I'll Take You To the Wars, Love

AVI has produced a remarkable resource. The site collects traditional folk songs and ballads from Gloucestershire. It's just the sort of thing to warm the heart. Here is one -- you can listen by clicking on the player on the right side of the screen -- based around a man who wants to bring his pregnant wife along to the wars he's going to fight in "High Germany." It's 18th century, and the notes indicate that nobody's really sure just which of the several wars near the period were meant to be indicated by the song.

Well, we may see such a time ourselves, and not in the too distant future. Fortify yourselves with song.

Tomorrow's Headlines Today

Top Army leaders have ordered its elite Special Forces unit to change its motto from the Latin “De Opresso Liber” (To liberate the oppressed) to something that would be more culturally sensitive, after a large number Afghans holding child sex slaves have complained.

“We want to make sure we are not offending our coalition partners and not judging them based on our own biases,” said Col. Dwight S. Barry, a Pentagon spokesperson.
By now, you know the source.

Cosmopolitan Was Once a Literary Magazine

Apparently! And suddenly, I have a new appreciation for the popularity of Hemingway.
It was on the morning of January 25, 1954, that word flashed around the world that Ernest and Mary had been killed in a plane crash in dense jungle near Murchison Falls in Uganda, setting off universal mourning and obituaries. But news of the tragedy was soon superseded by a report that Ernest had suddenly, miraculously, emerged from the jungle at Butiaba carrying a bunch of bananas and a bottle of Gordon’s gin.
All right, that makes sense to me. I've read a lot of his work over the years, most recently The Old Man and the Sea, and I've always liked it as far as it goes. What I hadn't understood before was his rock star image. But that -- and what follows -- makes sense of it.

The real story is about the dangers to a man of loving two women at the same time. It is, and perhaps it really must be, a tragic story. F. Scott Fitzgerald proves to be the wise man of the tale. He understood what was going on right at once, and tried to guide his friend in the right way. He was up against an at-least equal and opposite power, though, in one of the women who loved Hemingway.

The Pope's Visit

I've always liked Pope Francis. What I like about him, above all, is that he gets out of his security and walks among the people. He's ready to die every day. That's what I look for in a man of God: if he really is what he is supposed to be, he ought to be ready to die at any moment. I don't doubt that God loves Pope Francis for this reason alone, without regard to anything he believes. That is living faith.

For that reason, I don't care especially about the particulars of his statements. Gosh, a lot of people obviously do. I think they're missing the point. Human knowledge is always limited. There are a few points of theology Francis can state that are obviously firmly binding on Catholics. The teaching on abortion is one of these. But they aren't binding because he believes it, or because he says it. They're binding because standing behind him is a massive weight of authority. No one man, Pope or otherwise, can alter it in more than the slightest degree.

Why is that? The Church is the largest religious organization on Earth, with just about 1.2 billion members. That is not binding. To appeal to that would be an ad populum fallacy, an appeal to the popular. What is going on with the Church's authority is something more. The Church does not think it represents 1.2 billion people. The Church thinks it represents all of the members gone before those 1.2 billion into the grave. It takes seriously the proposition that it must remain in fellowship with the dead, because it expects to meet them again -- perhaps tomorrow afternoon.

There is a huge power in that, even apart from the authority it draws from community with the divine. To hold the human family together not just across space or culture but across time, that requires speaking and thinking with the greatest care. When the Church speaks as a whole, it speaks with some thought to the Pope (2015), to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), St. Augustine (354-430), with Jesus who defines the calendar, with the prophets of old who came before. It considers the writings of fairly ordinary men, even, such as Tobias of one of the books taken as apocryphal and in any case written by a fairly ordinary person of his age.

Nothing like it exists. Certainly no greater human organization than it exists. We can imagine a similar organization that somehow embraced the whole of the human traditions of wisdom, from Hinduism and Judaism to Buddhism and Christianity. But there is no such organization, nor could one be constructed now. The Church is as powerful an organization of humanity as has ever been built, whatever you think of its claims of connection to the divine.

Of course it doesn't agree in all its specifics with anyone. It pursues a greater agreement with everyone.

