After Him, The Deluge

Rest in peace Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the last, best guards of the Revolution. In myriad ways, we will miss you.

UPDATE: A private reflection on Scalia's great heart.

Mark Steyn Has Guts

Facing a ruinous, lingering lawsuit for defamation and slander from Michael E. Mann -- creator of the famous 'hockey stick' global warming graph -- Mark Steyn has assembled a book-length assault on the same fellow. Entilted A Disgrace to the Profession, he obtained a blurb for it from one Laura Rosen Cohen:
It's probably the longest, funniest, most savvily organized and meticulous "screw you" in the history of Western literature.
I suppose we know what he thinks of the lawsuit now, if there was ever any doubt.

Not Quite

Allahpundit thinks Ted Cruz is just being symbolic in his language against gay marriage:
Here’s the strongest language I’ve found from Cruz on Obergefell:
“My response to this decision was that it was illegitimate, it was lawless, it was utterly contrary to the Constitution and that we should fight to defend marriage on every front,” he said, before promoting constitutional amendments to overturn the ruling and put justices up for retention elections, along with legislation “to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over challenges to marriage.”

Cruz conceded that none of his proposals are politically feasible at the moment. Once he is elected president, however, Cruz said he will make sure that “we will not use the federal government to enforce this lawless decision that is a usurpation of the authority of we the people in this country.” He also committed to only appoint Supreme Court justices who would not “legislate from the bench” like the justices did in Obergefell.
Okay, but the president’s role in enforcing or not enforcing Obergefell is unimportant. It’s a matter of the states enforcing it, since marriage is a creature of state law. Here again you find Cruz laying down rhetoric that makes it sound like he’s preparing to do something bold when really it’s just symbolism.
That's not true, though, in states like Alabama where the State Supreme Court's chief justice is advising clerks not to stop enforcing Alabama's constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriage. In that case, whether or not Federal enforcement will occur is really important. Keeping this pledge would allow states like Alabama to nullify the SCOTUS ruling, at least for the term of the President making the pledge.

That's important because, for now, Roy Moore is a single guy using his office to hold the line. Everyone expects him to lose. If a President of the United States were to endorse his position, though, it could cause similar moves in other states as well. That could eventually put some teeth in the frequently-proclaimed Republican position that marriage is a state issue, not a Federal issue. A future President who disagreed would have to do more than remove Roy Moore. He or she would have to take on a bloc of states rejecting Federal jurisprudence. They might, or they might back down. If they did take on the bloc, they would do so from a relatively weakened position compared to the position that President Obama holds now.

We All Have Our Bad Days

Madeleine Albright writes:
I HAVE spent much of my career as a diplomat. It is an occupation in which words and context matter a great deal. So one might assume I know better than to tell a large number of women to go to hell.

Common Ground: What about War?

As Grim has pointed out, Jim Webb's exit from the presidential race leaves us with a field of candidates who have never served in the military. What reading would you recommend to our next commander in chief, or a voter who has never served but who is tasked with picking a commander in chief?

Who Are the Good Guys?

Kevin Williamson writes.

He doesn't mention Chicago, whose police department is infamously corrupt -- and whose culture, at least in South Chicago, is astonishingly deadly. The question he doesn't consider that probably needs to be asked is whether the corruption of the department is a product of the struggle with rampant gang violence, or a contributing factor to it. In other words, would a more scrupulously honest and law-abiding police department enable the gangs by being too restrained to stop them? Or would it prove to undercut the gangs, by improving trust between the police and the community in which the gangs operate?

Common Ground: Books under Copyright

The following are books people mentioned that are still under copyright and so generally can't be legally downloaded for free. The book links lead to, and the author links lead to the author page on Wikipedia, if there is one.

Public domain works have already been covered in previous posts, which are accessible by clicking the "Common Ground" label at the bottom of this post.

Drive In Movie Review

So apparently there's a story today where Ted Cruz's campaign hired an actress named Amy Lindsay, but had to pull her ad because she was involved in something called "softcore porn." I wasn't sure what this category was supposed to mean. R-rated movies these days are sufficiently explicit that it's hard to imagine any territory lying between them and real porn.

Well, it turns out the lady has a page on Rotten Tomatoes that lists her filmography. I tried to find an online clip from "Timegate: Tales of the Saddle Tramps" because the name was long enough that I figured it would be easy. All I found was a movie review without clips. I did manage to locate a couple of clips from "Bikini Airways," which I'm not going to post not because the clips themselves were offensive, but because the YouTube editor had added an intro piece of his own that might be too racy. Nobody in these clips is even unclothed, although the jokes are obscene (and very stupid).

