Outlaw Country, Part 4: Raven's Requests

Raven asked toward the beginning of this series for some "libertarian country."  I don't think they were thinking in exactly those terms, but they often did sing about the independent capabilities of the country-born man.

They didn't much care for welfare:

...or affirmative action...

...or government regulations imposed on their business activities.

Some of that's libertarian, but a lot of it's just outlaw.

The LIBOR Scandal

A surprising unity of right and left seems to be forming around the news that American regulators were fully informed of fraudulent LIBOR rates as early as 2007, and chose to do nothing to protect American borrowers, states or localities.  The cost to the American people is unknowable; the additional instability brought on by added mistrust of the banking system, and suspicion that the "regulators" are complicit in ongoing fraud and thievery, could produce additional unknowable costs.

The usual response from the left on this kind of issue is for greater regulation, but here the regulation has demonstrably done nothing to fix the problem.  It's not that they weren't aware, it's that they knew and gave a pass to their buddies.

The guy who was the head of the NY Fed at that time, by the way, is now our Secretary of the Treasury, one Timothy Geithner:   the same Timothy Geithner who became Secretary of the Treasury even though he had massive unpaid taxes; indeed, the same Timothy Geithner who was allowed to pay back the money without penalties by the IRS (try that if you own a small business like, say, the Dawsonville Pool Room).  In other words, when he was caught, he was extended the same kind of look-the-other-way courtesy that he extended to the London bankers.

In both cases, the loser was the American people.  Who were the winners?  What can we say about them, and what ought we to do about them?

Women and Bikes

Via Instapundit, "Women and motorcycles:  ridership is on the rise."  (Alternative title by Arlo Guthrie.)

There still aren't a lot of women bikers, but my wife has taken up riding.  The persistent high gas prices of the last several years finally broke down her sense that they were too scary and dangerous.  Now, she rides everywhere -- rain or shine, city or mountains -- and she's getting pretty good.  She tells me that, for her, it's almost everything she loves about horses, and that she's really come to enjoy just getting on her bike and riding with me.

So if any of you female readers have been thinking about it -- or if you haven't, but reading this is making you think about it -- you might give it a try.  You'll save on gasoline, and you might find a new source of joy in your life to boot.

Actually, This Makes Perfect Sense:

Hot Air is giving him a hard time about it, but really, this is a perfectly accurate description of the President's experience.
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
That's just how it really happened for him: it's not that he was smarter than everyone else, or harder working, but he rose from success to success -- from Columbia to Harvard, from Harvard to the University of Chicago, two published autobiographies, two Grammy awards for the audio recordings of those same autobiographies, the Senate, even the Presidency and the Nobel Prize.

He didn't publish at Harvard, didn't do much at U. Chicago, was a failure as a community organizer, didn't succeed in his first push to get elected to public office... but there was always somebody there to dust him off, and push him up to the next rung.

Somebody else made all that happen -- a whole system of somebodies else.  Naturally he feels loyal to the system that raised him so high.  That system includes unions, especially teacher's unions; the academic system, especially affirmative action; and the Democratic Party, especially the Chicago machine and, more recently, the DNC.  At the international level, the community of saints at the UN and the Nobel committee are likewise contributors to his success.  All these people had to work very hard to pull him through to the pinnacle of human achievement.

It's less likely to be true of the small businessman, for whom there may be 'that special teacher,' or a friend or family member who helped them build an initial stake.  On the other hand, there really may not be.  A great deal more comes from individual effort in these cases.

Still, even for those who lack access to the networks and alliances that make it easy for the well-connected to move upwards and onwards with little effort, it surely would be nice to have such access.  And you can get some, if you want, by purchasing dinner with Barack tonight at one of his spectacular fundraising efforts.

Why wouldn't he believe this?  You can't argue with success, and by many measures he is the most successful man in the world.

"Your rejection does not meet my needs at this time"

Admirable anti-rejection letter.

H/t Rocket Science.

Outlaw Country, Part 3: Songs of the New Frontier

We've talked about the way that the drug culture of the 1960s and 1970s was involved in bringing the Outlaw movement to endorse a fair amount of the cultural rebellion of that era.

But there was a tension within the music, which was more likely than rock-and-roll to see the value of the era that was passing.  Above is Willie Nelson and Ray Charles singing a Western-style ballad linked to the earlier time.

There were a lot of songs like that, where the old icons are given again in the terms of the new generation.  The old cowboy movies sometimes featured 'girls of the night,' as for example the spirited young lady who played opposite John Wayne in Stagecoach.  Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson picked this up and put it into one of the more famous songs of this type.

Waylon Jennings was an outspoken advocate of moving on to new ways of doing things.  Too many people were trying to re-live the life of Hank Williams, Sr., and he wanted them to know that he wasn't going to play that game.

