Happy "World Beard Day"

Today, while celebrating the glories of beards around us, we contemplate an immortal question: Who had the better beard?


or Zeus?

Turning from gods to wizards:


Or Merlin?

Turning from wizards to kings:


Or Aragorn?

Hah! That's a trick question -- Aragorn didn't have a beard. If you run his name through Google, though, you'll be pretty sure he did.

Trump Beats Clinton

According to SurveyUSA:
Donald Trump has a clear path to the White House, according to a shocking new poll from SurveyUSA. Trump beats Hillary Clinton 45 percent to 40 percent, with 16 percent of voters undecided. He wins a huge share of the Democrats’ non-white base — 25 percent of African Americans, 31 percent of Hispanics and 41 percent of the relatively small Asian vote. That’s a heart attack for the GOP establishment...
For the GOP establishment? How do you think it plays with the Democratic Party establishment?

SurveyUSA is a pretty good outfit as pollsters go. In 2012 it skewed Republican v. the final results, but only by 0.5%, with an average error of 2.3% -- meaning it erred both ways, but overall it erred on the Republican side slightly more often. Gallup, by contrast, had an average error of 7.2%, all toward the Republican side.

Every other candidate in the race has nowhere to go but up versus Trump because of his strong name recognition. But Clinton is a household name, too. Everyone else can take comfort in the fact that as people come to know who they are, they'll earn support against Trump versus where they are now. Clinton's camp can't believe that to be true.

Always Hire Experienced Help

Headline: "Iran working with North Korea to thwart U.N. nuclear inspections: report."

Who else would you hire? They're the world-beating experts on that.
Their presence in Tehran has been kept secret with the help of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite military force that serves Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The nuclear experts work in a guarded office building at the Hemmat complex and are transported to and from work in tinted-glass vehicles escorted by members of the terrorist-affiliated Quds force.

In addition, the six-man North Korean team reportedly collaborates with Nouri Industries, which builds warheads for Shabab and Ghadr missiles. Nouri also works closely with a subdivision of the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, also known by its Farsi acronym SPND.
Oh, well, it's good that we gave away sanctions on Iran's purchase and testing of ballistic missiles, then.

Life Imitates The... Duffel Blog

Duffel Blog, 2012: "Mob Violence Breaks Out At West Point, 63 Wounded."

Actual Headline, 2015: "30 military cadets hurt in West Point pillow fight."

Merle Haggard Answers Your Questions

Hey, Merle, what do you think of today's country music?
He had very nice things to say about up-and-comer Sturgill Simpson, who is currently opening for Merle on tour. He says, "As far as I'm concerned, he's the only one out there...he comes out and does a great show."

As far as other contemporary country music artists? "The rest of them sound like a bunch of (crap) to me," he says.
I think there are some great acts out there, but they aren't making it to the radio. In any case, here's the one he likes.

You know, he does sound kind of like some of Merle's old friends.

I admired Merle's answer to the question of what he's doing with his declining years.
"I feel fine right now. I don't really have much sign of aging and I've been through cancer, so I ain't scared of that no more. Looks like somebody wants me alive, so I'm gonna do my best to act like I'm alive. i still enjoy playing. The traveling gets a little rougher every year, but maybe they'll fix the roads."
Maybe they will.

A Modest Proposal

A proposal from what I think is probably a young feminist: "We Need to Be Able to Call Out Kim Davis’ Bigotry without Slut-Shaming or Hillbilly-Shaming." The move to try to divorce bigotry from being a hillbilly is new to me: I haven't seen that one before. It's a healthy concept, though.

I'm not sure it's very important to "be able to criticize her bigotry," as mostly a charge of bigotry is used to raise an emotional wall with her on the other side of it. You need not examine her position more closely, because if she's a bigot she's a bad, ugly -- well, not in the physical sense -- person who's obviously nothing like us good people over here. It would be worth seeing if she can be criticized on rational grounds.

And, as it turns out, it's not even hard to do this. She's at fault for being a public official who does not obey the law. For the most part, and with some exceptions, conservatives have no problem admitting to this. Even if you admire her guts for standing up to the Supreme Court, conservatives in general know what the responsible line to take is. So if you want to criticize her on those grounds, you'd find that mostly your opponents on the larger issue (bigots, no doubt) agree with you.

So why not defend the idea that the people whose job it is to enforce the law must obey the law, or be disqualified from holding public office?
When Kim Davis, the Rowan County, KY, clerk was hauled off to jail for refusing to give marriage licenses, a White House spokesman said no official is above the law. Hillary Clinton cheered on Twitter.
Oh, right. That's why.

Apparently Someone Is Jealous That Iran Gets All The Attention

Also known as, 'We could totally take Okinawa.'

