The Last Segment Is Really Worth Watching

You can skip the rest if you like, but the space exploration bit should be seen.

Reaping the Whirlwind

Fareed Zakaria's notice of the increased death rate in blue-collar white Americans, from suicide and drugs, draws this comment from Glenn Reynolds:
 Psychologists say that depression is anger turned inward. What happens if it turns outward?
That's the right question.  Zakaria misses it completely, being so invested in the narrative that America is becoming more ethnically diverse that he fails to notice that it was an artificial process that could be fairly easily reversed.  Nothing can be done but to accept their miserable fate, he suggests:
Working-class whites don’t think of themselves as an elite group. But, in a sense, they have been, certainly compared with blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and most immigrants. They were central to America’s economy, its society, indeed its very identity. They are not anymore. Donald Trump has promised that he will change this and make them win again. But he can’t. No one can. And deep down, they know it.
In fact, it was an immigration reform act in 1965 that altered America's immigration policies to favor the Third World instead of the First as they had traditionally.  Laws that can change one way can change another.

It was the election of two different two-term Democratic presidents who did not enforce immigration laws, and one two-term Republican who was not especially exercised about it, that led to the massive demographic shift over the last three decades.  If you elect a President for whom they are a priority, that massive wave of immigrants are still first-generation.  They could be expelled, if enough anger is focused upon the matter.

Even without the increased anger, last year more natives of Mexico left the United States than came here.  Why not?  People have a natural preference for home.  If Mexico and other Latin American states improve, many of these people would go home just because they'd rather be there than here.  If increasing anger drives a nativism that becomes harsh and unwelcoming, even more people will feel inclined to depart.  They'll take their families with them willingly.  The demographic 'destiny' would then change, and what Zakaria thinks impossible would become real.

It would, however, be a very ugly time.  The expressions of such anger and nativism are not beautiful.

What is driving all this anger?  Perhaps it is the fact that the government, under the current administration, is actively taking sides against these workers.  It's also the triumphalism of the cultural left, which is openly salivating about being able to put the older, whiter America in the grave.  These are choices too, choices with consequences.  These people are not fools just because they don't have a college degree.  Having less education may make their response more visceral, but it won't keep them from noticing what is being done and who is doing it.  They can hear the voices that hate them.  They can hear how happy those voices sound when they posit a world in which these American workers and their families are no longer important.

In fact, even if we avoid the period of anger it would be completely unsurprising if America became less 'ethnically diverse' again -- not by changing actual demographics, but by absorbing later-generation immigrants into a new definition of 'the majority.'  That has happened to the Irish, to the Germans, to the Italians, to many Jews, and could very easily happen to Latinos as well.  There is no reason for us to insist on going through the ugliness that is likely to follow.

Still, avoiding the anger will be hard to do because the anger is not unjustified.  It is clear that a generation of policies have been in place to effect this reduction, that new policies are being put in place to further it and cement it, and that the fall of these people and their families is deeply and earnestly desired by the cultural allies of the politicians effecting the policies.

What happens if the anger turns outward?  That is indeed the question, and people should give it some thought.  It would be wiser and better for those driving the underlying causes of this anger to stop and consider the effects of their actions.

A Year in the Life of Grim

I was thinking back this evening on how much 2015 has been a difficult year.  I decided it would be good to go back through my photographs from the year to find some things to be grateful for.  It has been a difficult year in several respects, but it turns out that it I had a great year that somehow ran concurrently with the difficult one.  I'm glad I looked back.  Here's hoping 2016 is a good year, too. 

Islam and "America"

An interesting simile:
Can the celebration of wine drinking be Islamic? To Ahmed, the answer is: obviously, yes. It is Islamic insofar as this celebration is expressed, for example, in the terms of such classical Sufi metaphors for “the experience of intoxication with the Divine,” as well as the more mundane recognition of wine’s virtues as a social lubricant. The extensive medical literature of the premodern Islamic world attests openly to the latter fact. As the 10th-century physician and philosopher Abu Zayd al-Balkhi put it, “It is wine that provides excellence to society and conversation…and there is nothing that makes possible relations of intimacy and confidence between friends so tastefully and pleasantly and effectively as does drinking wine together.”

