With enemies like these, who lacks friends?

The man the academic left loves to hate:
"[I]nstinctively, I knew I would like to find out about anybody described as dangerous by the trade paper of American higher education...."

Listen to the Mouse

Headline #1: "'America No Longer Matters.' Davos Isn't Worried About President Trump."

Headline #2: "Here’s How and Why Trump’s Going to Blow Up the Foundations of Davos."

"The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it."

UPDATE: Headline, NYT: "Trump Arrived in Davos as a Party Wrecker. He Leaves Praised as a Pragmatist."

Good Article on the FBI

At the Hill, Sharyl Attkisson argues that it's time for some sunlight.
[T]he Department of Justice has officially warned the House Intelligence Committee not to release its memo. It's like the possible defendant in a criminal trial threatening prosecutors for having the audacity to reveal alleged evidence to the judge and jury.

This is the first time I can recall open government groups and many reporters joining in the argument to keep the information secret. They are strangely uncurious about alleged improprieties with implications of the worst kind: Stasi-like tactics used against Americans. “Don’t be irresponsible and reveal sources and methods,” they plead.

As for me? I don’t care what political stripes the alleged offenders wear or whose side they’re on.
I think they actually view a secret police targeting conservatives as highly desirable, rather than it merely being that they lack curiosity.


A young populist candidate running for "Finland First" is worrying members of the EU.
She claims the EU has turned “Finland into its province” and has railed against the country’s political elite, who she argues do not represent the working class.

Huhtasaari has also demanded more immigration controls and has campaigned in favour of a burka ban – a far cry from Finland’s traditionally subdued politics.
I had a good friend in Finland at one time. They had, and I believe still have, mandatory military service and I knew him during his stint in their army. Their proximity to Russia makes it a wise policy to have a fully-trained militia that can be readily armed as needed.

Eight Illustrated Philosophical Thoughts

Colorful illustrations of several thought experiments. These are mostly presented for fun, with their meanings sketched rather than argued over tooth-and-knife (as is more customary among philosophers).

Friday Safety Briefing

Tell Us How You Really Feel, Mr. Sykes

[Missouri Republican U.S. Senate primary candidate Courtland Sykes] said he doesn't want his daughters to grow up to be "career obsessed banshees who forego home life ... to become nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she devils who shriek from the tops of a thousand tall buildings."
The article goes on to note that he 'faces an uphill battle' for the nomination. I'll wager.

McCarthy: Release the Memo

His argument is here.

I think this story has gone far enough that releasing the memo can't possibly be enough to resolve the deadly questions raised. We're going to need to see a lot more than that to make a judgment about whether these charges are true, or whether Republicans in Congress have been raising such explosive questions without basis. One way or the other, we need to know.

"Gang Life"

Looks like an easy win on DACA just got harder. Rubio may have internalized the message that he won't be winning any future Presidential nominations until he gets right with the base on immigration.

I wonder if the Republicans will stand firm on all the things they've now tied to a DACA fix? The wall, e-verify, an end to chain migration and also an end to the visa lottery program -- that's a lot of weight to pull. It could just be the Trump technique of making a 'big ask,' and then settling for less. I won't be surprised if e-verify is discarded, as that would be the part that would actually make it hard for corporations to hire illegals. That would drive up their labor costs, and they can't be happy about the idea.

Star Wars Fan Films

After the recent discussion of The Last Jedi, I saw that movie and then started looking for Star Wars stuff on YouTube. Something I discovered is that there are a lot of short fan-made videos out there, and some of them are fairly good, all things considered.

Of course, the classic Troops has been out for 20 years now.

But there's a lot of more recent stuff that's well-made, at least for amateurs. I kinda wish I could make something along these lines.

Here's one that's a little dark ...

Mathematics and the Battle of Clontarf

"The Brian Battle," as it was also called, was a turning point in Irish history. However, historians have long debated the exact nature of that turning point. Those with a patriotic Irish heart liked to portray it as a cleansing of Ireland by a native Irish hero, Brian Boru, who led his Irish armies to defeat the invading Vikings. That romantic reading fed the hearts of those who, likewise, wanted to cleanse Ireland of another bunch of invading Germanics.

More sober historians pointed to a lot of factionalism within the Ireland of the day, and suggested that it was probably more of a civil war in which the Vikings backed the losing side.

Now, a mathematical model suggests that the romantics were right, or at least more right than not.
To perform the study, the academics examined Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh (“The War of the Irish with the Foreigners”), a chronicle from the early twelfth-century that reported on events in Ireland between 967 and 1014. They wanted to know how all the Irish and Viking characters in the text fit together in a network, monitoring whether the interactions between them were benign or hostile. They developed a mathematical measure to quantify whether hostility in the network mainly connected Irish to Irish or Irish to Vikings.

