The Stone Games

As usual, I will be attending the Stone Mountain Highland Games. There is always a strong Viking current to this Scottish cultural festival. The above map can help you understand why. A number of Scottish Clans derive their names, and more a part of their lineage, from Norse or Danish Vikings.

Heads on Swivels

The FBI issues its strongest warning yet about terror attacks against American military at home.

Schlock Lives!

Maybe, anyway. This story passes the first test of credulity-straining internet news stories: the guy they name really does exist, really is at Penn State, and really does study the shadows on stars in astronomy.

Worth watching. As MikeD says, 'Important, if true.'

Schlock lives!

It must be nice to be so important

I came across this at Ace's place today and had a good chuckle:
This post was cowritten with Elizabeth McLeod, a millennial and cum laude graduate of Boston University, and daughter of Lisa Earle McLeod.
The first alarm bell in this "resignation letter" (which astonishingly goes unremarked upon in the well deserved fisking) is that this child needed her mommy's help to write it.  Ok, if you're asserting yourself as an important and competent adult, relying upon your parent to help write it is a terrible way to start.

In this long, tedious letter, this "adult" (again, it bothers me immensely that she wants to be taken seriously, but had to get parental supervision to write it) goes on and on about how the work she's being asked to do is more about the bottom line than changing the world.  And she's quitting (again) because she's not finding the fulfillment she wants.  The problem, child, is that businesses are in business for business.  They are all about the bottom line, because that's what lets them hire vapid little idiots like you (or more precisely, ones who will actually work without feeling "fulfilled") in order to improve that bottom line.  Something tells me that they're not going to be suffering from an acute lack of you.  You may believe they will, and it's truly adorable that you and your mommy feel qualified to give business advice to your former employer, who, chances are, was turning a profit before you ever showed up.  I mean this sincerely when I say that I agree.  Your former employer did not deserve you.

The Battle of Hastings

On 14 October, 1066, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England died in battle.

(If you don't get the joke, it's because you haven't played Skyrim.)

Many people don't know that the Anglo-Saxon army that the Normans defeated had very recently fought and beaten a Viking army led by "the Thunderbolt of the North," King Harald Hadrada of Norway. Harald was a king with a storied career, having fought in the Vaering guards for the Byzantine emperors before returning to Norway to claim his throne. There's a whole book about him contained within the Heimskringla, the story of the Norse kings. He died fighting Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in the north of England. That battle was on 25 September. Barely had they defeated the Viking army when word came of the Norman invasion in the south. The Anglo-Saxons had to force-march their way across the country in order to catch William's Normans.

Nevertheless it is not thought to be exhaustion but communication that lost the battle for the Anglo-Saxons. They fought dismounted in a shield wall, as also did the Vikings. The Norman cavalry could not pierce the wall, but it could withdraw, plan, and re-engage. Once committed to the fight, Harold's forces had difficulty seeing the battle as a whole and reorganizing accordingly. The Normans could change plans as the battle progressed. In a demonstration of the concept that Colonel Boyd would later formalize as the "OODA loop," this increased capacity to communicate and respond to changes on the field is thought to have been the decisive factor at Hastings.

Few battles have changed history as completely as the Battle of Hastings. The Normans' rise to the leadership of England lasted for hundreds of years, and committed England as a nation to defending Norman possessions in France during the Hundred Years War. The expansionist Normans went on to conquer Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, only one of them with finality but setting the stage for the rise of Great Britain. It's hard to imagine what the world would look like today if the English had remained an Anglo-Saxon power content with England alone.

Reflections on the Debate

It seems clear to me, after sleeping on it, that the Democratic Party is going to nominate Hillary Clinton. Everyone on the stage who spoke about her emails did so to come to her defense. They clearly adopted her line on the email server, which is that it's old news and we should move on. Even while discussing Snowden, they let her get away with a line about how he broke the laws regarding classified information that was so brazen that anyone but a Clinton would have trouble getting it out of their mouth. None of her opponents on the left are serious about stopping her.