It is good to see the Congress pause and consider. It will do whatever it wants, of course. So does everyone else. But the wise pause. The wise consider.

Kenny Rogers

I see that one of the last remaining greats of country music has announced his retirement today. He was never one of my very favorite singers, even at the top of his career, but my mother adored his singing.

Here is a song of his that remains relevant.

Islam is the War on Women

This is not where I expected Dr. Ben Carson to plant his flag. I thought he'd defend his comments on 'not supporting a Muslim for President' as a matter of personal choice as a voter, which everyone has a right to make. A substantial part of the Democratic Party would decline to support any Evangelical Christian for that office for similar personal concerns about the way the tenets of those faiths play with issues of importance to them as voters.

Instead, he's doubling down on a formal objection that Islam is incompatible with Western civilization -- and the Constitution -- unless Muslims become extremely flexible on its law. America should be a "Judeo-Christian" nation that defends the rights of women.

The Anti-Defamation League posits an objection based on, I gather, concerns about how we might receive presidential candidates who came out against Jews the way Carson is coming out against (at least fundamentalist) Muslims. On the other hand, Front Page Magazine asks whether we can really expect "a black man to prove his tolerance by endorsing a religion that practices slavery?" Given the currency of the rise of ISIS and its practice of slavery justified by appeals to sha'riah law, that's a reasonable question. But they aren't just talking about ISIS: Front Page cites a Human Rights Watch report based on compensation levels for death in Jeddah based on the free or unfree status of the dead.

I'm not sure that 'protection of the rights of women' is even a Judeo-Christian thing, but rather a specifically Medieval European tradition. It has a Judeo-Christian root in the idea, expressed by Aquinas among others, that God created both male and female and loves them both equally. But it is a chivalric ideal to defend the rights of women as an especial duty of good men. Malory put it in the Arthurian oath, taken each year at the feast of Pentecost:
“The king stablished all his knights, and gave them that were of lands not rich, he gave them lands, and charged them never to do outrageousity nor murder, and always to flee treason; also, by no mean to be cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asketh mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of their worship and lordship of King Arthur for evermore; and always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succor upon pain of death. Also, that no man take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law, ne for no world’s goods. Unto this were all the knights sworn of the Table Round, both old and young. And every year were they sworn at the high feast of Pentecost.” (Le Morte d'Arthur, pp 115-116)
Emphasis added, but it is already quite emphasized in the text: on pain of death. The oath states that Arthur would have hung one of his knights if he failed to defend a lady who needed his help.

Women Should Feel Free to Hike Alone

Backpacker magazine wants you to know that it's almost totally safe.

When we did five days in the Smokies last spring, we met a female hiker who was through-hiking the AT alone. She seemed to be having great fun, and is now getting close to finished according to her occasional online updates. Nothing she's written suggests that she's had even a moment's trouble from anyone. But that's an anecdote: Backpacker has the statistics.

Good News / Bad News

Today's good news for Mrs. Clinton: she has one fewer scandal to worry about.

The bad news for Mrs. Clinton: it's because two of the scandals have merged.

UPDATE: "You may recall that she certified, on pain of perjury, that she had handed over copies of all of her work-related e-mails to the State Department. If you believe the AP, that statement is now known to be false.... I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think she really might be done as a viable candidate."

"How to Perform a J-Turn"

The Art of Manliness has some instructional driving advice. I have to admit I'd never heard of a "J-Turn."

Where I come from, in that situation we do what we call a "Bootlegger's Reverse."

You have to be comfortable driving in a skid, but that's an important part of your education as a young man growing up in Appalachia. Or used to be.

Short, Fat, Beast

This guy gives beer-drinkers everywhere hope.

Hail Autumn

A depiction of Avalon by Stephanie Law.