But, as Gringo pointed out, it was the same Waylon Jennings who took time to pen this tribute to Bob Wills and the Western Swing movement.

So maybe that's three ways in which the changes that came over country music starting in the late 1960s were different from otherwise similar changes in rock-and-roll.  They remained tied to the gospel tradition  They remained faithful to the American serviceman.  Finally, they retained that supernatural loyalty to the American project -- including icons like the cowboy, the flag, and the ideal of riding free on the new frontier.

On the Blessings of Daughters

It was not my fate to have a daughter, but apparently Timothy Dalrymple did.
Your daughter is waiting for you. She will expand and soften your heart. She will make you a better man. A daughter too is a blessing beyond measure. Give yourself to this, and she will make you into a protector and provider.... I have never recovered. After years of scarcely feeling anything, suddenly I found myself broken by grace, shattered with gratitude into a thousand happy pieces....

Every man should have a daughter, if only for his own sanctification. If a daughter comes your way, know the truth that she will love you with all her heart if you let her. Cherish her, and she will be a daddy’s girl. Love her, and your heart will expand to encompass the immensity of her soul. Sacrifice yourself for her, and soon you will discover that you will do just about anything to make her happy.

Cost of Government Day

The year is half over, but we're still not quite to Cost of Government Day this year!

Actually, it turns out that we are if you live in the Great State of Georgia.  The overall number provides an average for state-imposed costs, but you can dig into the by-state numbers later in the report.  It looks like three states -- Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi -- actually managed to hold down costs so that their citizens need only work six months of the year to pay for the cost of government.

Outlaw Country, Part 2: Outlaw Songs

Johnny Cash at San Quentin

That song really seems to capture what was going on in the Outlaw movement of the late 1960s through the early 1980s.  You can see the roots in Hank Williams, Sr., who focused on honky tonks and hard living.  When the elder country music community complained that the Outlaws were taking this all too far, Hank Williams, Jr., had an easy reply.

They weren't hippies, but they had some links with the longhaired movement.  I just put David Allen Coe's "Longhaired Redneck" up a couple of posts down, so we'll do Charlie Daniels this time.

The "Outlaw" thing wasn't just a nickname.  Johnny Cash played San Quentin and other prisons, and declared his friendship to all those locked down or suffering from the wrongs of society.  David Allen Coe was a patched member of the Outlaws motorcycle club during the period.  Most of the others preferred to associate with the Hells Angels.  For example, here's Johnny Paycheck singing about being an angel of the highway; and again, in tribute to Hells Angels president Sonny Barger; and Willie Nelson, singing a song he wrote to honor the Hells Angels; and Merle Haggard and Johnny Paycheck talking about a time when Merle bought Johnny a bunch of cocaine from the Hells Angels they had hanging around during a session.  (This was another way in which the Outlaws were similar to the rock-and-roll movement:  here's Jerry Garcia singing to and talking about the Angels, and of course, Altramont.)

Their alignment with outlaw bikers and outlaw truckers was partially rebellion, and partially righteous response to the corruption of the age.  It was also partially an old loyalty:  Red Sovine had been a bard for truckers long before Jerry Reed.  They were big on old loyalties, which to me says a great deal in their favor.  The Outlaws never broke faith with their God, nor -- in spite of the Vietnam war -- did they break faith with the American warrior.

Even so the excesses of the age were a great test.  Johnny Cash himself gave into despair and went to die in Nickajack Cave.  Instead he found in its depths a wish for life, and a soft breath of air that led him back out under the light.  His friend, and fellow outlaw, wrote this song in memory of that hard time.

The Victory of the Elites

Anne Applebaum notes that both of the candidates for President this year are members of the elite... two different elites, she posits.
Which is just as well, because the political success of both Obama and Romney proves that radical populism in the United States has failed spectacularly. For all of the attention they got, neither Occupy Wall Street nor the tea party has a candidate in this race. Neither found a way to channel inchoate, ill-defined public anger — at the deficit, at the banks — into electoral politics or clear alternatives. Whoever wins in November, we’ll therefore get the elite we deserve.
She's a member of the elite herself, of course:  the one she identifies for Obama.  Like many members of the elite(s), she is clearly happy to see that money can still buy power.  And for now, it clearly can.

UPDATE:  Another elite, David Brooks, writes that the problem is really that the elite aren't as elite as they used to be.  Now that it is at least possible to rise into the ranks via test scores or performance (and therefore possible to fall out through poor performance), those within the elite have become more corrupt in order to ensure that they remain in the upper ranks:
The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.
Brooks' vision of an elite born to privilege but educated like Spartans is an old one:  that is how the higher ranks of the continental nobility used to view itself, before the revolution.  I wonder if it's really true, though, that they were any better.  Their interests were more perfectly aligned, which meant that there was less likelihood of their misdeeds becoming publicized in the press that they owned, and which was also aligned with their interests.

