Report cards

Scott Adams has the best take I've seen so far on the famous first 100 days.

Make El Chapo Pay for the Wall

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) introduced the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (EL CHAPO) Act on Tuesday, intending to cover the cost of the southern border wall by seizing more than $14 billion in drug proceeds from infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

Being Helpful

Sonny Bunch at the Free Beacon has some suggestions to help the Democratic Party connect with "most people":

The real problem isn't that Democrats are out of touch with common folks; it's that common folks don't understand that the struggles of the out-of-work coal miner are intricately linked to the struggles of the bisexual transgendered pronounless twitter user who feels oppressed by the mainstream's refusal to admit that zir exists and that zir's problems are not trivialities. A nationwide ad campaign explaining the intricacies of intersectionality will bring Democrats one step closer to showing that progressives really do have the problems of you, the people, in their hearts.

Spot on, man! And he has more.

Wow. If they follow his advice, the Democrats may be on the road to dominating the federal government for a generation.

Talk about things you like to hear

"Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble talk . . . ."  Politico joins the ranks of professional media types grasping for an explanation of how they could have blown the last election so badly.  Clearly it's not deliberate bias, that would be wrong, but plausibly it's that the bubble they all live in has grown more extreme over the last decade as local newspapers disappeared and were replaced by e-journalism.  It's not our fault!  We might have guessed that the rise of internet news would have a dispersive effect, but in fact it's only concentrated the higher-paying journalism jobs in the usual coastal and urban bubbles.  So, yes, we talk only to those in our highly-paid, progressive bubbles, but that's only natural.

Politico's proposed treatment for this malaise is not particularly compelling.
The best medicine for journalistic myopia isn’t reeducation camps or a splurge of diversity hiring, though tiny doses of those two remedies wouldn’t hurt. Journalists respond to their failings best when their vanity is punctured with proof that they blew a story that was right in front of them. If the burning humiliation of missing the biggest political story in a generation won’t change newsrooms, nothing will. More than anything, journalists hate getting beat.
Do they really?  More than they hate preening and congratulating themselves and their colleagues?  More than they hate moping about how the profit motive contaminates discourse, just as they'd always suspected?  (Here, the author throws in a little salve to Politico's vanity by noting that Breitbart's news site does a surprisingly robust click-business, though of course nothing to equal Politico's own.  If you want to talk about being the popular kids.)

I've been reading "Shattered," about the disastrous Clinton campaign.  The authors may be unsparing in their description of the awful candidate--the only character who's getting kid-glove treatment so far is Bernie Sanders--but they're still 100% in for their poor lost Hillary.  It's pretty amazing, really, how much time they can spend wringing their hands over how difficult it was for the poor woman to identify and communicate her message.  She could not seem to articulate why she was running for president.  She kept berating her campaign staff for failing to accomplish this task on her behalf.  As if it were not obvious that would-be President "It's My Turn" wanted the office because it's only fair, dang it, not to mention pretty convenient and lucrative and flattering.

Sanders appears in the narrative as an admirably honest fellow; it's only unfortunate that "most Americans" don't cotton to socialism.  If the authors make a connection between the lovely, caring policies Sanders would try to implement and the horror that is now overtaking Venezuela, I can't detect it.  They simply are drawn to Sanders because they can't quite escape the conviction that Clinton is a stone-cold liar without a trace of self-knowledge, with no identifiable political convictions other than that governing is a tough exercise in smart policy of some kind or another that, to our collective sorrow, cannot easily be communicated to a lot of mouth-breathing voters.  Meanwhile, Trump effortlessly channels the ugly Zeitgeist.  Woe to the republic.

This aside in the Politico article made me laugh, too:
Unlike other industries, the national media has a directive beyond just staying in business: Many newsrooms really do feel a commitment to reflecting America fairly.
They . . . ? Well, unless "fairly" means looking in the mirror.  What's so hard about learning something of the viewpoints outside one's own bubble?  Is the job of a journalist really limited to cocktail party chat, or do they occasionally find time to read a book or frequent a website with opposing views?  Even if they don't have the leisure or the budget for a safari through wildest I-30 corridor-land, we have tools in the modern world for communicating with distant strangers, available to anyone with a bit of curiosity and a gift for tamping down the smugness for a few hours.

At church this week, a co-parishioner announced a new chat group that would attempt to bridge the unidentified political divide (guess which side she's on) and foster more respectful communication.  I told her I'd almost stopped trying to talk to family and college friends on the other (still unidentified) side of the political landscape, not because I couldn't restrain myself from insulting them, but because I was tired of listening quietly while they loudly and persistently insulted me.  It wasn't that the conversation foundered when I adopted her advice of listening respectfully.  All I do now is listen and try to stem the worst of the oblivious attack-speech by gently suggesting that there are other points of view, and that my interlocutor might want to consider that she might be in the presence of someone who holds them.  That, combined with my pruning of my Facebook feed, has meant I spend no time explaining myself to these people, and less and less time listening to them, either.  Increasingly, I get my limited information about their views from more impersonal outlets.  As far as I can tell, they get no information about my views from any source, unless you count their assumption that a second-hand description of what Limbaugh said this week accurately sums up my own views.

Why would I attend her gatherings?  Will she have taught any of her fellow travelers to listen to someone like me without drifting into insult?  Will she even learn the knack herself?  Her anecdotes of success included the breathless report that she mentioned to a friend how much she disliked Rush Limbaugh, only to learn that her friend unexpectedly was not that crazy about him herself.  A blow for communication and solidarity!  They went on to learn that her friend wasn't actually that crazy about Bill O'Reilly, either.  See, they really are people!  You don't have to be afraid to talk to them!  They may turn out to share your views on some public personalities, and then you won't even have to hear what they think on any of the scary issues.

But then the national votes come in and remain perennially astonishing.  "We may never know what motivates these people . . . ."

Detective stories

It turns out Audible.com has quite a few free books on offer.  At first I stuck to classics, some Jane Austen and so forth, because I'm suspicious of modern fiction recommended by sites like Audible or Kindle.  In desperation during a long painting job, though, I took a chance on an author named Colin Cotteril, who turns out to be terrific.  Imagine John Le Carre on antidepressants and channeling Roger Zelazny.

So far I've listened to the first two in a series about a Laotian coroner, The Coroner's Lunch and Thirty-Three Teeth.  Unlike many coroner-based procedurals, this one doesn't try to gross the reader out.  The protagonist, a disillusioned 72-year-old doctor who finds himself the reluctant national coroner without training or facilities in post-revolution socialist Laos in 1978, is cynical but not in the least hard-hearted, more of a Jane Marple than a Sam Spade.  Actually a bit of Obi-Wan Kenobe.  The Audible version is especially enjoyable for the accents, which are all Brit.

Seasick Steve on a Friday Night


Good for all of your howling-at-the-moon needs.

Life Advice from Old Cowboy Movies

There's three times in a man's life when he has a right to yell at the moon: when he marries, when his children come, and... and when he finishes a job he had to be crazy to start.

-Red River
Today I finished something I was probably crazy to start, which I've been working on for seven years. I'm going to be offline for a bit; perhaps a week. I don't know that I'll yell at the moon, but I'll definitely celebrate with some time doing something else.

Enjoy yourselves. I'll be back.

Cybersecurity, the Old-Fashioned Way

Vice points out that our nuclear missiles are almost completely secure from cyber attack.
The technology that currently powers these nukes is notoriously antiquated. Most of the systems were designed and built during the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and ’70s, with the last major overhaul completed during the Reagan administration. Some computers in the missile base command centers still use eight-inch floppy disks....

