Perhaps it's too soon to say, but it's starting to look as though everyone aboard the Asiana flight out of Seoul got out safely after crash landing in San Francisco just now.  The TV footage of the burned-out fuselage looks terrible, but evidently most of the fire broke out after the nearly 300 passengers evacuated.  It seems that the plane came down just short of the runway on a water approach, clipped the rocky breakwater, lost its tail section, and spun like a top without breaking up.

Mud life

This sounds like fun:
Mud bogging has been a popular activity for decades, especially in the South, but the mud world's musical tradition is recent, with live-music stages sprouting up in at least 162 off-road-vehicle parks over the past five years.  Fans typically pay about $40 a weekend to cook out with friends and play in the mud with a wide range of vehicles, from $100,000 trucks to homemade contraptions fashioned from tanks, lawn mowers, even king-size mattresses, all jacked up on giant tires forbidden on city streets.
Golf carts and "mules" are popular here.  If my neighbors got into the mud-bogging tradition I might be inspired to get a golf cart and trick it out with monster tires and woofers.

The hick-hop music doesn't do it for me, though.  Since I couldn't find a YouTube example that I liked enough to link here, I opted instead for the theme from "Justified," which apparently is called "ganstagrass":


Photos of a Bustling 19th Century America

It's too bad this didn't come before Independence Day, but it's still worth looking at now. Here is a large collection of some extremely clear photographs from what is now the century-before-last. There's something of a focus on technology, I think, though it wasn't the purpose of the collection as far as I can see. It's just that in those days the new machines were so impressive, perhaps.

Government by waiver

A new dilemma in Washington, D.C.:  how to impose a job-killing minimum-wage hike without killing the unionized employers we approve of?  Easy answer:  waive the requirement for your supporters:
Which is why the proposed law exempts companies operating under collective-bargaining agreements. That's right, supermarket chains like Safeway SWY +2.80% and Giant get a pass because they have union workforces. So paying a non-living wage is fine as long as it also finances union dues.
This way, we can acknowledge the ruinous effect of crazy economic policies without letting anyone we care about experience the ruin. Wait, did I say economic policies?  I meant to include healthcare policies.  And FOIA fees.  And foreign policy on coups.  And welfare policy.   And immigration policy.   And layoff notices too close to an election.  Really, it's safest to make everything illegal, and then grant dispensations for your more compliant subjects.

It's bound to work this time

If only we could curb that terrible profit motive.  I know!  Let's implement price controls and prosecute hoarders.

They probably believe they're helping the good people by punishing the bad people.  The problem is, they have no understanding of where value comes from, and what keeps it coming.

The plant that can't die

Because the employer has no right to close it, if workers would be unhappy.  Ever.

You can pull that trick once.  Then try getting the next guy to invest in a factory.  It may turn out that the only capital available is whatever the locals can raise, because foreign capital isn't endlessly gullible.  And, strangely enough, local capital isn't readily available in such a system.

It's not enough for the policy to have benevolent intentions.  Pretending that jobs are charity is a good way to ensure that the jobs go away.

A Medieval Movie Resource

If you're like me, you know someone who periodically shows up at your door and says, "Hey, let's see a movie."

"Great," you respond, "what did you want to see?"

"Oh, I don't know," she replies. (It may be a 'he' for some of you.) "Pick something and let me know." This turns the two-hour commitment for the movie into at least a three-hour commitment as you try to dig things up, only to have your first several choices shot down as unappealing.

One good resource might be this collection of movie reviews at Most of these are available online, which is the only way I usually see movies anymore, and the reviews are by people who are knowledgeable about the relevant history. I suspect that many of you, like me, find that to be an important quality in a movie.

Got any other good resources?

For my neighbor Max

From Douglas's link:

To Max:  Viet Nam vet, business owner, indefatigable builder, good neighbor, and the kind of solid citizen that every free society needs.  When he came back from overseas, he didn't get much of a welcome, which was a shame, but he didn't let it ruin his life.  Those people were wrong, they should have known it, and I hope they know it now.

Update:  link fixed, I hope.

