Bachelor Week

So, I've been away from the Hall for a great while.  Mostly due to work picking up, but partly due to just falling out of the blog-reading habit.  Hopefully, posting now won't offend our kind host.

I find myself in an unusual position.  My wife is in the Virginia/DC area because her parents are in town from LA, and will be so for several days, and as my parents live in Richmond, it was a good opportunity for her to see all four of them.  But as I have to work, and someone must watch the cats, I am at home; a bachelor for the first time in a long while.  As I said, this is unusual for me, but presents me with a great opportunity.

For you see, while my wife is a wonderful lady with many fine qualities, she has one flaw.  She does not like spicy food.  I myself cannot get enough.  So I am making a crockpot of my award winning (winning a chili cook-off in the office counts, right?) Hellishly Hot Habanero Chili:

1.5 lbs spicy turkey sausage
1 large sweet onion
3 cloves garlic
1 30oz can diced tomatoes
1 pint sized jar hot salsa
2 cans Goya red kidney beans
4 heaping tablespoons chili powder
6 habanero peppers

Un-skin the sausage, dice half the onion and mince one clove of garlic. Brown the sausage with the diced onion and minced garlic, throw it into the crockpot. Dice the rest of the onion, mince the other two cloves of garlic, throw them in the crockpot. Pour in the tomatoes, beans, salsa, and chili powder. I de-seeded and minced the peppers (which probably cut down a lot on the spicy) and threw them in the crockpot. Put it on high heat for about four hours (till I went to bed) stirring occasionally. Low heat over night, and low heat until we ate it at lunchtime. You don't need to baby it.

That's the recipe as I made it for the contest.  It's not near as hot as you would expect.  So this time, and because only I will be eating it, I bumped everything up a notch.  More habaneros, I used Rotel hot tomatoes instead of normal diced tomatos, I used spicy chili beans instead of the red kidney beans, and I used a hotter sausage this time.  It's cooking now, and I am a happy happy man.

Just thought I'd share.

Environmental perspectives


Nice article about what it means to be an uncute animal with economic value to humans, or without economic value to humans.  The article includes this picture, which looks like something right out of The Matrix:


Horseshoe crabs' blood uses copper instead of iron.

H/t, as usual on Saturdays, to Rocket Science.

How to survive a night in your car

This kind of article is increasingly relevant in these days of global warm/cooling.  All of the advice sounds reasonable, but would there be any room left in the car for the driver, let alone passengers?

  • Bottled water (at least four quarts) 
  • Snack foods, particularly nutritious energy bars 
  • Raisins, dried fruit, nuts, candy bars 
  • Strike-anywhere, waterproof matches and small candles 
  • A flashlight with extra batteries 
  • First-aid kit 
  • Folding knife and multi-tool 
  • Emergency flares 
  • An extra winter coat, mittens and a wool cap 
  • Winter boots 
  • Toilet paper 
  • Cellphone and charger 
  • A space blanket 
  • A spare blanket or sleeping bag 
  • A portable radio with spare batteries 
  • Tow rope 
  • Nylon cord 
  • Flagging tape 
  • Chemical hand and body warmer packets 
  • Jumper cables 
  • A small shovel 
  • Tire chains 
  • Rock salt, sand or kitty litter to provide added traction when stuck on a slick surface.
DL Sly, you live in a challenging climate. What do you carry around in your truck?

Putin's real problem

As Paul Rahe notes at Ricochet, Putin understands very well that the only people facing any real threat from the President of the U.S. are his domestic enemies:
Russia does not now have the means by which to pursue [its global ambitions], and it is not going to acquire the requisite means. . . . Russia is a banana republic with nuclear weapons.  Economically, it is almost as dependent on resource extraction as Saudi Arabia, and the pertinent resource is slowly being depleted. . . .  At the same time, Putin's Russia is ignoring the only strategic threat it faces.  The United States is not Russia's enemy.  It is not even a rival.  We once had an interest in containing and dismembering the Soviet empire in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself.  We have no interest in further reducing Russia's extent; and, insofar as we see Russia as a potential trading partner, our interest lies in Russian economic development.  The same can be said even more emphatically for Germany, France, Britain, and the other countries in Europe. 
There is, however, one country with an imperial past and a renewed craving for empire that has territorial ambitions which make of it a threat to Russia, and that country is China.

The Smart Ones

Well, they had the right institutional ties, anyway.
Palin said [during the 2008 election campaign]:
After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next.
For those comments, she was mocked by the high-brow Foreign Policy magazine and its editor Blake Hounshell, who now is one of the editors of Politico magazine.
But never fear such indecision now! The President has declared that "there will be costs" if Russia invades the Ukraine. For example, they may have to pay to fuel their tanks and trucks.

Friday Night AMV

Prop-punk?



I thought there was a subtext about WWII in this; pretty much ends up the same way, although there is also a nod to E. R. Eddison.  In any case, you should always have a wingman.

