Political Correctness as the End of Moral Relativism

So, we usually talk about PC as an outgrowth of moral relativism: you can't criticize any other culture without causing offense because you can't suggest that any culture is better than another. A new article in the Atlantic says that, actually, that's a perfectly serviceable non-relative ethic by itself. The harsh punishments of pro-PC activists are an enforcement of a non-relative ethic against the non-PC.
The subjective morality of yesterday has been replaced by an ethical code that, if violated, results in unmerciful moral crusades on social media.

A culture of shame cannot be a culture of total relativism. One must have some moral criteria for which to decide if someone is worth shaming....

This system is not a reversion to the values that conservatives may wish for. America’s new moral code is much different than it was prior to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Instead of being centered on gender roles, family values, respect for institutions and religious piety, it orbits around values like tolerance and inclusion. (This new code has created a paradoxical moment in which all is tolerated except the intolerant and all included except the exclusive.)
Well, except no: the most intolerant and exclusive brands of all can travel under this flag, because they can claim to have been not tolerated or excluded by some previous authority. It remains an anti-Western Western philosophy, a West that blinds itself like Oedipus out of horror at its past sins. In that blindness, it now can see nothing except the ever-cycling vision of the old sins playing out again against the mind's eye.

What happens outside of that mental torture chamber is none of its proper concern.


Satellite images uncover second Viking settlement in North America.

21 Generals for 5,000 Troops?

There's a politically incorrect phrase we used to use to describe this setup. Something to do with 'chiefs' and 'Indians.' Now, I don't want to fail to respect our Native American brothers and sisters, but I can't help but think of the phrase when I read a report like this.
Exclusive: 21 Generals Lead ISIS War the U.S. Denies Fighting

There are only 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq—about what a colonel usually commands. But for this ISIS war, as many as 21 generals have been deployed. Why?
How does anyone get anything done with that much brass? Well, maybe that's why we somehow aren't winning. I've known a couple of Brigade Commanders who could have cleaned this up, if you gave them their head.

Another Reason to Value Being Long-Married

Cosmopolitan invites four young women to talk with their boyfriends about guns. "Almost all of the boyfriends believe they have the right to gun ownership under the Second Amendment, but their girlfriends don't see it that way."

My favorite is the one who just cannot imagine why anyone would want to own a "death machine." Her boyfriend says, well, you know, you drive a car and they kill just as many people (and about three times as often by accident! More than two thirds of gun deaths are suicides).

I suppose I would have said, "In fact I own many death machines. Wait until you meet my motorcycle."

If she was the sort to really mind saddling up on a death machine, she'd have moved on long before we got to the conversation about guns.

Still, I feel bad for these young guys having to negotiate dating in an environment like this one.

Well, maybe I don't feel too bad for them. It's a hard ride, but at least some of them seem to be working it out.

Did the Hall see this?

This has got to be one of the most amazing stories of wartime survival I have ever read.  Please do yourself a favor and take some time to read the amazing story of a British WWII RAF veteran.

The Dramatic Exception to Nondiscrimination?

Many years ago when I was a teenager, I saw a version of Hamlet with a black actor in one of the leading roles. Knowing that the film was set in Medieval Denmark, I had a moment of being jarred out of the suspension of disbelief necessary for effective drama. However, I made the mental effort to thrust the issue aside and found no problem enjoying the play. Such casting has apparently now become common, and the reaction of viewers is now standard: we have decided not to care.

In fact, it turns out that Medieval Denmark -- if it were much like Medieval England -- probably did have a certain number of people of color in it. Several of the Round Table knights turn out to have been, a fact missed because the Medieval authors didn't make a big deal about it. It apparently wasn't that remarkable.

