Independence Day Storytime: You Could Learn a Lot From Julia Child

This article on women not apologizing -- but just telling people what they want, which by the way would be incredibly helpful -- ends with a citation.
We are not sorry to ask for an email that should have been sent to us weeks ago, or to expect to receive the item we paid for, or to be bumped into on the subway. Yes, we should take the shampoo commercial’s advice and weed out the word when it’s superfluous. But it’s just as important to articulate exactly what we mean in its place.

Julia Child, a consummate charmer, said it best: “Never apologize.”
Child was doubtless quoting John Wayne who said that too, fifty-five years earlier in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Nevertheless Julia Child is a great source for inspiration, although the linked article might give you an incomplete idea of just why she was so charming.
She had arrived in France in November 1948 not speaking the language or knowing how to cook. ''I had never even heard of a shallot,'' she said. ''I was there as Paul's extra baggage.'' Ten years older than Julia, he ran the visual presentation department at the United States Information Service. By the time they left for other postings six years later, Julia was fluent in French, ran a cooking school and was co-authoring a comprehensive cookbook that would later make her famous.

She learned many things in Paris, she said, one of the most important of which was how to shop like a Parisian. ''It was life-changing,'' she said, ''because shopping in France taught me about human relations.''...

With a smile, she added: ''I quickly learned how to communicate. If I wasn't willing to spend time to get to know the sellers and what they were selling, then I wouldn't go home with the freshest head of lettuce or best bit of steak in my basket. They really made me work for my supper. But what a supper -- yum! And it was such fun.''
The truth is that she had been carefully taught long before France.  What she doesn't explain in this rather modest interview is that by 1948 she had been working as an American spy for six years. She joined the OSS under Wild Bill Donovan during the war and served across Asia. She met Paul doing this work, which was at an extremely high level. She wasn't her husband's baggage -- the US Information Agency was our core propaganda outfit during the Cold War -- but it was sure helpful if she could appear that way.

American Comebacks

I'm not normally a fan of Buzzfeed's clickbait, but I'll make this exception for Freedom Day.

Celebrating the Rockets' Red Glare

Last night's celebration went well. Tonight's will be shot from a semi trailer.

View from the Celebration

The early rain finally broke, though it held off long enough for a good lesson in building a campfire with wet wood. Once that fire was lit it was used to start the charcoal. Andouille and firecracker brats have been cooked and eaten, basted with Yuengling lager (America's oldest brewery). Other American beers have also been drunk. Fireworks have been laid in. A cigar given me by Mr. Wolf has been assigned for fuse-lighting duty later in the evening.

Hope it looks good where you are, too.

Independence Day Celebration: Leadslingers Bourbon

If you're ever thirsty out in Indian Territory, let me recommend Leadslingers Bourbon Whiskey. It's perfectly enjoyable neat and can be found at larger liquor stores (a bit too niche for the smaller ones, I suppose).

From the back label: "Leadslingers Whiskey was founded in 2013 by seven combat veterans. When USAF TACPS, U.S. Army Rangers, Green Berets, and Paratroopers combined their love for America and fine whiskey, LSW was born."

It's crafted by Scissortail Distillery, in Moore, Oklahoma, whose bourbon I also recommend.

Continuing Our Musical Appreciation....

As usual with the Damn Few, trigger warnings include absolutely everything. You probably should pass right on without watching this.

Amazing Grace, with Condoleezza Rice and Jenny Oaks Baker

The Spirit of Rebellion

Happy Independence Day.  Today we celebrate treason, treason that prospered, treason that flourished, treason that created what was for a while -- what might someday be again -- the living symbol of virtuous human liberty.

"Going Armed To the Terror of the People"

Here's an offense I didn't know existed, but apparently in North Carolina you can be charged with a crime for doing something that is otherwise legal if it scares people.

What apparently happened was that a soldier from FT Bragg went to a local mall to have glamour shots made of himself with his body armor and rifle. The result was a complete panic, the closing of the mall, the arrest of the soldier, and his being charged with this obscure crime.

The Duffel Blog mocks the soldier for his lack of self-awareness, pointing out that this was right after a reported shooting at the Navy Yard. That story turned out to be false, of course, which suggests that a kind of public hysteria is at work. I suppose one has to be aware of the hysteria of one's fellow Americans as well, though frankly, at this time that requires a tremendous amount of awareness. America is hysterical about everything just now.

In any case, while scaring others is adequate for being arrested and charged with the crime, actual conviction will require proof that his intent was to terrify people. Assuming they don't manage to bluff him into pleading guilty, our boy ought to walk on that one.

Bikers Against Flag-Burning

Jazz Shaw has some video and commentary about a scuffle in New York this weekend, in which some bikers and veterans got together to disrupt a flag-burning. The group burning the flag looks to be an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement, one that claims its purposes is to disarm the NYPD. This group has put together a hoary collection of activists that makes this look just like an episode from the late 1960s, including devoted communists as you can see from their placards about capitalism.