Were they better, though, because their power was more firmly seated?  That seems an unlikely effect, given what I think I know about human nature.

A Bad Day for Mitt Romney

Today's Bain Capital story is serious stuff, one that opens him to a powerful attack by the Obama administration that his remarks appear to merit a criminal investigation.
Romney and Bain claim that he was not involved with Bain, but Bain and its portfolio companies in their required filings under the Securities Exchange Act continuously certified to the Securities and Exchange Commission say precisely the opposite--asserting without qualification that he was a controlling person, fully in charge of Bain, under the Federal securities law. Under normal circumstances, the question of the truth of this representation would result in an investigation by the SEC into possible criminal, as well as civil, violations of the law.
Lying to the SEC is a serious crime, but of course the high probability is that any investigation will discover that he didn't lie to the SEC.  What we know of his background suggests a businessman who would have been careful to know the rules, and whose character does not lead him to take reckless risks of this sort.  It's far more likely that his recent remarks, which carry no legal penalty and which are the remarks of a politician in an election campaign, will be the location of any truth-stretching.  That is also consistent with the charge -- opinions differ, even here, over how accurate the charge might be -- that his statements in election campaigns are aimed at what he thinks voters want to hear rather than the whole truth of the matter.

(Though from my perspective, the Obama administration's remarks are more damning than the probability that Romney stretched the truth for political advantage.  What is meant by 'under normal circumstances,' here?  Is the suggestion that the SEC will not investigate the claim?  Are we to believe that the Obama administration will not do what it claims to be its duty, and if so, why not?  Out of a sense of fair play?  Do the Marquess of Queensberry rules apply to criminal investigations as long as the offender is a member of the political class, or just during elections?  This is a serious matter, enforcing the law, especially when the rich and powerful are the ones who merit investigation.  If Romney's remarks call into question the honesty of his SEC filings, as they do, then the investigation ought to occur.)

Tonight there is a rumor floating that Romney might choose Dr. Rice as his Vice President.  I certainly hope that Allahpundit is correct in his guess that this is just a wild hare to distract from the Bain story.  My impression of her from my time in DC was entirely negative, and I don't find her competent for succession to the Presidency nor the power it entails.  I recall Cassandra saying that her husband had the opposite impression, though; but Dr. Rice has likewise come under sharp criticism from most of the people she worked with in the Bush administration, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Bolton -- none of whom are perfect (well, Bolton is close), but all of whom seem to have a common impression of her as not terribly competent, helpful, or principled.  That aligns with my experience as well, so I tend to believe it is probably the case.

It's also true that the selection of a pro-choice VP would undermine any confidence pro-lifers might have that Romney's conversion on the issue of abortion is genuine.  I would think a candidate who knows he is on thin ice with such a large and important part of his base would take some care to choose a running mate who was at least not opposed to them.


Last week, Congressman Issa bolstered the contempt charges against Attorney General Holder with incriminating admissions contained in sealed wiretap applications.  The admissions fatally undercut Holder's argument that he had not lied to Congress in December 2010 when he protested the ignorance of senior Justice Department officials of the most damning aspects of the "Fast and Furious" campaign.   That campaign involved, among other things, running guns into Mexico for the purpose of waiting until they had been used in a murder, then collecting their serial numbers after they had been abandoned at the scene, as was the established habit of cartel thugs.  The scheme ostensibly served a political effort to institute stricter gun control regulations by showing that U.S. guns were being funneled to Mexico to support criminal operations there.  Holder told Congress that the Justice Department never knowingly lost track of guns, and that the operation was shut down when they realized the failure.  Holder retracted this claim of ignorance ten months later, in October 2011, but has cited executive privilege in refusing to produce documents relevant to whether his initial claim was a deliberate lie.

In particular, Holder is concealing documents relevant to the facts revealed to senior Justice Department officials in the March 2010 wiretap applications, including emails.   The applications themselves are under seal by a federal judge in connection with the underlying criminal investigations of gun-running in which they were issued, but they were provided to the House Oversight Committee by an as-yet unidentified whistleblower.  Rep. Issa created a stir by reading summaries of the facts recited in the applications into the Congressional Record, relying on his immunity under the Constitution's "Speech and Debate Clause" to protect any statement made on the floor of Congress.  The summaries strongly suggested that the Justice Department knew as early as March 2010 that federal agents had abandoned surveillance of a straw-man purchaser in the process of running nearly 1,000 guns into Mexico, even though they then elected not to halt the operation until publicity exploded over the murder of Border Agent Brian Terry with one of them.  (The murder weapon was found by his body, just as might have been expected, and traced by its serial number to the "Fast and Furious" operation.)