U.S. nuclear missile base technology is ancient by modern standards, but the old machines offer almost maximum cybersecurity simply by virtue of their age. With everything hardwired and analog, the system is uniquely impervious to intrusion and meddling. That leaves some nuclear experts to ask: Why spend billions switching from a system that is relatively safe to one that’s potentially more vulnerable?
That strikes me as a good point.

Good Order & Discipline

The Department of the Navy has settled upon a regulatory change to address the Marines United photo-sharing scandal.
The statute details three conditions that will be considered a violation of Navy regulations, including if images are broadcast or transmitted: “with the intent to realize personal gain; with the intent to humiliate, harm, harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the depicted person; or with reckless disregard as to whether the depicted person would be humiliated, harmed, intimidated, threatened, or coerced,” the regs read...

In this case, detailing expectations of Department of the Navy personnel amounts to a lawful order, which can be enforced with the full weight of the justice system, from non-judicial punishment to general court martial. Sailors and Marines who run afoul of the new regs could be charged with an Article 92, failure to obey a lawful order, the Navy's chief spokesperson confirmed in a statement.
As expected, 100% of the focus is on the unauthorized sharing of the photos. There will not be any attempt to rein in the fraternizing of male and female Marines, nor their sharing of nude photos of each other so long as it is consensual. Neither will there be any inquiry into whether such an environment is really compatible with good order and discipline.

It's a half-step, but my guess is that there is no one in the leadership who feels empowered to question the place of Free Love in the military at this particular moment in American history. As with other 1960s counterculture values, Free Love is now ascendant for good and for ill.

Even in the Marine Corps.

Awakening

A Vox writer comes to the dawning realization that the US government isn't capable of handling the legalization of drugs. It's a pretty good piece -- I don't raise it to mock it, but to praise the willingness to rethink a long-held position based on evidence you would likely prefer to ignore.

The basic idea is that he has come to realize that, while legalization might work elsewhere, America's particular government is incapable of regulating drugs effectively. Legalization will thus predictably bring a vast increase in drug use and the trauma associated with it. It is not that it is impossible to legalize drugs and regulate them wisely; other countries may be able to do it. Our system, however, is incapable of it.

I sometimes use a similar argument against single-payer in America. It may be that other governments can do that well, but if we had single-payer, you already know what it would look like. It would look like the VA.

Two Very Different Takes on the Same Information

The American Spectator has been developing a report from the UK's Guardian. The information in the stories is substantially the same, but the impression you get about what the story actually is will differ wildly depending on which publication you read. The Guardian report is another "Trump (or at least some people with his campaign) colluded with Russia" story. The Spectator story is not.
...John Brennan was the American progenitor of political espionage aimed at defeating Donald Trump. One side did collude with foreign powers to tip the election — Hillary’s.

Seeking to retain his position as CIA director under Hillary, Brennan teamed up with British spies and Estonian spies to cripple Trump’s candidacy. He used their phony intelligence as a pretext for a multi-agency investigation into Trump, which led the FBI to probe a computer server connected to Trump Tower and gave cover to Susan Rice, among other Hillary supporters, to spy on Trump and his people.

John Brennan’s CIA operated like a branch office of the Hillary campaign, leaking out mentions of this bogus investigation to the press in the hopes of inflicting maximum political damage on Trump. An official in the intelligence community tells TAS that Brennan’s retinue of political radicals didn’t even bother to hide their activism, decorating offices with “Hillary for president cups” and other campaign paraphernalia.

A supporter of the American Communist Party at the height of the Cold War, Brennan brought into the CIA a raft of subversives and gave them plum positions from which to gather and leak political espionage on Trump. He bastardized standards so that these left-wing activists could burrow in and take career positions.
Is it possible that both papers are correct in their take? The claim that Brennan was a "supporter" of CPUSA does at least track to his admission that he voted for the CPUSA candidate in 1976. He was also the CIA director when the Agency hacked the US Senate, which should have been a red line for anyone who respected democratic limits on the powers of spying.

Up or Down?

From a mostly-correct piece on the dangers of politics as comedy:
The late-night political-comedy shows... staked their territory during the heat of the general election: unwavering, bombastic, belittling, humiliating screeds against Donald Trump. Fair enough. Trump is a man who on any casual summer day during the campaign could be found inciting a crowd to violence. This isn’t the slippery slope; this is the ditch at the bottom of the hill. Once a man stands before a mob and exhorts the powerful to beat the outlier, it’s all over except for the cannibalism and the cave painting. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” said Abraham Lincoln. “Knock the crap out of them,” said Donald Trump.
Which way is down slope? Lincoln's remarks were made on a battlefield very recently interred with ten thousand men.

WeaponsMan, aka Kevin O'Brien, RIP

I don't know about you all, but I often lurked over at WeaponsMan blog, not really knowing enough to say anything of interest, but learning a great deal.  Today, sad news that after suffering a massive and sudden heart attack, and after a few days deteriorating in the hospital, he has passed away.
He will be missed, but surely, he lived!

SoA in Georgia

Republic of, that is.



Spirit of America remains a great charity, even after all these years.

Unload and Show Clear

Don't try to catch a cleared cartridge in your hand, that seems to be the lesson of this post.

But as a man of the old fashion, let me just say that this never happens with a revolver.

Five Dollar Bill

I wrote my new song on a five dollar bill
but I won't be able to sing it until
I get hot on the trail for to pick up the track
of the dirty little thief and get my five bucks back ...

An Alternative Viewpoint

Schism and resolution

Among the nuttier reasons to get your state to secede from the U.S. has got to be the hope that you'll have less to fear from terrorists if you are less associated with the guilt of America.
"When I talk to people about California independence, they always say: ‘Well, what would you do if China invades?’” says Yes California president Louis Marinelli from his home in . . . Yekaterinburg, formerly Sverdlovsk (city motto: Don’t call us Siberia), an industrial center on the edge of the Ural Mountains in Russia. “Seriously,” he asks, “when’s the last time China invaded another country?” I mention the obvious ones: Tibet, India, and the Soviet Union. There’s Vietnam and Korea. Marinelli is a young man; perhaps much of this seems like ancient history to him. It does not to the Indians, or the Russians, or the Vietnamese, or many others. “No, I mean: When’s the last time China crossed an ocean to invade another country?” he clarifies. “Only the United States does that.”
Only?
The American war machine must surely be of some intense concern to California’s would-be Jefferson Davis, inasmuch as there is no legal or constitutional process for a state’s separating from the Union, a question that was settled definitively if not in court then just outside the courthouse at Appomattox.
We have been watching a ScyFy TV series called "The Expanse," set in 2020, about (among other things) the pains of nation-building and colonial resentments on Mars and in the Asteroid Belt.  Perhaps because I was trying to do crafts while watching the first season, I found I enjoyed a lot of the characters, dialogue, sets, and atmosphere without in any being able to figure out what in the world was supposed to be happening with the many interlocking story lines.  The second season is a little tighter and more compelling.  Anyway, the characters all have a pretty good grasp of how important it is to get your hands on the occasional warship.

He keeps using that word....

Words mean things. Oh yes, they most certainly do.

So this article popped up in my twitter feed, and I'm browsing it, basically agreeing with the author's premise, but then I caught this line:

"I wasn’t a Christian for the first part of my life. I knew it, and I didn’t want anyone to be mistaken. Now that I am a Christian, I don’t want anyone to believe that I’m an atheist, or a Mormon, or a Roman Catholic, or a Hindu."

Oh dear. So I stopped reading the article at that point and went immediately to the comments. And they did not disappoint. It wasn't quite a refight of the Reformation, but it's pretty close.