Nothing More American, Even When It's Foreign

In honor of the Australians who took in Tex's immigrants, I added fried eggs to the cheeseburgers. But of course the hamburger is already a food highly symbolic of the American melding of ideas borne by immigrants from all over the world, and merchants to all of it.

Next time, though, I want one of these. Now you want to talk about improvements that immigrants have brought to America, that looks fantastic.

Fisking That Salon Article.

1 — Staggering Increase in the Cost of Elections, with Dubious Campaign Funding Sources:

This is nothing new, and the purposes for which the money is put to is radically different in the modern USA than in the Ancient Roman republic.

2 — Politics as the Road to Personal Wealth:

This pretty much has always been the case with career politicians in the USA. And pretty much anywhere else on the planet.

3 — Continuous War: A national state of security arises, distracting attention from domestic challenges with foreign wars. Similar to the late Roman Republic, the US – for the past 100 years — has either been fighting a war, recovering from a war, or preparing for a new war: WW I (1917-18), WW II (1941-1945), Cold War (1947-1991), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam (1953-1975), Gulf War (1990-1991), Afghanistan (2001-ongoing), and Iraq (2003-2011). And, this list is far from complete.

If you want peace, prepare for war. However, this is the usual cherry picking of historical dates to, as AVI notes, prove whatever they want. If you take the previous years, There is the China intervention (1900), Spanish American War (1898), Philipine insurrection, (1899-1902), The taking of the Chosun Forts (1879), The opening of Japan (1853) (which everybody forgets was pretty much done at gunpoint, although no guns had to be fired)

The various Indian wars: 
Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794)
Northwest Indian War (1785–1795)
Nickajack Expedition (1794)
Sabine Expedition (1806)
War of 1812 (1811–1815)
Tecumseh's War (1811–1813)
Creek War (1813–1814)
Peoria War (1813)
First Seminole War (1817–1818)
Winnebago War (1827)
Black Hawk War (1832)
Creek War of 1836 (1836)
Florida–Georgia Border War (1836)
Second Seminole War (1835–1842)
Arikara War (1823)
Osage Indian War (1837)
Texas–Indian Wars (1836–1877)
Comanche Wars (1836–1877)
Antelope Hills Expedition (1858)
Comanche War (1868–1874)
Red River War (1874–1875)
Buffalo Hunters' War (1876–1877)
Cayuse War (1848–1855)
Apache Wars (1849–1924)
Jicarilla War (1849–1855)
Chiricahua Wars (1860–1886)
Tonto War (1871–1875)
Renegade Period (1879–1924)
Victorio's War (1879–1880)
Geronimo's War (1881–1886)
Yuma War (1850–1853)
Ute Wars (1850–1923)
Provo War (1850)
Walker War (1853–1854)
Tintic War (1856)
Black Hawk's War (1865–1872)
White River War (1879)
Ute War (1887)
Bluff War (1914–1915)
Bluff Skirmish (1921)
Posey War (1923)
Sioux Wars (1854–1891)
First Sioux War (1854)
Dakota War (1862)
Colorado War (1863–1865)
Powder River War (1865)
Red Cloud's War (1866–1868)
Great Sioux War (1876–1877)
Ghost Dance War (1890–1891)
Rogue River Wars (1855–1856)
Yakima War (1855–1858)
Puget Sound War (1855–1856)
Coeur d'Alene War (1858)
Mohave War (1858–1859)
Navajo Wars (1858–1864)
Paiute War (1860)
Yavapai Wars (1861–1875)
Snake War (1864–1869)
Hualapai War (1865–1870)
Modoc War (1872–1873)
Nez Perce War (1877)
Bannock War (1878)
Crow War (1887)
Bannock Uprising (1895)
Yaqui Uprising (1896)
Battle of Sugar Point (1898)
Crazy Snake Rebellion (1909)
Last Massacre (1911)
Battle of Kelley Creek (1911)
Battle of Bear Valley (1918)

The American Civil War, 1861-1865,
The Mexican American War, 1848-1849,
The War of 1812, 1812-1815
The Barbary Pirate war (1806)
The Undeclared Naval War with France in the 1790s
The War of Independence, 1775-1783

So, pretty constantly The US government was paying its soldiers and sailors to shoot at somebody, somewhere. Most of the other large empires, (The British and Russian and Chinese come to mind) were also involved just as heavily, and don't get me started on the subject of 'proxy wars'. 

