American Sniper

Tonight I finally was able to get a night with my wife where we were both free to go see a movie. American Sniper was released on 16 January. Tonight is 28 February. The local theater is still playing it, and the theater was packed. There were perhaps four empty seats among the crowd. I don't know how many people in the audience had seen it before, but except for two elderly people who began to leave when the credits rolled, everyone else stayed silent in their seats until the screen went black.

I won't say much about the film in case some of you haven't seen it, except that it's a great film. There was a lot to recognize in it. Only a small amount of Hollywood BS was present, mostly for the sake of giving a general audience the kind of story they knew how to hear. Eastwood did a good job.

To Chris Kyle.
He lived long, and prospered.

Those darn smidgens

My husband and I often argue, as Tom does here as well, about the ancient "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" dilemma.  I sure don't know the answer, other than to say that no law is self-enforcing, and words on paper don't protect anyone unless people undertake hardship and risk to insist on the meaning that underlies them.

Meanwhile, most grist for the mill:  Congress grinds toward something like enforcement of the laws against a lawless IRS despite the oft-repeated claim that years of "investigation" have not uncovered a smidgen of corruption.  I appreciated one Washington Post commenter's formulation:  "Smidgens keep popping up all over."

Not getting hung up on words

Thomas Miller at AEI passes on some legislative history shedding light on the plain meaning of the ACA re subsidies, on the assumption that anyone still cares.  Or shall we just let the government do whatever seems best in the moment?
The first Senate version of what was to become the ACA was reported from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (“HELP”) on September 17, 2009, as S. 1679, the Affordable Health Choices Act. In that bill the States were given a 4-year period following enactment to establish a “Gateway”—a Health Insurance Exchange. If a State failed or refused to establish a “Gateway” at the end of that period the Secretary of Health and Human Services was directed to establish and operate a Federal Fallback “Gateway” in that State.
Expressly stated in S. 1679’s Federal Fallback established by the Secretary was a direct stipulation that the residents of that State “shall be eligible for premium credits” to pay for qualified health plans under certain conditions. See S. 1679, proposed Public Health Service Act section 3104(d)(1)(D). The bill explicitly tied the availability of the premium credits to the Federal Fallback “Gateway” and closely expressed then what is now only imagined to be included in the statutory text at issue in King v. Burwell.
That clear and explicit authorization that premium tax credits were also available through a “Gateway” established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services was subsequently not included in the version of the ACA later reported from the Senate Committee on Finance on October 9, 2009, as S. 1796, the America’s Health Future Act. The Senate Finance Committee version only authorized the establishment of Exchanges by a State and the availability of premium tax credits through Exchanges “established by the State”.
. . . Pertinent to King v. Burwell, the Senate Amendment was a deliberate “merger” of the two committee proposals consisting mostly of the Finance bill and adding the HELP federal fallback but without the premium credit tie-in language.
The issue in King v. Burwell initially is all about whether the Court can read into a law any statutory language that was earlier considered by the Congress but was not adopted in the subsequently enacted final version of that law. The Supreme Court has said in the past that there are few principles of statutory construction that are more compelling than the proposition that Congress does not intend to enact as statutory language provisions that it has earlier discarded in favor of other language. See Doe v. Chao, 540 U.S. 614, 622 (2004).
There's a appealing nostalgia in reading words from the days when the "exchanges" would be openly called "Gateways."  That was when Obamacare proponents were more willing to admit that the point of the exercise was to establish a narrow gate between you and your healthcare insurance, which they would guard assiduously.  An "exchange," now, that summons up all kinds of illusions of choice, almost market-like.  I'm also charmed to be reminded that an earlier version of the bill was called the "Affordable Health Choices Act."  Because it's all about the choice!  Isn't the real freedom being limited to the one right way, because it's good for you?

In a discussion at Megan McArdle's column, the usual complaint was made that evil Republicans won't say what they would replace the ACA with (as if they hadn't published a zillion alternative proposals, but never mind).  One answer given was:  "We'd replace it with the same thing we replaced slavery with:  nothing."