I'm always suspicious of "non-denominational" because what ever your opinions are of a denomination, it's an agreed upon set of beliefs that everybody (well, maybe not everybody) in that denomination agrees to. Or at least says they do. Or something like that. I'm always suspicious that non-denominational types are just making it up as they go, and in the end, it's like that line from the movie: "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Were You There

Continuing with the music from my church's Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.  They've been hitting on all cylinders.



I'm sad today.  My neighbors put their dog down, because she had been aggressive to passing pedestrians and they couldn't figure out how to correct her behavior and save her.  I understand why they felt they had to do it, but I'm horrified.  Nothing speaks to me about our fallen state more deeply than our deranged relations with animals.  This dog thought she was doing the right thing protecting her home.  She trusted her people and couldn't understand what they wanted from her.

Sometimes it causes me to tremble.

Bach & Simon





Takes chutzpah to fiddle with something Bach perfected, but he does a good job.

10 Interesting Things about EVE Online, Whether You Play Or Not

I haven't played in more than a year; other things are consuming my time right now. But I ran across this video at Daddy Warpig's and one of the first things it talks about is that one of the diplomats murdered in Bengazi was a player. The rest are kind of interesting as well.

Stabat mater dolorosa


Go to dark Gethsemane



Go to dark Gethsemane,
You who feel the tempter's pow'r;
Your Redeemer's conflict see;
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgment hall;
View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the worm-wood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suff'ring, shame, or loss;
Learn of Him to bear the cross.

Calv'ry's mournful mountain climb
There' adoring at His feet,
Mark the miracle of time,
God's own sacrifice complete:
"It is finished!" Hear the cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die.

Franchise

We once had a long discussion about the franchise, questioning whether the universal franchise was really a good idea and debating approaches. The debate took place here, at VC, and at Elise's place. Different models were offered: a Starship Troopers model that linked citizenship to military or other public service; a property qualification, for 'skin in the game' reasons; I think we also discussed some education qualification. In the end, none of it proved very persuasive, although it was interesting to see what arguments people had for and against things like the service qualification.

I think the debate was worthwhile, although it offended some readers so badly that they asked to have their blogs removed from the sidebar so they wouldn't be associated with someone who would entertain the question. Well, philosophers entertain a lot of ideas; as someone said, the mark of an educated mind is to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.

So, I'm prepared to entertain the idea. How about denying the franchise just to white men?

The idea is first justified by consequences: progressives would do way better if white men didn't vote, not just in America but across the Anglosphere. Isn't that unfair, to deny people the vote just because they don't vote the way you'd like? Why yes, the author admits:
Let's be clear, it may be unfair, but a moratorium on the franchise for white males for a period of between 20 and 30 years is a small price to pay for the pain inflicted by white males on others, particularly those with black, female-identifying bodies. In addition, white men should not be stripped of their other rights, and this withholding of the franchise should only be a temporary measure, as the world rights the wrongs of the past.
So, they won't be stripped of their rights, other than voting rights? Well, and property rights: it turns out, the whole point of this is to take their money.
At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners. After all, white men have used the imposition of Western legal systems around the world to reinforce modern capitalism. A period of twenty years without white men in the world's parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world's wealth far more equitably shared. The violence of white male wealth and income inequality will be a thing of the past.

This redistribution of the world's wealth is long overdue[.]
Ok, so, just voting rights and property rights, then. Oddly enough, there's actually a solid philosophical argument against that exact combination. It's fine to have redistribution in an oligarchy, Aristotle says, because the regular redistribution of wealth to the poor makes them willing to accept a lack of political control. But you can't have redistribution in a democracy, as this will produce violent revolt:
In democracies the rich should be spared; not only should their property not be divided, but their incomes also, which in some states are taken from them imperceptibly, should be protected. It is a good thing to prevent the wealthy citizens, even if they are willing from undertaking expensive and useless public services, such as the giving of choruses, torch-races, and the like. In an oligarchy, on the other hand, great care should be taken of the poor, and lucrative offices should go to them; if any of the wealthy classes insult them, the offender should be punished more severely than if he had wronged one of his own class.
So, denying people power for the purpose of taking their wealth is right out. If you give them the power, you can claim that they owe you compensation from their wealth. If you take the power, you have to spare their wealth. Trying to take the power so you can take their wealth reliably produces civil war.

An Act of Theft, or Defacement?

The artist who crafted the charging bull sculpture on Wall Street is irritated that his work has been revised without his permission.
An attorney for [artist] Di Modica, Norman Siegel, said the 4-foot-tall bronze girl was created as part of an advertising campaign for Boston-based investment firm State Street Global Advisors and its placement opposite the bull exploits the earlier sculpture for commercial gain and negates its positive message.

"The placement of the statue of the young girl in opposition to 'Charging Bull' has undermined the integrity and modified the 'Charging Bull'" Siegel said. "The 'Charging Bull' no longer carries a positive, optimistic message. Rather it has been transformed into a negative force and a threat."
Arguably the second sculpture steals something from the first work, as the first work is necessary for the effect of the second work. He seems to be charging that it's a bit more than that, though: that the act is one of defacement, such that his positive and optimistic sculpture is transformed into a big meanie.

I guess the bull (and the bear) are some of those animal spirits that Keynes was talking about. William Safire apparently wrote on the history of the phrase.
The phrase that Keynes made famous in economics has a long history. "Physitions teache that there ben thre kindes of spirites", wrote Bartholomew Traheron in his 1543 translation of a text on surgery, "animal, vital, and natural. The animal spirite hath his seate in the brayne ... called animal, bycause it is the first instrument of the soule, which the Latins call animam." William Wood in 1719 was the first to apply it in economics: "The Increase of our Foreign Trade...whence has arisen all those Animal Spirits, those Springs of Riches which has enabled us to spend so many millions for the preservation of our Liberties." Hear, hear. Novelists seized its upbeat sense with enthusiasm. Daniel Defoe, in "Robinson Crusoe": "That the surprise may not drive the Animal Spirits from the Heart." Jane Austen used it to mean "ebullience" in "Pride and Prejudice": "She had high animal spirits." Benjamin Disraeli, a novelist in 1844, used it in that sense: "He...had great animal spirits, and a keen sense of enjoyment."
I thought it was a reference to Descartes, though, who uses the term in Passions of the Soul as part of an explanation of how passion can interfere with rational decision-making. That seemed to be what Keynes was talking about, but perhaps Safire was right.

Near Certainties

Putin says that the gas attack in Syria was a "false flag," and also that he just knows that we'll be seeing a lot more of them soon.

He has that feeling.

Old Norse's Influence on English

Since everyone is enjoying this game -- both here and at AVI's place -- here's a thesis on how English was changed by another language. This one's not on French or Celtic forms, but on Old Norse forms.
"Studies have revealed that about 400 words in English are incontestably Scandinavian in origin and are still in daily use in standard, literary English (Geipel, 1971, p.69). Although 400 words are a mere fraction of those 20,000-30,000 words it must be acknowledged that most of the ON terms left behind by the Vikings are the very bedrock of English lexicon and the most frequently occurring words in spoken English. Geipel also takes this further and states that if rural dialects are added the number goes quickly from 400 to 2,000 items, enough to allow a person to carry on a simple conversation using entirely ON terms."
One of these words is "they" and its variations, which you probably use many times a day.

(H/t: Medievalists)

The Obvious Answer

Last week, a driver in Stockholm completed the latest in a series of Islamist murders by truck, the most famous being in Nice, France. The local paper has come to the obvious conclusion.
Cars and other vehicles “have turned into deadly weapons”, and should be banished from cities to stop attacks like the one in Stockholm from happening in future, according to Aftonbladet editorialist Eva Franchell.
Yes, we should ban cars and trucks from cities. The vast amounts of food needed to keep the populations of these cities from starving will henceforth be beamed in by Starfleet Command.

