Who embodied evil before Hitler?

Tyler Cowan muses on what historical or literary figure people referred to before Hitler became everyone's stock idea of a villain?  It turns out that Pharaoh and Judas were favorite choices for millennia.  Commenters chime in with nominations for Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and other barbarian invaders.  Nero, Caligula, and Domitian fell out of favor a while back.

Once Hitler came along, he really enjoyed a consensus.  This is a Western perspective, of course.

"They Are Excommunicated"

This is perhaps less directed to the ‘Ndrangheta themselves than to the priests who serve in their communities. What the Pope said was not that he was excommunicating the mafia, but that they were excommunicating themselves by their choices of associations and actions, their "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good."

So priests in southern Italy should refuse them Communion, or a Catholic burial should they die without reconciliation.

It's a significant move, and I wonder why it has never been done before.

But this is the same Pope who insisted on ditching the bulletproof glass.
"It's true that anything could happen, but let's face it, at my age I don't have much to lose," he told Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia in an interview published Friday and reported on in English by Vatican Radio. "I know that something could happen to me, but it's in the hands of God."
So maybe the answer's as simple as that. He is not afraid.

"Lions Ate Him."

Nick at Ranger Up has a good story about the time he was almost eaten by a lion during a college trip to Africa.

Interestinger and interestinger

How would you like to be the CEO of the company to which the IRS outsourced its data backup?

Well, I'm sure it's all a big misunderstanding.  Or else a lot more people are planning to take the fifth soon, and mostly the latter.

Regulatory failure

I'm reading John Allison's "The Financial Crisis," a free-market take on the collapse that precipitated the Great Recession.  He's been discussing the moral hazard of deposit insurance, a difficult topic for me.  I've known since the S&L crisis in the mid-1980's, which created the wave of bankruptcies on which I cut my teeth as a young lawyer, that deposit insurance threatens a dangerous spiral in interest paid on consumer deposits, followed by riskier bank investments needed to generate the higher interest.  Without deposit insurance, a bank that pays too high an interest rate on consumer deposits will face a corrective mechanism: the difficulty of finding safe borrowers who can pay high interest on loans.  If the bank takes too many wild flyers on its borrowers, it goes broke, and its depositors lose their money.  Depositors who don't want to lose their money won't deposit it in a bank with a reputation for wild-eyed lending.

No one likes this disciplinary mechanism, because it tends to lead to panics and bank runs, especially on the part of small mom-and-pop depositors with all their liquid eggs in one basket.  Politically and practically, we're going to have deposit insurance one way or another.  Allison points out, however, that even with deposit insurance, people with deposits over the insured limit can exert useful pressure on banks to moderate their appetite for making risky loans.  But in the run-up to the 2008/2009 financial crisis, the uninsured-depositor disciplinary mechanism broke down.

In July 2008, regulators shut down IndyMac, with loans (assets) of $32 billion and deposits (liabilities) of $19 billion, without opting to cover any of the $1 billion (5%) of its deposits that were uninsured, (that is, deposits exceeding $100,000 per customer).   It was the largest collapse of an FDIC-insured institution since Continental Illinois in 1984, and it hit the public hard.  Five percent of deposits being uninsured may not seem like a lot, but the public was nervous, and it didn't help that newscasts showed unhappy depositors lined up at windows.

So the stage was set for real jumpiness over the summer.  Regulators had known for most of the year that failure was inevitable at Washington Mutual, the country's largest savings & loan, with assets in mid-2008 of $308 billion and deposits of $188 billion.  Whether because of the IndyMac experience, general jumpiness in the real estate market, or machinations by regulators and their cronies (the last possibility is the subject of litigation that hasn't yet quit, six years later), WaMu suffered a $16 billion bank run in September 2008 just before regulators shut it down and sold its assets to J.P. Morgan for a pittance.   Regulators, in no mood to spark an even more widespread bank run, made a fateful decision to cover all uninsured deposits.

