45 Degrees is Cold? Please.

Some NYT lib is congratulating himself on surviving a house whose thermostat he set to 45 degrees F.
The lowest the thermostat would go was 45 degrees, which I figured was good because I had to make sure the pipes wouldn’t freeze. At first it was fairly unpleasant. I wore two pairs of wool socks, thermal underwear, a thin pair of pants, sweatpants, a wool shirt, a sweatshirt, a light hoodie, a light jacket, a big poofy winter jacket, two winter hats and those fingerless gloves. Yet I was still having trouble typing because of my numb hands. That’s when I pulled out my down sleeping bag, and decided to wear it whenever I was sitting. With the sleeping bag, now that my core had been warmed, my extremities were warming up, too....

I’m not going to say that I liked living in a 45-degree house, but eventually I didn’t mind it, and it taught me that one’s sense of comfort can be redefined with a bit of grit and resourcefulness. Sitting in my sleeping bag, I began to wonder: If we all set our thermostats to our own “comfortable low,” how many West Virginia mountains could we save? How many fewer wells would need to be fracked? How much less greenhouse gas would we emit?
Here at Grim's Hall, there is no bottom to the thermostat. We shut the heat off when we moved in, and don't turn it on but a few days a year. If the temperature is going to get very low, I shut off the water from the well, open the taps so the pipes can't burst, and let the house freeze.

Doesn't hurt anything. When the temperature gets down low enough to be genuinely dangerous -- say the teens -- we all move into the room with the wood stove, tarp it off with blankets, and sleep snugly. The rest of the time, if you're cold you need to work. There's always work to do.

Is crowdfunding unfair?

Compared to what?  Letting experts decide how the rest of us should allocate our own resources to research?

Robin Hood in Modern Denmark

Amazing what they knew how to do in the old days.

Cruel & Unusual Punishment

Aftenposten sends three young fashion bloggers to work in the Cambodian sweatshops where their favorite garments are made.

It's Time Again for One of Eric Blair's Favorite Songs

This time in Yemen.

More recently in September 2014 Obama hailed Yemen, along with Somalia, as a model of the kind of “small footprint” approach he favored for fighting terrorism–sending American advisers and drones but not combat troops.... Yemen, in short, is on the verge of plunging into a Libya-like or Syria-like abyss, which would certainly make it representative of Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East but not in the way the president intended.

The administration in recent weeks has softened its anti-Houthi rhetoric. Many inside and outside the administration are tempted to see the Houthis as allies because they are fighting AQAP. This is a big mistake. The Houthis are, like Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored militia whose slogan is “God is great; death to America; death to Israel.”
So what you're saying is that we needed a bigger footprint. That's easy for you to say, "Max Boot."

Why Not Tax Savings?

I mean, I know we all oppose doing it, but what's the principle that justifies savings not being taxed that is consistent with our current system of taxation?

The Federal government taxes money you earn, then the state (usually) taxes it again. Any of it you spend get taxed a third time; if you save it, any interest it earns gets taxed. If you invest it, and make a profit, the profit gets taxed. If you buy real estate, the real estate -- which is just something you exchanged for the money -- gets taxed every year (and if you can't or don't pay the taxes, they'll sell it out from under you at auction, making sure they get 100% of what they tax before you get whatever, if anything, was left from the fire-sale price they accepted).

So we can't stand on the principle that the government shouldn't seize the fruit of our labor. We can't stand on the principle that they should only do it once, because we already permit double taxation even on income, and because we permit taxes on subsequent activity even after that. We can't stand on the principle that, at least once you own something and have paid all the taxes up to that point it should be yours free and clear: we continue to tax land you buy (and automobiles, at least if you want to take them off the land you bought). So accumulated wealth is already subject to taxation, in certain forms.

Progressives have been talking for years about a wealth tax, of which this is just a partial version. It strikes me that this form isn't that different from the property taxes we pay every year. Why shouldn't you have to pay for the privilege of holding a certain amount of wealth? There are lots of arguments, but are any of them consistent with what we already do?

If not, does that mean that the tax system we have is unprincipled? If so, does that make it unjust? Or is it fine to have a completely contingent system? If that, then, why oppose a wealth tax? It's just one more contingency.

So That Explains It

Ollie North hits one out of the park.

Evidence-based science

Yes, I have been cogitating on the difficulty of sustaining evidence-based scientific beliefs in human society.  Why do you ask?
There is very interesting news out of Pakistan today that the father of a child who has developed polio has been arrested because he refused to allow his son to be vaccinated:
After a polio case was detected here on Thur­sday, the Kohat administration arrested the father of the affected child because he had refused to get his child vaccinated against polio when vaccinators visited his home. Two health supervisors and a patwari have also been taken into custody for showing negligence in performing their duty. Three-year-old Moham­mad is the second victim of polio in Dhodha area of Kohat district this year. Deputy Commissioner of Kohat Riaz Khan Mehsud told Dawn on telephone that he issued orders for arrest after an inquiry revealed that the father of the affected child, Mullah Mohammad Yousuf, had not allowed vaccinators to give polio drops to his son.
This report probably isn't fair to the Pakistanis.  There's good reason to think that they're not so much motivated by spurious reports linking vaccines to autism as they are to fairly well-grounded suspicion of the people who show up at their doors offering public health interventions.  They may or may not be mistaken about that concern, but it's not really a question of scientific integrity.

