Auld Lang Syne

Performed by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

UPDATE: Congratulations on surviving 2016, those of you on the East Coast. Now for 2017.

Iceland Ends the Year with No Government

Iceland is ending an eventful year in a political quagmire, left without a government for two months after the Panama Papers scandal and a snap election reflecting deep divisions in the island nation.

"In recent years we thought we were seeing the craziest, but we were proven wrong every time -- Iceland found ways to be even crazier," a parliamentary assistant from the Icelandic opposition said on April 6, seeing a government in tatters hesitate on its next move.

Iceland, getting even crazier. Finland has some work to do.

Apparently, the Pirate Party made a run at it, but ultimately failed to take the ship of state.

Update: The AFP article doesn't tell us this, but according to the Wikipedia article linked above, the Pirates actually won 23.9% of the vote and are the largest party in Iceland right now.

But it's not all bad:

Its economy is flourishing with growth expected to reach five percent, after 4.2 percent in 2015. Unemployment has virtually disappeared. Incomes are rising fast. Construction is booming.

Iceland has become a hot spot for tourists from Britain, the US, Asia or Germany, at almost any time of the year, fuelling the creation of thousands of jobs and generous spending.

Cause? Effect?


One of these years, I have to get out to Edinburgh for this festival.

The Chronicles of the Black Company (and More Rogue One)

In the Rogue One thread (where, BTW, douglas has now weighed in) I brought up a series of military fantasy novels that I think many at the Hall would enjoy, Glen Cook's The Chronicles of the Black Company. (Ignore the cover art on that edition. Please.)

Cook himself, I believe, was a corpsman for a Marine Recon unit and fought in Vietnam, and the books read that way, although the Black Company is a medieval-style free company and instead of all the high-tech support Marine Recon gets the Company has their own section of sorcerers.

If you've ever wondered what a Vietnam-style counter-insurgency would look like in a sword & sorcery world, here it is. In the first novel, the Company is hired by the sorceress queen of an empire to root out and destroy a troublesome insurgency that seems to keep growing despite her own army's victories. Prophesies of the White Rose, a messianic figure, give many of the queen's subjects a religious fervor for the insurgency, and so the Company is tasked not only with fighting the insurgents but disproving the prophesies. There is some good military cloak-and-dagger work in that. Of course, the queen's own generals grow to hate the Company as she increasingly relies on it to do the job her  native regiments don't seem to be able to accomplish, so the Company is always watching its back as well. It's a great story.

Epic Rap Battle: J. R. R. Tolkien vs. George R. R. Martin

Pretty funny, though there's some foul language.

I Mean, I Suppose Illiteracy Is A Problem

[The former head of Obama's faith-based outreach] once drafted a faith-outreach fact sheet describing Obama’s views on poverty, titling it “Economic Fairness and the Least of These,” a reference to a famous teaching from Jesus in the Bible. Another staffer repeatedly deleted “the least of these,” commenting, “Is this a typo? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Who/what are ‘these’?
Possibly the staffer was from another religious tradition, of course. Still, that points out another problem. The American literary tradition is awash in Biblical references -- just consider Moby Dick. Even granting that Jefferson et al were followers of a Deist line of thought that is closer to secularism than Americans often appreciate today, drifting completely out of the Christian tradition means drifting away from much of the founding thought of the American ideal. And the best thought, too: Jefferson spoke of a separation of Church and state, but also of the rights granted by a Creator inalienably. The nation was founded in a tense relationship with the institution of slavery that it inherited, but the Abolitionists were also the most intensely Evangelical Christians of their age. Dr. King's oratory doesn't make sense outside of the Biblical tradition.

I wonder what they think the answer to that problem is, or if they recognize it to be a problem?

Top ten top tens from 2016

From ChrisTheBarker:

That link was via Jonah Goldberg's newsletter, whence also these:

The Year in Memes:  I got through the first ten and discovered I'd never heard of any of them.

2016 Internet Slang:  No, never heard of these, either.  Was I even present during 2016?

The Year in Space:  OK, a few of these.

Top Ten Top Ten Lists:  A complete bomb on all of them, even the books, which I had some tiny prayer of recognizing in principle.

I'm going to stop now.  This is too alienating.

How Not To Be Wrong and other book reviews

I have discovered the pleasures of "Audible," which is an Amazon-related service that allows you to download audiobooks.  It's a great thing for beadworking, gardening, jogging, and driving.  If you hate the book, you can even return it and download a replacement for free.  I wasn't tempted to return "How Not To Be Wrong," by Jordan Ellenberg, a book about probability, statistics, and generally reliable analysis written by a guy with an engaging style and a good sense of anecdote.  I wish I could quote from it, but that's the disadvantage of an audiobook.  This L.A. Times interview gives you a good flavor.  The anecdote that deserves quoting at length concerned a spoofed research article about detecting emotional responses to photographs by scanning the brain activity of deceased fish.  The deadpan introductory sections of that paper are priceless, setting out the relatively little difficulty the researchers had in ensuring that the fish did not alter their positions while in the scanning machines.  There is also an explanation of the pitfalls of "regression to the mean" analysis that I found very helpful as a layman lacking any systematic training in statistics.

I hated Yuval Noah Harari's "Sapiens:  A Brief History of Humankind"--too snide and preachy--so I exchanged it for Sean Carroll's "The Big Picture," which I'm still on the fence about.  It's interesting, but I have almost no patience for extended philosophical discussions in the "what if it's all just an illusion" vein.  He does have a nice exposition of what he calls "poetic naturalism," which tries to bridge the gap between fine-grained mechanistic explanations of scientific processes and humanistic treatments of concepts like personality and duty, which he groups in the "emergent order" category.  It's a good shot at avoiding absurd reductionism.

Nick Lane's newest book, "The Vital Question," was as terrific as Nick Lane books always are; they call for re-reading.  Because "The Vital Question" is about the origin of life, I hoped it would address my favorite mystery, the origin of the DNA code.  Sadly, it did not, but the treatment of the origin of metabolism, eukaryotes (that's everything from yeast to us), and multicellular life is nevertheless mind-blowing for a non-specialist like me.  It's remarkable what people have figured out since I was in school.

"The Crash Detectives" by Christine Negroni was OK as far as it went, but read like a well-constructed brief magazine article that didn't quite get expanded to book length and trailed off towards the end instead.  Michael Foley's "The Age of Absurdity" was not bad but a trifle forgettable.  Tim Harford's "Messy" was quite good in many spots, an entertaining listen for times when you can't concentrate your full attention.  The anecdote I remember best from this book concerned a traffic circle in the Netherlands, which an oddball thinker made safer by removing a lot of traffic signs and making the segregation between foot and auto traffic more ambiguous; this had the paradoxical effect of causing slightly confused drivers to slow down and pay more attention, with the result that traffic accidents decreased.  After reading "How Not To Be Wrong," I'm skeptical whether this story holds water, but it's entertaining nevertheless.

I get a new download every month on my subscription plan, but my next new one isn't available until January 17, and I haven't found a new title irresistible enough to inspire me to fork over another $20 yet.  When I find a good one, I really look forward to quiet times when I can listen, like running errands in the car.  These downloads would be terrific for long solo car trips, if I had any of those planned, but I have no sick relatives in distant cities at present.

