Honesty in Physics

The mouseover text is the most honest part.

"Of these four forces, there's one we don't really understand."
"Is it the weak force or the strong--"
"It's gravity."

OPSEC, Public Affairs, Same Thing Right?

Headline: "Disclosures of Battle Plan by Pentagon Startle Many."
The Obama administration has been eager to show momentum against the Islamic State after a conference last week dramatized the hurdles to countering the terrorist group’s propaganda. But the Pentagon may have gone too far in sharing its military planning.
Let me guess what happened.

UPDATE: The Washington Post asked Central Command why they went public with a detailed war plan, and are being told by an unnamed "senior" official -- military officials have ranks, guys -- that it's an intentional information operation designed to get ISIS to flee.

I imagine this senior official is covering some administration butts with this story, but if it's a true story then (a) you just blew it by telling them that's what you're hoping to accomplish, and (b) it didn't work in Second Fallujah, when we were facing many of the same people and they were facing American Marines and Cavalry and not Iraqi Army units as their primary opposition. It's the Iraqi Army that has the tradition of fleeing or surrendering at the first sign of the stars and stripes, not the Islamic State.

I mean, if it's important

I think we were just discussing this:  (1) What Court Order? and (2) Plurality of Dems believe the President should ignore court rulings if it's important.

Jacksonian America

After reading Tex's last link, I came across this quote in the next article down.
[Jacksonians] have, in historian David Hackett Fischer’s phrase, a notion of natural liberty: People should be allowed to do what they want, subject to the demands of honor. If someone infringes on that liberty, beware: The Jacksonian attitude is, “If you attack my family or my country, I’ll kill you.” And he (or she) means it. If you want to hear an eloquent version, listen to Sen. Zell Miller’s speech endorsing George W. Bush at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
That sounds like a good paraphrase of what I believe.

President Caulfield

From Kevin Williamson on whether President Obama really doesn't much like his country:
There is a personality type common among the Left’s partisans, and it has a name: Holden Caulfield. He is adolescent, perpetually disappointed, and ever on the lookout for phoniness and hypocrisy. His is the sort of personality inclined to believe in his heart the declaration that “behind every great fortune there is a great crime.” (He also believes that this is a quotation from Honoré de Balzac, whose works he has not read, when it fact it comes from Richard O’Connor’s The Oil Barons: Men of Greed and Grandeur.) He believes with Elizabeth Warren that the economy is a rigged game based on exploitation and deceit rather than on innovation, productivity, and competition. He believes with Barack Obama that the only reason (e.g.) Staples does not pay its part-time associates more or schedule them for more hours is so that it can pad its executive pay and protect its “billions” in annual profits. (He believes that Staples, whose financials he has not read, makes “billions,” when in fact it does no such thing.) Say an admiring word about Steve Jobs and he’ll swear that there are four-year-olds working 169 hours a week in Chinese sweatshops producing iPods at the point of a bayonet. He believes that most people get into Harvard and Yale because they have influential parents (that’s the University of Texas, unfortunately), that rich Americans mostly inherit their money (in reality, about 15 percent of their assets are inherited, less than for middle-class families), that the U.S. goes to war abroad to enrich contractors at home, and that the entire history of Latin America must be understood through the prism of the United Fruit Company’s maneuverings in 1954. 
Give Holden Caulfield a television show and you’ve got Chris Hayes.

Faith and credit

Spengler on markets, trust, and democracy:
Something other than mere trading skills was required for an investment-driven economy, and that was long-term credit, a concept that derives from the Latin credere, “to believe”. It is not an exchange of one peasant’s eggs for another peasant’s barley, or Mexican silver for Chinese silk, but rather a commitment of the savings of whole populations to grand ventures that would pay interest because they drove growth.
Capital markets, moreover, create a kind of democracy. If the whole of society relies on the public debt as a store of value, the value all the savings of society is gauged directly or indirectly against the benchmark of public debt. But that also puts power in the hands of the market: the market has the power to tell the government whether it is doing well or badly, by selling or buying the public debt. It is not simply that the government creates a market that provides convenience and advantages to the people: it becomes dependent on the people’s faith in its policies. When that faith is shaken, as in southern Europe two years ago, and confidence flees the government debt market, the result can be catastrophic. Free capital markets require governments to win the faith of the people.
* * *
That is the Jewish genius: to be able to inspire faith (or what is usually called “confidence” in markets) to make possible long-term investments in capital markets involving millions of participants. The investors in a bond or stock issue are not linked by ties of family or personal loyalty, but rather by contract, law and custom. Their obligations extend beyond the ancient loyalties of family and clan. That may seem obvious on first reflection. But most countries in the world lack functioning capital markets, because faith is absent. The public does not trust the government to enforce contracts, or the management of a company not to steal money. That is emphatically true in China, which is struggling to create modern capital markets rather than depend on state banks and shadow financing. In backward countries, trust is inconceivable outside the narrow circle of blood relations. Firms remain small because trust is restricted to family members.
. . . In the absence of faith, there never will be enough lawyers to enforce contracts, or policemen to arrest embezzlers, or watchdogs to extirpate government corruption. Something more fundamental is required: a sense that the law is sacred, and if any of us breaks the public trust, all of us are damaged. Our rabbis of antiquity said, “All of Israel stands surety for each other.”
Adam Smith’s invisible hand isn’t enough. Capital markets require more than the interaction of self-interested individuals: they require a common sense of the sanctity of covenant, of mutual obligations between government and people, and between one individual and the next. That is why the United States of America is the most successful nation in economic history. It was founded by devout Christians who hoped to construct a new nation in emulation of ancient Israel.