Nevertheless, one can see that the suspension of disbelief is a real issue for dramatic works. More than that, if a play is really partially about race, the dramatic vision of the whole could make it valid to cast certain roles in a certain way. It might be interesting to do a version of Roots or Tarantino's Django with racial casting reversed, but it makes a certain sense to play the casting straight. I'm not sure it would make sense to fail to take race into account at all: while reversing casting would make a point, you would lose something important to the drama if you gave the sense that race was of no importance in the time period being portrayed. It is the centrality of racism that is the issue, and casting has to reflect that somehow.

I'm thinking about this because the Hamilton musical has come under fire for a casting call asking for only "non-white" actors. There's a question about whether the law can support race-based casting. That's a separate question from whether or not it makes any sense to try to put on a play set in a particular time and place that doesn't take audience expectations into account -- either to smooth suspension of disbelief, or to challenge their preconceptions.

It seems as if the artistic concerns are valid, but they may be illegal. If they were illegal, should there be a nondiscrimination exception for art?


After what the DNC is calling an "error," Bernie Sanders is not on the DC ballot.

There are only 20 delegates at stake, as I understand it. On the other hand, the race is tightening, and Bernie Sanders has passed Clinton in the overall lead among registered Democrats.

As disappointing as this year has been, I think I could be satisfied with almost any outcome that puts paid to the Clinton machine.

UPDATE: From a usually reliable Clinton supporter, Ezra Klein:
[T]he Clinton campaign has come up with the argument that Sanders has somehow crossed a line with his negative campaigning.... This is flatly absurd. The Democratic primary — including the debates — has been substantive and respectful. Sanders has, at times, bent over backward to run a positive race, as when he refused to hound Clinton over her emails. If any candidate has ever proven himself a fair and courteous adversary, it's Sanders. The mockery Sanders's supporters are throwing at Clinton is entirely merited.

This is the Clinton campaign at its worst. The argument isn't just false, it also insults the intelligence of voters.
No one ever went broke doing that.

Knights Templar Cleared of Blasphemy

Seven hundred years ago, the Knights Templar were convicted of blasphemy by the French and the leadership of the order was executed. Historians tend to believe that the real issue was the rich property belonging to the military order, which the French government was then able to claim.

Now, for the first time, the Papal inquiry into the trial is being revealed to the public. The Pope, it turns out, cleared the order of the charges against it. However, he went along with disbanding it for political reasons.

Interesting timing, publicly clearing the old Crusader order at an hour in which many in Europe seem to wish they had them back.

Conan Lives!

Robert E. Howard's conceit for the Conan stories -- and, in fact, for most of his stories -- was that what we take to be the rise of civilization was really a very late period. Civilizations we have never dreamed of had risen and fallen, since before the oceans drank Atlantis.

More and more, it looks like he was right.
Writing did not arrive in this part of Europe for another 2,000 years, so it’s a mystery as to who was fighting whom. A full DNA analysis has yet to be completed, but evidence from teeth indicates that this was no local struggle. Instead, the chemical composition of the teeth show that the men came from many different parts of Europe, some from hundreds of miles away.

One hypothesis suggests that bands of warriors were brought together for a common purpose, in the same way warbands came together in the story of siege of Troy.

But what’s really startling historians is that nobody knew North European society was this organized, stratified and warlike so early in history. One researcher told Science magazine “if you fight with body armor and helmet and corselet, you need daily training or you can’t move. … This kind of training is the beginning of a specialized group of warriors.”

An elite warrior class can only exist if someone else is growing the warriors' food and making their weapons and tools. That suggests a degree of hitherto unsuspected stratification of Bronze Age society.
Let me tell you of the days of high adventure.

