Clunkers," all this Federal money is just buying an artificial spike in the market -- it's not doing anything to spur real recovery, it's just making people who wanted to buy do it now instead of two months from now.

Of course, another thing spurring home buyers is the weakening dollar, and the administration's dangerously inflationary policy. If you have X dollars to buy a house and you do it now, you get X dollars worth of house, plus eight thousand dollars. If you wait two months, you get roughly X dollars worth of house. If you wait for the expected 11% drop in prices, however, you have to wonder if the inflation will kick in and make your X dollars worth only X-divided-by-something. Since the housing market may be near its bottom, getting out of 'cash' and into real estate might make some economic sense.

The Illusion of Clean Hands

The Illusion of Clean Hands:

We once discussed it; but here is a fine example of how it distorts the mind and the sense of justice:

A stunned shopper bought a chicken from Preston's Asda store only to find its head still attached. Helen Kirby, 27, of Thistlecroft in Ingol, was horrified to discover it tucked under the body of the bird.... Bosses at Asda have apologised to Miss Kirby and confirmed they have given her £100 and a new vacuum cleaner in compensation.
Seeing the face of the animal you killed for dinner is worth a hundred pounds sterling, and a new vacuum cleaner? How can anyone so far removed from the reality of the world they inhabit trust anything their heart tells them? How can it be an honest guide?


Norman Rockwell:

Once a shorthand for 'the American Way,' many of the paintings of Norman Rockwell have become less relevant as time has passed. Of "the Four Freedoms," only "Freedom of Speech" remains powerful, The Wall Street Journal explains:

"Freedom of speech and expression" and "freedom of worship" are, of course, from the Bill of Rights. But the other two—"freedom from want" and "freedom from fear," which the president defines as "a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point . . . that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor" — are Roosevelt's, or perhaps his wife Eleanor's, utopian wishes for universal rights that were to become part of the United Nations Charter.

As a superb illustrator who used the familiar world of his viewers to tell them stories with messages that touched their hearts, Rockwell said in his autobiography that he had difficulty conceptualizing the abstract, and internationalist, Four Freedoms, especially the negative rights of "want" and "fear": "I never liked 'Freedom from Fear' or, for that matter, 'Freedom from Want,'" he wrote. "Neither of them," Rockwell thought, "had any wallop." He was right.

"Freedom From Want" depicts a homey Thanksgiving dinner; it's more about what we have than what we want, surplus rather than scarcity. In "Freedom Fom Fear," a mother tucks in her children while her husband holds a newspaper with headlines reading "Bombings" and "Horror." This reference to the war is so specific that it conveys little about fear or Roosevelt's plan for universal disarmament. Rockwell just could not get his hands around these airy abstractions.

And, although he was proud of "Freedom of Worship," his depiction of spectral close-up faces and hands raised in prayer is bland, without any real message about religious freedom—again, no wallop. This is because faith, like the absence of fear and the absence of want, is essentially private, something personal, intangible and unpicturable.

In "Freedom of Speech," however, Rockwell found a subject that is active and public, a subject he could grasp and shape into his greatest painting forging traditional American illustration into a powerful and enduring work of art.
OK, but the best Rockwell paintings were barely political at all. Not that political lessons couldn't be drawn from them. For example, my favorite of his works has always been "The Runaway."

That captures the difference between a "Peace Officer" and a "Law Enforcement Officer." If I were in charge of the training of the police, I'd set aside a whole day of the course to reflect on that painting and write essays about how it defines your duty.

Global Horse Culture

Global Horse Culture:

A nifty blog I hadn't seen before is Global Horse Culture, which is interested in the many ways that man and horse interact. There's a lot there. For example:

Thai Cowboy bars.

Japanese Horseshoes.

What do you pull with a 48 Belgian hitch? Anything you want to, of course.

John Wayne did his own stunts, but if you need a good horse stunt today, the horse does it.

I appreciate the author's hard work on putting together such an interesting collection.

Spanking != Shouting

Spanking Does Not Equal Shouting:

Via the Sage of Knoxville, another of those pieces from the New York Times on how hard it is for the upper class to feel good about themselves while raising children.

Many in today’s pregnancy-flaunting, soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we friend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.

“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, which teaches parenting skills in classes, individual coaching sessions and an online course. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do."
A bit of advice on that: screaming is much worse than spanking. Screaming demonstrates lack of control, and the breakdown of authority.

Spanking a child is a terrible thing to do in anger, but it can be effective if done calmly and without passion. A father might order his child to report for a spanking in quite placid terms. He might likewise order his son to do pushups -- a time-tested means of corporal punishment that benefits the body as well as the soul. A mother might wield the hairbrush dispassionately when the child has pushed the limits too far.

