Reply to Keats

Ah, a day of gentle South wind
In August, when the mercury,
heat-hardened as an artery
of bacon, readily sends
a comforting wake to each our friends;
Where they drink and sing old songs,
Each one a scoundrel, a waste
of morals, such that in haste
we made them brothers of drinking long
necked beer, when we were wrong
and young, as once we were
before the heat made us suffer.


I dashed that off purely to amuse the companions at Brandywine Books, but some of you might enjoy it too.

Cassandra Was Right!

We can see the inequality inherent in the system in Marine Corps regulations on umbrellas:
Per Marine Corps uniform regulations, the men are not allowed to carry or use umbrellas while in uniform. Female Marines can carry “an all-black, plain standard, or collapsible umbrella at their option during inclement weather” but not with combat uniforms.
At their option? What kind of nonsense is this? As is well known, everything in the military is either forbidden or required. My favorite example of this was at the military-controlled portion of Baghdad airport, where there was a signpost near the entrance. On the way in, the sign directed, 'Absolutely no headgear shall be worn past this point. Stow all covers.' On the way out, it said, 'Headgear mandatory past this point.'

If it's winter and your hands are cold, are female Marines permitted to put their hands in their pockets 'at their option'? If not, why the discrepancy in the pursuit of female comfort? After all, the new primary mission of the US military could reasonably be defined as ensuring the psychological comfort of female servicemembers. Why not their physical comfort as well?

H/t: Althouse, who is also having a ton of fun mocking this story.

Did Any Of You Still Need Convincing That The ACA Was A Terrible Idea?

Funny thing about this recent IRS scandal: the guy taking the fall wasn't really in charge while the problem was at its height. No, the person in charge was a woman, and she now has a new job. That job is overseeing Obamacare implementation.
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.

Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.

Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012.
That's perfect. Really, it couldn't be better.

UPDATE: Yes, it could.

André Maurois on Confession

It is perhaps surprising to find a most insightful a comment on the sacrament of confession composed by a Jew. Nevertheless, André Maurois, in his novel The Silence of Colonel Bramble, has an extraordinary scene that does it justice. It is as fine an exploration of the difference between human morals and divine grace as I have seen.

The setup: a man has committed a terrible murder, and the weight of it is heavy on his soul until he is very close to suicide. The Anglican Church, to which he belongs, has recently begun to offer confession in an attempt to regain something of its roots. At first, few Anglicans were interested in confessing their sins, though the church pushed the offer strongly. The man who bears the sin is drawn, though, and eventually works up his courage to ask the vicar to hear his confession.
The vicar was a very well brought up
young man, and had been at Eton and Oxford.
Enchanted with this rare piece of luck, he
said eagerly, 'Most certainly, open your heart
to me; you can talk to me as if I were your
father!' The other began : 'I have killed a
man.' The vicar sprang to his feet. 'And
you come here to tell me that? Horrible mur-
derer! I am not sure that it is not my duty
as a citizen to take you to the nearest police
station. In any case it is my duty as a gen-
tleman not to keep you a moment longer un-
der my roof.'

And the man went away. A few miles
farther on he saw a Roman Catholic church.
A last hope made him enter, and he knelt
down behind some old women who were wait-
ing by the confessional. When his turn came
he could just distinguish the priest praying in
the shadows, his head in his hands. 'Father,'
he said, 'I am not a Catholic, but I should
like to confess to you.' 'I am listening, my
son.' 'Father, I have committed murder.'

He awaited the effect of this terrible rev-
elation. In the austere silence of the church
the voice of the priest said simply, 'How many
times, my son?'

The black hole of pigment

The Gaboon viper has impressive camouflage:


But even more impressive is the black-black-blackness of its black spots, which achieve a velvety light absorption though very tiny hairy structures.  Great electron-microscope pics at the link.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Pollia fruit puts itself right out there, using reflection and iridescence to make the most of the available light:


Lots of birds and insects know this trick, but for some reason it's rare in plants.

H/t Rocket Science.

The State Is For The Weak

Literally, the weak. Physically strong men tend to have right-wing views, and physically weak men tend to support more government intervention in daily life, because for the most part people are self-interested. To the strong, the state is chiefly a burden.

For the weak, the state is a much better proposition. It may give you money. While it restricts your freedom in some ways, it also provides some freedom to you by restricting the freedom of others who might run over you. It imposes some costs, but also provides some benefits. The more you don't think you can take care of yourself, the more you are likely to be inclined to want someone empowered to protect you and provide for you.

As a teenager I was inclined to Anarchism. I thought, at that time, that the world would be a better place if people were forced to overcome their weaknesses and stand or fall on their own. This would promote the kind of natural virtue, I thought then, that comes where Darwinian forces are allowed to play out.