I call this a good sign

Yes, the press makes no real effort to hide its bias, and it's troubling to think how many people get their information from it.  Nevertheless, when the press goes full-tilt bat-nuts on a subject that, for once, people care about and can check on fairly easily, I can't help thinking the result is going to be that a big new group of voters will have learned what's up.  To the minor degree that I can claim to understand the recent election, it seems to have been about a turning point of sorts in the PC machine I previously feared might be unstoppable.  The press has revealed itself as ridiculous and may now find it difficult to recover much of its position as arbiter of the truth.

Letter to the Editor

Something I published locally:
Last spring, Aransas County voters defeated a proposal to create a county Groundwater Commission by a vote of 8 to 1. The proposed Commission's directors continued to hold public meetings, which a number of citizens dutifully attended, continuing to express concerns and reservations though they seemed to be falling on deaf ears; the directors held out the hope of submitting their issue to yet another public election. More than half a year later, the Commission's directors finally listened to their public and have tendered their resignations to the County Commissioners.
This is the right result, but I want to make a point about how it happened. Lots of us showed up at tedious meetings and read tedious documents to try to understand what the County Commissioners were proposing for us and why. We got the word out to voters before the election at a time when there was practically no other information circulating publicly about what the proposed Commission was about and what kinds of powers it might have. While we were doing it, we complained among ourselves that our elected leaders weren't telling us what we needed to know and weren't listening to us. We all agreed it was no fun spending our evenings in public meetings. We certainly didn't feel like running for office ourselves!
Most of us won't ever run for public office. There is one thing we can do, though, as responsible voters. We can set our voting default switch to "no." Does that sound negative? Well, it is, but in a good way. If our elected leaders have to submit something to a public vote before they have the power to enact, we should be thinking, "There's a good reason for that." If it were routine and unimportant, they wouldn't have to ask us. If we don't know exactly what they're proposing and why it's a good idea, we shouldn't be writing a blank check just so we won't have to feel "negative."
Nor is it the voter's job to track down a county official, back him up against a wall, and interrogate him. If a proposal is important enough to hold an election for, there should have been lots of public discussion about it. Not just a couple of articles in the newspaper, but real discussion that got real people invested in the notion, so they'd talk to their neighbors and get them on board, too. Meetings, letters to the editor, social media, the whole nine yards.
We should all be thinking about this the next time the County puts a bond proposal out for our vote. Do you know why they need to borrow more money? Do you understand what they want to spend it on? If not, that's a good time to vote "no." Maybe the next time a County Commissioner wants to hold an election to get you to sign off on something, he'll know he has a lot of preliminary work to do first, getting the public to make an informed decision about it. Elections are a lot of trouble and expense. They shouldn't be called if they're not important enough to get our support for them. But no one's going to bother to convince you of much if you've made it clear you'll instinctively vote "yes." That's called being taken for granted, and it's no way to keep your government limited.
People who don't govern themselves get governed. You can't count on government just to "leave you alone" if you don't consistently stand up for yourself.
The chairman of the proposed commission's chairman's letter of resignation was a real piece of work: a petulant screed about the unwillingness of the public to be educated about his unimpeachable mission. These guys hid behind the Open Meetings Act to argue that they couldn't discuss anything with us at public meetings, because it wasn't on the agenda. And it wouldn't be on the next agenda, either, or the one after that, but they never gave up on the excuse.  I was gratified to see the depth of the public revulsion over these tactics, but I still thought I should publish my letter, because the voters of this county tend to rubber-stamp every bond proposal the County Commissioners or the school board throws out there.  It's such a dangerous habit of complaisance.

The odd thing is, a Groundwater Commission is something it wouldn't normally be that hard to get me to support.  Despite my skepticism of central-government solutions, protecting an aquifer is one of those areas that seems tailor-made for an exception.  In this case, though, the facts just didn't add up.  Our aquifer is a belt of below-sea-level sand in a coastal county.  To the extent its borders can be defined at all, they don't extend beyond our county boundaries.  The state environmental commission considers our risk of groundwater contamination, overharvesting, and subsidence minimal.  The water is so meager and brackish that it takes quite a stretch of the imagination to fear a water company's plan to sink a huge, thirsty well to sell our water to the distant city of Lubbock and run all the neighbors' wells dry in the process.

On the other hand, many of us could quite easily imagine how unpleasant a little board of self-righteous, thin-skinned tinpot dictators could be once they got the power to tax us, hire a bunch of consultants, start metering our wells, and dream up new groundwater extraction rules for our own good.  They did say they planned to protect household wells with grandfathering provisions, but frankly they lost all credibility after the first meeting or two.  Then, after they were ground into the dirt in last spring's election, they sealed their fate by announcing superciliously that they planned to hold another election in a year or so instead of packing up and going home.  At this point, you'd be hard-pressed to find a citizen of this county who supports their proposal to regulate the groundwater.  I'm pretty sure the one voter out of nine who supported them last spring amounted to themselves, their families, and their office staff.

Studying the Iliad

A military officer from the Australian Defence Forces encourages junior officers and NCOs to learn from Homer.

There's a lot to learn from Homer, and the Greeks generally. But that's preaching to the choir here.

Feast of the Holy Family

A bit of history on the long series of feasts:
The Second Council of Tours of 567 noted that, in the area for which its bishops were responsible, the days between Christmas and Epiphany were, like the month of August, taken up entirely with saints' days. Monks were therefore in principle not bound to fast on those days. However, the first three days of the year were to be days of prayer and penance so that faithful Christians would refrain from participating in the idolatrous practices and debauchery associated with the new year celebrations.

The root of evil

How bad does an anti-capitalist country's crisis have to get before even the Washington Post deplores it?--even if they continue to exhibit no understanding of what's gone wrong down there.  Obviously it's not Obama's fault Venezuela is a basket case, how churlish, but otherwise something or other is happening that we'd rather not get into.

My husband's comment:  "'Autocratic populist government'? 'Economically illiterate'? But we can't write 'socialism', because true socialism hasn't been tried yet." Well, far be it from me to get into another tired debate about the technical definition of socialism. What's clear enough is that a system that erases price signals, nationalizes industry it can't run on its own, and uses governmental power to redistribute goods instead of enforcing enough order and protection for property rights to create an incentive for economic production will produce . . . poverty and collapse. Welcome to paradise, where money isn't important!

Inedible fish

Back to pale, iridescent colors now:  I'm working on a dove.

The Feast of Holy Innocents

A sober feast during the 12 days of Christmas.

The Irish Rovers' "Songs of Christmas"

Grim posting one of their songs led me to a 45-minute album of Christmas music the Irish Rovers made.

Also, for anyone who wants to argue about Rogue One, I saw it last night and have commented on Grim's post about it. What? That's a perfectly Christmas thing to do!

The Feast of St. John the Divine

The Gospel According to John is thought to have been composed late, and incorporates an understanding of Greek philosophy not found in the other Gospels. There are also echoes of later history reflected in the text, or so scholars think.
Critical analysis makes it difficult to accept the idea that the gospel as it now stands was written by one person.... To solve these problems, scholars have proposed various rearrangements that would produce a smoother order. However, most have come to the conclusion that the inconsistencies were probably produced by subsequent editing in which homogeneous materials were added to a shorter original....

