KISS Patriots

This isn't my usual thing, but I ran across it while wandering through the intertubes tonight and thought, "Well, that's interesting."


The Vikings in Medieval History



This is episode one of a 36 episode course. The scholar is from Tulane, which is a good school in New Orleans. They draw some good people, including a friend of mine -- not this fellow -- and one of America's leading Kantian scholars. There's no reason not to think this might be worth listening through if you aren't familiar with the history and would like to be.

Prosecutions That Will Never Happen

What do you think -- is it less likely that the International Criminal Court will be able lock up US soldiers for 'war crimes' in Afghanistan, or that Bill Clinton will be prosecuted for these four new sexual assault cases?

My guess is that neither of these ever results in anyone going to jail, no matter how good the evidence is. That's just now how the world works.

Slave Markets in Libya

Ironically, President Obama's Libya policy has led to the restoration of slave markets, where West Africans can be bought and sold for a few hundred dollars. (It was really his Secretary of State's Libya policy; but 'the buck stops here.')

Not that I expect to hear anyone from the recent administration accepting responsibility for their role in this outcome, of course.

Germany Teeters

Western democracies are at a strange moment, both here and internationally, in which the existing solutions no longer seem plausible but people are strongly divided about what should come next. Brexit but then May's failed snap-election; Trump (barely) but then a Democratic wave in 2017's November elections; Merkel, again, but she can't form a government. The Marxists are doing far better in this environment than their history gives them any right to do: they've captured British Labour and are on the verge of capturing the Democratic Party here. The Greens, who are pretty much Marxists too, are holding cards Merkel needs.

Outlaw King

A new movie is being made about Robert the Bruce. I guess it's just part of our cultural moment that it's going to 'feature some of the bloodiest scenes in cinema history,' although the period was quite brutal in its application of violence.

Fiendish man

So it's going to be the Shi'a with Russia against the Sunni with the U.S. and Israel?  This is going to be interesting.  If it doesn't result in glassing over the entire Middle East, who wouldn't be amused by the frantic attempts of every Progressive living to denigrate Trump's diplomatic coup in his second year of office?

As my husband adds, all we need now is for Trump to give Texas the go-ahead to join OPEC.

In Praise of Alpha Males

Cassandra has often raised some objections to the use of the term, but let's roll with it this once.
In both my personal and professional life, I’m a woman who spends most of her time in the company of alpha males. I grew up very close with my two hyper-masculine brothers who habituated me to the ways dominant men think, act, emote, and feel; with a father, stepfather, and grandfather who also all fit the Alpha mold. Competition, well-articulated debates, and robust humor characterized nearly all of our interactions. As an adult, between my involvement with combat sports and my work with members of the military and Special Operations communities, much of my daily life is characterized by interaction with men who embody the traditional traits of Alpha Male dominance: strength, competitiveness, courage, assertiveness, decisiveness, intelligence, aggression…

Alpha Males are men who value strength (an undeniable gift of their testosterone-fueled biology); they embrace their capacity and desire for physical, intellectual, and even material dominance. While our politically correct culture has trained me to hesitate before making the assertion that these qualities are somehow innately strong in their sex, as a mother to a young son, I do feel strongly that biology plays a part in this. Strength, courage, hard work, and athleticism are paramount to the Alpha Male identity, which I feel is really just the full realization of the masculine spirit. Some scholars of the warrior archetype, such as Dr. Angela Hobbs, author of “Plato and the Hero: Courage, Manliness and the Impersonal Good,” and Leo Braudy, author of “From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity,” would agree, and take this one step further by suggesting that success in warfare is historically central to the masculine identity, as the ability to protect and defend one’s community has been fundamental to human existence since the dawn of time.
"Conan, what is best in life?" Success in war, if you were to summarize the famous remarks (which were apparently originally attributable to Genghis Khan).

The other goods flow from that, though. Success in war provides the protection of a space in which a stable society can flourish. It's hard to flourish if you aren't successful in war -- and, to cite the same Sun Tzu dictum again, you're never more successful than when you're so dangerous that no one wishes to fight with you. That mastery, attained only by careful devotion to the arts of war, depends on all of these qualities that the lady cites.

A Lack of Touch

I had a similar line of thought to Dr. Helen's over the last week, although in the end I rejected the idea that the problem she raises are particularly related to the problems getting so much media attention this week. For one thing, a large part of the don't-touch culture is pretty new; but the problems of Hollywood and powerful politicians being exploiters is not at all new.

Still, just because the one problem doesn't directly cause the other doesn't mean that it isn't still a problem.
We American men have a tragic laundry list of reasons why we are not comfortable with touch:
1. We fear being labeled as sexually inappropriate by women.
2. We live in a virulently homophobic culture so all contact between men is suspect.
3. We don’t want to risk any hint of being sexual toward children.
4. We don’t want to risk our status as macho or authoritative by being physically gentle.
5. We don’t ever want to deal with rejection when we reach out.
Number 5 is just something you'll have to get over in order to become an adult. Number 4 is just a misperception. Nothing better highlights how powerful you are than showing that you can use much less force than you are capable of using. The display of control demonstrates another strength, over and above the physical power of which you are obviously capable if you have muscles and big shoulders.

The first three are real problems.

I can attest that I spent the early part of my life bedeviled by the first one. As a teenager I couldn't figure out what was so wrong with me that I couldn't seem to attract a girlfriend. In fact, it was just that I was being so very careful not to offend that they didn't realize I was interested. This especially goes to touch, which is a primal means of communication that can't be set aside without damaging our health as human beings.

The second one is also a real problem. It wasn't until I started studying jujitsu in earnest that I realized how much fun it is to fight -- to spar, to wrestle, to grapple. I avoided all that as a kid most likely out of an unconscious fear that there was necessarily something deviant about it, and it was a real liberation to realize that you could go and fight just for fun. I had fought some serious fights, but realizing that it was good to just get out there and do it for fun was a kind of freedom.

The third one often prevents men from playing with children, which is bad for the men and bad for the children. Men play differently, and in ways that encourage boldness and learning to take risks and adventure. What do the men get out of it? A joy often otherwise absent from life.

I don't think these things actually relate to the issues of the day. I do think that they're really significant problems with our culture, and that men in general would be healthier and happier if we changed our views about this.

"Facilitate"

In a wooden hut on stilts, a group of children dressed in white sit on the floor. They sing "I will protect Islam till I die" and shout "There is no god but Allah", in unison. Three months ago, the 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam.

They were picked up and bussed into Jambi, the nearest city, and given clothes and prayer mats.

The Islamic Defenders Front - a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence - helped facilitate the conversion.
I'm sure they did.

Hard At Work in the Cockpit

US Navy pilots try their hand at skywriting. "WARNING: Some viewers may find the photos in this story offensive."

UPDATE: Terminal Lance on the occasion.

UPDATE:

A Deeper Issue at Work

Speaking of all of this, Iraq's parliament is under fire for considering "an amendment to the personal status law that would allow men to marry girls as young as 9." Well, that's what the human rights group and the US government says it would do.

As Kyle Shideler points out, what the amendment actually does is simply make Islamic law the governing law in family cases. The amendment says that when issuing decisions on family law cases, "the court should follow the rulings of religious scholars for Sunni or Shiite sects, depending on the husband's faith." Specific governing authorities for each of these fiqhs are identified so that there is no confusion as to which rulings are final. The 'marriage at 9' thing is merely a consequence of what those rulings of religious scholars have always held, not the point of the amendment.

There's a very similar issue at stake in the Alabama matter.
We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose.... That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.