Especially nice given the translation of the final lines in Chinese, which CFR gives as:
China is strong, victorious wars require deaths; for all to be strong and safe, [we] face the risks and dangers of war. We wholeheartedly love peace, but must be prepared for the likelihood of war. We respectfully and solemnly commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war against Japan.
Oh yes, very respectful. I'm sure the Japanese will appreciate the sentiment appropriately.

This is what bothers me about knee-jerk neo-feminism

This webcomic posits that "since Disney killed the Expanded Universe [in Star Wars], there is no reason to assume all Stormtroopers were men except Patriarchy" (added emphasis mine).  My objection is that either way I can read that statement, the artist is wrong.  And we're going to get into some Star Wars esoterica here, so if that's not your thing, you may want to skip this one.

A Hilarious Juxtaposition

In reply to the excellent Atlantic article, "The Coddling of the American Mind," by Greg Lukianof, of FIRE, and Jonathan Haidt, a social scientist with a dangerous streak of honesty in him, George Sachs, a clinical psychologist, writes "10 Ways White Liberals Perpetuate Racism."

Lukianof and Haidt argue that the spirit of "vindictive protectiveness" that demands punishment for people who commit alleged microaggressions actually harms the very students it claims to protect. "A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers," they write, "is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically."

Sachs's counter-argument, of course, is that they should just shut up. He writes:

Perhaps you agree with The Atlantic and think that college students are just too uptight and politically correct. Most of The Atlantic readers are liberal White Americans who are doing their part to make the world a better place for all creeds and colors. Like many 40-something White liberals, I too assume I'm relatively open-minded and conscious of my white privilege. "I'm not a racist," I say to myself, when images of police brutality flash on the screen. "I'm not like those white people."

Or am I?

Like me, you probably voted for Barack Obama, were outraged by the verdicts in the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. You even work hard to check your white privilege at the door when going to a #blacklivesmatter protest march.


Many of you may stop reading now, thinking, "Here we go with the political correctness." You say to yourself: "I'm not perpetuating racism, and I'm certainly not invalidating people of color. Donald Trump may be, but not me.

That's what I used to think. But, right there, you're committing a microinvalidation. It's called Denial.

Yes, that's right. Denying you are racist is, as we've all suspected for so long now, proof that you are racist. Sachs then lists 10 ways white liberals are racist.

I'll summarize below the fold, but I highly recommend you just go over and read it in all of its awesome absurdity. It's well worth it.

Keep in mind, this is what they're teaching kids at school these days.

Take the Fifth? Like a Fifth of Bourbon?

That was Ace's echo of Hillary Clinton's inimitable "Wipe the disk? Like with a cloth?"

We hear today that Clinton's IT aide will take the Fifth rather than testify before Congress about her email server.  But not to worry, the Clinton campaign has explained that this in no way casts a criminal light on Her Inevitableness:
. . . Bry­an Pagliano, the former State De­part­ment com­puter staffer and aide in her 2008 White House run who helped to set up Clin­ton’s private serv­er in 2009, planned to in­voke his Fifth Amend­ment rights in­stead of ap­pear­ing at a de­pos­ition be­fore the com­mit­tee next week.
Re­pub­lic­ans served him with a sub­poena last month.
Clin­ton’s cam­paign said Pagliano’s de­cision was dis­ap­point­ing but un­der­stand­able. “We had hoped Bry­an would also agree to an­swer any ques­tions from the com­mit­tee, and had re­cently en­cour­aged him to grant the com­mit­tee’s re­quest for an in­ter­view,” an aide said. “Bry­an is an ut­ter pro­fes­sion­al and a won­der­ful young man who does not live in the pub­lic eye and un­der­stand­ably may not wish to be drawn in­to a polit­ic­al spec­tacle. So his de­cision is both un­der­stand­able and yet also dis­ap­point­ing to us, be­cause we be­lieve he has every reas­on to be trans­par­ent about his IT as­sist­ance,” the cam­paign aide said.
 Elijah Cummings has dutifully taken up this refrain.  There's just one problem:  you don't get to take the Fifth because you'd prefer not to be drawn into a political spectacle.  You have to be facing the prospect of incriminating yourself by answering questions.

It Would Certainly Complicate the Agenda

“The idea of natural law superceding this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed,” U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning told Rowan County clerk Kim Davis.
Turns out she's an elected official, which I hadn't realized. The government can't just fire her: she occupies the office by popular mandate. So jail it is, until and unless she submits to the will of the Federal courts.

UPDATE: On reflection, if that is the judge's reasoning, this is a case that really deserves appeal. There's an argument that natural law absolutely must supersede the court's authority because it is the source of the court's authority. The argument goes like this:

1) The Declaration of Independence states that breaking away from the British was justified by a decision to assume the separate and equal status to which "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them."