It's not "secret" secret

Great moments in transparency:
DAVOS, Switzerland -- The trade rules of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the U.S. and 11 Asian nations would cover nearly 40 percent of the world economy -- but don't ask what they are. Access to the text of the proposed deal is highly restricted. Nevertheless, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman defended the Obama administration Friday at the World Economic Forum from intensifying criticism of its refusal to release the full text of the proposed TPP.
“We can always do better on transparency,” he said . . . .
Froman suggested that nations have varying definitions of transparency.
That could explain it.


No doubt "there will be a price" for Netanyahu's addressing the Congress without the President's blessing, but who will pay it?
[I]f Obama really wanted to hurt Netanyahu’s electoral prospects, he would embrace the Israeli leader. As of last year, 70 percent of Israelis said they had no confidence in Obama to safeguard their national interests. For most of the president’s first term, his approval rating in Israel was persistently stuck in the single digits. Netanyahu could only benefit domestically from being seen as a figure nobly standing opposed to the hostile administration temporarily occupying a historically friendly American government.

A truce in the war on drugs

Johann Hari argues that the "chemical hooks" model of addiction is all wet.  What, for instance, explains why addiction to gambling looks almost exactly like an addiction to heroin?  You can't inject gambling into the bloodstream.  From studies of rats offered cocaine in either cheerless isolated boxes or happy rat parks, to Portugal's experimentation with decriminalizing drugs and pouring resources into restoring human connection and meaning into addicts' lives, Hari concludes that addiction is a feature of alienation and nihilism, not the inescapable danger of the addictive object.  What else explains the relative ease with which miserable broken-hip patients and Vietnam conscripts kick the heroin habit as soon as they escape into a more humane environment?

I don't know.  I do know that people will latch onto meaning anywhere if they can't find it in appropriate places in their lives, and onto oblivion if they can't find meaning.  On a related topic, an MIT professor emeritus of meteorology warns what happens with Jonestown-like cults find their global hotcoldwetdry narrative unraveling.  And the unraveling is getting serious.  It won't be long, surely, before even cult members will have difficulty reconciling their assumptions about a positive-feedback greenhouse mechanism with the 19th or 20th year in a row of catastrophic global climate normalcy.  Mass suicides in store, or only rampant addiction?

Denying grist to the mill

What happens when journalists consider it their duty, not to report the truth, but to prevent facts from being misused by the enemies of society?
Jean-Claude Dassier, director general of the news outfit LCI—France’s version of CNN—admitted in 2005 that his network shielded viewers from seeing the true destruction wrought by angry Muslim rioters who were then besieging France. “Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television,” he confided.
The only rational conclusion is that Dassier wants to keep the French public uninformed because they’d likely vote for Front National, France’s unapologetically nationalist party, if they knew what the heck was happening to their country. Better not to cover the news lest people figure out that the “bigots” have a point.
… I have no doubt that most journalists think very hard about what they broadcast and that’s the problem. They don’t give it to us straight. The constant impulse to shape the news to fit an agenda strips their reporting of any value. That omnipresent question “What would the Right do with this?” hangs over their coverage, influencing editorial decisions to the point that their end product can only be called propaganda.

Ranking Corruption

FiveThirtyEight, defending New York from the accusation of being the most corrupt state in the Union, provides four standards for corruption that "point in different directions." By one of them, Georgia is the #1 most corrupt state of all.
What about good anti-corruption laws? The State Integrity Investigation had “experienced journalists grade each state government on its corruption risk using 330 specific measures” put into 14 categories, including campaign finance, ethics laws, lobbying regulations and management of the state pension fund.

The scores on these laws had little correlation with the other measures of corruption. Georgia took home the honors as having the least stringent anti-corruption laws. Somehow, New Jersey was rated as having the best anti-corruption laws, even though it ranked as the third and eighth most corrupt state, according to the reporter rankings and federal corruption convictions per capita, respectively. Illinois ranked in the top six across all the other categories, except it had some of the best anti-corruption laws on the books.

The lack of connection between the laws and actual corruption shouldn’t be that surprising. Some of the most corrupt states have recently passed laws because they were corrupt. The less corrupt states may not need the stricter laws.
Historians say that laws against a thing are good evidence for the existence of a thing. If you find laws against polygamy, you can be pretty sure that there was some polygamy going on and people didn't like it.

Of course, that's not always true, even if it is a pretty reliable principle of historiography. Alabama just passed a strict rule against the practice of shariah law within its borders, and as far as I know there's very close to none being practiced there.

Where's the Deal?

Meaning Governor Nathan Deal, my governor, who has for some reason vanished off the face of the earth.
Here’s what we know: Deal left Georgia on an economic development trip over the weekend. His office didn’t disclose his destination, and his public schedule remains blank.
That's a little unusual. Hope he's got something big up his sleeve, though, because -- as I may have mentioned -- Georgia's unemployment remains the worst in the nation. A little 'economic development' is just what we need.