Here is where Allison argues the biggest mistake was made.   It would have been possible to cover the uninsured deposits with taxpayer money.  That would have been politically poisonous, of course, but infuriated taxpayers could have done little about it in the short run.  Instead, however, regulators dumped the entire hit on WaMu's bondholders:  that is, the capital markets that had provided liquidity to the bank via traditional loans rather than through insured deposits.  Unlike taxpayers, the capital markets could and did retaliate instantly.  Allison, who ran BB&T (a real-estate-oriented Atlanta bank), reports that the capital markets had been tight during that troubled summer, but BB&T had just succeeded in floating a bond issue before WaMu failed.  The day after the feds stiffed the WaMu bondholders, the capital market for banks dried up without a trace.  Allison argues that this event was far more damaging to the liquidity of the financial markets than the failure of Lehman Brothers that same month.  He also argues that it was D.C.'s panic over the dried-up capital markets resulting from the WaMu decision that drove the TARP bank-bailout bill later in the year.


O thou who passest thro’ our valleys in
Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,
Oft pitchedst here thy golden tent, and oft
Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld
With joy, thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.

Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard
Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car
Rode o’er the deep of heaven: beside our springs
Sit down, and in our mossy valleys, on
Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy
Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:
Our valleys love the Summer in his pride.

Our bards are famed who strike the silver wire:
Our youth are bolder than the southern swains:
Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance:
We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,
Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven,
Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.

-William Blake

Paying Attention

A friend, veteran, and fellow biker sends:

Today was the date for the publication of my very favorite annual poll, the Gallup Confidence in Institutions Poll. As you know from hearing me talk about this in the past, all of our democratic and political organs have been suffering a long-term decline in public confidence. Congress is now down to seven percent! None of our major political institutions now command "a lot" or "quite a bit" of confidence from a third of Americans.

The police still command a majority (though still behind 'small business' and 'the military'). So clearly my friend's sentiment is not widely shared.

Nevertheless it's an interesting point. The biker's loyalties are unknown, and he has adopted a posture that suggests he is dangerous. On the other hand, the shotgun he's carrying is of limited hazard. The policeman belongs to a unit, with military-grade gear, and has the backing of the government. Obviously the policeman is far, far more dangerous.

But people trust the police, and even more the military, though they don't trust the government that they serve. That's interesting. It seems like there's got to be a kind of very serious tension there: trusting the servant, but not the master. Or do we trust that those in arms are gentlemen, and will at last do the right thing no matter how corrupt their leaders might be?

Friday Night AMV

Bad boys. Yeah. That isn't anything new.

Misunderstanding Evolution

Where do people get the idea that "evolution" is a kind of uplifting arrow?
A star was born this week in Stockton, California: Jeremy Meeks, a 30-year-old convicted felon whose hunky mugshot — featuring dreamy slate-blue eyes and chiseled cheekbones — has turned him into a viral heartthrob....

“This is a really great example of an evolutionary lag — how women still find things attractive that don’t necessarily translate well into the modern world,” Vinita Mehta, a Washington, D.C.–based psychotherapist, tells Yahoo Shine. Because while being muscular and tough enough to thrive in dangerous situations might have been necessary for human survival back in caveman times, “these are not the things that help us survive and reproduce today,” notes Mehta, who is writing a book titled “Paleo Love” about how Stone Age genes can complicate modern relationships.
What on earth are you talking about? Strong sexual attraction to a man with low ethics and little impulse control is a great way for a woman to reproduce. Thus she brings about the survival of the species, who will be physically strong and with that helpful lack of impulse control (unless we get a mutation...).

That's what evolution is about. It doesn't have a moral trajectory.

Oh, well. Here's your bumper sticker.

Virtutis Gloria Merces

A friend writes from the road:
I am in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. A guy who just reminded me a lot of you just helped me reattach my bumper in a gas station parking lot. Thank you, because I know you would've done the same thing for some poor crying girl.
That's just how it should be.