*Sigh*

Sean Spicer, ladies and gentlemen:
We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. “So you have to if you're Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country.
Reasonable point he probably intended to make: after World War One, the Western powers agreed that chemical weapons were beyond the pale. Even Hitler did not use them against soldiers on the battlefield, not even when defeat was all but certain.

Why not? Well, in addition to the fact that Hitler himself suffered from a gas attack in WWI, the policy was really "no first use," which meant that Germany's deployment of chemical weapons against soldiers would have opened it to retaliation by similar weapons. The Allies had large stockpiles of these things. So, maybe, Germany restrained itself out of a calculation of enlightened self-interest.

Of course, it may be that someone's thumb was on the scale.
According to Frank J. Dinan, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York State, a scientist close to Hitler exaggerated the Allies' capability of hitting back with their own chemical weapons, which caused the Fuhrer to rethink his plans.

If Professor Dinan's extraordinary claim is true, it means that a German scientist, up until now regarded as a war criminal, might be one of the greatest unsung heroes of the 20th century....

Ambros told the Fuhrer the Allies would be able to produce vast quantities of mustard gas, but this didn't bother Hitler.

He wanted to know if the British and Americans also had access to much deadlier nerve agents, such as Tabun.

'I understand that the countries with petroleum are in a position to make more mustard gas,' Hitler said, 'but Germany has a special gas, Tabun. In this we have a monopoly in Germany.'

Hitler then enquired whether the Allies could make Tabun and a similar nerve agent, Sarin.

And it was at this point that Ambros made the claim that Professor Dinan believes may well have changed the course of the war.
Sarin is the nerve agent Assad is supposed to have used, as you probably know.

Apparently the German leadership kept pressing Hitler to reverse himself, but he never changed his mind once he was told -- completely falsely -- that the Allies could strike back in this way.

Sanctuary State

When it comes to a flat refusal to participate in enforcing Federal laws against immigration, it's clear that this is a bad practice. On the other hand, what about Montana?
On Saturday, the Montana Senate gave final approval to a bill that would take big steps toward making the state a sanctuary for gun rights by prohibiting state enforcement of most federal acts restricting firearms, magazines or ammunition. If signed into law, it would effectively stop any such federal acts in practice within the state.

Sen. Cary Smith (R-Billings) introduced Senate Bill 99 (SB99) on Jan. 9. The legislation would prohibit any state or local government employee, or law enforcement officers, from enforcing, assisting in the enforcement of, or in any way cooperating with enforcement of a federal ban on firearms, magazines, or ammunition. The proposed law specifically prohibits participating in any federal enforcement action implementing such a ban....

The legislation would also prohibit expending or allocating public funds or resources for the enforcement of such federal acts on firearms, magazines or ammunition.
The position in favor of Montana but against Maryland would be that the Federal government does indeed have lawful authority to regulate immigration, but that the 2nd Amendment's "shall not be infringed" clause strips that authority with regards to firearms. Now, that is clearly not the Federal government's opinion of the matter -- not even under Heller. Still, it is a plausible textual reading of the Constitution.

Thoughts?

DB: Lake County Sheriff's Department

Here's the original.

And here's the DB remix.

All 'A's for these Journalism Students

They're just high school kids, but they understand the real spirit of the thing.
Amy Robertson... was hired as the high school’s head principal on March 6. The student journalists had begun researching Robertson, and quickly found some discrepancies in her education credentials. For one, when they researched Corllins University, the private university where Robertson said she got her master’s and doctorate degrees years ago, the website didn’t work. They found no evidence that it was an accredited university....

The students began digging into a weeks-long investigation that would result in an article published Friday questioning the legitimacy of the principal’s degrees and of her work as an education consultant.

On Tuesday night, Robertson resigned.
The free press is best when it maintains an adversarial relationship with those in power. Too often, it ends up being hand-fed by them instead.

High Stakes Poker

In a game with a lot of cash on the table, the winner rakes it in -- and the loser loses big.
[The recent confirmation of Justice Gorsuch was a] huge loss for the of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who ignored increasing calls for her retirement during the Obama administration to avoid the prospect of the flipping of her seat from a liberal to a conservative member. That gamble — whatever calculation — could now cost a sweeping number of key cases hanging by a 5-4 margin, including much of the precedent built around Roe v. Wade, if not an outright overturning of that decision....

Now Ginsburg’s gamble on Hillary Clinton being elected could have sweeping impact on precedent that she played a major role in creating. With the elimination of the filibuster, the next nominee is hardly likely to be nuanced. Without the filibuster, Republicans have no excuse to compromise on a moderate. There is nothing standing in the way to appointing someone who is openly opposed to cases like Roe v. Wade.
It's hard to overstate how big a gamble the 2016 election was for the whole country. Indeed, it's not as if the election ended the gambling that's going on.

All Right, Fair Enough

Bethany Mandel, writing at the Federalist, points out a fairly nasty bit of Antisemitism at Politico. Now, such things happen a lot, and I only occasionally remark on them; the world is full of injustice and insult, and a healthy mind can only spend so much time on those things.

But then she adds this:
We’ve spent the better part of the last year being warned about the dangers of the rise of the alt-right. Even I doubted the power the alt-right apparently wields, which apparently includes the ability to convince a mainstream American publication to publish 4,000 words of anti-Semitic garbage on the eve of a major Jewish holiday. Can they silence the rest of the mainstream media, which reports breathlessly on every headline related to Jews at Breitbart?

With most American Jews signing offline for the next few days in celebration of our freedom from bondage in Egypt, it’s up to the non-Jews working in media to pick up the slack on renouncing this article for what it is.
It is true that, at sundown, many will go offline for two days in order to solemnize the Passover. So, I suppose it really would be proper to say something about it since they won't be able to defend themselves for a couple of days.

By the way, if I have any Jewish readers, I looked up whether or not it was appropriate to say "Happy Passover" before writing this post given the details of the underlying story. I was told the right thing to say was Chag Sameach.

So: Chag Sameach. Have a good festival, secure in the knowledge that friends will stand up for you while you're offline.

River Basins of America

A pretty nifty color-coded map shows all the river basins in the lower 48, in a way that makes it very easy to see where they drain. If you look at Georgia, you'll notice a green set of rivers that drains to the Gulf of Mexico, and just east a blue set that drains out by Savannah into the Atlantic Ocean. I'm originally from the top of the green country, but very close to the divide between the basins. The rivers that mark that green area are, especially, the Etowah and the Amicalola.

Anglish

This is kind of a strange project but -- let's face it -- lots of things about linguistics are strange. Tolkien used to invent whole languages more or less for fun. This is a variation of that, except it's aimed at trying to see what Modern English would be like if it were 100% Germanic rather than involving so many Romance loan-words.



It's just for fun, but we were discussing how Germanic English is (mostly, if you measure its Germanic-ness by the frequency with which Germanic-rooted words are used in speech or writing; not very, if you measure by the percentage of all English words that have Germanic roots). So here's a bit of fun.

Big Strong Man

I remember when the words to this song went: "Well, he used to work here as a doorman / Now he's gonna fight George Foreman!"

But notice that it references the Lusitania. This is an old song, by American standards.

Ninjapunch!

The first two Marines to be punished for the Marines United scandal are, as expected, enlisted personnel. Just to add insult to injury:
The Marines ultimately were sent to NJP because of derogatory comments made about one of their more senior enlisted leaders, officials said, but the comments were discovered through investigation into inappropriate comments about women.
Headline reference here, for those who don't know the term.

DB: "World Begs U.S. To Use Military Force in Syria So They Can Bitch About It Later"

The article is actually from 2015, but it remains so very current.

Ever wonder why those kids are SO keen on free college?