The polemic between synagogue and church produced bitter and harsh invective, especially regarding the hostility toward Jesus of the authorities—Pharisees and Sadducees—who are combined and referred to frequently as “the Jews” (see note on Jn 1:19). These opponents are even described in Jn 8:44 as springing from their father the devil, whose conduct they imitate in opposing God by rejecting Jesus, whom God has sent. On the other hand, the author of this gospel seems to take pains to show that women are not inferior to men in the Christian community: the woman at the well in Samaria (Jn 4) is presented as a prototype of a missionary (Jn 4:4–42), and the first witness of the resurrection is a woman (Jn 20:11–18).
Whatever the truth about the authorship, John was a man of courage, said to have sought out a robber among mountain fastnesses even when very old in order to redeem the young man. Had he done nothing else, that would have been worthy of honor. He did many other things.

Edible fish

Our neighbor's daughter and son-in-law are visiting, which makes for a big redfish limit.  His indifferent fillet technique (just grabbing the chunks suitable for tonight's fish-fry) makes in turn for excellent fishframes in our own kitchen.  We've harvested the rest of the useful meat and dropped about eight big frames into a large stockpot, heads and all.  There's a heroic batch of fish soup or gumbo on the way soon.

St. Stephen's Day

The Feast of Christmas

The steaks are ribeyes, some two inches thick, served medium rare. The croissants are filled with many things, from chocolate to ginger to orange marmalade.

I also made cheesecake, and my sister brought sugar cookies, and my mother made Christmas fudge. The wife made these sausage and cheese balls that she only does this one time every year, as otherwise we might eat nothing else.

Victorian Parlor Games

Since so many of our Christmas stories are rough-speaking Victorian, especially A Christmas Carol, you might enjoy some appropriate games for family and friends.
Traditionally played on Christmas Eve, players of Snapdragon must find themselves a broad, shallow bowl, and then prepare to risk their health. Into this bowl should be poured two dozen raisins. If raisins are hard to come by, almonds, grapes or plums will suffice. You should then pour a bottle of brandy into the bowl so that the raisins bob up and down like drowning flies. Place the bowl on a sturdy table, turn the lights down low, and then, with appropriate panache, ignite the brandy.

To play Snapdragon, arrange your family and friends around the blazing bowl so that their faces are lit in a demonic fashion and then, one by one, take turns plunging your hands into the flames in order to try and grab a raisin. If you can accomplish this, promptly extinguish the flaming raisin by popping it into your mouth and eating it.

Christmas Day

Christmas Eve

This is worth a second viewing, if you watched it here last year.

Happy Holidays With Bing and Frank (Classic) from Dill Bates on Vimeo.

All the family has shown up now, and some early light feasting is happening. There is plenty of cheer, including the Christmas mead I made for last year -- which we did not drink, at that time, because my sister announced she was pregnant. Now I have a beautiful niece, and the mead is all the finer for a year's extra aging.


Grim mentioned that he got a bunch of post-election inquiries from left-leaning friends with a sudden interest in arming themselves.  Apparently it's generally a thing.

A Medieval Christmas Delicacy

NPR on bread sauce, which was thickened with day-old bread or toasted crumbs instead of flour.
Ground almonds and other nuts were also used as thickeners, as were eggs and animal fat, but the availability — and versatility — of leftover bread made it a medieval kitchen staple. It offered a good tempered and flexible way to create a variety of consistencies. And in the Middle Ages, being able to whip up a wide variety of soups and sauces was an essential part of the culinary skill set. Want a hearty stew? How about the recipe for Beef Soup (Beef- y-Stywyd ), written in 1420. It gives instructions to soak a loaf of bread in broth and vinegar, push it through a strainer, and then use this sourdough slurry to thicken a pot of simmering beef.

For something a little more piquant for the venison, the 14th century cook could make a batch of cinnamon sauce according to directions in the Forme of Cury, a manuscript roll of recipes attributed to the Master Cooks of King Richard II. The recipe required grinding up cardamom, clove, nutmeg, pepper and ginger with five times as much cinnamon, twice as much toasted bread as everything else, and stirring the lot into some vinegar. Stored in a cask, this made "a lordly sauce" that was "good for half a year."
Sounds pretty good, really.

Christmas Eve

We’ll be driving up for a quick day-trip with my mother-in-law and whatever other family can be there, which is quite a few given that my brother-in-law has four kids and eight grandkids. That means just a brunch with the family after presents and then a drive home, no big Christmas dinner, but we had Christmas dinner with neighbors last night (Oyster pan roast! yum!) and will do it again tonight, this time next door.

Today I’m making a big loaf of French bread for my mother-in-law, her special Christmas request. I’m out of practice, not trusting myself around fresh bread this year, so I did a trial run day before yesterday that suffered from my dingbat inattention during the final proofing. It tastes fine but looks funny. Today’s loaf needs to be pretty. Below is the beading project that distracted me until well after midnight, when I suddenly remembered, “You can’t go to bed yet! You haven’t even warmed up the oven yet! And what is this bizarre mound of dough that has giant bubbles coming out of it?” It was 3 a.m. before I got it out of the oven, but I made huge progress on the rainbow trout.  I have a taxidermy-style glass fisheye coming in the mail, so the eye won't always be just a vague hole with Marxalot.

We’ve just finished having the downstairs public areas painted and chased the workers out of the house until after the holidays. I love fresh clean paint. How old are we getting, that we would actually hire people to do it for us? My husband expressed the strongest possible preference for having guys come in, get it done, and get out. Apparently he thought I was likely to get started, drift around, get interested in other projects, and leave it 90% complete for a long time. Men can be so unfair.



A heartwarming Yuletide story from the Saga of Hrolf Kraki.

The name they give at the end is Hjalti, which means, "Hilt." Thus, he was honored by being named after the hilt of the sword he used.

Resistance in America

Two pieces on preparations by Left-leaning Americans for the forthcoming Trump administration:

On political preparations.

On kinetic preparations.

The Tenth Amendment option is still on the table. I mean, it's actually in the Constitution. All we'd have to do is quit pretending it doesn't exist.

Grim Should Enjoy This

Trump's Gone Too Far with His Military Appointments

Captain Crunch Nominated as Secretary of Scrumptiousness

Save the Snowflakes

It's sad that it's come to this. Do your part this holiday season to save the snowflakes. It's the right thing to do.

Star Wars: Rogue One

This is not a secret ISIS plan.  There really are Star Wars spoilers below the jump.

(Of course, that's just what ISIS would say, isn't it?)


I've been working away steadily at Chrismons in various media, but this week I stumbled on one that's absorbed me entirely:  a fish that started out in cartoon form with beaded outlines but ended up in solid beads.  The iridescent colors on the scales were too pretty to stop until I'd filled the space.  Now I see fields of beads before my eyes waking and sleeping like the ring of Sauron.  It's a bit like working on a mosaic, I suspect. I may have to try that, always meant to.

I'm going to do another one, a rainbow trout this time.

This One Won't Fly

Donald Trump can't pardon his way out of nepotism.
Maybe Newt’s right that the public would go to bat for Trump on [pardoning his kids for violating the law]. (Nothing would surprise me anymore.) But this sort of thing should be done, if it’s to be done, by repealing the anti-nepotism law properly so that our new pro-nepotist legal regime applies to everyone equally, not just the Trump royal family. If we’re going to let federal officials start staffing up with their kids banana-republic-style, let’s at least have the people’s representatives sign off on that on the record.
A major reason to oppose both the Bush and Clinton campaigns was the idea of an imperial presidency. I am happy to give the guy a chance, and I understand the reason to trust family more than others. All the same, this isn't going to work out.

