A Problem With External Reality

Mark Steyn, noting the degree to which the country shut its eyes to the world outside yesterday:
~George Orwell in a famous passage from 1984:
In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy.
Two plus two equals five. A severed head plus "Allahu Akbar!" equals "Nothing to do with Islam." Network screenings of Gone With The Wind plus Uncle Ben's rice equals blatant incitement to mass murder. A nice chichi gay couple at 27 Elm Street and a firebreathing imam and his four child brides at 29 Elm Street equals the social harmony of a multiculti utopia.

Where is this story headed?... What Marx called the internal contradictions of capitalism have nothing on those of "diversity".

And so the leader of the free world lights the White House LGBT as the tourist corpses are removed from their sunbeds.

Then Why Issue The Report At All?

Kissing up to Iran: that's a job for the most dishonorable man in America. Fortunately, he's the Secretary of State.
A report issued Thursday by the Department of State repeatedly refers to sex reassignment surgery in Iran as “gender-confirmation surgery.”

Speaking at the release of the State Department’s annual human rights report, Secretary of State John Kerry said of the designation that “There is nothing sanctimonious in this,” emphasizing the need for “humility” in the face of the U.S.’ own racial inequality.
So, is the point that this is a human rights abuse or not? The US government also engages in "gender-confirmation surgery," particularly of prisoners like Bradley Manning, but generally only on request. We apparently wouldn't want to be sanctimonious about Iran doing it by force, under threat of death for noncompliance. So why bring it up at all?

They must really want this deal bad. Such a deal it is, too.

A Nice Piece

From Small Wars Journal.

Animal PR

What modern animals would look like if we drew them the way we reconstruct dinosaurs.

The spice trade

How to create a black market in salt, pepper, and sugar, and incidentally nurture some budding adolescent entrepreneurs.  We'll need special SWAT teams next.

The focus is supposed to be on "hungry, needy kids," but I suspect this model would start working only if they could get some hungrier, needier kids.  Traditionally the approach worked well with hospitals, jails, and abusive orphanages.  These kids get to leave the premises every afternoon, so there's a limit to how far you can jack with them.

Apologizing for Slavery

Will the Democratic Party officially apologize for supporting slavery and the Klan, asks the American Spectator? The history is doubtless known to all of you, but perhaps not in the detail spelled out in this article.

The idea of an apology and formal repudiation of slavery is not a bad one. I assume this part is a nonstarter:
And instead of raising all those millions for the next election? How about raising some millions from all your rich donors to pay black Americans for the damage you have done to them since the inception of your slavery/segregation and race-based party in 1800? Damage that has now, yet again, brought violence and tragedy from someone inspired by your ugly history. It would seem, at a minimum, that now is the time to apologize for — instead of ignore or hide — that history.
It's a new idea for reparations that I haven't heard before, associated with the party most responsible and most interested in them. I'd be willing to chip in.

All of my early American political heroes have a slavery problem, especially the big three: Washington, Jefferson, and James Jackson of Georgia. Washington and James Jackson were both heroic men of noble ideas and personal courage, men who believed in and lived the principles of limited republican government. Jefferson and James Jackson were men who believed in a society that still makes sense to me today, a society that supports a greater degree of liberty for people economically as well as politically by supporting small farmers and businesses in which people own their own means of production. Jackson in particular ran personal risks and paid a personal price to bring about such a society in Georgia. Two of these men, Jefferson and Jackson, were founding figures in the Democratic Party.

And yet all three of these men, and many others for whom a great deal that is good can be said, were not just owners of slaves but supporters of the practice. Jefferson was certainly alarmed by slavery as an institution -- he called it 'having a wolf by the ears' -- but just because he was afraid of the consequences of ending it he made no steps to do so. Rather to the shame of the American Revolution, several of Washington's hundreds of slaves effected their escape and gained their freedom by fleeing to a nearby British warship. Like the American Revolution itself, we want to endorse it and these men wholeheartedly -- but we have to say, somehow, "except for slavery." We have to sever that tie, at least conceptually, in order to see the good in them and in what they did.

One cannot apologize for them, but the institution might formally make apology for itself. Perhaps it ought to do so.

UPDATE: In a related story, the Pope apologized this week for the Church's persecution of a Christian sect called the Waldensians during the 15th century.
The Waldensians, who now live mostly in Italy and Latin America, were founded by Peter Waldo in France in the late 12th century. He gave up his wealth and preached poverty but as the movement grew it came into increasing theological conflict with the papacy. The movement, an early precursor of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, was branded as heretical and in 1487 Pope Innocent VIII ordered its extermination. Some 1,700 Waldensians were killed in 1655 by Catholic forces commanded by the Duke of Savoy....

During a visit to Jerusalem in 2000, Francis' predecessor Pope John Paul II asked forgiveness from Jews for their persecution by Catholics over the centuries.
There isn't any very good reason the Democratic Party couldn't do the same.

Things You Are Not Allowed To Say Or Do

A helpful guide from the University of Wisconsin.

I have trouble taking some of their examples seriously. "That's so White of you"? I read that in a book, once. I have a sense that it was Greenmantle or The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, though I can't find it in the etexts of either book.

Others are very strange. It's a microaggression that there is an overabundance of liquor stores in "communities of color"? I assume the liquor stores are there because it's profitable for them, so the abundance (or lack thereof) is within the community's control (even lacking zoning laws). Furthermore, what sense does it make to describe this as a microaggression? No one decides to create an "overabundance" of liquor stores: they decide to open one more. If they are misjudging the community's demand for liquor, the punishment will be delivered naturally by the market via the loss of their investment.