I came across this on my Facebook feed this morning, and it's too precious not to share:
Got an email from my professor, asking why I didn't turn in last night's assignment:
My answer, "I have been in school since 2008, have a bachelor's degree, and now 5 AA's, and have been taking classes because I cannot afford to pay the loans, and no, I do not qualify for loan forgiveness.
I felt that my current work with the class has been correct according to the book, and my grades reflect that, so I decided to get some sleep because I am sick instead of turning in the non-graded exercise" 
Her reply: "Your work is excellent, I hope you feel better and I look forward to reading your next assignment."
Leaving aside how proud she is of what is (in essence) writing an excuse the professor bought, what struck me here is that we have someone who decided around 2012 to avoid paying back a debt she owed by racking up even more debt.  Given that, I think it's safe to say none of her degrees are in Economics.

I mean, how foolish can one be?  She's not just managed to turn 4 years of debt into 9, but she's also really hurt her own employability by showing no professional work experience for the past decade.

Arbroath

It was this day 1320 that the Declaration of Arbroath was signed.
[Robert the Bruce, and not Edward like the Pope thought], too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
That's nothing but America talking, four hundred fifty-six years before she had the name.

Good To Hear Things Are Improving So Rapidly

I mean, it's only been 100 days, and they really did have quite a shock.
“I absolutely despise these people,” one woman tweeted at me after I interviewed Trump voters. “Truly the worst of humanity. To hell with every one of them.”...

I wrote my last column from Oklahoma, highlighting voters who had supported Trump and now find that he wants to cut programs that had helped them. One woman had recovered from a rape with the help of a women’s center that stands to lose funding, another said that she would sit home and die without a job program facing cutbacks, and so on. Yet every one of them was still behind Trump — and that infuriated my readers.

“I’m just going to say it,” tweeted Bridgette. “I hate these people. They are stupid and selfish. Screw them. Lose your jobs, sit home and die.”

Another: “ALL Trump voters are racist and deplorable. They’ll never vote Democratic. We should never pander to the Trumpites. We’re not a party for racists.”
Sooner or later, somebody's going to have to figure out how to show respect. The problem is, as bikers know, you've got to show respect to get respect. Or, as the Irish put it, "Many's the time a man's mouth has broken his nose."

UPDATE:

Speaking of bikers and matters of interest to this page, the new "Sons of Anarchy" spinoff has recruited one of the Range 15 crew!


I'll be interested to see how much of the Range 15 style makes it into the series (or if the character, like the actor, is a 75th Ranger vet).

Sure Would Be a Good Time for a Deal with Russia

You know what would make a baseline for a good deal? That one that Blackwater founder Erik Prince was supposed to have passed the outline of to the Russians in the Seychelles recently. Back off support for Iran, help us in Syria, you can largely pick Assad's replacement, keep the naval base, and we'll start work on loosening those sanctions you hate so much.

It'd be easy and sensible for both nations to make such an agreement, except right now any Trump administration official who tried it would be painted as a TRAITOR TRAITOR RUSSIA TRAITOR!

Too bad, because it might save millions of lives. Certainly it might help those poor people in Syria, who as of yesterday I was told we were supposed to care about and take responsibility for.

UPDATE:

Noam Chomsky says some unkind things about Democrat theories on Russia and Trump.

Of course, Chomsky's kind of a pinko from the old days -- can we say 'pinko' on the air? -- so maybe it's not too surprising to find him on this side.

Thursday night Russian Gothbilly?

I say Gothbilly because the song is originally a goth-rock classic from the '80s.

But I never imagined it like this:


Original here:

Nunes Down, Gowdy Up

The entry of the Ethics Committee into an investigation into Nunes means that he can't oversee work on the Russia investigation -- although, at this point, I think we've learned enough to know that nothing important is going to come out of that investigation anyway.

Nunes says the charges against him are baseless politicking. Well, handling classified information is -- or should be -- a serious matter. Still, I'm not sure what he's supposed to have done wrong. The main thing people seemed upset about is that he informed the President before his fellow Congressmen. That can't have been an unauthorized disclosure unless the President 'didn't need to know' that he had been targeted for surveillance. I would think that would be hard to establish even if there were a formal court procedure; it's certain to come to nothing given that the Ethics committee has "not set up a special subcommittee to handle the matter and are under no requirement to issue any findings related to their investigation."

So much for that. Is there something else he's supposed to have done wrong that might actually produce some results, or was getting him to step down the only result anyone cared about?

In any case, I note that Trey Gowdy is in a sense elevated by Nunes' removal. I will be surprised if that leads to an improved outcome from the Democrats' perspective, but they called the ball.

The Filibuster Wanes

At some point, either we or whoever succeeds us is going to have to establish new ways of treating opposition opinions with respect. Such respect enables people with deep disagreements to reason together to better ends.

At the moment, however, everyone is rushing in the other direction. I expect some deep pain will be necessary to convince them of the wisdom of a better way. For now, enjoy the fireworks.

Jante Law

Danes tend to believe in something called Jante Law, which has 10 rules all around the idea of accepting the average.... Jante persists in the culture in every way and, according to Ourhouseinaarhus, even affects the school system. There is no competitive school system, no advanced programs for gifted learners. The schools must all be equal, and the students must help each other rather than vie for 'the best.' There are no rewards program, no trophies for the students who graded better. As the blogger commented, the Danish children learn early on about Jante.

The laws themselves are simple. They all encourage the idea that you are average, and that's just fine.

1. You’re not to think you are anything special.
2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
5. You’re not to think you know more than we do.
6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
8. You’re not to laugh at us.
9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
There's an American version of this, but it's a little different in its purpose.

Big stick?

Secretary of State Tillerson's brief comment:
North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.

Knight versus Soldier versus Firefighter: The Obstacle Course



It looks like the soldier and the firefighter are really a soldier and a firefighter (Swiss, in both cases), whereas the 'knight' is a martial artist. That may have had an impact on the final results, although they track the weight of the gear very closely.

Jim Webb's Piece on Women in Combat

The piece on USAF leadership reminds me to point you toward Jim Webb's long form piece from 1979, in case you didn't go back and read it while reading the commentary about the controversy it provoked. If you didn't read it because you were wanting to avoid a display of misogyny, you can stop worrying about that. The piece says little about women, most of it complimentary and supportive of equality except in combat roles -- he mentions, for example, his support for Thatcher and for a female President.

What the piece is really about is what it took to graduate from Annapolis and survive as a Marine Platoon Leader in Vietnam. It serves as a reminder of how much uglier war gets than what we have seen in the long years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were often ugly enough. Yet there is no guarantee that future wars will not look like the one he describes, for those who can stand to read the description.

That is coupled with a call for a much more punishing regime of training than the one we employ now, more punishing even than the one he observed in 1979. He is clear on how the brutality of the plebe year he experienced at Annapolis carried him through the worst parts of Vietnam. In addition to that, the brutality of that training doubtless kept many a young man who wouldn't have survived the strains of war out of the critical role of battlefield leadership. That's another hard matter, one that I do not see on the field of ideas today: I gather that the idea of psychologically brutal training is still considered acceptable for certain special operations roles, but otherwise is taken to be an abuse of the young Americans who volunteer for military service.

The Elites All Know Each Other

Just another regular reminder of how small the circles are.
Where it all gets somewhat ridiculous is when CNN’s Jim Sciutto tweeted the following:
Just in: "The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false." – person close to Rice tells me

— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 3, 2017
For the record, Jim Sciutto worked in the Obama administration. It is a fact not mentioned in Sciutto’s CNN biography, but it certainly should be....