Scalia: A Failed Democracy

Via D29, an argument from the late Antonin Scalia:
[W]e got to U.S. v. Windsor, the controversial 2013 case in which a 5-4 majority struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).... Justice Scalia had written a blistering dissent in the case, taking the majority to task for agreeing to hear the matter in the first place. “The Court is eager—hungry—to tell everyone its view of the legal question at the heart of this case,” he had written.
Standing in the way is an obstacle, a technicality of little interest to anyone but the people of We the People, who created it as a barrier against judges’ intrusion into their lives. They gave judges, in Article III, only the “judicial Power,” a power to decide not abstract questions but real, concrete “Cases” and “Controversies.” Yet the plaintiff and the Government agree entirely on what should happen in this lawsuit. They agree that the court below got it right; and they agreed in the court below that the court below that one got it right as well. What, then, are we doing here?
It was a good question. The procedural history of the case was utterly bizarre. President Obama had instructed the Department of Justice not to defend DOMA from constitutional challenges because he believed that the statute was unconstitutional. Yet at the same time, the president had instructed other executive agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, to continue enforcing DOMA’s provisions...

I asked Justice Scalia whether, notwithstanding Windsor’s limited precedential value, the threat to the separation of powers from “executive non-enforcement” had grown critical. In the wake of Windsor, had it become easier for the president not only to decline to defend laws that he found objectionable, but to decline to enforce laws that he found objectionable? ... Was there any basis, I asked, upon which the Supreme Court might rule on the constitutionality of executive non-enforcement?

It all depends on Congress, Justice Scalia responded—and “if Congress doesn’t do its job and challenge the president,” he said, “what we have is a failed democracy.” The blow landed. The room fell silent. The moderator called for a break.
There is some speculation, in the wake of his death, that the Supreme Court might "just disappear" as a Constitutional organ. Frankly, I think that would be for the best: its current role as a rolling committee of 9 with the power to amend the Constitution at will has not been good either for the stability of the Republic nor the liberty of the People. There is no reason to believe that the Court will amend its ways, especially not if it obtains a fifth liberal vote. In that case, we can expect to see the Constitution rapidly rewritten so that conservative views are firmly declared to be not only illegal but unconstitutional. It is a road we have already come down a long way.

A restrained Court could play its much more limited constitutional role wisely, but the wisdom resides in the limitations. The Court always runs the hazard of deciding questions one way for the whole of a very diverse nation. To the degree that it does so in "controversies," there is a kind of instability built into the use of the judicial power. The several states can agree to disagree. Citizens who care deeply about a controversy can move to a state that resolves it in a way they find agreeable. Every time the Court undertakes to solve a question once and for all, it damages our Republic's stability by forcing a minority -- sometimes a majority -- to accept that their views are illegitimate and may not be considered by any legislature.

There have been a small number of controversies in our history where such a radical approach was justified. Even in these cases, the use of the power is not guaranteed to result in a wise or just outcome. The Court decided to resolve one such question with Dred Scott.

Can Congress stand up for itself, and reassert its proper role? Would the Court, lacking Scalia, affirm their rights if it did? Or are we already past the gate described in these remarks?

What A Shock

The "Guns at the RNC" petition was started by... a Clinton supporter. I'll wait while you pick your mouth up off the floor.

The thing is, I wouldn't mind at all allowing permit holders to carry at the convention or most anywhere else. This was intended as a "satire" aimed at making us look like hypocrites, but really, there's no hypocrisy to be had on this issue.

That's how I knew this was a false-flag -- it's the kind of petition someone would write who fell for the "NRA bans guns" hoax. There are only two reasons guns aren't going to be at the RNC, and neither of them is amenable to a petition. The first one is the Secret Service, and the second one is the insurance concerns of the property owner.

Cruz / Fiorina?

I liked Fiorina more and more the more I saw of her. Her record isn't impressive, but the job of Vice President is just to spend one's full time training to become President. I could support a VP candidate who lacked the record that a Presidential candidate should have, especially when the Presidential candidate is as young and healthy as Cruz.

So far she says there's no deal, but perhaps there will be one.

National Border Patrol Council: Trump, Please

Effectively a union for Border Patrol agents, this endorsement is surprising. They normally do not endorse candidates, for one thing. For another, it's Donald Trump they're endorsing, not just a Republican but the official choice of Worst Republican To Be Hated Most this year. I find it amazing that a public-sector union would endorse a Republican at all, let alone one so thoroughly painted as a racist hatemonger.