Avalon, the "Isle of Apples," is associated with autumn because of the harvest of apples, and because the autumn brings about the time when the trees fall into sleep to reawaken in the spring. Avalon was the place where King Arthur was supposed to have been taken after the battle at Camlann, to rest and be healed that he might return at the hour of Britain's need. Malory expressed doubts about this story.
Thus of Arthur I find never more written in books that be authorised, nor more of the very certainty of his death heard I never read, but thus was he led away in a ship wherein were three queens; that one was King Arthur's sister, Queen Morgan le Fay; the other was the Queen of Northgalis; the third was the Queen of the Waste Lands. Also there was Nimue, the chief lady of the lake, that had wedded Pelleas the good knight; and this lady had done much for King Arthur, for she would never suffer Sir Pelleas to be in no place where he should be in danger of his life; and so he lived to the uttermost of his days with her in great rest. More of the death of King Arthur could I never find, but that ladies brought him to his burials; and such one was buried there, that the hermit bare witness that sometime was Bishop of Canterbury, but yet the hermit knew not in certain that he was verily the body of King Arthur: for this tale Sir Bedivere, knight of the Table Round, made it to be written.

YET some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say it shall be so, but rather I will say: here in this world he changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: Hic jacet Arthurus, Rex quondam, Rexque futurus.
Of course in the Southern hemisphere, it is the coming of spring. Both seasons have their joys. In my own home of Georgia, we are delighting in the end of the long summer and the coming of bonfires, fall festivals, and cold-pressed cider. They joys of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are beginning to come to mind. It is a good time of year.

A Veteran's Criticism of BLM

So, an Iraq War veteran decides to go to school. He picks a college with a good reputation, Wesleyan, and decides to write for the student newspaper. This year, he published an article on the Black Lives Matter movement. He is not black. That in itself is fine, as long as the article in question is obsequious.

It wasn't.
Police officers are looking over their shoulders as several cops have been targeted and gunned down. The week before classes started, seven officers were killed in the line of duty; a few were execution-style targeted killings.

An officer I talked to put it succinctly: “If they want to come after me, fine. Just come at me head on. Don’t shoot me in the back of my head. I’d rather go down with a fighting chance.”

Is this an atmosphere created by the police officers and racist elements in society itself? Many, including individuals in the Black Lives Matter movement, believe so.

Or is it because of Black Lives Matter? Many believe that as well, including a police chief who made his remarks after one of his officers was shot and killed—he claimed that Black Lives Matter was responsible for the officer’s death. Some want Black Lives Matter labeled as a hate group.

I talked to a Black Lives Matter supporter, Michael Smith ’18, who recoiled when I told him I was wondering if the movement was legitimate. This is not questioning their claims of racism among the police, or in society itself. Rather, is the movement itself actually achieving anything positive? Does it have the potential for positive change?...

[F]ollowing the Baltimore riots, the city saw a big spike in murders. Good officers, like the one I talked to, go to work every day even more worried that they won’t come home. The officer’s comments reminded me of what soldiers used to say after being hit with IEDs in Iraq. Police forces with a wartime-like mentality are never a good thing....

It boils down to this for me: If vilification and denigration of the police force continues to be a significant portion of Black Lives Matter’s message, then I will not support the movement, I cannot support the movement. And many Americans feel the same. I should repeat, I do support many of the efforts by the more moderate activists....

At some point Black Lives Matter is going to be confronted with an uncomfortable question, if they haven’t already begun asking it: Is this all worth it? Is it worth another riot that destroys a downtown district? Another death, another massacre? At what point will Black Lives Matter go back to the drawing table and rethink how they are approaching the problem?
Guess what the response was.

Fortunately, so far, the President of Wesleyan is holding the line. Good for him.

The CENTCOM Mystery

Several DIA officers have gone whistleblower, charging that "senior officers" at US Central Command altered their intelligence assessments in a way designed to make the President's preferred policy toward ISIS look more successful than it is.
Intelligence analysts exist to provide unbiased, unvarnished assessments to decision-makers. Those assessments must be free to go wherever facts and reason dictate, even if it means going against the grain of a particular political narrative. Such independence is the currency of the analytical realm.

The issue of independence is so critical it is essential that the analysts’ allegations of suppressed or altered intelligence assessments be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously. The Pentagon’s inspector general is on the case.