Jonah Goldberg:
When Hillary Clinton & Co. talk about how “it takes a village to raise a child” they’re invoking wisdom from what P. J. O’Rourke called the “ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia” to make the case for vast new federal bureaucracies, taxes, programs, regulations, etc. But the phrase itself contains a lot of truth. Unlike bureaucrats in Washington, neighbors, teachers, pastors, coaches, coworkers, and friends can help raise your kids, in ways large and small. Real communities involve extended networks of trust and goodwill. Fake communities have regulations, fees, subsidies, and checklists.

Sick of Lies

I don't get over to Ace's place all that often, but D29 pointed me there today. I can understand the irritation, which boils down to Republican politicians lying to their base about what they really believe. Once elected, they pursue the elite agenda instead of the one they promised to enact when running.

Ace notes that progressives and Republicans view the Republican base in the same way: as a bunch of ignorant children, to whit, who must not be reasoned with but told calming lies. He finds this infuriating, even though he himself shares many of the progressive positions that the elected officials are pursuing.

This is all true. The only reason the Republican party does as well with its base as it does is that it lies to them, whereas the Democratic party has largely stopped concealing its outright contempt for them. This is one reason I hope for a strong Jim Webb candidacy: among Democrats these days, he has a rare interest in the kind of men who built this country, and among politicians in general, an even rarer sincerity. He appreciates them, their cultures and their values.

Of the likely Republican candidates, the one who is far and away the most impressive in his sincerity and respect for traditional values is Dr. Ben Carson. Most of the press I've seen about his possible candidacy suggests that he is very widely respected as a human being and a neurosurgeon, though a political neophyte; The Weekly Standard goes further, and says that if he can pull off a primary victory, he'd be very hard to defeat in the general election.
If nominated, can Carson beat Hillary Clinton or another Democrat? Yes he can. Giles thinks Carson can win 25 percent to 40 percent of the black vote. Williams is doubtful. But Robinson, the draft-Ben leader, says he has “run the numbers” and found that Carson would easily win with 17 percent of the black vote in swing states. “At 17 percent, Hillary loses every swing state in the union, and the Roosevelt coalition is effectively destroyed.” That’s an outcome worth thinking about.
Carson is barely a Republican, having only registered as one in November (having previously been an independent). But if you're tired of a Republican establishment that lies to you about everything, he may be just the guy for you. He's certainly honest and sincere, and he's led a virtuous life.

Friday Quiz

This quiz promises to be "EXTREMELY accurate" about your spirit animal. I have some questions about how that is measured, but for what it's worth, I got "Lion."

Funny. I would have expected Bear, Rampant.

Boko Halal

Perhaps the NRA should open a branch in Nigeria. This story is very much in line with their historical activities -- not that anyone knows the history, these days.

What's a war movie supposed to be?

I hesitate to link Matt Taibbi's petulant "review" of "American Sniper"--really a complaint about the dumb audiences who make a movie like this popular--but I will anyway, because I'm interested in some of his notions about the proper narrative of war.  Taibbi's thesis is that we have difficulty coming to dramatic grips with each war for a certain period after it ends.  In the next phase, we make movies about how hard it was on our guys.  In this category, he prefers stories about how it corroded their souls and therefore destroyed their lives with PTSD; he is impatient with a simplistic storyline about how it demanded a terrible sacrifice in what might conceivably have been a good cause.  In the final, mature stage, Taibbi demands movies about the terrible things we did to our enemies, especially if they're couched in devastating criticism of our hypocritical, lying, warmongering leaders.  ("I wanna talk about Rumsfeld!  I wanna talk about Cheney!")  Bonus points if the movie makes clear that everything our enemies did was a direct result of our own provocative crimes.  We could have avoided the whole thing if our politics weren't so shabby.

This is familiar territory; Taibbi is accurately describing most war movies of recent decades, especially the ones that didn't make any money.  Just the fact that a war movie makes money is sure to mean that a lot of unwashed Americans liked it, and you know what that means about the purity of its politics.  It's not what war movies used to be like, though.  Nor am I referring to a Golden Age of rah-rah agitprop.  Our culture used to have no problem generating a whole range of war movies that adopted the full spectrum of judgments about human life in  the midst of a military conflict, from "Casablanca" to "The Longest Day" to "A Bridge Too Far" to "The Great Escape" to "The Bridge on the River Kwai."  Some had straightforward bad guys and heroes.  Generally the bad guys were our military enemies, but they might also be corrupt or cowardly or incompetent REMFs.  Sometimes the heroes were unambiguously successful warriors, like Chuck Norris or John Wayne.  Other heroes were dark or conflicted, but few enjoyed the approval of their directors while identifying outright with with foreign cultures at the expense of their homelands--"Lawrence of Arabia" being an unusual example.