A politically hostile watchdog group now claims that, although Issa may be immune from outside prosecution, he should be disciplined under internal House ethics rules.   This approach avoids the thorny separation-of-powers issues that would be raised by retaliation from the Justice Department.  The speech-and-debate immunity, designed to guard the separation of powers, is very strong.  It has led courts to dismiss claims of "invasion of privacy, slander and libel, civil rights violations, wiretapping, incitements to violence, violations of First Amendment rights, age discrimination, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, retaliation for reporting sexual discrimination, larceny and fraud, and McCarthyism."  This leaves us with a fascinating battle of the privileges.  The executive privilege on which Holder relies is subject to well-known exceptions for Congressional investigations into wrongdoing.  Will Holder or his surrogates find that it is stronger, or weaker, than the Congressional speech-and-debate privilege?

None of this is to say that the House may not decide to discipline its own members if it believes they should not violate a federal court's seal on sensitive documents.  That may turn out to be an essentially political calculation, suggesting that Issa has little to fear from a vote in the current House.   It's possible that some House Republicans will not like the notion of a deliberate violation of a federal court seal, but on the other hand they may consider it overridden by the improper assertion of executive privilege and Justice Department cover-up that started all this.

Outlaw Country: Part I

So now we're coming to my favorite part of country music -- probably not coincidentally, the stuff I grew up with -- the movement that was called "the Outlaws."

Since Gringo objected to my putting the popular-culture versions of Western Swing ahead of the core of the project, though, I'm going to start off by doing the same thing here.  You've seen the Outlaw movement in its popular, stripped-down form.  (Embedding disabled.)

But it's not just the Dukes of Hazzard.  You saw the stripped, Hollywood version when Burt Reynolds drove a firebird to block for a truck bootlegging beer across the South:

And you saw it when a convoy of trucks stood up to police corruption, led by Outlaw country singer Kris Kristofferson as "Rubber Duck."

So, that's how it became famous:  but now that I look at that, I can kind of see Gringo's point.  Kris Kristofferson is a real Outlaw, and Jerry Reed is too.  And Waylon Jennings sang the Dukes of Hazzard anthem:  and Johnny Paycheck, featured in that first clip, he's as Outlaw as it gets.  But none of this is what is really core to the movement.

What I think is most important to lay down, first, is that the Outlaws also did this:

And this:

So what we're about to explore in the next few posts is how the turmoil of the 1960s got expressed in Outlaw country.  It's a different kind of expression in two ways.  We already talked about Hank Williams' devotion to God and gospel:  we'll find that proves out in Johnny Cash and others, too.

But here also is the second difference.  In spite of the rebellion against corruption by the extant authorities, the Outlaws retained what Chesterton called a supernatural loyalty to the American project.  They didn't like where we were, but they loved America.  They were ready to fight for her.

We'll do some more shortly.

The Bishop, the Senators, and the 24-hour impeachment

Paraguay is being touted as a repeat of the 2009 ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.  If you'll recall, that ouster was widely reported as a "coup" even though it was accomplished entirely by constitutional and non-violent means.  Likewise, the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo a couple of weeks ago is causing the feathers to fly all over Central and South America.

Like Zelaya, Lugo is a failed leftist, or we wouldn't be hearing any of this noise about how a non-violent constitutional processes is tantamount to a coup.  He's an unlikely leftist hero, however.  For one thing,  he was a Catholic Bishop who was officially "laicized" by the Church only after he won the presidential election in 2007.  And yet he wasn't exactly your garden-variety Bishop, either.  Raised in a thoroughly secular but highly politicized family, he defied his father's wish that he study law and instead became a teacher in a strongly religious rural community that lacked a priest.  At age 19, inspired by their need or their piety, he entered a seminary and was ordained a priest at age 26.  Not surprisingly, he quickly fell in with liberation theology.  He became a Bishop in 1994 at the age of 43.  Eleven years later, he attempted to resign his ordination to run for president, in compliance with a constitutional ban on simultaneously holding religious and national office.  The Church refused at first to laicize him, but relented after he won the election.  In the interim, Lugo admitted fathering at least two illegitimate children while still a Bishop.

Paraguay gained its independence in 1811.  When Lugo was sworn in as president in 2008, it was that country's first experience of a ruling party's peacefully surrendering power to an elected member from the opposition party.  Lugo was the first leftist president to be freely elected and the first leftist leader to gain power by any means since 1937.   His cause célèbre was agrarian reform.  Soon, however, he lost the support not only of the oligarchs-that-be but even of the poor and landless contingent that catapulted him to power.  The last straw, evidently, was a recent bloody clash between landless protesters and police that left eleven dead among the former and six among the latter.  Paraguay's house quickly brought impeachment charges by an overwhelming margin; on the very next day the Senate voted by an equally overwhelming margin to convict him of "incompetence," as permitted by Paraguayan law.