2) The Declaration of Independence further states that the justification for the forming of this or any government is to protect rights from the "Creator," and that any government that becomes destructive of this defense of natural rights may be altered or abolished -- that is, superseded.

3) The US Constitution is only one such government, and indeed the second iteration of the project declared by the Declaration of Independence. It does not have authority separate from the appeal to the Laws of Nature and Nature's God cited in the Declaration.

4) Therefore, the Laws of Nature and Nature's God very much do supersede the decisions of this or any Federal court. Not only the court but the Federal government exist only to guard the rights that also are rooted in the Creator's laws.

5) Since the Constitution is justified as an iteration of this claim, the antiestablishment clause of the First Amendment must be read as not in conflict with the claim. No government can have a just power to violate the Laws of Nature and Nature's God under the terms of the Declaration, and this government is only the second iteration of the Declaration's project.

The Federal courts need to show not that they are independent of, let alone superior to, natural law -- they cannot be. They need to show that this project is in accord with natural law.

See also this paper, which inspired my line of thinking, and which is subtitled, "Why the Constitution is a Suicide Pact." By similarly deriving all Constitutional powers from the claims of the Declaration, he finds that there are some things that the Constitution cannot allow us to agree to even if it means our national destruction -- for example, abrogation of natural rights. If that argument is right, so is this one.

It's the little things they get wrong...

From the Washington Post: "Thousands of e-mails that have been released by the State Department as part of a public records lawsuit show Clinton herself writing at least six e-mails containing information that has since been deemed classified."

No, that information was always classified, she just violated the law by failing to mark (and treat) it as such. Classified information is classified because of what it is, not how it is marked. And I expect much of her defense will revolve around "well I didn't KNOW it was classified since it wasn't marked" (which is a pathetic excuse and immaterial to the crime itself anyway).They have not been deemed classified now, they have merely been exposed as containing classified information.  They were classified when she wrote them.
"In response to questions . . . Mr. Pagliano’s legal counsel told the committee yesterday that he would plead the Fifth to any and all questions if he were compelled to testify,"
To me, the solution seems simple. Offer him total immunity to any charges relating to the actions he took in that timeframe (but NOT to lying to Congress). He then cannot plead the Fifth as he cannot incriminate himself with his testimony. We shouldn't really care about prosecuting this guy, we should care about nailing his lawbreaking boss to the wall.

Nothing to See Here

The President has advised us to ignore Iran's Supreme Leader, so all that 'Death to America' stuff and the Ayatollah's 416-page book detailing his plans to "outwit the US and destroy Israel" can be safely set aside.

Are we also supposed to ignore the Revolutionary Guards' top commander when he explains that "(the US and the Zionists) should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine”?

Probably, since his orders come from that "Supreme Leader" guy. We've already been told that nothing he says really matters.

An Odd Thing To Be A Felony

As Ricochet’s Tom Meyer points out, the third-degree charges—which constitute a majority of the total charges—actually stem from the pictures Copening had of himself. The implication is clear: Copening does not own himself, from the standpoint of the law, and is not free to keep sexually-provocative pictures, even if they depict his own body.

But consider this: North Carolina is one of two states in the country (the other is progressive New York) that considers 16 to be the age of adulthood for criminal purposes. This mean, of course, that Copening can be tried as an adult for exploiting a minor—himself.
None of the charges really make a lot of sense, since the other pictures were of his girlfriend and she willingly took them herself and sent them to him, in return for the pictures of himself he sent her. This business of transmitting naked photos of yourself to potential suitors is an odd practice, and I would advise against it if we have any teenage readers. It is not a great idea for a host of reasons, even where you won't face felony charges for doing it. And I would certainly advise you that if a young lady does send you naked photos of herself, you should immediately remove them from your phone and under no circumstances ever transmit them to anyone else nor allow them to fall into anyone else's hands. A gentleman's discretion is never better exercised than where a lady is concerned.

Still, as inadvisable as the practice certainly is, it is also rather clearly different from the child pornography that I assume was the real point of the NC law. In any case, the 16 year old girl also faced charges for taking a photo of herself, and plead guilty to them. The charges the young man is facing, however, are felony charges that could send him to prison for up to a decade.