Until quite recently, it was rare for an American film about any war to focus relentlessly on the horror experienced by our enemies in war zones, with the dramatic assumption that the violence meted out by the U.S. was an inexplicable bolt from the blue; offhand I can remember only "Slaughterhouse Five."  Before the Vietnam War, few American movies adopted the position that all wars are equally evil or misguided for all countries concerned, "M.A.S.H." (ostensibly about the Korean War, but really about Vietnam) probably being the first popular offering in that genre.  Once that precedent was set, it would become almost unheard of to make a movie about guys who go off to war in a just cause, sacrifice a great deal, win, and come home.  In part that may be because, once the nuclear age began, we no longer had a cultural assumption that a war could be fought to a decisive conclusion without precipitating global war and the destruction of the Earth.  The wars all seemed to dribble off into an ambiguous standoff, or a withdrawal of U.S. forces followed by a degeneration of the former theater of war into a killing field from which we largely averted our eyes.

I wonder if we'll ever again see a Hollywood offering that takes a clear look at a horrible eruption of human wickedness followed by the determined use of military power to halt it in its tracks and root it out.  At this point, Hollywood can't ever bear to treat the destruction of Nazi Germany without irony.  Would anyone today make a movie like "The African Queen," in which two noncombatants discover their buried patriotism and risk everything to strike a blow against the enemies of their respective countries?

"Sports Reporter"

Hey, you know what really matters to me? The opinions of sports reporters on things other than sports.
A story you personally took on last season, about the "Eat What You Kill" movement, would you have done that five, ten years ago?
There are a few things I hate more than the NRA. I mean truly. I think they're pigs. I think they don't care about human life. I think they are a curse upon the American landscape. So we got that on the record.
Hey, OK. I'm not really sure who you are, because I actually don't even care about the opinions of sports reporters on sports. I mean, even if on the off chance you know what you're talking about, what's the point of watching the game if there's no element of surprise? I'm not going to gamble on sporting events, less because it's illegal than because there's poker, and therefore I have no reason to care about your opinion in the subject in which you're an expert even if you're consistently right.

On the other hand, as an on-again-off-again member of the NRA, I can assure you that I care about human life. Not, you know, all lives equally: I tend to value the virtuous ones more than the vicious ones. Indeed, I do that so much more that I view it as a good thing when people who are more than a little vicious move on to whatever comes after this life. If a gun is helpful in protecting a virtuous person at the expense of a vicious one, well, that's to the best as far as I'm concerned.

More on Ancient Writing

The mummy story was cool, but I regret the destruction of a semi-sacred object (it was semi-sacred, at least, to the family of the mummy!). These scrolls aren't sacred, but this new technique for reading them means we can do it without destroying them.

Pretty awesome stuff.

The dark gulf

David Foster has a fine piece up about free speech and appeasement.

Realism ≠ "We Give Up"

"Washington's New Realism," however, may.
In his speech, President Obama also demonstrated how a calibrated and balanced approach has worked with Russia. “…Mr. Putin’s aggression, it was suggested, was a masterful display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard from some folks. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leads: not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.”
Uh-huh. And who owns the Crimea? Those tanks parked in eastern Ukraine? All you're bragging about is that you've made Putin pay a cost he's completely willing to pay in exchange for the new territories. Are you being realistic about that?

How about Boko Haram? Their economy is in tatters too, but that doesn't seem to be what they care about. Iran's nuclear program? Same deal.

Some realism. It is, at best, about imposing purely symbolic costs that don't change the injustices you supposedly care about. Better to be honest that you don't really care.

Satan's kimchi

From James's "I don't know, but . . ." blog, a history of "Things I Won't Work With":
And yes, what happens next is just what you think happens: you run a mixture of oxygen and fluorine through a 700-degree-heating block. "Oh, no you don't," is the common reaction of most chemists to that proposal, ". . .not unless I'm at least a mile away, two miles if I'm downwind." This, folks, is the bracingly direct route to preparing dioxygen difluoride, often referred to in the literature by its evocative formula of FOOF.
Worth reading all the way through, and I'm really sorry I can't get my hands on the obscure book "Ignition!" that James refers to ("Buy Used $7,240.84 + $3.99 shipping"--man, they can't even throw in free shipping?) (5-star review: "I've read parts of this book. I'd do obscene and disgusting things to get my hands on a copy of my own...") (but here's a free PDF version).
So does anyone use dioxygen difluoride for anything? Not as far as I can see. Most of the recent work with the stuff has come from groups at Los Alamos, where it's been used to prepare national-security substances such as plutonium and neptunium hexafluoride. But I do note that if you run the structure through SciFinder, it comes out with a most unexpected icon that indicates a commercial supplier. That would be the Hangzhou Sage Chemical Company. They offer it in 100g, 500g, and 1 kilo amounts, which is interesting, because I don't think a kilo of dioxygen difluoride has ever existed. Someone should call them on this - ask for the free shipping, and if they object, tell them Amazon offers it on this item. Serves 'em right. Morons. 

Bury Me Not...

Apropos of Tex's post about mummy masks, here are some more contemporary thoughts on what to do with your body when you're done with it.

The Oppression is Endless

According to this piece from National Review, men are the worst.

It's a rare satire that manages to keep getting better once you've gotten the joke, but this is a good piece.

Like a box in the attic

Someone has figured out how to pull apart glued paper used in mummification without destroying the writing on the paper.  What kind of papers?  Well, perhaps the earliest copy of the Gospel of Mark, for one, dating from around 90 A.D.  And maybe other interesting things like stories of Homer.

When is an agreement a treaty?