Before Sciutto worked at the White House, he worked at ABC. Do you know who he worked with at ABC? Ian Officer Cameron. Do you know who’s married to Cameron? Susan Rice.
So he's a guy who worked with Rice for Obama, after he worked with her husband, and now works for CNN reporting on Rice and probably quoting her husband. Got it.

A Fighter Pilot Goes BOOM

We don't talk about the Air Force a lot around here, but they're having a real retention problem with their pilots right now. Partly it's because the airlines are hitting mandatory forced retirement dates, and need to hire qualified pilots bad -- so they're putting up big money for anyone who will sign.

But it's not all about that.
You took one of the few jobs left in the world that kids hang posters of on their walls, and you made it so damn miserable that thousands of guys like me are calling it quits. And the worst part is, you have no idea HOW you made it miserable, and even less of an idea how to fix it. You are focusing on the second and third order effects, but not the root cause.

Boss, you were a fighter pilot. You were trained for years in how to identify the root cause. I know you have the ability to dig past the airlines, ops tempo, queep, and other reasons you’re currently focusing on, and find the DFP. I know that you know what it is, I just don’t think you have the stones to call it out in public and do something about it, so I’m pulling the handles.

Yes, life in my Air Force has gotten tough. But the real reason I’m leaving boss, the heart of the issue is this. I’m a leader, I always have been. People follow me because I’m good in the Air, I have a strong act in the bar, and I give a shit about the people that work for me. And because I’m a true leader, I will never lead in this Air Force. Instead, the guys that are leading in my place, and in the place of all of the others like me, are boot-licking, risk-averse, yes men who have spent an entire career being faithful followers and couldn’t lead a 2 ship to the end of the runway. They’ve been rewarded their entire careers for being non-confrontational, making only safe decisions, punishing downhill and protecting uphill, and most importantly, being loyal to the bad leaders above them.
There's a lot more. The obscene song lyric quoted at the end, by the way, is from a Dos Gringos song called "Has Anybody Seen My Wingman?"



Actually, it's one of the cleaner Dos Gringos songs.

So Much for "Russian Collusion"

If this story is accurate, there was no back channel between Russia and Trump's people before 11 January. The meeting described here was to set one up, in order to begin exploring possibilities -- and not to execute pre-existing plans.
The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions....

The Seychelles meeting was deemed productive by the UAE and Russia, but the idea of arranging additional meetings between Prince and Putin’s associates was dropped, officials said. Even unofficial contacts between Trump and Putin associates had become too politically risky, officials said.
So: there was a single, exploratory meeting; held months after the election; with all follow-up abandoned due to the political heat.

That'll about do it for the legendary Russian Conspiracy. If these details hold up, there's nothing to find.

UPDATE: Rolling Stone's Taibbi: 'Seriously, guys, this Russia stuff is sounding deranged.'

Democrats Continue to Feud Over Clinton Loss

Who was at fault? Not "deplorables," says Bernie Sanders.

Not millennial feminists, says the New Republic.
In the end, millennial voters, both male and female, were cool to Clinton for a host of reasons. If she was unable to muster their full-throated support, the blame lies with her, not them. Feminism rests on the basis that women should be judged for their worth, but Bordo instead assumes that Hillary Clinton, by virtue of her gender, should have been spared the critical gaze of young women. And that’s sexist.
Let me offer a mild edit that will clarify the issue:

"Feminism rests on the basis that women should be judged for their worth... and Hillary Clinton was."

Georgia DOT Has No Plans to Take Responsibility for Disaster

A rather brutal assessment, but well deserved.

Willa Cather

I downloaded an Audible version of "Death Comes for the Archbishop" recently, to listen to while I drive, paint, re-grout tile, or garden.  Why have I never read Willa Cather before now?  It's just wonderful.  Free, too, among Audible's collection of classics.  The title character is sent by the Vatican around 1850 to shepherd the newly American-owned territory of New Mexico.  What a pleasure it is to read an unsnarky though unsentimental treatment of missionary Catholicism--and the protagonist isn't even a depressed drunk, for a change.  Cather's narrative voice appeals to me deeply.

In 'Honor' of Liberty Chance C*****

For a friend, lost for many years but brought to mind but recently.

Also, because it's right. Honor holds the world together.

Stress Toy

Why Not Imagine Your Opponents?

Stephen King is as good as imagining as most, I suppose. Why bother encountering your opponents when you can just make them up?

Nobody cared about national security in terms of her abuse of Top Secret information in her emails; nobody cared about Benghazi. But they did care about racism, yo:
Felicia Gagnon Most of my customers at the Washateria were for him, so I decided I was, too. It wasn’t just going along with the crowd, either. He always had an answer for everything, and he took no shit. Also, he wants to keep the illegals out. My job isn’t much, but it pays the rent. What if some illegal comes along and tells Mr Griffin – he’s the owner – that she’ll do my job for half the salary? Would that be fair?

Andrea Sparks It wouldn’t, it absolutely wouldn’t. And I admired him for a comeback he made to Clinton in, I think it was their first debate. She said he paid no taxes, and Trump came right back, said: “That makes me smart.” I knew right then I was going to vote for him, because taxes are killers. That’s why no one from the middle class can really get ahead. They tax you to death. I am making a little bit of money, but I’d be making a lot more if they didn’t tax me so badly, and why do they do it? To pay welfare for the illegals Felicia was talking about. The beaners, the darkies and the camel-jockeys. I would never say that if I wasn’t full of this truth serum stuff, but I’m glad I did. It’s a relief. I don’t want to be a racist, it’s not how I was raised, but they make you be one. I work hard for what I’ve got, from nine in the morning until midnight, sometimes until one in the morning. And what happens? The government takes the sweat from my brow and gives it to the foreigners. Who shoot it into their arms with dope the drug mules bring up from Mexico.

Barker Amen to that, sister.
I have literally never heard anyone say "beaners," "darkies," or "camel-jockeys" except on television. And I live in a very white, very rural part of Georgia. I grew up in a part of Georgia that was ethnically cleaned twice! (Once in the 1820s, and again in 1912). If this kind of racism still existed, I'd run into it.

I did once encounter a guy running a gun shop in Gainesville who responded to my incredulity about his proposed prices by saying that they were the "Paco price," and then offering me a better deal (which, though reasonable, I was too offended to take). That was in the early 1990s, which was also the last time I heard anyone voice an objection to interracial dating or marriage. Even then, I remember how much it bothered me that it bothered him.

It's a different world, but not all of us live in it.

Ayaan

Here is a lady who has earned her right to criticize that which she has chosen to criticize. People sure hate her for it, but if anyone can have a right to a dissident opinion, who but her has a better claim?

Ft. Hood Shooter Going On Hunger Strike

Gee, I sure hope this gets him all the justice he deserves.

Fruit of a Poisonous Earth

I don't get by Ace of Spades all that often, except on Sunday mornings -- I like to spend such mornings playing through the problems in their weekly chess thread.

Dropping by there today, I see at the top of the page a discussion of "intersectionality." Only, really, there's a simpler explanation.
Intersectionality At Its Best (Or Worst): Angela Davis Speech Is sponsored By "Students For Justice In Palestine," "The GW Black Student Union," And "The GW Feminist Student Union"
—CBD


You have to hand it to good old Angela Davis; she is quite inclusive in her vicious Marxist politics. She'll take money from anyone on the Left if it pays for another opportunity to spout her racist, anti-Semitic, anti-American pseudo-philosophy.
The true key to understanding this is the word "Marxist." It's not that this represents a coming-together of disparate movements. It's that all of these "critical studies" organizations are Marxist in their essential thought structure.

That's not to say that there's no non-Marxist way to talk about the black experience in America, or justice issues around as-yet unresolved areas of prejudice and mistreatment. Similarly with feminism; similarly with Palestine. No, what I mean is that the modes of thinking about the world that these groups endorse are all variations of Marxism.