I'm following this statutory interpretation argument with professional interest.  I understand the statutory interpretation arguments on the plaintiffs' side, which are fairly traditional.  I'm less clear about the argument for the defendant, which basically amounts to saying "The language must not say that, because it would contradict overarching principles, which is to say that there might have been explicit trade-offs, and that never happens."  Not even my shaken confidence in the probity of the Supreme Court allows me to entertain the notion that they would adopt such a shoddy argument.  I'm guessing that, if they punt this thing, they'll do it by invoking the lack of standing.  That's a cowardly approach, but one with a more Court-like pedigree.

Oh, oysters, come and walk with us

Our annual Oysterfest is tomorrow, so we are in mad prep mode.
“I think oysters are more beautiful than any religion," he resumed presently. "They not only forgive our unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite us to go on being perfectly horrid to them. Once they arrive at the supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the thing. There's nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster.”

Mystery solved

From Bookworm Room:

Champagne on ice

Christian Schneider on "wage theft" laws:
During Chuck Nevitt's undistinguished NBA playing career, he earned the nickname "The Human Victory Cigar," as he only made it onto the court after his team was ahead by an insurmountable margin. . . .
In Wisconsin politics, the billionaire Koch brothers have now become the Republican human victory cigars. When the left has exhausted every talking point and political strategy, it trots out uncles Charles and David Koch as a last gasp.
Hearing the word "Koch" from a Democrat means something he really doesn't like is about to happen, and he is powerless to stop it. When it is invoked, there is likely a Republican and a bottle of champagne chilling nearby.
Such is the case with this week's right-to-work debate as legislative Republicans are poised to send a bill to Gov. Scott Walker's desk.

A 2-L llama, that's a beast

Llamas being llassoed on the streets of Phoenix, film at 11. As Ace says,
Video of the great llama chase here. Actually, it's just the lassoed llama being led through the streets, like Hector being dragged behind Achilles' chariot. 
Thus all heroes.

What IS the Free Market

I think far too often, we get wrapped up in terminology and concepts and we lose sight of the simple truths of things.  When we discuss supply and demand, we think in very nebulous terms.  We don't think of the simple, natural, human interactions that these terms encompass.  We think of markets, and stocks, and companies, and not of the people that make up these things.  And I think we lose sight of how each item we touch in our day to day lives exists because of, not in spite of, the free market.

As such, I present to you a short video, only about six minutes long (if you don't stay through the credits) which I believe helps show how even the simplest item is the product of a web of humanity that, without considering it, makes everything possible.  I submit to the Hall... the pencil:

Nothing To See Here

The U.S. Department of State slammed the reported Islamic State siege of several Syrian villages and subsequent abduction of 150 Christian men, women and children, calling it an act of “evil” and insisting such violence needs to stop — but that most terror victims have been Muslims.

The department also fell shy of labeling the terror attack and kidnapping as rooted in anti-Christian sentiment, suggesting it was simply one of several that the Islamic State had conducted against those of all faiths — especially Muslims.
If ten men got sent to prison and four of them were black, this same administration would cry racism (as black men don't make up 40% of the population overall, but are 40% of prisoners in this example). Somehow that argument, which seems so clear to them when applied to American society, just isn't available when talking about a society in which the vast majority are Muslims -- but somehow religious minorities seem to suffer disproportionately.

Somehow. But certainly not because of "anti-Christian sentiment" on behalf of the so-called "Islamic State."