4 — Foreign Powers Lavish Money/Attention on the Republic’s Leaders: Foreign wars lead to growing influence, by foreign powers and interests, on the Republic’s political leaders — true for Rome and true for us. In the past century, foreign embassies, agents and lobbyists have proliferated in our nation’s capital. As one specific example: A foreign businessman donated $100 million to Bill Clinton‘s various activities. Clinton “opened doors” for him, and sometimes acted in ways contrary to stated American interests and foreign policy.

Sorry, that's just being a Democrat. 

And back to the Romans, there were foreign leaders that caused problems for the Romans--Mithridates, Hannibal, various Macedonian Philips, I suppose Cleopatra, but in the end, the Romans always acted upon somebody. They were never the 'actees'. 

5 — Profits Made Overseas Shape the Republic’s Internal Policies: As the fortunes of Rome’s aristocracy increasingly derived from foreign lands, Roman policy was shaped to facilitate these fortunes. American billionaires and corporations increasingly influence our elections. In many cases, they are only nominally American – with interests not aligned with those of the American public. For example, Fox News is part of international media group News Corp., with over $30 billion in revenues worldwide. Is Fox News’ jingoism a product of News Corp.’s non-U.S. interests?

The writer has absolutely no knowledge of American economic history. For example: "The China Market" An issue in the 18th, 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries. But really, 'foreign lands' is also a misnomer as far as the Romans are concerned. By the end of the Late Republic, The Roman Empire we all think of was pretty much Roman. There weren't really 'foreign lands' that anyone was making money off of. They were all Roman provinces. 

6 — Collapse of the Middle Class: In the period just before the Roman Republic’s fall, the Roman middle class was crushed — destroyed by cheap overseas slave labor. In our own day, we’ve witnessed rising income inequality, a stagnating middle class, and the loss of American jobs to overseas workers who are paid less and have fewer rights.

There was never a Roman "Middle Class" the way modern writers want to imagine. I will point the interested to "Rome at War: Farms, Families, and Death in the Middle Republic" by Nathan Rosenstein. The article writer, like most, cannot comprehend that the rise of affluence in other parts of the world, (Asia, Africa, South America) has effects, effects that cannot be wished away (or more to the point, legislated away). 

7 — Gerrymandering: Rome’s late Republic used various methods to reduce the power of common citizens. The GOP has so effectively gerrymandered Congressional districts that, even though House Republican candidates received only about 48 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 election — they ended up with the majority (53 percent) of the seats.

The article writer both doesn't understand Roman electoral politics, and also obviously hasn't spent anytime in large American cities which are all run by the Democrat party, and have been since the middle of the last century. I won't even discuss the safe 'minority' districts that both parties have tacitly established. 

8 — Loss of the Spirit of Compromise: The Roman Republic, like ours, relied on a system of checks and balances. Compromise is needed for this type of system to function. In the end, the Roman Republic lost that spirit of compromise, with politics increasingly polarized between Optimates (the rich, entrenched elites) and Populares (the common people). Sound familiar? Compromise is in noticeably short supply in our own time also. For example, “There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined.”

The obvious answer to this is that there was more and more bad legislation being proposed between 2009 and 2010 than in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970's combined, but I think we all know that. 

Anyway, The Roman Republic NEVER had such a 'spirit of compromise'. Consuls were constantly sued pursued in the courts by their political enemies (after their imperium ended, because during their term of office, they were immune), it was a tactic that predated the first Punic War, IIRC, and one of the reasons Caesar crossed the Rubicon. I won't even get into the naked political violence that the Roman  Republic regularly experienced from the end of the Punic Wars onward. Roman politics were blood sports. 