I use the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men,” rather than “adult men courting 14-year-old girls,” for a reason: Evangelicals routinely frame these relationships in those terms. That’s how I was introduced to these relationships as a home-schooled teenager in the 1990s, and it’s the language that my friends and I would use to discuss girls we knew who were in parent-sanctioned relationships with older men.
She offers a number of cases of people advocating this as the ideal approach for shaping young women into solid members of society. (The idea that a sexual relationship with an older man might do the same thing for young men appears in Plato's Symposium.) There is, as defenders of Roy Moore have pointed out, plenty of Biblical support for the position. Mary herself was married to a much older Joseph at about this age, and although she remained a virgin there's no reason to think that God would have put his only son into a harmful family environment. In the case of John the Baptist, the family arrangements he was born into were about the same; and there are plenty of other examples to find.

This creates a much bigger problem, here and in Iraq. The contemporary American standard is that a proper degree of sexual consent requires a more complete equality, including in the ages of the consenting partners. A 16 year old is not thought to be able to consent in quite the right way; she's thought to be too powerless compared to a 27 or 32 year old man. But this means arguing against not merely tradition, but the exemplars of the tradition. It's not merely that Islam has done it this way for a long time; it's that Muhammad himself did it. It's not merely that Christianity has inherited an ancient Jewish tradition of marriage; it's that God himself sent his son into a marriage just like the one being criticized as immoral.

Identity Partisanship

When I saw the headline, promising a feminist/rape-culture study of the Al Franken case, I was hoping to see a much-needed, thoughtful reflection on principles and limits governing what to do about various degrees of sexual misconduct. I'm afraid she has simply elected to defend the actual standard, which is that Democrats should be given something of a pass while Republicans should be destroyed.

To her credit, this is an honest explanation of what she thinks. There's value in that.
Cynics on both the right and left will presume I am passing by this particular steam tray on 2017’s smorgasbord of feminist outrage because Franken is a Democrat, and so am I. (I was even his proud constituent for two years.) In the most superficial sense, this is true. But it’s meaningless to say it’s because I am a Democrat without asking why I am a Democrat.

I am a Democrat because I am a feminist who lives under a two-party system, where one party consistently votes against the interests of women while the other sometimes does not.... Democrats are members of the only party positioned to pump the brakes on Republicans’ gleeful race toward Atwoodian dystopia.
I get the binary choice issue, which does sometimes apply. But in this case, a Democratic governor would appoint Franken's replacement. There's actually nothing to be lost by his resignation.

Here's what she says she would prefer:
[I]f Franken genuinely wishes to be an ally to women, as he claimed in an expanded statement Thursday, here’s what I would like to see him do. First, cooperate fully with an ethics investigation, as promised. Second, declare as soon as possible that he will not run again in 2020, so other Democratic candidates for that seat have plenty of time to prepare their campaigns. Third, go on a listening tour to learn what the women of Minnesota — Native American women, Somali women, Hmong women, Karen women, disabled women, queer women, working-class women... Accept that some women will not want to talk to him at all, or will only want to yell at him for being a pig. Go anyway.

After all that, I would like to see him support a qualified progressive woman, who will carry on that important work, to run for his seat.
What if, as is not unlikely, he doesn't really 'wish to be an ally to women'? What if he just wants this to all blow over so he can go on enjoying the exercise of power? "Listening tours" are a great way to let everyone release their anger without actually accepting any change; talking about something feels like doing something about it. That's exactly why Hillary Clinton went on "listening tours" on a regular basis. It was always about letting angry constituents vent, so that she could go right back to exercising power. Even if Franken announced he was not going to run in 2020, by 2019 he could change his mind and say, "You know, I've learned so much, I feel obligated to carry all these lessons back to Washington. I can use my greater experience and seniority to be effective for women in a way that no newly-elected junior Senator could."

This approach to politics doesn't get you anywhere because it consents to being divided, which as everyone knows comes right before being conquered. You've self-segmented your market, making it all the easier for the powerful to sell themselves to you. They'll never help you because they don't have to in order to get your vote. They can devote themselves to helping the people who still have something to trade, like campaign donations or sinecures for friends and family. Nothing's going to change if this is the approach. They'll just take a break, have a 'listening tour,' and then get right back in the big chair.

How About Some Fine Bluegrass?



UPDATE:

Perhaps some music, generally. Here's an old favorite for the office.



And another.



And after the office.

Christopher Tolkien Steps Down

Personally, learning the greatest Tolkien scholar, and a man who has honored his father in an exemplary way, has left the care of his father’s legacy to others feels like reading the end of LOTR where Galadriel, Elrond and the other great elves leave Middle-earth. There is a keen sadness, but admiration and beauty as well.
The article goes on to explore the ramifications.

"Like a Thunderbolt from Thor"

Ladies and gentlemen, John Thune.

Doug Jones for Senator from Alabama

I know some of you are from Alabama. You can do what you want and retain my respect, but if you want my advice, consider the Southern Democrat this year. Not only for the obvious reasons, but for the very reason he's taking fire from the Left as well.

Little Round Top, Gettysburg. Three times Col. William Oates of Alabama led the Confederate forces to take it. Running out of ammunition, Col. Joshua Chamberlain of Maine had his men fix bayonets to desperately repel the attack. What brought those two brave men, one from Alabama and one from Maine, together was war—two sides believing so strongly in their cause that they were willing to die for it. Those times are past, long ago, and our country is better for it. But now we fight too often over other matters. It seems as if we're coming apart. I want to go to Washington and meet the representatives from Maine and those from every other state not on a battlefield, but to find common ground, because there's honor in compromise and civility.
That's exactly what Democrats need to hear. They'll be glad enough to win a seat in the Deep South that they never expected to see again, maybe they'll even listen.

Plus, Roy Moore is simply not fit for office. All the current turmoil aside, he thinks the Constitution is compatible with religious tests for office. It was reasonable to oppose him even before we found out anything beyond his understanding of Constitutional law. Maybe you don't think that 30+ year-old charges should matter that much; maybe his long history of apparently faithful marriage shows that he's past whatever problems he had as a younger man. Maybe you don't believe the charges against him. But he still believes in violating black-letter Constitutional principles, and that's got to be enough.

Can We Get Some of These in the US?

"Thor's Tipi bar," a Christmas experience. Talk about cultural appropriation!

Looks awesome, though.

Building the Wall

Some Corps of Engineers documents suggest this thing may be happening.

The Gifts of God

On Thursday morning at St. Dominic’s in San Francisco (I was moving around a bit this week), the priest celebrating the 8 a.m. Mass said, “This is a safe place, where you can commune with God.” Days after the massacre in Texas, to anyone who just happened to be walking in without context, it may have sounded like an act of defiance or a tempting of fate.
The late, great Lewis Grizzard used to tell a story about a flood and a preacher. The preacher was sitting on his roof, the floodwaters rising, and a rowboat came by to save him. "Don't worry about me, pass on!" the preacher shouted. "I'm a man of faith. God will provide for me."

In a while, the waters were higher and another boat came by. The preacher's answer was the same. Later, with the waters lapping the roof where he was sitting, a Coast Guard helicopter came by. He said the same thing to them.

Next thing you know, he found himself before the Pearly Gates. St. Peter was there, and asked the preacher what he was doing in Heaven so early. "I don't know," the preacher said. "There was a flood, but I kept telling everyone that I was a man of faith and that God would provide."

St. Peter looked at him and said, "We sent two boats and a helicopter, what did you want?"

I'm reminded of the story as we face this business, which is not otherwise a laughing matter. The Church, though, is in the same position. They were a safe place, where you could go to commune with God. They could be again. But they should reconsider the work of Geoffroi de Charny, of Raymond Lull, of the anonymous author of L'ordene De Chevalerie. The Church used to make knights, in other words, not for ceremony nor for charity but to stand as swords against evil.