We don't need no stinking media

From Jim Gerraghty's email newsletter this morning:
To play the [popular video game "Ingress"], you join a side, either the Enlightened or the Resistance, and walk around to various [real world] landmarks and claiming them for your side. By claiming three landmarks, you create a triangle, and your side “controls” the people within that triangle.
* * *
Maybe you’re one of the folks who have heard of this; the fan base is global. But the game went open to “general release” in December 2013 and I had heard absolutely nothing about this. I asked Flint and a couple other folks involved in the game if I had missed it from media coverage, and they chuckled that Google doesn’t need media coverage for its projects. I felt as if I had asked why they hadn’t chiseled any stone tablets to spread the word.
Think about this; as we on the right argue about the mainstream media’s power over the electorate and how we can counter it, Google -- admittedly, an institution with enormous resources and technical know-how -- is demonstrating that a small team can build something massively popular, with millions of participants, with almost no one in the media noticing.
* * *
Never mind the question, “Are the mainstream media still powerful?” In some corners of our national or global life, are the mainstream media even a factor at all?

Atlanta's James Bond

Lewis Grizzard, mentioned in the comments below, explains a car theft in our capital city. Stop after that if you don't like bawdy humor.

Folsom Prison Blues

The rape scandal in American prisons is a stain on our national honor. Can we address it without being soft on the wicked?

Seems like it's hard to show humane compassion while also recognizing the justice of long judicial sentences. One guy who would imagine himself in the place of a felon, without failing to recognize the justice of the sentence, was the late great Johnny Cash.

Change is Coming

Today I am notified:
Starting March 23, 2015, you won't be able to publicly share images and videos that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.

Note: We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit. For example, in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.
Damn. Sorry, kids. All that nudity you've come to expect from the Hall is just going to have to go away.

Don't Be...

...that guy.

H/t: Ranger Up.


The government of Trinidad and Tobago is offering to swap Venezuela toilet paper for oil.

"The Catholic Pagan"

An interesting interview with Paglia.
You grew up as an Italian-American Catholic, but seemed to identify more strongly with the pagan elements of Catholic art and culture than with the church’s doctrines. What caused you to fall away from the Catholic Church?

Italian Catholicism remains my deepest identity—in the same way that many secular Jews feel a strong cultural bond with Judaism. Over time I realized—and this became a main premise of my first book, Sexual Personae (based on my doctoral dissertation at Yale)—that what had always fascinated me in Italian Catholicism was its pagan residue. I loved the cult of saints, the bejeweled ceremonialism, the eerie litanies of Mary—all the things, in other words, that Martin Luther and the other Protestant reformers rightly condemned as medieval Romanist intrusions into primitive Christianity. It's no coincidence that my Halloween costume in first grade was a Roman soldier, modeled on the legionnaires' uniforms I admired in the Stations of the Cross on the church walls. Christ's story had very little interest for me—except for the Magi, whose opulent Babylonian costumes I adored! My baptismal church, St. Anthony of Padua in Endicott, New York, was a dazzling yellow-brick, Italian-style building with gorgeous stained-glass windows and life-size polychrome statues, which were the first works of art I ever saw.

After my parents moved to Syracuse, however, I was progressively stuck with far blander churches and less ethnic congregations. Irish Catholicism began to dominate—a completely different brand, with its lesser visual sense and its tendency toward brooding guilt and ranting fanaticism. I suspect that the nun who finally alienated me from the church must have been Irish! It was in religious education class (for which Catholic students were released from public school on Thursday afternoons), held on that occasion in the back pews of the church. I asked the nun what still seems to me a perfectly reasonable and intriguing question: if God is all-forgiving, will he ever forgive Satan? The nun's reaction was stunning: she turned beet red and began screaming at me in front of everyone. That was when I concluded there was no room in the Catholic Church of that time for an inquiring mind.
I was brought to the Church as much by King Arthur as by Jesus. I remember a book of mythology I had as a boy, which had myths from many cultures illustrated by drawings in the style of the culture which gave rise to the myth. It was Beowulf whose drawings I immediately recognized as my own, not any of the ones from the Middle East or Asia.

It doesn't matter, I think, whether you came for Arthur or Beowulf or some pagan residue. What matters is that you come.

Poll: Does the President Love America?

Survey says... less than half of Americans think he does.

You can't know what's in a man's heart, but it says something that a majority aren't convinced that he harbors love for the country he leads. Only 35% outright said he doesn't love America, but 53% wouldn't say he did.

Invisible Dams

Those wicked Jews are at it again.

