There Are Two Americas... urban, one rural.

The big problem is to figure out how to restrict the harms the urban areas cause to those areas. That's where nearly all the problems are coming from, and yet they have just slightly more votes. A proper Federalism using the 50 states might not do it, as the urban areas can overawe the decent parts of their states. But a federalism that treats urban areas as states in themselves -- maybe. It would mean increasing the number of states by a few dozen, in return for having rural states that could really live according to traditional mores without the chaos caused by these urban areas.

Gizmodo: Physicists Say Everyone Is Lying About That Russian Bomber

Interesting, although the Russian claims sound less like fabrications.

We're not done with this one. I think Russia may manage to peel France off of the NATO coalition with it, given America's terrible response to the whole thing. Even if they don't manage to bring France into a coalition with themselves -- and right now, the French President not only sounds like he's open to that, he sounds like he thinks it's his idea -- they could still split NATO by making France a free agent again. They were, for most of the Cold War.

C'mon. The Boy's Name is "Tomahawk."

A Sacramento, California, mom who let her 4-year-old son play outside at a playground 120 feet from her home was arrested. Her neighbors called 911 when they saw the kid outside. While many people might think four is too young for a boy to be outside on his own, the bigger question is: Is this a criminal offense? And doesn't the boy's mother have the right to make that choice?

The boy (whose name is Tomahawk) was in a gated apartment complex and on a playground. He's an outdoorsy kid who loves exploring and sounds like he can take care of himself fairly well.
When a boy's name is Tomahawk, he has probably been raised well enough to handle a playground in a gated community.

Certainty and Uncertainty

When I saw the news of an active shooter in a Planned Parenthood yesterday, I figured there was even money on it being a jealous husband or a domestic terrorist. After reports came in for a while, though, neither of these scenarios sounded very likely:

1) MSNBC -- hardly a conservative outlet -- reported that all the shooting had actually happened at a nearby Chase bank.

2) Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains division put out a statement that they didn't think this had been targeted at them.

3) Planned Parenthood put out a statement a few hours after the shootings that said that none of their staff and also none of their patients had been among the victims.

4) The history of the guy suggested he was barely connected to the world we live in, occupying a cabin with no electricity nor plumbing. He also had a legal history that suggested both domestic violence and cruelty to animals.

So, now it sounded like a bank robbery gone wrong, with the hostage taking at the PP location just by coincidence.

Then, today, we get these anonymous quotes sourced to law enforcement officials:
In one statement, made after the suspect was taken in for questioning, Dear said "no more baby parts" in reference to Planned Parenthood, according to two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the case.

But the sources stressed that Dear said many things to law enforcement and the extent to which the "baby parts" remark played into any decision to target the Planned Parenthood office was not yet clear. He also mentioned President Barack Obama in statements.
So now, who knows? Maybe somehow it was intended as a terrorist act aimed at Planned Parenthood after all, and he was just spectacularly bad at it. He may be too disordered to have had a certain purpose.

Those statements are proving politically very useful to those on the Left, for whom this is not an uncertain but a very certain opportunity. It's an opportunity to tell everyone on the Right to shut up once and for all about Planned Parenthood, and to make any rhetoric about abortion as the killing of babies off limits as hate speech that somehow causes irrational violent types to lash out.

Also, it's a chance to push for gun control, the President's new favorite topic. Funny how we didn't hear anything about Chicago in his speech, a city with the strictest gun control in the nation and also gun violence the likes of which most of the rest of the country never dreams. Or Paris, which has every kind of gun control a progressive heart could desire, and all the same far worse shootings occur.

The President is behind the ball on this one. Even INTERPOL has been suggesting, for a couple of years now, that an armed citizenry may be the only rational response to the threat of terrorism by active shooters. Harden the whole society, and such threats become much less dangerous in scope.

One solid thing can be said from my position: it sounds as if the police officer killed was a really decent guy. My sympathies go to his family and community.

UPDATE: Uncertainty abounds.

UPDATE: Someone thinks of citing the Catechism.
1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.
It's one of the areas in which I am most inclined to sin, I must confess.

"Oslo is Dead"

The constant international obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian question continues. The last seemed-like-it-might-work protocols are now clearly dead. So what's next, asks Geoffrey Aronson at Al Jazeera.
What has changed is that today there is a growing sense that Israel must set the agenda for the post-Oslo era. Israeli leaders now see an opportunity to make a dramatic Israeli move, to shuffle the cards in a way that responds to domestic political pressures to respond to continuing protests, advances Israel's settlement interests, and exploits Washington's retreat from diplomacy.