The one thing I will note is that the article writer focused on the Late Republic, rather than the Roman Principate (that is, after Augustus became Emperor). Usually in these articles, it's all stuff taken from later than what is mentioned in the article, so I suppose it is an improvement of sorts. 

Heh. Indeed.

The Sage of Knoxville points out this story about Saturday Night Live and NBCUniversal being sued by their hordes of unpaid interns, and notes: "The funny thing is, the people they’re suing probably have a “Living Wage” bumper sticker on the back of their Tesla."

By coincidence a Millennial I know recently sent me a link to a photo meme called "Old Economy Steven." This was my favorite of them.

Americans that might have been

We are diving into a new Vietnamese cookbook this week, "Secrets of the Red Lantern," by Pauline Nguyen.  Following the author's careful instructions, we now can make summer rolls for ourselves, and even are getting good at rolling them properly so they don't fall apart in mid-bite.

Between recipes, Nguyen relates her family's escape from Viet Nam as boat people in late 1977.  Part of the story is the usual depressing parade of horribles:  idealists take over a county and, by way of transforming it into a worker's paradise, make it illegal to leave; a lucky few survive the desperate sea voyage, only to be interned on shore; refugee camps degenerate into hellholes administered by bureaucrats with shriveled souls.  The part I want to highlight on this Independence Day is the three mistakes Nguyen's father now thinks he made, which prevented his realizing the dream of a new life in America.

Mistake Number One:  Resolved to escape Communist domination or die trying, Nguyen père planned his family's flight meticulously.  He and a blood-brother from his military days built a sturdy boat with a reliable engine and packing enough food and water for all twenty-four passengers:  six men, six women, and twelve small children.  What he didn't guess was that ship after ship would refuse aid to a boat full of refugees who didn't look desperate enough.  In retrospect he wonders if they should have torn their clothes and stood on deck weeping.  Turned away from one Malaysian shore, he even wondered if he should sink the boat.  In the end, he landed his family safely in Thailand, where they were interned in what purported to be a short-term refugee camp.

Mistake Number Two:  Theoretically Nguyen was a high-priority prospective U.S. immigrant as a result of his services to the American military before the fall of Saigon.  Wanting to be useful while he awaited processing, he quickly emerged as the natural candidate for camp manager.  He did such a fine (unpaid) job that his benefactors kept moving his application for immigration to the United States to the bottom of the pile.   Upon the realization that the average camp resident was processed within a couple of months while he and his family had been trapped for several times that long, the idea dawned on him:   "Never give 100 percent until you are working for yourself."  He resigned as camp manager and was put back on the fast track for processing.

Mistake Number Three:  Nguyen's benefactor/captors had uneasy consciences.   It was important to them to maintain the fiction that refugees were processed and resettled within a month or two.  Pressed by a reporter one day, Nguyen incautiously admitted that his family had been in the camp for nine months.  "When stuck in a refugee camp," he now says, "do not speak the truth."  Many weeks later he forced himself to write a letter of abject apology to the U.S. immigration officer who ran the camp.  The next day, the officer informed Nguyen that he and his family would be moving to Australia.

Australia won some valuable citizens, while we missed out.  But the Nguyen family risked everything to be free, first in Ho Chi Minh City and then in a Thai internment facility, which in my book makes them honorary Americans on this Fourth of July.  In honor of the boat people, for our neighborhood holiday party, we are bringing Vietnamese spring rolls, fried and wrapped in lettuce with cucumbers, carrots, mint, Thai basil, and nước chấm dipping sauce.  Here's to the right to the fruits of one's own labor, and the determination to live free or die.

"Founding Insurgents"

What we celebrate today is the formal break of ties with Britain, and the commitment to war in order to make that break good. Foreign Policy has an article treating the Founders as insurgents, and suggesting that their war is more worth study than the ones we normally like to consider.
[The insurgent approach] nowhere better employed than in the South. It was there that the Revolution was won -- not so much by the main force as by the inspired blending of conventional infantry and irregular raiders. Washington's most effective executor of this approach was the Quaker-turned-soldier Nathanael Greene.... While the British were chasing Greene and his men, American irregulars led by Francis Marion ("the Swamp Fox"), Thomas Sumter, and others struck at outposts and supply lines, causing no end of trouble.