Killing Tunisia

An incredibly sad piece on Tunisia after the terrorist attack on the beach:
Look at Tunisia’s resort city of Sousse on the Mediterranean. Two months ago, an ISIS-inspired nutcase named Seifeddine Rezgui strolled up the beach with a Kalashnikov in his hand and murdered 38 people, most of them tourists from Britain.
The police shot him, of course. There was never going to be any other ending than that one. And before the police arrived, local Tunisians formed a protective human shield around Rezgui’s would-be foreign victims. “Kill us! Kill us, not these people!” shouted Mohamed Amine. According to survivor John Yeoman, hotel staff members charged the gunman and said, “We won’t let you through. You’ll have to go through us.”
Tunisia’s hospitality and customer service are deservedly legendary, but that was truly above and beyond. It’s how Tunisia rolls, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. Tourists are not going back.
The loss of the tourism trade is badly hurting the city, but they have a treasure in their people and their culture. I hope they can find a way to recover.

I love puns

This is mostly for Ms. Cass, but I'm sure the Hall will appreciate it as well.

Taylor Swift: A Socratic Dialogue

In spite of my best efforts, I do occasionally find myself exposed to popular culture. As a result, this is amusing.

Flat curves

Trump is confusing me on the tax front:
As with many of Mr. Trump’s policy ideas, confusion seems to be keeping interested parties from knowing exactly how to respond. In an interview with Fox News last week, Mr. Trump said a flat tax would be a viable improvement to America’s tax system. Moments later, he suggested that a flat tax would be unfair because the rich would be taxed at the same rate as the poor.
“The one problem I have with the flat tax is that rich people are paying the same as people that are making very little money,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think there should be a graduation of some kind.”
Does this man understand that a flat tax means one that's not progressive? That a tax code can't be both at the same time?  The most charitable construction I can put on this is that he'd like the code to be pretty flat until you get to the super-rich, then do a hockey-stick.  Unfortunately, top-heavy tax structures  are notoriously unstable, yielding high revenues in good times and dropping sharply in bad times, as California is discovering.  Sometimes sticking it to rich people, no matter how satisfying, doesn't yield economic prosperity for the rest of us.

More discouraging political news: poll respondents' answers vary considerably depending on whether a question reads "Public Figure X supports policy ABC, do you agree?" or "Public Figure Y supports policy ABC, do you agree?" In particular, you can get quite different results on issues like affirmative action and the Iran deal depending on whether you insert "President Obama" or "Donald Trump." Sadly, you can get different results even if you insert a fictitious "policy ABC," such as "Should we repeal the Public Affairs Act of 1975?"  You can get a good chunk of people to guess what's in such an Act, which doesn't exist.

Maybe I'm weird: I decide whether I can stomach someone like Donald Trump on the basis of what policies I think he'll support, not vice versa. His tax views aren't helping. He sure can get attention, though, which is something. He went on Twitter the other day to call Anthony Wiener a "purve sleazeball," which makes up in vivid accuracy what it lacks in propriety. Along those lines, I find a sneaking admiration for Sidney Blumenthal's powers of expression in calling John Boehner "louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle." Like RedState, I had to look up louche, a word I've been hearing all my life without attaching any very specific meaning to it: it means discreditable, disgraceful, dishonorable, ignominious, infamous, disreputable, notorious, opprobrious, shady, shameful, shoddy, shy, or unrespectable, though literally "cross-eyed" or "squinty."

H/t my morning's email from Jim Geraghty, which I don't know how to link.

'Stands to Reason' Economics Takes A Hit

Noah Smith says that economists are "a rogue branch of applied math."
Traditionally, economists have put the facts in a subordinate role and theory in the driver’s seat. Plausible-sounding theories are believed to be true unless proven false, while empirical facts are often dismissed if they don’t make sense in the context of leading theories. This isn’t a problem with math -- it was just as true back when economics theories were written out in long literary volumes. Econ developed as a form of philosophy and then added math later, becoming basically a form of mathematical philosophy.

In other words, econ is now a rogue branch of applied math. Developed without access to good data, it evolved different scientific values and conventions. But this is changing fast, as information technology and the computer revolution have furnished economists with mountains of data.
His proposed solution is to turn the thinking over to machines instead of people. I wonder how well that will work? Economic activity is based on decisions made by people for fairly complex reasons that machines don't experience. On the other hand, they'll be considering the data at a level of abstraction that will mask the actual causes of the decisions, and treat the decisions themselves as the data. Does losing the causality hurt anything? We'll find out.

My concern, of course, is that if it does work well the people literally drop out of the equation. We'll make policy as if the decisions were what counted, and not the people who make those decisions -- and especially not what they hoped to achieve by making the decisions. But the purpose of economic activity is that very thing we'll be dropping out of our system for thinking about the activity. The real question by which you should judge economic activity is how well it helps the many, many people involved achieve what they'd hoped to achieve by undertaking an economic action. If you get a job, does it help you flourish, or does it lock you into a company store? Are you blocked from making economic decisions about selling your milk or pumpkins because of oppressive government regulation, and your inactivity doesn't show up in the data because it never rises to the level of a decision that can be counted?