Clearly they are tired of the status quo on the border.

NYT: How About Some Frank Talk, Obama?

It's as if they don't trust him to just do whatever he wants without the approval of Congress or the American public.

When did that start?

In any case, here's a decent book on the subject. You'll recognize some of the authors.

Son Ain't Smart

But you don't have to be smart to be right.

Speaking of Tribalism...

Scottish Jews have their own tartan as of now. This has apparently been in the works for centuries.
The tartan, featuring distinctive tones of navy and burgundy, is a kosher non wool-linen mix which abides by shatnez - the Jewish law prohibiting the mixture of wool and linen in garments.

Religious experts and tartan authorities worked together to come up with a design that represent both Jewish values and Scottish history.... The tartan design features blue and white, the colours of both the Israeli and Scottish flags, with the central gold line representing the gold from the Ark in the Biblical Tabernacle.

The silver is to represent the silver that adorns the Scroll of the Law, while the red depicts the traditional Kiddush wine.

There are seven lines in the central motif and three in the flag representations - both numbers of great significance in Judaism.
So now you know.

In addition to family/tribal lines, Scotland has a number of universal tartans that Jews could have always worn (although I don't know if they abide by kosher laws about mixing wool and linen). There are also tartans for districts, including a number of American states. Georgia's is particularly meaningful given the early history of Scottish Highlanders in making the colony of Georgia a reality in the face of Spanish aggression.

"Double Standard"

There's a small problem with this analogy, in an article on the relationship between a particularly violent strand of hip-hop music and Chicago violence which came across my desk this morning though it was originally published in December of 2014. The murder rate in Chicago is at its all time high now, so the problem the author is discussing has only worsened.
In 1956, Johnny Cash released his classic song “Folsom Prison Blues” in which he stated, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” For those of you familiar with this song, ask yourself, “Have I ever felt like killing someone after listening to this?” The obvious answer, of course, is no. Yet, there seems to be a double standard when it comes to hip hop and its new found sub-genre, drill music.
The difference between the Cash song and the songs to which you refer is the absence of tribalism. Johnny Cash's song is about a loser who is all alone in the world, having rejected the mores of his family and his society. He is locked in a prison where there must be people all around him, but none of them are mentioned. The only other people in the song -- aside from his Mama and the man he killed in spite of her advice -- are people he can only imagine, doing things he longs to do in a space forever forbidden to him. He doesn't even really long for fellowship with them. He doesn't imagine himself in the dining car with them, 'drinking coffee and smoking big cigars.' He just wishes he could drive the train. He pictures himself there, in a role he knows he can never inhabit, moving the train away from lonely Folsom Prison.

That's not what's going on with this other music. This music is asking you to imagine yourself as a member of a tribe, a soldier of the tribe, standing up proudly against others. It's a very different logic. Killing in the one song is the Fall. Killing in the other is a source of power, pride, position. Read the lyrics the author quotes as exemplary for the proof of this.

A subsidiary argument blames the broader society for both the rise of the music and the actual violence associated with it:
If you were to take a look at a timeline of events in the Chicago, you’d see that drill music came to fruition as the city began its aggressive redevelopment of public housing. It was an initiative called The Plan for Transformation. In a nutshell, the “plan” was to completely demolish all of the project housings in Chicago and replace them with remodeled updated apartments. However, in doing so, tens of thousands of Chicago’s poor residents were displaced and forced to move into other nearby, crowded and impoverished neighborhoods. When this happened, rival gangs became closer to one another. Sub-gangs also began forming within existing gangs, creating infighting. For years, this problem continued to go unrecognized and unchecked.

In 2012, Chicago took the national stage due to its unprecedented level of gun violence. By the end of that year, Chicago officially became murder capital of the United States.
There's probably a causal factor to be found there, too. It is the property of guilt, however, that it can be divided without being lessened.