The one she seems proudest of is a comedy called "Milf," which I'm not even going to try to find because I have a feeling I know what will appear if I should plug that term into the Google search box. The description the movie gives is, "Four horny college boys discover that older women have a ravenous sexual appetite to rival their own, and ditch their snooty co-eds to seek out ladies who know what they like in the bedroom."

Based on this brief bit of research, I'm beginning to think the real thing that distinguishes 'softcore porn' from R-rated 'romantic comedies' is low budgets and bad writing. Amy Lindsay is at least having honest fun with her work, or gives every indication of being so. Confer with Amy Schumer's high-budget 'romantic comedy' "Trainwreck" -- of which I have only seen clips of about the same length as the ones from "Bikini Airways," but which looks to be just as much a sex comedy -- and nobody minds having her show up to stand next to her cousin Chuck Schumer to talk gun control bills in Washington, D.C.

Chuck Schumer was right on this one. Cruz is competing for voters in the Bible belt, and I guess he thinks they'll hold it against him that he consorts with 'loose women' or something. If you find out he's having an affair with a racy actress, sure. If you find out he's a friend with a racy actress and likes to talk over political ideas with her, so what?

If you find out that a group of people he employed to make ads happened to employ her once without the two of them ever even meeting in person, come off it.

This concludes tonight's Drive In Movie Review.

Jim Webb Out

With respects to Joel's different opinion, I regard that as a shame. He was the last candidate with significant foreign policy experience except Clinton, and the only candidate to appear with military experience, at a time when the world is increasingly on fire thanks to the weak President we've had for eight years. Now the best we can hope for is someone with no experience at all, as the one remaining candidate with any is the worst candidate in the race. She has treated national security as disposable for her personal convenience, as shown by her treatment of classified information. She has treated the people who conduct national security as disposable, also. Prima facie evidence from comparing weapons sales to donations to the Clinton Foundation suggests she has also treated these matters as being chiefly about personal enrichment rather than the furtherance of American security in the world.

Thus we shall have to place our hopes on a novice, or someone not even a novice, at a very dangerous hour.

Cactus Wood Clock

For Douglas, a few old snaps of the cactus wood grandfather clock built by my Dad's great uncle, Eddie LaPlant.

I found some notes from my Dad - he owned a brick yard in Tuscon and built worked on (I don't have much information on this) many of the older brick buildings at the University of Arizona. There's also a snap of a newspaper article from the late 60s - sorry, I don't have a larger version handy - it's somewhere in my files - on the cactus clocks.

I can't even imagine the patience it took to design and build this (and he built five of them!). Photos below the fold.

The Past and Future are Always Changing

Mark Steyn:
I get a lot of mail complaining that I never feature Beatles songs in our Song of the Week. Okay then:
I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire...
I also read the news today, oh boy. And it tells me there won't be any Beatles songs on the radio in Blackburn in a few years time, nor theatre in the West End of London, nor pubs in the East End, nor uncovered women in Birmingham, nor mixed swimming pools in Manchester, nor bacon butties in Sheffield, nor the teaching of the Crusades, the Holocaust and other problematic matters in schools... There might not even be Sheikh Speare - whoops, sorry, Shakespeare - at Stratford-upon-Avon. Because when you lose your future, you lose your past, too.
I'm of the James Bond school of thought about the Beatles, myself.

Steyn goes on to note that the police in Cologne denied for a week or so that the attacks on women by migrants actually happened. That's a very important question of fact. A friend of mine who is of Soviet Jewish extraction -- from the USSR to Israel, tour of duty in the IDF, eventually to America and citizenship here -- was greatly concerned by the story because it reminded him of antisemitic stories the Nazis told about Jews ravishing German women. These were apparently part of the justification for the suppression of Jews in the Fatherland. It matters a great deal whether or not these stories are true.

We are forced to judge that from a distance both in time and place. It seems as if they did happen, from what we can tell by reading open sources. Is it plausible that they are a paranoid myth by Germans to justify a reaction against the refugees? It's not impossible, I suppose. However, it is also true that the structure of Islam's approach to women makes it more plausible than the old antisemitic story ever was. Likewise the recent demonstrations during the Arab Spring, especially in Egypt. Laura Logan was an eyewitness to similar violence, and it was reported on a wide scale even by Egyptian women talking about Egyptian men. Neither antisemitism nor anti-Islamic sentiment is indicated there, nor xenophobia either.