These are the gifts God sent to make you safe. Denying them is denying the gift, while refusing them their chance to serve in the manner for which they were made.

"Hiring Lunatics"

That's how Michael Yon describes the Army's move to permit wavers for recruits with certain mental disorders.
People with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the Army under an unannounced policy enacted in August, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

The decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018. To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.... accepting recruits with those mental health conditions in their past carries risks, according to Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010 and is an expert on waivers for military service. People with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have those issues resurface than those who do not, she said.

“It is a red flag,” she said. “The question is, how much of a red flag is it?”

While bipolar disorder can be kept under control with medication, self-mutilation — where people slashing their skin with sharp instruments — may signal deeper mental health issues, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Well, or it may not. I knew a Major who had a huge brand on his arm that he'd gotten from his college fraternity. He was a good officer. Likewise, the Army has been forced to ease its policy on tattoos recently, too. Tattoos are similar to scarification in most respects. Tattoos were looked upon similarly as a sign of mental health or adjustment issues when I was young; now they're close to full acceptance as a mode of self-expression.

The best way to know that someone has their issues (whatever they may be) under control is to see that they have led a successful life. Maybe they drink a bit too much; lots of soldiers do. Maybe they used to cut themselves as a teenager. Nevertheless, they've held jobs of increasing responsibility, they've managed relationships with stability over a long period of time, they have achievements under their belt. 'Warning signs' are just warnings; sometimes ignoring a warning doesn't cause any problems at all.

The problem is that Army has to make decisions about this while people are still young enough that they haven't been tested yet. They are often going to be the first test that these young people might pass -- or might fail. That's a tough spot to be in: if only recruiting 40 year olds was practical.

A Saudi View on Reforms

While I assume the author is employed by the Saudi state to say this, frankly I wouldn't mind seeing a little reform along these lines among our own governing parties.
Corruption has always been the Kingdom’s worst kept secret.... Up until this point, the default expectation among ordinary Saudis was that an official is corrupt. If, by chance, he proved not to be corrupt, the people would go out of their way to praise him for having integrity. And, up until recently, no one expected anything to change.

As such, news of the arrests came as a surprise. Saudi citizens were hit with unprecedented live coverage of arrests of a handful of princes, former ministers, and bureaucrats, some of whom have been around for more than twenty years, and were always perceived to be above the law or “untouchable”. Given the widespread usage of social media, including WhatsApp and Twitter, the Saudi public is very familiar with the personalities involved as well as the ins and outs of the alleged cases of money laundering, bribery, and misuse of power.

While some in the West fret about a “purge” of business elites and political enemies, most Saudis are eagerly following and cheering what they see as a historic step forward for the Kingdom’s justice system.
There's so much corruption at the higher levels of our government that it's hard to say where such a purge would have to end. Nor have we much reason to be confident in our institutions, should they attempt one.

I don't know that the Saudis are definitely getting a good deal here either, but I can certainly understand their enthusiasm for anyone who seemed inclined to make the attempt.

Honor

I hope that this story proves to be untrue, but if not, the Green Beret in question showed a high degree of personal honor.
The mysterious death of US Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar is under scrutiny after the Green Beret, who was killed by strangulation, reportedly declined to accept money from a dubious scheme.

A Daily Beast report, sourced from five service members in the special-operations community, says that a portion of funds used to pay informants in Mali for intelligence were allegedly pocketed by members of the elite SEAL Team Six. The SEALs' actions were reportedly discovered by Melgar, who eventually turned down the money when he was offered a cut.

Prior to his death, Melgar reportedly told his wife of the problems he had with two of the SEALs, and was going to elaborate further when he went home, the Daily Beast said.
The story holds that he was choked to death during martial arts practice, and that the claim that he had died unexpectedly because he was drunk proved false on medical examination. I hope that there proves to be another explanation, and that the investigation shows that no pilfering of cash was taking place. It is never proper to take accusations as proven simply because they have been forwarded in the press. The press report follows an official notification that the NCIS is investigating his death as a homicide, so in time we should see the evidence formally presented.

There is No 2nd Amendment Jurisprudence

So I gather from the fact that people keep writing these 'assault weapon' bans the way that they do. The Miller decision protected weapons precisely because they had a military use appropriate to a militia; the AR-15 is the single best candidate for protection under that doctrine today. Its similarity to the military's standard rifle means that extant training regimes can be immediately brought to bear as necessary to training up a militia with Army or Marine Corps personnel, should that be necessary; many of them share ammunition with existing military supply chains (though some use the .223 Remington, which can be fired from a weapon chambered for 5.56 NATO but not vice-versa).

Thus, if Miller is in any sense guiding our understanding of the 2nd Amendment, the AR-15 should be protected from Federal bans. It is the single most obvious choice for a militia weapon currently in existence.

Meanwhile, under Heller (which cites Miller to expand on it, not to replace it), the standard is that weapons protected are those "in common use for lawful purposes." The AR-15 is one of the most commonly-used rifles in the United States, for lawful purposes including self-defense, hunting, sport shooting, and for those who wish to be prepared to render militia service if necessary.

Every one of these laws seems to be designed for the express purpose of voiding what 2nd Amendment jurisprudence there is, effectively meaning that there isn't any that proponents of gun control are prepared to accept.

Boxing People In

I have a friend who talks the same way about Donald Trump voters, except on the male/female rather than white/black divide.
...the deepest rift is with the apologists, the “good” Trump voters, the white people who understand that Mr. Trump says “unfortunate” things but support him because they like what he says on jobs and taxes. They bristle at the accusation that they supported racism, insisting they had to ignore Mr. Trump’s ugliness. Relying on everyday decency as a shield, they are befuddled at the chill that now separates them from black people in their offices and social circles. They protest: Have they ever said anything racist? Don’t they shovel the sidewalk of the new black neighbors? Surely, they say, politics — a single vote — does not mean we can’t be friends.

I do not write this with liberal condescension or glee. My heart is unbearably heavy when I assure you we cannot be friends.
From June of last year, we were in a binary choice between surrendering the Constitution or accepting Donald Trump as President. The Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court was going to be filled by the next President, and a President Clinton was going to appoint a fifth doctrinaire "living Constitution" Justice. The 'living Constitution' is of course no Constitution at all; if the Constitution means whatever the powerful would like it to 'evolve' to mean, then it means whatever the powerful want. A constitution that means whatever the powerful want it to mean is not in fact a constitution at all, because a constitution's purpose is to restrain the government's use of power. The choice really was between the end of a Constitutional form of government, or this bullying blowhard from Manhattan.

That's not a great choice. Some went one way, and some went the other. It disturbs my friend, and this writer, that some could stomach voting for Trump in spite of his 'unfortunate' remarks. It disturbs me that some could stomach voting for Clinton in spite of the fact that it would have meant the end of a system of Constitutional limited government; indeed, I think they saw that as a feature rather than a bug of a prospective Clinton presidency. At long last, the Constitution would never hobble them from using the government to pursue the goods they wanted. We would hear the Supreme Court rule that the Constitution existed only to limit Americans' freedom to exercise racism or sexism or whatever-else-ism, never that it forbade the government from exercising some power 'to do good.' Rather than restraining the government, the Constitution would have been nothing more than one more weapon for the government to exert itself against the people.

What I just said will sound to them as if I meant, "I couldn't vote for Clinton because she would have turned the Court into a weapon against my right to exercise racism and prejudice." The real issue is completely opaque to those making these arguments. Indeed, I think this writer is so invested in the identity politics that it might not be possible to sever the issues conceptually. Perhaps the writer imagines that this sense of the indivisibility of identity from justice, which seems so self-evident to him, must necessarily be equally in the minds of everyone else as well.