Certainly people should be courteous. I wouldn't want to be misunderstood as advocating discourtesy. Still, part of courtesy lies in not willfully giving offense, and another part lies in not willfully taking offense where none was intended.

More on Brotherhood

Via a friend on FB, there have been four more black churches burned in the last week. I wouldn't normally link to Daily KOS, but this issue transcends such matters.

Disparate impact

This eventful week's third blockbuster Supreme Court decision mostly upheld the use of "disparate impact" arguments in housing discrimination cases, but nevertheless prohibited the quota system.

The case arose out of accusations that Texas officials had violated the Fair Housing Act by awarding federal tax credits in a way that kept low-income housing out of white neighborhoods. The Fair Housing Act bans discrimination “because of race”; Kennedy concluded that it therefore “may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping,” absent a showing of deliberate racial discrimination. The ruling is consistent with the Court's previous interpretations of two other antidiscrimination statutes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

A new and important restriction on the use of disparate impact, however, is that the plaintiff must show a causal relationship between the defendant's action and the resulting statistical anomaly; the bare anomaly is insufficient. If the causal link is there, the plaintiff need not show proof of state of mind:
A disparate-impact claim relying on a statistical disparity must fail if the plaintiff cannot point to a defendant’s policy or policies causing that disparity. A robust causality requirement is important in ensuring that defendants do not resort to the use of racial quotas.... Policies, whether governmental or private, are not contrary to the disparate-impact requirement unless they are “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers.”... Remedial orders in disparate-impact cases should concentrate on the elimination of the offending practice, and courts should strive to design race-neutral remedies. Remedial orders that impose racial targets or quotas might raise difficult constitutional questions.
This approach is just about exactly the basis of Edith Jones's decision below in the Fifth Circuit, so yay, Edith, as usual.

Justice Alito mischievously pointed out that minimum-wage laws could rightfully be accused of disparate impact.


For those of you who'd like to read the decision instead of the commentary. The ruling is that no state may prohibit same-sex marriages; as a natural consequence, each state must recognize same-sex marriages authorized by other states. The right to same-sex marriages is ruled a fundamental right, with which (under the 14th amendment) the states cannot interfere without due process of law. (The Fifth Amendment places the equivalent restriction on the federal government.)

I would call it a privacy-penumbra case, squarely in line with Griswold v. Connecticut, which forbad the state to interfere in a married couple's decision to use contraception.  That is, it seems to be based less on identity politics than on limiting the government's right to interfere in intensely private intimate relations--but maybe that's just the part of the reasoning that resonates best with me.  Bear in mind also that it is a restriction on state power, not a prohibition of individual discrimination, which is a creature of statute.  That is a controversy that will continue to rage, especially since this decision neither expressed nor disavowed a First Amendment ground for refusing to participate in a wedding ceremony that violates one's religious convictions.  The Court did say that religious institutions have a first amendment right to advocate against same sex marriage. Roberts is leery of protections that are limited to advocacy: "The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to 'exercise' religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses." What will happen, he wonders, "when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples"?  Alito echoed these concerns, but mostly in terms of a fear of branding opponents as bigots unless they confined their opposition to private whispers.

Roberts read aloud a dissent in which he appeared to welcome gay marriage but deplore the decision to get there by judicial fiat rather than democratic process. (Those of us with memories extending beyond 24 hours may be amused by this comment from Justice Roberts: "But this Court is not a legislature.") In contrast, the majority opinion stated "While the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, individuals who are harmed need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right." Roberts also makes the slippery-slope argument: "It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage."

Scalia read aloud a dissent that was dripping with contempt for the legal reasoning of the majority:
If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.
Thomas balked at including homosexuality within "life, liberty, or property," and scoffed at the sloppy grafting of due-process on equal-protection jurisprudence by means of the dreaded "synergy."

A Month of Disasters for the Infidels

Coordinated attacks in France, Kuwait, and Tunisia. The attacks combined with a propaganda statement calling for a month of disaster for infidels seems to recognize the burgeoning US/Iran alliance that our administration is intending to leave as its major foreign policy legacy. The most deadly attack was on a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait, but the attack in France was on an American-owned chemical plant, where at least one person was decapitated. The attempt to destroy the plant did not succeed. I would like to know more about how they planned to destroy it: chemical plants could be destroyed in ways that cause much greater damage than simply shutting down the equipment.

The world keeps insistently knocking at the door.

The Queen's Guard

"His gun is jammed," the observer states, suggesting that the misunderstanding of the situation here was even greater than it appears.

One wonders how long this beloved British tradition of having the guards ignore tourist antics (to the point of being laid hands on) will continue. The guard is a symbol of the Queen's authority, and a symbol of the state. In the age of terrorism, that makes them a target for those wanting to send a symbolic message of their own. The guard here was righteous and correct in his response.

Rule of law

OK, I'll talk about the words even if the concept of meaning has taken a small beating this week.

You know, if they'd said "state exchanges," I could see the argument for ambiguity. That might mean either "an exchange operating in a state" or "an exchange established by a state, as opposed to one established by the feds." How anyone can think "exchange established by a state" is ambiguous in a statute that involves both kinds is really beyond me, particular with evidence that the whole point was to give states an irresistible incentive to set up their own exchanges and not dump the task onto the feds. The states' refusal to set up their own exchanges became a conceivable choice only after the S. Ct. struck down the Medicaid penalty as too coercive, which is the main reason the remaining law now strikes many people as "internally contradictory." That is, it always was a little bizarre that state exchanges would be denied subsidies, but no one paid much attention because they could barely entertain the notion that it would ever happen--and it never would have happened, in all likelihood, until Justice Roberts re-wrote the ACA the first time.