The past seems to be trying to change before our eyes, though. Just as Steyn says.



Let us probe the silent places,


Let us seek what luck betide us;

Let us journey to a lonely land I know.

Mardi Gras

I have a friend out in New Orleans whom I keep intending to visit before he moves on in his life. I'd love to see the parades once in my life, and to celebrate the occasion with him.

Tonight is the last few hours before the beginning of the Great Fast of Lent. One of the tremendously healthy things about the Church is its maintenance of this concept of a yearly fast. Feasting and fasting are both healthy, if they are done in their right hour. Lent is a time to tame passions, to regulate habits, and to reconsider the ways in which you are not living in a virtuous way.

For that reason it can be unpleasant. After all, you are giving up pleasures for a relatively long time, especially if they are habitual pleasures. I'm going to give you Kant's remarks on this matter this year. He was writing against "monkish asceticism," of which I have a different opinion. But he also gives you cause to focus on cheer [Ak. 6:485]:
But such punishment [as asceticism] is a contradiction (because punishment must always be imposed by another); moreover, it cannot produce the cheerfulness that accompanies virtue, but rather brings with it secret hatred for virtue's command. -- Ethical gymnastics, therefore, consists only in combating natural impulses sufficiently to be able to master them when a situation comes up in which they threaten morality; hence it makes one valiant and cheerful in the consciousness of one's restored freedom.
That's a big part of what we are doing in the season in the wilderness: discovering a restored freedom from habits that threaten virtue. As Tex says, the locus of control is the self. For an hour -- for forty days and nights -- we demonstrate it to ourselves.

In doing so, we recover our freedom.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There remains one last feast first. Go enjoy it.

Noli Me Tangere

This video includes a long reflection from Benjamin Franklin on an early symbol and motto adopted by American Marines. But don't forget the older connections: to the national motto of Scotland which gave us the Declaration of Arbroath, and to John 20:17.

Puppet Show

Some of those Clinton emails reveal an interesting relationship with the press.

More from Haidt

I was unaware of how angry he is about the condition of the universities.
JOHN LEO: So you got a lot of attention.

JONATHAN HAIDT: Since Halloween, especially. Look, I graduated from Yale in ’85. Yale is very devoted to social justice. It’s very devoted to affirmative action. Now no place is perfect. But it’s probably among the best places in the country. And to have protesters saying it’s such a thoroughly racist place that it needs a total reformation – they call the protest group ”Next Yale”– they demand “Next Yale”!... And these were not requests. This was not a discussion. This was framed as an ultimatum given to the president – and they gave him I think six days to respond, or else. And I am just so horrified that the president of Yale, Peter Salovey, responded by the deadline. And when he responded, he did not say, on the one hand, the protesters have good points; on the other hand, we also need to guarantee free speech; and, by the way, it’s not appropriate to scream obscenities at professors.

JOHN LEO: Or the threat to one professor: “We know where you live”?

JONATHAN HAIDT: I didn’t even know about that. The president was supposed to be the grown-up in the room. He was supposed to show some wisdom, some balance, and some strength. And so we’ve seen, basically what can really only be called Maoist moral bullying – am we saw it very clearly at Claremont McKenna.... As far as I’m concerned, “Next Yale” can go find its own “Next Alumni.” I don’t plan to give to Yale ever again, unless it reverses course.

JOHN LEO; How did they cut themselves off?

JONATHAN HAIDT: They’re so devoted to social justice, and they have accepted the rule that you can never, ever blame victims, so if a group of victims makes demands, you cannot argue back. You must accept the demands.... Anthro[pology] is completely lost. I mean, it’s really militant activists. They’ve taken the first step towards censoring Israel. They’re not going to have anything to do with Israeli scholars any more. So it’s now – it’s the seventh victim group. For many years now, there have been six sacred groups. You know, the big three are African-Americans, women and LGBT. That’s where most of the action is. Then there are three other groups: Latinos, Native Americans….

JOHN LEO: You have to say Latinx now.

