The Wind Under the Stars

I don't think I've ever heard wind like tonight.
The wind was on the withered heath,
but in the forest stirred no leaf:
there shadows lay by night and day,
and dark things silent crept beneath.

The wind came down from mountains cold,
and like a tide it roared and rolled;
the branches groaned, the forest moaned,
and leaves were laid upon the mould.

The wind went on from West to East;
all movement in the forest ceased,
but shrill and harsh across the marsh
its whistling voices were released.

The grasses hissed, their tassels bent,
the reeds were rattling—on it went
o'er shaken pool under heavens cool
where racing clouds were torn and rent.

It passed the lonely Mountain bare
and swept above the dragon's lair:
there black and dark lay boulders stark
and flying smoke was in the air.

It left the world and took its flight
over the wide seas of the night.
The moon set sail upon the gale,
and stars were fanned to leaping light.

Horseshoes & Handgrenades

A piece from last year by Onion. For some reason, it's an evergreen.

I, Tuggy

The author is skeptical, but I think these little hospital robots sound great.

Bionic binoculars

From Rocket Science, news of a contact lens that activates a magnifying lens at the blink of an eye.  It's still experimental and can be worn for only a few hours at a time, because it deprives the surface of the eye of oxygen, but they're working on that.

Protecting Religious Dissent

Maggie Gallagher has a good piece with a large number of examples of people punished for expressing ordinary religious opinions.

Some people suggest that you should just, in the interest of courtesy or social concord, keep your mouth shut outside of church or the home. During the 19th century, there was a similar movement promising liberation for Jews in central Europe: the slogan was 'be a Jew at home, and a man in the street.' The problem was that this solidified the opinion that only non-Jewish values were legitimate in the 'man in the street,' while undercutting the separate place in which Jews had been allowed to exist as a separate minority.

There's another problem, which is that sometimes one must engage the public discourse.
Gordon College students are banned from tutoring public-school students, because of the college’s embrace of standard orthodox Christian rules (no sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman); the request of its college president for a religious exemption from President Obama has now triggered a possible threat to its accreditation.


In Lafayette, Calif., parents of 14-year-old public-school students are suing because their children were asked in English class whether their parents would embrace them if they were gay — and then these Christian students were publicly shamed and humiliated when they supported their parents’ values....

Note the similar strategies here: invite or force public comment and then discipline those who say the “wrong” thing.
The public school case is interesting. Because of the establishment clause, no public school teacher would be permitted to make the argument that their parent's values are just ordinary religious values of longstanding and with significant philosophical underpinnings. Any teacher may make the argument that religion is stupid and ignorant, and its values deserve scorn in the classroom.

Somehow an important part of the First Amendment's intent, that of protecting religious dissent, has become perverted. We may now suppress religious dissent, while still permitting mockery of that dissent, so long as we do the mocking from a non-religious perspective. That's handicapping the fight, and in a way that the Founders did not at all intend.

What About "Natural Rights"?

Headline: Green County:”Nature Rights” or Secession!

My kind of brass band

A friend at church sent me this link to an odd brass band concert.  Excellent stuff.

If my church wanted to do some less traditional music, I'd prefer this type.  Last week, we had something called "Camp Sunday," a kind of tribute to the various annual retreats that the Episcopalian Church tends to host.  I think they must involve campfire singing, because that's what we sang during the service.  One of the songs, and I'm not making this up, was to the tune of the theme from M*A*S*H.  Another was to the tune of the Rod Stewart song "Sailing," though without attribution, so it may have been unintentional.  That one was rather nice, actually.  Others inexplicably involved one or another member of the choir interjecting a loud "Whoop!" during the refrain, and even, once, "Yay, God!"  There was also a certain amount of tambourine action.  Perhaps white Episcopalians shouldn't try this sort of thing.  The right sort of performance involves un-self-conscious writhing in ecstasy, and we're just not good at it.

Lawyer Killjoys

A corporate liability lawyer wonders what could possibly go wrong with Target's plan to sell 50 Shades of Gray sex toys:
“Let me get this straight. You want to sell oil candles, as in the items with an open flame and that are a common cause of house fires, especially when placed in bedrooms, and you want to instruct people to pour the melted oil onto their partners, possibly on sensitive areas.

“Furthermore, you want to sell these flaming sex toys next to blindfolds…at Target where impulse dabblers—not actual dominates and submissives, who at least have some previous knowledge and experience with bondage sex play—shop. Then, when the hyped bondage-for-amateurs movie comes out, you want to have these items available at hotels—hotels which have essentially advertised ‘Go see a bondage movie and then come to our establishment for a night while we ply you with drinks, give you implements of restraint and violence, and encourage you to get it on.’ Do I have all that correct?”