A bipartisan swath of Congress is at loggerheads with the White House over Iran. Well, not just Iran, but the whole idea of our Constitutional system for foreign relations:
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the White House doesn’t view an agreement with Iran as a treaty that requires Senate approval, but a matter of “executive prerogative.”
How's that again? Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, mentioned something that may be a clue here:
Corker threatened to pull the national security waivers that Congress granted the administration in sanctions legislation, which allow the president to waive sanctions if doing so is important to national security. Such waivers are key to any deal that would involve suspending sanctions at the president’s discretion.
A 2013 article on the Foreign Policy website explained:
The legislation that imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s central bank gives Obama a "national security waiver" he can use to temporarily soften or lift the measures. . . . Congress has tried to make it as hard as possible for the White House to use its waiver powers. To lift the sanctions on Iran’s central bank, for instance, the administration has to certify — in writing — that fully enforcing the measures would harm the national security interests of the U.S. The waiver, which the White House has never used, would also have to be renewed every 120 days, a measure lawmakers inserted into the bills to force the White House to face a heated political fight over the sanctions every four months.
Does the White House agree that the only reason it might have the power to waive sanctions is that Congress granted reversible national security waivers? In a December 2014 article on the National Interest website, Navid Hassibi argued:
Numerous reports indicate that a major reason the P5+1 and Iran failed to reach a nuclear agreement was because Tehran doubted that the White House’ could persuade Congress to lift the sanctions against it.
. . . [A] creative method for ensuring continued sanctions waivers in a post-Obama environment could be to codify them within a UN Security Council resolution. That is, within a larger UNSC resolution, the U.S. could assure Iran that it will honor its commitment to provide sanctions relief. Such action would mandate the United States, the other members of the so-called P5+1 and UN members at-large to repeal sanctions against Iran and refrain from adopting nuclear-related restrictive measures so long as Tehran remains in compliance with the final nuclear agreement.
Supplemented domestically by a blanket executive order by President Obama to continuously and automatically waive sanctions in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution, this will provide future U.S. presidents with the legal impetus and authority to continue waiving the sanctions.
Use the UN to override a bipartisan Congressional revolt!  That should play well.

Even back in 2013, the White House was complaining that Congress wasn't giving negotiations enough time to work. Now the White House is complaining that a bill to trigger additional sanctions upon the failure to reach a verifiable agreement by June 30, 2015, is premature. The White House didn't have Democrats completely signed off on this foreign policy strategy even before the voters gave them a hiding in the November 2014 elections. Things aren't looking any happier now. It's not clear there are 67 Senators willing to override a veto, but when a Democrat senator gets a lot of press complaining that the White House's noises sound like "talking points right out of Tehran," things are getting ugly.

Blue Sky Reflected in Chrome

For January, it was a pretty lovely day.

Plastique Does Not Make Good Dinner Rolls

A lesson from the OSS.

This Guy

Those of us who grew up when Hulk Hogan was the face of professional wrestling probably still have a soft spot for the "sport," even though we recognize it for the complete fakery that it is. I haven't seen a professional wrestling 'match' in decades, but I can still remember how amusing it was to see the poses they would strike to appear evil or noble. The fans responded with hate and love, appropriately, but it always struck me that it wouldn't be very much fun to be the Roy Rogers figure. The "bad" guys were clearly having a lot more fun -- not their characters, but their actors.

Turns out, this actor is a pretty decent guy. I hope he's having lots of fun.

Advice From an Old Scotswoman

The secret to living to 109, Scotland's oldest woman wants you to know, is to avoid men entirely.
Miss Gallan, who now lives in a care home in Aberdeen, said: 'My secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They're just more trouble than they're worth. I also made sure that I got plenty of exercise, eat a nice warm bowl of porridge every morning and have never gotten married.'
I imagine there's some truth to that advice. Men do get into a lot more trouble. On the other hand, some women think we're worth it.

Rhetorical extremism

Jonah Goldberg argues that sometimes refusing to talk about something only spurs more talk about it:
Think of it this way. A bird waddles into the room. It walks like a duck, it talks like a duck, it gives off every indication of duckness. If Josh Earnest says, “That’s not a mallard,” well, okay. You can have a reasonable conversation about which species the bird might be. But if Earnest says, “That is not a duck. It has no relation or similarity to anatine fowl in any way, shape or form, and any talk of ducks is illegitimate. . . . ”
Well, now we have a problem.
Such rhetorical extremism almost forces people into an argument about what a duck is. Likewise, by denying the role of radical Islam, they invite sane people everywhere to focus more, not less, on Islam.
There are, of course, many problems with this analogy. The most important one is that ducks cannot talk. They cannot say, “Look, I am a duck.”
Terrorists can talk. And they do. They also form organizations with magazines and websites and Twitter accounts. They issue manifestos. They recruit in mosques. When we capture them alive, they demand Qurans and pray five times a day, bowing toward Mecca.
You know who else can talk? Non-extremist Muslims. And millions of them routinely refer to the bad guys as radical Islamists and the like.
I could go on, but you get the point — if you don’t work at this White House.
It seems hard for some of us to make the argument that certain behavior deliberated associated with a specific religion is a perversion of our idea of that religion, without resorting to the argument that it "has nothing to do with" the religion. "Has nothing to do with" is a far cry from "violates" or even "is an extreme interpretation of one aspect of the teaching of that religion that is so abhorrent it undermines the religion's core and defeats itself." But to get to those arguments you have to be willing to enter into discussions about moral beliefs that transcend ethnicity and diversity.