Veteran's Day

All honor to the warriors. Some of them grew grey in the service, as this famous artistic treatment imagines.



George Washington, too.
At the close of the Revolutionary War in America, a perilous moment in the life of the fledgling American republic occurred as officers of the Continental Army met in Newburgh, New York, to discuss grievances and consider a possible insurrection against the rule of Congress.... Washington then took out a letter from a member of Congress explaining the financial difficulties of the government.

After reading a portion of the letter with his eyes squinting at the small writing, Washington suddenly stopped. His officers stared at him, wondering. Washington then reached into his coat pocket and took out a pair of reading glasses. Few of them knew he wore glasses, and were surprised.

"Gentlemen," said Washington, "you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."

In that single moment of sheer vulnerability, Washington's men were deeply moved, even shamed, and many were quickly in tears, now looking with great affection at this aging man who had led them through so much. Washington read the remainder of the letter, then left without saying another word, realizing their sentiments.

His officers then cast a unanimous vote, essentially agreeing to the rule of Congress. Thus, the civilian government was preserved and the experiment of democracy in America continued.
As Washington shows us, sometimes men grown grey can yet be of service.

Happy Veteran's Day.

Happy Birthday


The Marine Corps is 242 years old today. Felicitations are due.

Sometimes the Onion is Just Funny

WASHINGTON—Saying the financial risks and hours of hard work would pay off in the long term, former president Barack Obama revealed Thursday that he has sunk his entire life’s savings into the development of a tabletop game based on the American presidency.

Obama confirmed that over the past 10 months, he has spent the bulk of his family’s net worth to create Commander In Chief: Executive Power, a hybrid role-playing and board game about running a presidential administration. He has reportedly devised more than 50 possible storylines players may encounter while they work together to complete a term in the Oval Office, planning fiscally sound federal budgets, negotiating trade deals with foreign countries, and delivering aid to states struck by natural disasters.

“Once Commander In Chief hits the market, it’s gonna blow up just like Terra Mystica did, but right now funding is the biggest issue,” said Obama, sitting at his dining room table and showing off a prototype that included a 4-by-4 foot game board, stacks of handwritten index cards labeled “event” and “item,” and a set of polyhedral dice. “I drained our bank account to pay this specialty manufacturer to make the game components, and I’m hoping the Kickstarter money will cover the cost of renting warehouse space to store the finished product.”

...

Flatfoot 56 for Friday


We've Got Your Solutions Right Here

Headline: "DNC Unveils Clinton Institute For Campaign Ethics Reform In Response To Corruption Allegations."

A Promising Crisis

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is changing. Fast.

A Banner Week for Government Competence on Guns

The USAF simply failed to inform the rest of the Federal government that the Texas shooter was disqualified from own firearms. A government-run mental facility failed to inform on the same shooter, two strikes. (H/t: D29) And now, just to make us even more certain that the government are the only ones to trust to manage American firearms, this story:
In July, Robert Manson, a unit chief in the F.B.I.’s international terrorism section, had his Glock .40-caliber handgun, a $6,000 Rolex watch and $60 in cash stolen from his room at the Westin hotel in Charlotte, N.C....

Federal law allows agents to carry concealed weapons while off duty, but not while they are intoxicated.
One begins to wonder what the overlap is, in the Venn Diagram sense, between Federal police who are "off duty" but "not intoxicated."

UPDATE: TSA fails to detect weapons in undercover tests 70% of the time.

Wars Day-By-Day

Some fellow who goes by the moniker Emperor Tigerstar has put up a bunch of animated maps on YouTube showing the day-by-day conflicts for a number of major wars. Here's the Civil War:


Legend:
Maroon = Confederate States of America and territories
Red = Areas occupied by Confederate forces
Pink = Gains for that Day
Dark Blue = United States of America and territories
Blue = Areas occupied by Union forces.
Light blue = Gains for that day
Yellow = Border states / disputed areas.

You know that train gonna come tonight

I need a break from horror and revulsion at the news and the perfidy of political opponents.  But I keep thinking about Judgment.



A Setup

So it looks very much like Fusion GPS set up the Donald Trump, Jr., meeting with a Russian national -- and had 3 of their people in the room. The Russian had been working with the Justice Department on an unrelated case for a year or so, and she met with a Fusion GPS guy before and after that meeting.

Looks like collusion, all right. Of a sort.

Al Jazeera: Gun Control is Pretty Racist

They're not wrong, although I'm not sure why the Qatari government is interested in American civil rights. They certainly aren't interested in advancing civil rights in their own country.



The NRA has a sterling original story here, but the criticism of their moves in the 1960s is valid. So too is the ongoing criticism of their lackluster response to the Philando Castile shooting, in which a legally armed man was killed for no good reason by a frightened policeman. I don't know that I think that the NRA is being racist in the latter case; I think they're afraid to be critical of police, who are a crucial group they need to lobby in order to pursue their main mission. All the same, Philando Castile should be alive, and the NRA should be out there defending him.

I Seem To Remember This Language

In fact, we all of us used it ourselves. It's as if we were always right in our depiction of the crime.
An early draft of former FBI Director James Comey’s statement exonerating Hillary Clinton from the email scandal contained much stronger, consequential language that would seem to indicate Clinton, in fact, violated the Espionage Act. What’s more, there is reason to believe the individuals involved in editing the memo were unduly influenced by political bias.

According to a report from The Hill, the wording of Comey’s statement was changed from saying Clinton had been “grossly negligent” in handling classified information to a softer accusation of being “extremely careless.”...

The relevant section of the Espionage Act, Title 18 Section 793(f), states:

“Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed … Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

Olofsdotter is a Great Name

Another of Tex's 'Gorillas in the Mist' pieces on trying to understand what they are calling "Trump's America." Well, willing to vote for Trump, anyway.

Here was their first mistake:
On one side of Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter sat a former German defense minister and on the other a Washington think-tanker, a former Obama White House official who had organized the Trump country excursion.
Why would you get an Obama White House official to organize your trip to understand 'Trump's America'?
“Do the people who live in the Trump circles work in these high-tech companies?” Olofsdotter asked during her meeting with editors at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“It’s a little scary, but a lot of them work in the medical field,” one of the editors replied.
Yes, being completely terrified of these wild animals helps you understand them.

Now for their second mistake:
Soon they came to a stop at the public library, a new, two-story brick building, where the parking lot was full and the librarian was eagerly waiting for them by the front door.
Public libraries are like deep-blue monasteries in the reddest of red places. Go to Madison County, Georgia, and you'll find the only "Coexist" and "Clinton 2016" bumper stickers in the whole county on the two cars parked in the employee lot. These people -- who may be very decent, in most respects -- will not help you understand Trump voters.
“Do Trump voters go to libraries?” one of Smith’s former Obama administration colleagues, now a University of Pittsburgh professor, had asked her the previous day.
You're off to a grand start with your understanding tour.

Tone deafness

So, thanks to Ace, I found this article this morning and read it.  For those of you not willing to churn through a bunch of navel gazing about "why New Atheism failed" (surprising me both that there was a "new" atheism and that it's already been determined to have failed; given that I knew nothing about it in the first place), in short it wonders if this "new wave of atheists" failed to gain any traction in society because they were preaching "obvious truths" to like-minded believers (no pun intended).

And as I read it, it discussed the fact that 80% of Americans identify as "religious", 63% "claim" to be absolutely certain there is a God, and 46% think the Earth was literally created in seven days.  So I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the author (who seems to be an atheist) to say, "you know, maybe mocking people who believe different things than we do is the reason we don't gain converts from among them".  And it simply never happened.