Adding to the nostalgia, the veterans among the bikers seem to be Vietnam veterans. The largest group, though, are Hallowed Sons MC, which isn't an old group at all:
I’ve been riding for almost fifty years, but I’ve only been with the Hallowed Sons for a couple years. The club is new - we started up a few years in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We got together to help. I spent two months living on the street in New Dorp (a neighborhood of Staten Island hard hit by Sandy) serving people food, helping with mold removal, doing whatever people needed. The Hallowed Sons are hard guys and we’ll fight when we have to but we don’t have to because we stand with strength and unity and brotherhood. We put our energy into the community, supporting first responders, vets, cleaning up the neighborhood, cleaning up the highways. We’re community driven.
This is the kind of guy whose conservatism and patriotism -- indeed whose presence, whose alliance -- is often found embarrassing by the well-educated Republican. Like early volunteer firefighters (who also have a very rough and tumble history entangled with a certain amount of brawling and politics), these guys put themselves together in response to a natural disaster to help their community. The kind of guys who do that have a sort of native love of home, of neighborhood, of village, of city, of country. It's not necessarily closely examined, but it is deeply felt, and they'll fight you if you insult it.

You know, these guys.

A lot of people find them embarrassing, but I love guys like this. It is important, in the right place and time, to reflect soberly on the history and be able to criticize your own where they deserve it. You might be able to analyze in a sophisticated way the history of American, and indeed of Western, policy in the Middle East and the way in which it ties in to the phenomena of terrorism and radical Islamic revival. That's important. It can even be helpful.

All the same, don't go talking about the queen on Independence Day.


"Weenies burn flag to protest cops, get attacked by bikers, need cops to save their asses."

Facta Non Verba

Seen on FB:

Yeah, OK.
The Navy Cross is presented to James H. Webb, Jr., First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company D, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On July 10, 1969, while participating in a company-sized search and destroy operation deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb's platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex that appeared to be unoccupied. Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers. Accompanied by one of his men, he then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. When the hostile soldiers failed to answer him and threw a grenade that detonated dangerously close to him, First Lieutenant Webb detonated a claymore mine in the bunker aperture, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel. Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, he then conducted a thorough search that yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data. Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker. By his courage, aggressive leadership, and selfless devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Webb upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

Completely Missing the Point

George Takei, the actor most famous for having been Mr. Sulu, made a comment to the effect that Justice Thomas was a "clown in blackface." This occasioned some comment, as you might imagine. Mr. Takei has put out a statement on the subject.
A few fans have written wondering whether I intended to utter a racist remark by referring to Justice Thomas as a "clown in blackface."

"Blackface" is a lesser known theatrical term for a white actor who blackens his face to play a black buffoon. In traditional theater lingo, and in my view and intent, that is not racist. It is instead part of a racist history in this country.

I feel Justice Thomas has abdicated and abandoned his African American heritage by claiming slavery did not strip dignity from human beings. He made a similar remark about the Japanese American internment, of which I am a survivor. A sitting Justice of the Supreme Court ought to know better.

I have expressed my full thoughts on the matter here.
I'll leave it to others to decide whether "blackface" is, as he suggests, not a racist term in this context. (Whether it is "a lesser known theatrical term" as well.)

What strikes me as more important is that he completely misses Justice Thomas' point. What does it mean to say that the slave's dignity is not harmed by the chains? It is to say that the dignity of the human soul is a high thing, so high as to be beyond the grasp of tyrants. It is to say that all the human efforts to reduce the dignity of the slaves were wasted, were foolish as much as they were wrong.

Perhaps human dignity can be surrendered, but on this account it can never be stolen. It could, perhaps, be laid down. It cannot be taken away.

That is a very positive message and a very traditional one in the Christian church, which believes the Divinely-crafted soul is the seat of dignity. Such a faith in a human dignity that could not be destroyed was the deadly message of Christianity to the slaver, the consolation of the slave, the harbinger of the abolitionist. I'm surprised to find an educated man who is deaf to Justice Thomas' message.

War on Women! Part II (For Today)

The Secretary of the Navy has announced today that woman Marines and sailors will have 18 weeks of maternity leave, bringing the US Navy in line with Europe.
"In the Navy and the Marine Corps, we are continually looking for ways to recruit and retain the best people," Mabus said. "We have incredibly talented women who want to serve, and they also want to be mothers and have the time to fulfill that important role the right way. We can do that for them. Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our county. This flexibility is an investment in our people and our Services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members."
Paternity leave? Ten days. And that's only since 2008: before that, "paternity" was just a form of lawsuit for the Navy.

UPDATE: This policy will be even more fun once we get those new transgender rules in place.

War on Women!

Actual Headline: "Retired Army colonel seeks to challenge Congress's youngest woman."