Finishing school

Mercy, how can we even consider electing a President without a sheepskin?
[G]raduating from college is what makes you a “gentleman.” . . . If you don’t have a college degree, by contrast, you are looked down upon as a vulgar commoner who is presumptuously attempting to rise above his station. Which is pretty much what they’re saying about Scott Walker. This prejudice is particularly strong when applied to anyone from the right, whose retrograde views are easily attributed to his lack of attendance at the gentleman’s finishing school that is the university.
That brings us to the heart of the matter. I have observed before that left-leaning politics has become “part of the cultural class identity of college-educated people,” a prejudice that lingers long after they have graduated. You can see how this goes the other way, too. If to be college-educated is to have left-leaning views—then to have the “correct” political values, one must be college-educated.
You can see now what is fueling the reaction on the left. If Scott Walker can run for president, he is challenging the basic cultural class identity of the mainstream left. He is more than a threat to the Democrats’ hold on political power. He is a threat to the existing social order.


I have friends and neighbors--nice, caring, responsible people--who openly look forward to the chance to travel to Cuba now that relations are thawing, because it's so unspoiled, and there are all those charming cars from the 1950s.  The New York Times sounds the warning bell, however:  as Cuba opens its doors ever so slightly, there already are appearing signs of rising inequality.

The fashion lately has been to decry inequality because it supposedly inhibits growth.  At the same time, if Cuba is any guide, the concern is that growth spurs inequality.  Assuming equality is the most important goal, what if the only solution is to prevent growth?  What if both inequality and equality could with equal (if minimal) rationality be said to inhibit growth, and in fact both are completely irrelevant to prosperity?  That's assuming we should actually care about prosperity, considering how evil materialism is.  My head is spinning lately.

"From Sweden"

So the band I cited the other day is much more impressive than I thought it was. I thought it was a pleasant bluegrass band, and it is: but it's apparently a foreign band, "from Sweden," which has managed to master the genre so well that I didn't notice that they weren't Southerners. Successfully adapting to a foreign culture is really an accomplishment for an artist! (Although I suppose I'm supposed to be angry for 'cultural appropriation,' I have to say that I think that concept is bull.)

Here they are doing "John Henry."

All Is Well

“CPD [Chicago police department] abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them. It also houses CPD’s Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property,” the statement said, something numerous attorneys and one Homan Square arrestee have denied.

“There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square,” it continued....

When a Guardian reporter arrived at the warehouse on Friday, a man at the gatehouse outside refused any entrance and would not answer questions. “This is a secure facility. You’re not even supposed to be standing here,” said the man, who refused to give his name....

“They just disappear,” said Anthony Hill, a criminal defense attorney, “until they show up at a district for charging or are just released back out on the street.”
Probably these are mostly bad people. Nevertheless, a chilling report from an American city -- even one as notorious as Chicago.

The Day After Tomorrow

...we will be killing these children.
This summer, in his hometown of Raqqa, 13-year-old Mohammad was forced to attend a children's training camp established by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). When his father opposed his son's conscription, ISIS fighters threatened to kill him. Mohammad left for camp, which his father describes as a form of “brainwashing the children.” After his return, his mother says she was surprised to find in his bag a blond, blue-eyed doll – along with a large knife given to her son by his ISIS supervisors.When she confronted Mohammad, he told her that the camp manager had distributed the dolls and asked that the children decapitate them using the knife, and that they were asked to cover the dolls' faces when they performed the decapitation. It was his homework: practice beheading a toy likeness of a blond, white Westerner.
Love your enemies. Even these, who teach children to murder. Just why, though? Because they serve to justify the wielding of the sword, and the sword properly used is glorious.

Education is an Unalloyed Good

Groaning under the weight of all those pesky sanctions, career-oriented nerds from Teheran or Isfahan eager to learn how to enrich uranium, say, or supervise reactor systems operations—all highly prized vocations in their bomb-happy theocracy—had very slim pickings when it came to increasing their nuclear-related knowledge stateside. No more: The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced last week that it was revising its approach to admissions and will no longer bar Iranian students from admission to nuclear science and engineering programs.