This person literally questioned everything about why the New Atheist movement (and again, my apologies, I never even knew this was a thing) failed to gain traction, and never once thought about the fact that by basically calling every person of faith deluded, wrong, and even stupid (in fact, the author goes so far as to say religion causes homophobia and terrorism), that they just might not be willing to give your philosophy a fair hearing.  One almost gets the feeling from the article that the author never expects to sway the other 4/5ths of their countrymen, and have written us off entirely.  Almost completely admitting that they don't actually care what the rest of us think.

Now, let me be clear, my very best friend in this world (besides my wife) is an atheist.  And unlike this author, he neither looks down upon or denigrates those who do not believe as he does.  I have even seen him take other (more militant) atheists to task for trying to berate someone for praying.  "You are the kind of person who makes atheists like me look bad", were his exact words.  I have no issues with someone who simply does not feel what I feel, what I have issues with is someone who demands that not only do I give up my faith, but that I (in effect) admit how stupid I am for having it in the first place.  The first is non-negotiable, the second is laughable.  "Molon labe" comes to mind.

Hard shells

In Texas, even if you shoot up a church on Sunday, you may find yourself taking return fire.

A horrible, horrible story, a number of young children among the dead in a tiny town that just lost nearly 10% of its people.  Sutherland Springs is a short distance southeast of San Antonio, almost in the middle of what was Eagle Ford shale boom country until quite recently.  It's maybe 100 miles northwest of us.

We know very little about the now-deceased 26-year-old New Braunfels man who was the shooter. I find myself wondering if he's going to turn out to have been on antidepressants.  It wouldn't prove much, since so many people are.  God have mercy on the grieving families.

Patriots over Riyadh

Video here. When Iran is giving its proxies ballistic missiles that can attack the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's capital city, and the Kingdom itself is purging royals and princes, we're getting close to some real excitement.

A Bit of Gallantry

Deep in this article about a desperate battle in 1940 between the British destroyer HMS Glowworm and the German cruiser Admiral Hipper, there is this:

Lieutenant Commander Roope [captain of HMS Glowworm] was recommended for a commendation by Kapitän zur See Hellmuth Heyes, the captain of the Admiral Hipper. He had witnessed a small, outmatched, outnumbered, and outgunned destroyer engage with one of the newest and most powerful cruisers afloat. A real act of bravery and defiance. He wrote to the Admiralty, through the Red Cross, informing them of the action.

'I Wanted to Believe Hillary, But...'

When the Politico story described this arrangement as “essentially … money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.

I wanted to believe Hillary, who made campaign finance reform part of her platform, but....
But, of course, every word of the accusation turned out to be completely true. The outrage, as always, was merely over the temerity of reporters having pointed out the shady behavior in front of the public.

"He Doesn't Bring Anything New"

Typically this phrase is a criticism, as it is intended here.
[Justice Kagan] is about as tough as they come, and I am not sure [Justice Gorsuch is] as tough—or dare I say it, maybe not as smart. I always thought he was very smart, but he has a tin ear somehow, and he doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the conversation.
'The conversation,' in this case, is conferences on how to decide Supreme Court cases. What does Justice Gorsuch bring instead? NPR reinforces the point: nothing new.
NPR’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg took aim at Gorsuch. First in her crosshairs was his habit of frequently citing the Constitution. She objected to Gorsuch bringing things back to first principles at oral argument. He often prefaces his questions by saying, “Let’s look at what the Constitution says about this … It’s always a good place to start.”
Funny thing, that's exactly what many of us wanted a Justice to do. The last thing I want in a Supreme Court Justice is someone who 'brings something new to the conversation.' I want a Justice who will doggedly return to first principles rooted in the Constitution's original meaning.

That is the proper role of a Justice. If we want to 'bring something new to the conversation' about what the Constitution does or should mean, that's fine: that's the job of the legislature, the states, or an Article V convention. It is most emphatically not the job of a Supreme Court Justice.

Go, Mighty Bulldogs

Georgia is #1 in the College Playoff Rankings right now. I've never seen them play so well as they're doing this year.

Now for a rendition of the Georgia Bulldogs' fight song, "Glory, Glory to old Georgia."



Yes, I know that the tune has been used before.

You May Not Have a Lawyer Dog

A court in Louisiana is pretty hostile in its reading of slang as spoken by a suspect.

Happy "Open Enrollment"

It turns out that these giant rate hikes are considered desirable by the Obamacare folks. The more the second-highest-priced Silver Plan costs, the bigger the subsidies they are authorized to issue.
Obama's HHS also boasted that 286,000 people became newly eligible for subsidies in 2017 because of that year's 25% premium hike.

In ObamaCare-land, higher prices are good.

That does leave one nagging question. If enrollees aren't paying for those massive premium hikes, who is? Two groups ignored by ObamaCare aficionados:

1) Taxpayers. Even before the massive 2018 rate hikes were announced, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the taxpayer cost of ObamaCare's subsidies will climb 32% next year. From 2015 to 2018, the annual cost of these subsidies will have more than doubled.

2) Millions who aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies. According to industry analysts, about 44% of the individual market isn't eligible for any ObamaCare subsidies.... That means they face the full brunt of those double-digit rate hikes. This isn't Trump's fault, by the way. Huge annual premium hikes have been an ongoing problem since ObamaCare launched.
If you're in group 2, you're in both groups. Higher taxes and massive price increases, plus you get to be thrown off your plan every year because this-or-that regulation has changed.

The Feast of All Saints


(H/t: Catholic Memes)

Also, apparently yesterday was an anniversary or something.

Compromise and the Civil War

Speaking of Aristotelian causes, the 'four causes' approach makes better sense of John Kelly's remarks on the Civil War than the less-sophisticated approach that is mostly in evidence. One is supposed to affirm that the Civil War was caused, and only caused, by slavery. And of course that is true, in a way: formally and finally, and to a large degree materially, slavery shaped the tensions of the society in such a way that the war came to be because of it.

In terms of efficient causality (which, for moderns, is usually the only kind they talk about) one might still ask why the Civil War broke out in 1860 as opposed to 1850 or 1870. War had threatened before, and not arisen; it was prevented by a series of compromises. Thus, it is reasonable to assert that the war might not have occurred in 1860 if a compromise had been found. To put it another way, it is sensible to say that the failure to compromise caused (efficiently) the outbreak of war in 1860. That doesn't change the fact that the tensions over which the war was fought were themselves caused by slavery, or that slavery was the issue that had to be resolved.

Having said that, it is arguable that compromise was not desirable, even given the massive toll of the war. Avi Selk makes the argument:
...the truth is, the panicky months before the Civil War were full of attempts to compromise with the rebellious South.

The most popular proposal, by far, was a constitutional amendment that would have irreversibly immortalized slavery as a feature of the United States.

And although supporters of this compromise — up to and including Abraham Lincoln and most of Congress — did fail to pull it off, it wasn’t for lack of trying....

“No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of people held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

But slaves were exactly what was meant. The amendment would have assuaged slave owners’ fears by forever forbidding the federal government from freeing them.

“It would be a formula for reuniting the country politically,” Crofts said, aimed not so much at hard-core secessionists in the Deep South but to convince people in “border” states such as Virginia that Lincoln had no designs on their slaves.

“Lincoln’s fingerprints are on this thing,” Crofts told The Post. Not only did he probably suggest its creation but he also spent the days leading up to his inauguration trying to rally Congress behind it.
This fails to give Lincoln adequate credit, I think. I do not see how such an amendment could have actually prevented a future amendment from abolishing slavery; one might have repealed the one amendment in the first article of a new amendment, whose second article abolished slavery. That being the case, the compromise was effectively free from Lincoln's perspective: he got the stability he wanted right then in return for nothing, as the bonds against abolishing slavery were illusory. Why not trade an immediate practical benefit (including the avoidance of a destructive and ruinous war) in exchange for nothing more than an illusion of restraint?

