Love and Dying Summer

We've had the first cool weather of the year. The hummingbirds are hiding from the cold rain, but they have managed to drain the feeders again. We dug out our warmer covers for the first time since May.

If it would only stop raining, and yet stay cool, it would be perfect. But even with the rain, heart and mind turn to that perfection that lies in the Otherworld. We glimpse it twice a year, in spring and autumn, but especially in the cool that comes at the end of the year. In the first bloom you see the promise, but only in the last hours comes understanding.

Stasi State.

Help us break the law, or we'll prosecute you. It's gone beyond police state at this point.

Sea Storms and Fate

An article on the 717 siege of Constantinople raises a theme that occurs again and again in history:
Still, the Muslims’ troubles were far from over. Nature was not through with them. A terrible sea-storm is said to have all but annihilated the retreating ships, so that, of the 2,560 ships embarking back to Damascus and Alexandria, only ten remained — and of these, half were captured by the Byzantines, leaving only five to make it back to the caliphate and report the calamities that had befallen them (which may be both why the Arab chroniclers are curiously silent about the particulars of these events, and why it would be centuries before Constantinople would be similarly attacked again).

This sea-storm also led to the popular belief that divine providence had intervened on behalf of Christendom, with historians referring to August 15 as an “ecumenical date.”
How many such storms, so severe as to thrash a navy or an army traveling by sea, have convinced people of a divine hand at work? Salamis, Artemisium, Constantinople, the Spanish Armada, the kamikaze that broke up Kubla Khan's fleets...

Alleged Retired Marine Colonel: We're Building a Domestic Army, While Shrinking the Military

Any good reason to think he's not for real?

Fuel Tank

For Tex, who is waiting on them. We've got six at once at this one feeder alone.

A Variation on "Suspicion-less Searches"

So we just finished talking about the New York City Police's use of baseless searches. How about having the TSA do them nationwide?

The best part of the story is that these things are called "VIPR Teams." When you learn what the acronym stands for, you'll understand how far they were stretching to give themselves a scary, scary name.
The TSA sends out its Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams to set up unannounced checkpoints used to “Dominate, Intimidate, & Control” American travelers. The purpose of VIPR teams is to maintain a presence in public areas and force travelers to submit to searches, including opening up bags and being patted down.... TSA records show that the teams ran more than 8,800 unannounced checkpoints outside of airports last year alone. These included searches at train stations, bus stations, the Indianapolis 500, the Superbowl, the Democratic and Republican national conventions, political speeches, and sports stadiums, more. CBS Los Angeles reported that TSA conduct an estimated 9,300 “suspicionless” spot searches of travelers in 2011.
("Dominate. Intimidate. Control." is apparently the motto posted at the TSA's Air Marshal training center.)

Does that change anything for anyone from our previous discussion?

Fool Me Twice

I understand how accidental 'unlawful command influence' can happen from the mouth of a President who is completely ignorant of the military, its law and its culture. But how does it happen from his Secretary of Defense, just a few months after the President had demonstrated the consequences by (bad) example?

Stop talking about it. Let the process work. You've done enough damage to the military justice system.

The Perils of Democracy

...are illustrated in a lighthearted way. Type "define literally" into Google, and see what you get.

Even mighty Oxford has fallen.


The other day I mentioned a site called that crowd-sources questions of all sorts.  I joined up and have been enjoying the occasional email alerting me to new posts.  Here's a link to a collection of suggestions for handy tips.  I can't quite make out whether you'll be able to access it without joining the site, but if not, I recommend joining.  The article is entitled "What’s something a reasonably smart person likely doesn't know but would find incredibly useful?" The first answer is a list of Google search tools. A couple of items down is a short video showing how to separate an egg yolk from the white by slurping it up with a squeezed-and-released plastic soda bottle.  Later on there are instructions for creating an amplifier for your smartphone/music player out of a toilet-paper roll and a couple of push-pins.  Or you can recharge your computer in a hotel room by plugging it into the USB port on the room's TV set.