More from SlateStarCodex, this time on cheap thinking about medical ethics and prescription drugs.

Deep thoughts

We've all run across comments that make you go "What the . . . ?"  But commenter Ken M is a master. Here he is in one of the best circular definitions I've ever run across:
The word onomatopoeia is also an onomatopoeia because it's derived from the sound produced when the word is spoken aloud.

Defensive peace

From SlateStarCodex--a very interesting site--a link to a piece about Mozi, a Chinese philosopher from the Warring States Period whose recipe for universal peace was to teach city-states how better to withstand sieges.

And they said Reagan's SDI program was destabilizing, because people who don't fear being attacked won't refrain from attacking.  Sometimes a good defense just discourages the bullies.

Dungeons & Dragons

It's true: sometimes, I'm not all that nice.

This week's Tex-amusing quiz is "What Dungeons & Dragons Class Are You?"

What's the rush?

The President had no choice but to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill. Congress's action would have cut short a six-year review of the impact on important national policy and whatnot, which undermines the separation of powers he holds dear.

Nothing More

Re-entry after winter break has not been easy for him. The rules and restrictions of school — Sit Still. Be Quiet. Do What You Are Told, Nothing More, Nothing Less. — have been grating on him, and it shows.
It's the "nothing more" that's the problem. Almost every accomplishment of my life has come from finding ways to stretch what was authorized into what really needed to be done.

Also, Democrats were the party in power in "Selma."

"I think the vote for the attorney general is a vote for the attorney general," said South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the upper house's only black Republican. "One beautiful thing that history has taught us is that we want to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. So for this to somehow be a racial conversation seems to be wrong -- this is a conversation about competence, and qualifications. This is a question about who's best to serve our country. Whether that's in May or Christmas time, it's important for us to move forward and do the right thing."
I mean, maybe it's a minor point.

Ten Thousand Lies

Just a little song for a girl who will never get to heaven. A lovely song, and as wrong as it can possibly be.

A Good Question

From a medieval studies group I follow: "Who was the first King of England?"

Trapped In Lies They Tell Themselves

In this exclusive video interview with The Daily Caller, Coughlin says our allies in the war of terror “watched us change sides” in 2010 and 2011, but “the scariest thing” to him “is that our senior national security leaders seem to have no comprehension that they did.”
His greatest fear is that “we may be put to sleep, like the frog that boils to death, mired in the pollution of our own politically correct narratives that has created a complete inability for us to understand and further the truth, so much so, that we have to treat the truth as propaganda just to be heard.”

Discussing the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, Coughlin says this is a clear example that when you commit to a narrative, you can suppress the truth and undermine our national security. He says Hasan told us “at the Walter Reed and the Pentagon, over 20 times” to military officers that, “I am a Muslim. If you send me to war, I will become a jihadi.”
And thus an infamous episode of... um... ah... "workplace violence."


Dr. Reynolds has a good point.
[I]ronically, it's not rational to be too rational.

Imagine that you're thinking of getting married. Would you want a spouse who sticks with you for purely rational reasons, or one who forms an irrational attachment — let's call it "love" — that doesn't depend on rational factors?

Most people would say the latter. A purely rational attachment is nice, but if things change — say, if you become sick, or unattractive, or broke — a rationally attached person might rationally choose to leave. A person who loves you, on the other hand, might stick around anyway, because being parted from you, even if some of your charms have vanished, would cause emotional pain, while helping you feels good.

Likewise, you'd like to hire an honest employee, one who will feel guilty about stealing from you. A rational employee won't steal if there's a danger of being caught, but an honest one won't steal even when he can get away with it, because if he does he will feel guilty, while if he resists temptation he will feel virtuous.

