Forgiveness, Fatherhood, and Mad Max

A great deal of this strikes me as wholesome.
What does fatherhood mean to you?
There's such a blissful sense of otherness that I can't remember what it was like to not have children. I used to think a lot about myself. I still do, I guess. I mean, I have the capacity to indulge in myself. My primary relationship was with myself, and that was interrupted irrevocably when I found out I was going to be a father. It cut out so much... from my head. There was the idea that in order to look after someone else, you must first truly look after yourself. I need to be fit and good to go and get [things] done. I was healthy and already had a lot... behind me—rehab and all that—but I didn't have an anchor. A child is an anchor. And it gets heavy. Is your son going to be a reflection of you? Fear of becoming your father. And then the fear of not becoming your father. All of these conversations which were nice to think about and hypothesize about before are now immediately connected. . . .You can't un-have a son.

You can't un-have a father, either.
All of that stuff with your father falls by the wayside as you realize how inept you can be as a father yourself. And you can't really beat on your parents. I used to have a lot of hang-ups—legitimate hang-ups—about my parents. But then I dialed back the clock. My old man must have been 28 or 30 when he had me—he must have been... terrified. You only have yourself to measure from. A lot of stuff I had to forgive. I wasn't going to move forward in a healthy manner if I didn't start letting go of some pretty major stuff—stuff which held me back while I was young. Serves no purpose any longer now that I'm a father myself. It's impossible to be perfect, you discover. I look back at the flaws of my father and the things that made me say, "I won't do this, and I won't do that. I'm going to do this differently." There's no difference between my dad and me as a dad. I'm becoming my father in some ways, and I'm grateful for that. By no means am I a great father, but fatherhood has helped me focus on what I need to do to become a better man.
There's a lot of swearing if you follow the link. Doesn't bother me at all, but I'm kind of enamored with the idea that there's a time and place for it. This is probably as good a place as any, but when you post to the Internet you can't be sure of the time.

Armed Forces Day

How did Britain Get a Prime Minister?

John Derbyshire spells it out for us.
In those days the monarch was still a force in ruling Britain. He could, in theory at least, dissolve the actual government and form a new one more to his taste. There had, however, been a change of dynasty in 1714. Queen Anne, the last of the Stuarts, had failed to produce an heir despite having endured seventeen pregnancies.... The law required a Protestant monarch, so Anne’s nearest Protestant relative, the German George of Hanover, was shipped over to be George I....

Unfortunately George I couldn’t speak English. He had rehearsed a little speech to make when he landed in England, to reassure the English that he had come for the good of all. He got the grammar mangled though, and proclaimed: “I haff come for all your goods!”

Unable to follow the debates of his ministers in the council chamber, George got bored and stopped showing up. Walpole, already the alpha male among the King’s advisers, took over the vacant chair.
Accident of history, then, brought on by preferring a Protestant to an Englishman. Or a Briton, I suppose, since the more recent kings had been Scots.

Mad Max

So if any of you were thinking of going to see the new Mad Max, I went. It's a pretty amazing two hours. Heavy Metal acts push a line between hardcore and absurd, and they always risk pushing just a little too far and becoming ridiculous. This movie pushes just as far as you possibly could, but if it crosses the line it does it only in a few moments that are so intense that you've probably lost precision in your bearings.

Joe Bob Briggs will give it an awesome review someday.

Holyfield v. Romney

To the death!

Wait, not to the death. Sorry.

A Fair Accusation of Bias

Language warning, but they're right.

Jesus as Ideal Ranger

Those of you who know the famous RANGER! video ("You'll fight tigers!") will remember that it included among famous Rangers Jesus Christ. In a new book, Chaplain Captain John McDougall of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, attempts to make the point with more seriousness.
“As I drove up the Cascade Mountains, I started thinking about how much my Rangers resembled Jesus – selflessly willing to give their lives for other,” McDougall said. “God took this simple thought and then inspired me to write an entire allegory about how Jesus was like an Airborne Ranger.”