The nerve of that guy!

An Independence Weekend Story

How about a story about an immigrant who joined the US Special Forces? A story about a man who fought the Red Army? A story about a patriot of his native land who became a patriot of his adopted America? Oh, and a story about an officer in the Waffen-SS: and these are all the same guy.

That's not the kind of story you expect, is it? But it's the story of Lauri Törni aka Larry Thorne. He appears to have been killed while on a reconnaissance mission in the mountains near Da Nang. It's a story worth reflecting on this week, as we consider issues of history, redemption, and forgiveness.

Mysterious ordnance

Per Ace:  Racist, Confederate-Flag Sporting Ex-CNN Reporter's Racist, Anti-Government White Hispanic Husband Kills Innocent Home Invader in Hotel Room With Racist Gun With One of Those Parts That Goes Up.
De Caro, who was in the shower, emerged completely naked and tried talking to the gunman, who was demanding the couple fork over their money and valuables.
Naked, but he quickly clothed himself with a rakish .35 caliber gun,* which is really all the fashion a man needs. . . .
* Hey yeah I know that's a weird caliber, but that's what the article claims.

How To Speak Middle English

A four part series on the pronunciation of Middle English, with some thoughts on its regional and temporal variations.

Forget it, Jake--it's Madison

Bernie Sanders plays to a crowd of 10,000.

These people are insane

The ECB has rules for the "investments" it can make.  So far they've been limited to bonds issued by sovereign governments or their agencies, which is crazy enough.  Many is the private bank that's gotten itself into trouble obeying rules deeming sovereign debt to be triple-A safe no matter how high an interest rate some shaky government had to pay in order to lure suckers in the door.  Hey, if it's all AAA, why not buy the Italian bonds with high interest instead of those boring German bonds?  If the bonds go bust, we can just say we were following orders and are entitled to a bailout.  No one's job or bonus is on the line.

Now the ECB has decided to expand the list of approved bonds to include "corporate bonds."  That's not such a terrible idea, in an alternative universe where people choose private-sector investments according to traditional principles like price and risk.  "Senior Eurozone Economist" Frederik Ducrozet at Credit Agricole explains that the move to "quasi-corporate bonds the ECB could seek a greater transmission of QE to the real economy." Almost sounds like a dawning realization that there's such a thing as a real economy, and that it's not transfer payments by sovereign entities, but what's with the "quasi-corporate"? Turns out what they really mean is Italian utility companies. Here's the punchline:
Hyung-Ja de Zeeuw, a credit strategist at ABN AMRO says she thinks they chose these specific corporate names "because it wouldn't disrupt the level playing field (competition). They have natural monopolies."
So that's their idea of the "real economy": something with a natural monopoly that's immune to competitive forces.  Gosh, I wonder why the EU is in crisis?

Hockey Sticks

Let's say we did a study in which we asked Americans how many of them owned a hockey stick, and then asked them whether or not they or anyone in their family participated in playing hockey. Did they belong to a hockey club? Did they play hockey with friends sometimes? Did they belong to a place with a good hockey-playing rink? Everyone who answers 'yes' to the questions after 'Do you own a hockey stick?' is said to belong to a 'hockey culture.'

What do you think the delta would be between hockey-stick-ownership rates for those who do, and do not, belong to a hockey culture?

Attention -- Row!

I've enjoyed rowing for several years now, so when some friends entered Oklahoma City's annual Stars and Stripes Regatta, I drove out to enjoy the day with them.

The skyline is dominated by the Devon Tower, and the boathouse to my right is the Devon Boathouse.

Here they come!

Coming up to the catch ... One of the rowers on this crew is blind.

I guess he's racing in the singles bracket?

A few folks brought their hounds with them, and one gentleman brought his peregrine falcon. I asked what he hunts - duck. Looking at the Wikipedia entry, I see that historically the peregrine was actually called a duck hawk in the US.

All in all, a good summer day at the Oklahoma River. I guess it's only appropriate to finish with some home-grown red dirt country.

Johnny Cash Is Dead and His House Burned Down

Fiction v. Reality

It's a commonplace saying: if you wrote this in a book, nobody would believe it.

"Support Diversity"

The guy in the picture is Mat Best. Language... well, everything warning if you go to watch his videos.