The only way to read "exchange established by a state" as "exchange established by anyone you like" is to demand a certain result and twist the words and standards as necessary. Which is pretty much what the majority opinion announced it was doing: it said the plaintiffs' interpretation was right, but going along with it would be too inconvenient.  So the trial court said the language was unambiguous and meant what the White House said. The appellate court said it was ambiguous but meant what the White House said. The Supreme Court said the most obvious reading was that it meant the opposite of what the White House said, but it would be re-interpreted that way anyway because we wish Congress had written something different or at least had employed competent draftsmen.

This doesn't surprise anyone about the liberal judges or even Kennedy. Many of us hoped that Roberts's bizarre "it's a tax/it's a floor wax" approach the last time around was an aberration, but now we see it wasn't, at least not when the stakes are high.

A commenter I appreciate at Megan McArdle's site has been asking people for months now to provide her with an example of improved language that would make "exchange established by a state" unambiguous, if your purpose was to make it clear that exchanges established by the feds would not be eligible for subsidies.  She never gets any takers.  The most frequent response amounts to "Huh?"

There's been a lot of yelling back and forth about U.S. v. Gore and Heller and Citizens United and whether rightwingers are really consistent about precision of language. I won't for one instant try to argue that you can resolve constitutional disputes without dealing with flexibility and ambiguity in the use of language, especially centuries-old language with a long history and a complicated context. But King v. Burwell was a statutory interpretation case. That's a special animal, where we have precise and useful tools for deciding when the judicial branch should intrude on the legislative branch's prerogatives. The rule is: first the language has to be ambiguous, and only then can you consider the drafters' intent.  That's not just my personal opinion of the rule; it's the formulation of the rule confirmed by the majority opinion in King. v. Burwell.  If the language is not ambiguous, but the law still stinks and is unworkable, you send it back to Congress for fixing.  If Congress has changed its mind in the meantime, tough.

In this case, I personally would have found the drafters' intent a slam-dunk once Gruber shot his mouth off, but let's assume he was lying when he first shot his mouth off and not when he retracted all his previous statements. The fact is, we shouldn't be looking at intent at all, because the argument that the language in question is ambiguous is laughable. Yes, it's "only five words in a 2,000-page bill," but they happen to be the only five words in 2,000 pages that bear directly on the point in dispute. Very, very disappointing, even for someone with no illusions about the Supreme Court consisting of saintly and courageous geniuses.

Ho Chi Minh Posters Are Still On Sale on Ebay

They are. And Che, of course.

Polls on the Flag

We've heard a lot about what the media, business, and political classes think about the flag issue. What we haven't heard about is what the people of South Carolina think. The last time this issue was decided it was done by a deeply contentious debate in which both sides argued their positions forcefully, and when compromise was finally reached they locked it in with a guarantee that it would only be altered if there was a 2/3rds majority vote in favor.

It looks like we're close to that.
Am I right that this is the first major poll taken since the beginning of Flagmania last week?... The crosstabs unfortunately don’t break down the numbers by region and race. It’s useful to know what white Americans and black Americans think, and it’s useful to know what southerners think compared to people from other regions. But there’s no way to tell how white southerners differ from black southerners on this subject, apart from a tidbit that YouGov discloses in its summary: White southerners continue to tilt heavily in favor of seeing the flag as a symbol of southern pride rather than racism, 53/20. Among black Americans generally (not just southerners), the split on the same question is … 3/70.
I don't know what a 'major poll' is, but there's another one more focused on South Carolina that's posted in the last day.
Sixty percent of likely voters surveyed by Rassmussen Reports said the flag should not be displayed at the South Carolina capitol, while 21 percent said it should. Eighteen percent are undecided.... A plurality of Republican voters (46 percent) said the flag should not fly at the statehouse, and a majority (76 percent) of Democrats agree. Although the majority of likely voters agree the flag should not fly there, they are split on whether it is a symbol of Southern heritage (43 percent) or hatred (39 percent).... Party lines also correlate with differing interpretations of what the Confederate flag represents. A majority of Republicans (64 percent) said it represents Southern heritage, while a majority of Democrats (57 percent) said it is a symbol of hatred.
That sounds like an adequate apology for the Republican majority legislature to go ahead with it. It's a complete concession by one side of the old debate, however: not a new compromise, but a surrender of the position. I hope this is received as I am sure it is intended: as a gift of something precious to the conceding side, intended to show honor and respect for the victims of the recent shooting, and to their community which has responded so gracefully.


You may have seen Ed Driscoll making fun of a movement to question what liberals will ban next, given the week's successes. Upworthy responds with a list of fast food places you 'aren't allowed' to eat at any more, along with explanations of why not.

Papa John's -- because their founder was critical of the ACA. Sonic -- because they don't pay minimum wage, leaving their wait staff to rely on tips. Wendy's -- which actually pays above minimum wage, but not enough above, and they don't allow tips. Chick-Fil-A! "OMIGOD, you guys, you can absolutely never, ever, ever eat at Chick-fil-A."

If we can't drive people who disagree with us politically into abject economic poverty -- so that they can be forced into line, by having to choose between starving and making themselves subject to the corporate discipline of a responsible company like Walmart (wait! When did Walmart stop being the enemy of everything good? This is really new, right? But Hillary Clinton has an important attachment to it in her past, so...) -- if we can't do that, how will we ever achieve justice?

"A Shot to the Heart"

An Army Ranger responds to Charleston, with reflections also on the loss of friends in the wars.

A Flag That Should Definitely Be Changed

England selects a banner for its Women's World Cup team.