Somehow I Missed the B-Side

Mr. "AR-15 Broke My Shoulder" Wants You To Celebrate the Murder of a Diplomat

When last we met Gersh Kuntzman, he was trolling to be called names by claiming that an AR-15 was sort of like a man-portable howitzer. He then turned the names he was called into another column on how proud he was to embrace his feminine side.

Now he's hit upon a new trolling technique: celebrating the murder of a Russian diplomat.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Putin ordered the hit himself, in order to justify Erdogan's further purge of Turkey's military/police apparatus and Turkey coming in on Russia's side in the war. Matter of fact, how convenient that the thing happened on live television, at an art exhibit dedicated to Russian-Turkish friendship. Someone should check to see if the diplomat in question owed anybody money, or had been sleeping with anyone important's wife, or had somehow gotten crosswise with his boss.

On the other hand, we don't kill diplomats for the same reason we don't gun down soldiers acting as heralds under a flag of truce. There's a basic civilizational norm: if we can't talk to each other, we can't stop fighting until one side is all dead. If one has any interest in even the possibility of peace, one has to put up with diplomats. Even John Kerry, for a while.


They really don't teach much anymore, do they?

So, this item, "How to be a Stoic" showed up in the latest New Yorker magazine, (hat tip to Instapundit), and in reading it, I am just sort of awestruck at the poverty of the woman's education.

I mean, she's got a PHD in comparative literature from Stanford.

Never heard of Epictetus until 2011? Really? I got a BA in history over 30 years ago, and while I freely admit my interests run much more toward de Brack's "Cavalry Outpost Duties" than Wittgenstein's "The Blue and Brown Books" or even Descartes "Discourse on Method", at least I know they existed, like Kant, or Rorty, or Shopenauer.

In the one philosophy course I took (sorry Grim), I actually read Aristotle and Plato, and we discussed some of the other Ancient schools like the Cynics, Stoics, Epicureans, Pythagoreans etc...which is probably where I heard of Epictetus, and picked up a used copy of the Enchridion, just to have it, but, like Frederick the Great, I ended up taking it with me everywhere for the rest of my life.

I guess what is bothering me is that I see this lady as a symptom of modern academia, where they seem to know and write more and more about less and less.

To Stutter

A philosopher with a significant stutter considers the problems it creates in his everyday life.

Still Trying To Win 'The Narrative'

Truth is a force multiplier in information warfare, but I guess some people would prefer to multiply their efforts instead.

Time for a New CCC?

Will there be too many construction jobs in America soon?
[O]ne of the concerns to keep in mind as we prepare for four years of construction is that any massive government effort, particularly at a time when demand isn’t so depressed, could crowd out private activity. If all the capable skilled labor is being put on government projects (and, thanks to current federal law, paid at prevailing union wages in big cities), there won’t be many people left to build houses and private-sector buildings. Those who are left will command high salaries, which sounds like a good thing but could also discourage private firms from even building at all.

As Congress and the president-elect prepare for a big infrastructure push, they would do well to keep these issues in mind. Construction is a highly cyclical industry, and the federal government is preparing to get involved at a time when labor supply is low and private sector demand is rising. To avoid a major shortage, more skilled laborers will have to enter the market.
As I have often rehearsed here, once upon a time I worked on a documentary film about the Civilian Conservation Corps. The men we interviewed had all served on a CCC project rebuilding Fort Pulaski, a brickwork fortress on the Savannah river very briefly used by Confederate troops (it turned out that the brickwork fortifications, the latest thing going just a few years earlier, were completely outclassed by the new rifled naval guns). They had then served in separate units in WWII. Some of them fought all across North Africa and Europe. Others fought in Italy. One was a prisoner of war for most of the conflict.

All of them said the same thing, though: the CCC had been the second best experience of their lives, after being in the war.

Of all of FDR's programs, the CCC was the one that seems to have done the most good. There are many lasting monuments up and down Appalachia. It took a whole generation of young men for whom there was no work and taught them, under Army discipline, the skills they would need to flourish later. It gave them a sense of purpose in the moment, and lasting accomplishment for the rest of their lives.

Such a program would address the concern about the government market crowding out skilled labor from private construction in two ways. First, it would in fact introduce new skilled labor to the market. Second, since it would begin with unskilled laborers, it would not need to pay such high rates as to crowd out private actors. Indeed, the commitment to camp life under military discipline would help ensure that older workers with existing skills remained in the private sector.

As a supporter of the Tenth Amendment, I would prefer this to be done by the states instead of the Federal government, of course. There is no explicit Constitutional authority for such a program in the Constitution, making it properly a state-level responsibility. But that is true for these infrastructure programs in general, however they are done.


The Islamic State has developed a new, incredibly effective way to safeguard their communications, according to intelligence sources. By putting the phrase “Star Wars Spoiler” in message headers, the group has essentially eliminated any chance of their messages being read by United States intelligence services even if they are intercepted....

“*STAR WARS SPOILER:* We will be attacking FOB Alpha tomorrow from the west with 14 men at exactly 4:05 PM local time,” as one tweet said.

Meditations Missed

I don't care to notice the celebrity in question, but I think Allahpundit's examination of the more interesting questions is worth observing.
Someone whose cultural cachet doesn’t depend on being a young feminist and provocateur would have turned this into a more thoughtful bit of commentary. She’s a loud and proud abortion warrior, she says, but she’s uncomfortable (or used to be uncomfortable) with people thinking that she might have had an abortion herself. How come? Had she unconsciously adopted an unjust social stigma against abortion, as she assumes, or was she experiencing a moral intuition about abortion writ large at the thought of killing her own child? If we’re going with the stigma theory, are there any stigmas within her own in-groups that might encourage a woman to champion abortion even if she’s reluctant to do so? If so, how does that square with “choice” as the supreme virtue? Lots of fodder here for a challenging meditation on this subject. Instead she reacted in the most grotesque (yet provocative, of course) way: She wishes she had killed a baby of her own so that she wouldn’t feel the tug of that damnable stigma. It’s a perfect expression of pro-choice politics, treating a defenseless life as an instrument to express the depth of your allegiance to the tribe.
This is one of those cases in which conservatives understand the liberal position, but not vice-versa. We've all be challenged to consider whether what we take to be a moral intuition is merely a social convention (or "stigma," as Allah puts it). Isn't it possible we're being irrational? If we've been to college, we've probably had formal philosophical defenses of abortion put in front of us to consider at length. What makes a human being? What makes a person? Is it the ability to experience pain and pleasure? Is it a capacity for reason? Why consider this 'lump of cells' as worthy of rights?

The alternative meditation is not suggested. What if it is a deep moral intuition, this uneasiness with killing an innocent human life? Does that mean anything? Should it?