Other explanations, of course, are possible. A site called "Truth Out" suggests that Lugo is a victim of giant agribusiness, a theory I'm not always predisposed to credit (especially from a site called something like "Truth Out"), but one that receives some support from the following facts, if they are true:
First and foremost is agribusiness.  None other than the infamous Monsanto is a major player in Paraguay.  The company collects royalties on the transgenic soy and cotton seeds planted throughout Paraguay, and in 2011 it collected $30 billion tax-free.  And 40% of the production and refining of Paraguayan soy is owned by private U.S.-based giant Cargill ($100 billion annual profits a year).  Again, agribusiness giants in Paraguay enjoy broad protections from Congress and pay no taxes.  ***  According to Paraguayan investigative journalist Idilio Mendez Grimaldi, one of the reasons behind Lugo's removal was his cabinet's unfavorable stance toward the release of Monsanto's transgenic cotton seed into the country.  After the head of the National Service for the Quality of Seeds, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Environment did not green light the seed's release into the market, [the opposition press] led a smear campaign against accusing them of corruption.
Things aren't always all that rosy here in the U.S., but I take heart from the knowledge that I'm not living in South America.

Shifting the Risk

One of the success stories of the recent decades has been the decline in the crime rate.  Rape, especially, has plummeted:
When it comes to rape, the numbers look even better: from 1980 to 2005, the estimated number of sexual assaults in the US fell by 85 percent. Scholars attribute this stunning collapse to various factors, including advances in gender equality, the abortion of unwanted children, and the spread of internet pornography.
What if the rate hasn't fallen, but merely been shifted out of sight?
Before last year, the federal government had never bothered to estimate the actual number of rapes that occur in prisons....  After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.
The article is by a progressive, and suggests a place where there is an opportunity for left/right political compromise.
If ever there were a time to launch a coordinated assault on the prison-industrial complex, the time is now. Budgets are strained, voters are angry, and crime is low. The Tea Party is in the midst of convincing everyone that government is the enemy— and so it is, in the field of criminal justice.

Popular resentment against an authoritarian state shouldn’t be denied or pooh-poohed— it should be seized and marshaled toward progressive ends. The prison crisis was created by centrists. Limited reforms and immoral moderation will not end the crisis.
So let's think this through.  We don't want to reform the system in such a way that we lose the benefit of having all the rapists out of the general society:  that's clearly a good thing.  What we do want is to reform th system so that (a) rapists don't continue to prey on a different population, and (b) we spend less money on prisons and prison guards.

That suggests a two-pronged approach.  Rape should carry the death penalty, in or out of prison:  it is obvious that rapists shouldn't be released from prison, but their containment exposes us to this problem.  Killing them is the right response.

The second part of the approach concerns the drug war, which I think we need to declare a sad failure.  Some movement to legalize most recreational drugs -- even if we do so with controls such as requiring a prescription and regular oversight by a doctor -- makes more sense than continuing to imprison so many people whose main crime was to desire a different way of getting high than whiskey.  The probable expenses of doing so are greatly outweighed by the savings involved in not having to have so many prisons, and not having to support so many prisoners and guards.  We would be a better society, too, than one which tolerates hundreds of thousands of people we have rendered helpless to be raped each year while they are under our alleged protection.

Governors Refuse to Implement PPACA

Politico has a headline that is rather striking, but the emphasis is probably not wholly wrong.  One of the warning signs that Eric Blair and I used to talk about, years back, was the states organizing in defiance of the Federal government.  The refusal to abide by orders here has been licensed by SCOTUS, in the recent Roberts decision.

For now, then, the refusal is entirely legal, and does not represent a crisis -- just a defiance.  The use of state governments to openly oppose the Federal, though, is something that bears watching.  State governments are quite powerful even individually when compared to protest movements or political rallies.

Amazing what you can do with tree rings

A new Nature article reports a cooling trend for the last 2,000 years suggested by tree ring data.  The cooling trend is statistically correlated with orbital mechanics but uncorrelated with CO2 levels.   Commenters at Watts Up With That quickly pointed out that the sample was regional (Finland) and that tree-ring data articles published to date have been notoriously unreliable.  As one put it:
The divergence problem is a mathematical artifact of calibration.  Formally known as “selection on the dependent variable”, it is a statistical flaw in the methodology that creates bias in the results.  This bias leads to divergence at the calibration boundaries, and misleading results over the proxy period. 
In other words, it isn’t the trees that are at fault.  It is the knuckleheads looking at the tree cores that have improperly applied amplifier technology to statistics, thinking they were inventing a better way to look at noisy data.  What they invented instead was a way to amplify noise, while making it look like signal.  They fooled not only themselves, but most of the world as well.
"Divergence," in the climatology context, refers to the discrepancy between thermometer data and tree-ring temperature inferences in periods when we have access to both.  Thermometer and tree-ring data agreed reasonably well during the last 150 years until about 20 years ago, when they began to diverge sharply.  AGW skeptics infer from this that the thermometer readings are being jiggered, a charge that involves controversies over climate scientists' doctoring of data, refusal to reveal basic data, cherry-picking of temperature sensor sites, and location of too many sites near urban heat islands.  AGW believers infer from the same divergence that tree-ring data are less accurate than thermometer data, and therefore that past warming periods deduced from ancient tree-ring records may have been overestimated.  Part of the excitement over the new Nature article (in both AGW camps, skeptic and believer) is that it does not suffer from the divergence problem; its tree-ring data match up well with thermometer data in the recent period.