One might reply: because ending slavery as soon as possible was worth fighting the war. But that, too, fails to do justice to Lincoln. He knew a war might have to be fought; he could not have known that he would win it. It was just as likely, in 1860, that the Confederacy would have enshrined slavery as a permanent feature by effecting its independence than that it would ultimately fail to do so. The amendment could be repealed later; independence is much harder to repeal. Having lost a war to prevent it, they would have to fight and win another such war to eliminate it.

Lincoln might well have favored the amendment, given those odds. It was functionally free, eliminated none of his long-term options, and prevented a high immediate cost that had to be paid with no promise of success. It was the choice a statesman would probably make, given the options and what he could legitimately be said to know in the moment. We may be grateful that it did not work, but I don't think he can be damned for having favored the try.

Jihad in Manhattan

Apparently the "truck rampage" is going to be a continuing thing. It used to be truck bombs, but those can be deterred in various ways; and it turns out you can kill quite a few people with just the truck. Trucks can't be banned from cities, as cities can't survive without them. Just as the airplane turned out to be a weapon in itself, so too this basic tool of modern urban life.

You might attempt to control who gets access to a truck, but this one was just rented from Home Depot. We probably can't make truck rentals substantially more difficult either without causing serious problems for urban life.

So... might we consider addressing the jihad that is the formal and final cause of these attacks, rather than the tools that are merely the efficient or material causes? We have no problem addressing the white supremacist ideology that sometimes lies behind other sorts of terrorist attacks; why not this form of supremacism?

UPDATE: Former Federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy gives an interview on this subject. The last minute or so is particularly important, as he clearly demonstrates that concern with radical mosques is not akin to a generalized anti-Muslim bias: 'The first Muslims I met as a prosecutor were the ones who were helping us infiltrate radical mosques. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.'

Of course that is true. No one is under greater threat from radicalized Islamic terrorists than the non-radicalized members of their own community. They have the same issue with those radicals that I have with the KKK. The radicals in my community are a problem for me, because they're out there trying to pull my neighbors and younger relatives into their swamp.

"Mueller is Running Amok"

The headline offers a proposition that I think is too strong for what is so far in evidence; it may be true, but it isn't necessarily so from what we've seen. I take it as at least potentially hopeful that the Podestas are facing apparent scrutiny in addition to Trump campaign figures, none of whom so far are particularly glorious Americans that we should feel bad to see facing prosecution.

However, the piece closes on an argument that I think is definitely true and worth stating.
The real lesson of the Russia non-story is that globalization, the great theme of the 2016 election, is more pervasive than any of us wants to acknowledge. No one who works in consulting or lobbying or finance is lacking in ties with Russia. Our press corps is largely made up of enthusiastic children. These 20- and 30-somethings who have never read a book were raised to excel in "critical thinking," but they are amusingly bad at it. Anyone can write a decontextualized story about a person or a group having "ties" to any malicious foreign power because having "ties" is what it means to exist somewhere in the sinuous continuum of depersonalized financial accretion that is late capitalism.

Freedom of Speech in Peril

Some of these results are more disturbing than others, but the worst of them are quite disturbing.

Some of the shock value comes from the difference between the headline and the actual question asked. "Is supporting racists' free speech the same as holding racist views yourself?" is, strictly speaking, a logical question: you can determine the answer by building a truth table. Obviously they are not the same thing, and it would be deeply alarming to have a majority or near-majority come back saying that the clearly false proposition was true. What the survey actually asked was whether supporting racists' free speech was "as bad as" holding racist views. That's a different proposition. It's sad, in America, to see that so many people view defending freedom of speech to be actively immoral if the speech is bad. All the same, it's not a logical problem; it's a disagreement about whether freedom of speech is a good.

I think there's a similar issue with the question of whether "disrespectful" people do or don't deserve free speech rights. The actual question asks not about "disrespectful people," but about "people who don't respect others." That's not quite the same thing; you can be disrespectful in some senses without failing to respect the humanity of the person you're addressing disrespectfully. For example, you might be correcting them. Your disrespectful speech is then pointed at their actions, which are not necessarily respectable, and not their humanity. Someone who "does not respect others" is guilty of not respecting their humanity, which is a stronger offense. (For a Kantian, it is the basic moral offense.)

All that said, this points up a very deep division on a very basic and classically American right. That's a problem however you cut it.

Scary, Scary Halloween

What's the most terrifying thing you can be this Halloween? A white guy with a pickup truck that has a Gadsden flag license plate on the front.



The very stuff of nightmares!

In Health Insurance News...

This August I was forced off my existing plan again, so I bought another plan from Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Georgia. Yesterday, I was informed by mail that this plan will be canceled at the end of December, due to changing regulations. I will need to find a new plan by January 1.

Some on the left sometimes claim that the economy functions because of the reliability of the regulatory regime created by good government. This idea is demonstrably false: even though economies are improved by having a few good government measures like enforceable contracts, economic activity originates before governments and survives their collapse. Go out on some frontier, and you'll find people trading what they have for what others have that they need; go to a failed state like Somalia, and you'll find the same thing.

Still, the capacity of government regulation to provide stability and reliability is supposed to be one of its selling points. "HA!" SAYS I. I've never seen instability in a market like this. In addition to plans being ruled legal and illegal willy-nilly, there is the even greater issue of price instability. My costs have already quadrupled with the plan I started on in August. I can't wait to see how much more I'll be expected to pay for roughly the same health insurance next year!

Son of Ugly

That's what "MacLeod" means, you might not have known.

Mabinogion- Mapping Welsh Myth and Legend

Somehow or other, my wanderings about the internet brought me across this map- a beautifully rendered watercolor of Wales in the myth and legend of the Mabinogion. 


Now, I must confess, my knowledge of Welsh myth and legend is sparse to say the least, mainly echoes through Tolkien and what little knowledge I have of Arthurian legend.  I was completely unaware of the Mabinogion, but will say that this artwork has piqued my interest.

The artist is Margaret Jones, and she has done a fantastic job with this map, and is apparently also the illustrator of an edition of the Mabinogion.  The poster itself doesn't seem to be widely available but it is out there (I found a couple of places) if you want it.  I just might have to get one myself.

Who Could Have Predicted This?

Instapundit is right.


The people who thought that was a meltdown haven't spent enough time around the folks who were making the arguments. It was never a stretch to say that they'd be after Washington and Jefferson as soon as they got rid of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson -- Virginia secessionist slaveholders all. Actually, if you view American history primarily through the lens of slavery, Stonewall Jackson may have been the best of the four. Washington isn't going to get a break: his slaves fled to the British for protection.

Al Gore Too?

Maybe this "Me Too" thing was worth doing after all, just to make clear the scale of this problem. It's starting to look like this bad behavior is rampant in places of power -- now Al Gore is being accused by multiple women. I suppose finding out that both halves of the Clinton administration are guilty is unsurprising, given that the boss sets the tone for the workplace. Nor are Republicans well placed to say much, I guess, with Trump at the head of the party.

Do you suppose that the worst people seek power, or that the power makes them worse?

NINA

From Newsweek, anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice of the sort you haven't seen in decades.
Once the biggest names, faces, and voices on television were Huntley and Brinkley, Cronkite, Murrow, even John Chancellor and Dan Rather, all sober, serious Americans—and all Protestants too.

Now we have angry loudmouths with names like O’Reilly, Hannity, Buchanan, and, lurking back there with his Cheshire smile, the dissolute but scary Bannon.