They then calculated the difference between the measure of hostilities between each type of character (Irish and Viking) and what would have been hostile interactions in the network, indiscriminate of whether characters were Irish or Viking.

A positive value of the resulting measure would signal Irish civil war and a negative number would reflect an Irish versus Viking conflict. The results gave an overall negative value suggesting that the text mainly describes an Irish against Viking conflict.

However, because the negative value was moderate (-0.32 on a scale from -088 to 1) they suggest the text does not describe a fully “clear-cut” Irish versus Viking conflict. Instead, the network portrays a complex picture of relationships and social networks of the time.
We tend to be inclined to doubt romantic opinions, but sometimes romance wins one.

Burned at Burns Night

In which Theresa May decides that Robert Burns should be treated as a symbol of enduring Union, and then mangles all the Scottish aspects.

Actually, I imagine that really did capture the spirit of the 'enduring Union' from the Scottish perspective.

An Argument on Abortion

Patrick S. Tomlinson has what he thinks is a knock-down argument in favor of abortion. In fact, it's not a particularly difficult argument to answer if you are equipped with a little Aristotle.
It's a simple scenario with two outcomes. No one ever wants to pick one, because the correct answer destroys their argument. And there IS a correct answer, which is why the pro-life crowd hates the question.

Here it is. You're in a fertility clinic. Why isn't important. The fire alarm goes off. You run for the exit. As you run down this hallway, you hear a child screaming from behind a door. You throw open the door and find a five-year-old child crying for help. They're in one corner of the room. In the other corner, you spot a frozen container labeled "1000 Viable Human Embryos." The smoke is rising. You start to choke. You know you can grab one or the other, but not both before you succumb to smoke inhalation and die, saving no one.

Do you A) save the child, or B) save the thousand embryos? There is no "C." "C" means you all die.

In a decade of arguing with anti-abortion people about the definition of human life, I have never gotten a single straight A or B answer to this question. And I never will.
Nonsense. "A" is the correct answer; but understanding why it is the correct answer shows that this argument actually tells us nothing much about abortion.

The reason "A" is the correct answer depends on the actual/potential distinction. As Aristotle explains in the Physics, potential is a kind of actuality -- he calls it 'first actuality.' A forest is potentially many houses in a way that a sand-filled desert is not, in that one could make houses out of the trees but not out of the sand. Yet you would not be surprised if someone valued one actual house, especially if it were well-made, over a forest of potential houses. The well-made house will keep him from freezing to death in a way that the potential house will not.

So you can set up a perfectly analogous story about a fire department that shows up to a fire that threatens both a well-made house, and also a nearby forest. They can stop the fire from spreading in only one direction. Does the owner prefer to protect his house, or his forest? It's going to be the same answer. What that shows is that abortion is actually irrelevant to the problem; you get the same story even if all the human lives are removed from the problem.

Tomlinson goes wrong in thinking that this means that destroying the embryos is not morally problematic. That's like arguing that it would be morally fine to set fire to the guy's forest since he cares so much more about his house.

“If they’re allowed to bully they just bully more.”

If you can believe it, that's a quotation from Samantha Power.

Kyle Smith doesn't much care for a new movie about the "Final Year" of Obama diplomacy.
Actual events don’t align with the Rhodes-Obama rhetoric. Vladimir Putin, frustratingly, keeps failing to be bent by the Arc of History (™) and doing whatever he wants, seizing Crimea and abetting Bashar al-Assad. Perhaps he notices the nonstop signaling from the White House that there’s a new sheriff in town, and said sheriff thinks crime-fighters have been way too tough on outlaws. “The error that we may have made is Putin doesn’t seem to pursue Russia’s national interests. He pursues Putin’s interests,” Rhodes says. In other words, surprise! — Putin doesn’t share a liberal American Democrat’s vision about what’s best for Russia. Only liberal American Democrats would need seven and a half years to figure this out. Power, riding in the back of a car, marvels at Russia’s naughtiness: “If they’re allowed to bully they just bully more.” Funny how that works. Kerry, after Russia breaks the ceasefire in Aleppo in 2016: “It’s just so frustrating because we really had an agreement that could have worked. And unfortunately we have some people who didn’t want to cooperate.”
So The Final Year is about the Obama Doctrine, also known as hashtag diplomacy, also known as leading from behind, also known as voting “present” — also known as hands-off. That a lot of people can get killed while you’re wringing them is the movie’s unintended lesson. Summing up, I give you none other than Samantha “Soft” Power herself, who near the end of the doc says in a moment of sudden clarity: “My world is a world where you have 65 million displaced. Yemen and Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, Central African Republic, Burundi, South Sudan, Darfur, you know, the list, Afghanistan, of course, Venezuela imploding . . . There are concerns about terrorism and there is a fear of the other and . . . all the trendlines — on democracy, right now, at least — are going in the wrong direction.”
If only she or her friends had held positions of authority, maybe they could have done something about some of that.