A draft? Really?

I've discussed this sort of crap previously. As I noted here, Do your duty. 

While We're Doing Music

Try this one, from Benny Goodman.   

This particular recording is from his set at Carnegie Hall, and it's been digitally cleaned up.  I have the CD set ostensibly from one of the original sets of recording tapes that Goodman had squirreled away in his attic, found later, and released.  The CD set is deliberately not cleaned up, which the quasi-purist in me appreciates, but I like the cleaned up version of Sing, Sing, Sing, also. 

What really attracts me to this piece though, other than my liking for Big Bands and swing music, is the free-flowing extempore performance.  The basic piece is a three-minute dance song, but near the end of the Carnegie performance, the band was well fired up and into their music.  Krupa, probably with Goodman's prior permission, blew the piece into a jam session, and the main musicians each got a long-ish solo, with Krupa's drums both underlying the sets and bridging them, tying them all together.  And there's a bit of byplay as Goodman seems to get into a loop in his second set, and Krupa's drums jump in to prod him.  The piece then moves to an absolutely cold piano solo by Jess Stacy.


Eric Hines

Dawsonville Pool Room Update

The Dawsonville Pool Room is still closed, even though the state has lifted the liens filed against it.  Apparently the IRS became interested in the question of filing liens of their own once they heard about the state action, and so is currently investigating whether or not to do so.  The owner wants to meet with them to arrange a payment plan, so that he can re-open the place, but they won't even meet with him until they finish their internal paperwork process.

The community is stepping up, however.
A unique beauty pageant, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on July 14 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, is the first planned event to "Help Save the Pool Room."

The next day on July 15 a concert will be held at Veterans Memorial Park featuring local musician Dell Conner. Other local, family-friendly bands will also appear on stage from 3 to 10 p.m.

The following weekend, on July 21, a car and bike show will be held at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame beginning at 4 p.m.

Accounts have also been set up at United Community Bank and First Citizens Bank of Georgia to "Save the Pool Room."
It's amazing how much charity is pouring out from the community just to try to fix the deranged behavior of its government.  We could be using this charity for other things if the government wasn't making problems for us to fix.

For that matter, if the government really wants some money, why not just let them reopen the place and earn it?

Man "ist was er isst"

Or to update Feuerbach to the 21st century, you are what you spend, at least when it comes to evaluating your creditworthiness.  The FTC claims that credit card companies are jacking up rates on consumers who use credit cards for marriage counseling or massage parlors.  (But I understand that credit card companies no longer are accepting charges from medical marijuana clinics, which, bummer.)  So far, squinty-eyed meanies at the card issuing banks are relying only on rough impressions based on which merchants you frequent, but a movement is afoot to get a finer-grained picture by analyzing the SKU codes for the individual products you purchase.

I have only a rudimentary sense of privacy in most areas of my life.  I honestly don't care who knows what I buy, and can only be amused by attempts to understand me on that basis.  If anything I suffer from a sense of being unknown, inaccessible.  I'm exactly the kind of customer a merchant should try to charm by offering a product whose choice was intelligently informed by real information about my preferences; I would be far from offended.

I admit to a little curiosity about whether my spending patterns portray me as a potential deadbeat, but I figure that, with a 35-year credit history of actually paying my bills, any other information the card issuer gets is gravy.  They must think I'm the Holy Grail of customers.  When they cut off my credit, we'll know the entire financial industry has melted down.

Bitter clingers or clueless Pollyanas?

Who's happy?  According to Arthur C. Brooks, the jackpot goes to "married, religious, politically conservative people (with kids)" (self-reporting as happy at a rate of 52%) vs. "single, secular, liberal people without kids" (14%).  Does this mean, Brooks asks, that conservatives are "simply inattentive to the misery of others," so that "conservatives are ignorant, and ignorance is bliss"?  Brooks suggests a thought experiment in which data showed that liberals were happier, and conservatives questioned whether the explanation was that ignorant liberals "are unperturbed by the social welfare state’s monstrous threat to economic liberty."  In any case, that's not what the data show.