JONATHAN HAIDT: I do not intend to say that. Latinos, Native Americans, and people with disabilities. So those are the six that have been there for a while. But now we have a seventh–Muslims. Something like 70 or 75 percent of America is now in a protected group. This is a disaster for social science because social science is really hard to begin with. And now you have to try to explain social problems without saying anything that casts any blame on any member of a protected group.
Somewhat like myself, he has no obvious recourse to politics -- he says that he no longer considers himself a Democrat, but is horrified by the Republican party as well. Maybe he'll join me in voting for Jim Webb, if he decides to run as an independent. That would make two of us, plus I think Webb has a large family. We could break into the double digits.

On Secret Law

I am this afternoon reading an excellent piece called “Coming to Terms with Secret Law” by Dakota S. Rudesill (hat tip to the Federation of American Scientist's Secrecy News). Does the United States have secret laws -- laws kept secret from the public until and unless they are enforced upon us? Yes, Rudesill determines, the evidence suggests that they most likely do.

Is that a problem for the idea of law?
To begin, to have force of law a purported legal instrument must have the quality of what Aquinas termed “a rule and measure” with “the power of obligating.”279 H.L.A. Hart similarly conceives of law in terms of “rules of obligation,”280 while Lon Fuller makes the presence of rules – as opposed to ad hoc adjudication – as a requirement without which a legal system fails.281 Jeremy Waldron observes that “The main demand that law makes on us as subjects is that we comply with it.”282 All of these varying but similar law-as-rule formulations necessitate some level of publication – that is, sharing with officials administering and overseeing it, and sharing with the people who are (and whose government is) subject to it. Lacking publicity, a secret law becomes entirely specific to an individual or institution, one that by definition has both the power to create and remove it. An unpublished law therefore is mere recording of a potentially ephemeral guideline by an entity that is a law unto itself. Law loses its Thomistic essence as a rule, and with that loss also loses its capacity to limit.

... As Kafka posited, it would also over time also take on that appearance: people would come to doubt the existence of the unpublished “secret code” of laws and decide that the law instead is whatever the governing regime does.283 In theory and in practice, law that is entirely unpublished (for example, not even shared with other agencies) decays from the category of law to mere fact.
Is it a problem for the Constitution?
The Constitution is a national security document, written in the wake of the war that won the country its independence. It was significantly motivated by enormous concern among the Framers about the central government’s weakness under the Articles of Confederation compared to foreign empires and the risk of liberty-imperiling war among the states. It provided the central government for the first time the taxing and conscription powers to create a standing army and a single President to direct it. The Constitution is therefore fairly assessed by Akhil Amar as “a war machine” 288 (but not only that). Taken as a whole, the Constitution endeavored to craft a federal governing structure that was strong enough to deter external and prevent internal war, but sufficiently limited through lateral and vertical federalism and individual liberties that its own powers and the ambitions of officeholders would not imperil liberty.289

In this context, one could imagine a Constitution replete with references to secrecy, including the creation of secret laws. Hamilton argued for the controversial proposition of a single national chief executive by emphasizing that such an individual would bring the unity of command and effort to deal with national security threats, acting as necessary with “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.” 290 And yet, the text, structure, and history of the Constitution are hostile to it.
So, what should we do about it? That discussion begins on page 83. Abolishing secret law is one of the options he considers, but not the only one: perhaps by 'grim necessity' we have to live with it for national security reasons, as some argue. It's an interesting discussion that I don't intend to excerpt.

I tend to think that the philosophical and Constitutional problems are more than adequate to decide us here, but ironically there are some among you more inclined to the 'grim necessity' view than am I. I look forward to your thoughts.

The Onion on New Hampshire

Drawing tens of thousands of residents out of their homes and businesses to stare upward into the sky, Hillary Clinton’s colossal, floating campaign headquarters reportedly moved into position over New Hampshire this morning, casting the entire state into darkness.... “It finally came to a stop an hour or so ago. But its engines just keep whirring constantly, rattling the house. My kids won’t stop crying.”

"Hamilton, an American Musical"

So, apparently this is for real. Yes, Alexander Hamilton. Yes, it's done in hip-hop.

No Love for Jacksonians

Via AVI's comments section, an article by Emily Ekins and Jonathan Haidt on how to apply their proposed division of 'moral tastes' to the Presidential campaign. They call this Moral Foundations Theory, and I assume it is well enough known to anyone who spent time at Cassandra's place or who currently does at AVI's. If that isn't you, there's an adequate introduction to the theory in the article.

What strikes me immediately about their study is that they ran these three traits together "for simplicity's sake."
Loyalty/betrayal: We keep track of who is "us" and who is not; we enjoy tribal rituals, and we hate traitors.