That's Why You Wear A Suit And Tie

A new workplace prejudice is identified: 'lookism.'
It’s called “Lookism.” That’s the name for what happens in the job interview process when the way a candidate looks and presents themselves significantly affects whether they get the job. It can be the way they are dressed, the makeup on their face, the handbag at their feet or the style of their hair.

It can be a myriad of tiny little aesthetic details, all of which subtly affect discrimination in the hiring process. In 2006, a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 73 percent of employers admitted that grooming has “a lot of influence” on whether they would hire a candidate.... This is what Ursula McGeown, CEO of Dress for Success Sydney, wants to end.
Ursula McGeown's approach is remarkably sensible, actually: rather than trying to convince employers that they shouldn't favor candidates who can groom themselves appropriately, she's started a charity to help poorer women dress and groom well.

"We were going to decide what mattered"

I was led to this from http://ace.mu.nu and rather than post Truth Revolt's editorialization of the original, I decided to go to the source itself, to make sure some context or additional verbiage was not being left out so as to color what the original actual said.  It did not.

Agreeableness in arguments and success

Another good video clip from Maggie's Farm this morning.  I always enjoy Jordan Peterson, but this exchange is especially revealing, not only about the startling unfamiliarity of his interlocutor with ideas outside of her echo chamber, but about Peterson's ability to remain calm and focused in an increasingly irrational argument.  There's a lovely moment around minute 23 when the interviewer nearly admits that she has completely lost the ability to deny the reasonableness of his approach--but she recovers quickly and goes back on the attack.

It's really a shame she can't listen to him instead of trying to drown him out.  He could do a lot more to advance her ostensibly feminist goals than most of the people she's been listening to so far.

Crimes before the FISA court

From Maggie's farm:

This is a clearer exposition than most, but I still find myself swimming in a story that's hard to keep track of.  One part that caught my attention was the late November 2016 visit to Trump Tower by Admiral Rogers, which ex-federal prosecutor Joe di Genova describes as the hidden hero's story in this ugly sage.

Rogers's visit was portrayed by the progressive media at the time as a breach of professional ethics.  Di Genova sees it as a principled whistle-blowing, followed immediately by Trump's charges that Obama wire-tapped him, as well as a general decampment from Trump Tower to temporary New Jersey offices until the Trump Tower could be swept and debugged.

So, it's working?

My husband warned me that many aspects of this long article were silly, but recommended it for the schadenfreude.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez of Columbia, and Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution examined the long-term political consequences of anti-union legislation by comparing counties straddling a state line where one state is right-to-work and another is not. Their findings should strike terror into the hearts of Democratic Party strategists: Right-to-work laws decreased Democratic presidential vote share by 3.5 percent. . . . The authors estimate that Democrats control 5 to 10 percent fewer seats in state legislatures (in both chambers) after a right-to-work law is enacted.
I enjoyed reading how unfair it was for workers to benefit from unions without paying dues, without any mention of what it was like for workers to have union dues extorted from their paychecks without getting anything back in services that they were interested in.
This leads to a vicious cycle wherein the GOP can use that power to further suppress votes, gut union rights, and gerrymander legislatures—in other words, embark on a fundamental retooling of American political mechanics.
The devil you say! That hasn't been done since Democrats used their power to establish public employee unions. Speaking of that,
Right-to-work will decimate private-sector unions, while the five Republican justices on the bench may be poised implement the equivalent of right-to-work nationally for all public-sector unions in the upcoming Janus decision.

A Bit of Intersectionality

Holding Your Own Hostage

To my sorrow, the government shutdown looks likely to end. I was really hoping it would drag on long enough for Americans to realize that there are at least 800,000 Federal employees whom we don't really need. The average Federal salary in 2014 was $84,153 -- half again higher than the average non-Federal worker. Assuming the average holds for workers classified as non-essential, we could save north of $67 billion a year by firing them all.

With all these companies repatriating money thanks to the new tax cuts, they'd even likely find work. Maybe not quite at their old salary, of course, but work all the same. The kind of work that contributes to economic growth instead of taxing it, even.

