California Police

So, let's watch the first minute or so of this clip.

Now, plainly these kids are a pain in the ass.  The cops have more important things to do, and being called out of an afternoon to cater to the desire of over-privileged university students to be arrested is an annoyance they don't need.  Furthermore, the kids are engaged in some form of something like trespass, which the police have a legitimate authority to stop.

Still and all, the cop in question is clearly out of line, is he not?  What justifies the use of pepper spray here?  Pepper spray isn't so bad, of course -- it used to be a standard part of military basic training to be exposed to similar gases -- but what was the point of it?  Have we gone so far that any American who produces a momentary annoyance for a police officer is subject to pepper spray as well as arrest?

I don't dispute the existence of a general police power; but increasingly I wonder at whether anyone in government understands the proper use of that power.  To prevent the outbreak of disease, yes, this is a genuine and crucial need of compact cities; but this is an abuse, similar to how it has become common to use SWAT teams -- once intended for "special" situations requiring "special" weapons or tactics -- for the ordinary business of serving warrants.

Is there truly no one left in government who understands how to strike a balance between preventing the outbreak of plagues, and letting a few college students punch their "I got arrested for Peace and Justice" card?

Probably Should Have Taken Them Up On It

When a group of ex-CIA operators offers to help you sort out a life-and-death situation, you might want to consider the offer carefully.
"We would expect to meet for one or two days to establish a plan for assisting the client in resolving the client in resolving the present conflict in a satisfactory way," the letter continued. "In preparation for the meeting, we will need certain travel arrangements and to know that visa requirements have been waived." The missive was signed "Sincerely, Neil C. Livingstone, Chairman and CEO," and was printed on what appears to be the letterhead of Executive Action LLC, Livingstone's former PR-strategy/lobbying shop named apparently with a wink to the euphemism for Cold War-era CIA-assassinations.
Who is Neil C. Livingstone?  Sourcewatch metions him.   Of course, they mention me too; and while the information isn't wrong, it's not exactly insightful either.


Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a medical intervention justified by observational data must be in want of verification through a randomised controlled trial. . . .

[I]ndividuals jumping from aircraft without the help of a parachute are likely to have a high prevalence of pre-existing psychiatric morbidity. Individuals who use parachutes are likely to have less psychiatric morbidity and may also differ in key demographic factors, such as income and cigarette use. It follows, therefore, that the apparent protective effect of parachutes may be merely an example of the “healthy cohort” effect. . . .

It is often said that doctors are interfering monsters obsessed with disease and power, who will not be satisfied until they control every aspect of our lives (Journal of Social Science, pick a volume). It might be argued that the pressure exerted on individuals to use parachutes is yet another example of a natural, life enhancing experience being turned into a situation of fear and dependency.

The Hidden Strength of Gingrich

The University of Minnesota has a piece suggesting that Mr. Gingrich the only candidate in the recent debates who has come under no attacks from his fellows.  Why?

Why?  One obvious reason might be that until lately, he hasn't been worth attacking; only recently has he begun to poll seriously.  The main reason that UMN comes up with is that Mr. Gingrich has played fair on the point -- just as game theory would suggest, not attacking people is a good road to not being attacked.  Only Rep. Paul has launched fewer critiques of fellow Republicans, and on top of that Mr. Gingrich has pointedly criticized moderators who tried to draw him into attacking fellow Republicans.  Thus, he has drawn a clear standard, and he has upheld it:  and this is the sort of conduct that game theory would suggest produces a peace between players.

I think there is one more reason, though, which is that Mr. Gingrich is far and away the smartest guy on the stage.  If debates are about intellectual strength, then Mr. Gingrich benefits from our old motto:  Peace Through Superior Firepower.  It is simply wisdom from the rest of the field to recognize the disparity, and not call down his fire upon themselves.

Intelligence and knowledge aren't the only factors in choosing a nominee, of course.  There are several reasons not to prefer Mr. Gingrich, the most significant for me being his treatment of the women in his life.  Still, I suspect that one reason that Newt will continue to escape sharp criticism in the debates is that he is more than capable of collecting the heads of anyone who tries.  Since he has also offered a clear road to avoiding that rather public humiliation, I think he'll tread safely unless he proves to have lasting electoral strength.

What is likely to happen instead of a direct conflict is an attempt to stab him from a place of safety, as in his back.  Rather than attacks in the debates, Mr. Gingrich is in danger of anonymously-sourced hit pieces of the type that has so damaged the Cain campaign.

