Auld lang syne

I've finished a batch of black-eyed peas and greens for tomorrow, as well as a spinach-orange-olive-pecan salad and a radish-jicama-queso-fresco-pine-nut salad for our neighbor's shindig tonight. There's a roaring fire in the fireplace. We've covered a few plants in preparation for a freeze tonight and tomorrow night--not an extreme freeze like you're getting in the rest of the country, but more of a freeze than we normally get here. We even have a few overnight guests, also unusual for us. I'm looking forward to the party tonight, which includes my annual dose of playing and singing, my heart's delight.

A king without free subjects is nothing worth

At Gutenberg this week, I'm formatting a biography of Alfred the Great by Charles Plummer (1902).  In the war-torn and squalid late 9th century of England, Alfred stood out for the noble and energetic qualities of his mind and character.  After preserving Wessex from the Viking menace, Alfred translated a number of Latin works into the vernacular, including Boethius on the Consolation of Philosophy, though the loose editorial standards of the day leave some doubt how much of his translation is faithful and how much expresses his own fine instincts.  Here are some maxims from one of his translations:
[that] reward should not be looked for in this world, but should be sought from God alone; that a good name is better than any wealth; that true nobility is of the mind, not of the body; that an honest purpose is accepted, even though its accomplishment be frustrated; that a king without free subjects is nothing worth; that no one should be idle, or wish to live a soft life.
Alfred traveled to Rome as a child. As king, he sent emissaries at least to the Holy Land, as perhaps as far as India, no small achievement for his time.

Math = Privilege

Gutierrez says evaluations of math skills can perpetuate discrimination against minorities, especially if they do worse than their white counterparts, Campus Reform reported.

“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned” because the average person won't necessarily question the role of mathematics in society, she writes.

According to the website, Gutierrez adds that there are so many people who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
Here's one truth about math skills: if you don't start developing the best ones you can early, many fields of study will be closed to you in college if you follow the traditional path of starting college shortly after High School. These include well-remunerated fields such as engineering, and cutting edge fields like physics.

You could always go do something else for a while, and develop the skills you need during your time away. But if you want the privileges that come from being a successful engineer, say, you're going to have to do the work. Teachers telling you something else to make you feel better about yourself isn't helping you. Since wealth is inheritable, it isn't helping your children either. A teacher who helps you feel good about not overcoming shortcomings in mathematics may be putting generations of your descendants at a disadvantage.

Economists hardest hit

Remember Paul Krugman after Trump's election?

Something similar is shaking out of Brexit, which failed to result in the Brexodus of capital from Great Britain. 
'As we know from Project Fear, the main function of economists is explaining why their last forecast was wrong.'


Is this a peaceful path out of Venezuela's failed experiment?  Or will Maduro start massacres to prevent the humiliation?

Never underestimate the power and value of functioning price signals.  Lies win for a time, but they can't last. As Oskar Matzerath said, "All's lost, but not forever. Poland's not lost forever."

The Feast of St. Thomas of Beckett

He is also known of St. Thomas of Kent, where he died, as memorialized in Ivanhoe.
“By my troth,” said the knight, “thou hast sung well and lustily, and in high praise of thine order. And, talking of the devil, Holy Clerk, are you not afraid that he may pay you a visit during some of your uncanonical pastimes?”

“I uncanonical!” answered the hermit; “I scorn the charge—I scorn it with my heels!—I serve the duty of my chapel duly and truly—Two masses daily, morning and evening, primes, noons, and vespers, ‘aves, credos, paters’—-”

“Excepting moonlight nights, when the venison is in season,” said his guest.

“‘Exceptis excipiendis’” replied the hermit, “as our old abbot taught me to say, when impertinent laymen should ask me if I kept every punctilio of mine order.”

“True, holy father,” said the knight; “but the devil is apt to keep an eye on such exceptions; he goes about, thou knowest, like a roaring lion.”

“Let him roar here if he dares,” said the friar; “a touch of my cord will make him roar as loud as the tongs of St Dunstan himself did. I never feared man, and I as little fear the devil and his imps. Saint Dunstan, Saint Dubric, Saint Winibald, Saint Winifred, Saint Swibert, Saint Willick, not forgetting Saint Thomas a Kent, and my own poor merits to speed, I defy every devil of them, come cut and long tail.—But to let you into a secret, I never speak upon such subjects, my friend, until after morning vespers.”

He changed the conversation; fast and furious grew the mirth of the parties, and many a song was exchanged betwixt them, when their revels were interrupted by a loud knocking at the door of the hermitage.

Did Historical Jesus Really Exist?

On December 18th, the WaPo published an article challenging the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus by Raphael Lataster, a historian who claims Jesus didn't exist. It seems an interesting topic for discussion.

Lataster's main claims about the historical documents are:

The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith. These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify. Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.
The methods traditionally used to tease out rare nuggets of truth from the Gospels are dubious. The criterion of embarrassment says that if a section would be embarrassing for the author, it is more likely authentic. Unfortunately, given the diverse nature of Christianity and Judaism back then (things have not changed all that much), and the anonymity of the authors, it is impossible to determine what truly would be embarrassing or counter-intuitive, let alone if that might not serve some evangelistic purpose. 
The criterion of Aramaic context is similarly unhelpful. Jesus and his closest followers were surely not the only Aramaic-speakers in first-century Judea. The criterion of multiple independent attestation can also hardly be used properly here, given that the sources clearly are not independent. 
Paul’s Epistles, written earlier than the Gospels, give us no reason to dogmatically declare Jesus must have existed. Avoiding Jesus’ earthly events and teachings, even when the latter could have bolstered his own claims, Paul only describes his “Heavenly Jesus.” Even when discussing what appear to be the resurrection and the last supper, his only stated sources are his direct revelations from the Lord, and his indirect revelations from the Old Testament. In fact, Paul actually rules out human sources (see Galatians 1:11-12). 
Also important are the sources we don’t have. There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses, most of whom are obviously biased. Little can be gleaned from the few non-Biblical and non-Christian sources, with only Roman scholar Josephus and historian Tacitus having any reasonable claim to be writing about Jesus within 100 years of his life. And even those sparse accounts are shrouded in controversy, with disagreements over what parts have obviously been changed by Christian scribes (the manuscripts were preserved by Christians), the fact that both these authors were born after Jesus died (they would thus have probably received this information from Christians), and the oddity that centuries go by before Christian apologists start referencing them.

He has some other things to say, and a number of links within the above text as well to other authors, but that's the gist of it. This is a new argument to me, though I've heard rumblings of it before. I've heard Christian apologists make the opposite claim that, while clearly the miracles and any supernatural parts can be disbelieved, that the case that Jesus was a historical figure is clear for all to see. I actually haven't looked that much into it, though. Any have any good sources on this? Any thoughts about it?

The Penny Post

In 1836, Rowland Hill was tasked by a Member of Parliament to propose a reform of England's cumbersome and expensive postal system.  He examined it systematically and concluded that postal customers were overpaying for useless aspects of the post.  For one thing, most of the resources of the system were eaten up by armies of clerks engaged in a finicky counting of pages; Rowland proposed to substitute a simple weighing of each missive.  Rowland also concluded that the differences in distance of travel were such a trivial part of the cost of each letter that they didn't justify the time spent calculating differential charges.  Finally, he advocated getting the Post Office completely out of the business of collecting a fee for postal services after the fact, by the simple expedient of charging up front.  Up to this time, the cost of postage traditionally had been borne by the recipient, who sometimes would refuse delivery rather than pay.  What's more, over 12% of mail traffic was delivered cost-free to customers with "franking" privileges, particularly members of government.  The result of Hill's improvements, enacted by Parliament over howls of protest, was to permit a wholesale revamping of the Post Office in which a standard letter could be sent anywhere in the country for a penny.

About time we took another fresh look at a creaky old system.  When systems go on long enough without the discipline of competition, they take on barnacles:  good, government jobs that are doing no earthly good for anyone except the clerks receiving the benefits package.

Anyone can play

Newsweek establishes a winning formula:
Trump’s rhetoric differs from that of Nazi Germany’s, most notably because he has never advocated genocide. But Trump’s talk about Christmas coexists with re-emerging white identity politics. . . .
This has broad usefulness.  [INSERT A]'s rhetoric differs from that of [INSERT B], most notably because he has never advocated [INSERT C]. But [INSERT A]’s talk about [INSERT D] coexists with re-emerging [INSERT E] politics.
    1. Nancy Pelosi
    2. Rosie O'Donnell
    3. George Soros
    4. Paul Krugman

    1. the Khmer Rouge
    2. the New York Times
    3. the Southern Poverty Law Center
    4. the Man-Boy Love Association

    1. income inequality
    2. diversity
    3. cultural appropriation
    4. spelling reform

    1. child pornography
    2. mandatory sensitivity training for bakers
    3. forcible gender reassignment
    4. book burning

    1. "woke"
    2. New New Left
    3. deficit-hawk
    4. intellectual malfeasance

Ancient Greek with Joe Bob Briggs

No, really. When he drops the act, he proves to be a man of great intellect and education. No wonder he covers that up! It must make people terribly uncomfortable.

The article is a meditation on the meaning of Christmas, with a substantial bit of history in addition to the textual analysis.

The Feast of Holy Innocents

Today we are reaching back to 2014 for my favorite memorial post, with an Arthurian connection.

The Feast of Christmas

It was less merry with my father gone and my mother moved away to be with my niece and my sister, but we did our best. I can tell that my people here around me understand me, as they arranged for me a feast of elk steaks and a local award-winning mead.

May you all be merry and warm.

In the Last Hours of Anticipating a Birth

G. K. Chesterton:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
This is part of a chapter of Orthodoxy called "The Ethics of Elfland." It reminds me of how much we still live in the morning of the world, although it is no longer morning for me. Christmas is the morning, and joy cometh in the morning.

Some Gregorian Chant for the Season

You've All Been Very Bad

Headline: "Santa Claus Converts to Calvinism, Puts Everyone on Naughty List."

The undue importance of Senate elections

If the election is that momentous, the government is too powerful.  Jeffrey Tucker laments the early 20th-century triumph of Progressivism that put the choice of U.S. Senators in the hands of voters rather than state legislators:
. . . In 1913, the 17th amendment of the US Constitution was ratified. The stated intention was to eliminate perceived corruption and legislative deadlocks.
Sure enough, it did end some deadlocks, enabling an expansion of government power that would not have otherwise been possible. It also fundamentally changed the structure and political dynamic of Congress itself. The devolved structure of American government was upended and political rights of the states declined. The Senate became another version of the House, directly elected and thereby subject to the same demagoguery, factionalism, and demographic recrimination that characterized elections for the House.

The Hezbollah/Obama Report is a Bombshell

But, as Rebeccah L. Heinrichs explains, it's not really a surprising one if you followed the Iran Deal closely.

I've met Ms. Heinrichs. She isn't a political operative, if you're thinking that from the fact that she's slamming the Obama administration after the fact. Rather, she's a legitimate expert on ballistic missiles.

A Rockabilly Christmas

The Reverend Horton Heat did a whole Christmas album. If you have Amazon Prime, you can stream it for free; also on Spotify.

A Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday

The Yuletide

Today is the Winter Solstice, the traditional beginning of the Yuletide. The Christmastide does not begin for a few days (traditionally Vespers on Christmas Eve).


I haven't gotten very excited about the tax bill either way, believing that it fiddled in minor ways with individual tax brackets and generally pushed food around on the plate.  On the other hand, I do favor the lowered corporate tax rate, because I believe there should be no corporate tax at all:  I'd prefer to do the taxing at the individual level, where any money not ploughed back into the means of production will have to go eventually, in the form of salaries to workers or dividends to stockholders.  AT+T already has announced a $1,000 bonus to its workers to celebrate the tax cut.  See other similar corporate responses here.

What's more, I think the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions will have a salutary effect on the most broken part of the current tax system, which is the failure of feedback mechanisms.  As this article makes clear, a principal effect of the SALT deduction cap is to move toward a system in which the people who vote for higher taxes will be the ones who actually have to pay them.  Any system in which citizens can easily vote for other citizens to shoulder most of the tax burden is bound to spin out of control.

I'd rather see lower taxes and smaller government, but if there must be high taxes and large government for important and worthy tasks that can't be accomplished any other way, then let those who want it put their money where their mouth is.

The Last Jedi, Take II

Meditations on leadership and its failures, from the Angry Staff Officer. (That's almost every staff officer, in my experience.)

Pssst -- That's Illegal, Rosie

Someone should tell her.

Yule dog

She really wasn't happy about this outfit.


A Punk Rock Christmas

Sex and Vengeance

What I’ll say for now is we should try to hold in balance two truths. Sex is an intractable conundrum rather than a solvable problem. But that does not absolve us of the obligation to try to make better arrangements to minimize the chance that people are victimized by it. But we should attempt this in full recognition that there may not be a satisfactory way to render safe and tractable the will to domination and subordination that radical feminists rightly see as bound up in sexual desire without summoning up a will to purity and control—and vengeance—at least as destructive as the thing it opposes.
It even be that sex is the safer, and less destructive, of the two impulses. After all, all of nature is founded on it: it is the flourishing of every higher species, and the waxing of every human nation.

Good Advice

Headline: "Historians Politely Remind Nation To Check What's Happened In Past Before Making Any Big Decisions."

On the other hand, just because it has gone that way in the past -- or, even because it usually goes that way -- doesn't mean it doesn't sometimes go the other way too.

The Last Jedi

For those who have seen it, and for those who don't mind spoilers, a review.

Spoilers are likely in the comments, so if you don't want them, stay out of the comments.


We're getting close now.

A Hero in Quebec

Untrained, unprepared, but brave in heart, Aymen Derbali ran to the sound of gunfire and thus saved many lives.
"I have no bad feelings or bitterness," Mr. Derbali says. "This hasn't changed my vision of this country. I'm proud to be Canadian. What happened could have happened anywhere in the world."

Still, there are times when he has reason to wonder if the world has moved on. His act of bravery has gone uncelebrated. He has not received a single note or visit from a politician since arriving at the rehabilitation centre in July. "I'm surprised," he admits, choosing his words carefully.

One day – no one is able yet to say when – he will leave the medical centre. He cannot return to the family's fourth-floor apartment because it is not adapted for his wheelchair. The family of five will have to find a new home. Where will they go? How will they pay for it? Calls for help to city and provincial officials have gone nowhere, Mr. Derbali says.

I love this guy

In retrospect, the powers that be probably made a mistake letting this guy get his hands on a foreign education.  And Stanford University probably should have strangled him in the crib, too.

Genocide in Chicago

An idea seriously suggested by a Cook County councilman: deploy UN peacekeepers in Chicago.
President Donald Trump’s implicit threat to put the National Guard on the streets of Chicago to tackle the city’s violence problem attracted widespread ridicule earlier this year.

But if the soldiers were instead wearing the sky blue helmets of United Nations peacekeepers there might not be such a problem, according to Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who flew to New York on Thursday to discuss what he described as a “quiet genocide” in Chicago’s black community with the U.N.’s assistant secretary-general for peacebuilding support, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco.

“The United Nations has a track record of protecting minority populations,” Boykin told Inc. before his meeting. “There was tribal warfare between the Tutsis and the Hutus in Africa, and they deployed peacekeeping troops there to help save those populations and reduce the bloodshed. We have to do something — black people in Chicago make up 30 percent of the population but 80 percent of those who are killed by gun violence.”
It's amazing to me that anyone would trust the United Nations' blue helmets in their community, given their track record.

"Rough Justice"

The anti-harassment revolution claimed its first female, feminist victim.
Ramsey, a 56-year-old retired business executive from Leawood... was running with the endorsement of Emily’s List, a liberal women’s group that has raised more than a half-million dollars to help female candidates who support abortion rights.

Ramsey will drop out on Friday, her campaign said.

“In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero tolerance standard,” Ramsey said in a statement Friday. “For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has not endorsed anyone in the race, said in a statement that members and candidates must all be held to the highest standard.

“If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office,” said committee spokeswoman Meredith Kelly.
When equality is your only principle for justice, it is satisfied both by treatment that is equally good and by treatment that is equally bad.

UPDATE: It won't do to suggest that women are equally responsible for sexual dynamics, of course.

Behold, Your Judgment is Upon You!

Well, no one around here, but this does give us a chance to revisit a favorite song...

Math Problems for Fun and Not Much Profit

But some, perhaps, if working through them improves your mind for a while. The exercise might do you good, and they certainly are fun to think through.


Wretchard is theorizing. You have to read from the bottom.

So the concept is that Hollywood and D.C. failed to hold themselves to standards, so they're kicking the problem out to us. That complicates our lives, because, well, these failures aren't really reflective of the most of us -- they're reflective of these power elites. We're being asked to take responsibility for them, which means accepting a higher degree of public overwatch on ourselves in return for exercising authority over these elites.

There are two questions to ask about this.

1) Is this right? Did the most of us have a good handle on this, such that this is really an elite problem? A partial answer can be found in the relative ease with which corporate America is disciplining wrongdoers, compared with the way that political elites are less capable of being held to standards. It could be that most of America has adjusted already; corporate elites have avoided adjusting, but are deeply exposed; and so only political elites are so far protected.

So maybe it's right. But maybe not: there are other interpretations, which I invite you to explore.

2) Is this a good deal? Ordinary citizens having power over elites is in the right lane for a small-d democratic outcome. On the other hand, a vastly increased policing of sexuality has significant negative consequences. There's a big downside to accepting a moral right to pry into our private lives. Don't forget the two rules of business:

That's a principle that's really worth defending. It's not that it doesn't admit of exceptions.

I don't particularly want to have to concern myself with these scoundrels, and I definitely don't want them to feel free to concern themselves with me. On the other hand, they're much in need of correction. It would be to the common good.

What say you all?

UPDATE: Outside of the Hollywood field, two different polls are now suggesting that majorities want President Trump to resign over being accused of similar behavior. Quinnipac, which didn't ask about Trump but about "elected officials accused of sexual harassment" found a majority even of Republicans want a resignation in such cases; 66% of adults overall agree. PPP specifically asked about Trump, and finds that a majority of registered voters wants a resignation (but not of Trump voters, who back the President staying in office). Both polls presume no trials, no recall elections at which voters formally consider the question, just straight to resignation based on multiple accusations. That suggests a very high degree of willingness to believe such charges, and to purge people from office on the basis of that belief.

The Fields of Athenry

I ran across some interesting renditions of this Irish song. The first is the traditional version by the Dubliners, for those who prefer that Irish folk sound. The second is the Dropkick Murphy's version, for those who like a little electric guitar with their pipes. The final video is of Irish soccer fans singing the song at a game in Spain. It's obviously a pretty popular song in Ireland, and the lyrics go back to English occupation and oppression. The lyrics are at the end.

The Feast of St. Lucia

Today's the day.

Raw Eggs Make You Strong

Raw flour, though... that stuff can kill you. Well, apparently.

Like all of these food safety claims, it's somewhat overstated. Food is so safe in our country right now that this sort of warning is overkill. You could also make sure that you consume raw cookie dough only alongside adequate amounts of rum-flavored eggnog, I suppose.

Bits 'n' Pieces

The Real Story of 2016

According to Andy McCarthy:

“I think we’re ultimately going to find that the real collusion story of the 2016 election was the way that the Obama administration put the law enforcement and intelligence arms of the administration in the service of the Clinton campaign.”

Video at the link.

'I'd Do -Anything- For a Campaign Contribution'

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."
- Ronald Reagan

Reagan's joke occurred to me today as Senator Elizabeth Warren decided to engage a dispute between Senator Kathy Gillibrand and President Donald Trump. Trump said this:
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2017
Warren said this:
Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand? Do you know who you're picking a fight with? Good luck with that, @realDonaldTrump. Nevertheless, #shepersisted.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) December 12, 2017
Warren is not alone in reading this as a sexualized insult, although that is not explicit in Trump's remarks. However, even if you grant the sexualized reading, this becomes a version of Reagan's joke. Warren's complaint seems to be that you shouldn't call out a female Senator for doing what, you know, Senators do. 'Don't shame her for being a...' is another way of saying that 'being such is OK.'

Reagan was, of course, joking about politicians as a whole: his joke doesn't personalize the issue by pointing at a particular politician, let alone a female politician. Arguably the joke is fine in its asexual, universal form but offensive when pointed at a particular woman (if, again, we grant that Trump intended to do this). Of the two, I think it is really the female rather than the universal criterion that makes it offensive. You could make this joke about a particular male politician without it crossing a line.

That, though, raises the issue of whether women need special protections in order to engage public life -- and if so, to what degree they should be thought of as the political equals of men in public life. The idea is that women have less power, and therefore need the special protections in order to create a practical equality that does not otherwise exist. But right now we are in a moment in which that premise is surely in need of examination: a large number of powerful men have recently been stripped of their careers, and some of them stand in peril of losing their freedom, because women have merely raised accusations against them. Women are not powerless, if ever they were. Indeed, Sen. Gillibrand is trying to force Trump's resignation even now. That is how the dispute started. She is trying to do to him what has been successfully done to numerous others. She might even succeed at it, for all we know.

If the power differential has changed -- or was never quite what it was said to be to begin with -- then the argument that women need special protections to craft a practical equality needs to be re-examined. It is no insult to say that a woman is a prostitute if she is one; and if we are in the habit of analogizing politicians to prostitutes, then it is no special institute to include a female politician in the analogy. (It may be an insult, of course, but it is not a special insult: and I'm not convinced, where the Senate is concerned, that it isn't the prostitutes who should be insulted by the comparison.)

Of course we would all be better off if we had a respectable class of political leadership, such that respect flowed to them naturally because they deserved it. In fact for all I know Sen. Gillibrand is such a person; I don't follow the Senator from New York's career closely enough to say. Of the Senators I do follow, including especially my own, I'm not sure Reagan's joke isn't entirely on point. They happen to be men, both of them.

UPDATE: The Daily Caller points out that Trump made an attack on Mitt Romney that was of the same order: "Romney “would have dropped to his knees” to help with his campaign in 2016." So, good for the goose is good for the gander? Not that it's good, in the strict sense. But it's treating people equally, for whatever very little that is worth.

One Good Thing about the Alabama Special Election

It'll be over soon. Although, maybe that'll mean doing this all over again in two years. Ugh.

Since we're here, though, I'm interested in what everyone thinks about how to handle the kinds of claims Moore has faced. I've read a number of Republican / conservative writers who find the claims credible, but they haven't really explained why. Sheer numbers? Moore's responses? "Believe all women"?

My evaluation goes a bit like this. The claims all came out 40 years after the fact, they all came out after Moore ran for national office, and they came out after news media started digging for dirt. Moore's been in the public eye for some time. He's been a controversial figure for years. Why are the accusations coming now? That's kinda suspicious itself; it smacks of political motivation.

Numbers alone don't prove anything; copycats are common. There are copycat serial killers and copycat suicides, no doubt there may be copycat accusations, especially when there are people out there trying to dig up accusers in a Senate election.

So, for me, the claims might well be plausible, but I wouldn't use the term credible for any of them.

Also, I have a strong sense that people should be considered innocent until proven guilty, though maybe too strong. Maybe my standards of evidence are too high. Michael Graham thinks I'm an idiot.

But how would you evaluate the credibility of the claims against Moore?

To further complicate things, the passing of 40 years during which Moore seems to have displayed pretty good behavior, including being faithfully married, mitigates the effect of the claims even if they are true. People change. Let's say the claims are true: Then Moore WAS a dirtbag 40 years ago. But "once a dirtbag, always a dirtbag" isn't something I believe. I think a few decades of getting it right means something.

Should we ignore the last 40 years?

(Of course, if they are true, Grim made a good point that Moore hasn't confessed and repented but merely denied, so there's that. And, of course, there are other reasons to object to Moore, including his attitude towards the rule of law and the Constitution.)

In any case, I'll be glad when it's over.

Dropkick Murphys with Liza Graves

Graves is lead singer for the punk band Civet. There's no real Celtic influence discernable in their music, but Civet has apparently toured with the Murphys, so I'm guessing that's the connection.

And after the dirty glass, some dirty water.

Old school

From Daily Time Waster: "An AR with a 60-round magazine would be better, but a Viking with an axe is just old school."

2017 Army vs. Navy Game National Anthem

Sounds About Right

I am the type of American they want to go away....

I know the Democrats there hate me because I’m a straight, white, Christian, Southern conservative and the people that run the Republican Party today would only care what I think if I had hundreds of thousands of dollars to give them. That’s why if I can make trouble for either group, I’m game.

Second Sunday of Advent

An appropriate news story: approximately 100 years in the making, America's largest Catholic church is now completed.

Their own website is here.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America and is among the ten largest churches in the world. Designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a National Sanctuary of Prayer and Pilgrimage, the Basilica is our nation’s preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to the patroness of the United States, the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception.
One of the most noteworthy features of Medieval cathedrals is that they were constructed over generations. Architects and stone masons did work on these shrines knowing they would never see them finished, nor their children, nor possibly their grandchildren. The unity of purpose that kept generations working on the same goal tied them together in a common and glorious purpose. Likewise, the adults who laid the foundation stone for this likely now have great-great-grandchildren alive to see the work finished.

Freedom of Speech & Assembly

Legally protected, but culturally under assault. The "White Nationalists" being discussed here are odious, but that is where we often first see signs of the suppression of rights.
In fact, the white-nationalist movement had been so effectively de-platformed and delegitimized, and become so frightened of drawing protesters like the ones who turned out to mock Spencer from the audience at the University of Florida, that NPI’s executive director, Evan McLaren, refused to tell reporters the conference’s new location until half an hour after the meetup was scheduled to start on November 19.

When I finally arrived at the organic winery and cow-and-hog farm in Poolesville, Maryland, an hour outside of DC, I learned that NPI had not even trusted its own attendees with the conference location. Instead of allowing its followers to drive to the winery themselves or even learn its name, NPI made its adherents leave their cars behind and hand in their cell phones so they could not see where they were going and inform others. Instead, NPI monitors drove them in 10-person vans to Rocklands Farm, which turned out not to have known that the white supremacists were coming, either....

When the farm’s owners discovered they were hosting a white-power group, they immediately asked NPI to leave. Though Spencer told the media afterward that the cancellation had come halfway through the event, in fact NPI was far less lucky.... There was only time for one conference session.... Spencer himself gave no major speech. Swedish fascist megapublisher Daniel Friberg, who’d been announced as a headliner along with MacDonald and Spencer, couldn’t appear because the United States had barred him from the country following Charlottesville.
The rest of the article is kind of interesting, as it points out that their agenda is not particularly right-wing at all: it sounds a lot like socialism. It's just "National" socialism, rather than international socialism.

That's the Spirit!

Gurkhas and Paratroopers, "two of the most elite infantry units in the world training intensely."

Curve blindness

This is a remarkable optical illusion.

A 22-year-old loses zheir innocence

I'm going to report on a point of view, but first, I denounce myself for not taking an approved point of view about it. It's like . . . it's like . . . who was that again?  Hitler, that's it.

I'd like to think that Ms. Shepherd is getting an early wake-up call.  You can drop a crucifix in a glass of urine because everyone knows we have to be neutral, but some kinds of neutrality are beyond the pale.  In fact, if adopted with 18-year-old college students, they're tantamount to child abuse.

Just listen to this young woman struggling to control her tears while she insists on an old-fashioned non-Kafkaesque argument from her betters.  I like her fully woke conclusion:
"Moral of the story: A university must be repeatedly publicly shamed, internationally, in order to apologize," Ms. Shepherd said in a tweet.
"Also, make sure to secretly record all meetings or they won't take you seriously."

Swamp tactics

From Thomas Farnan:
What do you call a system of government that cannot tolerate a transition of power without corrupt machinations by those unwilling to cede control? Banana Republic is a term that comes to mind.

Turtles all the way down

I'm working very hard right now to get to the bottom of a number of confusing local issues with a complicated history.  It was a pleasure, therefore, to read the clear-thinking columnist Holman Jenkins on some basic issues about reliable sources:
Splitting is . . . a method of columnists. Example: All true things about Donald Trump are bad, all bad things about Donald Trump are true.
* * *
Splitting columns write themselves, and tend toward lists, as if piling up claims is a substitute for examining them. So Christopher Steele was said to be a “credible” ex-spy, though unasked is what exactly he was in a position to be credible about: only that he faithfully relayed claims made by his source’s sources to his sources, and a little bit about how this game of telephone was set in motion—i.e., money was dished out.
Once upon a time, no reputable paper would print a sensational claim from a source who won’t vouch for its truth, who got it from a source he won’t identify, who got it from a source he can’t or won’t identify, and all were paid.
Citing Mr. Steele’s credibility was not even a competent appeal to authority, since his credibility derives from a profession that specializes partly in disinformation.

I Don't Know About the Contents, but the Label Sure Looks Good

Ravage wines- just randomly came across an advertisement for it- I have no idea about the contents of the bottle, though I like a good Cabernet Sauvignon, but the label sure has my interest...

Might even be good for an evening in due to snow.

Frozen Georgia

In line with Tex, we are also receiving wintry weather. What a beautiful day! The flakes are thick and soft, as lovely a snowfall as I've ever seen. Nor can I recall snow in December in my home state.

Outside from fireside.

Snow has bent down the bush by the stone circle.

I hope all of you who are fortunate enough to enjoy this weather are able to make the most of it.

Frozen wastelands

The view from our neighbor's yard toward our back porch.  A few months ago, you wouldn't have been able to see our house from there at all.

And from the opposite side of the house, close up.  What could be more beautiful than a warm, lit-up house in the snow?  You can see the pergola we're just starting to build, and some startled banana trees near the stairs.

Macrobrewery and Microbrewery Joust

This was followed by the microbrewery Modist Brewing releasing a beer called "Dilly Dilly."

This in turn was followed, just hours after the beer's release, by Bud Light sending a town crier to the Modist HQ to read a medieval-ish 'cease and desist' request that the beer be kept to a limited run. You can watch the video of the crier reading the cease and desist letter at the Modist headquarters at the GOMN website.

"Dilly Dilly" is, of course, selling out rapidly.

Modist Brewing's "Whoa Dilly" FAQ on the event

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Just recently Elise and I were discussing this doctrine.
I am reminded of the example of Mary, of whose consent to be the mother of God is made much by at least Catholic theology. The whole concept of the "Immaculate Conception" is not that Mary conceived while remaining 'immaculate' (i.e., viriginal), but rather that Mary herself was conceived in a way that kept her clean of original sin. This was done by God, according to the doctrine, just so that she could consider and consent to carrying Jesus. God didn't want to impose this on Mary, as my favorite nun explained it to me; he wanted someone he could ask, who had the right kind of conscience to consider.
The history of the feast day is a surprisingly interesting story.

Answered Prayers

Via the Onion.


There's snow approaching the Texas Coast Bend tonight.  We locals are, shall we say, unprepared for this development.

We have a tiny aged dog who doesn't regulate her body temperature well these days.  She's been crashed in front of the cozy fire on a pillow since yesterday.  It really is raw, wet, and windy.

A Great Speech from a Law Professor

The 'cluck like a chicken' part is merely funny; the speech itself is truly worthy from an educator.

A Second Special Counsel?

In the comments to a post below, Douglas endorses this Hugh Hewitt piece: "A special counsel needs to investigate the FBI and Justice Department. Now."

State of Play

Wretchard, after noting yesterday's Obama speech in which the former president invoked McCarthy, Nixon, and Hitler, describes our current affairs.
After a period of sheer disbelief these liberal revolutionaries are now going head to head with the Deplorable rebels.... Which will win has yet to be determined by history. All one can do is compare their present strengths and strategies. In the matter of strength there should be no contest. A survey of federal government employees have the liberals over the Deplorables by almost 19 to 1. Over 99% of Department of Education employees backed Hillary. Trump's best showing was in the Department of Defense -- and even there Hillary had 84% of contributions. Add to this the liberal dominance in the media (93%) and academe (92%) and in Big Silicon and it should be a case of progressive Goliath walking over conservative David.

Yet for a variety of reasons the contest is much closer than the liberal project could have been imagined.... the inability of the Resistance to generate net thrust is indirect confirmation the toxic lying, wasteful spending, institutional incompetence and ideological madness of which they have been accused is at least partially true.
His conclusion is that the Resistance is conducting an internal purge to strengthen its unity by eliminating some of the contesting factions. The problem is that they have to go on to win an election next year with a narrowed appeal: purging the Clinton faction may drive some voters away.

There's a cost, too, in using Deep State assets like highly-placed elite-educated bureaucrats at the FBI. The cost is partially institutional, but it may also turn the field agents against their leadership. The issue is one of honor:
Flashback to Miami, April 11, 1986. Eight agents make a felony stop on a car with two suspected bank robbers, igniting a firefight that demonstrated the bravery and devotion that should be what first comes to mind when any American thinks of the FBI.

William Russell Matix and Michael Lee Platt were ex-military and had killed before – and they packed an arsenal that ensured they were not going quietly. The FBI agents, lightly armed with under-powered handguns and a couple 12 gauges – came under intense rifle fire that the light vests some wore could not stop. In the end, seven of the eight agents were hit – and Special Agent Benjamin Grogan and Special Agent Jerry Dove died fighting....

His forearm shattered by a .223 rifle slug, Special Agent Edmundo Mireles, Jr. (no surprise, a former Marine from Texas), pumped his Remington 870 shotgun with his one good arm again and again as he engaged the criminals. His buddies dead or wounded all around him, bleeding out, Mireles then drew his .357 and advanced on the pair, in the open and totally exposed, as they attempted to drive away in one of the FBI cars. He put six magnum slugs into the criminals and finally put them down.

Matix took six hits to kill, Platt a dozen. And Mireles? This hero went back on the job, and actually worked with my former battalion commander Colonel (Ret.) Bill Wenger in Afghanistan in the 2000s on assignment there for the FBI. Now that’s a patriot. Now that’s what the real FBI is all about....

That’s the courage that these desk-riding bums in Washington are dishonoring every time they sell their souls and their honor to kiss up to skeevy politicians.
There's just a chance that those imbalanced figures in political support could change. Honor matters, especially to the kind of guys who become FBI field agents or pursue a career in the military. But there are competing honor claims on the other side, too: claims that the Deplorables represent something inherently dishonorable.
What this means is that the universal adoption of “Trump Era” by intellectuals and journalists bodes ill for any kind of gathering of the clans. The term is entirely pejorative and implies a disease called Trumpism that must be stamped out or—since it’s an era and not a stage—stoically endured. No one who uses “Trump Era” is saying, “Now that the people of West Texas have spoken, let’s pay more attention to their needs and beliefs so that the great melting pot of America can be reunited.” They’re still deplorables. They’re still expendable.
So that's where we are, as 2017 draws closer to a close.

Post Traumatic Growth

A good piece from a soldier.
You see, despite what you hear, veterans don’t always end up disordered from their experiences. From what I have seen, more often than not, veterans grow stronger after their struggles. They experience post-traumatic growth. I did.

At home, my family grew stronger too. My wife struggled with her own job and a firstborn who was prone to ear infections and fevers. We spoke as often as we could on a scratchy USO line, but of course, it wasn’t nearly enough. She was alone for two birthdays and two Christmases, yet she persevered. I returned home after 15 months to a walking, talking boy and a marriage that had been strengthened by sacrifice on both sides.

The Feast of St. Ambrose

We get fewer of them the closer we get in Advent to Christmas. But tomorrow is a big one: be prepared for it.

Today is St. Ambrose.
St. Ambrose (340-397) was born at Treves in Gaul, a territory which embraced modern France, Britain, Spain, and part of Africa. He studied in Rome and later became governor of Liguria and Aemelia with residence at Milan. While supervising the election of a new bishop of Milan in 374, he himself was suddenly acclaimed the bishop. He was only a catechumen at the time. He was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop on Dec. 7. He wrote much on the Scriptures and Fathers, preached a homily every Sunday, resisted the interference of the secular powers with the rights of the Church, opposed the heretics, and was instrumental in bringing about the conversion of St. Augustine.

The Feast of St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of "sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students." Perhaps a few Congressmen, then, if they ever repent.

Of course he is of great importance to our understanding of Christmas.
In late medieval England, on Saint Nicholas' Day parishes held Yuletide "boy bishop" celebrations. As part of this celebration, youths performed the functions of priests and bishops, and exercised rule over their elders. Today, Saint Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European and Central European countries. According to one source, in medieval times nuns used the night of 6 December to deposit baskets of food and clothes anonymously at the doorsteps of the needy. According to another source, on 6 December every sailor or ex-sailor of the Low Countries (which at that time was virtually all of the male population) would descend to the harbour towns to participate in a church celebration for their patron saint. On the way back they would stop at one of the various Nicholas fairs to buy some hard-to-come-by goods, gifts for their loved ones and invariably some little presents for their children. While the real gifts would only be presented at Christmas, the little presents for the children were given right away, courtesy of Saint Nicholas. This and his miracle of him resurrecting the three butchered children made Saint Nicholas a patron saint of children and later students as well.[51]

Santa Claus evolved from Dutch traditions regarding Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas). When the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam, they brought the legend and traditions of Sinterklaas with them.[52] Howard G. Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York existed in the early settlements of the Hudson Valley, although by the early nineteenth century had fallen by the way.[53] St. Nicholas Park, located at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and 127th Street, in an area originally settled by Dutch farmers, is named for St. Nicholas of Myra.[54]
It is thus fitting to feast in celebration of him during the Advent.

The Center of the World

DB: New 'Counterinsurgency' Video Game

Sounds realistic.
“You could be in the middle of stability operations in a nearby province, and a disillusioned soldier will desert his post or leak classified documents,” Cevalos explained, referring to unscripted incidents that can happen during gameplay. “And don’t be surprised if your best troops with fleshed-out skill trees quit the military and get replaced with inept morons.”

Making things worse, the insurgents are often indistinguishable from neutral non-playable characters, making accidental civilian deaths practically unavoidable. This problem is compounded by vindictive locals falsely accusing their rivals of being guerrillas, while others have no interest in ratting out their insurgent friends and family....

At press time, a leaked memo has revealed that the only way to win the game is by carpet-bombing the entire country.

Assessing Character in Politicians

Part of my problem with the arguments I've seen that character is important in political candidates like Roy Moore is that they focus on "our party's" candidate, which is a form of tribalism. Another part is that they seem to separate policy positions from character, as if support for a particular government policy tells us nothing about the character of the politician.

Focusing on the character of "our" candidate but ignoring the character of "their" candidate is tribalist. "Policing our own" is another way to put it, and that is one aspect of tribalism. It means that it's OK to have a wicked one of "them" in office because he or she wouldn't reflect on "us," whereas a wicked one of "us" is unacceptable because he or she would be associated with us and we don't want to be identified with wickedness. (Unless we're from Boston.)

The non-tribal way of treating character as important is to assess the character of all of the candidates by the same criteria. So, when we think about character in the current Alabama senate election, we need to assess the characters of both Roy Moore and Doug Jones and make the decision based on that direct comparison, forgetting the D and R tribes for the moment.

This presents us with another problem I have with recent articles arguing against Moore based on his character: Character cannot be separated from policy positions. Sure, there is a difference, but support for a particular policy is one expression of character. Supporting / opposing racist policies says something about character. Pro-life / pro-choice positions say something about character. Views on the role of government in society say something about character. These positions may be hypocritical, publicly endorsed but privately violated, but that also tells us about character. Policy positions are expressions of character.

The attacks on Moore's character are unproven. Jones's policy positions, which speak to his character, he himself has publicly announced. It's difficult for me to see why treating character as important leads to voting for Jones, who endorses what I consider to be infanticide and tyranny. That doesn't absolve Moore, but it does take character into serious consideration. Separating policy positions from considerations of character does not.

This kind of "policing our own" tribalism and the bizarre attempt to ignore the implications of policy positions for character weaken the arguments against Moore in my mind.

Both Things Could Be True

We are having an interesting discussion about the President, the Constitution, and obstruction of justice. I don't see anything wrong with Andy McCarthy's argument that the President can't commit obstruction by ordering Federal police to exercise discretion. As he says, the FBI/DOJ is not a separate branch of the Federal government. They exist as an arm of the executive branch, whose powers are all invested in whomever the President happens to be. The President may choose to let the Department of Justice operate independently, but it has no constitutional standing to insist on doing so.

In large part, that is because the Founders never intended the Federal government to have the general police power: that was to go to the states, or be reserved by the People. The Constitution does not imagine a Federal police agency with anything like the FBI's reach or jurisdiction: even the Secret Service only dates to the end of the Civil War. The idea that the Federal government should have a police agency that could go anywhere and arrest anyone -- let alone spy on them in the myriad ways that our Federal government does -- is nowhere imagined. Controls on those powers were never set by the Founders, because the powers were never granted by the Founders. Controls were never set by an amendment seeking new authority from the People, because no authority was asked. These powers were arrogated by the government to itself.

The spying powers in particular were done so behind walls of classification. The citizenry never voted to grant the Federal government those powers. The citizenry never even knew what powers were being assumed. Nor could they, of course, without greatly weakening the security the state hoped to gain for them by assuming these powers: a public debate on the propriety of this spying would mean informing the enemy, not just the citizenry, of the capacity for the spying.

By the same token, David Frum is not wrong to argue that this is dangerous and that it could lead to unacceptable results. He is only wrong to argue that, since there is a danger of unacceptable use of power, the power must not exist. Yes, the President is invested with a great deal of power; perhaps it is more than is wise. We can change that via the Article V amendment processes, or by throwing out the Constitution and writing another one.

All the same, consider the remedy more carefully. Do we really want this vast security state untethered from any elected official? Congress cannot run it in the place of the President; as today's Contempt of Congress resolution shows, they cannot even compel compliance with basic oversight requests even when the President would like the agencies to comply. Formalizing this independence, which is already too great to be safe, would mean taking the last chains off a demon.

Could the courts control these agencies where they decide they need to be independent from their elected officials? Of course not: the enforcement of the courts' orders already depends on the police.

Cassandra was just reminding us that sometimes there aren't good answers or easy solutions. Perhaps this is one of those cases. But as dangerous as a corrupt President might be, should we find ourselves (again) with one, at least there is a formal control on him in the form of the Article I impeachment power. The police need to be tightly chained to the President because a President can be removed and replaced. Loosing a mighty demon to protect us from Donald Trump is, as the metaphor intends to suggest, a devil's bargain.

A Great Day in History

Today the 18th Amendment was repealed, ending Prohibition. Now if we could just get rid of the 16th and 17th Amendments too, that'd be a good start.

Contempt of Congress

It's curious that a Republican administration isn't complying with a Republican Congress' orders on an investigation friendly to that administration. I'm guessing that the Department of Justice and the FBI have a lot to hide here -- and as much from the President as from Congress.

An independent law enforcement branch that is neither responsive nor responsible to the elected branches is an alarming thing to behold.


The press has a penchant for reporting "Trump administration rolls back policy instituted by Barack Obama in his last days in office" as if restoring the order Obama himself maintained through seven-and-a-half years of his presidency is an unprecedented act of barbarity. The news at NPR today: "Trump Orders Largest National Monument Reduction In U.S. History"!

Well, only two monuments are being reduced -- and reduced, not eliminated. Of those two, one was created in whole cloth by Barack Obama in the final days of his office. (The other dates to a similarly late project by Bill Clinton.) There's no reason that a policy instituted by one administration shouldn't be reconsidered by another. As the NPR article eventually gets around to noticing, rural Utah has been fuming about the Clinton-era designation ever since it happened. The Federal designation means they can't do the things they have traditionally done on the land anymore.

Nevertheless: "This arbitrary review and illegal action will not go unchallenged," said Nicole Croft, executive director of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners.

Illegal, is it? The same way restoring the military recruitment policy of the last 43 & 7/8ths Presidents was unconstitutional? Right.

Turning over rocks

I came to the decision to run for local office with much reluctance.  (And you should hear my husband on the subject.  I think we can be sure he won't be standing around on podiums gazing at me with admiring support, or pressing the flesh at community gatherings.  I get the impression he doesn't enjoy crowds.)

Nevertheless, having concluded I had to step up and that was that, I have found that there are some compensations.  There's an endless fascination in finding out how things work.  Whether it's getting a chance to look inside a water treatment plant or learning where local government gets its powers and funding and seeing how the roads get paved and the trash gets picked up, the hidden mechanisms all around us are a constant source of joy and learning.  God made me a curious person and a quick study.  It's good to put it to use.

What I'm seeing is that the ramshackle machine that makes the trains run is staffed with equal amounts of people who have no clue and people of amazing competence and good character.  You have to find the latter and minimize the damage from the former.  The trick of politics seems to be to encourage a system that makes both of those tasks easier.

Texas has a funny wrinkle in its criminal prosecution system.  Normally a State District Attorney handles criminal cases for several rural counties, while a County Attorney in each county handles civil matters, including advising the County Commissioners on their contracts and their statutory duties and powers.  The Texas State legislature can, however, grant a county's (inexplicable) request to opt out of the local State DA system and give criminal prosecution powers over to the County Attorney.  From then on, the local DA will stay out of your county and perhaps lose interest in your problems.  If your County Attorney's background is, say, real estate, that may not seem like such a great idea.  If in addition she is given to obscure, intractable quarrels with the local police force and suddenly announces that she will prosecute no further cases referred by that body, things come unwound pretty quickly.  Suddenly we all have to turn to the thorny question, "How does one remove a sitting County Attorney, especially without any cooperation from a Commissioners Court that apparently doesn't see the problem?"  It's become a lively Facebook discussion, which I call a healthy thing.

My campaign is largely summed up in what is supposed to be George Washington's warning about fire being a dangerous tool and a terrible master.  We get a lot of droughts here; people who let their "controlled burns" get out of control come in for a lot of squinty-eyed ill humor.  I tell my prospective voters that, when you're thinking of handing over a new power to your elected officials, it's like setting a fire.  You don't do it until you've cleared a little area around the fire pit and gotten a water hose charged and ready.  Before we elect someone, not only should we find out a lot about his character and abilities, we should get conversant with the procedures for booting him back out of office.  Do we have recall elections?  What about impeachment?  Who has standing to get one of these procedures started?  How hard is it?  Do we have to go to court?  When will he be up for re-election?  How long does it take to get ready to run someone to challenge him?

From Facebook I judge that most people look at a situation like this and think "I'll write to the Governor," or may "to the Attorney General."  No great harm in that, but it discharges a sense of urgency without being very likely to produce results.  I keep coming back to the old lesson that there is not, and never will be, any substitute for people to organize and rule themselves, starting locally.  We can govern ourselves, or we will be governed.  As Benjamin Franklin said,  "A republic, if you can keep it."

It's also occurred to me lately that there's a swath of the Republican party that divides the world into "golf cronies" and "pool boys."  For me that's the GOPe in a nutshell.  What I want to know about a neighbor is:  Does he take responsibility for himself?  Can his neighbors count on him?  I have many neighbors I can count on, and it's not their incomes or their wardrobes that make the difference.

Scott Lynch's "Locke Lamora" Novels

One of my regular laments is that the genre of Sword & Sorcery has withered in recent years. This genre, which predates Tolkien's High Fantasy, grew out of some turn-of-the-last-century stories "set in exotic locations" and therefore mixing physical adventure with dark powers. By the time of the Great Depression, it has blossomed into its most famous flowering: the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, which were only a small part of a whole world and deep history of his imagination. About the same time, the other great master of the genre began crafting the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories. The genre was related to another offshoot of the earlier tales, the Horror genre characterized by Cthulhu; but in Sword & Sorcery stories, the heroes could overcome eldritch beasts through steel, wit, and courage.

Sword & Sorcery lacks most of the moral force of the Tolkien's High Fantasy, but it is in a sense more joyous and primal. It is that quality that, sadly, is lacking in the works of Scott Lynch, the first writer I've run into in a while to attempt it. His stories are almost entirely lacking in the joy that gave Fafhrd 'the laugh of the Elder Gods,' or the primal confidence that gave Conan the ferocity to contest demons with cold steel. I read Lynch's three books, hoping he might discover the power of the thing as he played with it; I am sorry to say that he did not.

Lynch's cities are well-drawn, and he has a place for eldritch magic that somehow comes to play little role beyond providing interesting architecture. His heroes are riddled with guilt and loathing, of themselves if they are male. Lynch is of the current fashion that has wholeheartedly adopted feminism as moral truth; female characters are invariably confident and accomplished in a way that his men never are, and yet retain adequate bitter loathing to lecture at length -- whole pages at a time in the third book -- on how unfair the world is to their sex. The books are blurbed by George R. R. Martin, and for good reason: they share his penchant for killing off sympathetic characters in horrible ways, but to no real point.

As a consequence the books are a slog to read rather than a pleasure, and I am sure I will not return to them the way I have to the classics of the genre. I am planning to give the whole set away in the hope that someone else may like them better.


The new fascists

Sebastian Gorka on the bizarre treatment he gets from the press:
My father, as a young boy at the age of 13, escorted his fellow schoolmates to school in Budapest during the German occupation because his fellow schoolmates were forced to wear the yellow Star of David as Jews. And my father, as a Catholic young 14-year-old, protected them from getting beaten up or spat on by the German forces occupying Budapest.
And for them to then accuse me of having some kind of extreme right-wing tendency … you don’t get to call yourself a journalist and lie that badly, but it tells you the state of journalism in America today. But I think that’s going to change.

First Sunday of Advent

Irish Medieval History has an account of the use of "X" as a Christian symbol.

A Quiet Day in the Country

So today I went out to a farm that raises fallow deer and emus, as well as horses, and enjoyed a nice walk. Later the wife and I went to a leather shop to look at hides and plan some Christmas gift projects -- she's quite talented at many sorts of making, including leatherworking. Following that we had a dinner of home-made chicken soup.

A very quiet, uneventful day. Did I miss anything?

Not Quite My Grandfather's Story, but Close Enough (Plus, Tchaikovsky)

The funny thing here is that, although I think country music like this best tells the story of his life, my grandfather was never really a country music fan. While he didn't go to college and lived much of his life out in the sticks, he mostly listened to classical music. He'd probably rather I play Schubert or Tchaikovsky in his honor. Here's something he might have enjoyed more than the Alan Jackson I've been playing.

(The story the 1812 Overture tells is of the Russian defense against Napolean's invasion, an interesting read in its own right.)

Uranium One

A signature proves that a deal was made.

Harvard Law Profs Explain Conservative Dislike for Elite Colleges

Continuing the evening's trend, here's a WaPo article by two Harvard Law professors about why conservatives dislike elite universities. They offer four reasons:

First is the obvious progressive tilt in universities, especially elite universities ...

Second, the distinctive progressive ideology of elite universities is relentlessly critical of, to the point of being intolerant of, traditions and moral values widely seen as legitimate in the outside world ...

Third is the rise of anti-conservative “mobs,” “shout-downs” and “illiberal behavior” on campus ...

Fourth is the public contempt of so many university academics for those who fund their subsidies ...

Not bad.

Stanford Student Sam Wolfe: "Yes, Congress, Tax Stanford's Endowment"

Notable mostly because the Stanford Review published it:

After the Presidential election cleaved the country in two, pitting Trump’s “poorly-educated” deplorables against Hillary’s college-educated elites, it was probably only a matter of time before Republicans went after their tribal opponents. To this end, both the House and the Senate have proposed tax plans that include a 1.4% tax on the investment income of college endowments. ...

The Republicans have announced no serious rationale for this plan. With college campuses becoming increasingly liberal and the college-educated leaning more heavily Democratic than ever, it is a fairly transparent attempt to hit their opponents where it hurts. The justification that it treats colleges in line with private foundations, which currently face a 2% tax on investment income, rings hollow given that the proposed tax will only apply to about 140 institutions. The plan has faced backlash from liberals and conservatives alike ...

But please, Congress, pass it anyway.

Most income is taxed in some form, whether it be salaries hit by income tax, business revenues that face corporate tax, or private investment earnings slugged by capital gains tax. By failing to tax Stanford’s endowment at all, the government is effectively handing us a large subsidy (in addition to the government funding we already receive). The government is implying that it is happy to tax working Americans more than it otherwise would in order to give Stanford students, and their endowment, a free ride. In light of the damage that elite colleges do to the world, there’s really no excusing this.


The rest is Wolfe's justification, put in terms of simple economics and the left's own arguments for distribution of wealth. Worth reading.

Update: Or maybe it's not so surprising the Stanford Review published it. The Review claims to be "Stanford's Independent Newspaper" and some current headlines there include:

It's Time to End Net Neutrality
Rally Against Islamophobia Exposes the Double Standards of the Campus Left
Stanford Students Pretend to Support Free Speech, Stumble at Final Hurdle
Why America Still Needs Guns

Wolfe's article seems to be typical. Nice to know.