"Colonel" Sinclair to Retire

Apparently the end of the saga of once-Brigade General Sinclair, who fought a more successful PR campaign against his prosecution by the Army than he did an actual campaign as deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne. In spite of confessing to numerous violations of the UCMJ which could have led to a sentence of 20 years in Leavenworth, he will be allowed to serve no time whatsoever and retire with his pension.

However, he will lose two grades, and retire as a lieutenant colonel -- still a field grade officer, but no longer a general officer.

His retirement pay will come in somewhere between $3,000 and $4,200 a month as I understand it. The per capita income in the county where I live is $16,700, so a man could live quite well on what he'll be pulling in.

But if he was a lover of honor, the price at least is high: once a man who was respected for his service and career, he retires in disgrace, a confessed oathbreaker.

Ah, the Patriarchy

A "Feminist Father" wears a T-shirt with the following "Rules for Dating My Daughter":
1. I don’t make the rules
2. You don’t make the rules
3. She makes the rules
4. Her body, her rules
This is, of course, just as accurately a statement of the law. It's exactly what the law says, it's exactly how any American court will rule should a relevant case appear before it.

So, if he's a "Feminist Father" for declaring these rules, do we have a "Feminist System of Law" as well? I thought we were living in some sort of patriarchy -- even a rape culture. How surprising to learn that, instead, the positive laws perfectly adhere to Feminist principles on the subject of greatest interest to them.


A newsletter linked me to these WaPo charts, describing any number of U.S. trends by state and by county.  Most of them make Texas look pretty middle-of-the-road.


Starting with "The Washington Racecards," the National Review Online is soliciting our help in coming up with a new and more appropriate name for the sports franchise that dare not speak its name. "The Redtapes" is good, I think.


Dr. Althouse posts a short piece about people reacting very angrily to a woman who posted a picture of a rabbit she was skinning for dinner. "Rabbit ate my parsley," the lady wrote. "I am eating the rabbit."

Well, of course you are. That makes total sense to me. Apparently not to everyone!

The second item in the piece by Althouse has to do with a dog-eating festival in Yulin, China. One of the comments to the post says, "I love to have some dog- and cat-eating Chinese and Koreans as neighbors so as to help reduce the annual 1 billion songbird slaughter."

I assume he means by the dogs and (especially) the cats. But what it brought to my mind was a memory from China, when my wife and I were hiking on Precious Stone Hill near Hangzhou. We heard a beautiful songbird, and I suddenly realized that I couldn't remember having heard one the entire time I'd been in China. Walking forward excitedly, we came around a bend in the trail and found... several men, who had brought birds in cages up to the top of the mountain and were getting them to sing to each other.

I learned after that there is a cultural pride taken in being the top of the food chain, such that animals in general are considered edible. I began to notice that the stalls in the market had a huge variety of eggs for sale, not just chicken or duck but of all sorts of little birds.

To this day I don't know if the men up there were using their caged birds to try to lure more birds for them to catch as food, or if they were just a small society of men who longed to hear a songbird in a wild place.


Matt Walsh has lost patience with single dudes who no longer have the vocabulary to describe whatever it is they are or aren't doing with female dudes. "We're 'talking.'  We're 'hanging out.'  We're 'whatever.'"
Here’s some brutal honesty for you:  if you ‘aren’t ready for something serious,’ then you need to go get yourself ready and leave these ladies alone until you do.  You can’t go out and have sex (I mean, ‘hook up,’ as the middle schoolers at the lunch table might call it) and then claim that you ‘aren’t ready for something serious.’  It’s too late, friend.  Sex is something serious.

Barber Shops

I used to go to barber shops. My favorite one was run out of one end of a tire shop. They'd use a pressurized air line to blow off the back of your neck that was hooked to the same pump that they were airing tires with on the other side of the wall. They'd shave your neck with a straight razor.