To say that wine drinking is un-Islamic may be akin to saying that the refusal to serve in the military during a period of wartime conscription is un-American. In the view of some citizens, such a refusal may well violate the essence of Americanness, in addition to violating American law; to others, however, this act may rather fulfill and epitomize the requirements of citizenship. By Ahmed’s logic, the refusal to serve in the military is not just American in spite of its opposition to other, contradictory values associated with Americanness, but precisely because of it.
The whole article is worth reading, actually. But I'm struck by this particularly. "What is Islam?" then becomes a question like "What is America?" It's a surprisingly all-encompassing question without any easy answers. John Wayne, in describing his love for America, dwelt on her physical beauty. Clearly, from his movies, that wasn't all he loved about America. Trying to figure out what America was and what it ought to be is a major theme of many of his movies, especially the Ford productions like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

What is America? What does it mean to be an American? It seems as if there are at least some wrong answers, so the question isn't meaningless. It seems as if it might overlap with many of the answers one might give to the question "What is Islam?" That's not a meaningless question either, again because there are at least some wrong answers. A problem is that some of the right answers to the second question are wrong answers to the first, and vice-versa.

Now They're Just "The Islands"

Chuck Norris' role in bringing down Communism.

Bill Cosby Charged

I don't mean to imply by this post that he is not innocent until proven guilty, but I am encouraged to see such a celebrity brought before the courts given the serious and not incredible charges against him. I hope the process will be thorough and fair, the truth arrived at, and justice done.

May power and political connections also prove to be impotent as a bar to justice.

Fool Me Once, Shame on You

Richard J. Davis thinks Hillary Clinton should set some ethical standards for herself.
This then may be the ideal time for Clinton proactively to take steps to minimize the potential damage to her candidacy from other sources of controversy: the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees earned by former President Clinton. Such steps need to include significant restrictions on who the foundation will accept donations from as well as on where the former president will speak for money.

Taking these steps now is particularly important for Hillary Clinton because one area where her poll numbers remain problematic is whether she is viewed as honest and trustworthy....

It is important to understand that the issue regarding the Clinton Foundation is not whether the foundation is (or was) a conduit for illegal bribes and it certainly is not about whether the foundation does truly humanitarian work. I am not aware of serious evidence that the former is the case.
The thing is, Clinton did set an ethical standard for herself when taking the job of Secretary of State. It was a written agreement she signed with the incoming Obama administration.

She broke it.

Why would we be convinced that she was going to keep an agreement with herself, when she didn't keep a written and allegedly binding agreement with the President of the United States?

The reason that nearly sixty percent of Americans say that Clinton is dishonest is because she is dishonest.

How dishonest? "In a league of her own."

Nobody should be fooled by any statements about ethics coming from the former Secretary of State. They're no more trustworthy than any of her other statements -- or her signature on a legal document.

No Reason the President Shouldn't Spy on Congress, Right?

I mean, many of them are members of the political opposition -- and talking with foreigners, no less. Obviously the President needs to know what they're saying.

To-may-to, To-mah-to

From an amusing list of 'best (or worst) media corrections of 2015.'
“Norma Adams-Wade’s June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.” --- The Dallas Morning News.
I also like this line from one of the corrections: "There is nothing to be gained in trying to explain how the error occurred." I'll have to save that one to use on my wife.

Waco Update: Defense Lawyer Barred Access to Evidence

...unless he agrees to sign a release form that forbids him to discuss the evidence with the press.
Callahan’s motion states he has not been able to receive the information, after numerous requests, because he won’t sign a condition of release regarding talking to the media....

The motion states District Attorney Abel Reyna should not be allowed to limit the release of evidence based on an agreement regarding media after he gave an extensive TV interview explicitly designed to erode the defendants’ presumption of innocence.
So it's not that we don't want to taint the jury pool by having the matter discussed before the trial. It's that we want to make sure our tainting of the jury pool goes unchallenged.

Magical Thinking Is Good For You!

A satire, sort of.
I’m not just talking about vaccines, but we can start there. A lot of people have judged us harshly in recent days for not vaccinating our nine young children. That’s fine. I myself was held down and vaccinated when I was young. I understand that vaccines bolster vulnerable immune systems by stimulating your body’s natural defenses... And if you want to live and die by the wholly effective, risk-free, and affordable breakthroughs that Western medicine has produced, that’s fine. That’s your right.

But don’t expect me to come along on that joyride of lies.


Whenever a friend gets cancer, I make sure to tell her about the power of vitamin C and a can-do attitude. I’ve lost so many friends to the acidic nightmare of chemotherapy. They’re still alive; we just don’t talk anymore. Thanks a lot, Big Pharma.