If the allegations are determined to be well founded it would mean that top brass at a combatant command violated the sacrosanct professional code of intelligence to provide objective analysis, free of political bias and personal agendas. The fact that as many as 50 analysts reportedly signed the complaint filed with the inspector general suggests that the problem is not a stand-alone case but systemic. Signing onto a whistleblowing complaint can easily be a career-ender. The analysts who made the very difficult decision to take this step must be commended for reporting their concerns about political influence corrupting their work.
This is a serious charge. It will be interesting to see what the IG determines.


Stupid is Relative

A clever guy says Dr. Carson is "shattering stereotypes about brain surgeons being smart."
“When people found out I was a brain surgeon they would always assume I was some kind of a genius,” said Harland Dorrinson, a neurosurgeon in Toledo, Ohio. “Now they are beginning to understand that you can know a lot about brain surgery and virtually nothing about anything else.”

It's stronger than that, you know. It's not that you can know a lot about brain surgery and not much about anything else. It's that you virtually have to know a lot about brain surgery and not much about anything else if you're going to be the guy who is very good at brain surgery. Dr. Carson was amazing as a brain surgeon. His profound intellect was focused like a laser for very many years.

A strong intellect can expand, once the area of focus is left behind. In time he could come to know many things, and be good at many things. He once showed a profound capacity to recognize the areas in which he was weak and needed help. I think only good things about the man. He still has tremendous potential.

Nor do I have much respect for the people who mock him, having none of his achievements nor anything to match them. People mock him for having a taxation plan based on tithing. If these clever guys took time to understand him, they'd see that the thing he says makes sense in his context. I don't doubt that he really does tithe. He's happy with what the church does with the money he gives it. He believes in God, so when he asks why the State needs more than God does, it's not rhetorical. Of course, there's an answer: God can work miracles with his money.

What's going on with people who raise this criticism, though, is worth understanding. It's not that they are simpletons because they believe in God. It's that they willingly give ten percent of what they make to the Lord through their church, and they are pretty happy with what the church does with that money in their community. They unwillingly give much more than ten percent to the State, and what comes of that money? The voluntary given in a way directed at a vision of the divine seems to do good things in their community. The vast sums sent to a distant and alien authority seem to return nothing good.

It's a sophisticated critique generally made by people who aren't always obviously sophisticated. Those who are too clever to grasp it aren't helping themselves. You know what Hank Williams said about putting down what you don't understand -- don't you? If you hang around here, you probably do. You probably even know which Hank Williams it was.

But if you don't, we won't mock you here in the Hall. Maybe you just studied something else. It was Hank Williams, Jr.

"If You Wanna Embrace the Golden Calf..."

"...ankle and thigh and upper-half..."

Here it is.

Lest we forget: "...Comes the end, it won't be pretty..."

Today's Quiz

Hopefully you all do decently on this one: "How well do you know Gandalf?"

This Analysis is Plausible

[Trump] is, as many say, making a mockery of the entire political process with his bull-in-a-china-shop antics. But the mockery in this case may be overdue, highly warranted, and ultimately a spur to reform....
Well, any reform is still to be suggested. But a good mockery might help to illuminate the ways in which reform is needed.

Our Own Government is an Imminent Threat

So say half of Americans, including two-thirds of Republicans.

The question is a little simplistic. I don't think Jade Helm fantasies are in any danger of coming true. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that the IRS and the Department of Justice have become politicized, and are being used to advance the agenda of one side while protecting its cronies from the law. That's really dangerous.

A Lesson in Capitalism

A drug company bought the rights to a 62 year old drug, and raised the price for dosages from $13.50 to $750. Reaction from the left:
In what may go down in history as the textbook example of how dangerous an unregulated free market can be when a company decides it wants to be greedy, Turing Pharmaceuticals of New York hiked the cost of a powerful drug used to treat people with life-threatening illnesses like AIDS and cancer by over 5,000 percent overnight. Why? Because it will make the start-up company’s investors rich – and there is nothing patients and doctors could do about it.
Reaction from the right: "Time to build a factory to make that drug in India."

Who thinks the per-dose price is going to approach $13.50 again in the near future? Anyone want to bet it may even go under that?