McDougall, a United States Military Academy graduate, recently published Jesus was an Airborne Ranger, a faith-based illustration of the warrior ethos of Jesus Christ’s ministry in relation to the mentality and characteristics of the members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

McDougall, who has served as 2d Ranger Battalion’s Chaplain for three years, was inspired to write the book when he realized that his Rangers were generally unaware of the strength of Jesus as depicted in the Bible.

“My desire to write the book came from the realization that the Jesus of many churches is a weakling – someone that our Rangers cannot relate too,” McDougall said. “I wanted to introduce them to the Warrior Christ that I see in the Bible – someone bold, disciplined and unafraid.”
I have two competing thoughts about this. The first one is that it mirrors almost precisely the tactic Fafhrd used in Lean Times in Lankhmar to address the unpopularity of his chosen diety:
As delivered over and over by Fafhrd, the History of Issek of the Jug gradually altered, by small steps which even Bwadres could hardly cavil at had he wished, into something considerably more like the saga of a Northern hero, though toned down in some respects. Issek had not slain dragons and other monsters as a child—that would have been against his Creed—he had only sported with them, swimming with leviathan, frisking with behemoth, and flying through the trackless spaces of air on the backs of wivern, griffin and hippogryph. Nor had Issek as a man scattered kings and emperors in battle, he had merely dumbfounded them and their quaking ministers by striding about on fields of poisoned sword-points, standing at attention in fiery furnaces, and treading water in tanks of boiling oil—all the while delivering majestic sermons on brotherly love in perfect, intricately rhymed stanzas.
Fritz Leiber was playfully mocking the actual course of alterations of the tone of the Gospel stories as Christianity spread north into lands that had been less Roman and more barbarian. It worked very well at the time, and might work again (as indeed it worked for Fafhrd in the tale).

The second thought is that there is a kind of validity to the move. As the perfect man, all things proper to men are fully realized in Christ. This change in emphasis of focus isn't changing Jesus in the same way that Fafhrd was changing Issek: it's merely attending to a different aspect than before. The danger to the move is that in focusing on areas where men are already strong, it draws their attention from what Christianity can best help them with: recognizing and confessing to the areas where they are weak. Perhaps it's a good approach, still, insofar as it builds a trusting relationship between man and God. Confession is easiest where trust is deepest.

Precision is Beautiful

Food, cut into 2.5cm cubes. Surprisingly beautiful for a piece of modern art, but I suppose nature gets most of the credit here. The art of imposing an exactly-similar external form only highlights the beauty of the natural differences.

Yep: Insecurity is the Issue

This just proves that today’s outrage culture and offensensitivity (to use a wonderful term coined by Berke Breathed in Bloom County nearly three decades ago) is self-immolating by its very nature. It demands a lock-step groupthink and punishes any criticism as bigotry or worse. It’s the exact opposite of both tolerance and plurality, plus the nature of this particular offense — calling someone by their first name?exposes the high degree of insecurity among those involved in the debate, and their desperation to shut their critics up, even if it’s the most progressive President since LBJ.
Sometimes people say really offensive things, and on those occasions genuine offense can be warranted. But we often see outrageous outrage coming from two additional classes of people:

1) People who are really insecure.

2) People attempting to leverage victim status to obtain some advantage.

A lot of criticism focuses on type (2) cases, but I think type (1) cases are actually the most common. There are just tons of people walking around in constant fear of being looked down upon because they don't really think much of themselves. This is sometimes true even of people who have actually achieved quite a bit -- say, becoming a Senator after gaining tenure after earning a Ph.D., all of which are substantial accomplishments. There's a named psychological disorder associated with it, and some believe women are especially susceptible to it.

Under those circumstances, a highly confident man like the President can provoke outrage by saying things that would be completely inoffensive to someone with more self-confidence. Calling someone by their first name? He does that to Senators all the time. He used to be a Senator himself, and it's part of the culture of comity even among political opponents.