The conclusion that conservatives are happier is one I've read before, but what was new here was data showing that extremists are happier than moderates.  The happiness scale runs from sunny extreme conservatives (48% happy) to sort-of happy extreme liberals (35%) to glum moderates (26%).  I guess that means people like certainty and are happier landing on a secure belief that many things deserve to be preserved in their traditional form.

H/t Maggie's Farm.

The love-hate relationship with Mom 'n' Pop

Why, Bookworm asks, do leftists love Mom 'n' Pop in retail stores, but hate them in medicine?  WalMart is evil incarnate, but national health care is the bee's knees.  I think the answer lies in whether the entity is the enemy.  If so, the bigger the scarier; if not, the smaller the less effective.  The enemy is institutions driven by the profit motive, naturally.  It is a leftist dream that medicine can function without any profit motive -- as long as they're not the ones expected to work for free, or even for below union wages.

Bookworm's commenters discuss whether and how they use WalMart, and what kind of competitors can stay in business.  Our nearest small town sports a WalMart.  It's where we go for a variety of basic supplies, when we have to, as long as we don't mind getting stuck with a bottom-of-the-line product that can't be expected to hold up long.  We patronize the smaller local stores when we don't mind paying higher prices for better quality or for help from knowledgeable salesmen.  Local stores that don't stock better quality or provide knowledgeable salesmen don't stay in business, but I don't blame WalMart for that.

One commenter notes that on-line shopping has taken on the role that Sear's mail-order catalogs once did:  bringing a variety of goods to rural people at affordable prices.  Mail-order certainly is our primary alternative to WalMart here.

Hank Williams, Sr., Part Two

Because of his centrality to the form, we need to spend a little more time with Hank Williams, Sr.

Although he was the exemplar for the hard country songs, he also sang songs rooted in the gospel music that was one of the two main streams of traditional country music.

This music has always been eschatological in the South.  The world will melt away in the fires, so soon to come, that will rain down from Heaven.

And we all know who is the rider of the pale horse:

Hear him cite book, chapter and verse in this song.  It's from 1949.  It makes some sense, at the hour of the start of the long Cold War.

So we must understand this tension to be at the root of the music he is building.  It is built around a sincere faith, but also it is rooted in an honest admission of sin.  He does not claim to be better than he is.  He does not think that his sins prove his strength.  This honest speech is the root of the power of his song.

The Right to Choose... for You

I read James Taranto's attack on Dr. Shari Motro's recommendation that we establish procedures to force men to pay women for pregnancies resulting from sex with said women.  Taranto raises some good points about the function of incentives, and it's a fairly thoughtful reply.

I'd like to raise a less thoughtful response to this particular suggestion:
One of the potential ramifications is that men might be called upon to help support their pregnant lovers before birth, even if the pregnancy is ultimately terminated or ends in miscarriage. They might be asked to chip in for medical bills, birthing classes and maternity clothes, to help to cover the loss of income that often comes with pregnancy, or to contribute to the cost of an abortion.
Emphasis added.

I'm willing to accept that a man who gets a woman pregnant ought to take responsibility for providing for her needs during pregnancy.  That all makes sense to me, although Taranto's objections regarding incentives do seem like relevant concerns.

But there can be no accommodation on the question of forcing a man to pay for the abortion of his own child.  It's hard enough that we require a man to endure the killing of a child he may want, if the woman carrying the child decides that she prefers it dead.  There can be no moral argument for forcing him to pay for the poisoning of his own flesh and blood.

Continuing Education: Hank Williams, Sr.

There is no figure in late-20th century country music that towers nearly as high as Hank Williams.  That doesn't mean he had a happy life.  He was an alcoholic, refused service in WWII because he was injured in a rodeo, a man whose band dissolved around him because they were all drafted, and whose replacements refused to work with him because he was so often drunk; and a man dead at the age of thirty from a combination of an ice storm, alcohol, and morphine.

When he sings about being "a rolling stone" on the lost highway?  That's 1948.  Bob Dylan did that line in 1965.

It's almost impossible to overstate the importance of Hank Williams to country music.  You can attribute to him most of the focus on drinking and lost love, and lives wrecked by these same things.  Even today, you'll hear the old joke:  "What happens if you play a country record backwards?  You get your job back, your wife back, and your dog back."  He's why that joke means anything.

Here is a famous duel inspired by the idea of love at the honky tonk, and who was at fault for the end of such love:

Even Patsy Cline sang about the longing for adultery:


Draw a line there.  Everything that follows is from a later period, and is just to show how important the earlier things were to them.

One of the most popular singers of the 1970s made this tribute, which sums it up.  The sexual revolution brought the dissolution of alcoholic honky-tonkers to middle class life:  and Hank Williams was their poet, the one who managed to put how it all felt into words.