Greene never won a pitched battle, but it didn't matter.... He always retreated with enough of his force left to recover and resume the offensive later -- when the British were more dispersed, trying to chase down Marion and his colleagues. Working in tandem like this, Continentals and guerrillas completely exhausted Cornwallis and his forces.... The eminent historian Russell Weigley's assessment was that Greene "remains alone as an American master developing a strategy of unconventional war."
Americans often forget that their rights were won on the battlefield. Many like to remember the Declaration's statement that we were endowed with them by the Creator, without remembering Patrick Henry's corollary as to the character of such a claim: "An appeal to arms, and to the God of hosts, is all that is left us."

Independence Day Thoughts: On Civil Society

Lars Walker is writing about the distinction between civil society and government, which many Americans fail to recognize. (Not Tex, though, who is strong on this point.) The distinction between civil society and the state is one that Hegel makes a lot out of in his Philosophy of Right. There's a huge medieval history about the formation (and power) of such societies, whether they were secular or religious orders of knighthood or of laymen, or guilds, or early capitalist societies like the one built by the Fuggers, or the Hanseatic League. In addition to this stands the formal power of the Church and its many orders, which was a separate power from the state.

In other words, before the state became monolithic, a lot of the power in human life came from these choices of free association. When the state became overwhelming, it was these kinds of societies it tried to destroy. It was these kinds of societies that in fact overthrew the monolithic state: "The Soviets’ worries were not misplaced: the Armageddon of Eastern European communism in the late 1980s was brought about not by plutocrats but by Czech intellectuals, Polish labor unions, and various church groups."

The First Things article goes on to develop a distinction between these social institutions and the market, but I'm not sure that distinction is more than conceptually justified. Many of these free associations were businesses, small and large. We can distinguish conceptually that their status as 'free associations' held them together with things like church groups, rather than their status as businesses, of course. However, if we fail to understand that what made this subset of free associations work was their business interest, we fail to understand the real contribution of these kinds of organizations to liberty.

We've talked a bit lately about some reasons why I have concerns about the largest of these organizations, and think the state may be needed to counterbalance their power. But the point works just as well the other way. The state also must not become too powerful, with too much concentrated authority. These organizations, small and large, work to keep power from becoming too great in any one set of human hands.

Independence Day Fun for Eric Blair

Our resident Roman expert can enjoy the pleasure of debunking this article from Salon. Some of the cracks in it are pretty obvious, but I expect he'll enjoy tearing it all apart for our enlightenment.

That's a Good Round Number

Sixty billion, that is. Bigger numbers than that require government involvement.

Yeah, About That...

The Futility of Government

You wanted to improve workplace conditions, so you passed some laws about how employers have to treat their employees. Guess what happened?
“We’re seeing just more and more industries using business models that attempt to change the employment relationship or obscure the employment relationship,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, a top official in the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division....

The temp system insulates the host companies from workers’ compensation claims, unemployment taxes, union drives and the duty to ensure that their workers are citizens or legal immigrants. In turn, the temps suffer high injury rates, according to federal officials and academic studies, and many of them endure hours of unpaid waiting and face fees that depress their pay below minimum wage.
So they were paid badly and worked in bad conditions. Now they have worse conditions and worse pay, but the corporations themselves can claim to be good employers because they're obeying all your laws.

Oh, and you've got that health-care thing licked now, right?
Many economists predict the growth of temp work will continue beyond the recession, in part because of health-care reform, which some economists say will lead employers to hire temps to avoid the costs of covering full-time workers.
No doubt. So, how about a few more laws?

Shoot. The. Dog.

Via the Daily Mail, A man was arrested for filming the police and they shot his dog. Of course they did.

What I find interesting about this (I suppose "interesting" isn't the proper word, so let's start over).

Why I bothered to comment on this is that I noticed the item first on memorandum, and the bloggers commenting on it.