"If we do not initiate, someone else will take the initiative for moulding our future," warned a retired Israeli military general Shlomo Yanai.

Jerusalem is the crown jewel of Israel's national and territorial aspirations. And it is the place where the effort to square the circle of challenges posed by annexation is centred.

The contest over Al-Aqsa commands the most attention, but Israeli efforts since the second Intifada have focused on reducing the number and access of Palestinians in the city.
My sense of this conflict has always been that the Israelis should set the agenda and resolve it however they wished. Israel has repeatedly won its right to exist on the field of honor, even if you are not inclined to believe in its Biblical warrant. The decades of constant meddling in these internal affairs has done nothing to bring peace to the land.

More on Medieval Thanksgiving

While looking up something that I was thinking about with regard to Eric's comment on the Ancient Roman use of spices, I learned something that I did not know: the way that we use the term "entree" in North American English is not just different from the way the French use it, it's different from the way everyone else in the world uses it. But it is not different because it's an American innovation. It's different because we retain the Medieval meaning of the word.

The word entrée in French originally denoted the "entry" of the dishes from the kitchens into the dining hall. In the illustration from a French fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript of the Histoire d'Olivier de Castille et d'Artus d'Algarbe, a fanfare from trumpeters in the musicians' gallery announces the processional entrée of a series of dishes....

In traditional French haute cuisine, the entrée preceded a larger dish known as the relevé, which "replaces" or "relieves" it, an obsolete term in modern cooking, but still used as late as 1921 in Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire.

In France, the modern restaurant menu meaning of "entrée" is the course that precedes the main course in a three-course meal, i.e. the course which in British usage is often called the "starter" and in American usage the "appetizer."
For us as for 15th century diners the entree is the showily-presented main course, which in terms of Thanksgiving would be when the Turkey is brought to the table on a big platter and carved for everyone.

Thanksgiving Follow-Up

On reflection, this was a tougher year than most for ruining Thanksgiving.

Chivalry and "Non-New-Agey Spirituality"

This site looks at first glance like the least likely place you'd expect to find an essay on the glories of chivalry and masculinity, and yet...
The gallantry of a fully expressed man is without compare, and that fully expressed masculinity becomes attractive rather than threatening when a woman knows that her man would not only lay his coat over a puddle for her, or raise his voice to defend her, but that he’d put his body in front of hers to protect her.


Google's algorithm has determined that your economic plan is a phishing scam.

He's still better than Clinton.

Riding Weather

Everyone listens to "Alice's Restaurant" on Thanksgiving, and this year is the 50th anniversary -- yeah, really -- of that 18-22 year old song of revolt against being drafted. It's a great song in its way. But it wasn't the only great song to come out of that album.

How Medieval is Thanksgiving?

Not entirely, to be sure!  Turkey is a new world bird:  indeed, I was just talking to a professor last week who was telling me that Syrian refugees in Europe have been turning up their noses at processed turkey sandwiches because the meat is unfamiliar to them, and they can't be sure it is halal.  Chicken is known in the Middle East, and well known, but turkey is still unfamiliar.

All the same, it turns out that the answer is "somewhat."
In other words, the Englishmen who landed in Massachusetts didn’t eat turkey because it was the only local food available. Rather, they’d been quite familiar with it back in England, where it was even common to remove the skin and feathers, cook it and serve it with the feathers replaced, as if it were still living – a standard medieval trick.

The side dishes also date back to Europe, with flavor profiles that are actually medieval in origin.

Take cranberry sauce. In medieval Europe, sour fruit sauce with wild fowl was a popular combination, one that balanced a cold and moist condiment with a hot, dry meat. In the mid-17th century, for example, the famous French chef La Varenne served turkey with raspberries.

But the real connection between Thanksgiving and the medieval feast is in the spices. Although today we use the blanket term “pumpkin spice” to characterize variations of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger (and they show up practically everywhere in cheap artificial form), these flavors were the backbone of medieval cuisine, appearing in a wide array of sweet and savory dishes, from chicken to pasta.

Back then, it simply wasn’t a lavish meal without a riot of spices (which, because they needed to be imported from Asia, were wildly expensive). Today the only one of these spices that stays on the table year-round is pepper. But their pivotal role in Thanksgiving again is a reminder of the tradition’s remote origins.

This Should Be A Fun Holiday

Are you ready to be a horrible pain in everyone's neck this Thanksgiving? If not, don't worry! People are here to help you annoy everyone with whom you were planning to share this moment of family togetherness.