The PR team: “Yeah, basically.”


“Wow. Well, we can draft a waiver of liability for rape, but using it during a promotion that encourages customers to drink and copulate when intoxication negates consent—that’s a potential gross negligence problem. And then..."
It does sound like Target may be setting itself up for failure here, although I don't think I've ever heard of a sex toy shop being sued for gross negligence. But then, there's no point in suing a sex toy shop, because they have no money.

Target has lots of money.


On the absurdity of the current "request" before Congress.
To quote a 1944 speech by the famous judge Learned Hand, we “rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”

The Choices We Make

Good point.

I really don't understand how this happened, but I want somebody's backside in a sling.

Unfortunately that's unlikely to happen, because the people in charge don't understand military history or tradition well enough to know why this was wrong.

Maybe They Don't Always Even Need Guns

Citizens' militia, north Dallas.

Maybe It's Because American Girls Carry Guns

A Saudi historian explains why women can't drive.

You'll probably want to check out early, but you really should stay to hear his solution to the danger of them being raped by their chauffeurs. Also, to see the program's hostess unable to respond from laughter.

Terrible Things Done in the Name of Anti-Christ

Hicks described himself as an “anti-theist,” is aggressively opposed to religiosity of all kinds and may have taken his hatred out on these three slain students.
Poor kids. There are bad people in the world, and you've got to expect to meet them from time to time. It's best to prepare for it, because you can't always avoid them -- not even in a very nice place like Chapel Hill.

Organizing the Resistance

Eric Blair has said for years that citizen movements to reign in the Federal government weren't the real marker to watch for: the marker was state governments actively resisting the Federal government.
State legislators around the country have introduced more than 200 bills aiming to nullify regulations and laws coming out of Washington, D.C., as they look to rein in the federal government....

The 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights reserves to the states powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution. States have long used it as a tool to protect themselves against regulations.


In Virginia, conservatives are pushing for states to invoke Article 5 of the Constitution and hold a “convention of states” to restrict the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

The group Citizens for Self-Government is leading the charge, and three states — Alaska, Georgia and Florida — have already passed resolutions calling for the convention.... At the convention, Meckler said the states would work to pass amendments that impose fiscal restraints, regulatory restrictions and term limits on federal officials, including members of the Supreme Court.

“We’ll have [Article 5] applications pending in 41 states within the next few weeks,” he said. “The goal is to hold a convention in 2016.”

The Crusades as Belated Response

Austin Bay writes:
[For Islamic radicals hearing President Obama] "The Crusades" are a premier victim frame tale. Their cultural and religious victimization begins in 1096 (1st Crusade) as rapine European knights attack the Levant. In 1099 these thugs seize Jerusalem from peaceful Muslims. The 2nd through 9th Crusades are follow-on imperial atrocities. By the way, Israelis are just Jewish Crusaders.

Obama reinforced this crabbed and distorted but politically powerful claptrap. That's Very Stupid Diplomacy...

This victim tale starts with Yarmuk. The Yarmuk River flows east from Syria through Jordan to the Jordan River. In 636 A.D., somewhere near the river, Muslim Arabs defeated a Christian Byzantine army. Thirty years of conflict with the Persians had exhausted the boys from Constantinople. Their tattered formations were no match for horse-mounted zealots. One of Christendom's wealthiest regions, the Levant, fell to these Arab Muslim warriors. Then they turned on the exhausted Persians.

A counter-narrative: The Crusades and the Spanish Reconquista are belated European responses to Islamic imperialism. Yes, that's shaky. But if you know Muslim Saracens seized Sicily in the ninth century, and Rome was repeatedly attacked (and the Vatican sacked), you can start building a real multiculturalist case for embittered Western European grievance. Je suis Charlie? Naw, je suis Charles Martel (Battle of Tours, 732 A.D.).
It's not actually a shaky story at all, although I wouldn't call it a "victim tale." Pope Urban's call for the first Crusade was influenced by two things, both of them immediately contemporary to him:

1) A request from Constantinople for support against Islamic raids, which had not stopped in 636 but rather had continued for hundreds of years,

2) Successes by Western knights in reversing and recovering territory in Spain that had long been overrun by the Islamic Caliphate.

It is surely unsurprising to learn that it wasn't ancient grievances but immediate events that were motivating him. Don't take my word for it, though: take William of Tyre's. He wrote his history within a century of the liberation of Jerusalem, and had access to the primary sources written by the Crusaders themselves.

The Ship of Ely Fen

A beautiful virtual tour of Ely Cathedral.

The fires of the Great Army
That was made of iron men,
Whose lights of sacrilege and scorn
Ran around England red as morn,
Fires over Glastonbury Thorn—
Fires out on Ely Fen.