The Clinton campaign says there will be no more debates unless Sanders stops being so negative about her.

Sanders is negative about her? She's been in national politics for twenty years. He's the most courteous opponent she's ever had.

Meanwhile, a writer at the Huffington Post says that she should concede the contest.
Yes, federal prosecutors will interview Hillary Clinton, in addition to her close associates.

At what point will establishment Democrats admit this fiasco is horrible for a general election?

When federal prosecutors are interviewing your candidate for president, even Donald Trump has a good chance at the White House.

Furthermore, former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey believes A Criminal Charge is Justified. Former Obama intelligence official Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn says that “If it were me, I would have been out the door and probably in jail.” Former NSA director Michael Hayden called Clinton’s email setup “stupid and dangerous.” Even Edward Snowden, the antithesis of America’s intelligence community in many ways, says it’s “ridiculous” to think Clinton’s emails were secure.

It’s time for Democrats to deal with reality, not just allegiance to a political icon, and rally around the only candidate not linked to an FBI investigation...

Also, nothing in the Rolling Stone piece endorsing Clinton mentions the ongoing FBI investigation. The Christian Science Monitor clearly states the nature of the FBI’s investigation, stating “The FBI is indeed conducting a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information on the private email server Clinton used for State Department communications.”

Yes, Hillary supporters, “The FBI is indeed conducting a criminal investigation.”

Another Dead End

Actual NYT Headline: "Who Will Become a Terrorist? Research Yields Few Clues."

Actual opening grafs:
The brothers who carried out suicide bombings in Brussels last week had long, violent criminal records and had been regarded internationally as potential terrorists. But in San Bernardino, Calif., last year, one of the attackers was a county health inspector who lived a life of apparent suburban normality.

And then there are the dozens of other young American men and women who have been arrested over the past year for trying to help the Islamic State. Their backgrounds are so diverse that they defy a single profile.
Actual Saturday Night Live skit from many years ago, when this line of argument was already a joke.

Governor Deal to Veto Religious Freedom

As expected, the governor has determined that liberty should be sold for profit.
“Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to,” he said. “We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way,” he said. “For that reason, I will veto HB 757.”
That's a neat rhetorical trick. If it is the case that Georgians "work side by side without regard to... religion..." then the law would provoke no changes in behavior. The argument is that the law is not necessary because Georgians already freely do what it would free them not to do. This is framed as an act of tolerance and compassion. It is really an assertion that force may be used to compel Georgia's religious dissenters to comply with the opinion of the cultural elite.

What is really going on is that the law is going to require Georgians to work "without regard... to the religion they adhere to" by mandating them to do things that violate their faith. Religion will be forced out of the public space in these ways: if you want to make a living, you will violate your faith whenever you are required to do so by activists who hunt you down to make the point. The law will compel you.

Disney is happy today, and the Coca-Cola company. The governor has betrayed the basic mission of an American state, however. Protecting the liberties of the people is the whole reason this nation and its several states exist. Governor Deal's action is a disgrace to the United States of America and to the state of Georgia.

"Insufficient Attention"

From a story in the Washington Post:
From the earliest days, Clinton aides and senior officials focused intently on accommodating the secretary’s desire to use her private email account, documents and interviews show.

Throughout, they paid insufficient attention to laws and regulations governing the handling of classified material and the preservation of government records, interviews and documents show.
According to this frame, the only wrongdoing was paying "insufficient attention" to (ahem) "laws and regulations." Now, what do we usually call it when someone pays "insufficient attention" to a law?

I notice that the frame also maintains that "Clinton aides and senior officials" are the ones who are in the wrong. Clinton herself? She just has legitimate interests in being able to communicate efficiently that the aides are trying to accommodate.

Though a news story, it almost reads like an offer: take these "senior aides" as your sacrificial lambs, and leave the Great Woman Herself to float free.

The High Feast of Easter

Happy Easter to you all.