Time's Up in California

Los Angeles passed a measure banning all "high capacity" (i.e., normal capacity) detachable magazines and required citizens to turn them in to police. The sixty day "grace period" during which you would "graciously" be allowed to surrender your private property to the government without compensation has now closed, and the total number of magazines received by police is:


Advice Pour Les Francois

"What's zee best?"

They Are Breaking The Law, Though, Right?

Headline: "Clinton promises never to say ‘illegal immigrants’ again."

Against Shooting Parachutists

Yeah, No.

Rich Lowry: "Donald Trump’s appeal is as American as Andrew Jackson."

I missed the part where Donald Trump won a major battle, or a series of small wars, or defended his wife's honor, or indeed showed respect for anyone's honor besides his own. Trump may have some of Jackson's flaws, but I see no sign that he has any of Jackson's substantial virtues.

Drink More Whiskey

At least, that's the advice I glean for America from this review:
Cheever describes local taverns as “the cradle of the revolution.” And through the 18th century, she explains, a steady stream of beer and rum helped to unleash the bravado and defiance necessary to inch toward independence. The patriots who tossed tea into the Boston Harbor in 1773 hadn’t planned on doing so, but they were blasted after hours of drunken scheming. “Perhaps if they had been sober,” Cheever writes, “the night would have been different; they were not sober. They were drunk enough to change history.”

As the American Revolution ignited, “drinking seems to have gone hand in hand with heroism.”
We could use some more of that. You might try Leadslinger's.

Duffel Blog Strikes Again

Veteran student center turned into a "safe space."
“The Veterans Center was a place where they could go where they wouldn’t feel marginalized,” Northeastern President Joseph Aoun said. “It was a state of the art building with padded walls, straightjackets, and doors that locked from the outside. Veterans could attend class online to keep them away from the student body. This would allow veterans to have a safe space and keep them contained for campus safety. Unfortunately, something went wrong.”

Just days after the Veteran Center opened, construction workers were seen entering the building with metal poles and hot tubs. An audit revealed the Northeastern Student Veteran’s Association spent their entire budget sponsoring work visas for Thai women.

“We had several reports of odd purchases,” Northeastern University Police Chief Paddy O’Shea Finnegan said. “Huntington Wine and Spirits reported they were sold out. Clerks at Wollaston’s said guys with short haircuts were buying bananas but warning each other not to eat them.”

Members of the ROTC battalion attempted to enter but were only allowed access if they brought cookies from Stetson East. The cadets left the building wide eyed, with an understanding why officers are taught to be scared of enlisted soldiers.

Police were called to the Veteran Center after shirtless men were seen shooting fireworks off the top of the building.
That sounds about right.

Inshallah We Will Not Be Destroyed

The ISIS intern team opens a Twitter account.

"cultural issues of implication involved in the practice"

Yeah, I don't know what that means, either.  Here's a link to the whole thing, but you're not going to be any more enlightened once you've read it.  The gist of it is that the University of Ottawa decided that yoga classes for disabled students were triggering colonialist cultural appropriation cooties or something. The yoga instructor was trying to be sensitive, so she suggested:
“What do you think about having a class that is just stretching for mental health?” she wrote. “We don’t have to call it yoga (because that’s not really what we are doing, we are just stretching). I think that will work because it would literally change nothing about the class. … I know some people are offended but I am sure we can change it so that everyone feels included.... Now that I am aware that this is a sensitivity, I can just leave all yoga-ness out.”
Not so fast, running dog colonialist person of uncolor. The purge must go deeper than that.
“The higher-ups at the student federation got involved, finally we got an e-mail routed through the student federation basically saying they couldn’t get a French name and nobody wants to do it, so we’re going to cancel it for now....”

This Was Bound To Happen

Turkey has reportedly shot down a Russian jet.

The state of play in the air war over this region has been as follows: Russia dispatched substantial air forces, including their "supermaneuverable" Su-30 air superiority fighters. Now, these are plausibly multi-role fighters, so it wasn't totally odd that they would deploy them against an enemy that had no air force. Still, they were clearly testing Turkish airspace, reportedly locking onto Turkish planes and violating Turkish territory. The Pentagon decided to move a bunch of F-15Cs over to Turkey as a guarantor, since Turkey's aging F-16s are probably overmatched by the Russian jets. These are upgraded F-15s specifically structured for air-to-air combat.

Russia took note of the deployment, which wasn't even plausibly aimed at ISIS but at their own jets, and deployed S-300 missiles in Syria. These are thought capable of taking down anything we've got short of true stealth planes such as the F-22 and F-35. So far we haven't sent any, but it's the next logical phase in the escalation.