Totally inappropriate content warning, but it's seriously an official banner.

Overturning Revolutions

In keeping with the discussion around Tex's post, a story from Russia:
Vladimir Putin 'wants' to reinstate the Russian royal family and move them into an ancient palace once occupied by the last Tsar Nicholas II.

The move proposed by Vladimir Petrov, a law maker from Putin's party, has prompted speculation that it has the Russian leader's direct approval.... The legislator has written letters to the heirs of the Romanov dynasty, which ruled the country for two centuries before the abdication of last Tsar Nicholas II ahead of two revolutions in 1917.... Petrov has written to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and Prince Dimitri Romanovich urging them to return to Russia to become symbols of national culture in order to "revive the spiritual power of Russian people".

The leaked letter read: "Throughout the history of its reign, the Imperial dynasty of the Romanovs was one of the pillars of Russia's sovereignty."

The country now "goes through a difficult process of restoring the country's greatness and returning its global influence" and "members of the Romanov House cannot stay aloof from the processes taking place in Russia now at such an important historical moment".
Since this whole 'revolution against royalty' thing is so associated with disaster, I suppose it makes a kind of sense. The Soviet disaster was far worse than any of ours, and from the Russian perspective, that's the high point of subsequent history. Perhaps they'll adopt the old Russian flag, which is better looking than their French-Revolution-inspired tricolor.


The worst thing about slavery was, well, slavery.  A distant second bad thing was that in the mid-19th century, Americans with deep convictions about dual sovereignty and limitations on federal power picked slavery as the ideal test case.  As a result, the lesson generations of Americans took from their struggle was that, if you give some people too much sovereignty, they'll use it to perpetuate horrifying schemes like slavery, thus undermining their supposed allegiance to the concept of freedom. Ergo, maybe this freedom experiment has gone too far.

One of the best ways to lose your freedom is to abuse it.  It's never a natural or foregone conclusion.  As Walter Hudson said today,
Therefore, when I look at the Confederate battle flag as a black libertarian, I see tragedy for all parties concerned. I see the history of racism and human indignity which motivates the current debate. But I also see the loss of state sovereignty which compromised the Founding Fathers vision for republican government. To the extent people choose to fly the Confederate flag in honor of that latter heritage, I can’t fault them.
That said, let’s be clear why state sovereignty was lost. It was lost because the southern states delegitimized it.

No running for the shadows

One of the things I like most about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is that he doesn't let media cycles spook him off of the stands he's taken on principle.  This week he signed two new gunowner-rights bills into law.

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare subsidies

With Roberts and Kennedy joining the majority, 6-3.

Update:  Scalia calls it "SCOTUScare."

The opinion is here.  I could read it, but if words don't mean anything, why bother?


For what it's worth, I heard a version of this argument from a Human Terrain Team social scientist who happened to be female. She put on a hijab to go out and talk to Muslim women in Iraq. What most surprised her, she told me, was the way in which it stopped soldiers from treating her as a sexual being. It's a strange fact, since it's just a piece of cloth, but for whatever reason covering the hair and head somehow disconnected the sex drive even in young soldiers long deployed at war and forbidden other avenues of sexual relief.

So maybe there's something to it. Perhaps a symbol, under the right circumstances, doesn't have to mean what we ordinarily expect it to mean. Perhaps a lot has to do, as she says, with the choice of the person who wields it.

In any case, the social scientist I knew kind of liked the effect. She didn't wear it otherwise, probably because everyone would have thought it a bit weird. But she did like the effect it had on the young soldiers around her.

To Speak Like A Man

Jim Webb, though a Southerner and a man whose family has strong Confederate roots, adopted a modest and respectful posture in his comment on the flag matters. William Kristol, himself a Lincoln and Sherman man -- a very decent guy and a serious thinker, whom I met in Jerusalem and who might even have been thinking of our conversation in his limited defense today -- found Webb's comment to be refreshingly adult. He mentions Lincoln's second inaugural: "With malice toward none, with charity for all." I notice Webb did not undertake a vigorous defense of the flag, nor call for it to remain in place. Rather, he calls for calm, reflection, and mutual understanding. Allahpundit says it is enough to disqualify him, should he be serious about running for the Democratic nomination. Hopefully not. It is welcome, sober, and proper. The resolution of the disposition of the flag can be discussed in time, he seems to say: what matters now is to be respectful, to remember our brotherhood.

Perhaps not by accident he also published a short story today, which comes out of his time in Vietnam. It begins with a child asking his grandfather a question on the way to church. It's a question only a child should ask: did you ever kill a man?
“We’ll talk about it on the lake.” He attempted a joke. “I grew up with Ernest Hemingway. And Hemingway said you aren’t supposed to feel bad about it.”

“Who is Ernest Hemingway?”

“Some writer who never killed anybody. Except himself.”
The discussion in the story quickly turns philosophical, which suggests a ground for Webb's -- and Lincoln's -- call for an absence of malice and a focus on charity. It is a seriousness of mind entirely refreshing at the present hour. It reminds me, once again, of why I often wish for veterans of proven valor more often to seek public office.

Liberty By Law

In the run-up to my sister's wedding and the trip around it, I somehow allowed it to slip my mind that we were passing the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
But, to give it its full name, Magna Carta Libertatum (my italics - I don't think they had 'em back then) gets it the right way round. It was in some respects a happy accident. In 1215, a bunch of chippy barons were getting fed up with King John. In those days, in such circumstances, the malcontents would usually replace the sovereign with a pliable prince who'd be more attentive to their grievances. But, having no such prince to hand, the barons were forced to be more inventive, and so they wound up replacing the King with an idea, and the most important idea of all - that even the King is subject to the law.