I suppose the rebuttal would be that sexism in society is so prevalent that it's our collective fault that high-achieving women like these sometimes feel sensitive to criticism. Certainly the society doesn't adhere to my own standards as to what I consider ordinary decent respect for women in day to day life. The way to make a road forward isn't by setting up a bunch of eggshells for people to walk on when talking about high-achieving women ("Don't use her first name!"). That's just going to reinforce the idea that women need special protections if they're going to get out in the world.

Certainly I always try to encourage women in my life to be confident and to take honest pride in their achievements. Mostly I do this because I like them, but there's a small element of self preservation interest as well. Confident, bold women are easier to live with. They make better friends, partners, comrades, call it what you will.

Probably they make better Senators.

Thunderstorm in Wyoming

Story here.

Comin' Down the Grade, Makin' 90 Miles an Hour... Ol' 97 roll.
An Amtrak train that derailed near Philadelphia was apparently traveling at more than 100 miles per hour at the time of the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Wednesday.... Seven peopled were killed and more than 100 injured during the crash.

If you're interested in the story of the real 'Old 97,' it's an interesting one too.

The noises we make

More from Jesperson's "Language":  just as we call birds by their sounds, cultures develop names for foreign visitors that reflect their characteristic verbal tics:
A special subdivision of particular interest comprises those names, or nicknames, which are sometimes popularly given to nations from words continually occurring in their speech. Thus the French used to call an Englishman a god-damn (godon), and in China an English soldier is called a-says or I-says. In Java a Frenchman is called orang-deedong (orang 'man'), in America ding-dong, and during the Napoleonic wars the French were called in Spain didones, from dis-donc; another name for the same nation is wi-wi (Australia), man-a-wiwi (in Beach-la-mar), or oui-men (New Caledonia). In Eleonore Christine's Jammersminde 83 I read, "Ich habe zwei parle mi franço gefangen," and correspondingly Goldsmith writes (Globe ed. 624): "Damn the French, the parle vous, and all that belongs to them. What makes the bread rising? the parle vous that devour us." In Rovigno the surrounding Slavs are called čuje from their exclamation čuje 'listen, I say,' and in Hungary German visitors are called vigéc (from wie geht's?), and customs officers vartapiszli (from wart' a bissl). Round Panama everything native is called spiggoty, because in the early days the Panamanians, when addressed, used to reply, "No spiggoty [speak] Inglis." In Yokohama an English or American sailor is called Damuraīsu H'to from 'Damn your eyes' and Japanese H'to 'people.'

And that's the good news

"Junk," with a negative outlook:  that's how Moody's characterizes Chicago's bond rating.  In other words, "That's as good as it gets, and it's never going to get that good again."

Old Time Color

Following a rendition of "Rye Whiskey," Woody Guthrie is asked to give some off-color toasts he might have heard. It's an interesting exchange, compared to what you are more likely to hear today.

Aristotle for Everybody

This sounds like a neat little book -- it's 200 pages, but for a summary of Aristotle that is pretty short.
....accessible not only to the average reader but also to children in middle school. That ambition is what Mortimer Adler aimed at with this book. His thirteen year-old and his eleven year-old read the manuscript and gave helpful feedback, so he certainly thinks it is a success.
You could do worse, and hardly better, than to acquaint yourself with the Master.

H/t: Brandywine Books.

Habeas Corpus

Soon after the agency’s contractors began their program of “enhanced interrogation’’ at the secret black site in Thailand – placing him in a coffin-size box; slamming him against wall; depriving him of sleep; bombarding him with loud music; as well as waterboarding – they sent an encrypted cable to Washington.