Half-Marks for Mrs. Obama

On the one hand, it's great to hear that she'll "be there" for the "next commander in chief." On the other hand:
“Because no matter how we felt going into it, it is important for the health of this nation that we support the commander in chief,” she said, still refusing to use Trump’s name. “Wasn’t done when my husband took office, but we’re going high, and this is what’s best for the country. So we are gonna be there for the next president and do whatever we have to do to make sure that he is successful because if he succeeds, we all succeed.”
I don't think it's at all fair to say that it 'wasn't done when my husband took office.' I remember being in Iraq on 20 January 2009, and we took down George W. Bush's picture from the HQ building and replaced it with Barack Obama's picture. Some, I might add, were quite eager for the replacement. Others were kind of sad about it. Nevertheless, everyone carried on carrying out orders just the same as before.

A Wonderful Essay on Re-Reading

Hat tip to Arts & Letters Daily. The essay is on the ways in which one changes as a reader between 25 and 65. There is the aspect of learning to recognize what is not really such great art:
Perhaps, when you first read them you were only pretending to admire what you’d been told to admire. But also your tastes change. For instance, at 25 I was more open to writers telling me how to live and how to think; by 65 I had come to dislike didacticism. I don’t want to be told how to think and how to live by, say, Bernard Shaw, or D H Lawrence or the later Tolstoy. I don’t like art – especially theatrical art – whose function seems to be to reassure us that we are on the right side. Sitting there complacently agreeing with a playwright that war is bad, that capitalism is bad, that bad people are bad. “You don’t make art out of good intentions,” is one of Flaubert’s wiser pronouncements.
But then there is also the discovery of the right way to understand a writer you had dismissed at first. In this case, E. M. Forster.
So what made me change my mind? It began from a quite unexpected source, an anthology of food writing. There I came across Forster’s description of the breakfast he was served on an early-morning boat train to London in the 1930s.
It is a wakening that I doubly recognize from Chesterton. First, because I had part of the experience myself. The first of Chesterton's works I encountered was The Ballad of the White Horse, which struck me as a grand poem of battle with some annoying and distracting straying into Christian theology. On repeated re-readings, I came to recognize that the "strays" were really the main point of the work; and finally, I realized that they were not only the heart of the work, but the place where the greatest insight and meaning were to be found.

But I also recognize it from something Chesterton himself wrote.
With all this human experience, allied with the Christian authority, I simply conclude that I am wrong, and the church right; or rather that I am defective, while the church is universal. It takes all sorts to make a church; she does not ask me to be celibate. But the fact that I have no appreciation of the celibates, I accept like the fact that I have no ear for music. The best human experience is against me, as it is on the subject of Bach. Celibacy is one flower in my father's garden, of which I have not been told the sweet or terrible name. But I may be told it any day.
One day, on one re-reading, the author of the essay found a sweet and terrible name in an anthology of food writing. So we might also, and in quite unexpected places.

Brian Kemp Means Business

Georgia's Secretary of State has decided to make his name on this DHS hacking thing. On his campaign website:
Fellow Georgians,

An IP address associated with the Department of Homeland Security made numerous unauthorized and unsuccessful attempts to breach the firewall protecting Georgia’s databases. To date, no one from DHS can tell me why.

I sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump and asked him to investigate the Department of Homeland Security immediately after he takes office. We deserve answers and those responsible for these failed cyber hacks must be held responsible for their dangerous behavior.

Sign the petition to join me in demanding the truth from DHS. Together, we can keep our data safe and our state strong.


Brian Kemp
Secretary of State

Electoral College Votes, Donald Trump to be President

It's over. Only 2 Trump electors defected, half as many as defected from Clinton.

A Lighter Story

Young man decides to join the Marines, just like his old man. Old man was a Drill Instructor. Young man gets to boot camp, where his Drill Instructor discovers that the young man under his care is the son of his own former Drill Instructor.

Who'd Have Thought the Electoral College Would Be the Bottom Story of the Day?

A Nice-style truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin kills nine, injures 50.

A Faithless Elector

In Minnesota, one elector refused to vote as required by law -- no vote for Hillary Clinton! There will be no outcome on the final tally, though, as the elector was replaced by an alternate who was willing.

UPDATE: Looks like several of Clinton's electors have defected: three who I gather wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders (two apparently changed their minds, and the third was replaced as mentioned above), three to Colin Powell, and one to Faith Spotted Eagle (a Keystone pipeline protest leader).


Russian ambassador shot in Ankara, Turkey, reportedly by a gunman yelling about Aleppo.

UPDATE: The ambassador is dead. The gunman yelled "Allahu Akbar" and about Aleppo. Look for Turkey to join Russia's war effort in Syria, fracturing NATO's commitments and cementing Russia's strategic gains.

UPDATE: Conveniently, Russia and Turkey agreed last week on the way forward in Syria.
President Vladimir Putin said he and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan are working to organize a new series of Syrian peace talks without the involvement of the United States or the United Nations.

In a snub to Washington, Putin made clear on Friday that the initiative was the sole preserve of Moscow and Turkey and that the peace talks, if they happened, would be in addition to intermittent U.N.-brokered negotiations in Geneva.

Anarchy in the UK

Well, insofar as they have ant colonies, at least.
We know now that ants do not perform as specialised factory workers. Instead ants switch tasks. An ant’s role changes as it grows older and as changing conditions shift the colony’s needs. An ant that feeds the larvae one week might go out to get food the next. Yet in an ant colony, no one is in charge or tells another what to do. So what determines which ant does which task, and when ants switch roles?

The colony is not a monarchy. The queen merely lays the eggs. Like many natural systems without central control, ant societies are in fact organised not by division of labour but by a distributed process, in which an ant’s social role is a response to interactions with other ants.

There Is Already Plenty of Evidence in the Clear

Russian involvement should be proven by declassifying the CIA's findings, say many on the Left. I've been arguing that, just because we take the threat seriously, we should not expose our sources and methods. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (h/t Wretchard) points out that there is already plenty in the public space to show the involvement of Russian hacking organizations.

Even if Russian propaganda operations are at most a marginal concern vis a vis our elections, it doesn't make any sense to help them out by getting all panicky and putting everything we have in the clear. When it's dangerous, that's just when it's most important to relax.

What to do in Syria?

A US Army planner writes up two options that have been widely discussed by politicians here in America: the No Fly Zone, and removing Assad from power. Of the first:
There would be little gain from establishing a no-fly zone in Syria. Not only would the immediate risks outweigh any perceived gains in the long-term but it would not necessarily help those people still trapped inside Aleppo or other population centers.
That's quite right, I think. Of the second:
U.S. involvement would increase tensions with not only Russia and other regional actors but would embroil U.S. forces in another possibly decade-long occupation and stability operation. More civilians, not less, may be caught up in the post-Assad violence that would certainly hamper efforts at rebuilding.
Certainly if we ended up in a proxy war with Iran (unmentioned, but a major player on the ground in Syria) and Russia, the odds of a long period of "post-Assad violence" that cost a lot of civilian lives is high. It would also cost a lot of American lives.

The piece concludes, "Recommendation: None."


Susan McWilliams, grandchild of The Nation's editor who 50 years ago commissioned the piece that became Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels, has gotten the magazine to publish a full-length rumination on the book's relationship to Donald Trump.

No, really.
I had long known that Hell’s Angels was a political book. Even so, I was surprised, when I finally picked it up a few years ago, by how prophetic Thompson is and how eerily he anticipates 21st-century American politics. This year, when people asked me what I thought of the election, I kept telling them to read Hell’s Angels.