Sanders' candidacy has nevertheless driven the primary far to the left. The only candidate on stage who sounded at all like an American was Jim Webb. He defended traditional values and gun rights, stood up for the oppressed regardless of color, and advocated for a careful foreign policy that was nevertheless centered on American strength. He's a candidate that blue collar Democrats and Republicans alike could vote to elect. Jim Geraghty said this morning, "Webb has a good chance of winning the Democratic nomination in 1948," meaning that he sounded a lot like Harry S Truman. He is, sadly, what the party has left behind. Harry Truman was a good President. We could do with another like him.

What we're going to get instead is an untrustworthy, unindicted felon as the Democratic candidate. I hope the Republicans manage to field someone who can beat her, or that the G-men at the FBI finally decide in their hearts that they have to do their duty no matter what it costs them in terms of punishment from on high.

UPDATE: Noah Rothman has a happier take.
The first and only time in which the Democratic field will gather to debate in prime time on a weekday before the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire featured a cavalcade of liberal politicians all (with the notable exception of Jim Webb) pandering to the Democratic Party’s fringe elements. The candidates spent a fair bit of energy attempting to rehabilitate European-style socialism, competed over who would embrace the most restrictive gun rights policy, promised a bevy of “free” services that none of them will ever be able to deliver, rejected the perfectly noncontroversial notion that “all lives matter,” and assured their wide-eyed viewers that the greatest national security threat facing the nation was the weather and that the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs should be essentially mothballed. This is the stuff of GOP ad-makers’ dreams.

The biggest gift that Democrats bestowed upon Republicans on Tuesday night, however, was their unwillingness to challenge a narrative repeatedly indefatigably advanced by Clinton, which holds her scandalous conduct as Barack Obama’s secretary of state is a partisan issue utterly without substance.

UPDATE: Matthew Continetti:
Jim Webb is a great American and has many provocative thoughts on foreign policy and domestic policy. But there’s no way he can win the nomination of a Democratic Party that is debating socialism over capitalism, whether black lives matter or all lives matter, whether climate change is the most pressing strategic threat facing the country, and whether to open Obamacare and in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

UPDATE: Max Boot has a solid breakdown of the foreign policy aspects of the debate.

Democratic Debate

Did I just hear Hillary Clinton leap forward to defend capitalism? Fascinating.

UPDATE: Jim Webb stakes out a pro-gun position -- not just for 'hunting,' but for defense of self and family. The rest of the candidates on the stage don't seem to have any idea what he's talking about.

UPDATE: Clinton sounded pretty good on Syria. Webb is hitting the Iran deal, which is good.

UPDATE: Did Clinton just say that Libya represents "smart power at its best"? Oh, that statement is going to hurt for a long time.

UPDATE: Webb refuses to slam Sanders for being a conscientious objector in Vietnam, though he asserts he is the most qualified candidate to be Commander in Chief. He is, of course, quite right about that. Sanders responds very graciously.

UPDATE: Email question. "What I did was allowed by the State Department." Um, I'm pretty sure it was a massive collection of felonies, which the State Department can't approve. Also, the Secretary of State was you, so 'approved by the State Department' means 'approved by me.'

UPDATE: Question: "Do Black Lives Matter, or do All Lives Matter?" Everyone else: "Black Lives Matter." Jim Webb: "All Lives Matter. But by the way, I've done more than the rest of these jokers to deal with criminal justice reform and justice for African Americans."

UPDATE: Clinton just made a major advance by drawing a line between all the Democrats and the Republicans on immigration.

UPDATE: Clinton just said something that sounded like deference to states rights. There must be some tactical reason she favors this position, because she's not said anything ever that suggests she cares about that.

UPDATE: Asked if Snowded was a 'hero or a traitor,' Clinton said, "He broke the laws of the United States." SO DID YOU!!!!

UPDATE: How would your administration differ from Obama's? Jim Webb's answer was phrased very, very gently, but what he meant was: "I would respect the Constitutional separation of powers."

UPDATE: "Which enemy are you most proud of?" That's an outstanding question. The answers were predictable, except for Webb's: "The enemy soldier who threw the grenade that wounded me. But he's not around any more." Conan, what is best in life?

