I Never Cared For You

A very young Willie Nelson never liked you much.

Boy can play guitar, though.

Net Neutrality



For (this one is our own Mike D, so scroll to his comments).




Touché, you little viper

John Roberts unfairly tries to force a redistricting lawyer to explain how race-based policies can be implemented without making race the predominant consideration.

That time of year

This looks worth trying:  flourless expresso chocolate cake.  (Maggie's Farm.)

Do You Sometimes Use A Chainsaw to Fell Trees?

If the answer to this question is "yes," you're entitled to the respect that deserves (which is substantial -- it's a dangerous bit of work if the tree is of any size). If you're a man and the answer to this question is "no," you may be mocked by women on the internet. Don't expect any sympathy from me, though.

Instead, go learn to use a chainsaw.

The FBI and Mortal Sin

Somehow, although I am as historically aware as most Americans can be expected to be, I never knew until this morning that the FBI tried to get MLK to kill himself. The intense surveillance they deployed against him gave them a wealth of knowledge about his actions that they used to assemble this letter, which is disturbing but not surprising. That a police agency would attempt to fool one of its citizens into committing suicide is both horrible and shocking.

Of course, the FBI is only partially a police agency; they also think of themselves as a counterintelligence service. That is an inadequate excuse.

(H/t: InstaPundit.)

What would we do without Washington

AT&T pointed out that it would need to pause on $18 billion of fiber it intended to lay next year, while the FCC figures out whether it wants to demonize Internet profits to make the President happy. This provoked cries of "extortion," which is what we call it when someone says he's not going to provide a valuable service unless he's got a pretty good idea he can do it at a profit.
Only in Washington could a delay to seek regulatory clarity before spending $18 billion in shareholder money be called extortion. Even after six years of slow growth, the Obama crowd hasn’t figured out that punitive regulation reduces the incentive to invest.
Well, we'll just force them to invest! And if that doesn't work, we'll confiscate their money and let the public sector do a great job instead, with their proven track record of achieving miracles by avoiding the evil profit motive, which is how socialist countries get so rich and ensure that all their citizens have a decent standard of living.

Stirring up the hairstyle

Not much ever happens to my hair.  It's reached a certain length at which entropy just keeps pace with growth.  If I'm not asleep, it's tied back in a ponytail.  It gets washed from time to time.  If I were looking for some high-maintenance options for generating a little drama, though, I couldn't do much better than these.  Dang.

Dress and modesty

From "Kit and Kitty," a 1890 novel by R.D. Blackmore, who had no affection for ostentatious dress:
When I opened the door, I saw a very pretty girl, but no more to be compared with my darling Kitty, than a tulip with a lily of the valley. Although it was close upon winter now, she had a striped parasol, which I detest; and her velvet hat (turned down over one ear, and turned up at the other) had two kingfisher's wings stuck crosswise, and between them a gorgeous topaz humming-bird. You might look at my Kitty fifty times; and if any one asked you how she was dressed, you would have to say, "I have not the least idea," if you happened not to be a woman. But this young lady's attire compelled attention, and perhaps deserved it.
All of Blackmore's works but 1869's "Lorna Doone" have gone out of print, says Wikipedia, which is a shame, because they're delightful.  He was a great favorite of Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and James Barrie.  Luckily, Project Gutenberg has quite a few of Blackmore's works and soon will have more, including "Kit and Kitty."

The Gutenberg work continues to engross me.  I've done about 30,000 pages.

There's "Colonel."

Also "Sergeant," "Captain," and "Doctor."
For all my marriage has given me, all it has allowed me to be and to experience, there is no title to recognize that. It’s just ‘mister,’ for every man.
I prefer to be addressed by my first name: "Sir."

SWF (Sperm Whale Fishery)

Thus did Melville suggest whalers signify their profession on their calling cards.

I wonder if we're seeing the end of fishing entirely, as we have already seen the end of sperm-whale fishing.
"This isn't predicted to happen. This is happening now," study researcher Nicola Beaumont... "If biodiversity continues to decline, the marine environment will not be able to sustain our way of life. Indeed, it may not be able to sustain our lives at all," Beaumont adds.

Already, 29% of edible fish and seafood species have declined by 90% -- a drop that means the collapse of these fisheries.

Silent Beach Spring

This environmental scare piece about sand depletion reminded us of the old joke about what would happen if the USSR took over the Sahara Desert:  "For five years, nothing, and then a sand shortage."