Just the things I think we ought to care about are the things that will drop out of consideration.

Clever polio

Life fights back, as Michael Crichton would say. Our immunization campaign against polio has been remarkably effective, but there are chinks in the armor.
A little refresher on polio vaccines: There are two, the original injectable that uses killed virus (Jonas Salk’s original vaccine) and the oral drop version that contains a weakened live virus (Albert Sabin’s formula). The oral vaccine was the first one used in the international eradication campaign, because it is inexpensive to make and can be administered by anyone. It is still used in the developing world, though industrialized countries have gone back to the original injectable.
For all its benefits, the oral version has a known issue, a combination of bug and feature. Once it is given, the vaccine virus replicates in the gut. The feature part is that, when the vaccine virus passes out of the body, it can spread through the environment of places with poor sanitation, conferring a kind of passive secondary immunization on others nearby. The bug part is that, in the few weeks it is replicating, the vaccine virus mutates, and sometimes mutates back past the artificial weakening to the original disease-causing form.
British health authorities are aware of a man of about 30 who has been shedding live polio virus in his waste since he was a small child. It's a rare problem, requiring bad luck in the mutation of the live virus in the man's childhood oral vaccine combined with a immune system disorder just bad enough to let the polio virus live and not bad enough to kill him quickly. Occasional short-term vaccine-induced polio outbreaks have been known to happen on several dozen occasions since the polio-eradication program began in the 1950s. They're a terrible problem, not only because any unvaccinated or immuno-compromised locals are at risk of an awful disease, but because vaccination programs are controversial enough in the some areas of the world without having to make suspicious communities even more suspicious of outsiders' plot to sicken and kill them with mysterious medical technology.

Who's War Against Whom?

The new JSOC book gets a writeup at the Daily Beast, with the very strange title "Inside U.S. Commandos' War Against Iran." As becomes evident immediately, it's really that Iran's been waging war on us.

I Knew Blumenthal Would Be in the Clique

Last Saturday:
I've been reflecting on it more since we last talked about it, and I think maybe the most likely case is that the Hillary State Department -- or at least her clique of advisers and aides, as well as non-DOS personnel from her faction like Sidney Blumenthal -- were just completely careless about classification. It's less likely that they downloaded or wrote down information from the TS system to transfer onto the private email server than that they summarized what they'd read on the TS systems in unclassified emails. Quite possibly she and they believed this was perfectly safe to do, as they controlled the server and were only talking to other members of the trusted in-group.
Hillary’s classified missives weren’t sent to just State Department personnel. She also disseminated highly classified information to private citizens who did not have security clearances. In this 2009 e-mail exchange, for example, Clinton sent confidential classified national security information to Sidney Blumenthal, a shady former Clinton White House operative who the Obama White House banned from federal employment... The bulk of Hillary Clinton’s message to Blumenthal was redacted, under codes 1.4(D) and 1.4(B) because classification authorities determined it contained classified information “which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security[.]”

An Unlikely Reading of Plato

A philosopher writes:
Imagine, for a moment, if, during the tense final hours of the recently concluded negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 world powers, Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif decided to set aside their remaining differences regarding the inspections regime and stockpiles of enriched uranium and turn for a moment to the fundamental questions that divide the two nations. Not differences in policy but in first principles.

Imagine Secretary Kerry explaining to his Iranian counterpart the philosophical roots and anthropological assumptions of American liberalism. And imagine Foreign Minister Zarif similarly providing an account of the Islamic republic. Imagine this debate continuing, fueled by endless cups of tea, long into the night, as Kerry discusses, say, John Locke and James Madison and the American founding, and Zarif discourses on Mulla Sadra and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Iranian revolution, as they argue about the nature of the human being, the purpose of the political community, the origin of law, and the meaning of justice.

And imagine that, as the morning sun finally rises over the city of Vienna, the two exhausted statesmen slump back to the negotiating table, now with a more sophisticated understanding of and respect for one another, and, over strong coffee, hammer out the final niggling details of the agreement in an amiable and conciliatory manner.
I can imagine everything except that last part. Fully understanding that you are negotiating with someone who has a vastly different idea about justice is not going to encourage you to negotiate in a "conciliatory manner." It's going to completely undermine your confidence that your partner is negotiating in a manner you would recognize as just. How can you take a huge risk like this on someone whose view of justice is so different from yours?