These days my hair is too thin to bother a barber about. I just shave it off once every week or so. Testosterone poisoning, you know. Huge beard, no hair.

But I remember them fondly, those barber shops.

Technical Difficulties

Speaking of computer crashes, I've had one recently. I paid a substantial fee to get my hard disk reformatted and my data restored, but now it seems to be crashing again less than a week later. This is one of a half a dozen major mechanical or technical malfunctions that have come up all at once, and the second one to recur after I thought I had it fixed.

It may be that my connectivity will be limited for a while, as some of these things are of more immediate need than my having a working computer.

Hate speech

In order to protect children from hate speech, a Connecticut high school blocks internet access to the National Rifle Association, the Connecticut GOP, and right-to-life groups, the Vatican, and Christianity.com, but allows access to Moms Demand Action, Newtown Action Alliance, Planned Parenthood, Pro-Choice America, the state Democratic party, and Islam-guide.com.

Taking lessons from the IRS, no doubt.

Today's News, Yesterday

June 17, 2014, 1:21 PM, Allahpundit:
I’ll spare you a click and Voxsplain this one right here: Clearly the answer is to increase the IRS’s budget, so that they can afford more reliable PCs.
June 18, 2014, 12:10 PM, Vox:
Headline: The IRS scandal shows the IRS needs a bigger budget
Wow. Good call, AP.

Two ways to water

California's, and Dean Kamen's.

IRS Emails

So, that IRS email story is pretty unbelievable, huh?

What would it take to cause the executive branch to tell such an obvious lie to Congress?

Two theories:

1) Not much, because the Justice Department is so corrupt that, even if a special prosecutor were appointed, they know the appointment will be so in the tank that there's no danger in outright lies.

2) Something huge, because the price -- even without a special prosecutor -- is convincing the American people that the civil service, and not merely the elected executive branch, is wholly corrupt and in need of replacement.


GySgt Johns

Gunnery Sergeant Johns, a veteran of several Iraq campaigns and a former drill instructor, was killed as a contractor. I'm not sure how well linking to a Facebook post works, but I think we should pay particular attention to these American contractors who are doing the fighting in Iraq. They are America's face on the ground, and likely the only Americans who are going to be contesting ISIS's advance in direct combat.

Rest in peace.

A Tomb Fit For A King

What does one look like? Here's the design chosen for the tomb of the recently-recovered body of Richard III:

Here's the tomb of another, not quite a king but a truly great figure in English royalty: Edward "The Black Prince" of Wales.

A Man Could Get Killed Doing That

Secretary of State John Kerry “should be on a plane right now for Baghdad,” former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said Tuesday.

“The focus has been on the conflict, that is indeed serious, but, you know, diplomacy is what is crucial right now,” Crocker said on “CBS This Morning.” “We need to work with the Iraqis at the highest level,” which, he said, entails having Kerry urge Iraq’s leaders to pursue a national unity government.
Further down the report, Hot Air draws the wrong conclusion from a report that 44 detainees were killed in a gunfight near Baqubah. They say that ISIS killed them; the report says that they died in a jail being defended by Shi'ite militia. More likely the Shi'ite militia killed the detainees to prevent them being rescued and released by the ISIS. They were, after all, enemies of the government, and the militia couldn't be sure they could hold the jail. If the militia thought they would pick up arms for ISIS if released, it very likely summarily executed them.

This is no place for John Kerry. We should send someone serious, if we have anyone left.


June is the best month for fireflies. Once, long ago, I walked down by the Rappahannock river in a field of trees cut down by beavers, whitened spears in the early dark, with hundreds of fireflies flashing against the trees.

Tonight there were fewer, but still many, past dusk but not quite full dark. The thunderheads of early evening had moved off west, still flickering with lightning from cloud to cloud. We caught one, put it in a jar with holes in the lid for a while, then let it go. The horses came down to see what we were about. The air smelled of rain.