"Don't make me come back there"

Thirteen years ago,  Jonathan Rauch wrote about his creed of "soft communitarianism," an alternative to both the most anarchic forms of libertarianism and the bureaucratic formalism that is strangling our country:
In standard liberal theory, coercion and force involve violence or the threat of violence: "Your money or your life."  Because, in modern democracies, the state possesses a monopoly on legitimized violence, a coercive policy will be, by definition, a state policy.  Nothing that private people or institutions do by way of criticism or exclusion is coercive. 
To [radical gay activist Michael] Warner and others of his school, that view of coercion is laughably narrow and naive.  Norms use the clubs of stigma and shame to punish deviants, nonconformists, and radicals. . . .  In his world, all social norms are more or less coercive, which means that all of them are oppressive when applied to consenting adults' sexual or social lives. . . . 
I am not a soft communitarian because I think shame and stigma are sweet and lovely things.  They are not.  A weakness of the soft-communitarian position is its unwillingness to admit the truth in much of what Warner says.  In some respects, norms are oppressive and shaming is coercive.  Having admitted this, however, one can go on to see what Warner, and other anti-communitarians, do not:  that soft communitarianism is less oppressive, usually much less so, than the real-world alternatives.  Shame and hypocrisy are not ideal ways to deal with philanderers and small-time mashers, but they are better than Paula Jones' litigators and Kenneth Starr's prosecutors.  Shame is valuable not because it is pleasant or fair or good but because it is the least onerous of all means of social regulation, and because social regulation is inevitable.   The implication of Warner's view is that the only just society is one without any sexual norms regulating the conduct of consenting adults.  But, of course, a normless society is as inconceivable, literally, as a beliefless individual.  What would a culture without shame or guilt or "hierarchies of respectability" look like?  How is a shameless society even imaginable, given the unbudgeable fact that humans, like dogs and chimpanzees, look to each other for guidance and approval and clues on how to behave? 
THE fact is, there are going to be norms; the question is always, What sort of norms?
Rauch favors a rejection of mindless, intrusive zero-tolerance legalism that he variously calls the Hidden Law, genteel hypocrisy, tacit decency codes, and a determination to avert the public eye from anything that's not scaring the horses.  What this approach lacks in logical consistency it makes up for in humane effect:
Without Hidden Law, life in society becomes like the home life of a 15-year-old boy whose parents never stop shouting, "Billy! What are you doing in there?"
Rauch poses interesting questions on soft communitarianism and gay marriage:
Warner is shrewd enough to see that the standard defense of gay marriage by gay activists is wrong.  This defense holds out marriage as just one more lifestyle option.  It is available to heterosexuals, so it should be available to homosexuals as well, and that's all there is to it.  But this is wrong.  Marriage, as Warner aptly puts it, is "a social system of both permission and restriction."  Spouses and society alike view matrimony as something special and exalted; it is not merely allowed, it is encouraged.  Far beyond merely creating legal arrangements, it is freighted with the social expectations and implicit requirements of hidden law.  It is a bargain not just between two people but between the couple and society:  The spouses agree to care for one another so that society does not need to, and society agrees in exchange to view their commitment to each other as inviolable and sovereign and, indeed, sacred. 
Traditionalist conservatives understand that marriage confers special status under hidden law, which is why they so fiercely oppose extending it to homosexuals.  I understand that marriage confers special status, which is why I favor extending it to homosexuals.  And Warner, piping up from the radical left, also understands marriage's special status, which is why he opposes gay marriage.  When marriage is available to gay people, he understands, gay people will be expected to marry, and married homosexuals will conduct themselves with the same (let's face it) smugness that characterizes married heterosexuals.  "The effect," Warner says, "would be to reinforce the material privileges and cultural normativity of marriage."  Homosexuals who do not marry will be regarded as less respectable or less successful than those who do.

Parallel universes

Megan Kelly demolishes HHS Sec'y Sibelius.  Warning:  your President feels aggrieved that you might get information from this source.



Watching Hagan slip and slide is fun, but the really good stuff is towards the end.  And Kelly's guest is absolutely right:  everyone watching only the news outlets the President would prefer we watched will agree totally with Sebelius's version of events, not to mention with Harry Reid's.

Elephants as Natural Slaves

This post is mostly for Cassandra's enjoyment, because she'll like the article, but I'll take a moment to answer the question the authors ask in the tagline:

"We now have solid evidence that elephants are some of the most intelligent, social and empathic animals around—so how can we justify keeping them in captivity?"

Well, we can justify it precisely because of their limited access to reason. In the Politics, Aristotle suggests that some men are slaves by nature. Specifically, those who "are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast—and they are in this state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them—are slaves by nature. For them it is better to be ruled in accordance with this sort of rule, if such is the case for the other things mentioned."

What he means by "for them it is better" is that the slaves themselves will enjoy better results if their affairs are managed for them, i.e., if they are not left to their own devices. This should be an improvement that they themselves could recognize, rather than one that comes from outside of them (i.e., not "I think you would be better off if you lived as I want," but rather, "I realize that, though I'd prefer to do heroin every day, and would choose it if I were left free, it really would be better if I weren't free to make that choice").