Like reading Anne Frank's diary

This piece about life in Mosul under ISIS has been linked all over the place lately.  It's chilling.  There's an interesting discussion of the crisis in faith that some of Mosul's Moslems are now facing, as they ask the question, "Is this really what my religion is about?"

Automatic delete feature

I read the other day about some kind of Mission-Impossible-style self-destruct mechanism, to be triggered by a possible invasion of Tea Partiers in 2017,  that had been built into the New York City ID program for otherly-documented individuals who, through no fault of their own, had suddenly found themselves in a country not their own without proof of having complied with any tiresome and unjust immigration procedures.  I didn't pay much attention, assuming it was the kind of thing we saw at the end of the Clinton administration, with spiteful outgoing administration staff trashing computers so that life would be as unpleasant as possible for the incoming administration.  Gateway Pundit posted about it today, and I now realize that the purpose of the destruct button was that some bright soul realized that the IDs-for-future-Democratic-voters program involved a formal registration, in which people with, shall we say, questionable legal status had supplied government workers with their names and contact information, and the government workers were so indiscreet as to have filed it with official and permanent government records.  It brings to mind the classic scene in "Red Dawn" when the invading Russian/Cuban forces round up all the trouble-makers by pulling out the county gun-registration files.  Or perhaps a sea captain burning his secret orders when his ship is boarded.

The Rule of Law?

One of Cassandra's evergreen complaints is that people on the right complain about certain wicked tactics from the left, but then turn around and do the same things when they are in power. Today's example appears to me to be a clear-cut reversal on the duty of an executive to enforce the law, rather than declining to do so when he doesn't care for the law.

I believe the antecedent act was the President's refusal to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which went so far as to refuse to defend it in court when people sued to overturn it. Turnabout: fair play?

Democrats who controlled the Legislature in 2009 changed the law so that same-sex couples could sign up for domestic partnership registries with county clerks to secure some – but not all – of the rights afforded married couples.

Wisconsin Family Action sued last year in Dane County circuit court, arguing that the registries violated a 2006 amendment to the state constitution that bans gay marriage and any arrangement that is substantially similar.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen refused to defend the lawsuit, saying he agreed the new law violated the state constitution. Then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, hired Madison attorney Lester Pines to defend the state.

Walker, a Republican, replaced Doyle in January and fired Pines in March. On Friday, Walker filed a motion to stop defending the case.

“Governor Walker, in deference to the legal opinion of the attorney general that the domestic partner registry…is unconstitutional, does not believe the public interest requires a continued defense of this law,” says the brief, filed by Walker’s chief counsel, Brian Hagedorn.
Now, in fairness, this is an occasion where I think the Democrats are on the right side. I favor the Alabama approach to the question of whether gay unions are "marriage," but this exact approach in how to resolve the question of dealing with just what those unions are. This is exactly what we should do: create a separate institution for non-marriage partnerships that can be judged by its own standards. Thus, if for example adultery should prove to be less of a concern in partnerships containing only men -- as many "same sex marriage" supporters openly proclaim -- we don't end up with a watering-down of the protections against adultery in traditional marriages. (If anything, those are far too watery already.) Let them do the things they want, just keep a distinction so we aren't forced to collapse the categories when we come before courts of law. It's only sensible to believe that the needs of these kinds of unions might come apart, so we ought to have the ability to address that in the law.

Still, whether you're for this or against it, what I want to point out is that it is the same refusal to defend a law that we (rightly, I think) railed about as a failure of duty on behalf of any executive. If you're the chief executive and your oath includes enforcing the laws faithfully, you ought to do that. If you don't like the law, you could always resign and run for the legislature -- or just use the bully pulpit to suggest changes from the legislature. Making law is not your department.

The same issue is about to come around again, regarding this 'executive amnesty,' so it's a good time to decide if there's a principle worth defending here or not.