Bakers' liberation

Inflation vs. haircut

When a country borrows more than it can repay, its creditors can lose their investment slowly or quickly:
It's easy to moralize Greece's feckless borrowing, weak tax collection and long history of default, and hey, go ahead; I won't stop you. But whatever the nation's moral failures, what we're witnessing now shows the dangers of trying to cure the problems of weak fiscal discipline with some sort of externally imposed currency regime. Greek creditors and Brussels were not the only people to joyously embrace the belief that the euro would finally force Greece to keep its financial house in order; you hear the same arguments right here at home from American gold bugs. During the ardent height of Ron Paul's popularity, I tried to explain why this doesn't work: "You don't get anything out of a gold standard that you didn't bring with you. If your government is a credible steward of the money supply, you don't need it; and if it isn't, it won't be able to stay on it long anyway."
This goes double for fiscal discipline. Moving to a fixed exchange rate protects bondholders from one specific sort of risk: the possibility that inflation will erode the real value of your bonds. But that doesn't remove the risk. It just transforms it. Now that the government can't inflate away its debt, you instead face the risk that they are going to run out of money to pay their bills and suddenly default. That's exactly what happened to Argentina, and many other nations on various other currency regimes, from the gold standard to a currency peg. The ability to inflate the currency had gone away, but the currency regime didn't fix any of the underlying institutional problems that previous governments had solved with inflation. So bondholders protected themselves from inflation, and instead took a catastrophic haircut.

In financial markets, it is easy to move risk around and change who is bearing it. On the other hand, it's very hard to actually get rid of the risk. The biggest problems come when we think we have -- when we mistake risk transformation for risk avoidance. That's what happened in 2008, and that's what happened with Greece....

Blackwater & Systems Theory

Erik Prince is working for China's African interests, and James Polous wonders what that means.
Whatever your politics, this is a story about the kinds of perils you can best grasp when you set aside a partisan policy lens and pick up the analytical frameworks offered by systems theory. Consider how the contours of our concern about Prince shift when we think of big government as a systems problem instead of an ideological one. It’s a truism that the bigger a system, the harder it falls.... When a system gets so large that its catastrophic threats become as marginal as possible, the nature of those threats becomes difficult to see, understand, and address....

The systems-theory approach to catastrophic risk is not, of course, free from strong criticism. One of the biggest names in systems theory, Nassim Taleb, has been drawn into the political controversy surrounding the potential systemic risk created by US monetary and fiscal policy. For some, there’s a lot at stake politically in theories potentially predicting that very loose money will provoke a collapse of America’s financial system (and the world’s) — or, at least, a lot of inflation.... Rather than using systems theory as a tool for predicting painful events, we should use it as a heuristic for living what Taleb calls an “antifragile” life. Unlikely as it may at first seem, there’s a real connection between the shocking events that shake a system and our personal exercise of anti-fragile habits.

I could lay out an argument trying to persuade you of this, but I think it’s ultimately more powerful to just point back to Prince. After all, his explicit rationale for his new venture is that the US, as a system, has ceased to be anti-fragile, in both political and cultural terms.
We've talked about Taleb's ideas before. I find them insightful and, generally, persuasive. Here's a place where he makes an analogy to the kinetic:
Although I was not yet familiar with gyms, my idea of knowledge was as follows. People who build their strength using these modern expensive gym machines can lift extremely large weights, show great numbers and develop impressive-looking muscles, but fail to lift a stone; they get completely hammered in a street fight by someone trained in more disorderly settings.... I've debated many economists who claim to specialize in risk and probability: when one takes them slightly outside their narrow focus, but within the discipline of probability, they fall apart, with the disconsolate face of a gym rat in front of a gangster hit man.”
There are anti-fragile ways to train the body and the mind, too. Bicep curls build big biceps, but these five exercises train main strength: the body you build will be less sculpted, but stronger throughout. Yoga builds flexibility, but jujitsu builds flexibility and fighting power. Logic, surprisingly perhaps, is highly fragile. It trains the mind to a fine degree, but strict logic turns out to be inapplicable to almost all of human life. Analogical rather than logical reasoning, rhetoric rather than analytics, this helps you grapple with life.

The American legal environment for business creates a strict and ever-changing set of rules. Many of these rules prevent business formation without great expense. Many of the changes can be existential threats to the business. They can even send you to prison. Blackwater became a political liability -- not even an enemy, just a firm the government didn't want to talk about any more -- and thus a target.

If you wanted to create an environment in which it was wise to set up American businesses for international ventures, you'd deregulate and shrink the bureaucracies that are constantly creating new regulations. You'd reduce the setup costs for a new business, and the danger that the rules might change in destructive ways. Is that what we're doing?

Love Songs, Considered

The eternal thing, the sacred thing: or, as the article puts it, the inevitable thing, the ordinary thing, the indispensable thing.

Talking About the Queen Again

Organizers said accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof wasn’t an “isolated actor,” but a “product of a consistent pattern of state-sponsored terrorism and radicalized dehumanization in America.” The event originally was aimed at burning the Confederate flag, but later changed to focus on the stars and stripes....

“There will be no peace until we tear down this system of oppression...

"We do not believe the ideals of America are anything to be revered. We are building something that will be much better than America. While the so-called patriots yell that we should just leave, we instead choose to dream. We dream of what real freedom looks like: freedom from paramilitaries occupying our communities, beating and killing our sons and daughters; freedom from our communities being destroyed by the speculative capital of gentrification; freedom from mass surveillance; and freedom from systemic racism.