So today the Russians lost a bomber, an Su 24 according to their defense ministry. Exactly who shot it down -- ground fire or a Turkish F-16 -- is in dispute, as is the Turks' claim that it violated their airspace.

UPDATE: Reuters is reporting that the Russian pilots survived, but were shot dead by Turkish militia.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Poll: "Majority of Americans Support Sending Congress to Syria."

Whatever Happened to those "Little Platoons"?

A leftist worries aloud that America may be falling into fascism. If only we had those 'little platoons' -- whatever happened to them?
This problem goes far deeper than better techniques for getting out the vote. It reflects a massive decay of civil society, a deep disinterest and contempt for government and politics, one that often seems richly earned.

This is also the soil in which fascism grows. As political scientists have demonstrated for more than a century, it is mass society, in which people are disconnected from the "little platoons" beloved of Edmund Burke and the local associations celebrated by Tocqueville, where a strongman can suddenly seem the solution to people's inchoate frustrations with their own lives and the irrelevance of politics.
The irony of this remark is biting until you get just a little deeper into the piece, and he explains his version of this idea.
There was a time in America when poor and working class people did have representative institutions that connected them to civic and political life. They were called labor unions.
Oh, I see. If only we could assign all these people to a labor union that would help organize them 'in their own interest' and align them with correct politics. Mao did that. It wasn't exactly Burke's idea, though.

Quelle Suprise

The fruits begin to come in.
[E]ven some secular French journalists have started writing about a phenomenon that’s become difficult to ignore: an increasingly self-confident Catholicism that combines what might be called a dynamic orthodoxy with a determination to shape French society in ways that contest the status quo—both inside and outside the Church.

On October 30, readers of France’s main center-right newspaper, Le Figaro, woke up to the headline “La révolution silencieuse des catholiques de France.” What followed was a description of how those whom Le Figaro calls France’s néocatholiques have come to the forefront of the nation’s political, cultural, and economic debates. Significantly, the new Catholics’ idea of dialogue isn’t about listening to secular intellectuals and responding by nodding sagely and not saying anything that might offend others. Instead, younger observant Catholics have moved beyond—way, way beyond—what was called the “Catholicism of openness” that dominated post-Vatican II French Catholic life. While the néocatholiques are happy to listen, they also want to debate and even critique reigning secular orthodoxies. For them, discussion isn’t a one-way street. This is a generation of French Catholics who are, as Le Figaro put it, “afraid of nothing.”
Secularism was just a phase.

Good Heavens, No

This headline: "After Paris Attacks, a Political Leader Wants to Bring Back This Medieval Execution for Jihadists."

No, no, no.

The guillotine is not medieval. While there were some predecessor devices that were, the guillotine came to be during a debate of the parliament that produced the French Revolution. Its association with that revolution, and especially its frequent use during the Terror, made it a symbol of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.
As a member of the assembly Guillotin mainly directed his attention towards medical reform, and it was on 10 October 1789, during a debate on capital punishment, that he proposed that "the criminal shall be decapitated; this will be done solely by means of a simple mechanism." The "mechanism" was defined as "a machine that beheads painlessly". His proposal appeared in the Royalist periodical, Les Actes des Apôtres.

At that time, beheading in France was typically done by axe or sword, which did not always cause immediate death. Additionally, beheading was reserved for the nobility, while commoners were typically hanged. Dr. Guillotin assumed that if a fair system was established where the only method of capital punishment was death by mechanical decapitation, then the public would feel far more appreciative of their rights.

Despite this proposal, Guillotin was opposed to the death penalty and hoped that a more humane and less painful method of execution would be the first step toward a total abolition of the death penalty. He also hoped that fewer families and children would witness executions, and vowed to make them more private and individualized. It was also his belief that a standard death penalty by decapitation would prevent the cruel and unjust system of the day.
So it was all about reforming the law to eliminate distinctions between classes, about bringing reason and science to bear on social problems, and about reducing the pain and cruelty of the death penalty (with an eye towards its eventual abolition, as France did in 1981). It would be ironically appropriate for the Enlightenment's foremost weapon to be brought to bear against ISIS.

Blowing Up My Insurance Was One Thing...

...but this time you've gone too far, Obamacare.

"We Heard There Was Jihad Going On Without No Union Cards..."

"Say it ain't so."