Heroes and Rebels

A different sort than we usually celebrate, says Reason magazine, but worthy in ways we don't like to consider:
Chinn was a black man in Canton, Mississippi, who in the 1960s owned a farm, a rhythm and blues nightclub, a bootlegging operation, and a large collection of pistols, rifles, and shotguns with which he threatened local Klansmen and police when they attempted to encroach on his businesses or intimidate civil rights activists working to desegregate Canton and register black residents to vote. After one confrontation, in which a pistol-packing Chinn forced the notoriously racist and brutal local sheriff to stand down inside the county courthouse during a hearing for a civil rights worker, the lawman admitted, "There are only two bad sons of bitches in this county..."
The sheriff thought himself one, and Chinn the other. It's a good story.

It's Not (Just) the NRA

A writer called "Geeky Leftist" explains the numbers.

Terrorism Indictments Against Confederate Flag Group

I think the DA will have a lot of trouble making these charges stick, as the law they were indicted under requires you to show that the group engages in criminal street gang activity. What actually happened was a political protest that turned into an altercation. The police, at the end of that video, are indeed explaining that some of what is being shouted constitute threats under state law. However, the target of that explanation is not among the protest group -- it's the family that took issue with them that is being warned to stop making threats.

To me it sounds like a bunch of rednecks engaging in protected free political speech, combined with emotional overreactions on both sides when the conflict started. Bad behavior was clearly rampant on more than one side of the conflict. Apparently the government has decided to take sides rather than impartially referee the dispute. They put charges of terrorism and gang activity before the Grand Jury, and the Grand Jury bought it. I'll be very surprised if the trial jury does.

Arthur in Scotland

The MacArthurs claim descent from him, so perhaps it is no surprise that a "round table" has been discovered in Scotland.
The King's Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years. Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older. Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur. Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets. Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks.... It has also been suggested the site is partly Iron Age or medieval, or was used as a Roman fort.

Educating Free Men

Have you ever thought that academia would be improved by more conservatives holding professorships? Good news!  Better gun laws are making some states undesirable for left-leaning professors looking for work.
Roughly 94 percent of faculty members did not favor anyone carrying concealed handguns on college campuses, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Community Health that questioned nearly 800 faculty members in a random sample of 15 state universities. The majority of these faculty members (98 percent) felt that handguns created more risk for students and staff.

In fact, at UT Austin, more than 400 faculty members have signed a petition to “refuse guns in their classrooms.”

“If people feel there might be a gun in the classroom, students have said that it makes them feel like they would be much more hesitant to raise controversial issues,” UT history professor and petition organizer Joan Neuberger told Daily Kos. “The classroom is a very special place, and it needs to be a safe place, and that means safe from guns.”

Dr. Chad Kautzer, assistant professor in the philosophy department at University of Colorado at Denver, knows this feeling all too well.

Kautzer, along with other faculty members, led the petition against the university in 2012 to ban concealed weapons from being allowed on state campuses. Despite having support from “a vast majority of faculty” and being unanimously endorsed by the university’s School of Medicine, the petition was unsuccessful in the state House.
Competition for academic jobs is at an all-time high, as the academy has produced far more Ph.D.s than it is prepared to consume as new professors. Liberal faculties are disinclined to hire conservatives. As concealed and open carry on campus flourishes, however, it may be that more conservative states will see their academy's faculty shifting to the right. I would not have any problems teaching legally armed students.

This would be good for the health of the academy, as well as the health of society. Though I am not a professor or teacher, I did recently cover a class for an Orthodox Jewish friend who needed to observe one of the very many Jewish holidays this time of year. I was teaching book three of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, which is the book that treats the virtue of courage. It's a text that is completely relevant to the questions of carrying arms in defense of a common society, which is the reason you might be lawfully carrying arms on campus: because you've thought through the threat of active shooters on campus, and have decided to be one of the ones who is prepared to do something about it. This book will help them in their thinking.

First Aristotle prepares you for the discussion of the particular virtues by laying out a general issue about what the ends of action are.
That wish is for the end has already been stated; some think it is for the good, others for the apparent good. Now those who say that the good is the object of wish must admit in consequence that that which the man who does not choose aright wishes for is not an object of wish (for if it is to be so, it must also be good; but it was, if it so happened, bad); while those who say the apparent good is the object of wish must admit that there is no natural object of wish, but only what seems good to each man. Now different things appear good to different people, and, if it so happens, even contrary things.