Sine Qua Non

What would America be without men like these?
A few months later, Nate's battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Seely, traveling the country to visit the parents of his fallen Marines, came to see the Krissoff family. Bill and Austin took him for a hike around Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay, and Bill asked Seely about medical care for Marines in Iraq. Seely told him that every Marine battalion deploys with a surgeon and numerous medics, all from the Navy. As Seely described the role of the battalion surgeon, the penny dropped for Bill.

That's what I want to do, he thought. I want to be a battalion surgeon.

Bill was as lean as his boys. He stayed fit by biking, hiking, kayaking, and skiing. He figured he could meet the military's physical requirements, so he called up a Navy recruiter in San Francisco and offered up his services. The recruiter posed a series of questions. Finally, he asked how old Bill was.

"Sixty," Bill said.

"Um, that's a problem," the recruiter replied. "You're too old." Anyone over forty-two who wants to join the Navy Reserve medical corps needs an age waiver, the recruiter explained. He wasn't optimistic about the possibility of a sixty-year-old obtaining one.
So a little while later...
Three days after meeting Bush, Krissoff received a phone call from the same Navy recruiter who had scoffed at his request to join a few months earlier. "I have orders to meet with you by the end of the day," the recruiter said. When Krissoff replied that he was trailering a horse with his wife and could not immediately drive down to San Francisco -- three hours away by car -- the recruiter was undeterred. "I'm coming up to see you," he said.

Drive On

Very late getting to it today, due to computer problems. I'll try to make it up with this piece from none other than Johnny Cash. It's not one of his more famous pieces, so it may even be new to some of you.

Drive on, warriors.

UPDATE: How about one from Hank Williams, Sr?

American Warrior

A Veteran's Day ... Tribute?

Differential Treatment

One of the cases Cass and I have tangled over a few times back in 2012 is the case of Rick Santorum's children going to a Pennsylvania public school though he spent most of the year living in Leesburg, VA. I thought Santorum's point was valid -- he owned a house in the appropriate district, paid the taxes on that home which funded the school system, and the fact that his official duties as a senator from Pennsylvania kept him near Washington most of the time shouldn't imply that he ceases to be a citizen of the state (and city) which elected him to represent them in Washington. Cass thinks it's a violation of the rules, and breaking the rules for your personal advantage is dishonest and dishonorable.

The saga ended with the Santorums withdrawing their children and homeschooling them. The state of Pennsylvania tried to get them to pay its estimate of what it cost to have those students in the school, but failed to collect. (It is unclear to me why the Santorums should be asked to pay in any case: they'd already paid their taxes, both there and in Leesburg. At most the one school district should have billed the other, not asked for a third payment on top of the two sets of property taxes already paid, either of which should have guaranteed access to education. But I digress)

I bring it up today not to tug at Cassandra's braids, but to inquire after the very different treatment encountered in a similar case.
A mother who pleaded guilty to fraudulently enrolling her six-year-old son in the wrong school district has been sentenced to five years in prison. Tonya McDowell sent her son to an elementary school in Norwalk, Connecticut, instead of her home city of Bridgeport. The 34-year-old, who was homeless when she was charged with felony larceny last year, said she wanted the best education possible for the boy.
There are differences in the cases.

1) McDowell is black, Santorum white. It is not clear that this difference is relevant, but a great deal of internet commentary has focused on the fact that she is black, so it's necessary to mention it.

2) She is poor, and he is rich. Rich enough to afford good lawyers, for example, who could keep the matter at bay. She seems to have plead largely because of the stress of the process (as Mark Steyn often says, when it comes to American law, the process is often the punishment).

3) She was homeless, and so paid no property taxes anywhere. Santorum paid property taxes in both school districts. Her child's right to a free education does not actually depend on her paying any taxes, or owning any homes, but the fact that she paid nothing to anyone does create a differential with the Senator, who had in fact paid everything he would have been asked to pay.

4) It is difficult to say where a homeless person's district properly is. The state elected to proceed with this method presumably out of a desire to keep homeless people from living in vans parked in the districts of richer citizens -- a kind of anti-vagrancy method. In the Santorum case, they did actually own property in both districts, paid the taxes on both, and lived in both places during different parts of the year. So the difficulty came not from them not having a home, but from interpreting the rules governing someone who owns more than one home.

5) She is a nobody, and he is a sitting Senator.

6) Different state laws are relevant: her case happened in Connecticut, not in Pennsylvania or Virginia.