The CIA interrogators said that if Zubaydah died during questioning, his body would be cremated. But if he survived the ordeal, the interrogators wanted assurances that he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

Senior officials gave the assurances. Zubaydah, a Saudi citizen, “will never be placed in a situation where he has any significant contact with others and/or has the opportunity to be released,” the head of the CIA’s ALEC Station, the code name of the Washington-based unit hunting Osama bin Laden, replied. “All major players are in concurrence,” the cable said, that he “should remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”
It would be nice if the court would explain itself, at least in broad and general terms, to the American people. Courts are not political branches, at least in theory, but their workings should not be opaque to the sovereign. Accepting some need for government secrecy in matters of national security, nevertheless an explanation for this strange case that redacts what is necessary should be possible. We ought to know, and approve, the justification for such a major exception from our rule.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

With a little molecular tinkering, for the first time scientists have created chicken embryos with broad, Velociraptor-like muzzles in the place of their beaks.
I think I've seen this movie.

Free Speech & Hate Speech

VDH points out a clever trick.
President Obama scapegoated Nakoula at the United Nations — a majority of whose members ban free speech as a rule — with pompous promises that the prophet would not be mocked with impunity in the United States of America. Nakoula was suddenly arrested on a minor parole violation and jailed for over a year. No one seemed to care that the unsavory firebrand Egyptian had a constitutional right while legally resident in America to freely caricature any religion that he chose.

The IRS under career bureaucrats like Lois Lerner targeted non-profit groups on the basis of their perceived political expression. The best strategy now for stifling free speech is to arbitrarily substitute the word “hate” for “free” — and then suddenly we all must unite to curb “hate speech.”
Emphasis added.

Goodness knows I detest the Westboro Baptist Church. If we can ask the families of fallen American servicemembers to endure them at the funerals of their children, who died for our country, we can endure pretty much any sort of 'hate speech.'

No Secret Treaties

Republicans seem to be preparing to save the President's bacon on two trade bills, neither of which should be even remotely considered for passage until they have been declassified and studied by the American people. If it's such a great deal, let us read it. Let us discuss it. Let us write letters to our representatives so they know what we think about it, whether we support or oppose it, and just why.

No secret treaties.

UPDATE: Salon magazine on the President's "lies," their term. Indeed, it's their point.
It’s beneath the dignity of the Presidency to so aggressively paint opponents as not just wrong on the facts, but hiding the truth on purpose. Warren has responded without using the same indecorous tactics. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same self-control. So by way of response, here are ten moments where the President or his subordinates have lied – call it “misled” or “offered half-truths” or whatever; but I’m in an ornery mood so let’s just say lied – about his trade agenda[.]
Last night I was talking with a left-leaning professor I know, and he expressed astonishment at the President's rhetoric on the subject.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday delivered a stinging blow to President Obama’s trade agenda by voting to prevent the chamber from picking up fast-track legislation.

A motion to cut off a filibuster and proceed to the trade bill fell short of a 60-vote hurdle, 52-45. Sen. Tom Carper (Del.) was the only Democrat to back it.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) switched his vote from yes to no to reserve his ability to return to the measure at a later date.

Fast-track is a top legislative priority for the White House, but it has run into significant Senate opposition that has been led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

It faces even more opposition from Democrats in the House, and the surprise Senate failure will raise doubts about whether the legislation will make its way through Congress.

Reading Aquinas

A reflection.
For me personally, there’s also a kind of ponderous clarity and simplicity about Aquinas’s writing that gets more and more attractive as I spend time with it. He’s not the kind of thinker who wants to complicate things or show off his brilliance—he just wants to make sense of the world the best he can, within the limitations of the human mind.

Beyond 'Starve the Beast,' Kill the Monster

The regulatory state has two related weaknesses... It relies on voluntary compliance, and its enforcement capabilities are far inferior to its expansive mandate. So he proposes a private legal defense fund — the “Madison Fund,” honoring the father of the Constitution — that businesses and citizens can rely on for representation against federal regulators. By engaging in expensive and time-consuming litigation on behalf of clients that refuse to comply with pointless rules, the fund drains the government’s enforcement resources and eventually undercuts its ambitions. The state can compel submission from an individual or company with the threat of ruinous legal proceedings, Murray writes, “but Goliath cannot afford to make good on that threat against hundreds of Davids.”