Federal workers know this, which is why their donations point very heavily to Democrats. It's easy to see why the Democrats in Congress folded. They took their own core constituency hostage.


Peggy Noonan wants to revive the concept.

There was a time when I wrote about all this quite a lot. I don't think I have anything to say that I didn't say back then about what the concept is, or how it applies; my sense is that the gentleness falls out of the fact that our old norms for gentlemen were invented by men who were essentially a cavalry class. An important part of taming a horse and riding it to war is learning the self-control necessary to control the horse. That's why gentlemen are gentle. Moreover, what makes a gentleman isn't a commitment to be nice to people, but the moral seriousness that comes from taking up the sword in earnest.

Once those ideas were suffused through our society; even Robert E. Howard's Conan, mentioned recently, is frequently described as having 'a rude chivalry' about him because otherwise he would have behaved in despicable ways (and thus not been a suitable hero for 1930s Americans). Actually, I think of Howard as mirroring Tacitus, whose Germania describes the northern barbarians as having similar qualities, and likewise attributes the nobility of those qualities to the very barbarism of the men. “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split," Conan says in The Tower of the Elephant.

The collapse of morals attends the collapse of consequences. Men aren't gentlemen any more because there is so little danger of having their skulls split, or of splitting another's.

Where Are You From?

In Sweden, a campaign tags this question as racist. The idea is that many people, both immigrants and some born in Sweden, may not look exactly like the archetypal Swede. Asking them where they are from is a way of pointing this up, which could be offensive to them.

We had a similar controversy just recently involving the President, who asked a woman of Korean ethnicity where her people were from. Another Korean-American wrote, "[M]any Americans still subscribe to the insidious myth that Korean Americans are somehow less American. Whatever his intention, Trump’s alleged words perpetuate the idea that no matter how long we’ve lived in the U.S., we will always 'really' be from somewhere else."

The thing is, though, ethnicity is treated as of fundamental importance by many on the left, as well as some on the right. The number of people who answer the question "What ethnicity are you?" with "American" is not large, and it is concentrated in my own Appalachian South. That means that, for now, answering "American" is just another way of telling people where you're from.

By Stevey7788 (talk) (Uploads) - Own work, Public Domain, Link

It would be great if we had a lot more people self-identifying their ethnicity in that way. We're so far down the rabbit hole of hyphenated-Americans, though, I wonder if it's possible. Nor is that new: Theodore Roosevelt spoke against the concept in 1915, and John Wayne spoke against it in his 1973 album on patriotism. Ironically for today's debates, this bit contains the line, "A wall you always have to climb" as well as a paean to immigration.

In defense of John Wayne's concept, one of the most American people I ever knew was a first-generation immigrant from Korea who had fought against the Communists before emigrating here. That was a man who knew what America was about, and who knew what made America great. I'd take all the Americans like him we could find, wherever they came from.

Outlaw Music

To return for a moment to the Kingston Trio, the one of their songs that always struck me strangely was their treatment of the traditional "Jesse James." They made a joke out of it. I assumed that it was just an attempt to remark that the James Gang wasn't really worthy of the veneration that American folklore had assigned them. But in the talk about 'moving left' as a result of exposure to folk music, I wonder if that was the whole agenda.

Here is a traditional version.

Here's the Kingston Trio's version:

It's a strange complaint to say that 'when his best friend died he was right there by her side/ and he lifted off her golden wedding ring.' The intent is to suggest theft, but to be by one's wife side at death is a sort of ideal seeing-through of the promise to be there 'till death do us part'; and saving the wedding ring to give to a daughter or grand-daughter or niece satisfies the 'something old' tradition as well. It's not a fair hit, even if it were true.

That's not to say that the James Gang aren't fairly criticized on certain points. Here's a piece that dings them fairly, I think. It's solid on the history.

And here's Johnny Cash doing an outlaw song that is fairly critical, also, of another American legendary, John Wesley Hardin.

And here's the Pogues doing the ballad because the Celtic take always has a home here.

If you still want more, Ry Cooder does a beautiful version with a long instrumental part.

No, Let's Go For A Few Months

If we can figure out a workaround to get military personnel paid, let's go for years.
Party leaders and rank-and-file senators spent all day Sunday haggling over a deal to reopen the government. But Washington's painful shutdown will nonetheless drag into Day Three.
Painful? I spent the day on the motorcycle riding all over north Georgia, and I haven't noticed a damn thing different.

UPDATE: We won, I guess. *Sigh* I suppose we'll have to let them have their government back, for now.

At least maybe Sen. Schumer will have learned not to threaten us with a good time.