In any case, the different outcomes are noteworthy. In the case of Santorum, the punishment was a lot of news stories that tarnished (for some) his standing as a candidate for President. Even if they'd gotten what they wanted out of him, it would have been a repayment of costs. In the case of McDowell, she also didn't repay the costs -- because she couldn't possibly, not because she won the argument. But nobody seems to have even suggested that the Senator should go to jail for fraud over the matter, whereas McDowell is going down for five years.

That last fact strikes me as madness, even given all the differentials in the cases. What is it going to benefit the state of Connecticut to pay to feed and house and guard her for five years? Clearly she is no danger to anyone, and the motive for her crime -- if crime it really ought to be -- was merely to seek what any mother ought to want for her child.

We don't have a very good answer to homelessness, especially not to trying to help the children of the homeless escape a similar fate. Even so this is a terrible stab at an answer, separating a mother who loves her child from that child, sending the mother to prison for half a decade, and sending the child to whatever the state's uncaring institutions devise.

Perhaps Senator Santorum ought to lobby for a pardon for her. It would be just for him to do so.


From a long article attacking conservative ideas about poverty, some thoughts on the collapse of marriage among the lower and middle class:
Next Edin took up the question of why low-income mothers so often put childbearing before marriage. Far from eschewing marriage as an institution, she found, poor women idealized it to such an extent that it became unattainable. They didn't believe that a marriage born in poverty could survive.

In a society that increasingly saw marriage as a choice, not a requirement, low-income women were embracing the same preconditions as middle-class women. They wanted to be "set" before marrying, with economic independence to ensure a more equitable partnership and a fallback should things go bad. They also wanted men who were mature, stable, and who had mortgages and other signs of adulthood, not just jobs.

"People were embracing higher and higher standards for marriage," Edin explains. From a financial standpoint alone, "the men that would have been marriageable [in the 1950s] are no longer marriageable now. That's a cultural change." The low-income women in Edin's study reported that decent, trustworthy, available men were in short supply in their communities, where there were often major sex imbalances thanks to high incarceration rates....

Marriage was so taboo among her subjects that Edin discovered two couples in her sample who claimed they were unmarried at the time of their babies' birth but were actually not. One of the women had even been chewed out by her grandmother for marrying the father of one of her children.
Emphasis added.

The author got around to studying men in poor communities too, though it took some effort. "Edin [says] she'd never been interested in studying men. 'It's fun to write about people with a strong heroic element to the story,' she says. 'Women have that. Men don't have that.'"

But the men she talked to had yet another surprising attitude: they thought having kids out of wedlock was a good thing they were doing in the world. It was a way of adding something hopeful and promising to an otherwise bleak landscape.

A whole lot of the thinking going on in the article will not be what you expect, both from the authors and from their subjects.

Happy Birthday

Drinks at Tun Tavern.

Listen to the Experts

In the event our civilization ever does follow Grim's ideas (which I partly share) and reintroduces corporal punishment as an alternative to prison...it will be important to consider the testimony of expert floggers from the past in deciding "what for" and "how much." One of the all-time experts was doubtless the Duke of Wellington himself, in his testimony before the Commission on Military Punishments, and part of it is given here.
There is no punishment which makes an impression upon anybody except corporal punishment. You send a man into solitary confinement; nobody sees him in solitary confinement, and nobody knows what he is suffering while he is in solitary confinement, and therefore this punishment is no example to the thousand men who are there upon the parade at the same time. The man may suffer so much in solitary confinement as that he will not be guilty of the offence again; but that is not the principle of punishment—that is not the intention oepunishment. The real meaning of punishment, if it means any thing, is example—it is to prevent others, by the example of what they see the criminal suffer, from committing the same or a similar offence...I am aware that lately, in the gaols of this country in general, a system of solitary confinemeat has been adopted and silence enforced. I do not know how far this has answered...but I understand that in America, for instance, at Sing Sing, and at some other places, the resource is corporal punishment...
Here are a few other quotes from testimony before the commission, including a couple of exchanges with Wellington.
Q: "Must not a certain time elapse before corporal punishment can be inflicted, on account of the proceedings of the court martial?"

A: "There was a very summary proceeding, which is now discontinued, which is called a drum-head court martial; but the man is brought to a court martial as soon as possible. A court martial is ordered; the forms take a certain time, but the man is sure of being tried, and, if convicted, of being punished. But, besides this punishment by court martial, there is in all [British] Armies the provost. I do not mean to say that the provost could be used for the purpose of enforcing an order of that description, but the provost is always liable to be used to prevent any irregularity: for instance, if there is a system of plunder going on, the provost is ordered to prevent it, and he punishes those taken in fact on the spot."