On this 800th anniversary, that's a lesson worth re-learning. Restraints on state power are increasingly unfashionable among the heirs to Magna Carta: in America, King Barack decides when he wakes up of a morning what clauses of ObamaCare or US immigration law he's willing to observe or waive according to royal whim; his heir, Queen Hillary, operates on the principle that laws are for the other 300 million Americans, not her. In the birthplace of Magna Carta, a few miles from that meadow at Runnymede, David Cameron's constabulary leans on newsagents to cough up the names and addresses of troublesome citizens who've committed the crime of purchasing Charlie Hebdo.

The symbolism was almost too perfect when Mr Cameron went on TV with David Letterman, and was obliged to admit that he had no idea what the words "Magna Carta" meant. Magna Carta Libertatum: The Great Charter of Liberties.

Taxation Without Representation

Just as the House called a vote on Fast Track authority as the Charleston shooting became the focus of everyone's attention, it cleared the Senate's procedural barriers while no one is looking. We still don't know what it is our elected leaders are giving the President authority to do, but the last real chance to stop it (whatever it is) will be the up or down vote on the treaty. However, because of the Fast Track authority, that will be a simple majority vote -- not the two-thirds majority normally required to approve a major treaty.

This is not unique. On the Iran deal, Congress managed to work the system out so that a mere one-third of either chamber will suffice to approve whatever the President signs. Yet what little we have heard about this deal indicates that it involves a surrender of major sections of American sovereignty to foreign institutions over which voters have no control. It is taxation without representation, in other words: a betrayal of the very last, and very first, principle for which our Revolution was fought.
Everyone wants more ‘global cooperation’ but no one wants to let Big Pharma stamp out generic drugs or let Big Tobacco tell us how they’ll label their products. And no one wants some secretive global tribunal telling a state legislature how to govern. If there’s an easier case to make, I’ve never seen it. You may ask why every Democrat in Congress doesn’t make it, but we’ve gone over that. Whether they’re in thrall to their donors, their consultants, their leaders or their ambitions, whoever or whatever holds them back, they just can’t do it.
The Republicans, on the other hand, have been full-throttle in support of this, with the honorable exception of Jeff Sessions from Alabama. 'Whether they're in thrall to their donors, their consultants, their leaders or their ambitions,' the Republican party has worked harder than anyone except the President to betray the Founders and surrender American sovereignty to foreign courts.

The last vote will doubtless also occur as a surprise rush during a crisis that attracts Americans' attention elsewhere. We need to spread the word and make sure people's attention is focused on this issue, and that they are ready to deal with it at whatever black midnight it is rushed to the floor. This vote will be the last chance.

Against the Iran Deal

A surprising unity of opinion, from the right to the left, is that the Iran deal is dangerous. It offers us nothing in return for offering them everything they wanted, including cutting edge nuclear technology.

What a legacy this would leave.


Death to the General Lee.

It's a beautiful sentiment. We'll just kill the whole damn thing.

Funny thing about this particular aspect. The Dukes of Hazzard was never about the issues of race. It did have a tie back to the postwar Southern mythology, though. Boss Hogg was an emblem for those Democrats, especially like Joseph Emerson Brown, who screwed up the war politically and then profited off its aftermath by aligning themselves with the northern banks ("carpetbaggers") who turned the South into a colonial economy. Enforcing a destructive cotton monoculture, they reduced free farmers into sharecroppers or tenet farmers, and extracted wealth to New York in a manner exactly similar to the colonial economics afflicting much of Latin America at the time. It also destroyed the soil, as cotton is a hugely destructive crop if farmed year after year without a break. But you had to farm it, year after year, to get the loans they would otherwise not offer.

It's not for no reason that Alabama is the home to the only statue ever raised in praise of an insect. The boll weevil did what no human could do in sixty years: it broke the back of cotton monoculture and all its allied evils. It was the beginning of a new birth, after sixty years of incredibly punishing descent into poverty at the hands of the colonial masters.

Once that sort of story was important to the left, but they have forgotten.

Anticolonialism is still a major feature of the same left that is driving this particular moment. They don't see the irony here because they don't know enough about the history to see it. Yet the Duke Boys were far more an expression of authentic American anti-colonialism than ever of racism or -- good Lord -- of "treason."

UPDATE: James Taranto, of all people:

"It does feel a bit like the collapse of Eastern European communism in 1989, although one doesn’t want to overstate the analogy."

Indeed, one wouldn't want to do that.

The Russian Bear and... Texas??

Politico has a strange story. I suppose it's a trick worthy of an old-school KGB guy like Putin to stoke secessionist feeling in an enemy nation, but it's a little surprising to find that anyone in Texas would go along with it once it was openly Russian support they were receiving.
Nor is Texas the lone region for which Russia has cast secessionist support since the Crimean seizure. Venice, Scotland, Catalonia—the Russian media have voiced fervent support for secession in all these Western allies. (Of course, Moscow’s mantra—secession for thee, but not for me—means you’d be hard-pressed to find any Russian official offering support for Siberian, Tatar, or Chechen independence.) “Since the destabilization of the West is on Russia’s agenda, they may try to reach out to the U.S. separatists,” Anton Shekhovtsov, a researcher on Moscow’s links to far-right movements in Europe, told me. Russia wants a “deepening of social divisions in the American society, destabilizing the internal political life.”
Good news! That seems to be right at the top of our own agenda.