“So, we will burn the American flag, a symbol of oppression and genocide, and in the same action, dismantle our stunted, cynical expectations of what is possible in the world."
They're right, after a fashion. It was the stars and stripes that flew over the slave ships, which the Confederate Battle Flag never did. They were mostly American ships sailing out of Northern harbors, under the American flag, all the way up until Lincoln. Just ask Allen West.

It's gonna be Independence Day. At some point, maybe we need some independence from old hates. It's a bad history all the way around -- the British are no better, as they were slavers before they finished building their industrial revolution, just as the North were the leading slave traders until they had built theirs. Either we have to burn it all down, and not just the flags but the whole thing: or we've got to find a way to forgive. And forgive not each other, for none of us made this. What we've got to do, somehow, is forgive our ancestors. You have to. No matter how bad your father and mother were, no matter how bad your grandparents were, if you can't forgive them you'll always end up hating a part of yourself. Hating your country and your heritage is the same way. If you can't forgive it and find the good in it, there will always be a part of yourself that you hate too. Forgive them, and you'll find that you've freed yourself.

Minimum Wage?

How about a "state-imposed Maximum Wage?"

Of $20 a month? That's setting your sights a little low, isn't it?

"Due to the Lateness of the Hour..."

"...I don’t know that they were going to be going to church the next morning.”

Competing Brokeness

Puerto Rico and Greece. Which one will work out better, do you think?

A More Democratic and Considered Move on the Flag

Unlike last week's mad rush, the South Carolina legislature has been considering the issue with regard to the feelings of the people. And people, even those who see the flag as essentially about history and heritage, have been moved by the events and grace at Charleston.
Among whites, 39 percent said the incident made them less likely to support the flag flying at the State House while 18 percent said the incident made them more likely to support it.... The Free Times/Crantford Research poll also found that South Carolina voters are optimistic about the prospects for the shooting to bring residents closer together: 41 percent believe the incident will ultimately improve race relations, compared to 16 percent who believe it will make matters worse. Black voters were somewhat less optimistic than whites; 38 percent of African-Americans and 43 percent of whites thought the incident would lead to better race relations.
This, I think, is the best result we can get from such a tragedy. Not that everyone should come to agree that the flag is a symbol of (and only of) hatred and oppression, but that those who disagree can come to consider and respect the views of those for whom it cannot be otherwise.

The Legislature is reconvened for the debate, though early indicators suggest the votes are there.
College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts said he was a bit surprised at the strong support in the conservative Legislature to remove the flag. But he said it likely reflects a “big public shift” that has taken place recently in South Carolina...

[T]he bills are expected to be channeled through committees, potentially delaying a final vote for several weeks.
One hopes that, to some degree, the shift works in both directions. "Heritage, not hate" is a great concept as long as it's real. This offers some evidence that it is real, that where it cannot be perceived except as hate, supporters of the flag as heritage are prepared to compromise without surrendering their view. America could learn a lot from that.

UPDATE: On the other hand, there's always the vocal (and young) minority.

Iran Deal Predictions

From Havok Journal:
5) The next US President will support the deal: H + however many days until January 2017L Despite early misgivings, courtesy of freshman senator Tom Cotton (R – Arkansas), Congress has signaled that it ultimately wants the deal to go through, as long as it gets its say. This Congress is clearly looking towards the next election and what the presumptive frontrunners will want. Instead of running interference, they’ve chosen a strategy (albeit a begrudging one) of demanding transparency in exchange for support.

Even the strong conservative holdouts who famously co-signed a letter to the Majles have backed away from the opposition camp. Interestingly, the only Senator not to affirm the transparency resolution, Tom Cotton, was one of the strongest opponents of the initial deal. The resolution also gives new Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) an opportunity to reign in some of the rhetoric by Tea Party upstarts like Cotton. Perhaps McConnell sees a need to tone down some of the language of his fellow party members leading into 2016.

Advice for Young Men

This is not a bad piece.

I was not aware of the fedora phenomenon until I encountered the famous SlateStarCodex piece worrying over the way in which this kind of young man is being punished. Since then, I've seen a few examples of the intense mockery from young women that these young men endure. I can understand the point the author at SSC was trying to make.

That it is unkind to the young men is true, as they are as he says just trying to emulate the most courtly behaviors they have ever encountered in literature or film. Whether it is unfair to them is another question.

In any case, if you are one or know one, and don't understand the mockery, read the article. It might help you out.

Taste Test: Surströmming

A traditional Swedish dish whose name means soured herring. "As long ago as the 16th century, surströmming was supplied as army rations in the 30 years war. Swedish soldiers who did not come from the area where this was staple food, as well as foreign conscripts, refused to eat it."

If it smells so bad that people were refusing to eat it during the Thirty Years' War, it smells pretty bad.