Authority/subversion: We value order and hierarchy; we dislike those who undermine legitimate authority and sow chaos.

Sanctity/degradation: We have a sense that some things are elevated and pure and must be kept protected from the degradation and profanity of everyday life. (This foundation is best seen among religious conservatives, but you can find it on the left as well, particularly on issues related to environmentalism.)
They say that they ran these three things together as an average for the purposes of their study because, taken together, they are the 'foundation of social conservatism.'

You probably all know what I'm going to say about this, but I'll say it anyway. In the interest of reaching younger readers, I'll explain the position using memes I have recently seen on Facebook.

Where does a Jacksonian stand on loyalty versus betrayal?

Where does a Jacksonian stand on sanctity?

Where does a Jacksonian stand on authority?

And one more that's NSFW below the jump.  The point is, if you run these things together, you've missed the point for a major part of the American political tradition.  It's not a dead letter, either.  I've seen all these memes on Facebook in the last few weeks.

Call a Marine

A little Saturday night entertainment for you. The language is on the coarse side ...

What? It's Sunday? Well ...

Speaking of a "No Whiners!" Approach to the World

Matt Walsh writes:

America Is Falling Apart And It’s Your Fault

When deciding who to blame for the current state of affairs in our country, we always run through a familiar list of shadowy villains: the “system,” the “establishment,” politicians, lobbyists, the schools, the media, etc. These are fine suspects in their own right, but I find it ridiculous that, somehow, we skip right over the first and most dastardly culprit: ourselves.

We never blame us, do we? We always get off the hook. All of the misery and misfortune in our culture have been hoist upon us from Washington, D.C. and Hollywood and Ivory Towers, and none of it from us, we claim. We’re victims. We had no say in any of this at all, according to us.

Well, at the risk of alienating literally every single person reading this, I’d like to suggest that you are an adult and a voter, and this is your fault. And mine. And your mother’s. And your neighbor Jim’s. And all of our accomplices who generally make up the club known as “We The People.”

And there're 26 more paragraphs, and one hypothetical dialogue, more where that came from.

Stonehenge as Tomb

More women than men seem to be buried there, so far at least.

Obama as Gollum

Wretchard writes:
It may be that provided no Biblical disasters happen that Obama will be remembered kindly by history as the man who exposed America's weaknesses while essentially dodging the bullet. Perhaps the 8 years will be just bad enough to serve as an innoculation; to make America realize the folly of its ways without enduring the harsh vae victis that typically accompanies such lessons.

Bad things occasionally have a way of turning into something positive, provided one survives them long enough to see the benefits. The reason for this deserves some thought. Most readers are familiar with the accidentally heroic role played by Gollum in the plotline Lord of the Rings. It was not Frodo who destroyed the Ring, but Gollum who through his own incompetence tripped over the edge of the abyss and fulfilled the Quest. .
Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. ... Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
And so it did. But why does accidental heroism exist?
Tolkien's answer to that question is not obvious, though it is clear. I mean by that remark that it is clear what Tolkien thought, but in the story no mechanism is given nor more than barely suggested. The answer is obscure, not obvious, in the tale. You have to read the Silmarillion, and particularly the Ainulindalë, to understand what Tolkien thought was at work. It is a metaphysical picture most aligned, oddly enough, with Hinduism. It is like the message of the Bhagavad Gita except that the ultimate being is much more active in Tolkien's view. The discord of evil wills is answered by the divine, woven back into the thread of the whole so that it only deepens the beauty of creation.

Tolkien was extremely well-read -- I continue to discover how well-read, as it is rare that I read an ancient or Medieval primary source without realizing that he read it first. He read the Pre-Socratics, I am sure, and preferred among them Heraclitus: for Heraclitus said, in an idea that Christians would later adapt, that everything comes to be in accordance with Logos. Tolkien left us a sign of this in the way he describes the creative element of the divine being in his stories as "the Secret Fire" or "the Flame Imperishable." Heraclitus also held that fire, of the elements, was the true arche.

That is not the answer Wretchard gives. He credits another divine being, Randomius Factoria, the Lady of Fate. Yet he seems to credit her in her bright aspect: Agatha Tyche, also known as Eutykhia, the goddess of good luck. I love that goddess myself, but she like we is a part of creation. Her powers are granted, like ours, even if they are greater than our own.