Plato gives us a picture of something quite like this in his Protagoras. Socrates shows up at a house where several other thinkers are gathered. He is accompanying a friend of his who wants to study with one of these thinkers, Protagoras. Socrates tests the quality of Protagoras' teaching by engaging him in a philosophical debate of just the kind the fellow here is proposing. It does not end in agreement, friendship, or anything good: in the end, they are exhausted with each other and firmly set in their disagreement. Both positions, though, have been proven untenable: Socrates argues that virtue is knowledge but that it can't be taught, whereas Protagoras argues that it isn't knowledge but that it is his business to teach it. Neither position even makes sense, yet they have both given their reasons and are committed to them. Socrates is the better man, the dialogue implies, because he is at least willing to admit that his position can't be true. The discussion, though, doesn't increase their friendship or mutual understanding. It only increases their desire to be rid of each other.

Eventually almost the whole of Athens felt that way about Socrates. It's why they killed him.

Should the Senate go nuclear on the Iran deal?

Interesting poll results on the public's view of the Iran deal.  If you're white, black, hispanic, young, old, male, or female, the chances are you think it will make the world less safe.  The only demographic that slips over the 50-yard line toward support is Democrats.

Jim Geraghty threw out the idea last week that the Senate should defeat the deal on a majority vote.  Allahpundit picks it up and runs with it:
The question is, what do you do once the filibuster’s been nuked? If the GOP decides to pass a resolution declaring the Iran deal a treaty that requires two-thirds of the Senate to approve it, Obama will veto that resolution. That shouldn’t matter — since when is Article II contingent upon the president’s assent? — but you’re looking at a court battle at least, and the public will be bewildered after weeks of “does Obama have the Senate votes to protect his Iran deal?” headlines suddenly switch to “GOP changes rules on voting to block Iran deal.” They should have pounded the table about the treaty requirements from the beginning. Since they didn’t, though, maybe Geraghty’s plan could operate as a compromise solution, one that wouldn’t stop the deal but might embarrass Obama. If they nuked the filibuster, they’d at least get their resolution of disapproval to Obama’s desk, something Democrats are nervous about right now because of the message of no confidence it would send internationally in Obama generally and the Iran deal specifically. Iran may lose confidence that the deal will survive and look to back out. At a bare minimum, forcing a veto would be a political humiliation and a way for Republicans to wash their hands publicly of the outcome of this charade once it’s implemented. It’s a way to lay the whole thing in Obama’s lap. Having squandered all of their leverage, it’s probably the best play Republicans have left.
I'm trying to apply Cassandra's test to this approach: do we really want to sink to the level of some tactics just because we face them? Cassandra would make an excellent appellate judge, by the way: scrupulously fair, able to think through complicated ramifications, and determined to find rules that will serve equally well no matter whom they are applied to.  I don't want to see the filibuster undermined; on the other hand, it's been undermined, and I'll like to keep some balance in where it still applies.


"In your face, Republicans!"

Apparently this is yet another example of John Stewart driving the national agenda. If you don't watch television, you probably didn't know there was an issue with the name of a mountain in Alaska. You almost certainly didn't care about the issue you probably didn't know about. But now you're being mocked for losing a debate you didn't know we were having, about an issue you didn't care about. It's really important, the mockery.

That Kentucky Clerk

You have to admire the guts of a woman who tells the Supreme Court that it can go jump. Dad29 wonders if the US Marshals will be sent to forcibly remove her from her office, while pointing out that the Obama administration has ignored SCOTUS rulings on several points lately. Ed Morrissey takes the responsible conservative line and points out that the government must obey the rule of law, and that someone who works for the government ought therefore obey the law or else resign. Of course, that's true for the President and the EPA, too.

Agreement and dispute

From a C.S. Lewis essay, "On the Reading of Old Books," to which AVI drew our attention at Maggie's Farm:
We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.


Excellent clickbait site.  Most of the images have nothing to do with bricks, but these were two good ones:

Carbon-testing the Iranian side deal

Powerline's Scott Johnson summarizes the investigation into the secret side deal allowing Iran to control its own nuclear inspections, as reported by Fred Fleitz in IBD/NRO:
When the AP’s George Jahn first broke the story of the secret side deal with Iran on Parchin, the side deal was viewed as so absurd that it was attacked by the left-wing media as a forgery. In the spirit of President Obama, the forgery was imputed in some precincts to Israeli intelligence. The side deal, with its self-inspection provisions — text here — is indeed absurd but, unfortunately, it is the real deal.
Johnson concludes:
[I]t’s hard to see how anyone in Congress can vote for it in light of this deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to conceal from Congress its effort to drop a crucial benchmark needed to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement.
Is it hard?  Do we really think the Senators who are planning to vote for it are struggling with their decision?

Volk und Land/Raza y Tierra

From Victor Davis Hansen, "How Illegal Immigration Finally Turned Off the Public":
Sometime in the last five years, the public woke up and grasped that Latino elite activists were not so much interested in illegal immigration per se, but only to the degree that the issue affected other Latinos. Were 3,000 Chinese illegally entering California per day by ship on the Northern California coast, Latino activists and politicians would probably be the first to call for enforcement of federal immigration law.