Sen. Cruz says that states should simply defy the Supreme Court on gay marriage. I don't see how that could possibly work out well, as it didn't even work in cases (such as segregation) in which there was intense and unified opposition to the Supreme Court's ruling among the polities of many states. The American population has responded to years of all their favorite Hollywood entertainers endorsing this, combined with years of Federal court rulings all pointing in the same direction, by shifting its opinion to support for the practice. There are probably no states that can put together the unity against gay marriage that characterized the Southern Democrats' rejection of anti-segregation rulings.

On the other hand, segregation was immoral. If this set of arguments is even close to plausible, public opinion may well shift again in the coming years. In that case, the defiant will be remembered kindly by history rather than as the bigots they are portrayed as being in the contemporary press.

Much depends on what comes next. For the moment, Sen. Cruz is taking the lead boldly down a dark road. Whether that road ends in darkness, or whether joy comes with the morning, is far from clear.

Changing Sides in the Supreme Court

In the term just ending, is it true that the liberal justices voted as a bloc, while the conservatives often voted according to their judicial philosophy instead of their party interests? Yes, according to SCOTUSblog, but only if you're talking about the most important cases:
In the 26, a Justice on the left voted with the right a total of 3 times. In 2 cases, those votes determined the outcome and produced a more conservative result, because Justice Kennedy or one of the conservatives voted for the more liberal result.

In the 26, a Justice on the right voted with the left 14 times. In 6 cases, those votes determined the outcome and produced a more liberal result, because Justice Kennedy voted for the more conservative result.

I also considered the 10 cases I consider most significant. Of those, the left prevailed in 8. Those included the first 7 of the Term. (I mention the early cases to give a sense of how the results must have appeared inside the Court as the Term went along.) The right prevailed in 2, both in the final sitting of the Term.

In the 10, no Justice on the left voted with the right; the four Justices on the left voted together in every one of those cases. A Justice on the right voted with the left 4 times. Those votes determined the outcome in 2 cases, because Justice Kennedy voted for the more conservative result.

This Is Going To Be A Problem For My Hoped-For Jim Webb Candidacy

Bernie Sanders overtaking Hillary in the Democratic primary's momentum. It's true that all my left-leaning friends are huge fans of Bernie. I've yet to find anyone else willing to consider voting for Webb: Democrats want someone farther to the left of Hillary, and Republicans want a full-time Republican.

Well, I've never picked a winner yet: why break the streak?

This Guy Really Is A Priest

It's a trivial matter, sort of, except that the event at which this dishonorable action occurred was supposed to be all about equality of human dignity. He certainly showed some dignity, though not an equality of it.

The $100 million lesson

Noah Kagan was one of the earliest employees at Facebook, but was fired before it went public.  He describes what he learned from the experience.

EPA must consider costs

Today's third opinion reverses a D.C. Circuit decision, and rules that the EPA interpreted its authorizing statute unreasonably when it concluded it need not consider costs in implementing environmental regulations concerning power plant pollutants, especially mercury. The usual suspects dissented, making it a 5-4 split. The case is captioned Michigan v. EPA but normally is referred to as "Utility Air."  The EPA will still have discretion in how to consider costs; the Court ruled, for instance, that it need not conduct a formal cost/benefit analysis, whatever that means.  We'll find out on remand, I guess.

Gerrymandering: voters rule

The Court's second decision today upheld the power of a state's voters over their legislature in a dispute over how gerrymandering concerns should be resolved. Per SCOTUSblog, "In 2000, Arizona voters amended the state’s constitution to give control over redistricting of federal congressional districts to an independent commission. This case is a challenge by the state legislature to that transfer, on the ground that it violated the Elections Clause" of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Kennedy joined the four liberal Justices in a 5-4 decision, which upheld the voters' right to override the legislature's redistricting process. SCOTUSblog further noted that the Supreme Court has several times already declined to address the constitutionality of gerrymandering per se. This decision also does not address the constitutionality of gerrymandering, but only whether the voters (via state constitutional amendment) or the legislature shall have the ultimate say over the drawing of federal congressional district lines. Scalia's dissent suggested that he didn't disagree with the voters' right to control redistricting--he would have dismissed the challenge for lack of jurisdiction--but he joined the dissent out of displeasure with the reasoning of the majority. The four dissenting justices (led by Roberts) objected that the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the redistricting power to state legislatures, not the state populace. The majority, in contrast, acknowledged the state voters' right to rein in their legislature's approach by amending their state constitution to require delegation of the redistricting process to an independent commission. The SCOTUSblog interpretation was that the opinion favors new legislators over incumbents, and therefore has little effect unless the state is undergoing a political shift.