Because they have enough reason to see the good, but not to choose it, there is a kind of objective justice to organizing their lives for them. This is true even if they don't choose this state, because it's the ability to choose to do what they can see would be better that is at work. Thus, if a judge should involuntarily commit an addict, the addict may be angry about it, and certainly wouldn't have chosen commitment for himself. But he should be able to see the justice of it, to recognize that in an objective way he will be better off for it.

So it is possible to justify the captivity of elephants in the same way. Note, though, that the force of Aristotle's assertion that there is a kind of just and natural slavery is to bracket it as the only acceptable kind. It turns out to be a harsh criticism of every kind of actual slavery being practiced in his own day.

We might apply a similar critique to our favorite zoo.

Republic VIII

An excerpt, for Tom but also for Cassandra, from Plato's great work on politics. But for one line, it sounds like something she has been saying to me for years. How many of these markers do you see around you?
“Come then, tell me, dear friend, how tyranny arises. That it is an outgrowth of democracy is fairly plain[.] ... Liberty.... is it not the excess and greed of this and the neglect of all other things that revolutionizes this constitution too and prepares the way for the necessity of a dictatorship?”

“How?” he said.

“Why, when a democratic city athirst for liberty gets bad cupbearers for its leaders and is intoxicated by drinking too deep of that unmixed wine, and then, if its so-called governors are not extremely mild and gentle with it and do not dispense the liberty unstintedly, it chastises them and accuses them of being accursed oligarchs.... [T]hose who obey the rulers... it reviles as willing slaves and men of naught.... Is it not inevitable that in such a state the spirit of liberty should go to all lengths?”

“Of course.”

“And this anarchical temper,” said I, “my friend, must penetrate into private homes and finally enter into the very animals.”

“Just what do we mean by that?” he said.

“Why,” I said, “the father habitually tries to resemble the child and is afraid of his sons, and the son likens himself to the father and feels no awe or fear of his parents, so that he may be forsooth a free man. And the resident alien feels himself equal to the citizen and the citizen to him, and the foreigner likewise.” ...

“The teacher in such case fears and fawns upon the pupils, and the pupils pay no heed to the teacher or to their overseers either. And in general the young ape their elders and vie with them in speech and action, while the old, accommodating themselves to the young... for fear they may be thought disagreeable and authoritative.”

“By all means,” he said. “And the climax of popular liberty, my friend,” I said, “is attained in such a city when the purchased slaves, male and female, are no less free than the owners who paid for them. And I almost forgot to mention the spirit of freedom and equal rights in the relation of men to women and women to men.” ...

“And do you note that the sum total of all these items when footed up is that they render the souls of the citizens so sensitive that they chafe at the slightest suggestion of servitude and will not endure it? For you are aware that they finally pay no heed even to the laws written or unwritten, so that forsooth they may have no master anywhere over them.” “I know it very well,” said he.

“This, then, my friend,” said I, “is the fine and vigorous root from which tyranny grows, in my opinion.”

Peer review

It ain't what it used to be.  Even the laziest and shallowest reviewer should have known there was something wrong with a paper entitled "TIC: a methodology for the construction of e-commerce," whose abstract states that the authors "concentrate our efforts on disproving that spreadsheets can be made knowledge-based, empathic, and compact."

Jokes (Not For Dummies)

The authors of this piece assert that you won't get these jokes. I assume they know their audience. As for you ladies and gentlemen, I believe you will collectively get all of them, and individually nearly all.

Stoicism for Dummies

This brief article omits everything except a few pieces of pragmatic advice, but at least that makes it useful. Separately, that it is right about the pragmatics might inspire someone to read more deeply into the underlying thought and history.

Contradictions in Liberalism

This is an outstanding essay, very much worth reading in full. None of you who spends time here will likely regret giving it your attention, as it touches on so many of our regular topics of conversation.

The "Liberalism" under attack is Liberalism proper: the whole thing, all the way back to Locke and Hobbes. Once I too thought of myself as a Classical Liberal: and small wonder if I was one, for so I was taught to be. It is the whole world of what we are taught about politics. The only alternatives you will get even in college are later ones, supposedly defeated: fascism and Marxism. You can think what you want, as long as you begin from liberal grounds and recognize only alternatives liberalism itself has provoked.

The article defends the proposition -- quite right, I believe, though it will be challenging to some -- that Classical Liberalism and the current 'liberalism' are not inversions of each other as they are often said to be. The newer one is a natural consequence of the older one. Both must be rejected.

This is because both depend on an inheritance that is not being replenished, the author argues, and have created a world that cannot be sustained. What, then, is to be done?

(H/t: D29)

A Bright Spot on a Dark Sea

Ukraine has a revolution.

The protests have been driven by a faction that wants to push away from the domination of Russia, and pursue ties with the EU. They are culturally European, so much so that their symbols in the streets have been shields painted with Crusader crosses. Apparently inspired by these examples, other protesters went so far as to erect a trebuchet so as to provide artillery support to their lines.

Now we will see how far the Russians are prepared to go to support their client. In the past, they have been willing to go very far indeed. I can only wish the best to those resisting Russian domination in what seems to be an honest cause.