Vox Popoli, who is generally right wing and no friend to black people, from what I've seen on his blog, wants to shoot the cops.

Alan Colmes "Liberaland" doesn't want to go that far, but obviously doesn't approve.

Taylor Marsh, a liberal commetator, likewise is upset.

Joe Gandleman at the Moderate Voice, is disgusted.

Andrew Sullivan is using my favorite term.

The LA Times all but says the cops are out to get the guy.

Gawker even notices.

A commenter at Vox Popoli's site thinks we are all dogs now.

They all know something's wrong.

The Death of a Priest

If it should ever be my fate to fall into the hands of jihadist murderers, I hope one of them will have a better tool for my execution than a three-inch knife. As we've seen since the murder of Nicholas Berg, these guys think they're bearing the Sword for Allah, but all they can really muster is tiny little pocket knives.

I frame this story, which is the story of the death of a martyr and a priest, in such rough terms because I want to bring its practicality to your attention. The practical story is of a murder carried out by badly-educated men with primitive tools, men who lack the skill to humanely butcher a goat but carry Western cell phones to record their crime.

That is the practical story. There is another story: that we yet live in the morning of the world, in a time of holy men and martyrs.
Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, titular of the Syrian Catholic archeparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis reports to Fides: "The whole story of Christians in the Middle East is marked and made fruitful by the blood of the martyrs of many persecutions. Lately, father Murad sent me some messages that clearly showed how conscious he was of living in a dangerous situation, and offered his life for peace in Syria and around the world."
It is the core error of our times to fail to see the connection between the practical facts, and the sacred things that move underneath them. Some refuse to believe in the sacred at all. Others try to wall out the world, so they can live in a place of imagined order.

The two things go together. They must be seen together. The world that seems so small and petty, full of little men and little knives, only barely hides the deeper currents. You can learn to see them.

Granite Mountain Hotshots

They sound like they were very fine young men. Their loss is the greatest loss of life in wildfire fighting since 1933.

My father was long captain of the volunteer fire department, and I've fought some brushfires with them on a few occasions -- nothing like the fires out West, but hot enough to jump a fire break plowed with a bulldozer. What these men did was a work of courage and honor.

May they rest in peace.


My uncle Charles died this week at the age of 91, having just celebrated his 69th wedding anniversary. He was an exceedingly kind and peaceable man, a newspaper publisher and editor by profession.   Though I knew he had served in the Pacific during World War II, I never heard him say a word about it.  I see now from his obituary (and some followup Google hits) that he went overseas with the 3rd Battalion, 15th Marines, 6th Marine Division.   He served at Guadalcanal, Guam, and Okinawa, and was cited by the Marine Corps commandant for action in the battle for Sugarloaf Hill on Okinawa.   He also sustained injuries in an attack on Naha Airfield, after the recovery from which he served in occupation forces in North China.

My cousin once confirmed that her father almost never spoke about his service, but some years ago he agreed to be interviewed by one of his grandchildren for a school project.  The family listened in amazement as he recounted for the first time the mass suicides in Okinawa by civilians who'd been taught that American soldiers would torture them if they were captured.   I assumed that his long silence on that subject meant he had left the Marine Corps behind as a permanently closed chapter of his life when the war was over.  Again, his obituary disabuses me:  he served as commander of the Marine Reserves’ 14th Reconnaissance Battalion in San Antonio after he moved to that city in 1950.  A Google link to a 1960 letter to the editor of a local newspaper shows him signing as "Inspector-Instructor," and a "Lt. Col." in the Reserves.  I don't know what, if anything, that says about his rank during the war, which doesn't appear in his obituary.

I can't find online my uncle's interview about Okinawa, but here is a perfectly fascinating transcript of a 1994 interview he gave about his role in the sweeping changes in San Antonio after 1950.  He was a passionately populist man with a lot of business sense.

He was last of my father's siblings.

Libertarian Anarchists

Now here's an interesting proposition from National Review author Kevin Williamson.
It's hard for most people, Americans, to imagine a country without government and/or politics. That isn't what you're advocating, is it?