We call them "lightning bugs" here in Georgia, more often than "fireflies." They're among my favorite things.

Battle of the Presidents

An interesting contrast!


Russia just carried out its threat to cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine.  Europe had better get fracking.

Abortion vs. contraception

Melinda Gates announced that the $40 billion Gates Foundation will no longer fund abortions.  While she declines to discuss her own views on abortion, she explained that her first allegiance is to providing parents--especially women--support for contraception, prenatal care, and newborn care.  She finds that her preferred policies enjoy a broad and deep consensus, while abortion is a lightning rod for controversy.  Conflating abortion with family planning complicates her primary task, so she's opting out.

Organizations like Planned Parenthood, in contrast, seem to go out of their way to conflate abortion with family planning, for at least two purposes:  to permit them to accuse any opponents of interfering with both, and to stymie efforts to sort out what portion of their funding pays for abortions.

More On Defections

The captured were mostly these Iraqi Air Force we've been talking about:
Most of those captured were air force cadets, the employee said. Those who were Sunnis were given civilian clothes and sent home; the Shiites were marched and trucked off to the grounds of Saddam Hussein’s old palace in Tikrit, where they reportedly were executed.
Lots of caveats about how reliable the images are, and the reports themselves. That's good -- the journalists may have learned a thing since the American part of the war, where they tended to take insurgent claims of massacres at face value. Often if we sent an infantry unit out there to see if there really were heads piled up like the newspapers said, there was nothing of the sort. But the report, in the international press, multiplied the effect of their propaganda.

For Tom, Who Asked

'Why did the Iraqi Army melt away?,' Tom asked recently. We went through a few reasons at the time. Here's an interview that confirms some of them, for a Shi'a soldier from a distant (and safe) city, with officers and fellow soldiers he didn't trust to do their duty.
On Day Four of clashes in Mosul between encroaching jihadists and Iraqi security forces, two officers visited an outpost of the Iraqi 2nd Division’s logistics battalion with bad news: they said that all senior commanders had fled.

Stunned and confused, the men called headquarters and received the same information, that all officers colonel and above had abandoned their posts....

Had the Iraqi military brass in Mosul been chosen because of competency rather than cronyism, Nasseri suggested, perhaps the Islamic State’s march toward Baghdad could’ve been halted, or at least stalled.

“I know what I need to know about fighting in a city,” Nasseri said. “I fought side by side with Americans. Their military has leaders that tell the soldiers what the plan is, and fight. We don’t. There were many more terrorists in Fallujah and the fight was over in a month. (Mosul) wouldn’t have been a big problem if we had leaders.”
Compare and contrast with the story about the American contractors, who were able to pick up the rifles dropped by the fleeing soldiers and hold off the ISIS until they could be extracted.


A few months ago I began helping in the church service as a lay reader.  The Episcopalians being a bit on the high-church side, this calls for learning a lot of ritual.  There's candle-lighting in a particular pattern and order to start with, then a procession (with hymn), with various people carrying various things in a particular order.  Next there are readings by a couple of different laymen interspersed with the priest's parts in the Book of Common Prayer, now and then joined by the choir and the congregation, as we sing together the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Lord's Prayer.  Then the sermon, more speaking parts by laymen, a complicated hand-off of offering plates and the elements of the Eucharist among the ushers, the acolytes, the lay readers, and the priest.  Then the serving of the wine and bread, which in itself is an intricate minuet involving three people (plus the communicants at the rail) and lots of spoken parts.  Finally, announcements, special blessings for birthdays and anniversaries, extinguishing the candles in reverse order, and the recession (with hymn).