If these consequences are unpleasing, are we to say that absolutely and in truth the good is the object of wish, but for each person the apparent good; that that which is in truth an object of wish is an object of wish to the good man, while any chance thing may be so the bad man, as in the case of bodies also the things that are in truth wholesome are wholesome for bodies which are in good condition, while for those that are diseased other things are wholesome- or bitter or sweet or hot or heavy, and so on; since the good man judges each class of things rightly, and in each the truth appears to him? For each state of character has its own ideas of the noble and the pleasant, and perhaps the good man differs from others most by seeing the truth in each class of things, being as it were the norm and measure of them. In most things the error seems to be due to pleasure; for it appears a good when it is not. We therefore choose the pleasant as a good, and avoid pain as an evil.
With that setup, how surprising that the first virtue to be considered is courage, which Aristotle formally associates with the fear of death in war.
With what sort of terrible things, then, is the brave man concerned? Surely with the greatest; for no one is more likely than he to stand his ground against what is awe-inspiring. Now death is the most terrible of all things; for it is the end, and nothing is thought to be any longer either good or bad for the dead. But the brave man would not seem to be concerned even with death in all circumstances, e.g. at sea or in disease. In what circumstances, then? Surely in the noblest. Now such deaths are those in battle; for these take place in the greatest and noblest danger. And these are correspondingly honoured in city-states and at the courts of monarchs. Properly, then, he will be called brave who is fearless in face of a noble death, and of all emergencies that involve death; and the emergencies of war are in the highest degree of this kind....

What is terrible is not the same for all men; but we say there are things terrible even beyond human strength. These, then, are terrible to every one- at least to every sensible man; but the terrible things that are not beyond human strength differ in magnitude and degree, and so too do the things that inspire confidence. Now the brave man is as dauntless as man may be. Therefore, while he will fear even the things that are not beyond human strength, he will face them as he ought and as the rule directs, for honour's sake; for this is the end of virtue.
So the good man pursues the true end, not just the apparent end, and it is characteristic of the good man that he gets it right. This end will be the truth of pleasure and avoiding pain. And what the good man will choose, in the face of the terrors of war, is to do nobly in the face of death.

That seems surprising, does it not? After all, if one avoids death in war, one can pursue all of one's true ends -- and all of one's apparent goods -- in a way that dying at war will foreclose. Why, then, is courage in the face of death such a great virtue that Aristotle mentions it first of all, thereby making it the standard by which all other virtues will be measured?

It is because doing nobly in war in the face of death is an absolute necessity for a free life, not only for you but for your fellow citizens. All the goods that can only be realized in a free society will be lost if that society lacks defenders. The good you are pursuing by being brave in the face of terrible death is the true good for yourself and for all your fellow citizens, because it is the only way by which you can realize freedom and a civilization that protects it. The life of virtuous activity, the life of contemplation, these things are unavailable to slaves. This is the first virtue for everyone who would be free, and it must be practiced if any of the other goods are to be realized at all.

This is the education that befits a free man. It is just the education these students should receive. Ninety-four percent of professors are apparently blind to it. They don't see, somehow, that the soft virtues must coexist with the hard ones -- not only in the same society, but in the very same heart.

Morning, Morons

Turns out there's a great reason that people on the right don't see eye to eye with the President. They're just not smart enough to understand him.

The article is actually pretty painful to read. He cites Obamacare and the minimum wage as two policies that are really good in the long run. Somehow he doesn't see the conflict between those two policies:
Republicans constantly paint it as a “job killer” (it’s not) while also rallying against the millions of people who are on government assistance. Funny thing though, a good portion of the Americans who are on government assistance have jobs. If we made sure that no American working full-time had to rely on government programs just to survive, instantly we would save our country hundreds of billions of dollars over the years.
You know why so many people now have jobs but can't pay their bills? Because Obamacare 'fundamentally transformed' the American economy into one in which poorer workers are only able to obtain part-time work -- and not even thirty hours a week of it, so that the company won't be on the hook for their newly-expensive health care costs. That means you need two jobs to make ends meet, and jobs remain hard to come by -- at least for native born Americans, as government immigration policies and refusal to enforce the law have flooded the markets with cheap foreign labor, and trade packages like the Obama-backed TPP have lowered the cost of shipping jobs overseas.