Folklorist, Heal Thyself

A fellow named John E. Price -- who describes himself as "a folklorist and doctoral candidate in American Studies," as well as "an award-winning lecturer in American Studies and Communications" -- has penned a contribution to the debate on the Confederate flag with the nuanced title "Yes, You're a Racist -- and a Traitor."

I don't really want to debate the merits of the Confederate flag right now. I think what's really important is showing brotherhood at a time when there have been multiple attacks, not just the infamous one, on black churches in the last week. I'm going to go through the exercise purely in the hope that it will help with that project, by giving reason to believe that most of the ordinary people who like the Confederate flag are not motivated by racism or hatred. That misperception may be alienating. If the proper work of the moment is brotherhood, it might be helpful to increase understanding.

Myself, I don't fly the Confederate flag. This is not because I personally view it as a symbol of racism, but out of respect for black Southerners I might meet for whom it is. I once turned down membership in a local motorcycle club -- a fun, family-oriented group that rides locally -- because their patch featured a Confederate flag (as well as an American flag and an eagle). None of them intended that to be threatening or off-putting to anyone. It was just part of a collection of patriotic symbols, an expression of regional as well as national patriotism. Patriotism, not treason.

It's silly to describe people flying the Confederate flag as "traitors" as if they themselves were waging war on the government. It's a serious question whether the battle flag is even a symbol of treason: the victors in the war prosecuted almost no one on that charge, and not people who fought under that flag but Northerners who took steps against their government without formally joining the rebellion. A thoughtful historian might question whether there's something about the American project itself, begun in rebellion against a sitting government to whose authority the authors had long submitted, that licenses revolution under certain circumstances. To be a traitor to the American project might sometimes better be done by submitting to authority than by resisting it. As historian William C. Davis explores at length, the founders of the Confederacy clearly saw themselves as the immediate heirs of Washington, Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers (many also slave-owners, who also wrote special protections for slavery into their constitution). One condemns them at some peril of condemning the American project itself, in which case it is hard to assert a ground on which loyalty to the American government is praiseworthy. This is especially true since the North did not undertake the war with the mission of destroying slavery, even if the South undertook the war to preserve it.

But those are questions for historians and philosophers. A folklorist should be interested in folklore, and what characterizes folklore is the way that symbols and meanings change over time. The original meaning of the symbol is beside the point. The fact that the generation that lost the Civil War rallied around it for honorable reasons after the war is beside the point. Those people have been dead for a hundred years. The question in folklore is: what do people mean by it today?

If you are a white Southerner of 60 or 70 years old, you came of age during the battles over segregation. For you, the flag's meaning is that it was about support for segregation, and you remember a South in which your parents' generation supported that policy so strongly that they drove every government official out of office who wasn't openly and vocally committed to it. But your generation was the first generation that questioned that policy. You went to schools that were being integrated. If you went into government, like the sheriff interviewed by VS Naipaul in his book A Turn in the South, you were the generation that turned things around. Unlike the sheriff at Selma, Sheriff Walraven used his deputies and volunteers to protect the civil rights marchers from the Klan -- and he did it while wearing the 1956 Georgia flag, Confederate battle flag and all, on his uniform's shoulder. That flag is his flag as much as it is anybody else's.

If instead you are 40 years old (and more than half of Americans are 40 or under), you were a child when one of the most popular television shows for children was The Dukes of Hazzard. That's probably your first association with the flag. The battles of segregation were already over before you ever became a schoolchild. If you were born in the South, you grew up with the flags adopted during the segregation battle long after that particular meaning had ceased to be important. The flags were just on the poles, without comment, except that they were the flags of home. So your basic associations as a child were a playful, cheerful television show without any trace of hate or racism, and home. As you grew up, if you grew up in the South, you learned about Lynyrd Skynyrd, who flew the flag as they sang "Sweet Home Alabama." There are references to the struggle over segregation in the song, but they are coded, and if you don't study the history you'll never know they are there.

If instead you are 20 years, even that stuff is ancient history. You might have seen The Dukes of Hazzard in syndication; otherwise, it is a not-very-great movie you probably didn't see. Classic rock stations are on the radio everywhere in America, so you probably know the Skynyrd song. Until you get old enough to encounter the stuff in history classes, you probably don't know anything else about the flag except that there was a war once, and this was the flag people from your home fought under. You see it around sometimes, and if you travel out of the South you don't see it.

What these people mean by the flag has nothing to do with racism, and certainly nothing to do with treason. Far from having waged war against their country, they're disproportionately likely to have fought war for the country: the South provides 40% of the volunteer military.

They're probably guilty of being insensitive. (But so is the guy who labels people 'traitors' on the basis of a protected act of free speech he hasn't bothered to understand.) They may instead be guilty of being ignorant, to the degree that they haven't studied the history and learned to consider the past associations of the symbol. There are a few who are guilty of racism, and who have sought out the flag to try to carry that meaning forward. Yet a committed racist like the Charleston killer could find no one to join him in his program: no skinheads, he wrote mournfully, and no Klan. I myself, living in rural Georgia, haven't seen anyone in a Klan uniform in decades. I assume you could search them out with effort, but they have vanished from the everyday texture of the South.

We haven't yet seen the outcome of the debate in South Carolina and Mississippi on the flag. In Georgia, our debate began with Democratic Governor Zell Miller trying (and failing) to remove the battle flag in the 1990s, and his Republican successor succeeding. The fact that we've elected political leadership that would attempt such a debate -- and conservative leaders, in the South -- ought to encourage even those for whom the flag has powerful and negative associations only. Racism is a very great evil, the worst evil brought by the Modern age, but it has lost a great deal of its strength. People for whom the flag has no negative associations, for whom it is nothing but a flag of home, are willing to consider setting it aside out of respect for the feelings of others. However the debate ends, that alone should be taken as a sign of increasing brotherhood between black and white Southerners. That is surely a good thing.