Most people read Hell’s Angels for the lurid stories of sex and drugs. But that misses the point entirely. What’s truly shocking about reading the book today is how well Thompson foresaw the retaliatory, right-wing politics that now goes by the name of Trumpism. After following the motorcycle guys around for months, Thompson concluded that the most striking thing about them was not their hedonism but their “ethic of total retaliation” against a technologically advanced and economically changing America in which they felt they’d been counted out and left behind. Thompson saw the appeal of that retaliatory ethic. He claimed that a small part of every human being longs to burn it all down, especially when faced with great and impersonal powers that seem hostile to your very existence. In the United States, a place of ever greater and more impersonal powers, the ethic of total retaliation was likely to catch on.

What made that outcome almost certain, Thompson thought, was the obliviousness of Berkeley, California, types who, from the safety of their cocktail parties, imagined that they understood and represented the downtrodden. The Berkeley types, Thompson thought, were not going to realize how presumptuous they had been until the downtrodden broke into one of those cocktail parties and embarked on a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter. For Thompson, the Angels weren’t important because they heralded a new movement of cultural hedonism, but because they were the advance guard for a new kind of right-wing politics. As Thompson presciently wrote in the Nation piece he later expanded on in Hell’s Angels, that kind of politics is “nearly impossible to deal with” using reason or empathy or awareness-raising or any of the other favorite tools of the left.
So, let me take this seriously long enough to ask a follow-on question. How many times in 50 years have 'the motorcycle guys' broken into a cocktail party for a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter? Am I right in thinking the answer to that question is "Never, not even one time"?

In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, plainclothes state police have been detailed to protect the lives of the state's 20 electors. You might want to re-examine which set of fears deserve your first attention.

News from Tintagel

A royal palace discovered by archaeologists dates to the era when Arthur is supposed to have been born there. Roman pottery and other finds support the dating.

If you're not interested in archaeology, though, you may still want to click through to see the new statue of Arthur. It's artistically interesting.

From the Duffel Blog

Headline: "Pentagon officials fear ISIS militants now armed with reflective belts."

Oh no!

RT Is Just Having Fun With This Now

Headline: "Revealed! Putin personally hacked DNC from surveillance aircraft with bear on board."

A robot bear.

While We're on the Topic of the Irish and Occasions


Love the pipes on that one. It's probably a bit odd, but I love both of these songs.

Ol' St. Nick

I posted about him back on his feast day that one of the things he is known for is decking the heretic Arius. Mississippi kindly linked the following in the comments, but I am just now getting around to posting them:

Why isn't the the patron saint of pugilists, again?

Actually, just today I was reading about saints and I started to wonder, where did this "patron saint of X" idea come from?

A Marine Passing Time in the Desert

H/t: Terminal Lance.

Hillary Clinton Cancelling Headphones

Probably more popular before the election, but still ...

Product Description at Amazon:

Do Hillary’s lies have your public, private, and professional lives suffering a painful downward spiral? Then relax security around that Benghazi you call a bank account and allow Hillary Cancelling Headphones to invade your ear compounds. These headphones safeguard your mental well-being by obstructing Clinton at every turn, a feat sure to make you the envy of every Republican Congressmen and Senator. Order your pair now before Clinton’s first term (the only term Democrats don’t want to abort). Bide your time until the 2020 Republican takeover with Hillary-Cancelling Headphones! Boring descriptive technical jargon: Frequency Range 20Hz-20KHz; Impedance 32 Ohm +/- 15%; Sensitivity 103dB +/- 5db at 1 KHz; Speaker 40mm; Plug Type 3.5mm stereo; Cable Length 1.5m 

Christmas Charity

If any of you are looking for an appropriate place to donate, here are two that are on my radar:

1) Wreaths Across America had some trouble reaching its goal, although it did, to fund its annual placement of wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. The laying happened today, in what Uncle Jimbo says were icy conditions. People came anyway. If you want to help them get started on next year, you can.

2) Dolly Parton is helping those hurt by the recent wildfires near Gatlinburg, TN, which is her part of the world (and also much of my family's). Her foundation has started what she is calling the "My People Fund," which is soliciting donations from those who'd like to help families from the Great Smoky Mountains who must rebuild after the fires.

Why do the Irish hate Christmas?

Or maybe they just love it ... differently ...

Has Russia Subverted US Intelligence?

John R. Schindler raises the possibility in his latest piece.

North Carolina Legislature Pushes Hard Against Incoming Governor

He's threatened to sue, which I suppose will test the validity of all this legislation. North Carolina is a state where the urban/rural division troubling America is on particularly clear display. A technology-driven immigration has caused some of the urban areas to boom, leading people who vote like Twitter and Facebook employees to surge in numbers. At the same time, outside of those urban corridors North Carolina is a very rural, Southern state.

The Democrats captured the governor's house in this year's election, ousting a Republican governor over anti-transgender legislation that had caused economic boycotts. However, the legislature remains in Republican control.

So, the legislators did something they now claim they'd been meaning to do for a long time: they gutted the power of the governor's office, and transferred it to themselves.
The legislature approved a proposal along party lines Friday that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years and split partisan control of local boards of elections, as opposed to giving the governor’s party the majorities on those panels. Outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the bill into law Friday, despite not issuing any comment on the drama wracking North Carolina politics since Wednesday.

The legislature also looks poised to pass, for the first time in decades, a law requiring the governor to get approval by the state Senate for his Cabinet appointees and ending his ability to appoint members to the board of trustees of the powerful UNC school system. The bill would also drastically reduce the number of state employees the governor can directly hire and fire from 1,500 to 425.

The measures were just two of several bills the legislature considered in a last-minute, year-end special session that would reduce the governor's influence in state government, the judicial branch, the education system and elections oversight, while strengthening the GOP-dominated legislature's influence in all those areas.
The courts will presumably be asked to rule on whether or not these changes were both legal and fair. They are certainly political hardball. They are also a product of the hostility that is certain to result when a traditional, rural population finds itself under the domineering influence of an urban elite that disdains them.

Figuring out how to let the cities and countryside live the very different lives they want is going to be a tremendous political challenge for the next years. It'd be nice if the cities were each states, so we could let Federalism work. Instead, the conflicts are strongest in cases like this one, where big cities exercise a powerful influence within a state that is culturally very different overall.

Less and less convinced

From James Taranto today:
Two additional points. First, the Post describes the CIA’s report as “secret.” So how is it that everyone knows about it? The answer, obviously, is that officials who were privy to the secrets improperly provided them to the press. (Here we should note that we do not fault the Post or the Times for having published the information they received, and that we would have done the same.)
Second, according to the Times report, even if the Russians were trying to help Trump, they didn’t expect to be successful:
The Russians were as surprised as everyone else at Mr. Trump’s victory, intelligence officials said. Had Mrs. Clinton won, they believe, emails stolen from the Democratic committee and from senior members of her campaign could have been used to undercut her legitimacy.
So American officials made secret information public with the effect—and, one may surmise, the intent—of raising questions about the legitimacy of President-elect Trump. That’s exactly what they accuse the Russians of having planned to do to Mrs. Clinton.

The DHS Hacks Multiply

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that more states have followed Georgia in finding DHS hacking attempts on their computers.