Q: "Towards the latter time of your service in the Peninsula, was corporal punishment very frequent in the Army, or more frequent than it had been in the beginning?"

A: "I cannot say that I know exactly how it was in the regiments. I rather believe it was not so frequent. I am positively certain that crime had most enormously diminished; that there was not one crime for one hundred that there were in the beginning of the time. I think my orders shew it. There was a man convicted of robbery; and I pardoned him, because the crime had become so rare...

Q: "Do you conceive that the Army, when it left France from the Pyrenees, was in as efficient state for service as an Army can well be brought to?"

A: "I always thought that I could have gone anywhere and done anything with that Army. It was impossible to have a machine more highly mounted and in better order, and in a better state of discipline than that Army was. When I quitted that Army upon the Garonne, I do not think it was possible to see anything at a higher state of discipline; and I believe there was total discontinuance of all punishment."
If the Good Old Duke was right, deterrence works, and speed is of the essence. Lieutenant-Colonel Fane, at the second link, seemed to agree:
Q: "Have you seen cases in which the infliction of corporal punishment has failed in reforming the individuals punished, but, on the contrary, has rather hardened their feelings, and made them more reckless?"

A: "I think, in the course of my military life, I have seen one or two desperate characters that nothing would have reclaimed; and that very severe punishment in their cases tended more to harden than reclaim them."

Q: "Though such men are generally repeatedly punished in that way?"

A: "They have been; but I have also seen men when on service, who, knowing that the punishment of death would be awarded to them for the crime, which was plunder, persevere in it, until they heard or saw the provost-marshal was coming up in the rear of the division. I mean to say, by that, that I think the fear of immediate corporal punishment had more effect upon them than the chance of being tried and hanged."

Long Live the Queen

We will never forget how she sang the Star Spangled Banner after 9/11. Today, as we approach what the British call "Remembrance Day," England's gentlemen stopped a knife attack against her person.
The Sun reported that four men who had planned a savage knife attack on the Queen were arrested yesterday.... Threats on British troops and in the London streets have accelerated since the U.K. joined in the mission to take out ISIS in August, but terror activities had been ongoing. 69 suspected terrorists have been arrested in 2014. 13 of those were after the announcement that British Special Forces were to hunt the members of ISIS, among them radicalized Brits in Iraq who executed two Brits among other Extremists members.

Repeal the 17th!

About ten years ago, then Senator Zell Miller introduced legislation to repeal the 17th Amendment. At the time it was a new idea to me, and I was unprepared to take sides on it in spite of the endorsement of the idea by the one man in Washington I most respected. Here's what he said at the time.
[N]o matter who you send to Washington -- for the most part smart and decent people -- it is not going to change much.

The individuals are not so much at fault as the rotten and decaying foundation of what is no longer a republic.

It is the system that stinks. And it's only going to get worse because that perfect balance our brilliant Founding Fathers put in place in 1787 no longer exists.

Perhaps then the answer is a return to the original thinking of those wisest of all men, and how they intended for this government to function.

Federalism, for all practical purposes, has become to this generation of leaders some vague philosophy of the past that is dead, dead, dead. It isn't even on life support. That line on the monitor went flat sometime ago.

You see, the reformers of the early 1900's killed it dead and cremated the body when they allowed for the direct election of U.S. senators.

Up until then, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures, as Madison and Hamilton had so carefully crafted.

Direct elections of senators, as good as that sounds, allowed Washington's special interests to call the shots, whether it's filling judicial vacancies or issuing regulations.

The state governments aided in their own collective suicide by going along with the popular fad of the time.... As designed by that brilliant and very practical group of Founding Fathers, the two governments would be in competition with each other and neither could abuse or threaten the other.

The election of U.S. senators by the state legislatures was the linchpin that guaranteed the interests of the states would be protected.
Bill Whittle has a new piece on the subject, putting it in the context of the whole set of amendments that came out of the Progressive Era of American politics. The 16th was all about income taxes, to give the Federal government new wealth and power to act; the 18th about Prohibition, to give the Federal government new power to reach into the lives of every American and restrain their personal choice about what to drink with dinner. And the 17th, well...

It ends on a happy note. The 18th Amendment was repealed. Why not the other two?