Is it really so unthinkable? Politics killed 160 million people in the wars and genocides of the 20th century alone — improving on that record does not seem to me like an impossibly lofty goal. There is a negative aspect to what I’m advocating and a positive aspect. The negative aspect will be to some extent familiar to many people: radically limiting the government’s monopoly powers, reducing the number of opportunities it has to interfere with our lives, etc. But I think the more interesting aspect is the positive one: We can do a much, much better job taking care of the poor, the sick and the aged using the social and economic tools we already have at our disposal. Looking after the vulnerable is, in theory, the moral reason for having a coercive welfare state, but in fact politics does very little for them.
Tex said she was reading this book. How do you find it, Tex? That's the kind of proposition I like to hear, although I have some concerns about it. If the model for 'what right looks like' is the iPhone, I wonder if this dissolution of the state won't just leave us with corporate masters instead. There's nothing wrong with corporations per se, but they aren't organized around the principles of human liberty. What would a declaration of independence for a post-state world look like? If you lay down citizenship to become a consumer, isn't there a severe cost -- the kind of cost that we see when the interests of rich and powerful organizations are brought to bear against an individual or a poor community?

Does he have an answer for that problem?

"Is it safe?"

If a nagging worry about his ethics as a dentist didn't keep you from entrusting your teeth to this guy, his response to a Yelp! review might.  Yikes.

Don't be this guy

My husband is fond of this site, Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid, but today is the first time I've checked it out.  Even though you're pretty sure nothing terrible is going to happen to the guy, it's hard to watch.  You want to shout, "No, you idiot!  Don't do it!"

Lois Lerner had the right to remain silent . . .

. . . but not the ability, as Ron White would say.  So did Lerner waive her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, or is Issa just being a big old Republican meanie?  I took some heat on this subject at Rhymes with Cars and Girls, where they think that a self-respecting libertarian shouldn't be so cavalier about the bill of rights.  I don't call it cavalier.  There's solid precedent that prevents a potential target of criminal prosecution from telling his side of the story under oath and then clamming up when it's time for his testimony to be challenged on cross-examination.  Lerner should be intimately familiar with these rules:  she has a law degree and in fact started her career as a staff attorney in the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  I find it ironic that a taxpayer cannot invoke his right against self-incrimination as a basis for refusing to file a federal tax return (United States v. Sullivan, 274 U.S. 259 (1927)).   There's no need to weep for Lerner, who in all unlikelihood has held more than one potential defendant to tough standards in the area of self-incrimination.

Even Alan Dershowitz, the archetypal defense lawyer and lifelong liberal Democrat, thinks the case for Lerner's having waived her Fifth Amendment rights is "open and shut," and that if she was advised that she could get away with prefacing her invocation with a exculpatory statement, then her advisors committed legal malpractice.  It's possible, of course, that she didn't get any advice, but relied on what she took to be her own expertise.  It's also possible that she got "legal" advice from someone inside her own political bubble, in which case she should have known better.

To be fair, there is wiggle room here.  One good question is whether Lerner's self-serving opening statement constituted "facts," or only a vaguer "opinion."  Did she merely declare her own innocence, or did she go farther and attempt to testify about specific facts?
I have not done anything wrong.  I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.
Granted, you could say it's somewhere in the gray area between fact and opinion.  Fifth Amendment waiver is "not to be inferred lightly."  Still, at the very least, she was skating out there on the thinnest part of the ice.  A good rule of thumb if you think you're in taking-the-Fifth territory is, "Am I making this statement in order to get my side of the story on record?"  If so, shut up.

What happens if Lerner refuses to testify in spite of Congress's insistence that she waived her right to remain silent?  My guess is not much.  Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress.  Remember what a big deal that wasn't?  He didn't even lose his job, let alone do time.  Dershowitz claims that Congress has a little jail cell somewhere down in its basement and that it can arrest a recalcitrant witness, but I'm not holding my breath.

So is Lerner quaking in her pumps?  Is she being mistreated for ugly partisan purposes?  Tell it to Scooter Libby.