Essentially, these theories work like this:

1) Divide the world into a class of oppressors and a class of the oppressed.

2) Explain everything in terms of that relationship.

3) Some will learn to play this game with you: praise them as having attained the enlightenment to see the secret truth ("New Soviet Men" / "Woke").

4) Others will resist. Damn them either as members of the oppressor class, who of course are refusing to admit the truth as it would require them to give up the privileges extracted by oppression; or, if they do not fit the oppressor class model, as people who are so deeply enslaved by the oppressors that they cannot see the truth ("False Consciousness" / "Not Woke").

It looks simplistic when you write it out like that, but endless volumes have been churned out on this basic model.

For true Marxism, the model makes a kind of sense. Marx was a materialist. Since nothing is real except the material, economics takes on a special significance as it describes the systems by which material goods are produced and distributed. It makes sense to describe all of human history in terms of a clash over economics, because economics controls the material and the material is all there is.

It's less convincing as an extended metaphor, which is how it appears in the so-called Critical Studies. Still, you'll find some who really believe that all of human history is completely explainable in terms of the oppression of Group X by Group Y.

In any case, there's nothing strange about Davis speaking to all of these groups at once, and drawing on all of their resources. It's not much of a trick for a Marxist to unify these threads, as they all grow from Marxism's earth.

China Follows Ataturk

The Chinese government has taken a page from 1920s Turkey in its treatment of Islam.
China has banned wearing veils as part of a major crackdown on what it sees as religious extremism in the western province of Xinjiang.

The measure, which comes into effect Saturday, also bans "abnormal" beards and names, as well as other "extremist signs." Forcing others to wear veils is also forbidden.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk took this same tactic in his modernizing reforms in Turkey, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Word War I. Ataturk himself mostly banned male demonstrations of Islamic heritage, but his successors decided it was necessary to impose restrictions on women, as well, as Islam began to reassert itself in the 1970s. Women in Turkey only regained the right to wear the veil in 2013, as the increasingly-Islamist government of Erdogan came to power.

I say "regained the right to wear," but I recognize that this formulation is controversial. The idea that there is a free-expression, freedom-of-religion right here is the ordinary American way of thinking about it, but it is not necessarily the way the parties to the conflict think about it. For some, especially the hard-core Islamists, there is not a right but a duty for women to wear the veil.

For others, including the modernizers, the veil has to be viewed as an intrinsic part of an oppressive system. There is no difference between "allowing" the veil, in this view, and "forcing" the veil. That is, not every woman who wears a veil she is "allowed" to wear will be forced to wear it, but many will be, and you can't really tell the difference between them. That being the case, there's no question of respecting a right to wear the veil. There's only a question of forcing some women not to wear it, or allowing other women to be forced to wear it.

A female friend from Turkey tells me that she thinks Americans really don't grasp the issue very well, as we tend to insist on seeing things through the lens of rights for religious minorities. That tends to blind Americans to how oppressive Islam can become in states where it is not a minority. If the state doesn't step in to act as a counterweight to this powerful religion in Turkey, even women from secular families like her own will ultimately end up being constrained by it. Ataturk's reforms served to force people to keep their religion private, and only something like that reform program was strong enough to effect this.

In the case of Xinjiang, China, the American will be even more inclined to see things through the lens of protecting a religious minority. Muslims are a majority in Xinjiang, but a tiny minority within the context of China as a whole. They have no power in national government to speak of, and it is clear that the Chinese view them as a speedbump on the way to Chinese glory. Even the name of the province, "Xinjiang," means "New Frontier." The intent of the Chinese majority is to roll over this area, to subjugate or even to replace this culture. If there is any case in which the American view seems to be validated by the facts, it is this one.

There is one final note to Ataturk's story. In 1928, Muslims who were deeply alarmed at his reform project gathered in nearby Egypt to form a new organization designed to reverse his 'modernizing' and to restore Islam to the central place in their society. Led by Hassan al-Banna, this group became known as The Muslim Brotherhood. Their history is probably known to most of you. China's Xinjiang province borders the contested region of Kashmir and therefore Pakistan, Tajikistan, and via the Wakhan corridor, Afghanistan. The region is already infested with similar movements, and has proven beyond the capacity of any nation-state to control. Nor can China easily advance into that region without alarming nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

This likely won't be the last time you hear of this.

An Old Favorite

It's Medieval, and rewards patience.

Hey, DEA: FYI, These Folks Can't Afford the Drugs They're Dying From

The DEA is mystified about why the opioid crisis is so bad.
“I gotta tell you, it scares the hell out of me,” Rosenberg said, adding, “these things can be lethal, believe it or not, to the touch.”

In another era, the DEA would have responded with force alone. But in late 2015, Rosenberg launched a 360-degree strategy that blends traditional police work with public education.

“Changing behavior is tough. But we have to keep at it,” Rosenberg said. “We have to talk to middle and high school kids. … And we just have to be relentless about it.”
Look, the people who are dying from these drugs can't afford them at market prices. What's going on here is well within the government's power to solve, for the most part, because government is creating the problem for the most part. The government is who makes it possible for people to buy large quantities of opioids for cheap. First, it allows prescriptions at lethal levels, which means that even for people with real pain there's some extra to sell. Then, welfare programs for drugs let you buy these drugs for pennies on the dollar -- the rest is picked up by the taxpayer. Then, that same government pays out food stamp money that gets laundered, providing free cash for buying up the drugs your welfare programs have flooded into the streets.

You can stop this whenever you want, Federales. You're the ones paying for it.

Adventures in Persuasion


A left-leaning social scientist has a message for his fellow progressives: memes are not persuasive. If you want to win elections, sharing back-slapping memes like this doesn't get it done.

That's true! You know what else is true? You can't persuade people you haven't taken any trouble to understand in the first place.
Take that “Obamacare” meme. For many conservatives it felt like an “epic burn” to liberal supporters of the Affordable Care Act.

But if you’re a liberal like me, it doesn’t even make sense. Obamacare isn’t a “thing” you can “have.” It’s an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, a Medicaid expansion, a bunch of regulations, and tons of other stuff. But aside from that, it’s not even clear what point this meme is making. Why wouldn’t Democrats want to be “first in line” to “have” Obamacare?
If the joke doesn't even make sense to you, you might take that as a warning that you haven't understood your opponents' position. I frequently see liberal memes that I don't get, and when I do I make it a point to look up what they're about. You aren't required to agree, but you should at least understand why they think it's funny. That's an important part of understanding how the world looks to them.

In this case, the author doesn't understand the conservative position enough to know that the joke wasn't pointed at "Democrats," but at Congress. Congress passed a huge and burdensome law, and while they didn't take time to read it before they passed it, they did take time to include provisions exempting themselves from the burdensome positions. That's the joke: if it's such a great law, why did they go to so much trouble to make sure they would never have to live under it?

That act fed the popular sense of Congress as a bunch of distant elites who didn't care about the country they saw themselves as ruling. They wouldn't pass laws for you and not for themselves if they didn't see themselves as different from you, separate from you. They wouldn't pass laws they didn't bother to read but that would govern your life if they cared about you. That emotional sense of distance and disdain is what is at work in this meme, and it is also what won Trump the White House in November of last year.

But hey, no need to understand that. Let's get on with persuading people to vote for leftists instead.
Some of these people have views that we might think of as racist. It might seem "wrong" to be nice to people like this. But in a democracy racists can vote.

We can’t stop them from voting unless we are willing to sacrifice the entire idea of democracy. So if there are enough racists in America to swing an election, and we don’t want them running the place, our only option is to convince at least some of them to stop being racists.
Emphasis in the original.