The Story of Your Life

A friend of mine took this quiz and proclaimed he was surprised to discover that it described his story as that of a radical. I wasn't that surprised with his result, so I took it just to see what it came up with. Tex likes quizzes, so I figured I'd put it up here. My result:
True Lover

To you, nothing in this world means more than your loved ones. Seeing their faces and smiles always brightens your day. Your relationship with them is fueled by pure, unfiltered love. Whether they're quirky, weird, or different you love them unconditionally. You love them so much that you'd even be willing to take the ultimate sacrifice for them.
Now that's a good story.

But nowadays men can not love seven night but they must have all their
desires: that love may not endure by reason; for where they be soon
accorded and hasty heat, soon it cooleth. Right so fareth love nowadays,
soon hot soon cold: this is no stability. But the old love was not so;
men and women could love together seven years, and no licours lusts were
between them, and then was love, truth, and faithfulness: and lo, in
like wise was used love in King Arthur's days. Wherefore I liken love
nowadays unto summer and winter; for like as the one is hot and the
other cold, so fareth love nowadays; therefore all ye that be lovers
call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as did Queen Guenever,
for whom I make here a little mention, that while she lived she was a
true lover, and therefore she had a good end.

Violations of the Neutrality Act

Americans aren't supposed to wage war on sovereign nations unless we are at war with them. There is nevertheless a pretty proud tradition of us doing so anyway. Obviously the most famous and successful case is the support to Texas revolutionaries during its war of liberation. Men such as Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were neither the first nor the last: the word "filibuster" originated with bands of private armies that raided into Latin America in those days.

My favorite example of this trend happened in 1865, right after the end of the Civil War. Thousands of the millions of Irishmen who'd emigrated following the famines that began in the late 1840s, or their sons, were veterans of the Union Army. When the war was over in the South, they formed a private army and invaded Canada.
We are the Fenian Brotherhood, skilled in the arts of war,
And we’re going to fight for Ireland, the land we adore,
Many battles we have won, along with the boys in blue,
And we’ll go and capture Canada,
for we’ve nothing else to do.
This story rarely gets taught in school, but it's an interesting one -- part of a bigger story of Irish resistance to British authority, as the main impetus for the raid was to force the British to devote armed forces and mental energy away from the planned revolt in Ireland. The British defended their interests in the traditional way -- with spies -- and thus were entirely too prepared for the planned Irish revolt. The Canadian invasion... well, read for yourselves.

The reason I mention all of this was that I read this morning that there has been another such violation. Like the Fenian raids, it was led by immigrants to the United States who were veterans of our wars. This time it happened in Gambia, and it sounds as if it would have worked if the members of the government who'd promised to defect to support the insurrection had followed through.
Sigga Jagne believes her brother died in a heroic struggle against tyranny and that Jammeh's regime is weaker than it appears. "His legacy is that he stood up for people who had nobody to stand up for them," she said. "People who were daily being abused and tortured and abducted and killed. It was worth it for him."
It's an interesting story, which happened just before the new year.


Now get back on the thing, and you're a horseman.
"While on vacation with his family in Africa, Governor McAuliffe was thrown from a horse, which resulted in seven broken ribs," Coy said in a statement. "While the injury did not impair his ability to do his job and his doctors expected the injury to heal on its own, today they identified increased fluid around his lungs that will require a procedure to remove."
Until you've broken some ribs, it doesn't count. Also, you don't need the doctors to 'remove fluid from' etc. Tape it up, drive on like a man.

A 'Coward' Army Ranger

And the first black sniper in the unit -- a reasonable post for MLK Day.

I'm Going To Have To Find A Way To Watch This Show

'Allow Me To Revise & Extend My Remarks'

"Lots of talk about snipers this weekend (the holiday weekend of a great man, killed by a sniper), so I thought I'd weigh in with what I was raised to believe about snipers," Moore wrote in his post. "My dad was in the First Marine Division in the South Pacific in World War II. His brother, my uncle, Lawrence Moore, was an Army paratrooper and was killed by a Japanese sniper 70 years ago next month."

He explained that his views were passed down to him by his father.

"My dad always said, 'Snipers are cowards. They don't believe in a fair fight. Like someone coming up from behind you and coldcocking you. Just isn't right. It's cowardly to shoot a person in the back. Only a coward will shoot someone who can't shoot back.' "

"I don't think most Americans think of snipers as heroes," he added.
Uh-huh. And that part about how the Iraqis shooting Americans from rooftops were to be praised for resisting "invaders"?

You picked your side. Your father and uncle, were they here today, would kick your ass through your teeth.

Sashimi, Anyone?

"Sashimi (Japanese: 刺身, pronounced [saɕimiꜜ]; /səˈʃiːmiː/) is a Japanese delicacy consisting of very fresh raw meat or fish sliced into thin pieces."

Very fresh.