Don’t get me started about sugar. Don’t get me started about gluten. Don’t get me started about mercury or fluoride. Because I will literally never stop talking about it.

Health insurance reform

Just about everything in this article seems like a good idea.

The Rule of Law

Not a good in itself.
Fatwa 64, which effectively justifies the systematic rape of women and girls, says it is necessary to set out rules because "one of the inevitable consequences of the jihad of establishment is that women and children of infidels will become captives of Muslims".

Among the disturbing list of rules are that 'owners' of mother and daughter captives, or sister captives cannot have intercourse with both and that owners and their sons cannot have intercourse with the same woman captive.

They also state that owners should not cause the captive women to abort if they are pregnant, should not sell her to an owner they know will treat her badly and should treat her with "compassion"....

In order to deal with the women captured by fighters, IS has established a department of "war spoils" to manage slavery.
The confusion is easy to fall into. Aristotle himself says that justice is lawfulness plus fairness, to paraphrase very loosely, and it can thus kind of sound like obedience to the law is a good in and of itself. But that isn't really what he means: on a closer reading, he means to say that it is good to obey the law if the law is properly structured.
Now the laws in their enactments on all subjects aim at the common advantage either of all or of the best or of those who hold power, or something of the sort; so that in one sense we call those acts just that tend to produce and preserve happiness and its components for the political society. And the law bids us do both the acts of a brave man (e.g. not to desert our post nor take to flight nor throw away our arms), and those of a temperate man (e.g. not to commit adultery nor to gratify one's lust), and those of a good-tempered man (e.g. not to strike another nor to speak evil), and similarly with regard to the other virtues and forms of wickedness, commanding some acts and forbidding others; and the rightly-framed law does this rightly, and the hastily conceived one less well. This form of justice, then, is complete virtue, but not absolutely, but in relation to our neighbour. And therefore justice is often thought to be the greatest of virtues, and 'neither evening nor morning star' is so wonderful; and proverbially 'in justice is every virtue comprehended'. And it is complete virtue in its fullest sense, because it is the actual exercise of complete virtue. It is complete because he who possesses it can exercise his virtue not only in himself but towards his neighbour also; for many men can exercise virtue in their own affairs, but not in their relations to their neighbour.
Emphasis added. Law is justice insofar as it commands the behavior that virtue itself would command. In that way, obeying the law is complete virtue from the perspective of your neighbors: though it does not insist on your virtue in private matters, where neighbors are concerned, a rightly-formed law mandates that you act rightly toward them.

ISIS clearly thinks it is doing something moral here by regulating away the worst practices of its fighters, and thus mandating that they treat the women they take as slaves with 'compassion,' both while raping them and at other times. In fact, they have codified the worst abuses into the law: the slavery and the rape themselves. Now the law will permit them to feel good about themselves for avoiding a few bad practices in the performance of their monstrosities.


So you might think, from reading Reuters' report on Gitmo.
Since Obama took office in 2009, these people said, Pentagon officials have been throwing up bureaucratic obstacles to thwart the president's plan to close Guantanamo.

Negotiating prisoner releases with the Pentagon was like "punching a pillow," said James Dobbins, the State Department special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to 2014. Defense Department officials "would come to a meeting, they would not make a counter-argument," he said. "And then nothing would happen."...

When the State Department added the four Afghans to a list of detainees prioritized for transfer in the summer of 2013, Defense Department officials resisted. At a meeting at the Pentagon, a mid-level Defense Department official said transferring the four "might be the president's priority, but it's not the Pentagon's priority or the priority of the people in this building," according to current and former administration officials present at the meeting.
The problem is, the actual things the report cites sound like genuine legal concerns. A big part of this may be the President's penchant for ignoring inconvenient laws running up against the military's penchant for running everything by the SJA as an ordinary part of the staffing process. It's hard to get the Pentagon to do things that are legal but only questionably so, or debatably so. Even at lower levels of organization a lot of cover needs to be available before people take risky actions. The closer you get to the guy on the field of battle, the more freedom there is. The higher you go, the more the legal structure ossifies and the decision-making process becomes averse to running legal risks.

In general, that's not a bad thing. It's good if the military is restrained by the law. Places where it has not been have not always turned out well. Willingness to obey 'the leader's orders' instead of the law is not healthy.