Coitado de quem só pensa o mal

I just returned from a little vacation in Portugal and Spain. (And discovered that Google doesn't trust me to log into applications like Blogger or even the comments...it wanted to confirm with text messages I couldn't receive, or by my having set up code numbers I didn't know about before.) But this tale has waited centuries for you to hear it and is no worse for a week or two more.

We visited the National Palace of Sintra, in Portugal, supposedly the westernmost palace in Europe. It started as a Moorish fortress but passed to the kings of Portugal in the old, familiar way.

I particularly enjoyed the legend of the Magpie Chamber, whose ceiling is painted with over a hundred magpies:

Each of those magpies is carrying a rose in one claw, and a scroll in its beak that says Por Beme (“for the good”).

The legend is that Queen Philippa walked in on King João I of Portugal when he was kissing one of her ladies-in-waiting, and the flustered monarch stammered out the words “Por Bem”…as if to say, this was perfectly innocent; a kiss is just a kiss.

The queen accepted it, but talk went around, as talk will…and the story is that the king had the ceiling painted to spite the chatterboxes. Each magpie carries a red rose in its claw, as a symbol of the King’s loyalty to his queen (a daughter of John of Gaunt, and thus a member of the House of Lancaster ). And each carries a scroll in its beak reading POR BEM.

True or not, I liked the story because it reminded me of Edward III and the Knights of the Garter. Thus the title of my post, courtesy of Mrs. W. In Portuguese: “Poor of him who only thinks of evil.”

And if that “coitado” made you think it was something naughty, well, then, Honi soit qui mal y pense.

She Might Be Right About This One

CampusReform is calling attention to the writings of a feminist professor who wants to eliminate prison for women. The argument she's forwarding is better than the soundbite version of it, though. "Essentially, the case for closing women’s prisons is the same as the case for imprisoning fewer men. It is the case against the prison industrial complex and for community-based treatment where it works better than incarceration."

If you formalize what she is calling that essential argument, it sounds reasonable:

1) (Fact) The majority of offenders are nonviolent but poorly educated persons who have suffered abuse in their lives.

2) (Assumption) Offenders of this kind should be rehabilitated rather than destroyed or permanently removed from society.

3) (Fact) Prison is very expensive, involves significant harm to persons, and shows poor outcomes in rehabilitation.

4) (Fact) Community intervention centers show a much better rate of success at rehabilitation. ("The program coordinator has told me that 68 percent of the women who completed the program had no further involvement with the criminal justice system.")

5) (Conclusion) Therefore, for the class of nonviolent offenders, community intervention centers are better options than prisons.

I've marked as "facts" those assertions that can be empirically verified. Facts, for this purpose, are statements that could be true or false. If the facts she asserts are true, and you share the moral principle she is assuming in premise (2), the conclusion seems to follow.

You get to "no women should ever go to prison" only by the magic of clever headlines designed to draw eyes. However, it is true that this would largely eliminate women from prisons; there aren't that many women in prisons to start with, and she estimates this kind of program could remove 80% of those few.

I would argue that prisons are such a bad option that we should eliminate them generally, replacing them with a three-tiered system of financial, corporal and capital punishments. That would involve a significant expansion of capital punishment, though, to deal with the kind of un-reformable cases we currently pay vast fortunes to keep in prisons. Corporal punishment likewise is often a reasonable alternative: for example, English law in the 15th century held that rapists should be castrated or executed, understanding that the castration often was adequate. We tend to argue that corporal punishment is too great a violation of human dignity to employ, but the truth is that prison involves substantial informal capital punishment and ongoing violations of human dignity: exposure to rape and beatings, periodic strip searches by authorities, etc. If we are honest with ourselves about that, we see that we aren't choosing not to violate human dignity, but choosing between options that violate dignity. Of these, corporal punishment may often be the lesser violation.

Both the increase in capital punishment and the re-introduction of corporal punishment are very much against the current mood of the American people. I'm not expecting Congress to pass a law in the next few years pursuing this set of options; I just think, philosophically, that it's a better set of options. Prisons create people who are permanently unemployable and dangerous, and they require prison guards who are also at risk of significant moral harm from their duty to act in ways that violate human dignity in a regular and ongoing basis. We'd be better off if we could move towards a nation in which we did not have so many prisoners, nor so many prisons.

In the meanwhile, this professor's proposal might be a reasonable place to start.

UPDATE: The comment crew at Hot Air responds to the proposal 'America should stop putting women in jail for anything' with:

"+1. Front line combat duty instead."