Yet no one has noticed this obvious fact, and the sheer lack of attention may be the most important thing about it. Why has the ascent of a bunch of people who in an earlier period might have been called Micks drawn no notice at all?
The piece isn't really coherent; the author can't decide if it's important that these guys are all Irish, or if in fact they aren't very Irish. That allows him to finish on the PC note of 'embracing Irishness,' which is apparently really about being a Communist.

Congress Is A Law Unto Itself

Congress forbids staffers from pursuing lawsuits about office harassment without committing to months of "counseling" first. They're also required to subject themselves to a mediation process to try to settle the business out of court.

No doubt that process produces far better results than the transparency and accountability of an open court would. I mean, that's what I would expect, wouldn't you?

"Fair Market Value"

I'm always suspicious of attempts to determine a 'fair market value' for properties other than by seeing what they'll bring on the market. What if we determine that the market itself isn't fair?
Just a few months ago, Lopez had a contract in place to sell her 1,200-square-foot home for $265,000 so she and her daughter could move to a bigger house nearby.... Just days before the home closing, Lopez was told her home was part of an affordable housing program that Denver created in 2003.... That meant [her home] could only be sold to buyers who qualified as low income....

Lopez could only sell her home for $186,000, $79,000 less than her buyers were prepared to pay, because the city only allows its affordable housing homes to appreciate 5 percent a year.
She's been ordered to relist the home in 30 days for no more than the mandatory maximum price. By the way, the city has been taxing her on the full value of the house -- not the 'value' they insist she's required to accept for it.

Poll: Only 51% of Democrats Support Investigating Trump

Meanwhile, nearly two thirds of respondents felt that the current investigations into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia are hurting the country more than helping. Only 51% of Democrats felt the investigation was helping, with the other 49% arguing it was hurting.

Interesting Point

The point that drew my attention occurs early. Christina Hoff Summers: "It looks to me as though the way society used to police and monitor the lives of gay people, now it's moved to heterosexual males. They are under constant criticism and surveillance, and their normal sexuality has been pathologized."



This turns into an eleven minute conversation, some parts of which are more interesting than others. Camille Paglia's point that her generation fought for the right to risk being raped is phrased in a controversial way, but she's right: the focus on winning freedom for young women in her era was being fought against a protective instinct from colleges. I remember my mother talking about her college campus in just the way she does: that the women had to sign in and out, and be in by a certain hour.

The 'microaggression app' sounds unpleasant in the extreme.

JFK Assassination Declassification

The UK Independent has a live update page.

Meanwhile, the DB gets its licks in.

"Gasp!"

The NYT on Chief of Staff John Kelly:
For all of the talk of Mr. Kelly as a moderating force and the so-called grown-up in the room, it turns out that he harbors strong feelings on patriotism, national security and immigration that mirror the hard-line views of his outspoken boss.
Strong feelings on patriotism, you say? In a White House Chief of Staff? National Security, too?

I can see people worrying about immigration. Kelly's DHS developed a hard-core strategy of proving to illegal immigrants that they could rely on no safe havens anywhere in America. You see stories like this one about a 10-year-old cerebral palsy patient that Border Patrol agents followed to the hospital, and then arrested as soon as she was released. Clearly the intent is to communicate that there will be no mercy for illegal immigrants, and that they have to fear showing up anywhere: the hospital, court, school, anywhere at all. The government can't deport 11 million people, or 20 million people, and it doesn't even know if the true figure is 11 or 20 million people. If it can make living in America sufficiently terrifying, however, it might convince them to leave on their own.

Those are the hardball tactics that I'd expect from a Marine assigned to enforcing immigration law given the exigent existing circumstances. We'll simply never get back to an enforceable state of affairs otherwise: the choice is between hardball tactics or accepting this mass illegal immigration as a fait accompli. A lot of people will nevertheless be put off by the hardball play, as most people prefer feeling generous and kind rather than cruel and merciless.

You can't properly damn Kelly for taking this tactic if you are also one of those who supported the Obama and Bush II era policies that made this the only choice on the table. If Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush had done their job to ensure that the laws were faithfully executed, we would not now be in a case in which the only options are "accept that the law has failed" and "restore effective enforcement by horror." That is of course what we'll hear, though, because the idea is supposed to be that the law itself was always wrong; not enforcing it was always right. Enforcing it emphatically in ways that scare people is even worse than enforcing it gently in ways that allow many people to slip through the cracks.

Still, for what it's worth, that's how we got here. Kelly's DHS is doing this because literally the only alternative is accepting the 11 or 20 (or 30 or 40) million people who came here illegally. He was hired to get a handle on this problem, and this approach is the only functional way left on the table. The people who made that reality bear a lot of the blame for the fact that this approach has been chosen by their successors.

The Dark Continent

I never get tired of stories about people on safari into flyoverland, trying to understand the mysterious natives.

My own county is convulsed right now with hurricane destruction.  Although our house came through with flying colors, nearly every house in the county was damaged to some extent; a surprising number were totaled.  Not very many businesses are back up and running yet.  The county estimates that it's lost about 25% of its revenue base, a combined effect of devalued real estate and a huge hit to hotel/restaurant surtaxes and business sales taxes.

Naturally the County Commissioners have chosen this critical time to go full Nanny-State with construction permits, ostensibly in order to placate FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program.  The timing is not ideal, given that FEMA appears to be universally loathed here.  Citizens were surprised to learn that it's difficult to qualify for FEMA benefits unless you're broke and uninsured.  Even if you seem to qualify, the application requirements are arcane or, at least, beyond the abilities of most broke and uninsured people.  Facebook has been boiling with horror stories.  I haven't run into anyone yet who got flood insurance benefits.  We suffered very little from rising water, almost entirely from high winds.

Nevertheless, we discovered (to the discomfiture of those small-governmentistas among us who should have been paying closer attention) that the Commissioners Court adopted a floodplain administration plan in early 2016 that instituted a construction permit process for the county's unincorporated areas.  On its face, it's not too horrible, in that it applies only to new construction or to repairs or renovations expected to cost at least half the value of the original structure.  Unfortunately, the Commissioners are now inexplicably taking the position that it applies to all repairs.  Naturally, this drives me nuts, not only the intrusion but the inability of a governmental body to think sensibly about whether they're really going to administer permits for everyone who needs to replace a window pane for the rest of time.

I'm very curious to see whether the citizens will put up with it.  The Facebook response includes a good bit of sensible outrage that nevertheless is disturbingly leavened with a certain amount of "but gosh, everybody should be forced to build properly, and naturally only the government can make that happen."  More to the point, because the Commissioner for my precinct just announced she will not stand for re-election in 2018, I have to decide whether to file for her position by the December 11 deadline.  This is not a job I want.  Still, I've always said that if you don't like who occupies most political offices, you should be willing to run for office yourself.

I'm trying to look at it as an experiment in whether residents of a largely unincorporated area of a deep-red Texas county are committed to small government.  If they're not, I'll be disappointed and less hopeful about the future of our freedoms, but at least I won't have to serve.  If I run and win, I won't be able to out-vote four other Commissioners, but I can make my voice heard, and I can certainly publicize their actions in a way that's actually calculated to reach the citizens, as opposed to meeting bare-minimum standards under the law.

Why the trial by ordeal was actually an effective test of guilt

Peter T. Leeson, professor of economics at George Mason University, has an interesting explanation of why trials by ordeal may have worked well. He starts out:

The only ones who know for sure whether a defendant is guilty or innocent are the defendant himself and God above. Asking the defendant to tell us the truth of the matter is usually useless: spontaneous confessions by the guilty are rare. But what if we could ask God to tell us instead? And what if we did? And what if it worked? 
For more than 400 years, between the ninth and the early 13th centuries, that’s exactly what Europeans did. In difficult criminal cases, when ‘ordinary’ evidence was lacking, their legal systems asked God to inform them about defendants’ criminal status. The method of their request: judicial ordeals.