Cruel and unusual death penalties

SCOTUS has issued its final opinions for the year, as well as a list of the new cases it will hear next year.  The first decision upholds Oklahoma's use of an anti-anxiety drug that a lower court found was virtually certain to induce unconsciousness before the state administered a paralytic drug and a heart-stopping drug.  The case arose after anti-death-penalty advocates successfully pressured drug companies to stop making barbiturates available for the death-penalty process, in response to which Oklahoma switched to an alternative method of inducing unconsciousness.  The argument then shifted to whether the alternative drug was adequate; the Court ruled today that the lower court had not committed clear error in accept expert testimony to the drug's effectiveness, and that Oklahoma was not required to prove that the new drug was as effective as the ones that no longer were available.

The oral arguments had been reported to be unusually violent for this staid forum.

Justice Alito delivered the majority opinion, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas.  Justices Scalia and Thomas issued a separate concurring opinion, not disagreeing with the reasoning, but responding to a dissent issued by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, who expressed a renewed plea for the Court to take up the constitutionality of the death penalty.  Justices Kagan and Sotomayor did not join in this plea, which led observers at SCOTUSblog to wonder whether they, like past liberal Justices, had grown less vehement in their opposition to the death penalty after spending some time on the Supreme bench.  Instead, Kagan and Sotomayor issued a separate dissent addressing only the issues concerning Oklahoma's choice of consciousness-terminating drug.

When bad things happen to good birds

Nature, red in tooth and claw, and the webcam viewers who have to deal with it.  (Don't worry, you're not going to find yourself in one of those awful TV commercials about abandoned pets.)

Truck Stop at the End of the World

A cheerful song from the end times, as they were envisioned in the Cold War.

Don't worry about the scales: they're reading megatons.

The Sorrow of Schadenfreude

I can't enjoy it, because the situation is tragic. Still, I can recognize that I ought to feel it. From progressive site anongalactic:
While America was distracted by a the Confederate flag debacle, the U.S. Congress forfeited the entire economic future of the country by quietly passing so-called “fast-track authority” which will allow President Obama to approve the TPP “free trade” agreement.

The TPP, as you may have heard, outright surrenders U.S. sovereignty to multinational corporations, handing them total global monopolies over labor practices, immigration, Big Pharma drug pricing, GMO food labeling, criminalization of garden seeds and much more. In all, the TPP hands over control of 80% of the U.S. economy to global monopolists, and the TPP is set up to enable those corporations to engage in virtually unlimited toxic chemical pollution, medical monopolization, the gutting of labor safety laws and much more.

Plus, did I mention the TPP will displace millions of American works as corporations outsource jobs to foreign workers? While corporations rake in the profits from new global powers, everyday American workers will lose their livelihoods and their jobs (not to mention their pensions)....

While was frantically deleting Confederate flag products from its website and everybody was going bat-crap insane over the 1970’s comedy TV series Dukes of Hazzard and its use of the so-called Confederate flag on a hot rod car, Republicans and the President were busy committing outright treason at the highest levels: surrendering American sovereignty and economically enslaving all of America’s future children.

And that’s the tragic irony of all this: While the political left falsely believed it was denouncing slavery by pressuring every online retailer and government entity to ban the Confederate flag, the U.S. Congress was busy enacting a whole new level of total economic enslavement for everyone, regardless of their skin color.
There's that "treason" word again. It could possibly be deserved, this time, depending on how bad the treaty really is. Since it's still secret, we can't be sure.

The Decline of an American Sport

Headlines from my father's favorite sport:

19 January 2014: NASCAR is turning off fans both old and new.

26 August 2014: As popularity, and seating, wane, NASCAR explores capacity to change

25 February 2015: What has happened to the once high-flying sport of NASCAR?

25 April 2015: Even as attendance and TV ratings drag, NASCAR still has lots of dedicated fans.

So, what you need is a way to get that dedicated hard-core of fans more committed to turning out and tuning in. That should be easy! Remember your roots! How'd stock car racing get started?

That's right: it's that old moonshiner, bootlegger spirit, fast cars racing through the hills on old dirt roads. The law might not like 'em, but they were fast and they were bold and mostly they were just looking out for their family and friends. This is a formula of proven success. Why, I think there was a wildly popular television show once on this subject. Maybe even a movie or two.

Shouldn't be hard to fix, right?


I'm awfully pleased Douglas is posting here now; I always look forward to his comments.  But his first post, with its aside about "a constant stream of inanity," almost discouraged me from posting this, from Ace:


"The Battle of Vienna" the movie

Well this isn't a bad way to inaugurate my privileges at the Hall (Thanks, Grim!)-
Epic battle, heroic leader, Winged Hussars, it looks to have it all:
I came across this link to a new movie slated to be released in October Titled "The Battle of Vienna"- at least in Polish.  Unsurprisingly, it centers on Polish King Jan Sobieski.  It looks like the English title will be "September 11th, 1683", interestingly enough.  No idea if/when it will be released here, or through what channels.  It's nice for us though, that it's in English, with Polish subtitles.
Of course, it reminds me of past Hall favorite:
Maybe more 'diversions' like this movie can start to point us back to things that matter instead of a constant stream of inanity from our entertainment-industrial complex.