The two states to come forward now are West Virginia and Kentucky, plus Georgia. Attacks seem to have targeted voter registration sites. I wonder if this was part of an investigation to see whether Southern states were involved in voter suppression tactics. Would DHS run something like that?

President Obama is Not Going to Save You From Trump

In terms of the relationship between his White House and the incoming Trump administration, Obama said Friday there was no "squabbling" between them and insisted that a roiling debate over Russia's intrusion into the US election should be confronted on a bipartisan basis....

Despite his assurances, his White House has increasingly been engaged in an escalating rift with Donald Trump's transition team over Moscow's intrusion into the US vote. At the same time, Obama is working to foster a productive relationship with his successor in a bid to influence his presidential decision-making.
That idea is both wise and good, and a welcome change from the near-nuclear language we've been seeing from elements of the left. Good for him.

I also endorse the view that this should be a bipartisan issue, and that we should take steps to identify weaknesses in our voting process and correct them for the future. One of them that seems highly plausible to me is Wretchard's two-step proposal to have paper ballots, plus voter ID laws requiring a secure form of identification.

We should certainly oppose manipulation through information warfare, as well. However, insofar as an adversary sticks to telling the truth, it's hard to be very opposed to that. Lies, distortions, propaganda -- all these things we should oppose. That a foreign government may have access to some uncomfortable truths is not necessarily. We also run intelligence and information operations (even if you doubt RT's claim, cited below, that Hillary Clinton's support of NGOs in Russia was aimed at influencing public confidence in their election process, we certainly have done many such things over the years). Telling uncomfortable truths is something that probably should be part of how we operate with regard to manipulative elections in places like Iran or China. It's hard to object to having it done right back to us.

The better thing would be for the DNC -- and, insofar as they have similar practices, the RNC -- to straighten up and fly right.

What Do We Mean When We Say, "I Don't Know The Future"?

A useful introduction to the philosophical problems about knowing the future. There are important questions about whether or not there is anything to know, what it would mean to say that you did or didn't know something about the future, and other questions as well. This article is a helpful historical survey of the development of thought about this set of problems.

Turnabout is What Kind of Play?

RT, which is openly Russian propaganda, would like you to be aware that Hillary Clinton paid NGOs to manipulate Russia's last election by calling into question its fairness.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had harsh words for Clinton, saying she had “set the tone for some opposition activists, gave them a signal … and [they] started active work.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Popular Front Federal Coordinating Council this week, Putin said that “representatives of some foreign states” were paying politically-active NGOs in Russia to “influence the course of the election campaign in our country.”

“We need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs and defend our sovereignty,” the Prime Minister said. “It is necessary to think about improving the law and toughening responsibility for those who take orders from foreign states to influence internal political processes.”

Putin, stressing that Russia has nothing against the presence of foreign observers at elections, said Russia would draw the line at interference in its internal affairs from abroad.

"When financing comes to some domestic organizations which are supposedly national, but which in fact work on foreign money and perform to the music of a foreign state during electoral processes, we need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs and defend our sovereignty.”
Grain of salt and all that, but it does put a different spin on Russian actions in this election cycle here. The DNC leaks were true information, after all. Perhaps Russia was just pointing out how biased, rigged, and unfair Hillary Clinton's own electoral process happened to be.

Meanwhile, Putin's language here sounds almost as if it were lifted from some left-leaning blogs or Twitter accounts in the last few days. But this article is from 2011. (H/t: Hot Air)

Hard Times at the Plaza Hotel, Manhattan

A farewell dinner for big donors from the Woman Who Would Have Been Queen. An observer notes:
A bellman stood in a brocade uniform, and the sight of him brought to mind one of his profession who had been listed among thousands of Clinton donors who were mega by another measure in the Federal Election Commission records, which include occupation and amount.

Hotel bellman—$45...

If the Clinton campaign had used meaning and not just moolah as a measure of mega, if she had insisted that a dollar from a contributor who did not have a dollar to spare and was giving it with no expectation of anything in return meant more than millions from a mogul looking to buy influence and cachet, then she might have had a party at the grand ballroom of the Plaza Hotel to outdo any in its storied history.
If she had been the kind of person who would do that, she would have been having a victory party instead.

Sometimes a high profile isn't your friend

The one faithless elector who actually seems to exist has got a bit of a "stolen valor" issue.

Summer in the Outer Hebrides

This is the right moment to be nostalgic for summer, as winter is about to come upon us. Such islands as the Hebrides are rich in story, as well as the glory of nature.

Summer in the Outer Hebrides from ToddWellFilms on Vimeo.

A Good Argument for Divesting

Why should Trump give up his business interests in order to be President? To avoid having to spend endless hours being deposed in celebrity chef cases.
Trump sued Andrés last year after the chef reneged on an agreement to open a restaurant in the real estate mogul-turned-president’s new luxury D.C. hotel. Andrés backed out in protest weeks after Trump declared his presidential candidacy...

The judge dismissed arguments from Trump’s lawyers that the president-elect was “extremely busy handling matters of very significant public importance” and ruled the deposition could proceed in early January.
Yeah, it's not like he's got anything super important going on right now.

More on the Trump voter

More from a compilation of 100 articles that tried to sum up the Zeitgeist in 2016.  David Frum, of all people, channeled a composite Trump voter last summer from his many conversations, and did a pretty good job:
“The Putin thing. You think you’ve really nailed Donald with the Putin thing. Get it through your head: Our people are done fighting wars for your New World Order. We fought the Cold War to stop the Communists from taking over America, not to protect Estonia. We went to Iraq because you said it was better to fight them over there than fight them over here. Then you invited them over here anyway! Then you said that we had to keep inviting them over here if we wanted to win over there. And we figured out: You care a lot more about the “inviting" part than the “winning" part. So no more. Not until we face a real threat, and have a real president who’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whatever it takes. . . .
I noticed that when Tim Kaine took a bow for his son’s military service, he pointed out that he was a Marine—because we all know that what you’ve done to the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Yeah, they’re just as lethal as Obama and Hillary said. When you spend as much as the rest of the planet combined, you can make a lot of things go boom—even if the soldiers can’t do chin ups any more and the sailors get pregnant when they decide their tours of duty have gone on too long. And the cops! One minute you’re calling them murderers, the next you’re slobbering all over them. Our voters are cops. They know who’s on their side. Not you. . . .
“You’ve been building up to this for a long time. No more Superheroes rescuing women in the movies. The girl always has to throw the last punch herself. In the commercials, Dad’s either an idiot—or he’s doing the housework with his boyfriend.
"And you know what? It’s not just our hillbilly voters who are going to vote ‘no’ to all that. A lot of men you never imagined will vote for us. Trump’s going to do better with Latino men than you expect—probably no worse than Romney. He’s going to do better with black men than Romney ever did. And his numbers with white men will be out of sight. Every time you demand that Donald show respect to Hillary—while laughing as Hillary disrespects Donald—you push those numbers up.

Authentic Authority, or Confirmation Bias?

Or both, I suppose. The argument is pretty plausible, and she cites a number of studies of the issue independent of her own argument. On the other hand, given her experience, she has to have a huge confirmation bias issue in terms of which stories (and studies) she finds believable.

My guess is that Vice found her article (a piece of fairly academic sociology) newsworthy just because of her experiences, which gives her an authentic voice to speak to the issue at hand. But isn't it that very authenticity that makes the probability of confirmation bias worse?