He then explains how it could have actually worked. Pretty nifty, though whether his explanation is true or not is another matter, I suppose.

Mistakes Were Made

How do you get to the point in your professional life in which you have to write the following sentences? "Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa."

The Russia / Uranium Story

It didn't get a lot of attention, but the story about Russia buying up a lot of America's uranium is back in the news. Unexpectedly, it looks as if the Russians used clandestine bribery to advance their interests. Unexpectedly, the Clinton Foundation was a major recipient of such bribery. And shockingly, the same Robert Mueller who is running the investigation into Russia/Trump was assigned to handle the Russia/Clinton business. Mysteriously, in the earlier case, the fact that the Russians were bribing everyone neither resulted in charges nor stopped the sale.

FIRE Brings Us a World Without Hate Speech

Zach Greenberg over at FIRE tells us where we can see what nations without hate speech are like and why banning hate speech isn't a good thing, even for the people who think they want that. It's a good argument with lots of support linked.

Measures of Effectiveness

I don't understand how anybody listened to John Kelly yesterday without developing a sense that he was talking about deep, sacred things before which we should pause with reverence. Perhaps the sacred itself is terrifying: certainly, it looks as if what he said scared some.

That shows it was a powerful speech, I suppose.

Things We Do Not Understand

Men are at risk of death, especially from lung failure, if they receive a blood transfusion from a woman who has ever been pregnant. Women show no increased risk whether or not they have been pregnant. Nobody knows why.

Sacred Things

More from Joe Bob Briggs

After a career in movie-making, he's learned a few things -- things he finds himself alone in saying out loud.
Sometimes, I am prone to point out, we don’t need a strong female character for this.

We might, in fact, need a weak female character for this particular story. Or, more likely, we’ll need a complex person for whom the words “strong” and “weak” are relative or irrelevant because she’s, you know, a human being.... I could go scene by scene through the complete works of Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, and Marilyn Monroe and make notes in the margins of their scripts that would read something like this:

strong moment
weak moment
neither-strong-nor-weak moment
strong
weak
moderately strong
moderately weak

...on and on, ad infinitum, because all three of those women have played multiple roles with multiple points of view that can’t ever be summed up by the words “strong female character” or “weak female character.” You could do the same with male characters. Superman is not interesting unless Kryptonite exists.
As always, there's a lot more at Taki's place. Some of it relates to this new Arthurian adaptation of the story of Lancelot du Lac. (But see also here.)

UPDATE: Joe Bobb is bringing a cultural lesson north:
Growing up in Little Rock, Ark., John Bloom knew lots of people who figured they’d never leave. “At least once in your life, you need to go see New York, or Europe,” he’d tell them. “It’ll change your perspective.”...

Now he encourages friends living on the Upper West Side to visit Little Rock, or Mississippi: “Spend a weekend in Jackson. Go to a Baptist church. Your view is getting kind of narrow." ...

To that end, he’ll bring his midnight clip show, “A History of the Redneck in Film,” to the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 4. Though he’s presented the show periodically over the past 10 years or so, this is the first time he’s brought it north of the Mason-Dixon line. It’s a public service, he says, half-joking.
Rednecks are one of the last safe groups to portray as villains for Hollywood, he argues. Most every movie needs a villain.

Happy "World Turned Upside Down" Day!

According to the All-Knowing Wikipedia, on this day in 1781, "British forces led by Lord Cornwallis officially surrendered (pictured) to Franco-American forces under George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau, ending the Siege of Yorktown."


Painting by John Trumbull

 

This Seems Like A Big Deal

Samantha Power claims that all those unmasking requests made 'in her name' weren't made by her. Now these are NSA documents, highly classified, and in several cases the names of the individuals unmasked were leaked to the press (also illegal). So if she's telling the truth, somebody (or multiple somebodies) were filing fraudulent requests to violate high levels of classification at least sometimes for political purposes.

A cop I used to know down here in Georgia once told the story about how a bunch of teenagers camping down by the river had been target shooting beer cans for fun. When he arrived, they tried to explain that the gunshots he'd heard had really just been fireworks they were setting off for fun. Now, in those days, possession of fireworks was illegal -- shooting a .22 on your own property was just fine. So their excuse got them into a kind of trouble that the truth would have avoided, just because it sounded to them like fireworks should be less of an issue than guns.

Maybe Power screwed up in the same way today. Could be she lied about this, not realizing that this claim makes the situation very much worse than if she'd just admitted to unmasking people using her lawful authority to do so.

Or maybe we've just found a rathole. Either way, Power turned this into a story today.

A Bike for Henry

So, I don't do charity appeals very often at all; you can give or not as you like, and I won't ask. But a friend of mine who does a lot of mission work knows a guy in Nicaragua whose motorcycle wore out. He works for Ruby Ranch, itself a charity helping local kids. They'd like to buy him a new bike so he can get up and down the territory to help the kids. Nobody's made a better appeal to my very limited charitable nature in a long time. So I sent some money, and I figured I'd pass it on to you. Do what you like.

"How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America"

A warm review of a controversial new book.

Hafþór Blows the Gjallarhorn

The NFL is having a tough time right now -- College ball fans will note that UGA is #3 and undefeated, for those seeking an alternative.

But there are some things left to like in the pro game.

It is Blasphemy to Vote for My Opponent

Indonesia does democracy a little differently.
Mr. Basuki, 51, who is ethnic Chinese and popularly known as Ahok, was the incumbent governor and was handily leading in opinion polls over Mr. Anies and other candidates when he was accused of violating a blasphemy law by citing a verse from the Quran in a speech in September 2016 to argue that it was acceptable for Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim candidate.

Hard-line Islamic groups held large street protests — one of which turned violent — demanding that he be jailed or summarily executed.... He was convicted by the North Jakarta District Court on May 9, three weeks after being defeated in a runoff by Mr. Anies, who is Muslim.

While Mr. Anies was not publicly accused of orchestrating the street protests against Mr. Basuki by Islamic radicals, he did openly court their support and flaunted his own Muslim credentials in campaign advertising.
So it's blasphemy for a non-Muslim to cite the Koran as an authority? Imagine if he'd cited the Bible.

A Surprising Lack of Sympathy

You are probably aware of the "Me Too" campaign currently trending on social media, in which women are supposed to post those words as a hashtag to show that they've been subject to sexual harassment. I'm surprised at how little sympathy it is eliciting in my heart. People who have long read Grim's Hall know that I am the sort of man who sometimes is sympathetic to women's suffering. This time, though, I'm not feeling very moved at all.

It is because, I realize, these same people who are "Me Too"ing all over the place are the ones who have been chiding me and my culture for my entire life for our relationship to women. I come from a culture of ritual courtesies between the sexes. Women are "ma'am" from the time they are toddlers until they die. Strange men are "sir." Doors get held open. Chairs get pulled out. And all I ever hear, these last decades, is how this kind of formal courtesy is demeaning. It puts women on a pedestal, it doesn't take them seriously as human beings, it sets up 'power relationships' that get analyzed to death. These expressions of respect that my culture engages in are supposed to be canonical expressions of Patriarchy and the oppression of women. It's the whole thing that had to be destroyed, and they've been at the work of destroying it hammer and tongs for decades.

So now they want me to feel their pain about the rude and aggressive behaviors they find themselves subject to? Well, I don't harass anyone. I don't endure it in my presence. I was trained that way as much by my mother as by my father, who had been taught by their parents, as their parents before them. This latest round only hardens my convictions that they were right all along. Those who went about breaking the world my ancestors made are reaping what they sewed and, if they want to reap otherwise, they'd better think about changing what they're planting.