The Bandidos' Attorney Speaks

According to RUMINT, there were very few Bandidos at the shootout in Waco. They were the victims, strictly speaking, just because they were so few and were therefore set upon. Their attorney has put out a statement.
[T}he Bandidos demand that all video evidence and autopsy reports be released immediately to clear up the damaging misinformation that is running wild.

The following is true and correct:

1) The Bandidos were at the Twin Peaks restaurant to attend an organized political meeting and nothing else. A regional meeting for the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents (a bona fide political organization centered on Constitutional rights) was scheduled, and a prominent member of the Bandidos was the key-note speaker at the meeting. This Bandido key-note speaker was to report on the National Coalition of Motorcyclist event that occurred weeks earlier. Because COCI members from across the state were expected to attend this special meeting, it was purposefully scheduled in Waco, TX, a central city between Austin and Dallas.

2) The Bandidos have no knowledge of any other meeting. The Bandidos are aware that members of other motorcycle clubs are claiming that there were plans to meet with the Bandidos in Waco, TX on May 17, 2015. This claim is not true.

3) All weapons in possession of members the Bandidos were legally owned and carried.

4) Members of the Bandidos were not aggressors, did not start the altercation, did not strike first, were not the first to pull weapons, and were not the first to use weapons. The majority of the Bandidos took cover, and all involvement in the altercation by members of the Bandidos was in self-defense. Texas law allows people to defend themselves with the same amount of force that is exerted against them, and a few members of the Bandidos acted in accordance with these laws. In fact, members of the Bandidos involved in the incident did not even have time or opportunity to get off of their motorcycles before police came in.
This last bit counters RUMINT, which has suggested heretofore that the Cossacks fired some rounds, and the police fired the rest. The Bandidos seem to be confessing to firing at least some rounds, albeit in self-defense.

"Reality Seems Determined to Put the Onion out of Business"

So says Sarah Hoyt, also due a hat tip for the last post. She's right. It's been a very bad year for reality.

Don Qwhotie?

Never could get into the book myself. It's about mocking the best thing in the world, although I'm told that if you stick with it it gets better: the fools brought on board in the early part become increasingly attached to the thing worth upholding at any cost, though the Don who held it so high finally loses heart. Stories about losing heart in such men break mine, for they are so easy to believe. It is the worst danger of the world, that you might cease to believe in the things worth dying for.

Riding It Out

Randy Howard was the name of a country singer who sang about the glories of the "American Redneck."

Following a failure to appear before a court on charges of DUI, driving on a revoked license, and various other things, the court's bail bondsman sent a bounty hunter to track him down and bring him back. He opened fire on the bounty hunter, and that man killed him.

It's a very fitting end, all things considered.

James Horner, RIP

Remembered here mostly for his soundtrack for Braveheart, that least historically-faithful but nevertheless well-intentioned movie about Sir William Wallace: one of Scotland's greatest heroes, and the world's.

The soundtrack had strong moments.

The gentleman died piloting a single-engine aircraft, which is an honorable passtime just because of the danger and glory of flying on one's own.

Agents Provocateur

What if the former Secretary of State is working behind the scenes to destabilize Asia in order to provoke a crisis between the United States and China? So argues one China hand:
Now, of course, the DoD has a new boss—Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; and PACCOM has a new commander—Admiral Harry Harris, and the general consensus is that the muscular defense sector has wrestled China policy away from the milquetoastian White House. Interestingly, Admiral Harris was previously the Pentagon’s liaison to to the State Department under Hillary Clinton as well as John Kerry, which reinforces my impression that Hillary Clinton and her foreign policy advisors have pre-loaded China policy with her supporters, and I expect things to get ugly quickly so that the nasty and awkward business of starting the confrontation can be done under Obama before Clinton enters office.

As I put it elsewhere: Hillary wants to inherit her China crisis from Obama, not foment it herself.

Another One Down

A key Army commander in the U.S. war against the Islamic State has been reprimanded by the Pentagon for steering a defense contract to a firm run by two of his former classmates at West Point, becoming the latest high-ranking officer to land in trouble for personal misconduct. Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, who as the Army’s deputy commander for operations in the Middle East oversaw the training of Iraqi forces, was formally reprimanded in February.... An Army review board is considering whether to strip him of his rank as a two-star general before he is allowed to retire this year.
One wonders how you maintain a standard of discipline when, say, the previous Secretary of State was running the shop as a vehicle for just this kind of 'steering.' The Army holds itself and its own to a higher, better standard. Yet officially, the State Department is in the lead: to head the State Department is to be in the position of greater honor.

I suppose we will learn how this works a fortiori if we elect that same Secretary of State to the Presidency.

How to choose a lawyer

From "Emotional Vampires" by Albert Bernstein, good advice about how to hire a lawyer, in this case, a divorce lawyer:
Good lawyers should:
* Return calls promptly. I'm surprised at how many lawyers don't. I'm talking about calls during office hours. Never accept an attorney who doesn't get back to you for days, unless someone from the office contacts you to explain why. Even then, be skeptical. How long does a phone call take?
* Be more decisive than you are. Good lawyers should be polite, but not necessarily nice. The last thing you want is a lawyer who is too conflict-avoidant to deal effectively with the [a-hole] that your ex will hire. You want your lawyer to be stronger and more decisive than you are, not less.
* Be proactive. You do not want a lawyer who counsels you to wait to see what someone else does. The battle goes to whoever gets there first with the most. This is particularly true is matters of custody and visitation. Always ask an attorney what the overall plan is. If there is no overall plan, you don't have an attorney.