A person who is perfectly rational about costs and benefits, with no irrational constraints like loyalty or honesty (or patriotism), is a person who will lie, cheat and steal whenever he or she can get away with it. A sociopath, basically.
This is a position that the Enlightenment tried to do away with, but it's worth noting that even Kant came around to it. While maintaining that ethics was an exercise of practical reason, in the Doctrine of Virtue he ends up describing a number of "moral feelings" that are the ground of caring about doing the right thing at all (Ak. 6:399-403). This was published late in his life, many years after his more famous Groundwork that appears to downplay the role of feelings in morality to an extreme degree.

On careful and long consideration, a certain set of feelings are presupposed in caring about doing the right thing. A purely rational being just might not care about going above and beyond the demands of law for the benefit of other people.

Dr. Althouse is a Walker Fan

She has a number of pieces up lately that all, as far as I can tell in a brief reading, are in his corner.

This quote was fun:
Hillary Clinton, you even saw with this story, with her book tour, the statements about her and Bill being broke when they came out of the White House. …You see the size of the fees she’s asking universities and colleges to pay, when you look at some of the other things, when she talks about not having driven a car in all those years, I get why that’s true, but it’s why I like to get on my Harley Davidson… every once in a while to drive myself and not have someone else do it for me. I just think those are all things that penetrate this out of touch persona.

The Best Poetry Is the Strictest

This is an article that didn't turn out to be anything like what I thought it would be about given the title: "Where The Pen Meets The Sword: The Role Of Poetry In The Study Of International Affairs."

A few years ago I proposed to DARPA via a Minerva grant application to put together a team that would study the poetry of various countries in the Islamic world, in order to identify weapons for psychological operations. (They were not interested.) We know that poetry is hugely important to the cultures of Iran and Iraq, for example: but the poetry is in different languages, and employs different traditional symbolism, and carries different currents of meaning arising from poets and poems of its past. We would be able to create much more effective messages if we understood that in greater detail, especially if we could find among the exile communities skilled poets who could help us craft poems of quality.

So that's what I thought the article would be about. What it turns out to be about is a Georgetown professor who composes international affairs work in the form of poems.
The reception his poems are met with today is a far cry from the silence his first poem received, with students since expressing their allegiance to and fondness of the poetry. In the evaluation Douglas distributes to his students halfway through his course, he asks students whether they think the poems should continue, or if they feel that poetry is out of place in a selective graduate program. “And they all say ‘Keep the poems!,’ so that settles that,” Douglas said. In fact, students have so embraced the poetry that they have even integrated it into their papers, sometimes citing excerpts from his poems. “If there’s something in a poem that’s applicable to the topic on which they’re writing their paper, every once in a while they quote me to myself… which I like, of course,” Douglas joked. “But the good aspect of the poetry,” he continued, “is that it helps you parse out and focus on the most important issues, and the fact that it’s in rhyme somehow brings out the emotional aspect instead of just being a flat statement of certain positions.”

To that end, all of Douglas’s poems rhyme, for he believes that rhyme and meter are quintessential to a poem’s impact. As such, Douglas was surprised to learn that he is actually in the minority of poets who still employ rhyme. Describing how he made this discovery, Douglas said, “A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon an Annapolis Poet’s Club that meets every Friday night down at Barnes & Nobles coffee shop. One night I went down there and took a couple of my poems with me. The idea was that people would read the poems they’d been working on and get feedback from the rest of the group. So I read one of my poems, and it was followed by this dumbfounded silence. Finally, the president of the club said, ‘Well, Bill, poems these days don’t rhyme.’” Douglas’s retort? “Well, it worked for Longfellow.”
Poems these days aren't usually any good, either, so "it worked for Longfellow" is a good retort. Rhyming isn't necessary, though: you can do alliterative poetry in the fashion of the Anglo-Saxons and Old Norse that is also very strict. Some of the Old Norse forms are quite difficult to master, requiring you to think very carefully about how to speak in the form that the poem permits.

It's in wrestling with the form that you come up with novel -- often beautiful -- ways of expressing meaning. What "poets" today often do is just string words on a page in a weird way, and the words thus often end up being banal as well as ugly. They take themselves to be doing something wonderfully radical, doing poetry in a non-aesthetic way, but they're really just making trash. The proof of that is that we still read Longfellow, whereas there's little chance that our descendants won't just throw their trash away.