Search engines

A friend asked for help in creating something I didn't have a word for:  those things where you stick your head in a hole and someone takes a picture of you with another body.  These would be used in our annual LaMardi Gras festival benefiting the Lamar VFD.  I felt confident of my ability to paint a suitable body and background, but I'm not good at dreaming up amusing images, normally preferring to surf until I find an image to copy.  Here's the problem:  what term to search by on the Internet?  In desperation, I tried "things where you stick your head in the hole and someone takes a picture of you." To my surprise, it worked.

It turns out I'm not alone in lacking a term for this tradition:
These photographic ‘foregrounds’ are known by many names. Recently Michael Quinion of World Wide Words, [2] noted quite a few awkward but descriptive phrases: ‘end-of-the-pier painted boards into which you stick your head to get photographed’, ‘head through the hole’, ‘things you stick your head in’, faces in holes, face cut-outs, ‘head through the hole photo booths’, photo cutout boards, comic foreground, carnival cutouts, lookie-loo, mug boards, faceless cutouts -- and even had a new suggestion from a reader – ‘Headleys’ for the surname of the person who first asked Michael about this topic!
Vivian Marr of Chambers Dictionaries gave Michael the French name – “‘passe-têtes’, essentially places to put one’s head through” which is the one I’ve adopted now. Very clear, I think and quite Canadian sounding, but I’ve seen other terms on-line now too – arcade photograph and ‘people posing in wood cut out bodies’.
There is some question about who ‘invented’ these ‘head in the hole’ photographic props, but it seems accepted that Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (1844-1934) popularized them, if he didn’t think them up all by himself. [3] (He’s the fellow who painted those ‘dogs playing poker’.) I’d be interested to hear of any contemporary references to his prop work or to his company.
Now my task is to find some good examples, armed with a search term, especially for amusing foreground with a Mardi Gras theme.  Starting with "comic foregrounds" and following up with "head in a hole," I find:

Good news on the Ebola front

No one is sure why, but the Ebola epidemic in West Africa may have peaked.  Liberia in particular seems to be generating few new cases.  It doesn't seem to be a case of success by the American military and financial effort, whose clinics are going surprisingly unused.  (Which is not to say that they were misguided; we still don't know why the disease peaked and declined, and we certainly didn't know it would happen when the aid resources were committed.)  It's less clear that the other West African countries are out of the woods, but even there the signs are encouraging.

What's Up With That Incest Taboo?

So I always thought it was just because incest is obviously gross to almost everyone. Turns out, that's not true.
In the late '80s, the founder of a support group for adopted children who had recently reconnected with their biological relatives coined the term “Genetic Sexual Attraction” (GSA) to describe the intense romantic and sexual feelings that she observed occurring in many of these reunions. According to an article in The Guardian, experts estimate that these taboo feelings occur in about 50 percent of cases where estranged relatives are reunited as adults[.]
Emphasis added. Fifty percent is pretty substantial. It's apparently, we might say, normal.

So what's the basis for the ban? New Jersey is apparently over banning father/daughter incest. Do we have any standing, should we let go of our traditional moral standards per se, for banning it? Sure, it can lead to bad results if it happens over several generations, but in just one pairing it's of no special concern. She's obviously willing, as is he.

Did You People See "Unforgiven"?

"The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly"? "For a Few Dollars More?"
Headline: ‘American Sniper’ Complaints Grow in Hollywood: Should Clint Eastwood Be Celebrating a ‘Killer’?
Michael Moore, by the way, can stuff his head.

A Lesson from Dalton, Georgia

Reading a larger trend from the story of one little town, Reuters posts a story about the declining middle class:
The trend is in plain sight in Dalton, Georgia, a manufacturing hub 90 miles (145 km)north of Atlanta. Massive factories that made it "the carpet capital of the world," were slammed by the collapse of the housing bubble. During the recession, with machines idle, they began investing heavily in new technology and are now laying plans to restore some lost jobs.

But the new positions are more skewed to the high and low end, and there will be fewer of them per dollar of output than before the recession, said Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce.

"We can produce a whole lot of new carpet with not a lot more people," Anderson said. Companies have spent between $1.5 and $2 billion on retooling and innovation, reducing demand for labor, while higher than average regional unemployment continued to hold down wages, he said.
No reason to think this isn't the wave of the future. No reason to say that employers ought to be compelled to hire people instead of buying lower-cost capital improvements that automate the process. As the economy advances in automation and robotics, though, we just don't need as many people.

The effect is that families -- not poor, but solidly middle class families who were doing well a few years ago -- are rapidly falling towards bankruptcy.
Between 2010 and 2013, as recovery took hold and stock markets soared, the average net worth of families in the top 40 percent of income earners grew. For all others average net worth shrank, declining 19 percent for the middle fifth.

Similarly, the average earnings for families in the top 10 percent grew more than 9 percent from 2010 through 2013, while those at other levels stagnated or shrank. For the middle fifth, average earnings fell 4.6 percent.