In each of these cases, the authority of the parent is obvious and explicit. Accompanied by a calm explanation of why the child is being punished, it makes the clear case that you are exercising a distasteful duty out of long-term concern for the child's well-being. You are on their side, even if that means right now you must do something you'd prefer not to do.

Screaming at a child cannot be done dispassionately. It makes you look like a fool to other adults, but far worse is how you look to the child: out of control, undisciplined, lacking the power even to control yourself, let alone anyone else. Not only is your authority not obvious, but acting out in this way calls into question whether or not you merit authority. I wouldn't follow someone who blows his top and screams at people; would you?

Louis L'amour once wrote of one of his characters that he 'could be ruthless with others, because he was ruthless with himself.' That model commands respect, and respect is what is most necessary in parenthood. To lead, you have to have it. To have it, you must deserve it.



Let this post be clearly marked "viewer discretion advised." I normally try not to let this kind of thing happen here; but today, I'm going to do it anyway.

I have to admit that I love it when Congressional grandstanders get what they have coming. Consider the case of the famous 'die quickly' grandstander, who has set up a website to memorialize the names of those killed by the Republican menace:

Grayson may be leaving himself open to some online practical jokers. At the moment I write this, four names are memorialized in the site's rotating list:

• Lassie Martin, 10, Kanab, UT

• Norma Jeane Mortenson, 36, Los Angeles, CA

• Steve Rogers, 90, New York, NY

• Wile E. Coyote, 55, Sedona, Arizona

All four of those names are fraudulent. Lassie Martin is the dog "Lassie," whose owners on the 1950's TV show were called the Martins (and the town of Kanab, Utah, was one of the filming locations). Norma Jeane Mortenson was Marilyn Monroe's real name. Steve Rogers is the fictional Captain America from Marvel Comics, and of course there's Wile E. Coyote....

Late Update: The automated list of names has been removed from the site. It may be that mourning "Hugh G. Reckshinn," age 44, from Dumas, Texas, was a bit too much for them.
It's a shame about old Hugh. I've heard that some of our lady readers were personal friends of his. Still, I have to wonder -- though I wouldn't want to run afoul of the Obama administration's anti-blasphemy initiative: is it certain that he won't rise again?

Since we've gone so very far down this road already, I'll take the opportunity to mention that the famous Irish song "Danny Boy" is set to a tune called the "Londonderry air," or "Derry Air" for short. Which means, of course, that there is a version entirely appropriate for dedicating to certain congressmen:

Indeed, it's hard not to think of Congress while that song is playing.

Cowboy Songs

Cowboy Songs:

Having spent most of the day with a bunch of horses, it's on my mind; and this one particularly, because I caught the wife humming it to her Tennessee Walker as she was coming back from the trail. This is the original version, a majestic piece by Dimitri Tiomkin. The song is called "Settle Down," from the movie Red River.

But of course, that wasn't the version of the tune she was singing. It's better known in this form:

The pieces are the same tune, but the effect is not at all the same. The first, and older, is sung in the fashion of a chorus of angels looking down on men working and dying; or in the fashion of the valkyrie, singing while they weave the fates. The chorus is not the actor; rather, apart, they sing to enrich and ennoble the action.

The second is the voice of a man, echoing the divine song in a single and more personal voice. He sings of the concerns of a man, of work and love and the ride home. He is the actor in the scene, not an observer, but a man with his own perspective.

Could a man hear, imperfectly, the songs of angels or valkyrie? Would he feel called to reproduce some poorer version of their song in his own voice, in the same tune even if from a more limited perspective?

Do we do that in life, as we do it in art?

CIA Terminators

CIA Terminators:


Some Men, From Ireland

Some Men, From Ireland:

This bit is a study in joy, and not chiefly even the music:

Good lads, and merry in their hour. "Let the wind and the rain and the hail blow high, snow come traveling from the sky." The hour is what we get: do as well with yours.

English Reformation Ends

The English Reformation Ends?

In what must be regarded as a remarkable event by those of us who study the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, a fair number of those who remain in the Anglican Church have asked to rejoin Catholicism.

Groups of Anglicans will be able to join the Roman Catholic Church but maintain a distinct religious identity under changes announced by the Pope.

The Vatican said the new rules follow requests from Anglicans wanting to join but retain their liturgical heritage.

It comes amid splits among Anglicans worldwide over homosexuality and the ordination of women.

But Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said he did not think it was a "commentary on Anglican problems"....

The measure, known as an Apostolic Constitution, was shown to leaders of the Church of England just two weeks ago.

Under its terms announced by the Vatican, groupings of Anglicans would be able to join "personal ordinariates".