The Earls of the Great Army
That no men born could tire,
Whose flames anear him or aloof
Took hold of towers or walls of proof,
Fire over Glastonbury roof
And out on Ely, fire.
Chesterton would have looked on it, and doubtless thought of it while composing those lines, but Alfred would not have. This particular cathedral was built by Norman kings some years after Alfred broke the great army that no man yet had tired.


The author, it turns out, has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Cornell.
You think it’s exciting to play with blindfolds and cute little commercial handcuffs? Please. Try volunteering for a real adventure: the maternity ward, and everything that comes after. How can such momentous changes unfold from something as deceptively simple as sex? That, my friends, is mystery and intrigue.

The safety part? Well, that’s obvious, too. There’s nothing quite like getting cozy with a man, fully believing that 1) through this encounter, a completely new person might come to be, and 2) if that happens, he’s in all the way.
I'm guessing Cornell must be a pretty good school. She's thought this through, has a solid argument, and is willing to speak some blunt and highly unpopular truths -- follow her links.

Roy Moore & Defiance

Slate is hopping mad about Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's new order directing probate court judges not to issue gay marriage licenses.
In a stunning display of defiance against the judiciary, the U.S. Constitution, and the fundamental rule of law, on Sunday night Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore forbade probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Moore’s interdiction explicitly flouts a federal court order requiring the state to begin recognizing same-sex marriages on Monday, a decision the Supreme Court declined to put on hold.
I don't think it's fair to characterize this as defying a Federal order. What he said was that the Federal order explicitly limits itself to only the Attorney General and his agents, a class that doesn't include probate court judges (who not only don't work for the Atty General, but are of an independent branch of the government). A Federal judge could issue a new order, but for now he's technically correct: Alabama's attorney general and his agents have to stop enforcing the law, but probate court judges are still bound by it.

Of course, if the attorney general can't prosecute you for breaking the law, what would stop a probate court judge who wanted to do so from issuing such licenses? Moore offers the opinion that the governor would have the responsibility, somehow: would be the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley, in whom the Constitution vests "the supreme executive power of this state," ... to ensure the execution of the law."The Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." ... 'If the governor's "supreme executive power" means anything, it means that when the governor makes a determination that the laws are not being faithfully executed, he can act using the legal means that are at his disposal.
OK, but what means are those? Can the governor personally prosecute you?

In addition, the very point Moore is standing on here -- the separation of the judicial and executive branches -- means that Roy Moore has no authority to order the governor to do anything. If the governor elects not to do whatever it is he decides he could do, there's nothing Roy Moore can do about it. If the governor is on his side this order provides cover for some sort of action. It's very unclear what action that would be. Alabama's judges are elected, so perhaps the governor could campaign against them next time 'round. But he could do that anyway, if he wanted to do it.

Identity Trumps All

A Western country does not belong in the Middle East and the inclination of the other peoples of the region to oppose such a state is instinctive.

Gay rights, women’s rights and Western-style democracy are also not going to do the trick as all three are irrelevant to the core issue at hand, and true indigenous status easily trumps all three in the minds of even the most progressive young activists.... It is also time to throw away the (somewhat arrogant and very much irrelevant to the point of discussion) “we are the good guys because we are more civilized/produce better technology/have more Nobel prizes than you” rhetoric and go back to the authentic definition of Zionism as an indigenous people’s liberation movement...
I find this argument amazing. Not, I should add, in a good way. It's pushing for a clean break with the argument that X is right in favor of a pure identity claim -- and one that allegedly trumps other identity claims, on a basis that is neither asserted nor obvious to me.

I understood what Yishai Fleischer meant when he said, 'Hey, here on the Mount of Olives are three thousand years of Jewish graves. We belong here.'

Having established that, however, you still have a duty to do right. At no point did he follow up 'we belong here' with 'and therefore we can do whatever we want to everyone else.' The Nobel prize may be a joke, but the ideal of striving for the good and for a kind of justice is not at all a joke.

Disney Princesses Go To War

Um, for ISIS?
Becoming Mulan? Female Western Migrants­ to­ ISIS

Carolyn Hoyle, Alexandra Bradford and Ross Frenett, January 2015

Launching our Women and Extremism (WAE) programme, this report focuses on those women that have travelled from the West to ISIS held territory in support of the terrorist organisation. The first in a series of reports, this research draws on our database of known female migrants to ISIS and analyses their reasons for joining the group, the threat they pose and how to stem the flow of women joining ISIS.
That seems like a questionable decision for even the least spunky Disney Princess.

News Flash

Texas, Georgia are not the most conservative states in the Union -- in fact, they barely make the top twenty.

Wow. I mean, Mississippi, Alabama, sure, but I've got to get out to Wyoming.