Also, point of parliamentary procedure: to say that 'poems today don't rhyme' is to dismiss the most successful poets of the moment, whose poems do rhyme. The musical genre of hip-hop is characterized by rhyming poetry, and it's the only sort of poetry that is widely attended to by the ordinary American. To dismiss that from the field of poetry is a kind of unwarranted elitism by people no one cares about. The truth is not that "poems today don't rhyme," but that "only successful poems rhyme."

At home with the proton

What we see when we bounce things off of whatever is going on inside a proton.

The anti-gotcha candidate

More from the Washington Post:
In light of his comments about whether the president loves America, [Scott Walker] was asked in an interview whether he believes Obama, who recently talked about his Christian faith at the National Prayer Breakfast, is a Christian.
“I don’t know,” Walker replied. “I’ve never asked him that either.” Pressed on his answer, he explained, “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that.”
Walker was sharply critical of the question, just as he was critical of the repeated questions he’s been asked in the past few days about what Giuliani said. He called it “silly stuff” and a “classic example of why people hate Washington and increasingly dislike the press.”

Changing times

The new atmosphere in Wisconsin, per the Washington Post:
Another teacher, Linda Zauner, 58, said she was working to build a case that teachers wanted to keep benefits the same, but she had struggled to get teachers to respond to a survey. She said she wanted to emphasize that teachers still thought of health care as a “bargained right.”
“This is the closest thing we’re going to get to negotiations,” Zauner said.
Fish remained incredulous.
“You have to be mean,” she said. “We never got anything by being nice. We’ve had to walk out. We got things when we banged our fists on tables.”
Brey jumped into the conversation.
“Sometimes I think,” she stopped to collect the words delicately.
“Sometimes, I think, . . . that’s . . . why they came after us, Jenny. Because they thought these teachers were too demanding.”
“No, we have to fight,” Fish responded. “It’s for our students.”

I Prefer To Be Addressed By My First Name: "Sir."

A column in the Washington Post entitled "Please Address me as Mister" amusingly has a cover photo of Angela Merkel.

The author is nevertheless quite right.

Oil & budgets

This is an old BBC article from November 2014, but it contains an amazing chart of the crude oil prices that would be necessary to permit a number of oil-producing states to balance their budgets.  And I thought Venezuela was behind the eight ball.

Honor and Relationships

A concept that occurred to me this morning as I was shaving my head arises from this exchange between myself and Cass:


People should be allowed to do what they want, subject to the demands of honor.

What does that even mean? It's one of those wonderfully vague statements that people love, because of course whatever they want to do is right and honorable.

Reminds me of Newt Gingrich's list of incredibly vague statements that 90+% of Americans were supposed to agree with... so long as no one tried to figure out what they actually meant.

What does that even mean? ...

I have given a definition of honor (which is linked on the sidebar). It ultimately means that you may do whatever you want, provided you give due consideration to the duties you owe to those to whom you stand in certain relationships. Different relationships have different duties -- you owe more to your father than to a stranger, more to your countrymen than to foreigners, more to friends than to those who have proven to be your enemies (but even something to them -- perfidy is always a violation of honor)....

That's why Zell Miller came down so hard on John Kerry. It wasn't the policy disagreements that provoked such a powerful response. It was Kerry's constant betrayal of people whom he owed duties of honor. Every time he had a duty -- to fellow sailors, soldiers, countrymen -- he would elect self-interest instead.

So all that the Jacksonian is saying is that doing what Kerry does is wrong. You're free to follow your self interest -- subject to the demands of honor.
So here's the concept that occurred to me. A whole lot of digital ink has been spilled lately on men and relationships, and how contemporary men -- especially the youngest generations -- don't take their duties to those relationships seriously enough. Young men don't treat their girlfriends right, they don't want to get married to them and undertake those responsibilities, you hear even middle-aged men talking about the joys of prostitutes and so forth.