Alright, Let's Tie This Together

The main theme there is "Scotland the Brave." 'Land of the flowing river / land of my high endeavor! Land of my heart forever, Scotland, the Brave.'

Steve 'N' Seagulls vs. the Finland Women's National Ice Hockey Team

I'm kind of off in the academic version of a cage match at the moment, but randomly ran into this and had to share. I think we've seen the Steve 'N' Seagulls before, so here the Finnish bluegrass metal cover band is again. The real fun starts about halfway in.

And "Itchy Fingers," because -- flaming bagpipes.

Let's Have a Song

It's September, after all.

Not a Professor

That was fast.
On Monday, West Point law professor William C. Bradford resigned after The Guardian reported that he had allegedly inflated his academic credentials. Bradford made headlines last week, when the editors of the National Security Law Journal denounced a controversial article by him in their own summer issue:
As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits. We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.

That's A Good Question

I assume someone fed her these questions, but they must have talked her through the concepts so that she could understand the answers. Well, had she gotten many answers!

The Hell You Say

Headline: "Green Berets have growing doubts of duties with skittish political leadership."

Why read?

In Commentary Magazine, Gary Saul Morson explains how he thinks many young students are chased away from studying literature.  The whole essay was good, but I particularly like this discursion into empathy.  It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis remarked about the insistently inward-looking habit of the ill.  It's also a good warning about the perils of victim status.  Not that I am often victimized, having a comfortable life, but on the rare occasions that it happens I recognize these same results in myself:
Chekhov’s story “Enemies” describes a doctor named Kirillov, whose son has just died, comforting his grieving wife as his face displays “that subtle, almost elusive beauty of human sorrow.” We empathize with him, not only for his grief over his son, but also because of his empathy for his wife. It’s a chain of empathy, and we are its last link.
Then the wealthy Abogin arrives to beg the doctor to visit his dying wife, and the doctor, with extreme reluctance, at last recognizes he has no choice. When they finally arrive, it turns out Abogin’s wife has only feigned illness to get rid of her husband long enough to escape with her lover. As Abogin cries and opens his heart to the doctor “with perfect sincerity,” Kirillov notices the luxurious surroundings, the violoncello case that bespeaks higher cultural status, and reacts wrathfully. He shouts that he is the victim who deserves sympathy because the sacred moment of his own mourning has been ruined for nothing.
Nothing makes us less capable of empathy than consciousness of victimhood. Self-conscious victimhood leads to cruelty that calls itself righteousness and thereby generates more victims. Students who encounter this idea experience a thrill of recognition. Kirillov experiences “that profound and somewhat cynical, ugly contempt only to be found in the eyes of sorrow and indigence” when confronted with “well-nourished comfort,” and he surrenders to righteous rage.
In this story, each man feels, justly, that he has been wronged by the other. And so neither receives the understanding he deserves. We empathize with both but also feel that they could have chosen instead to empathize with each other. But, as the author explains: “The egoism of the unhappy was conspicuous in both. The unhappy are egoistic, spiteful, unjust, cruel, and less capable of understanding each other than fools. Unhappiness does not bring people together but draws them apart.” That is still more the case when unhappiness makes us feel morally superior.
This was good, too:
Many years ago, when Northwestern student course evaluations appeared in book form, I came across a response to a course on Dickens: “Don’t take this course unless you want to read a lot of Dickens!”
And this:
Students will acquire the skill to inhabit the author’s world. Her perspective becomes one with which they are intimate, and which, when their own way of thinking leads them to a dead end, they can temporarily adopt to see if it might help. Novelistic empathy gives them a diversity of ways of thinking and feeling. They can escape from the prison house of self.
H/t Maggie's Farm.

Planning ahead

James's comment below reminded me that I hadn't frequented Dr. Boli's blog in ever so long.  Among this week's offerings is a link to a website displaying gravestones, which they prefer to call monuments.  And very monumental they are!  Prepare to stretch your eyes.

I have explained to my husband that it's of no importance what's done with my body--give it to science, cremate it, whatever--but I would appreciate his keeping any funeral tackiness to a minimum.  Of the monuments pictured on the linked site, perhaps only the winged lion would suit me.  Or just skip the monument.  In any case, if the word "Celebration" or any canned music is included in my exequies, I will haunt him to his own unlovely grave.  Bagpipes would be appropriate.

Update:  the NPH tells me he recently saw a site illustrating innovative funeral-home viewings, like laying the deceased out in a lawn chair or--and I know this will be as popular a theme here as on Dr. Boli's not-to-be-missed comment thread--on a motorcycle.