"Be nice to the racists" isn't going to get him where he wants to go. He's first going to have to understand the actual arguments. Along the way, he might realize that his opponents aren't who he thinks that they are.

Scandalous Behavior

I once asked a Democrat about the disparity in media treatment between Democratic and Republican sex scandals. He replied that the media focused on Republican scandals more because the Republican party made a big deal of family values, so it was hypocrisy when they did it.

I replied by asking if it should be a scandal when we find out a Democrat isn't cheating on his wife. My interlocutor was not amused by this.

Well, just when I thought it would be difficult to be any more disgusted with the American left, I find out that apparently Republicans are going to get slammed whether they have sex scandals or go out of their way to avoid them.

Interstate 85 Collapses in Atlanta

Following an intense fire, a section of bridge collapsed that shut down the entire north bound Interstate near downtown Atlanta. No injuries are reported at this time, and the cause of the fire remains unclear.

Georgia's DOT has no timeline on when they might be able to make such major, unexpected repairs to one of the city's main arteries. It's going to be ugly for people using I-85 for a long time to come.

When they do come up with the money to build the bridge back, though, I have a proposal. They should call the bridge the William T. Sherman Memorial Interchange.

UPDATE:

It begins.

Dem: Obama Should Testify He Was "Disgraceful & Disastrous"

One of the party's faithful, former Senatorial aide Brent Budowsky, comes to a painful conclusion.
If [as reported] it turns out that Comey wanted to go public about Russia last summer but was overruled by the Obama White House, that would be disgraceful and would shed new light on one of the seamiest stories in American political history.

Comey was criticized for a double standard in going public about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email scandal, but not going public about the Russia investigation.... If he wanted to go public earlier about Russia but was overruled by Obama, that would be equally disgraceful and equally disastrous....

The attempt by Russia to choose our next president is so extreme and momentous that it is not enough to criticize leaders of one political party.... The Senate Intelligence Committee should ask President Obama what he knew about Russia, what he did and did not do about Russia, and why.
The idea that the Russia story shifted the election grows paler every day. Nevertheless, if you believe it, the #1 guy responsible for letting it happen was Barack Obama.

"Donald Trump Has No Values"

That proposition can't be true in the strict sense, as without any values one would never act. Nevertheless, the criticism is pungent.
The president is not a moral figure in any idiom, any land, any culture, any subculture. I’m not talking about the liberal enlightenment that would make him want the country to take care of the poor and sick. I mean he has no Republican values either. He has no honor among thieves, no cosa nostra loyalty, no Southern code against cheating or lying, none of the openness of New York, rectitude of Boston, expressiveness and kindness of California, no evangelical family values, no Protestant work ethic. No Catholic moral seriousness, no sense of contrition or gratitude. No Jewish moral and intellectual precision, sense of history. He doesn’t care about the life of the mind OR the life of the senses. He is not mandarin, not committed to inquiry or justice, not hospitable. He is not proper. He is not a bon vivant who loves to eat, drink, laugh. There’s nothing he would die for....

He has no sense of military valor, and is openly a coward about war. He would have sorely lacked the pagan beauty and capacity to fight required in ancient Greece. He doesn’t care about his wife or wives; he is a philanderer but he’s not a romantic hero with great love for women and sex.
She goes on for a while longer. It is clear that she loathes the man, of course. Still, at least some of this criticism is warranted. It can't be that he has no values, but he does not seem to have many strong values. He loves winning, and he loves 'big, beautiful' things that are associated with himself. He would like America to be one of those things.

That is a kind of patriotism, in that it implies a willingness to take on the country's problems in order to make her bigger (economically) and more beautiful (as he sees it). He will want to win at this project, but I'm not sure he cares exactly how he wins, or exactly what he wins -- for example, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up endorsing single-payer health care if he decides he can win that battle and thereby claim credit for having done something 'big' and 'beautiful.'

Or is that wrong? His administration has so far adhered much more strongly to conservative actions, the health debate aside, than his history or his language would suggest. Is that coming from him, or from the people he has chosen? Is there a core moral vision that he has hidden for some reason?

Brexit a Go

This momentous letter is diplomatically worded, courteous in the best British tradition. Also in the best British tradition, it upholds the value of self-determination.



Good luck, Britannia.

Bringing it to ISIS

We are taking increased risks with men who are, each one of them, strategic assets of the United States. Every one of these operators who dies represents a significant loss to our capacity as a nation to project force, in addition to an unutterable loss to their families and loved ones.

We are taking this risk in order to cut down on the loss of innocent life, unavoidable in a war in which the enemy intentionally leverages civilians as shields.

Remember that the next time you hear someone shout about how the US doesn't care as much as it should about civilian casualties. Those civilians benefit more than anyone else in the world from the destruction of ISIS. We are risking the lives of our very best to bring that about in the least destructive way possible. May God defend the innocent who have been thrust into this war, but may God defend the right.

Jim Webb Declines Naval Academy Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award

He is one of the more distinguished graduates of that institution -- Navy Cross, Silver Star, Secretary of the Navy, Senator, author, scholar, and diplomat. But he wrote an article critical of including women in combat forces back in 1979(!), so of course there were loud protests toward him being honored today. He put out a statement on his decision to decline the award, rather than cause a scene at Annapolis.
While this article was controversial, many of these protests have wrongly characterized my reasons for having written it, my views of women, and also my record of government leadership in addressing opportunities for women in the military and in our society. Having opened up more billets for women in the Navy than any Secretary of the Navy before me, it is particularly ironic to see that these same women who are criticizing me for a magazine article in 1979 have benefited so greatly from the policies I unilaterally put into place in 1987.
To defend his own honor, he compiled some statements from women who have worked with him. The truth is, he needn't have bothered. It won't convince the first one of his critics, none of whom did so much as he did himself -- not even on this score. When the field of accomplishment is widened to include the whole of human activity, he remains distinguished well above almost any of his contemporaries.

Visits to Mars Not Yet Possible

A new technology aims to do something like this.



I don't know enough about how this works to say much about it. In general, though, I don't patronize businesses that don't want me there. If you don't want my business, posting a sign is enough.

The Good of an AR-15

It's a soft-shooting rifle that almost anyone can handle accurately with training. That's what makes it dangerous, but "dangerous" does not equal "bad." Sometimes, having one can be very good.
"These three individuals came to this residence with the intent to burglarize it," Deputy Nick Mahoney said, "One was with brass knuckles, the other one was with a knife."

They said the 23-year-old resident was sleeping in the home when he heard "loud bangs" coming from the back door.

Mahoney said, "They were masked at the time, all had gloves on. They entered in through a black door, shattering the back door and they entered into the residence."

Deputies said the resident armed himself with an AR-15 rifle and walked toward the back door where he encountered the three masked burglars.

"Armed with a rifle, there were some shots fired, and, at this point, three people are deceased,” Mahoney said.
The right three.

Associated Press: We Will Now Sometimes Refer to Single Persons as "They"

The one use of 'they' where this makes a kind of sense is not, of course, the one they're using it for. That use is as a pronoun for "someone," "anyone," "a person," or similar constructions that are technically single, but also not strictly single as they could refer to many different individuals. "No one," for example, refers literally not even to a single person, but in the same act invokes every person. It makes a kind of sense to use a plural pronoun in these cases, e.g., "If anyone wants to join the expedition, they should send notice by Friday."

No, the AP means to do it as a half-step between applying logic and accepting a duty to refer to people by "preferred pronouns."
In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person.
So, 'avoid this nonsense as far as you can, but if you absolutely cannot, at least make clear that you're dealing with someone who absolutely refuses to be referred to in standard English.' Making them sound like difficult weirdos should do wonders for the acceptance of *trans* persons!