Cruz v. Rubio

I suspect Erickson is right about the way the race is headed, but that Allah is right about the way the endgame will go. Cruz and Rubio both gave great speeches at RedState Gathering. Cruz gives a barn-burner outsider speech, like the younger Ronald Reagan. Rubio gives a fantastic uplifting "Morning in America" speech, also much like Reagan but the sunnier Reagan of the later years.

Historically, Reagan follows Carter. This last eight years has brought America back to the Carter years in a number of ways -- not least of which is that inflation-adjusted income has declined to levels not seen since the mid-1970s, especially for men and native-born Americans. The Middle East situation shows Iran ascendant in a way that it hasn't been since the 1979 coup. The Russian bear is resurgent. Crime is up for the first time in decades.

Middle America may well be looking for a Reagan. If it comes down to Rubio versus Cruz, the question will be which of the Reagans they see on the stump better represents the Reagan they think they need.

“At Night We Can Hear Them Screaming...

"...but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine told his father.

If you don't interfere, you become complicit. How can the American military stand by while such things go on? We would not ally ourselves with ISIS, and ignore the slave auctions going on next door.

Or would we?

Count Your Blessings

The Dragon

Today I felled a big, dead oak. It was one I had considered dropping last year, but decided was too dangerous. It was still up this year, and must be well-seasoned. I always prefer to cut standing dead wood or at least badly damaged trees, so as to provide warmth for my family in winter without hurting the living forest. But dead wood is dangerous. The loss of the organic process means that there is no longer a living principle that is ordering the tree as a whole, keeping it together and repairing its flaws. The desiccation that follows death means that cells shrink, which produces fissures and weaknesses in the whole. It can splinter, shatter, collapse in unexpected directions. A big oak, even in death, is far stronger and vaster than you.

I had skill, strength, and a 55-cc chainsaw to serve for an enchanted spear. The oak came down, hard, and I am no worse for wear. I took a moment before I tackled it to prepare my soul as well as I could in case I failed, but in truth all days are like this. Some day the dragon must win.

Today you may have read of a young man killed on the return leg of a charity bicycle trip. I have met, almost, his wife. She was at the Red State Gathering that I attended with Uncle Jimbo, and is a long time friend of his. She came up and talked to him several times while I was with him, but being a bum he never thought to introduce us. Nevertheless, I know from their interactions that she is even now expecting a child with what is now her late husband. For what it is worth, from an almost acquaintance, I extend my deepest condolences to Mary Katharine Ham and her family.

We forget, how readily we forget, the dragon that lurks in wait for us. Memento Mori. Live better in the awareness that you will die.

Done Quit Preaching and Gone to Meddling

I mean, I'm the furthest thing from a xenophobe. I've lived abroad in many places, and I make a point of befriending the immigrants I encounter and trying to make them feel welcome here. I have concerns about large-scale illegal immigration, and I think that even a nation of immigrants should manage its immigration so that it tracks with successful assimilation.

On the other hand, there are limits to patience and tolerance.

By the way, do you get the reference from the headline here? It's a story that used to be told by the late, great Lewis Grizzard. It's probably been told by others. It's about a new preacher who shows up in Appalachia, and is warmly received by his new congregation. The first Sunday he preaches on the Ten Commandments, and they love it. The second Sunday he preaches fire and brimstone on chastity and marital fidelity, and they love it. The third Sunday he preaches against the sins of drinking, and the evils of men making their living by moonshine. The congregation gets quiet for a while, and finally one man in the back stands up.

"What is it?" says the preacher.

"Son," answers the man, to the silent but clear approbation of the assembled, "You've done quit preaching, and gone to meddling."

What Course of Action are You Suggesting, CAIR?

Dr. Carson says he would not support a Muslim for President. None are running, so nobody else is supporting a Muslim for President either. Nevertheless, somehow of course it's a huge issue. (Would I support a Muslim for President? Depends. Show me the particular Muslim you mean, and we'll talk about it.)
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which calls itself the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., later called for Carson to withdraw from the race.