This would allow them to enter full communion with the Catholic church, but also preserve elements of the Anglican traditions including the possible use of Anglican prayer books.
There weren't many left to start with. The Episcopal Church is about 1/30th the size of the Catholic Church among Americans, for example; and that though the Church of England had a substantial advangate in early American culture. (Indeed, Catholics were outright banned from Georgia during the colonial period, along with slaves and lawyers.)

A Classified Ad

A Classified Ad:

Health in China

Health and Polution in China:

An article that brings back memories. I picked up tuberculosis in China, though apparently I also beat it there, untreated except by Chinese beer (HangZhou's local, XiHu Pijiu, was the miracle cure). The pollution was often so bad that, if you climbed anything of any height, you could look down through it in thick, translucent gradients.

Yet, as the man says, you get over it.

Tell it, Victor:

I have some confessions to make, not because any of you readers are particularly interested in my views; but rather because I think some of you are in the same boat: Have you stopped reading, listening, watching, and paying attention to most of what now passes for establishment public or popular culture? I am not particularly proud of this quietism (many Athenians did it in the early 4th century BC and Romans by the late 3rd AD), but not really ashamed of it either.

Yeah, that's about what I feel these days, too.

(via Instapundit)



So, really, all of you who listen to talk radio? (I don't myself, but I'll guess some of you do.) According to a doctor of psychiatry, you like to suck up to bullies. You're stuck in a sort-of childhood playground mentality.

She's never met you, but you know, prove it's not true. And, I mean, she's a doctor.

Ardi, Myself

A Fair Point on Evolution:

Anthropologists can be excused for never passing a chance to take a swipe at Creationists, since there are plenty of Creationists never pass up a chance for a swipe at them. Aside from that forgivable bit of spleen, this is a very clever piece:

For example, there is useful attention paid to the reduction in the size of upper teeth [in the Ardi fossils now being discussed openly] -- the sharp fang-like instruments for aggression and defense. A possible explanation given for this is that teeth in Ardi's clan were no longer as important for male-male combat as in other fossilized and contemporary primates. And going on from there, it is suggested that Ardipithecus was less socially aggressive than the living chimpanzees we thought were our closest relatives, and other African apes. In addition, the canine teeth of males and females are relatively similar in size--in contrast to those of African apes, among whom male teeth are larger--and this suggested to the team of researchers that Ardi lived in a social system with less male-male competition than in other species.

Not only does this imply that Ardi males were morally more acceptable to contemporary values than other species, but it is suggested that an important possible outcome of the greater male-male conviviality could well have been greater male emphasis on their work as fathers....

The long-term result of all this is of course the affable males and comfy families of Berkeley, Calif., or Ann Arbor, Mich. How convenient that our evolution took this correct pro-social form.

But there's an embarrassing problem here, which is that Ardipithecus ... didn't make it. His politically correct social behavior didn't, for example, get to modern Somalia and Afghanistan. Somehow, rather than have Ardi predict our behavior, it seems humbler and more sensible to employ retrodiction--to look at what we do now and posit that, yes, this is how our ancestors behaved.
Well, yes. An equally plausible theory is that Man's ancestors had so long-ago developed the use of weapons that fangs were no more necessary to them than they are to us. That would be the kind of ancestor you'd expect, frankly, even if he weren't the sort you'd care to have over for tea and sandwiches.

By the same token, I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that this theory is unlikely to be true:
"We are so inactive these days and have been since the industrial revolution really kicked into gear," McAllister replied. "These people were much more robust than we were.

"We don't see that because we convert to what things were like about 30 years ago. There's been such a stark improvement in times, technique has improved out of sight, times and heights have all improved vastly since then but if you go back further it's a different story.

"At the start of the industrial revolution there are statistics about how much harder people worked then."
There are also some graves from before the start of the industrial revolution. I'd expect an anthropologist to have looked at one or two of them. People were smaller -- because less well-fed. Having lived among less-well-fed-and-smaller people in China, who nevertheless work very hard indeed in a country not-yet fully industrialized, I can assure you: they are not stronger than me. There are plenty of places not yet industrialized, in fact -- go see them. I've been to a few in my time, and I've yet to find a people anywhere as physically imposing as modern Americans.

There are also some very precise figures from the Middle Ages on how hard people worked, because the duties of serfs (for example) were defined and codified. We know, in some cases, how large the fields were and how many people were to work them, and for how long. They indicate a fairly hard day's work; but not Supermen.

As for the fossilized footprints, what's more likely -- that some physical fact like pressure from layers of soil accumulating above the footprints might have caused them to spread somewhat, or that hunter-gatherers who barely collected enough calories to feed themselves were really more fit than modern Olympic atheletes, who do nothing but train all day every day with the benefits of science to improve their performance?
Mrs. Grim and the Red Ryder:

Nobody likes to be left out of a good time.