Doubling Down on "Treason"

Dr. Michaelson argued (see post immediately below) that Supreme Court decisions that radically overturn state laws should have a 9-0 consensus. This is to limit the sense of the People that the decision is radical, and make it easier for them to accept a limit on their sovereignty. If they are told that they may not pass laws of a given type, at least they can see that the Court is united in its belief that such laws are incompatible with the basic structure of our republic.

This would have been a great limiting principle on the Court's power. Unfortunately, the duty Dr. Michaelson wants to assert is a duty not to dissent.
Did The Four Dissenting Justices In Gay Marriage Case Just Suggest Treason?

In controversial cases, is the role of jurist to inflame controversy, or quell it?...

The four dissents in the landmark case on same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges.... [w]ith invective and hyperbole, they pour fuel on the fire of the controversy over same-sex marriage. Rather than merely state their views and disagreements, they use heated language to accuse the five-person majority of imperialism, a “putsch,” and worse.

Thus, the unprecedented calls of elected officials for open revolt against the Supreme Court—a shocking display of treason—are now accompanied by calls from within the Court itself that Obergefell is illegitimate, and the Supreme Court itself no longer worthy of full respect....

These are, as the saying goes, fighting words, and more importantly, they are words that will inspire others to fight. They are what some call “stochastic terrorism,” the broadcasting of a message so incendiary as to inspire some “lone wolf” to violence—if not actual violence, then precisely the kinds of anti-democratic, anti-American defiance we have already seen among some politicians.
Treason, treason, treason. You must feel very secure in your positions of power.

Judicial Supermajority

Dr. Jay Michaelson argues that a responsible Supreme Court overturns the will of the People as expressed in their state laws and constitutions by putting together a 9-0 decision. That way, the already-controversial decision is easier for the population to accept:
In Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case which found race-based marriage bans unconstitutional, Chief Justice Earl Warren built a 9-0 consensus—just as he’d done years earlier in Brown vs. Board of Education. He knew that a country divided by race ought to be united, if possible, by a Supreme Court mindful of fundamental values—even if the Court was, as the constitution requires, overturning the will of the majority.
It turns out that the rule he devises here isn't that the Court should take such radical action only when there is in fact a 9-0 consensus that such action is necessary. That would be a great rule, one I'd be happy to support, as it would be a limiting principle on a fairly radical power of the Court. We have similar supermajority standards for the other more radical powers of the Federal government: to amend the Constitution or to enter into a treaty that binds the United States both require legislative supermajorities.

In fact, this suggestion strikes me as much better than the one currently under discussion, i.e. to make Supreme Court Justices' tenure contingent on continuing Congressional approval of them. A supermajority requirement doesn't fiddle with the balance of power between the branches, and further, one of the good things about the current structure is that it cools democratic passion by continuing the input of previous administrations on current decisions. That represents a good power-sharing function, and often the Court is the only hope of the minority currently out of power that its views will still be considered by the party currently holding the levers. I should not wish to see that function change.

On the other hand, a supermajoirty requirement could be structured to restrain Court radicalism very easily. Any time that a Court ruling would require us to believe that the People had ratified a right without realizing it, they should require a 9-0 consensus. Any time we have to assume that laws that have continued to be in force without interruption since the ratification of an amendment were really invalidated by that amendment, there should be a 9-0 consensus. And perhaps any time multiple state constitutions have to be overturned, there should be a smaller supermajority -- 7-2, perhaps -- given that the state constitutional amendment process is already a supermajority process (and that anyone can escape a state constitution they find oppressive by simply moving to another state).

Unfortunately, that's not Dr. Michaelson's point at all. It's such a good point, though, I thought it deserved its own post.

A Theological Matter of Some Urgency

So it's Ramadan, which means that Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink from sunrise until sunset. That's troublesome when Ramadan falls in the winter time, as it sometimes does because it is a lunar month and thus drifts about the Gregorian calendar, but it's harder when it falls in summer months.

It turns out it's harder still given recent Muslim immigration to Sweden.
Muslims in the Arctic Circle are urgently coming up with new rules for Ramadan when they are banned from eating during the day - as the region will have 24-hour sunshine.

A Swedish Muslim association says new guidelines are being drawn up for the fasting month, which begins on June 18 this year, as members of the religion are not supposed to eat until sunset.
It strikes me that this is a real problem for the claim that these rules were given by God through the angel Gabriel to Mohammad with the intent that they should stand as eternal and perfect rules for human beings in all times and places. Clearly they should revisit Averroes' suggestion that, occasionally, a little ijtihad might be necessary: and perhaps ask if, given this manifest example, they should not apply the rule more widely as the philosopher suggested.