All of these problems have been caused by the government going outside its Constitutional charter. They're all mutually reinforcing problems: meddle with the health insurance industry, screw up wages and hours for workers. Raise the minimum wage to try to return us to a situation in which people can earn a living without government assistance, and you put people out of work (you really do) and make it more attractive to ship jobs overseas. Good news, though: shipping American jobs overseas is easier than ever, thanks to our negotiated-in-secret trade packet that cedes sovereign national authority to un-elected committees made up of non-Americans whose rulings unsurprisingly favor non-American interests.

Allow me to suggest a modification of the thesis. It's not that President Obama is as smart as you think he is. It's that he's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.

What does this say about your side?

What does it say about your positions when you argue that a mass murdering, child killing, honest to God villain would probably support them.  And this pleases you?

Now That You Mention It, This Does Sound Like An Odd Decision

Taranto mocks Governor Jerry Brown of California for approving state-assisted suicide, but not experimental drugs that might save your life. In other news, the Governor also opposes improving handgun laws so that more people can readily defend themselves... because he thinks guns lead to too many suicides.

The NRA Comes Out Swinging

The National Rifle Association was a little slow to respond to the President's call for 'Australian'-style gun confiscation. I checked their website the day of the speech and even after. The President really threw them the kind of ball they know how to hit. I figured they'd come out swinging:

So I was a bit surprised that they took a few days to get a sense of the field, and perhaps to give their opponents some rope with which to hang themselves. If so, it worked. Not only did they end up getting to hit the hanging curve, they waited long enough for Mrs. Clinton to take a position that they can beat like a drum all the way through 2016 -- assuming she manages to stay in the race. Or out of prison.

Genocide and Personal Self-Defense

A meditation on an individual right that used to be treasured by the political left at least as much as the political right.

Of course, the Second Amendment doesn't only protect an individual right: it also protects the right to organize as militia. That may be the part we're missing in this discussion, both as applies to resisting armed tyrannical units -- the Waffen SS were a paramilitary, not a military force -- and as applies to a more coherent defense against active shooters. The citizen as officer of the state should be armed, trained, but also integrated as a potential actor into the official planning for responses. Much can be done by teaching citizens not only how to use a firearm to defend themselves and their immediate space, but how to link up and work together in the face of a common threat.

Gaza Declares a Curfew in Israel

A Palestinian cleric, brandishing a knife, commands his brothers to stab Jews. 'Now we know why the Jews built walls around Jerusalem: to keep their throats from being cut.'

Well, the walls you see around the Old City today were built by the Turks. But the purpose was the same. He is, in this limited way, correct: that is what walls are for. They are to protect the goods of civilization from the barbarians outside.

Israel has become incredibly isolated in the last few weeks. Even a month ago, it was possible to believe that Israel could unilaterally destroy Iran's nuclear program if it decided it had no other choice. Such action would have required them to become open about their possession of nuclear weapons, most likely: even our ground-penetrating conventional weapons might not accomplish the task. If we were going to take military action against Iran, it would be better to go in on the ground and use sappers, reserving the air forces to pin down and destroy the IRGC units that tried to stop us.

With the Russians deploying air forces and advanced anti-aircraft weapons in Syria, however, the odds that Israel even could stop Iran have lengthened considerably. Indeed, at this point it will be difficult for us to maintain our limited deployment in Iraq. Those forces are cut off in every direction, a danger that I wonder if the Obama administration has begun to ponder. They would probably be allowed to withdraw, if they go now. Alternatively we could send up a force through Kuwait to provide them a salient through which they could withdraw even in the face of Iranian opposition. But they are completely exposed to the whims of our enemies as it stands. They are even sharing basing with Iranian militias.

In time the logic of that will play out one way or the other. Either we will go, or our forces will serve as hostages for our good behavior, or they will be killed in a deniable act of war ordered by Iran but carried out by proxies they need not acknowledge.

Israel is very much alone at the moment. It would take very bold action for America to protect them, action that would need to be both bold and wise if it was not to set off a war with Russia. We do not currently have the leadership for such action. Our civilian leaders are neither bold nor wise, not in their carrying out of foreign policy in the Middle East, and Central Command is dogged by a scandal that reaches to its highest levels. It will be some time before that could possibly change for the better, and at this point it must be doubtful that it ever does.