Over the six years through 2013, the middle fifth's average annual family earnings fell to $47,243 from $53,008 while their average net worth dropped to $170,066 from $236,525.
I don't think that's going to turn around, not in the next two years and not even after. It's a structural problem, though government has certainly made it worse by forcing industries to shift to part-time work to avoid the impossible obligations of Obamacare. Work is no longer going to be a reliable way to wealth, because work isn't going to be available for everyone. Everybody will be working part-time, and nobody will be making a living, until globalization levels the playing field and American workers' living standards are on par with Bangladesh or China.

Even then, when their living standards are low enough that they can live on third-world pay, we may just not need them.

Rich man, poor man

From Maggie's Farm, a sociologist who suspects her colleagues don't live up to their ideals of listening to the people they study instead of imposing their own elite preconceptions. She quotes sociologist Annette Lareau, who contrasts elite-vs.-non-elite parenting styles and scarcely attempts to conceal her preference for the former:
The middle-class [parenting] style of cultivation entailed verbal reasoning and negotiation between parents and children; organizing out-of-school activities and transporting children to and from them; and intervening in schools to ensure that their children were treated well. The “natural growth” style [of working-class parents], on the other hand, entailed verbal directives issues to children without much questioning or negotiation; unorganized, free-flowing out-of-school time; and reluctance to confront and question authorities such as teachers. The result was that middle-class children developed an “emerging sense of entitlement” which we might view as encouraging independent acting and thinking—just the kinds of skills that can be used to obtain and succeed at a high-paying job.
First of all, of course, one wants to chuckle at the idea that the approved elite parenting style makes kids ready for success and high pay by inculcating a sense of entitlement.  (Just what those bosses are looking for.  "Send me some more kids with a strong sense of entitlement!") But the author's more serious objection is that Lareau lacks the self-knowledge to notice that she's trying to impose her elite mores on poor families who have their own way of doing things--ways that, frankly, have a lot to be said for them. I suspect kids raised in this non-elite way will have a decent shot at upward mobility; I'm not optimistic about the kids raised with a sense of entitlement while being shuttled from activity to activity and never allowed to play outside.  Come to think of it, my own parents must have been distinctly non-elite.  They managed to adopt a "natural growth" style that inculcated both self-sufficiency and ambition.  Bonus: I've managed to avoid a life of either crime or sociology!

I'm all for "encouraging independent acting and thinking," but I have great difficulty detecting the connection between this useful skill and the ideal elite upbringing described by Ms. Lareau.


Bookworm Room quotes a German journalist who embedded with ISIL and cannot come to grips with what he learned there:
Something that I don’t understand at all is the enthusiasm in their plan of religious cleansing, planning to kill the non-believers…. They also will kill Muslim democrats because they believe that non-ISIL-Muslims put the laws of human beings above the commandments of God.
These were very difficult discussions, especially when they were talking about the number of people who they are willing to kill. They were talking about hundreds of millions. They were enthusiastic about it, and I just cannot understand that.
Bookworm Room responds:
I don’t believe in any of that “peaceful solution” talk. I believe that, when people have imbibed with their mother’s milk a toxic ideology dedicated to murdering and enslaving all but a select few, they don’t just walk away from it or wear themselves out in a few months or years. Instead, if unchecked, they spread a wide swath of death and destruction. Look at how the Soviets managed to kill endlessly for seventy years while the Chinese communists kept the bodies piling up for forty years. Between the two of them, guesstimates as to the violent and vile deaths they cause[d] run between 70,000,000 and 100,000,000 children, women, and men.
The reason that the German Nazi and Japanese Bushido culture didn’t achieve the decades’-long “success” that the Soviets and ChiCom did (although not for want of trying) is because the Allies — inspired by Churchill and powered by America — destroyed them. We didn’t do targeted strikes. We didn’t engage in endless rounds of peace talks. We didn’t diddle away time with partially enforced sanctions. We didn’t back down when they threatened us.
Huffington Post mused on Japan:
Much of Japan lay in ruins after the war, devastated by air raids and the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet the country’s economy grew so fast that by 1964, Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games. Japan adopted a new, progressive constitution, allied with the United States and enshrined limits on the use of military force.
In 50 years, what will ISIL's territory look like?

The passenger liner and the psychopath

From Maggie's Farm, an astounding account of a fire aboard a huge ship in 1934, which turns out to be almost a minor element in a much longer story.

It's Pretty Clear They Don't Keep Kosher

Do dogs go to heaven?
In teaching children that animals go to heaven, it only makes sense that we would want to given pets a good send-off when they die.... Of course, the burial of animals, like that of humans, raises another question: What if your dog is of a different faith than you? No word yet on whether Jewish cemeteries are allowing burial for Christian collies.
I mention this story mostly to tell another story, this one from William Buckley, Jr. It is from his book Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith, page 14.
[Father Sharkey] had been approached some weeks earlier, he told us, by a devout elderly woman who asked him whether dogs would be admitted into Heaven. No, he had replied, there was no scriptural authority for animals getting into Heaven. "In that case," the lady had said to him, "I can never be happy in Heaven. I can only be happy if Brownie is also there."

"I told her" -- Fr. Sharkey spoke with mesmerizing authority -- "that if that were the case -- that she could not be happy without Brownie -- why then Brownie would in fact go to Heaven. Because what is absolutely certain is that, in Heaven, you will be happy."
That's pretty solid logic.