Besides, there's this:
Afterwards, State Department officials began referring to them as the "JV four" or "Junior Varsity four," for their seeming lack of importance to Taliban fighters.
Hmm, there's that "JV" again. I understand that none of these people apparently have military experience, so that college or high-school metaphors are all that work for their thought process. But don't you understand that the Junior Varsity often becomes the Varsity later in their career? That's why schools bother with a JV team: as a training ground and feeder for future star players on the big field.

With judgment like this, it would not be surprising if a few feet got drug in the Pentagon.

Against the Royal Presidency

Charles C. W. Cooke:
As I write, the president of the United States is openly promising to finish off his second term with a flurry of extraconstitutional activity. By the power invested in his “pen and phone,” Barack Obama intends to wield his “executive authority” in order to institute a set of environmental rules that the people’s representatives have declined to grant him; to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in direct defiance of Congress’s will; and to further circumvent a series of immigration laws that have been on the books for decades.
It's a good point. Everyone has been mocking Mrs. Clinton's claim that "I wouldn't keep any school open that wasn't doing a better-than-average job" on the grounds of its innumeracy. What strikes me about it is her assumption that, as President, she would of course have the power to close a local school if it failed to perform.

Tamir Rice Killing: No Charges For Police

I find this decision surprising given that Ohio, where the shooting occurred, is an open carry state. Now, children are not allowed to open carry in Ohio: an unaccompanied child carrying a pistol would be cause for concern. However, in order to realize that it was a child and not an adult carrying the pistol, you would first have to take note of the fact that you were dealing with an unaccompanied child.

So if it were an adult carrying a gun in the park, given the open carry law there is no reason to presume criminal intent. If it is a child carrying the gun, there is no reason to treat the case as being threatening in the way that an adult with a gun would be. The officers' defense is that they thought the child was an adult, and that the child appeared to draw the firearm. That may well be true.

However, that's odd: normally the defense is not presented to the grand jury. Normally the grand jury would hear: the child wasn't breaking any laws, even if the child looked like an adult the pistol they were carrying might well have been legal under the law, and yet the child was shot dead so immediately that the shooter's judgment is unlikely to meet the rational-man test. That would get you charges, and you'd work out at trial whether the defense was sufficient to find that the accused were not guilty of those charges.

It's going to be hard to convince people that this isn't a rigged game when the standards are so different. You can say that it's about the law enforcement system protecting its members and not about race, maybe, by pointing at the Waco shootout as evidence that being white doesn't always help you much: there the police shot at least four of the nine dead with rifles, but the only people facing indictment are bikers whom the DA apparently can't tie to any specific act of violence at all. The system just doesn't work when the police are behind the trigger.

Still, this was a child.

UPDATE: Allahpundit reminds me of why this seemed familiar to me:
But that’s half the story. The other half is the fact that the county prosecutor, Timothy McGinty, extended these two cops the same exceptional courtesy that Darren Wilson received in the shooting of Michael Brown — namely, he presented all the facts to the grand jury instead of only those facts most beneficial to the prosecution’s side. That’s good procedure, as it means someone who’s likely to be found not guilty at trial can go free sooner due to lack of probable cause. Wilson, who was cleared by Obama’s DOJ in the Brown shooting, is a perfect example. But only a very few lucky souls, usually police officers facing high-profile charges of excessive force, seem to benefit from that sort of prosecutorial diligence.
At the time, I remember saying that this is what we should always do -- and that the shame was that we so rarely do it. How many of those Waco indictments would have been thrown out if the prosecutor presented the full facts (such as, for example, the fact that they apparently have no idea precisely who shot anyone)?

It's hard to endorse the standard if it is not anything like evenly applied.

Motörhead Mourns

Let us pause to note the passing of Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, who has died at the age of 70.

UPDATE: Just to archive this photo, as a reason to like the old rocker.

Four Views of the Good Life

Brief summaries only, but not bad introductions. Here is Aristotle's, which is of course the best one:

The others are Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche, the most recent being the least decent.

Monstrous Heroes

This focuses on the Icelandic sagas, but it's a feature of Northern European literature more generally. Culhwch and Olwen, which appears in both the Red Book of Hergest and the White Book of Rydderch, has a long list of Arthurian heroes many of whom have monstrous qualities.

The Feast of Holy Innocents

I wrote about this last year. It is a somber moment in the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Great news in medicine

H/t to Maggie's Farm for this link, which was inside an interesting article on medical advances in 2015.

I'm late, as usual

I wanted to post this on St. Stephen's Day, but I got caught up with doing nothing all weekend.  So enjoy: