A Second Bite at the Apple

From my perspective, Wretchard is really on fire right now. Here's another piece this weekend hitting what seem to me to be the major themes.

A Sellout Song

Free Will: Philosophy v. Neuroscience

A philosopher further confuses the question. On purpose, I mean. Often, that's what good philosophers do.

Here's an example:

DB: "Salon Editors: We Should Have Let the Axis Win"

The only reason the aircraft that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima was named Enola Gay was so the military industrial complex could blame the dawn of the atomic age on the LGBT community. The American experiment has been nothing but a massive plot to denigrate protected classes.

Let’s be candid, it’s taken over 70 years for Americans to have a serious conversation about National Socialism and firmly divide people along racial lines. Thanks a lot “Allies.”

During that time, what has America actually done for the world? Given us an addiction to technologies dependent on fossil fuels? Domestic surveillance techniques? Patriarchy? The great American melting pot is more like a great American chop shop of appropriated culture.
Their satire is at its best when it is so close to the truth. I have read serious versions of this argument pointed at the first World War.

House of the Dying Sun

Wretchard has a good one this evening. Friday afternoon is a strange time to post your best stuff. I wonder if he's hoping people won't read it.
In retrospect the postwar American world can be said to have gone off the rails in one of two places. Liberals will put the date in March, 2003, when the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein began. Although the action was supported at the time by both political parties, the outrage liberals felt at what they believed to be the deception surrounding the operation created a reaction that made the second critical date inevitable: the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

Obama was regarded -- and is still regarded -- by many conservatives as possessing the same degree of delegitimizing characteristics now attributed to Donald Trump. In this view, the accession of Obama, not the invasion of Iraq, marked the moment Everything Changed. It also made the rise Trump historically inevitable. The chain runs thus: Iraq --> Obama --> Trump/Hillary. Where you start is optional. Where you end is unknown. Ironically September 11, 2001 plays an ambiguous role in the historiography. For some reason that date is regarded by some as occurring Before the Fall....

If political columnist Ron Fournier is right about this election cycle, it is less about achieving incremental policy change than precipitating a radical institutional change . In that case the current unpopularity contest can be seen as an deliberate process to increase instability by hoping the worst man wins, not in order to continue the status quo but to tear things down and start afresh.
Of course he's right, as regards Sanders and Trump. Only Clinton stands for trying to prop up the failing regime. She is the candidate of every remaining institution. Maybe that will carry her over the line, in spite of her felonies, in spite of her weakness.

But it can't stop the tide.

Friday Night AMV

Don't Smoke.

(This is very clever editing, because I've seen this series and this is *not* what it is about at all.)

Judgmental Map of Atlanta

Inspired by AVI's map of Massachusetts stereotypes, I looked for a similar map of Georgia. There isn't one, probably because the kind of clever Buzzfeed-types who make such maps don't know anything about Georgia. Outside of Atlanta and perhaps Savannah, the whole thing would be marked, "Here be Dragons."

But I did find a map of the closer-in parts of metro Atlanta that fits the bill.

I went to High School in "Prime Real Estate." The part they call "The Mexico," which is properly known as Chamblee, I've always heard called "Chambodia." It has at least as many Asian immigrants as Mexican ones, and it's an excellent source for authentic cuisine from anywhere. If you hit the area, try Los Americas or El Taco Veloz.

Vox Starts to Catch On After All

They're still describing this in gaslighting terms -- Trump supporters 'think' this and that -- but they do seem to have had a moment of clarity.

UPDATE: Via Drudge, someone whose moment of clarity has yet to come.

VFW: Speak For Yourself, Buddy... er, Mr. President

The Veterans of Foreign Wars were not amused by President Obama's recent suggestion that their membership are fools.

No Wonder She Has Such Clear Vision of Her Destiny

In an article on Clinton's inner circle, a representative email circulated among her staff:
“If you get a chance — please tell HRC that she was a ROCK STAR yesterday. Everything about her 'performance' was what makes her unique, beloved, and destined for even more greatness. She sets a standard that lesser mortals can only dream of emulating.”
The wiser advice was whispered by that slave in Roman Imperial times: "Remember you are mortal."

UPDATE: On the other hand, this technique works great as long as your candidate is in on the joke.

It's only when you begin to believe your own BS that Nemesis begins slipping up behind you.

Why Not Murder?

Hot Air has some thoughts from a top Vox editor on the righteousness of violence against Trump rallies.
Advice: If Trump comes to your town, start a riot.

— Emmett Rensin (@emmettrensin) June 3, 2016
So …. who exactly is the fascist in this scenario? The Week’s Michael Dougherty seemed to wonder that himself, asking Rensin what exactly he saw as the limits of “legitimate” political violence. The answer? Murder’s out … but that’s about it:
@michaelbd Destroying property is legitimate. Shouting down is legitimate. Disruption of all events is legitimate. Murder isn't.

— Emmett Rensin (@emmettrensin) June 3, 2016
So any violence short of murder is legitimate, as long as the political aim is pure enough, presumably. If you’re wondering what kind of violence isn’t legitimate, Jeryl Bier found this line in Rensin’s sand from last year:
Here's @emmettrensin on "literal violence": https://t.co/gmYzGWfbHO pic.twitter.com/HPYejDklOm

— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) June 3, 2016
A “Stop Hillary” wifi password is literal violence, while destruction of property and shutting down free speech is just legitimate political action.
So what's so wrong with just killing Trump? Wouldn't it obviate the need for all this destruction of property, all these clashes in the street? Doesn't everyone say that they'd kill Hitler if they could go back in time and do so?

I mean, I understand the Catholic objection -- that murder is an inherently disordered act. But surely you won't want to impose some religious test on your politics, Vox. Why not have the courage of your convictions?

UPDATE: Vox today runs an article called "Donald Trump Rallies Are Only Going To Get More Dangerous For Everyone." Whose fault is that? Trump's, of course.

UPDATE: Althouse: "Yells of "[F***] you!" are heard, along with vuvuzelas and chants of 'Trump go home!'"

Vuvuzelas, is it? Now we know what we're dealing with here.

UPDATE: Vox suspends, but does not fire, its editor. Go sit in timeout until after the election -- everyone knows you don't actually tell people to riot. You just say that it's completely understandable that people riot given how awful Trump is, and that it's certain to get worse.

An Interesting Point

I don't know who Daredevil is, but I gather it's a superhero thing. Nevertheless, I was over at Brandwine Books to see what Lars Walker has been writing about recently, and he has a post that discusses the series. I found this point interesting:
When Kingpin calls Vanessa on the carpet for concealed carry, viewers learn that she’s not some ingénue, but rather an empowered woman with her own ambitions: “We’ve been sitting here talking for hours, and you’re going to insult me like I have no idea what you really do? … I know you’re a dangerous man. That’s why I brought a gun to a dinner date.”
Way back when we were first dating, it was a point in my future wife's favor for me that she carried a knife. Though she later admitted to me that she wasn't used to men who carried guns, she accepted it as a risk worth taking for me.

For me, it's kind of neat to see that sort of thing reflected in fiction.

Former Delta Force Leader Uninvited From Ft. Riley Prayer Breakfast

LTG (R) Jerry Boykin was one of the greats in his day, and now seems to spend most of his time on issues of faith. So of course that's where they hit him:
A Kansas military base abruptly canceled an upcoming prayer breakfast that featured retired Lt. General Jerry Boykin after complaints were lodged that Boykin is anti-Muslim and anti-gay.

Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder Mikey Weinstein told Army Times that Boykin’s invitation had caused great angst among soldiers at Fort Riley – leading some to break down in tears.

“I have clients of ours weeping on the phone about this,” he said.

Weeping? Oh, please.

“I sincerely doubt that America can expect to win wars if the people who are tasked to do so are frightened by an old retired general with biblical views and a testimony of faith,” Boykin told me.

Boykin, an original member of Delta Force and an executive vice president of the Family Research Council, was scheduled to deliver remarks at a June 6th prayer breakfast. The event was set to be held in conjunction with the 1st Infantry Division’s Victory Week celebration....

“He sows hatred and heinous divisiveness with his sickening screed of fundamentalist Christian supremacy, primacy, exclusivity and triumphalism,” Weinstein wrote in a complaint to Fort Riley.
I don't share Boykin's views, but to find them "sickening" represents a pretty harsh opposition to his mode of faith -- in fact, at least as harsh a mode as the one Boykin aims at Islam, which is one of the MRFF's complaints against him.

The MRFF has a page in which it was asked whether it focuses on beating up Christians exclusively, or if it sometimes worries about other religions such as Islam. You know, Islam: that religion that has resulted in several blue-on-blue incidents such as the fragging at the start of the Iraq War, or the Ft. Drum shootings.

Their response is several paragraphs long, but here is the nut: "We simply do not receive similar complaints involving any religion other than Christianity."

Aristotle said that justice lies in treating similar cases similarly. The big question there, as here, is what constitutes "similar."


NYT Headline: "Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say."

Where've you been these last few years?

Trump is the only one who even might prosecute top members of the Clinton machine. If Hillary Clinton is elected, it'll be open season for high-level corruption, the sale of American power to the highest bidder, and bribery on a scale never seen before in the United States.

I don't know if Trump would be good or bad for the rule of law. But I know he can hardly be worse. What's surprising to me is that the Times can't see how ridiculous it is to put forward the Clinton machine as Guardian of the Rule of Law.

I can see the slogan now: 'Vote Fox for Henhouse Sheriff!'

UPDATE: Related: "We’re all thinking the same thing but an RNC spokesman was the first to get to say it: Of the two major-party nominees this year, it ain’t Trump who mishandled classified information."

UPDATE: Also related: We hear about how Trump marks the rise of brownshirt fascism, but somehow it's his rallies that keep getting attacked by mobs.

None of this stuff is of the tu quoque fallacy. It's not that Trump's opponents do it too. It's that the charge that he does it overlooks the fact that his opponent is far worse on all of these issues.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Not the Duffel Blog

Actually, the Washington Post: "Female-named hurricanes kill more than male hurricanes because people don’t respect them, study finds."

This Happened in Georgia?

A burqa-clad assailant allegedly attacked a woman with her own American flag.

Amusingly, the article posts a burqaless mugshot. If maintaining modesty at radical Islamic levels is important to you, you'd better obey the law.

Guns Save Lives

Sometimes, they're the right lives.

You can increase your odds of it turning out right by practicing and training regularly.

"Seven Hobbit Meals"

Actually, the first one is Beorning.

They all look pretty good, though.

"Putting a Wife to Work..."

I've been sharply critical of Donald Trump's remarks on women throughout this election season, but this time I think the media may be misreading what he said. He's not suggesting that it's dangerous for a husband to have a wife who works. If I understand him he's suggesting that it's dangerous to employ one's own wife as a business subordinate.

Now we have all these rules about sexual harassment in the workplace just because we recognize that it's perilous to go the other way -- to seek a wife (or husband) from among one's business associates. The idea that it's dangerous to combine the two spheres of engagement is thus not a very strange thing to say at all, especially not from a feminist perspective: they've been driving most of these rules for just this reason.

So why should it be surprising to learn that it works the other way too? If the creation of intimacy can put undesirable stresses on a business relationship, why would it be surprising that bringing an intimate relationship into the workplace might put undesirable stresses upon the intimate relationship? It seems well-established that the two relationships are at cross-purposes in certain respects.

On the other hand, there are millions of stories of immigrant families who came to America and built a successful business around their family ties. Just over the hill is an Indian family who runs a small convenience store. The father, wife, and son all take turns staffing it, and the revenue is managed as family income. This program has worked to the good of generations of immigrants, helping them become established in what can be a difficult economy.

Still, it's not weird to think that the business and the intimate don't go together well. The American business environment is an ideally asexual, professional environment built on competition between atomic actors for position, responsibility, and salary. A marriage is an ideally sexual, intimate environment in which resources are pooled for the common good. It should be no surprise at all to learn that the two forms wear against each other. The conclusion that they might be better kept separate seems like wisdom to me.

Um, Bill...

The retired former President chides Trump supporters.
“The last serious terrorist incident in the United States occurred in San Bernardino, Calif. Those people were converted over the internet,” Clinton said. “You can build all the walls you want. You can build them all across Canada; they got a bunch of foreigners in Canada. You could build a seawall in the Atlantic and a seawall in the Pacific. …. And then you could send the Navy to the Gulf of Mexico to block anybody else, and put all the planes in the Air Force up. You could not keep out the social media.”
Actually, the wife went to an Islamic school in Pakistan before returning to Saudi Arabia. She and her husband met online, and he was probably radicalized by her, but he also went to Saudi Arabia for a while -- that is probably where they received whatever training they had that allowed them to build destructive devices and execute the attack.

Not that social media and self-radicalization aren't a problem. Your example, however, was particularly poorly chosen.

Another Sword-Fighting Game

Hatashiai! is the latest "we can make a realistic sword-fighting game" to seek crowd funding. I notice that in addition to six Japanese schools, they include "Chinese Sword" and "[Western] Long Sword" as options for players.

By the way, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is now in beta testing. It aims at a much wider kind of realism than just the sword-fighting, attempting to accurately recreate a moment in the Middle Ages as thoroughly as possible.

Crush the Clintons in California!

A possible loss in California has the Clinton machine in panic mode.

Bernie's victory, should he attain it, almost certainly won't propel him to the nomination. It might cause the death of the Clinton machine, however, as it is not clear that it could maintain its monetary racket without plausible access to the political influence it is selling. The scale of Clinton corruption is such that its death would be a major step forward in correcting American political corruption.

What comes next? Joe Biden, maybe. Maybe a free-for-all at the convention. Whatever it is, it would be better.

Zoos' Weapon Response Teams

Via Wretchard, this week's tribulation over the gorilla has brought to everyone's attention the fact that zoos have some pretty serious ordinance right to hand.
The team armed themselves with four guns from a locked cabinet kept in the general curator’s office. Salisbury carried a 12-gauge shotgun. The remaining staff carried two .375 rifles and a 30.06 rifle.
That .375 is a beast. If it were used in a crime, the news media would describe either of those calibers as "a high-powered rifle" and/or "a sniper rifle" and/or "a rifle designed to penetrate police body armor." Well, it wasn't really designed to do that -- it was designed to penetrate heavy bone and fat deposits in order to reach the vitals of big game animals like buffalo. But it certainly would penetrate any body armor you want to name.

Neuroscience Can't Solve Donkey Kong

We hear increasingly confident claims from advocates of neuroscience that we shall soon understand how the brain works.  How plausible are these claims?  Someone thought of a test.
The human brain contains 86 billion neurons, underlies all of humanity’s scientific and artistic endeavours, and has been repeatedly described as the most complex object in the known universe. By contrast, the MOS 6502 microchip contains 3510 transistors, runs Space Invaders, and wouldn’t even be the most complex object in my pocket. We know very little about how the brain works, but we understand the chip completely.

So, Eric Jonas and Konrad Kording wondered, what would happen if they studied the chip in the style of neuroscientists? How would the approaches that are being used to study the complex squishy brain fare when used on a far simpler artificial processor? Could they re-discover everything we know about its transistors and logic gates, about how they process information and run simple video games? Forget attention, emotion, learning, memory, and creativity; using the techniques of neuroscience, could Jonas and Kording comprehend Donkey Kong?

No. They couldn’t. Not even close.
Now, that's interesting, but it depends on an analogy that is increasingly questionable. Here's an article that argues that your brain does not process information, and is nothing like a computer.

Pakistani Women Are Not Having It

The recent Islamic committee ruling that Pakistani husbands could beat their wives "lightly" has produced a significant backlash.

I imagine the committee members are surprised.  The committee was just reiterating a perfectly well-established shariah law principle.  Pakistan, 'the land of the pure,' was established just so that people could live authentically Muslim lives.  Why wouldn't women be on board with such an obvious ruling, well within the luminous tradition of their faith?

Money Pit

From the Blueberry website (from Gov. Perry's joke about Austin's being the blueberry in the tomato soup of Texas), a tale that punches my buttons from both sides.  On the one hand, the 1890's home in Old West Austin is just the kind of building I love, and few things would make me happier than to have a few million dollars at my disposal to give it a loving restoration.  On the other hand, it doesn't belong to me, and neither I nor its owners have that kind of cash available for the necessary work.  What the owners have instead is a lot of neighbors who wish someone else would undertake the project so they could enjoy the fruits of it gratis.

I run into the same attitude here on my underdeveloped little semi-rural peninsula:  none of us enjoys seeing undeveloped land turned into new housing.  When someone else owns the undeveloped land, we experience it as a neighboring parkland, without the inconvenience of paying taxes on it or forgoing the income from selling it to a developer.  Such a crime to destroy the parkland!  And yet all of us live in houses that were built on previously undeveloped land.  Most of my neighbors prefer to clear nearly all of their previously undeveloped land, even the parts that their houses don't sit directly.  Somehow, in spite of this, they are up in arms when someone else nearby does the same.  Yet it never occurs to them to pool their resources and buy the undeveloped land so they can lovingly preserve it as habitat.  That's always for some other rich guy to do:  the besetting policy sin of our age.

Do I wish more people were passionate about undeveloped habitat and 19th-century buildings?  I sure do.  I wish they cared enough about it to make it a financial priority in their own households, instead of only important enough to try to bully other people about.

Maybe We Just Shouldn't Have "Supreme Courts" Anywhere

Barrister Jeremy Brier, former adjunct professor of EU law at Pepperdine, writes:

But there was always a particular moment, midway through our first lecture on the EU, when my American students would look particularly dumbstruck.  It was when they learnt that the common market, entered into in a spirit of amity to heal war-torn Europe, had by the reasoning of its appointed Judges, determined that EU laws must reign supreme over those of the EU’s member states.


In the present British debate, it is informative to recall the shock that greets an outsiders’ first understanding of how the EU grew. Its history is of an unstoppable escalation, either emanating from its own internal logic and powers or by a concerted but quiet power grab.

Open borders with Turkey within a decade is the inevitable apotheosis of a century in which we diluted our laws, pooled our sovereignty and vowed to intermingle our land and laws with our neighbours and beyond.

Thunderbolt Iron

King Tut's blade turns out to have been forged from the stuff.

Lord Dunsany explained how this is done.
Near the Castle of Erl there lived a lonely witch, on high land near the thunder, which used to roll in Summer along the hills. There she dwelt by herself in a narrow cottage of thatch and roamed the high fields alone to gather the thunderbolts. Of these thunderbolts, that had no earthly forging, were made, with suitable runes, such weapons as had to parry unearthly dangers....
To her he said that the day of his need was come. And she bade him gather thunderbolts in her garden, in the soft earth under her cabbages....

On the grass beside her he laid those strangers to Earth. From wonderful spaces they came to her magical garden, shaken by thunder from paths that we cannot tread; and though not in themselves containing magic were well adapted to carry what magic her runes could give. She laid the thigh-bone of a materialist down, and turned to those stormy wanderers. She arranged them in one straight row by the side of her fire. And over them then she toppled the burning logs and the embers, prodding them down with the ebon stick that is the sceptre of witches, until she had deeply covered those seventeen cousins of Earth that had visited us from their etherial home. She stepped back then from her fire and stretched out her hands, and suddenly blasted it with a frightful rune. The flames leaped up in amazement. And what had been but a lonely fire in the night, with no more mystery than pertains to all such fires, flared suddenly into a thing that wanderers feared.

As the green flames, stung by her runes, leaped up, and the heat of the fire grew intenser, she stepped backwards further and further, and merely uttered her runes a little louder the further she got from the fire. She bade Alveric pile on logs, dark logs of oak that lay there cumbering the heath; and at once, as he dropped them on, the heat licked them up; and the witch went on pronouncing her louder runes, and the flames danced wild and green; and down in the embers the seventeen, whose paths had once crossed Earth's when they wandered free, knew heat again as great as they had known, even on that desperate ride that had brought them here. And when Alveric could no longer come near the fire, and the witch was some yards from it shouting her runes, the magical flames burned all the ashes away and that portent that flared on the hill as suddenly ceased, leaving only a circle that sullenly glowed on the ground, like the evil pool that glares where thermite has burst. And flat in the glow, all liquid still, lay the sword.

The witch approached it and pared its edges with a sword that she drew from her thigh. Then she sat down beside it on the earth and sang to it while it cooled. Not like the runes that enraged the flames was the song she sang to the sword: she whose curses had blasted the fire till it shrivelled big logs of oak crooned now a melody like a wind in summer blowing from wild wood gardens that no man tended, down valleys loved once by children, now lost to them but for dreams, a song of such memories as lurk and hide along the edges of oblivion, now flashing from beautiful years of glimpse of some golden moment, now passing swiftly out of remembrance again, to go back to the shades of oblivion, and leaving on the mind those faintest traces of little shining feet which when dimly perceived by us are called regrets. She sang of old Summer noons in the time of harebells: she sang on that high dark heath a song that seemed so full of mornings and evenings preserved with all their dews by her magical craft from days that had else been lost, that Alveric wondered of each small wandering wing, that her fire had lured from the dusk, if this were the ghost of some day lost to man, called up by the force of her song from times that were fairer. And all the while the unearthly metal grew harder. The white liquid stiffened and turned red. The glow of the red dwindled. And as it cooled it narrowed: little particles came together, little crevices closed: and as they closed they seized the air about them, and with the air they caught the witch's rune, and gripped it and held it forever. And so it was it became a magical sword. And little magic there is in English woods, from the time of anemones to the falling of leaves, that was not in the sword. And little magic there is in southern downs, that only sheep roam over and quiet shepherds, that the sword had not too. And there was scent of thyme in it and sight of lilac, and the chorus of birds that sings before dawn in April, and the deep proud splendour of rhododendrons, and the litheness and laughter of streams, and miles and miles of may. And by the time the sword was black it was all enchanted with magic.

Nobody can tell you about that sword all that there is to be told of it; for those that know of those paths of Space on which its metals once floated, till Earth caught them one by one as she sailed past on her orbit, have little time to waste on such things as magic, and so cannot tell you how the sword was made, and those who know whence poetry is, and the need that man has for song, or know any one of the fifty branches of magic, have little time to waste on such things as science, and so cannot tell you whence its ingredients came. Enough that it was once beyond our Earth and was now here amongst our mundane stones; that it was once but as those stones, and now had something in it such as soft music has; let those that can define it.

And now the witch drew the black blade forth by the hilt, which was thick and on one side rounded, for she had cut a small groove in the soil below the hilt for this purpose, and began to sharpen both sides of the sword by rubbing them with a curious greenish stone, still singing over the sword an eerie song.

Alveric watched her in silence, wondering, not counting time; it may have been for moments, it may have been while the stars went far on their courses. Suddenly she was finished. She stood up with the sword lying on both her hands. She stretched it out curtly to Alveric; he took it, she turned away; and there was a look in her eyes as though she would have kept that sword, or kept Alveric. He turned to pour out his thanks, but she was gone.

Tyranny, Theory and Practice

Donald Trump gave a press conference yesterday in which he aggressively challenged the press, even calling one journalist a "sleaze." I'm not sure if the charge is accurate.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines:
"Just because you're a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you're a son of a bitch."

"Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something," [President] Duterte said, according to AFP. "You won't be killed if you don't do anything wrong."

He also said journalists who defamed others weren't necessarily protected from violent attacks.

"That can't be just freedom of speech. The constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person."
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh:
“No one in this country has the right to speak in a way that hurts religious sentiment,” she said while exchanging greetings with Hindu leaders on Thursday.

“You won’t practise religion – no problem. But you can’t attack someone else’s religion. You’ll have to stop doing this.

“It won’t be tolerated if someone else’s religious sentiment is hurt,” the prime minister said.

After the murder of secular blogger Niladri Chatterjee Niloy at his house in Dhaka on Aug 7, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and police chief AKM Shahidul Haque issued similar warnings.
What we need to decide, and it's a decision to be taken seriously, is whether Trump is of the same kind and merely different in degree, or if he is of a different kind. There are arguments to be made in both directions. One could argue that the media has really deserved harsh criticism, and that bringing such criticism is fair play. One could argue that verbal criticism is only part of the free exchange of ideas, and that being subject to criticism makes the press more likely to do a better, more thorough job in proving their case.

On the other hand, one could argue that such language from a man seeking a position of great power is suggestive that he would suppress criticism forcefully once he had power. One could suggest that his restriction to verbal criticism is temporary, and that once he has the power of the presidency he will not feel so restricted.

Certainly the power of the presidency is great. Especially under Obama the ability to avoid the law, by using Presidential power to refuse to enforce it on one's self or one's operatives, has grown vast. Still, my sense is that Trump would have a lot less power as President than Obama has had, or than Clinton would have, because he will be subject to impeachment and removal. His lack of backing within the deep establishment of his own party means that he would be easy to constrain. The party seems to be lining up behind him for the duration of the election, as he has won the nomination fair and square. I don't think that their willingness to accept the will of the voters in terms of their nominee means that they have abandoned their objections to Trump in general.

That could be wrong, though. A lot depends on whether Trump is just a big talker, or whether he's the kind of man who would be turned by power into a tyrant. Is he challenging the free press in a way that will force it to do its job better -- recognizing that it has, in fact, done a pretty poor job lately? Or is he laying the ground for suppressing the free press after his election? It's an important question.

Sanity on Weapons -- in the New York Times!

No less than the Times editorial board has penned an essay calling for a loosening of New York's "outdated" knife control laws.

I'm not sure the law they endorse is strongly enough worded to attain their outcome. It would be better to repeal the provisions against "gravity knives" altogether. Still, sanity on weapons from this podium does not come all that often. Let us celebrate it while it's here.

Poll on Clinton and Indictment

So, the red-line Drudge headline calls this a "shock poll" because 71% of Democrats think that Clinton should keep running even if indicted. Here's the part that I think is more troubling:
Sixty-five percent (65%) consider it likely that Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving e-mails containing classified information through a private e-mail server while serving as secretary of State. This includes 47% who say it’s Very Likely....

But just 25% think it is even somewhat likely that Clinton will be indicted.
There's your measure of effectiveness for our legal institutions. Two-thirds of voters think she broke the law (which, of course, she did). Only one in four think there's any real chance the law will be applied to her.

The party of more government has an interest in maintaining faith in the government. They're sacrificing more than they know on the altar of Hillary Clinton.

NPR: White Bloc Voting is a Problem

I've been arguing for a while now that Donald Trump is effectively building a white voting bloc, but that this is a response to the success of Democrats in building a black voting bloc, a Latino voting bloc, and an Asian voting bloc.

In other words, Trump's success is predicated on finishing a project that was 90% complete when he got here:  racializing American politics.  It's a terrible idea, but one that has a high probability of success.  It's already the case in other American democracies such as Brazil's, where parties allegedly have principles but are really mostly about tribal identities.  The Democrats have succeeded in convincing large swathes of America that 'our kind of people' just don't vote for Republicans.  It was only to be expected that someone would eventually come along and make the same sort of appeal to whites -- especially as whites are actually the majority, and could dominate in such a racialized environment.

So into this comes NPR's Gene Demby, who writes that "whiteness" is shaping the election.
It's telling that Chait finds it easier to imagine that huge swaths of Republican primary voters are childlike and naive, rather than folks who quite rationally dig Trump's direct appeals to their interests — their racial interests. Among Trump's most notorious policy proposals is a moratorium on Muslims entering the country. He has called Mexican immigrants "rapists." Maybe we should concede that these declarations are not incidental to his appeal among his supporters, but central to them. Calling them "idiots" posits that they've been duped, when perhaps Trump is saying precisely what they want to hear.
What is missing is a criticism of racialized bloc voting in general. What Trump is doing is bad for America. At the same time, he's just completing the work that the Democrats began a long time ago. What we need is not a criticism of white people for giving in to a racialized appeal. What we need is a criticism of politicians who make racialized appeals. We need to break up all of these racial voting blocs, somehow, if we're going to get to a politics that is principled instead of tribal.

Now, I don't have any idea how you do that. Part of the reason this mode is so successful is that is a kind of software that works well with the hardware: human beings readily break out into identity groups. It's hard to break up those groups once people identify with them. And it's hard to get them to prefer rational principles to group interests.

But let's at least be clear about what the problem is. It's not "whiteness." It's racial politics per se.

Scenes from the Memorial Day Weekend

Blackfive always used to say that Memorial Day should include a good barbecue, because it's what the dead would have wanted for us.  A day of carefree pleasure with family and friends is just the kind of freedom they dedicated their lives to providing.  It's a somber holiday, but it's important to take some time to honor that aspect of the holiday.

Wife's bike near the firepit.

Charcoal getting ready for the Applewood smoke chips.

A celebratory ale.

Memorial Day

Perhaps This Won't Be Their Year After All

Libertarian Party chair strips naked at national convention.

Eye bleach warning.

Bikers for Trump

In keeping with his very strong support among the military and veteran communities, Donald Trump finds himself the only remaining Presidential candidate welcome at Rolling Thunder.
Mr. Trump was addressing a gathering at the 29th annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle run, a vast event over Memorial Day weekend that is dedicated to accounting for military members taken as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action. Bikers assembled at the Pentagon before riding en masse into the nation’s capital, with many dressed in leather vests covered in patches, their bikes rumbling throughout the afternoon....

Nancy Regg, a spokeswoman for Rolling Thunder, said the group had invited Mr. Trump to appear. The group did not extend an invitation to Hillary Clinton or Senator Bernie Sanders, she said.

Richard McFadden, 58, an annual Rolling Thunder attendee from North Carolina, said Mrs. Clinton would not have been welcome.

“Just like asking Jane Fonda to show up, it’d be a very, very bad thing,” said Mr. McFadden, who works in computer support and wore a button that read, “Hillary for Prison 2016.”

Mr. Trump’s supporters include a group called “Bikers for Trump,” which has more than 46,000 “likes” on Facebook. Speaking on Sunday, Mr. Trump told the crowd of seeing large numbers of bikers at his campaign events.

“I said, ‘What are they all doing here?’ and my people would say, ‘They’re here to protect you, Mr. Trump,’” he said. “It’s an amazing thing. And I want to tell you, some of these people are tough.”

But when he shakes their hands, “there is love, and it’s an incredible feeling, and that’s why I wanted to be with you today,” he said.
The article notes how odd it is that Trump is so welcome there given his remarks about Senator McCain's days as a POW. Even when reminded of the comments, people at the rally shrugged them off.

Possibly this is because Trump -- in spite of his many flaws -- shows evidence of a patriotism that looks like what Chesterton called a "primal loyalty." Chesterton wanted you to be a patriot of the world, in the sense of being loyal to and loving of the Creation made by God. There is a general point about what it is to really be loyal to something, though, whether God or Country or family. Chesterton asks if this should be a natural or a supernatural loyalty, which he suggests is equivalent to asking if it should be a reasonable or an unreasonable loyalty.

This same paradox may be at work with Trump, and the love he draws from people who are united by this kind of supernatural loyalty to America. To America, I say, rather than to the Federal Government of the United States: to the Constitution, but the Constitution as they understand the Constitution rather than as the Supreme Court interprets it. That's the kind of patriotism I feel deep in my heart, and it may be that Trump feels it in his own weird way also. That recognition allows these veterans to forgive him all his other flaws, all his very many flaws, because they see that he shares in this primal loyalty.

I won't follow him for very many reasons -- for reasons, to return to Chesterton's commentary. Maybe he's right that an unreasonable loyalty is stronger than a reasonable one. Certainly it seems to explain why Trump is running so strong with veterans in spite of things like his remarks about John McCain.

The Issue is Ossification

Lawrence Summers has a straightforward account of why people don't trust government. What he would like is a similarly straightforward account of how to fix it.
...what should have been a routine maintenance project on the Anderson Memorial Bridge over the Charles River next to my office in Cambridge. Though the bridge took only 11 months to build in 1912, it will take close to five years to repair today at a huge cost in dollars and mass delays.

Investigating the reasons behind the bridge blunders have helped to illuminate an aspect of American sclerosis — a gaggle of regulators and veto players, each with the power to block or to delay, and each with their own parochial concerns. All the actors — the historical commission, the contractor, the environmental agencies, the advocacy groups, the state transportation department — are reasonable in their own terms, but the final result is wildly unreasonable.


More than questions of personality or even those of high policy, the question of how to escape this trap should be a central issue in this election year.
The person who can help you answer this question is Joseph Schumpeter. His insights on economics are relevant to government, too.
Our institutions are so large and so intricate in their approval chains that [our enemies have] a huge advantage in terms of how fast a decision can be made and acted upon for streamlined organizations. Putin just issues orders, after all. ISIS isn't very big. USEUCOM or USCENTCOM has to socialize a plan among all their staff sections, who reach down to subordinate commands for input and then hash out a plan among themselves before they present it to their general. Most likely, he will need to push that plan up to the Pentagon if it represents a radical change to existing strategy. They have their own process before an answer comes back down, and the easiest answer is to push the suspense for the decision to the right while we ask a few more people. If the change requires a change from an interagency partner, their bureaucracies have to get involved too.

Even if the President were replaced with someone with new-blood ideas and the will to enact them, the bureaucracy would still have to go through at least a basic staffing process to ensure that it carried out the decisions in an orderly fashion. Because the bureaucrats are part of the existing order, there will be many who drag their feet or otherwise resist firm leadership (remember the CIA's campaign of leaks to the press about Bush's programs?).
That's just what Summers is describing. Each process is fine on its own: the problem is that there are dozens of them. These dozens of bureaucracies are each interest groups, which makes them hard to eliminate. There are whole buildings, and large buildings, full of people whose living depends on things not being streamlined.

Ultimately, in economics, what happens when a corporation becomes this ossified is that new, smaller, leaner competitors eat it alive. They may not be able to do everything that the big monopoly does, and they lack its economies of scale, but they still outperform the giants because they can make decisions and act upon them quickly and cheaply. The giants may not die -- IBM's $8 billion loss from the 1990s didn't kill it, and it's still a major world corporation though it has shed a lot of the functions it performed in the 1980s. Still, IBM and similar tech giants now don't even try to compete with startups -- they just find the ones they want and fund them.

There is no similar governmental process. You aren't allowed to compete with the EPA, nor take over parts of its functions if you do a better job for less. That isn't to say that the private sector doesn't try: Delta just invented a better way of doing airport security because its business is being harmed by TSA incompetence. However, all Delta can do is try to help streamline the steps before the TSA bottleneck. They can't replace the TSA. They can't even compete with it, or offer an alternative to it.

In economics, the ossified bureaucracy full of rent-seekers is self-correcting because of competition. In government, the problem is much harder. We have to find the political will to disband much of the government in spite of entrenched interests with their hands on the levers of power. If we can't do that, government will just get more and more incompetent the older and more ossified it becomes.

Ballad of Ricky Washington

I have a certain fondness for this new RangerUp shirt.

'Shut Up, Kristof'

Conservatives have been talking about the lack of ideological diversity on campus for years -- maybe decades, at this point -- but the riotous shutting down of right-leaning voices has grown loud enough to have reached the ears of a major writer from the New York Times. Nicholas Kristof wrote about it, and now has penned a second column about the response to his first column.
In a column a few weeks ago, I offered “a confession of liberal intolerance,” criticizing my fellow progressives for promoting all kinds of diversity on campuses — except ideological. I argued that universities risk becoming liberal echo chambers and hostile environments for conservatives, and especially for evangelical Christians.

As I see it, we are hypocritical: We welcome people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

It’s rare for a column to inspire widespread agreement, but that one led to a consensus: Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong.

“You don’t diversify with idiots,” asserted the reader comment on The Times’s website that was most recommended by readers (1,099 of them). Another: Conservatives “are narrow-minded and are sure they have the right answers.”

Finally, this one recommended by readers: “I am grossly disappointed in you for this essay, Mr. Kristof. You have spent so much time in troubled places seemingly calling out misogyny and bigotry. And yet here you are, scolding and shaming progressives for not mindlessly accepting patriarchy, misogyny, complementarianism, and hateful, hateful bigotry against the LGBTQ community into the academy.”
The price paid by liberals for this is that they are indeed blind to many things. Maybe twenty years ago, I was involved in a debate about the right response to gun violence. Now gun violence was very much worse twenty years ago, about twice as bad as it is now -- which is to say that it has been halved since then, during a period when the legal right to carry arms has vastly expanded and the number of firearms in private hands has increased sharply.

Listening to liberals talk about gun violence today, however, I can see that they're totally blind to the correlation. Indeed, mostly they're blind to the tremendous success we've had in reducing gun violence. About two-thirds of gun deaths now are suicides, and a right to suicide is generally supported by liberals as long as it's "doctor assisted." Almost all of those facts are opaque to liberals, on campus or in politics, who are discussing the issue today. Hillary Clinton talks as if there were an epidemic of gun violence in immediate need of addressing, for example, and none of these academics seem to correct her assumptions.

So in this debate twenty years ago, I was arguing the position that a plausible way to cut down on gun deaths was to educate people about how to use guns safely and accurately. We could have courses in riflemanship in the public schools, teaching along the way the overlapping, mutually-reinforcing "four rules" of gun safety. At least in that way we could plausibly eliminate most of the accidental deaths, and enable people who wanted to be part of the solution to crime by carrying guns to do so in a better way.

"No, no," the moderator said. "We're not even going to consider that."

A liberal friend of mine jumped in, though, and pointed out that the argument I was raising was exactly similar to the liberal argument for sex education in schools. Yes, it's risky to teach kids about sex. Yes, it violates a number of commonly-held sexual taboos (more so in those days -- American society has abandoned most of its sexual taboos since then). But it's also risky not to teach kids about a danger they are very likely to encounter. Empowering them with knowledge about how to protect themselves while engaging in the dangerous practice would cut down on negative results. Further, an empowered citizenry such as our form of government imagines ought to be educated, not 'kept away' from dangerous knowledge.

It was an insightful moment, but the moderator still shut down the discussion. He did acknowledge the parallel, however uncomfortably, but still ruled that guns were a bridge too far for education. It's an idea that simply could not be considered, not even though the parallel argument was a major platform piece for liberals in those days.

New Texts by Yahya ibn Adi Discovered

Yahya ibn Adi was, in his day, among the foremost philosophers in Medieval Baghdad. He was particularly renowned in Aristotelian circles. He wrote in Arabic.

Nevertheless, he was a Christian. At this period, which was the intellectual height of Islamic civilization, having a leading thinker in the heart of the Islamic world who was not Muslim was in no way threatening to the rulers. Ibn Adi engaged in an extended philosophical defense of the Trinity, and engaged both prominent Muslim and Jewish thinkers on philosophical and theological topics. No one thought to cut off his head. Rather, he both studied under and was allowed to teach Muslims as well as Christians.

Medieval Baghdad wasn't perfect, but it was better than Modern Baghdad. Oh, it didn't have electricity or access to the many scientific advances we have today. Yet it was a better place to live, to think, and to be a part of the community.

Start Even

Never dabbled in 'high society,'
Don't reckon I would if I could.
I'm a little too good for the bad folks,
And way too bad for the good.

Sing it, Tex.