Federalism: Still A Long Way To Go

If you are a lover of the Constitution, and especially if you are the kind of Constitutionalist who takes originalism and/or the 10th Amendment seriously, this Pew poll contains a little good news and a lot of bad news. The good news is that Americans have a very low opinion of the Federal government, and are open to stripping it of some of the powers it currently exercises. The bad news is that majorities still think the Federal government should have "a major role" in tons of things that the Constitution intended to leave to the states.
Fully 80% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they prefer a smaller government with fewer services, compared with just 31% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Yet both Republicans and Democrats favor significant government involvement on an array of specific issues. Among the public overall, majorities say the federal government should have a major role in dealing with 12 of 13 issues included in the survey, all except advancing space exploration.
Oddly, not even a third of Republicans and Republican leaners say they are angry with the Federal government, which they certainly have cause to be. Only half of this group thinks the Federal government runs its programs poorly, which may be even stranger for the party of Reagan in the wake of the VA scandal, the complete failure to enforce immigration laws, the Obamacare debacles -- think how much fun it must be to be one of those millions who have lost their health care plan twice due to Obamacare and its collapsing "marketplaces" -- the foreign policy embarrassments, the Justice Department's failure to prosecute crimes for politically favored individuals, the Fast & Furious scandal, the IRS-stalking-conservatives scandal, the....

You have to assume people just aren't paying attention.

A Slight Miscalculation

These airstrikes were launched not because U.S. officials were prescient. They came after the Obama administration found and quietly fixed a colossal miscalculation. U.S. intelligence had grossly overestimated the damage they’d inflicted during airstrikes on the militants’ oil production apparatus last year, while underestimating Islamic State’s oil revenue by $400 million.
That's four times as much as the administration had previously believed they were getting, and doesn't count income from the slave trade, general crime and extortion in its area of operation, etc.

Political Suicide

There are many ways in which the Democratic Party is pursuing an agenda that is bad for ordinary Americans, but for the most part the public hasn't grasped just how and why it is bad for them. There are two areas, however, where the public has clearly and substantially rejected the current agenda of the Democrats in Washington:

1) Gun Control,

2) Increasing immigration -- especially immigration of refugees from the civil war in Syria, but also generally.

The polling on these is clear, but if you don't trust polls practical behavior by Americans shows the degree to which these positions are rejected. On the one hand you have the record gun sales across the country, lasting for years. On the other you have the sustained popularity of Donald Trump, whose major virtue in the eyes of the public is intense, loud opposition to immigration. You've got the fact that a majority of state governors felt that it was good politics to formally reject new refugees last week.

What if we could combine both of these into a single symbolic effort to tie the Democratic party to the two things Americans have most clearly rejected?

Mike's got the principled argument against all this right in his post below. Even if you rejected the principles, though, politically this is irrational. It's as if they were trying to throw the 2016 elections.

Froggy Used To Call These "Security Rounds"

On stopping active shooters.

A reasonable person might well expect a suicide vest from someone engaged in an essentially terrorist act. We haven't seen them deployed in active shooting situations in America usually, but they're commonly deployed overseas. There's no reason it shouldn't become common here, really.

Why are they allowed to have guns?

We get this piece of silliness from ABC News:

It notes that individuals on the FBI terrorist watch list can legally purchase firearms.  What an outrage!  Why should people, arrested and charged with no crime whatsoever be allowed to exercise their Constitutional rights!  They're on a watch list!!!  Isn't that like, super important?

Well, As noted over at Ace of Spades, Charles C. W. Cooke breaks down how it's not just the NRA that opposes restricting firearm purchases by those on the terrorist watch list, but that infamous right-wing group the ACLU does as well.  Why?  Well, there's this little thing called the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution that says that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law".  And one of those liberties that no person shall be deprived of is the right to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Because there is no due process involved with getting on a terrorist watch list.  One is placed on that list by whim of the FBI, not by a court of law, or a jury of one's peers.  If all it took was an unelected official to declare that the NRA was a terrorist group to forbid its membership from purchasing firearms legally, well then you don't actually believe some future administration wouldn't be a bit tempted to do so, do you?  Listen to the rhetoric of people like Michael Bloomberg or Gavin Newsome.  I guarantee you if they had their way, anyone who owns a firearm would be thrown onto such a watch list.

And this brings me to the last point.  Legal points of sale are not what the terrorists have ever previously shown an interest in.  For the Paris attack (in a country with strict gun control... sorry "common sense" gun control), they did not get their weapons from the US, or another lax gun control law nation.  They got them illegally in Belgium which, if anything, has even stricter ("more sensible") gun control laws than France.  Restricting the ability of citizens to purchase weapons legally does not stop those who wish to purchase them illegally.