Or take David Allen Coe's word for it.  An important part of his claim in this song is that he can sing "every song that Hank Williams ever wrote."  And he can:  but we'll get to him, and the Outlaws, in due time.  For now, the point is that Hank Williams is the touchstone.

Well, let's do one more Outlaw song to make the point.  This is genuflection to the thing that was gone by the time they were singing:  but they meant every word of it.

Oh, give it a rest

Some suggestions from "Pour Me Coffee" for responses to trolls.
It is solely your responsibility to find the hilarity.  No humor explanations. 
Please tell me more about how I might use my time and talent to perfectly match your unique sensibilities! 
I appreciate your candor, but it is none of my business what you think of me. 
I confess to the exaggeration you identified.  This technique is sometimes used in humor.
H/t Rocket Science.

Wildlife overpasses

These are cool.

"That ^$&*%(*& particle"

I loved Rocket Science's intro to a roundup of coverage on this week's blockbuster scientific development:
A particle not unlike the Higgs boson was discovered to rapturous applause.  No really, a room full of people applauded like it was a sports game.  It was brilliant.  One guy said “I was overwhelmed by the data analysis” and started choking up a bit.  We were two seconds away from someone chucking their panties at the boson and then fainting.
Having read some serious nonsense about this discovery lately, I was happy to find a list of links of respectable attempts to explain the business to those of us who lack any kind of a clue about particle physics, in addition to some second-generation links from associated comments.  I can't honestly say any of these were tremendously helpful to me (the subject remains over my head), except that they seemed less silly than what the newspapers were running.

An Atlantic piece featuring a mini-lecture received at a July 4th picnic.

How the Higgs field is like water that fills up some particles and is expelled by others.

A short video lecture from The Guardian, a publication that's producing better-than-average written articles as well.

I like this animation of a brief explanation of what the experiments are trying to measure and how.


xkcd: The Agincourt Gambit

So, my question for the amusement of the readers:  how would you distinguish this from the Crécy gambit or the Poitiers gambit?  What would the field look like in each variation?

Also, is it correct that the French are white in this variation?  The English archers moved first at Agincourt.

Weirdness of Physics

I got a battery-operated mower for this season: I needed a new mower, wanted to try out the technology, and given the hour at which I mow on a Texas Sunday—before it gets too hot—I wanted something quieter than a traditional gasoline-powered machine.  However, unlike modern gasoline-powered mowers, this one is human propelled.

The mower's design facilitates dismounting the battery for recharging between mowings; for me, this amounts to a walk of some 30 feet from my wife's garden shed where I store the mower to the garage, where I recharge the battery.

That's a long introduction to get to the weird physics matter.  I've noticed, now, some 3+ months into the mowing season, that the battery is quite light when it's fully charged and I'm carrying it out to the mower.  However, after it's given up all those electrons to the mowing operation, the battery has gotten quite heavy for the carry back to be recharged.


Eric Hines


 Mark Steyn takes on the subject I'm so addicted to:  the problem of balance between anonymous markets and warm families as a model for human communities.  I've often argued that what works brilliantly under our own roofs is a disaster on a large scale:
In their book The Size of Nations, Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore argue that, if America were as centrally governed as France, it would have broken up long ago.  But hey, that’s no reason not to try it!  In a land where everything else is supersized, why not government?  Obituaries for the late Andy Griffith generally glossed over his career finale as a pitchman for Obamacare.  But he was a canny choice to sell the unsellable, for is not “health” “care” “reform” the communitarian virtues of beloved small-town Mayberry writ large?  The problem is you can’t write Mayberry large.  And, if you attempt it, it leads not to Mayberry but to Stockton, Calif., and to a corrupt, dysfunctional swamp.  A large Sweden is a contradiction in terms.  It cannot be done, and the more determinedly you try to do it, the more you will preside over a ruined wasteland.  The road to hell isn’t paved at all, and the street lamps went out long ago.
My own neighborhood is much closer to Mayberry than to a Wall Street populated by Gordon Gekkos.   We dispense almost entirely with formal enforcement mechanisms and operate, if not on the basis of pure charity, at least on an extremely loose barter system that's more like the old social convention of alternating entertainments than like a ledger.  But it's a small neighborhood, and the close-knit aspect is earned, to some extent, by each getting to know the others and demonstrating a willingness to act right. We don't try to incorporate even the local town into the system, let alone the nearest city.  But shouldn't we be trying to expand the brotherhood of man rather than build walls around our own private Camelot?  I believe that, so the question for me is what's most likely to succeed in that ambition.  Experience tells me that giving strangers respect as autonomous beings, but extending charity to them if necessary, is more likely to bring people together evenetually over a wider and wider area than encouraging each to treat the group as his private teat.  I don't know why dependency on strangers corrodes most people, but I'm convinced it does.

H/t Maggie's Farm.