Once More, With Feeling

That Atlantic piece on Daesh/ISIS that Mike linked is getting sustained criticism from the academic left. They want you to know that it's really wrong to suggest that Daesh has any sort of Islamic legitimacy, and that suggesting otherwise is dangerous.

What? He Said It Was A Scheme.

George Monbiot suggests a... well, he himself calls it a "maverick currency scheme," so let's go with that.

A presidential theory of voting

Government is the thing we do together when we want to push each other around.

I prefer Scott Rasmussen's formulation.

The Case Against Scott Walker

Argued in the expected fashion at Daily Kos.

It strikes me that Republicans will only even possibly care about the claims under point two. If he's tied to significant local corruption, that's a problem. The other three points are not of interest except to his opponents, but even many of his supporters might be persuaded if there is truth to the corruption claims.

Socio-cultural revolutions

Pascal Emmanuel Gobry challenges the assumption that time has a one-way arrow when it comes to revolutionary progress.
Now, it's important for me to make clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that today's progressives are "the real racists." I am not saying that same-sex marriage or any other progressive social movement is the equivalent of racism. Today's progressives have at best a fuzzy lineage with yesteryear's, and all of us are implicated in this civilizational enormity; as one who is "conservative" by today's political standards but firmly in the camp of Enlightenment liberalism, i.e., a "progressive" on the scale of millennia, I don't exculpate myself from this legacy. Not all racists were progressives and not all progressives were racists (it was the French Revolutionaries who banned slavery in the French colonies, for example). No group — ideological, religious, or otherwise — comes out of that complex history looking good (which itself should warn us off easy narratives of Progress vs. the Dark Ages).

The Best Hole is a Fighting Hole

So we're in one. Let's cut it into the right kind.

Semper Paratus

A group of Norwegian Muslims will be forming a circle around Oslo synagogue after the celebration of Shabat this Saturday in a solidarity gesture called the Ring of Peace.

"If the Jihadists want to use violence in the name of Islam, they must go through us Muslims first," said one of the event's initiators.
That's awesome and deeply honorable, but be ready for them to come right through you. They're ready to do that. What's your plan when they do?

Suckers Abound

As incarceration numbers have topped out in recent years thanks to what looks like the beginning of the end of the war on drugs, women have gained a stronger foothold in the prison industry, getting jobs that—like so many others in America—have traditionally been dominated by men.
So many others. Chiefly unpleasant jobs, like being a prison guard. But this is a real step forward, having more women as prison guards... er, for some reason that will come to me.
But along with that progressive change has come a steady drip of lurid tales about sex between guards and inmates.
Ah, so you're on the side of progress! That means you must be a good guy we can trust.

As contrasted with the bad guys:
We probably shouldn't be too shocked, though. There is no rule, regulation, or state of affairs a savvy prisoner cannot subvert. This has been proven many times over and is confirmed when you talk to long-time inmates.

"I love when I see a new, young, and naive female working in prison," says a convict we'll call Mack.

Mack has spent the better part of the last 20 years in and out of state and federal prison. He's in his 40s, a born-and-bred criminal who is all about what others can do for him in the here and now.
Damned hardened criminals. We shouldn't trust them, because they can subvert almost anyone. Hey, by the way, how'd you come to know Mack?
I met many people like Mack during my 21 years of incarceration[.]
Ha! I have the sudden suspicion that Vice has been suckered too.

Category Error

If you ask people, how many of you support raping people who rape, you would find it very hard to find anyone that would support that... The reason why we would be hesitant to endorse it is that – what normal person would be paid to do something so compromising as raping a human being? But yet we have this idea that we can kill someone in a way that doesn’t implicate us. If it’s not right to torture someone for torture, abuse someone for abuse, rape someone for rape, then how can we think we can kill someone for killing?
First of all, don't bet you won't get volunteers for the raping-rapists thing. This isn't the country it used to be.

Second, the answer to your question is that rape is always wrong, whereas killing is sometimes right and praiseworthy. I'm good with being "implicated" in something honorable and worthy of praise. The problem isn't killing, it's the structure of executions. What's wrong with the execution is that there's no honor in it, because there's no risk in it. It's like taking out the garbage. Sometimes you have to, but that doesn't make it glorious.

Start By Speaking the Truth

Belmont Club author Richard Fernandez:
Both the Obama administration and the Franco-Germans are as trapped as the Ukrainians in Debaltseve. The Ukrainian troops are surrounded by the Russian troops, while the Western leaders are imprisoned by their own lies. The soldiers are invested by encroaching lines. The statesmen are trapped in a high wall of political bricks comprised of their own falsehoods. Having led their nations forward with false assurances of safety, both the EU leaders and the Obama administration are struggling to find an escape without admitting error.