UKIP Speaks on the Euro

Now this is the kind of speech you want to hear from a democratically-elected leader.  It's a merciless assault on the un-elected technocrats of Europe, and the world they have created.

Ruins in the Woods

Here are some photos from the forest I wandered today.

Vines scale an abandoned piling.

A channel of river-worn stones where no river now runs.


From Maggie's Farm, this time-lapse video from the International Space Station, showing the aurora borealis and a lot of lightning. It goes so fast, I could hardly tell what coastlines and cities I was seeing most of the time. It's funny how different a map looks when north isn't "up."

A Lesson in the Tenth

The gentlemen lawyers leading the case against Obamacare have a piece in the Wall Street Journal explaining the matter as they see it.  The core of the issue lies here:
The Constitution limits federal power by granting Congress authority in certain defined areas, such as the regulation of interstate and foreign commerce. Those powers not specifically vested in the federal government by the Constitution or, as stated in the 10th Amendment, "prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." The court will now determine whether those words still have meaning.
Our friends on the Left often seem not to understand the nature of the claim that is being made here.  This claim is often misunderstood as a claim that "government" lacks the power to do something if that something is not specifically enumerated.  In fact, it is only the Federal government that lacks the power.  The states may or may not have the power, depending on their own constitutions and a few considerations that limit what kinds of powers any government may properly exercise.  This matter is spelled out later in the piece.
Under our Constitution's system of dual sovereignty, only states have the authority to impose health and safety regulations on individuals simply because they are present. The Supreme Court has ruled many times that the Constitution denies to the federal government this type of "general police power."
So 'the government' certainly does have the power, within the general limits of natural  law and the Bill of Rights; but the Federal government does not.  The Federal government is structurally placed to be an incredibly powerful organ, and concentrated power is deadly to individual liberty.  The controls of the 10th are meant to answer that concern.  An overweening state government can be escaped by moving across the border; but a tyrannical Federal government has power throughout the United States and, indeed, global reach.

Nevertheless, the existence of a general police power is not denied by the Tea Party or the Right more broadly.  However important it is to restrain that power, there are some few cases in which it is necessary.  Consider Zucotti Park.

However sympathetic you may be, or may not be, these "occupation" protests pose a legitimate danger to public health.  The most predictable thing in the world was the outbreak of diseases in these encampments.  The danger increases when people are coming from different walks of life, bringing with them diseases to which the others may not have the same resistances.  The outbreak of tuberculosis in a similar camp in Atlanta will not be an isolated incident if steps are not taken to ensure that sanitation is preserved.

This is the lesson of every army that has marched to war in three thousand years.  For that matter, it was true in the foreign residence hall I lived in while in China, where I encountered tuberculosis (which I cured via main force application of Chinese beer -- strong medicine, for the cure was complete, though my tests showed the presence of TB antibodies for a few years afterwards).  Maintaining camp sanitation for an extended time requires proper training and something like military discipline, neither of which have been obviously present among these protests.

Balancing any first amendment right to free speech and freedom of assembly is important, to be sure.  Still, especially in a case in which the encampment is in the center of a large city, the risk to public health is tremendous.

No one from the Right denies this.  The debate is about the limits of the power, and its locus.  There are powerful advantages for all of us, Left and Right, in having an America that respects Federalist limits:  it makes it much more likely that we shall all have a country in which we can live pleasantly, and in harmony with our individual values.

The Rebel Yell

While I was doing some other research, I came across this video from Smithsonian Magazine.  It's a recording of Confederate veterans in the 1930s giving the old "Rebel Yell," as well as they still could at what was then an advanced age.

Historians have been arguing for some years about both the actual sound of the yell, and its origins.  The most popular arguments are that the South had learned to use it from fighting the Indians, which is plausible because those wars immediately preceded the generation that fought the Civil War; or that it was native to the Southerners because it was derived from the Scottish Highlander war-cry.  The latter argument is plausible because the Highlander yell is well-attested, and because of the prominence of Scots among Southern families -- although that prominence is greatest among the Appalachian Southerners, who were least likely to support the Confederacy.

Interesting to discover that there's an actual recording, then!

Hey, Look At That:

Cleaning out the attic can turn up all sorts of treasures.
A MEDIEVAL market town has discovered it owns an original version of Magna Carta, potentially worth about 20 million pounds, rather than a copy worth only 10,000 pounds.

It's Nice They Remember How...

Accountability at 10 Downing street!  Now if only the government could manage to do this for real, and not just as a joke.