Over time I've come to see that position is wrong, in several ways. For one thing strength is not earned, it is a gift from God. While you can make yourself stronger, or neglect to develop the strength you could possess, ultimately you are bound by limits that you did not create, and if you find yourself on the higher side of this divide, you did not earn your place there. It was given. Such gifts are given for a purpose, and the purpose of the strong is to defend and uphold the weak.

I've often quoted this line from Ivanhoe:
``Deny it not, Sir Knight---you are he who decided
the victory to the advantage of the English
against the strangers on the second day of the
tournament at Ashby.''

``And what follows if you guess truly, good
yeoman?'' replied the knight.

``I should in that case hold you,'' replied the
yeoman, ``a friend to the weaker party.''

``Such is the duty of a true knight at least,'' replied
the Black Champion; ``and I would not willingly
that there were reason to think otherwise of
me.''
We have come to a pass, though, wherein the forms of government have given a power to the weak that is greater than that which they find in themselves; in other words, the weak are no longer as weak as they think that they are. Just as the strong man must not reason only from his strength, the weak man must not reason only from his sense of weakness, whether physical or financial or moral. It is no more right for the weak acting together to enslave the strong than it would be right for the strong to oppress the weak, or to deny them the basic protections of a state that are required by justice.

When the weak become this strong, you can strive against them without disgrace. Only, that is, insofar as they are strong. It would be cruel to strive against weak individuals, but as a faction they are powerful and interested. Defending the right means restraining the state they so desperately want, but only to its due and proper bounds.

Alas! But it is a flawed and fallen world. Perhaps in the next world we will need no government, and no law, beyond that truth and beauty that flow from the divine.

He'll never live it down

One step forward, two steps back.

Human shields

The IRS commissioner has been canned.
Maggie's Farm is having fun with this one, but it's truly an eerie video:

 

Who can keep them straight?

Guy Benson at HotAir asks: "But why did Lois Lerner secretly monitor Susan Rice’s talking points for two months before trying to coerce a 'donation'?"

If the right people don't have power . . . .

Now you're talking my language

I visited FireDogLake out of curiosity to see whether they would acknowledge the Gosnell story (no, of course not), and was amused to see they're talking like Tea Partiers in the wake of the DOJ AP wiretap scandal.  They're passionately discussing limited government and traditional Constitutional values.  One of them quoted this passage from Justice Brandeis in the 1928 Olmstead case:
The makers of our Constitution … sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone—the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men. 
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent.  Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers.  The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding. 
If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy … to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal—would bring terrible retribution.” 
Justice Louis Brandeis,
dissenting in
Olmstead v. United States,
277 U.S. 438,
June 4, 1928

Bad week for anti-conspiracy theorists

Also from a Hoyt commenter:  what the week feels like in some corners.

Getting up off the floor (minor version)

One of Ms. Hoyt's readers recounted this story about a man who, in his small way, stood up for reasonable principles at his office (see Robin Munn reply at May 14 1:13pm).
The day after Andrew Breitbart died, this guy saw a coworker (of the 20-something hipster-liberal variety) wearing a Che T-shirt.  Normally, he said, he would have brushed it off, but after losing Andrew and seeing all the “Breitbart is here” and “Be Breitbart” slogans that were popping up, he decided to say something.  The Che T-shirt guy didn’t take it kindly, and got a few of his hipster-liberal buddies to complain to HR, and an anonymous email (which later proved to have been from a liberal-leaning HR person) got distributed widely among the Ace of Spades commenter (hereafter called AoS guy)’s group—WAY more widely than company policy said it should have.  AoS guy immediately stopped driving his nice car to work and started driving his junky car, which proved to be wise because a few days later, someone slashed his tires in the parking lot.  He reported this fact to HR (to someone he was pretty sure was NOT the person who sent out the anonymous email).
The upshot, described in more detail at Hoyt's site, is that more sensible people in this financial company got wind of the situation and were unhappy with the first HR person's flagrant violation of company policy re the privacy of HR disputes—enough so to fire him.  Management also assigned AofS guy a young bodyguard to take him to and from his parking spot.  Presently the bodyguard witnessed some guys trying to spraypaint a message on the car, broke the vandal group up, and received minor injuries.  Fortunately, he also took down the escaping car's license plate, which proved to have an indirect connection to Che guy, though not enough to get him fired.

Now, AofS guy and Che guy worked in the same division, with Che guy on a different team, one that happened to have poor results.  The company reassigned Che guy's team leader and replaced him with AofS guy, with explicit directions to let go anyone he thought necessary to improve the poor team results.  Did he immediately fire Che guy?  No, he said he wanted to give him a fair shake and judge by the numbers, not the personalities.  His attitude so impressed other team members, including Che guy's running buddies, that one of them upped her game and improved her performance.  Che guy, on the other hand, improved nothing and in fact quit before he could be fired, crowing that he'd now get unemployment benefits.  (Actually, by quitting he forfeited them.)  AosS guy then called the remaining team together to announce that the numbers were now so improved that no one else faced a layoff.   Meanwhile, AofS guy became good friends with the bodyguard and even better friends with the bodyguard's highly eligible older sister.