They will not find it easy. Both cornered groups are hoping the cavalry will arrive before the last cup of water runs out. The soldiers are hoping for the European monitors to ride to the rescue, while Merkel and Hollande for their part must also be looking for a miracle. Maybe Putin will relent. As for Obama, he must be praying as he has never prayed before that ISIS will have a change of heart.
Taranto at the Wall Street Journal:
As funny as it is, it also feels a bit unsporting to pick on Harf like this. After all, she’s just doing her job, which is to act as a mouthpiece for an administration whose guiding principle seems to be that political correctness—which is to say, a thoroughgoing dishonesty—is the best weapon for dealing with Islamic terrorism.

Sometimes they even admit it.

After a discussion of religion

The Washington Post, tortured by a fear of backlash, struggles to find the words to describe today's story of a Detroit muslim who asked some fellow bus passengers whether they were Muslim, and on hearing that they were not, stabbed them.  Per Ace, the first try was:
Police: Man stabs two after asking if they are Muslim.
followed by (after protests):
Police: Muslim man stabs two after discussion about religious beliefs.
Ace's commenters suggested the following alternatives:
Conversation Over Islam Leads to Stabbing, Police Baffled.
Hate Crime Charges Likely After Muslim Man Survives Knife Attack During Religious Argument.
1938: Trains begin transporting Europe's Jewry to unknown locations to the east, after a discussion of religion.

What do they want?

I don't think it's that much of a mystery to the Hall, but apparently it's finally sunk in, even for those on the Left.

The linked article from the Atlantic lays out in massive, I'd say scholarly, detail where Daesh came from, their goals, their plans to achieve those goals, and possible ways to thwart them.  Most of it was already known to me, but there were some pieces that I did not know as well.  It's long, but very much worth it.

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat

It is shocking to realize that her citation of Revelations 20:4 is not in any way altered.
Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” — Revelation 20:4
She has a very generous soul. My own desire, I confess, is to say with Isaiah: "Here I am: send me."

Life Begins

...in unexpected ways.
Jeffrey Kieft, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics and corresponding author of the article in Nature, said scientists have long thought that the molecular signals that initiate protein synthesis in bacteria and eukaryotes are mutually exclusive. Scientists in Kieft's lab explored whether a structured RNA molecule from a virus that infects eukaryotic cells could function in bacteria. Surprisingly, they found that it could initiate protein syntheses, a process necessary for life.

"What we found bridges billions of years of evolutionary divergence," said Kieft, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist.
We often talk about viruses about being a kind of quasi-life. Maybe they are also pre-life.

Climate Change

Power is out. The trees are sheeted in ice. Stand outside on the porch, and you will hear a near constant set of crashes from breaking limbs and falling trees.

No problem. We have firewood and all we need.

May not post much for a day or two. Supposed to get record breaking cold tomorrow. But there is plenty of wood yet.

Message Received

The Islamic State’s Al Hayat Media, the group that has published the previous beheading videos in the Middle East, produced the Libya video titled, “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.”

“All praise is due to Allah the strong and mighty,” said an ISIS jihadist dressed in military fatigues in American-accented English. “And may blessings and peace be upon the ones sent by the sword as a mercy to all the worlds,” he added.

The masked ISIS member continues:
Oh people, recently you have seen us on the hills of Al-Sham and Dabiq’s plain, chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time, and today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message.

All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together. The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.
After the ISIS leader finishes speaking, his fellow terrorists then commence the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Christians. “And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him,” The militant leader says after his comrades slaughter the Christian hostages.

Censorship is Damage

We have this thing called "the Internet" that routes around it.

Death to the Iran Deal

There is a general rule of thumb that if you have to make a deal, you often have to make a bad one.
The problems raised by authorities ranging from Henry Kissinger, the country’s most senior former secretary of state, to Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, Virginia’s junior senator, can be summed up in three points:

●First, a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capability.

●Second, in the course of the negotiations, the Obama administration has declined to counter increasingly aggressive efforts by Iran to extend its influence across the Middle East and seems ready to concede Tehran a place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies.

●Finally, the Obama administration is signaling that it will seek to implement any deal it strikes with Iran — including the suspension of sanctions that were originally imposed by Congress — without a vote by either chamber. Instead, an accord that would have far-reaching implications for nuclear proliferation and U.S. national security would be imposed unilaterally by a president with less than two years left in his term.
We don't have to make this deal.

"Bush Lied."

Well, at least, he demonstrated substantial self-control in disseminating secret information that could have helped his cause in 2006.

Cause and effect

For a good look at how hard it is to make sense when discussing cause and effect in complex systems with ill-understood dynamics, try this article and the associated discussion in the comments.  I'm not sure most of us ever get beyond the magic stage.