"Mr. Carson clearly does not understand or care about the Constitution, which states that 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,'" the group's executive director, Nihad Awad, said in a statement on Sunday. "We call on our nation's political leaders -- across the political spectrum -- to repudiate these unconstitutional and un-American statements and for Mr. Carson to withdraw from the presidential race."
Now, wait a minute. I think I understand the Constitution, and I'm pretty sure the 'religious test' clause applies to the government, not to the voters. The government is not free to establish a law that says, "Only Muslims may run for office X," nor can it hold that "No Muslims may run for office X," or even -- obliquely -- that "Anyone may run for office X, provided they eat pork as a condition of employment."

However, voters are free to support whomever they want, for whatever reason they want. How would you check that anyway? It's a secret ballot. My name's not even on it. If I were to tell you that I had intentionally applied a religious test to my vote, how would you know I was telling the truth? Are you going to correct it by deducting one vote for the candidate I claim was my choice? If you do that, I could vote for the Democrat and then loudly proclaim that obviously the Republican was the only one with correct religious values. That lets me vote twice, right?

So, no, Dr. Carson -- who holds no governmental office, and never has -- is not under any obligation as a private citizen not to apply a religious test in deciding how he will cast his vote. He may donate to or otherwise support whomever he likes, or not. CAIR doesn't seem to understand the Constitution it is charging him with violating, nor what the purpose of the clause might have been. To try to enforce that clause on private citizens is to attempt to enact a control of private religious opinions exactly opposed to the intention behind the 'no religious test' clause.

Havok Journal: No One Cares about the New Army Secretary's Sexuality

Well, the media does, because they were in full trumpet mode a few days ago. But Havok Journal's Scott Faith is right: we don't care. The guy's been the acting secretary for some time. He's been a long time Pentagon guy, and knows the job. It's true he's not a Veteran, but being openly gay was illegal in the military until the day before yesterday. As someone who thought that was a wise policy and would gladly restore it, I'm certainly not going to hold it against this guy that he didn't lie or cheat to check a box by getting into the service. Far from it. He didn't hide what he thought was right, he lived according to what he thought was right, and he found a way to serve his country out of uniform that is just as necessary to success down the line as any green-suited guy at the Pentagon. Whether or not we like his private life choices he did the right thing by his own lights, never lied about it, and found a way to serve anyway.

The guy we care about is this jackwagon Navy Secretary you've got sneering at and slandering the Marine Corps over which he has been given authority. That guy needs to go.

Irrational Fear

A Vox writer has one. He's aware that it isn't rational, although perhaps not completely aware of the degree of irrationality.
What could I do in the face of a mass shooter? I don't own a gun. I've never even fired one. The idea that I could out-shoot a committed killer is a myth anyway. And while I'm big and strong at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, I'm not quick on my feet. I can't dodge a bullet, but I can't wrestle one either.
Just as irrational as the distinction between "likely" and "unlikely" is the distinction between "difficult" and "impossible." You've reasoned that in the unlikely event of a shooter, it is impossible that you could do anything about it. Experience and evidence shows that this is wrong, and furthermore, that it's the way out of your problem.

We take precautions against many dangers more remote than encountering an active shooter. Sometimes it only makes sense to do this if we wrap a bunch of them together, so that the probability begins to justify the expense of the precaution. I have a Homeowner's Insurance policy that exists to manage a bundle of many unlikely (but expensive) dangers associated with being a homeowner. It would be silly to buy a policy for any of those risks by itself, as all of them are quite unlikely. Taken together, though, they justify the minor annual expense of purchasing the policy.

So if you don't want to carry a gun and learn to use it accurately, OK. You're free to make that choice. But consider bundling the active shooter threat with a number of health-related threats associated with being a big guy who isn't "quick on his feet." Join a jujitsu club, or take Krav Maga, or something similar. The physical exercise will manage a bunch of other threats, and you'll also develop a much increased capacity to escape in the event of an active shooter -- perhaps even to overcome and triumph, if you happen to be in just the right place at the right time.

Like those guys on the French train. Heroes, we say, but the day before they were heroes they were just guys on vacation. American guys. Guys like you, if you choose to be like them.