As the commenter notes:
So go ahead and stand up for your beliefs — you never know WHAT might happen.

Hearing voices



Biggest difference?  One of them had enough class to resign.

I can't do better than Jim Geraghty on this week's news:
When there is evidence of scandalous or bizarre behavior on the part of a political figure, and no reasonable explanation is revealed within 24 to 48 hours, then the truth is probably as bad as everyone suspects. 
Nobody withholds exculpatory information.  Nobody who's been accused of something wrong waits for "just the right moment" to unveil information that proves the charge baseless.  Political figures never choose to deliberately let themselves twist in the wind.  It's not the instinctive psychological reaction to being falsely accused, it's not what any public communications professional would recommend, and to use one of our president's favorite justifications, it's just common sense.
As someone else said recently,
Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems.  Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works.  They'll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner.  You should reject these voices.
I should reject something, that's for sure.

The eighth deadly sin

Sarah Hoyt urges us to "Get up off the Floor":
And right now you’re going “It’s all done, we’re done, we—” 
Get up off the floor.   First, if you’re a believer, despair is a sin.  And if you’re not a believer, despair is spitting on the graves of all the men and women who fought in much worse conditions than you face.  The ghosts of Tiananmen Square rise up against you.  The men who in the Gulags carried a hope of freedom accuse you.  The victims of communism point fingers at you.   The millions of dead at the hands of marching statism would like to remind you that to give up is to die.  And that’s when you should give up.   Not a second earlier.

The government loans me my children

Here's a proposal so wrong-headed in so many ways I hardly know how to begin.  Kristin Wartman's NYT Op-ed observes that:
The home-cooked family meal is often lauded as the solution for problems ranging from obesity to deteriorating health to a decline in civility and morals.
Well!  That certainly identifies the high stakes.  What to do?  We're way too busy to cook, even those of us who stay home.  And it's expensive to buy fresh food!  We need affordability and convenience, but without sacrificing good looks, health, civility, or morals.   Fantasy economics comes to the rescue.   Remember in the early days of feminism the proposals for housewives to earn salaries?  Acknowledging that "[i]t’s nearly impossible for a single parent or even two parents working full time to cook every meal from scratch, planning it beforehand and cleaning it up afterward," Wartman notes that families "of means" just hire outsiders to take care of these problems.  But then what happens to the obese, unhealthy, uncivil, and immoral children of the paid housekeepers?

Something Must Be Done, and as usual, it takes the form of totally misunderstanding what salaries are for, as in "money that one person (or group) gives to another for performing a service that the first person (or group) values enough to pay money for it."  Here, it obviously wouldn't help much for the husband or the children to pay the wife a salary for putting a fresh, healthy dinner on the table and then washing the dishes.   Evidently it doesn't count that the husband deposits his salary into the household account and pays the bills.  What to do?   Somehow I knew it would involve tax subsidies, tax penalties, and the phrase "sugary foods," and Wartman did not disappoint:
Stay-at-home parents should qualify for a new government program while they are raising young children—one that provides money for good food, as well as education on cooking, meal planning and shopping—so that one parent in a two-parent household, or a single parent, can afford to be home with the children and provide wholesome, healthy meals.  These payments could be financed by taxing harmful foods, like sugary beverages, highly caloric, processed snack foods and nutritionally poor options at fast food and other restaurants.  Directly linking a tax on harmful food products to a program that benefits health would provide a clear rebuttal to critics of these taxes.  Business owners who argue that such taxes will hurt their bottom lines would, in fact, benefit from new demand for healthy food options and from customers with money to spend on such foods.
Progressives are so cute when they try to talk about market principles.  See, it makes sense for the taxpayers to pay mom's salary, because business owners benefit when families demand healthy food options at the store! Also, we need "workplace policies that incentivize health, like 'health days' that employees could use for health-promoting activities:  shopping for food, cooking, or tending a community garden."   I guess there's not much a family should supply for itself by deciding that it's important and paying for it with money the family brings in by doing valuable work for outsiders.  If it needs to be done at all, the taxpayers should fund it.  Probably best if the government mandates it, too, just to be sure, because you can never be sure that most parents will take care of their children out of love, duty, or simple self-interest.

One thing I don't understand is why the tax subsidy would be limited to families with young children.  Don't older children deserve to avoid obesity, illness, incivility, and immorality?  What about middle-aged people who don't have parents any more?