All of us have this cognitive bias, so it's no slur to suggest that she must be to some degree motivated by a universal human condition. Nor, I think, is the answer to find the story less newsworthy because it was written by someone with direct experience with the problem. Still, it's an interesting fact that the authenticity and the cognitive bias seem to ride on the same track. Increasing one increases the likelihood of the other, so that our most obvious authorities are also most likely to be wrong in this particular way? That's a frustrating realization.

Entire Police Force Quits Indiana Town

It's always interesting when this happens. In the short term it sounds like the Sheriff's department will simply assume the duties of the city police, which could always be the long-term solution as well provided the Sheriff can obtain the necessary resources. If the city government is corrupt, as it sounds like it might be, having the county take over law enforcement might be a good idea.

This seems like a radical act, but in fact it's come up a number of times before. Typically chaos does not result. Americans have a long tradition of self-governance, and overlapping institutions (one of the characteristics of an anti-fragile system), which means that these cases are more opportunities for reform than disasters waiting to happen.

Dialects on Parade

Thesis: 'The Electoral College is a vestige of slavery and should be abolished!'

Antithesis: 'The Electoral College should do the job the Founders intended and save us from Trump!'

Synthesis: 'Born of slavery, the Electoral College should redeem its history (by saving us from Trump!).'

More on the Russian Information Warfare Campaign

NBC News claims to have learned that the CIA now believes with a high level of confidence that Putin directed much of the information warfare campaign aimed at the US elections. That of course makes perfect sense: were the United States to direct an effort to alter a democratic election, as it has done from time to time, it would probably be reported to the President on a regular basis (and likely be based on a Presidential Finding).

Of great interest is the insight as to the aims:
Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.
Great powers don't do vendettas, but they do punish their enemies in ways that are useful to them. The DNC hack was useful to Putin at home because it defused the force of the Clinton charges against his own electoral system (which he will face again, to whatever degree of peril, in 2018). Showing that Clinton was herself the leader of a deeply manipulative, indeed rigged, primary system would make the presumptive President Clinton less powerful as a Russian critic.

So, in addition to her devotion to a "No Fly Zone" in Syria -- which we've discussed repeatedly -- here was an important enough interest to make this worth doing. If the leaks did nothing else, Putin could point to US media outlets' coverage of the DNC corruption as a defense against American criticism of his re-election campaign.

What is of importance here is that the leaks were anti-Clinton, rather than pro-Trump. Since the leaks began around the time of the DNC, when both primaries were decided, it is easy to become confused about that: the race was binary at that point. But the campaign seems to have been targeted at Clinton and at doing damage to what the Russians probably assumed (like everyone else) would be the incoming administration.

Further evidence along this line comes from a Newsweek report from before the election. The author is sure the Russians are 'favoring Trump,' rather than 'opposing Clinton,' but look at this:
By August, however, fears began to emerge within the Kremlin that the effort was falling apart. Trump’s attacks on the parents of a slain Muslim American soldier following the father’s speech at the Democratic convention created dismay in the Kremlin. Top Russian officials came to believe Trump would be forced to withdraw from the race because of his psychological state and apparent unsuitability for the presidency, according to information obtained by the Western intelligence source. In particular, Kremlin officials feared they could not predict what impact it might have on Russia should Trump step aside. As a result, the Russians decided to stop forwarding material through channels to WikiLeaks...

By October, “buyer’s remorse” had set in at the Kremlin, according to a report obtained by Western counterintelligence. Russia came to see Trump as too unpredictable and feared that, should he win, the Kremlin would not be able to rely on him or even anticipate his actions.
I've cut out a bit in the middle about an alleged Russian attempt to buy one of Trump's advisers, Manafort, who was forced to resign from the Trump campaign over the charges. The truth of the charges is contested, but the Russians wouldn't be trying to buy something they already owned -- and they wouldn't bother buying the adviser if they owned the candidate.

So it looks like Putin started off with the hope of damaging Clinton's credibility as President, and securing his own position. If he could beat her, he had a great deal more to gain in Syria.

However, Trump is just as much a roll-of-the-dice for the Russians as he is for us. He's his own man, for good or ill, and nobody's sure just what he might do. I'm not sure how much of a comfort that is, but it is at least not 'politics as usual' from here on.

UPDATE: An excellent discussion called, "When does a President become a National Security risk?" featuring John McLaughlin. It's a fair-minded look at the whole set of questions.

The Trump voter

A writer for The American Interest realized last spring that neither he nor anyone he knew had personal contact with any Trump supporters. He decided to drive through the American Southeast and talk to Trump supporters:
I learned that people who describe Trump’s supporters as ignorant haven’t talked to them.
I learned that many, possibly a majority, of Trump’s supporters vote for him not because, but despite, his frequently outrageous comments.
I learned that many of Trump’s supporters don’t necessarily trust him.
I learned that, although much of the country today appears to be brimming with anger, very little of that anger seems to take the form of class resentment. Trump’s self-proclaimed status as a billionaire appears to be an unambiguous plus for him as a candidate. Non-affluent Americans seem increasingly to detest and mistrust politicians, but far fewer seem to detest or mistrust rich people, big corporations, or the growing concentration of wealth in the upper tiers of U.S. society.
I learned that very large proportions of Southern and of blue-collar white people, especially men, hold Hillary Clinton in utter contempt. In all my conversations, I met exactly one woman, and not a single man, who said anything positive about Clinton. . . .
I learned that, in addition to a steadily growing partisan divide—liberals vilifying conservatives and vice versa—the United States is also experiencing a growing governing divide, such that millions of Americans find themselves voting for candidates that they can’t stand and don’t trust. The overwhelming majority of those I interviewed simply do not believe that their elected leaders, including those from their own party, are honest or can be trusted even to try to do the right thing. In my view, this sentiment is toxic, particularly in a democracy, and, probably more than any other factor, explains Trump’s rise. He’s an alluring candidate for the large and growing proportion of Americans who believe that the core problem with our politics is politicians.
I learned that many non-affluent Americans fear that the hour is late and that “we’re losing everything.”
I learned that many decent, sincere people who feel disregarded, disrespected, and left behind—in ways that I do not feel and have never felt—can disproportionately embrace political opinions that I view as bigoted or paranoid. And I wonder, if there is fault here, whose fault is it?

Some of these Mexicans Would Make Good Americans

Headline: "Mexican townsfolk kidnap drug boss' mom, demand loved ones."

Suddenly the Mexican government has found soldiers to dispatch to the region, "in hopes of defusing the situation."

I don't know. Sounds like your citizen militia has got it under control.

It's a tough spot, I feel pretty bad about it

Mark Hemingway offers some campaign advice:
It’s conceivable, per Nate Silver, that the Comey letter in late October gave Trump momentum and possibly swung the election. But my response, like most Americans, is “So what?” If you’re worried about an FBI investigation influencing a presidential election DON’T NOMINATE A CANDIDATE UNDER FBI INVESTIGATION. And you really, really, don’t want to nominate a candidate under investigation whose top aide’s husband is also being investigated by the FBI for child pornography who is also allegedly in possession of emails relevant to the candidate’s FBI investigation that he’s keeping on the same computer as his grody sex pics.
Seriously, stop and read those two previous sentences again, and think about why any normal person would be in any way sympathetic to this predicament.