Law and order

Or should I say, lawlessness and orderlessness?  In a three-branch system of government, how do we resolve disputes among the branches?  The Obama administration increasingly refuses to comply with laws that don't satisfy its lofty standards.  But courts are rousing themselves.  Will the next spectacle be the administration's flouting of the judicial decrees enforcing the laws?

...And Ride It To War

Douglas sends.

Two Peoples Separated by a Common Language, er, Game

h/t Mad Minerva

Hey, That Seems Reasonable...

...because it's not like there's anything sacred about the union of man and wife, right? I mean, isn't it important that we live in a secular society? Thank God! Oh, wait, no, we can't do that. But thank... something!

Water & Stone

August in Georgia is the month of greatest heat. The mornings are clear and humid, hot by ten, with clouds that mount all day until they are mountains of white and grey.

But in the heat, even the worst heat, there remains water and stone.


There is no fundamental difference between the NSA’s data mining and eavesdropping operations and a live in agent listening to all your conversations and downloading your browser history. We are all harboring a governmental presence in our homes, without our consent, in what I believe to be a direct violation of the Third Amendment; if our founders were here today I believe they would agree.
The obvious objection is that you have consented to bringing in the internet into your home, by taking the positive action of purchasing services to do so. You've agreed to impossible-to-read Terms of Service that may even say, "...and we'll spy on you relentlessly and sell your secrets to the government," for all you know because no one actually reads those things. On the other hand, nobody can prove it was you who clicked "OK," which makes it pretty dodgy as a contract.

Or maybe they can, since they can track your cellphone in real time to the room in which the "OK" box was clicked...

I don't know that there's a straight Third Amendment claim that can fix this, though I laud them for the attempt. But we do need walls. We need to think about just where and how to build them. The government is always more dangerous to us than our enemies are. It has already all the power over us that they only dream of winning at the conclusion of a long and painful war.

It's not a "defeat" defeat

Mark Steyn on the extended spectacle of the prosecution of the Fort Hood shooter:
Major Hasan says he’s a soldier for the Taliban.  Maybe if the Pentagon were to reclassify the entire Afghan theater as an unusually prolonged outburst of “workplace violence,” we wouldn’t have to worry about obsolescent concepts such as “victory” and “defeat.”  The important thing is that the U.S. Army’s “workplace violence” is diverse.  After Major Hasan’s pre-post-traumatic workplace wobbly, General George W. Casey Jr., the Army’s chief of staff, was at pains to assure us that it could have been a whole lot worse:  “What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty.”  And you can’t get much more diverse than letting your military personnel pick which side of the war they want to be on. 
* * * 
Unlike the Zimmerman trial, Major Hasan’s has not excited the attention of the media.  Yet it is far more symbolic of the state of America than the Trayvon Martin case, in which superannuated race hucksters attempted to impose a half-century-old moth-eaten Klan hood on a guy who’s a virtual one-man melting pot.  The response to Nidal Hasan helps explain why, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, this war is being lost — because it cannot be won because, increasingly, it cannot even be acknowledged.  Which helps explain why it now takes the U.S. military longer to prosecute a case of “workplace violence” than it did to win World War Two.

Rick Santorum on Art

Rick Santorum speaks on art and America.
Santorum quoted the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, reminding the audience that he once said, “Give me the storytellers and I will control the nation and a generation.”

“For us to sit here and think we’re going to win the country back politically when the culture continues to show your children when they watch that people like them are weird, people that hold your values are bigoted or hateful, it’s no wonder young people overwhelmingly are supporting the other side because they don’t know the truth,” Santorum said.

Santorum admitted that Christian-themed films and art were often times “inferior productions” even though they reflected traditional values.

As recently appointed CEO of EchoLight Studios, Santorum said his new mission was to go out and make “faith and family films” to affirm social values.

“I say to you: Can’t we make God beautiful?” he asked as the crowd applauded. “Why can’t we tell the truth the good and the beautiful in a way that’s compelling and entertaining and inspiring?”

Santorum said he would stay involved in politics but that true success would come from something outside of the political battle.
You've heard much the same thing here. He's quite right about it.