Searching for that link also yielded this one, which is pinky-swear not a spoof despite the employment of the word "awesome" in the title.  It's the Martha-Stewartization of memorial services, and I guess it was only a matter of time before this sort of thing spilled over from what we see at weddings already.  My favorite touch:

Also, you know the iconic half-buried Cadillacs? I'd like Airstreams.  Something awesome.

Comma love

I'm a nerd, the first to admit it, so I'll admit enjoyment of columns about heated controversies over grammar.  I'll even declare my true colors right up front:  I like and use the Oxford comma.  Lawyers mostly don't, so I've never been in the habit of quarreling over it when riding herd on vast swarms of lawyers all collaborating on the drafting of documents that can go into the thousands of pages.  All that ever was particularly important to me was that we pick a rule, any rule, and then try to stick to it throughout the document.  Which comma rule?  I decline to argue the point, or the choice between "data is" and "data are."  Actually, the Nate Silver piece adopts the view that surely makes the most sense:  take a poll.

Now, who would have thought that the Oxford comma would win the linked poll?  General reading suggests that it's almost dropped out of common use, something of interest--per the  article--only to people passionate enough about grammar that they're willing to describe themselves as "expert."

You might describe me as a language atavist.  I rarely split an infinitive in writing, or even dangle a participle, and I still make the distinction between "may" and "might" that has almost completely disappeared from modern English.  I haven't yet taken up the craze for "zhir" or "zhwangi" or whatever it is, and I'm really grumpy about the kids on my lawn, or I would be if I had a lawn and there were any kids within a mile or so.

Carbon Dating the Oldest Koran

Biblical scholars worry sometimes that we don't have very early Christian documents -- you are probably all familiar with the debate over dismantling mummy masks in the hope that the writing on the inside will prove to be of historic interest. Nobody thinks, however, that any Christian document predates Jesus.

Scientists now think the Koran predates Muhammad, though, which will be very interesting if it proves true. Muhammad is supposed to have recited the Koran, bringing it into the world directly from the Archangel Gabriel.

British Scandals are Weird

This one involves a spy who was found dead naked inside a locked duffel bag, after hacking Hillary Clinton's email server. Theories on how that happened include 'it was an accident.'

American Outlaws

Your government is about to approve that Iran deal without even a vote in Congress. The White House really wants Congress not to vote. Congress seems ready to go along with that.

There's going to be a rally in DC on 9 September. It's headed by Cruz and, yes, Trump. We'll let that go for now.

I'm thinking of riding up. Who among you would join me?

More lists

We're having a little spate of "lists of best English novels," the newest entry being from Tyler Cowen.  I find that I have read and enjoyed half of his list, but lack the slightest inclination to read the other half.

As usual a spirited argument develops in the comments thread.  Surely the value of these things is not to settle once and for all which are the best books, but to find out something about books that other people are prepared to recommend wholeheartedly.  I'm often surprised when I finally get around to reading a "classic," but the surprise can just as easily take either of two forms:  (1) Why, this is delightful, what took me so long? or (2) What in the world do people see in this dreary mess?  I bogged down immediately, for instance, in the copy of "The Way We Live Now" that I downloaded on the recommendation of the recent Guardian List.  Oh, no, not another exhaustive examination of the wasted life of a young narcissist who spends beyond his income and can't face reality?  If I get 50 pages into a novel and still haven't met a character whose future I care about, I'm in trouble.  The narrative voice had better be something pretty special in that case, and I suppose Mr. Trollope and I don't see eye to eye.  Too bad, because a "drawing room" novel is usually just the thing for me.

Education of the future

If I were a young person choosing a field of work or study, I'd be inclined to give coding a shot.  It sounds wide open for people willing to keep learning something new.  Business applications for nanotechnology would be attractive as well.

This WSJ article suggests that colleges aren't focusing on the right training in the coding field.  It's still largely a self-taught skill pursued by the passionate, and boy, are they rock stars if they turn out to be good at it.

Tennessee Too?

My family's been from Tennessee since the 1700s. So it's of some concern to me to see our civilization washing away there.
Not to play this stupid game, but I’m curious: Why does “they/them/their” turn into “xe/xem/xyr” instead of the more logical “zey/zem/zeir”? Also, why isn’t “they/them/their” proper usage for someone who’s trans, whether singular or plural? I mean, purely in terms of how it scans, “xyr” is an abomination.
The whole thing is. If anyone ever asks me what my pronouns are, my answer will be "F*** you." And I'm about as courteous a fellow as you could want to meet. You know perfectly well what 'my' pronouns are. You can see the beard and the scars. Don't bother me with your bullshit.