The 'land between the rivers' takes on a new meaning, at an hour when the rivers are these:

1) We need to talk about the danger posed by violent, apocalyptic Islam.

2) We need to make sure we don't paint Islam per se as the problem.

Historian Timothy R. Furnish has a good piece on that topic. I liked the SNL bit, too, though.

That's a good way of at least beginning to acknowledge the elephant in the room: the fear that many 'right-thinking' people feel when they are asked to address this topic. There's a huge difference between the virtue of charity towards strangers, and the vices of dishonesty and cowardice. It's only the brave who can truly be charitable here. It is only those of us who are not afraid who can extend a kind and honest hand. First, you must be brave.


Here's the huge problem:
Three out of five eighth graders tested in a nationwide survey did not know that the 1803 Marbury v. Madison case established the Supreme Court’s power to decide whether a federal law is constitutional. Half of them could not attribute the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident” to the Declaration of Independence.... Only about a third of American eighth-graders can correctly separate which presidential powers are set forth in the Constitution from those not specified in the Constitution.
I know that all of you, like me, periodically quiz other Americans you care about to see how many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights they can explain. In general my experience is that people can identify three or four of the five freedoms specified in the First, know the Second, and are fuzzy on the rest of it.

Time's arrow

From Otto Jesperson's 1922 "Language," on the enduring difficulty of evaluating processes of natural evolution in terms of either progress or decay:
To men fresh from the ordinary grammar-school training, no language would seem really respectable that had not four or five distinct cases and three genders, or that had less than five tenses and as many moods in its verbs. Accordingly, such poor languages as had either lost much of their original richness in grammatical forms (e.g. French, English, or Danish), or had never had any, so far as one knew (e.g. Chinese), were naturally looked upon with something of the pity bestowed on relatives in reduced circumstances, or the contempt felt for foreign paupers. . . .  [A] language possesses an inestimable charm if its phonetic system remains unimpaired and its etymologies are transparent; but pliancy of the material of language and flexibility to express ideas is really no less an advantage; everything depends on the point of view: the student of architecture has one point of view, the people who are to live in the house another.
I may here anticipate the results of the following investigation and say that in all those instances in which we are able to examine the history of any language for a sufficient length of time, we find that languages have a progressive tendency. But if languages progress towards greater perfection, it is not in a bee-line, nor are all the changes we witness to be considered steps in the right direction. The only thing I maintain is that the sum total of these changes, when we compare a remote period with the present time, shows a surplus of progressive over retrogressive or indifferent changes, so that the structure of modern languages is nearer perfection than that of ancient languages, if we take them as wholes instead of picking out at random some one or other more or less significant detail. And of course it must not be imagined that progress has been achieved through deliberate acts of men conscious that they were improving their mother-tongue. On the contrary, many a step in advance has at first been a slip or even a blunder, and, as in other fields of human activity, good results have only been won after a good deal of bungling and 'muddling along.' My attitude towards this question is the same as that of Leslie Stephen, who writes in a letter (Life 454): "I have a perhaps unreasonable amount of belief, not in a millennium, but in the world on the whole blundering rather forwards than backwards."
Schleicher on one occasion used the fine simile: "Our words, as contrasted with Gothic words, are like a statue that has been rolling for a long time in the bed of a river till its beautiful limbs have been worn off, so that now scarcely anything remains but a polished stone cylinder with faint indications of what it once was" (D 34). Let us turn the tables by asking: Suppose, however, that it would be quite out of the question to place the statue on a pedestal to be admired; what if, on the one hand, it was not ornamental enough as a work of art, and if, on the other hand, human well-being was at stake if it was not serviceable in a rolling-mill: which would then be the better--a rugged and unwieldy statue, making difficulties at every rotation, or an even, smooth, easygoing and well-oiled roller?

A Hard Nut, To Crack

On Roman sling bullets.