Today was complete discombobulation.  Our rector had been called suddenly out of town and replaced by a sweet old visiting priest who does things rather differently--lots of things are optional--in addition to being just a bit forgetful today.  He forgot the Gospel lesson altogether, together with perhaps half of the order of communion, and started the announcements early in the service when the ushers were standing near the front door, ready to bring up the elements and trade them for the offering plates.  (An old hand suggested tactfully from his pew, "Maybe now would be a good time for the Offertory."  The priest gratefully agreed.)  Our young acolyte suffered a bout of stomach upset in the middle of the service and left the altar, returning quickly, but still distracted enough by her physical distress that she never quite got back into her groove.

I'm still new enough to have trouble remembering my lines and my paces at various points.  Reading the lessons is easy, but there are stock phrases at the beginning and end that aren't on the hand-out, as well as times when I need to stand here and do this, or stand there and do that, which is particularly challenging when the visiting priest is used to something different--will he pour the wine or does he want us to?--and doesn't offer quite the cues I'm used to.  In the end we all more or less flubbed everything, but the important thing is that communion got served and we all tried not do anything too distracting or irreverent, so I don't think anyone's worship was hampered.  I try to concentrate on not fidgeting or drifting, and on thinking about what needs to happen next, in case somebody gets shot out of the saddle and another of us needs to pick up the slack seamlessly.

Our altar guild director has been urging me to read more slowly.  Today my first lesson was quite long, the whole opening section of Genesis, all seven days of creation.  I felt I'd be at the lectern reading all morning, but I concentrated on slowing down.  After the service, a parishioner congratulated me on reading quickly.  "It was such a long passage," she said, "we'd still be in there if you hadn't picked up the pace."  "Cap'n," I wanted to say, "I canna rrread any more slowly than that!"

When I was participating as a member of the congregation, I scarcely noticed all the choreographed movement in the sanctuary.  It's almost like putting on a short musical.  I look forward to getting so comfortable with all the parts that the whole team can respond flexibly and serenely to the unexpected, whether that's a lay reader who forgets to show up or a blessing inserted into the "Prayers of the People" that includes a reference to a perfectly unpronounceable church and pastor in Myanmar (as happened this morning).  Luckily, no one in the congregation knows how to pronounce Burmese, either.  Just sound confident and move on.

Some years ago, when life seemed quite unbearable, I concluded that what I needed in my life was more music, more ritual, and more animals.  It's been just what the doctor ordered.

Father's Day Activities

Today I've refreshed someone on how to build a fire to soften beans for Father's Day chili. After that, fly-sprayed the horses and put Vaseline in the ears to keep flies out of them. The beasts are much happier now.

Then we got out the grindstone and repaired a knife that had gotten blunted due to being used by an inexperienced hand. While we were at it, resharpened axe, hatchet, machete.

Perhaps a game of chess later. Beer on ice for the appropriate hour.

Pretty good day, so far.

Father's Day: Don't Forget About "Poor White Trash"

Fatherhood is always important, but perhaps it is of most moment for the poorest and most vulnerable families. Our culture tends to look down on them, sometimes with cause, but we need them. We need them even as they are.

David Allan Coe wrote a song about a poor Texas family, and especially about "the old man." It shows a lot that is bad about the poorer kind of family, but some things that are good about a family that manages to hang together in spite of a life made of very rough times. And somehow, though he speaks of his father as a violent drunk, 'mean as a rattlesnake,' you can hear the respect come through.

By contemporary standards, the language is extremely offensive. Probably it was offensive when he wrote it.

And when he wrote it, families like this were common. Now we see fewer of them, and more single mothers on welfare. We often talk as though a child is better off without a father like the one portrayed here. But the sons learned to work on automobiles, and to work hard -- cutting firewood, chopping tobacco, working all summer because they were planning ahead for the winter. Those are lessons you don't learn in a house supported by a welfare check.

Well, it's a harsh picture all the same. If you don't like that one, try this one. Daddy is a god-fearing man in this one.

Better? But the first song was about David Allan Coe, who pushed out of that kind of poverty to success and glory. The second father raised a son who intended only that "someday, when I'm grown, I'll be the same."