What if honor is the way men think about relationships? It's far from meaningless: Jackson himself suffered two broken ribs in a duel over an insult to his wife (a man called her a 'bigamist,' because she had married Jackson without realizing her previous husband had not properly filed for divorce when he abandoned her), and its concerns provoked Zell Miller into one of the greatest political speeches of my lifetime.

There are a lot of cultural forces that have reasons to want to destroy honor as a concept at the core of American life. I am not an ally to any of them, but some of you are. There are not a lot of clear exponents of honor to stand against those forces: it's hard to think of any cultural figure since the death of John Wayne who has stood up for it reliably and without exception as something to which men should aspire. As a consequence, the concept has been weakened in our culture over the last generation.

Perhaps it has costs from some perspectives -- a sense of an honor-bound duty to fellow American citizens probably accounts for close to 100% of my disagreements with Tex's libertarian view of economics and politics, so from her perspective those might be costs because they keep me from joining her in advocacy of those positions. If I'm right that honor is the way that men take relationships seriously, though, it strikes me that there are opposing costs even if you are an advocate of one or another of those forces that have an interest in dismissing the concept.

Comments Policy

We've had an uptick in traffic, and with it some new folks commenting. I'm going to repost the comments policy. This version is nine years old, and is I think the most recent version. It's served us well in keeping the discussion interesting.
Please be welcome, so long as you will adhere to this form.
I adopted [this policy] from the sadly-defunct Texas Mercury, a fringe publication but one whose bold assertion of well considered and unusual ideas I always enjoyed:
As we see it, modern society has all the important ideas of life exactly backwards: we are completely against the belief in sensitivity and tolerance in politics and raffish disregard in private life. The Texas Mercury is founded on the opposite principles- our idea is of tolerance and polite sensitivity in private life and ruthless truth in politics. Be nice to your neighbor. Be hell to his ideas.
Comments failing to uphold those principles run the risk of being deleted without warning. In the year and some months since I adopted that as the policy here, I've added one additional point: hit-and-run comments, as well as anonymous comments, will generally be deleted. If you're a regular here, and willing to stand up and fight for what you believe, you can say pretty much anything that isn't a personal attack on a fellow reader. If you're just wandering through, or unwilling to leave your name (even a false name you'll stand by will do, e.g., "Grim"), pass on. This is a hall, and regular readers are honored guests not to be troubled by cowards.
Fair enough? Well, fair or unfair, those are the rules.
I haven't had to delete anything, as everyone's been polite and have usually said interesting things. I do want to emphasize that, while anonymous comments are fine, standing policy here is that you should pick a pseudonym to sign them with so we can keep straight who is saying what, and to assert both ownership and responsibility for what you say.

On Justice Thomas

Scalia remains my favorite, but here's the piece Cass mentioned on her favorite Supreme Court Justice.

Honesty Per Se

Author at "happyplace" writes:
Instances of enormous dogs getting freaked out by tiny, helpless creatures is probably the best evidence I've come across for a benevolent architect of the universe. I'm surprised that YouTube videos—such as this one, featuring a 14-month-old Great Dane's nerve-wracked reaction to a fluffy, little gosling—don't factor more often into theological debates.
Well, the reason they don't is just what this competing article is mocking.
As humans, we are so quick to default to preconceptions, but these mental shortcuts often harm our way of thinking. In many cases, preconceived notions blind us from approaching situations in new ways. To challenge that idea, we put a falcon and a rabbit in the same room. You’re probably thinking, “Oh, the falcon immediately killed the rabbit,” because that’s what you’ve been taught to think.

And in this particular case, yes, that is exactly what happened. Almost instantly. Your preconceptions were 100 percent spot-on.

It’s so beautiful when the animal kingdom surprises us, when predators don’t act like senseless killing machines. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.

This room was way too small for the bunny to have any chance. It took about an eighth of a second for the falcon to completely disembowel the rabbit and begin feasting on its entrails...