'Stop And Frisk' Partially Stopped

I remember being taught in school about the "Stop and Frisk" concept, also known as the "Terry Stop," although in my entire life I've never actually encountered or witnessed it. It is chiefly practiced in big cities of the type I don't especially enjoy beyond the briefest of visits, where it is alleged to be necessary.

It would need to be necessary to be acceptable, because it sounds pretty dodgy on the surface, at least as I was taught to think about it. Apparently your 4th Amendment rights weren't being violated by being physically stopped and physically searched, including having the police order you into a humiliating stance and pat you down. This was supposed to be true even though the standard for such a search -- supposedly not a "search" for 4th Amendment purposes -- was not probable cause or a warrant, as the 4th requires. It was a lesser standard called a "reasonable suspicion."

New York took it a step further, to hold that police could stop and frisk you without any cause at all. Sounds like a Federal judge has decided she doesn't buy the expansion.
During the trial, Judge Scheindlin indicated her thinking when she noted that the majority of stops result in officers finding no wrong doing.

“A lot of people are being frisked or searched on suspicion of having a gun and nobody has a gun,” she said. Only 0.14 percent of stops have led to police finding guns. “So the point is suspicion turns out to be wrong in most cases.”
It's good to see the expansion rolled back, at least.

Medieval Women in (Criminal) Court

The Medieval Feminist Forum (a peer-reviewed journal located at the University of Iowa) has an article that I hope will be the first in a series, as it is highly entertaining as well as enlightening. (H/t:

Unfortunately it is in a PDF format, but it's an engaging piece by a young scholar who is captivated by her subject.

UPDATE: Apparently this is crime and punishment day (week?) at Here's an article on forgery, and another one on more severe crimes in early Irish law.

The police blotter always makes for interesting reading, now as a thousand years ago.

A City of Two Tales

Don't get too supercilious about Detroit, warns the Huffington Post--the same thing could happen to your city.  Pretty much like "we're all Trayvon," if you can't identify anything about his behavior that fateful night that might have contributed to his problems.  Detroit was just doing what a city's gotta do.  Which is true enough, if you believe that a city's gotta have a unionized workforce that votes for more pension benefits than the city can possibly fund out of a combination of local taxes and sky-high borrowing.

Chicago is facing the same problem, so no doubt the refrain will soon become that you shouldn't get too supercilious about either Detroit or Chicago, because the same thing could happen to your city.  It might be a good time to look into what cities are doing to bring fiscal disaster on themselves and stop doing that.  Because one thing is true enough:  nearly all of them are flirting with fiscal disaster.  The thing is, flirting with disaster doesn't just "happen."  There's no natural law that forces cities to pretend they can borrow indefinitely to fund more services than their taxpayers can or will pay.

In a sign of the opening of one of the seven seals of the Apocalypse, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing that his city should give its unionized workers the option of a 401(k) instead of a pension.  The big difference between the two is that a 401(k) amounts to a "defined contribution" plan instead of a "defined benefits" plan.  "Defined benefits" pensions are roughly a synonym for "a plan in which we promise to contribute some funds later even though you know and we know that we're lying through our teeth and couldn't do it even if we wanted to, which we don't very much, as long as you're falling for it."

We've got competing narratives for why certain cities implode.  Detroit's apologists have been trying out the narrative that includes a string of bad luck that no one could have foreseen.  It will be interesting to see Chicago try it on for size, too.

Attack of the Perseids

The Perseid shower peaks tonight.  The Perseid meteors are debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle.  The best viewing will be after midnight, especially just before dawn, coming out of Cassiopeia.  (Really out of nearby Perseus, but I couldn't pick Perseus out of the night sky if my life depended on it.  It's just north of Cassiopeia.)  Cassiopeia is in the Milky Way, on the far end from Saggitarius (the Teapot), which in turn is right next to where the tail of Scorpio intersects the southern end of the Milky Way.  Cassiopeia and Perseus are just above the horizon in the northeast right now (10 p.m. Central), but will be near the horizon just before dawn, a bit south of west.

The moon is near dark tonight, so it should be a good show.  You can expect to see a flash about every 45 seconds near dawn.

Be sure and secure your triffids before you turn in for the night.