"Interstate Commerce" doesn't mean "You're a Sharecropper"

Though Court-watchers were disappointed not to see a ruling on the two hottest pending cases this morning, they were pleased to receive one on a "takings clause" case that has gotten less attention. Small-government types scored a win with Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the seizure of part of a farmer's raisin crop (nearly half in at least one year) constituted a "taking" that required due process as well as just compensation. In Orwellian fashion, the DOA had argued that they weren't really seizing the crop, because they permitted the farmer to retain a contingent interest in the proceeds of its later sale, at a time and price of the DOA's choosing. The Court sorted out that pretzel by observing that, once the crop is seized, any later payments come under the heading of "just compensation"--but the seizure itself still requires due process.

In further Orwellian fashion, the DOA had argued that the privilege of participating in interstate commerce is a benefit that the federal government may withhold unless the citizen waives constitutional rights. Of the nine Justices, only Sotomayor went for this one.

The ruling is interesting for the further reason that it clears up a controversy over whether "takings" jurisprudence is limited to real property; the Court held that it applies to personal property as well.

The raisin-confiscation program dated from the Depression and, like so many DOA plans, was intended to support prices. Justice Scalia noted, "Central planning was thought to work very well in 1937, and Russia tried it for a long time."

No Obamacare or same-sex marriage rulings today

Per Scotus blog a few minutes ago:
For those of you who have just logged in, there was no ruling today (and will not be any ruling today) on same-sex marriage or ACA subsidies. The Court has finished for the day.
So you can ignore all the teasers on the TV and the net. UPDATE: But more decisions will be announced on Thursday, June 25, and perhaps again on the 29th.


Someday, I want to go to one of this guy's parties.
Thousands of people have congregated at Stonehenge to mark the summer solstice....

Arthur Uther Pendragon, who claims to be a reincarnation of King Arthur, was there to knight new followers to his druidic order – the Loyal Arthurian Warband – which he described as the political wing of the religion.

"We're the ones who get into trees to stop roadbuilding and take on people like English Heritage over access to the stones. We're sworn to fight for truth, for honour and for justice," he told The Guardian.
He reminds me of a late friend of mine, greatly missed since he passed on a few years ago.

Is it terrorism?

That's not going to be an easy question to answer until we figure out what we mean by terrorism.  The term used to refer to violence perpetrated against non-combatants by groups not obviously associated with an identifiable army, for the purpose of persuading the populace that it will be too dangerous to give their political support to a particular regime.  Lately the definition has mushed into something more like "deplorable and scary public violence by relatively crazy people who may have had a somewhat coherent political or social axe to grind."

Kareem Abdul Jabbar stuck to a fairly workable definition in his Times oped today:
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not this was a terrorist act. Terrorism is a political tool that has a specific goal. Terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan want to drive Americans out of their countries. Terrorists in other countries do it for the same reason: to gain political power. After an hour at the prayer meeting, Dylann Roof stood up and proclaimed that he was there “to shoot black people.” His rambling manifesto during the shootings was: “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” In his mind he was a terrorist, but in reality this was nothing more than hate crime using terrorist tactics to enact his racist fantasy. Roof had no hope of driving African Americans out of the country, starting a race war or engendering any political or social change at all. We shouldn’t use it as an excuse to discuss terrorism because that diverts us from the actual problem.
Unfortunately he then returned to the useless "terrorism is whenever people do bad stuff" definition in urging us not to "allow this incident to be used as a political football by those who hope to leverage it to their gain, which is a more subtle form of terrorism: media terrorism." Granted that human beings often use incidents as political football for their own gain, calling such use terrorism is only silly. Jabbar was on a more promising track when he implied that the hallmark of terrorism was the hope of using violent tactics against ordinary (typically unarmed) citizens to engender a political or social change. Roof didn't look like a guy who hoped that the public murder of a number of black people would cause a mass exodus of black people from the United States, or even that fellow travelers would rise up and murder all the black people he couldn't get to personally. He was just a nut who thought the evils of the United States could be pinned on a particular ethnic group, who were therefore proper targets of his personal extermination program. Jabbar had another good point, I thought, in disparaging any attempt to view Roof's rampage as targeting Christians. If Roof had been completely silent, I might buy that as a plausible alternative, but his own words make it pretty clear that his problem with the prayer meeting wasn't the prayer but the race of the praying people.

Allahpundit analyzes the New York Times's take, which is that the dictionary definition of terrorism is "the use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate and subjugate, especially such use as a political weapon or policy." The "especially" leaves enough wiggle room to make this definition so all-inclusive as to be useless. When there is clear evidence of scary force as a political weapon or policy, I'm comfortable calling it terrorism; without that qualifier, we'd have to include a very large chunk of all violence, from domestic abuse to gang warfare to drug cartels to the Mafia. Those are all bad things, but why insist that they're all exactly the same bad thing? But then Allahpundit goes too far, I think, in differentiating the Charlie Hebdo murders from Dylan Roof's rampage on the ground that "When that jihadi animal killed four French Jews at a kosher deli in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo, no one thought that was a 'hate crime' because they were targeted first and foremost for their religion. It was terrorism." When you target people for their religion, I'm inclined to call it a hate crime, unless there's something else going on that makes it looks like organized political action. In the Charlie Hebdo case, the red flag wasn't the anti-semitism, it was the organization of the gang and its explicit ties to a political group. Not that it's necessarily any great linguistic advance to distinguish terrorism from hate crimes. The term "hate crimes" is nowhere near as useful as it's cracked up to be.