RIP Chuck Berry

I'm sure in the long series of musical deaths of 2016, you probably saw this image:

This time, there's a genuine violent connection.

Chuck Berry was one of the greats, though, as Richards himself says at some length in the clip as a whole. We were lucky to know his work.

A Lack of Faith

Yours is disturbing.
The lengthy recitations of large numbers of perfectly objectionable presidential statements about Muslims coexist with a bunch of other textual indicia showing not merely that the judges doubt Trump’s secular purpose but that they doubt the good faith of his purpose at all—indeed, that they suspect that he is simply lying about his own motivations....
Imagine a world in which other actors have no expectation of civic virtue from the President and thus no concept of deference to him. Imagine a world in which the words of the President are not presumed to carry any weight. Imagine a world in which far more judicial review of presidential conduct is de novo, and in which the executive has to find highly coercive means of enforcing message discipline on its staff because it can’t depend on loyalty. That’s a very different presidency than the one we have come to expect.

It’s actually a presidency without the principle that we separate the man from the office. It’s a presidency in which we owe nothing to the office institutionally and make individual decisions about how to interact with it based on how much we trust, like, or hate its occupant.
Left-leaning judges now feel about the President the way that conservatives did after Lois Lerner, in other words: we no longer trusted a word of their explanations about their conduct, but believed our eyes about what their real intent and purpose was. One of the reason that the email scandal dogged Clinton so much was that the IRS has already burned the bridges of public trust on mysteriously-vanishing email records, inexplicable failures to back up servers as required by both law and contract, and an administration-led legal process that somehow just never found anyone accountable even when it couldn't avoid admitting that something had been done wrong.

That's how you got Trump in the first place. Congress wouldn't step up and do anything to stop this stuff, so people on the right picked someone who seemed unconstrained by norms of civility or honor.

A failure of respect for the institution of the President will be followed, almost immediately, by a failure of respect for the office of judge. Those positions cannot function without respect, except through the raw exercise of power. And power, frankly, doesn't get you all that far. It's a very big country to try to rule by force.

This Man Never Eats a Hot Meal

Friday night MMV

Stumbled across this; not a bad use of the song. I didn't see the movie, but I probably don't need to now.

A St. Patrick's Day Roundup

From the Hall's 2012 archive, here is a list of several good Irish tunes appropriate for the holiday.

"Campaign Pledges Haunt Trump in Court"

So says the NYT, correctly enough for a change. It's a major change in jurisprudence, as up until now campaign rhetoric has been off-limits for judicial interpretation. The idea is that it would be bad for democracy if politicians couldn't speak freely in election campaigns, out of fear of being constrained by courts after-the-fact.

On the other hand, it also makes a kind of sense. Trump has been taking his campaign promises relatively seriously compared to previous presidents. It may be the reason that judges have been so willing to wink at campaign rhetoric in the past is the sense of, c'mon, it's just talk for the rubes. Nobody's seriously going to do that stuff in office. They just have to say it to get elected.

What happens when somebody comes along who maybe really is going to 'do that stuff in office'? It's easy to understand the panic. Nothing terrifies a cynic more than sincerity.

Nevertheless, I think Powerline has it right (previous link):
The states’ argument is in essence that Trump is a bigot, and thus his winning presidential campaign in fact impeaches him from exercising key constitutional and statutory powers, such as administering the immigration laws.
I kind of like the idea that you could elect a partial-president, one whose powers are limited by the flaws in their character. As a purely theoretical idea, it would be great if people who had the right virtues to execute the powers well were the ones entrusted with those powers. If someone without the right virtues was elected, it would be great -- in theory -- if the powers were temporarily entrusted in someone else who had those virtues.

However great this idea is as a pure theory, it's completely impossible in practice. There is no mechanism for making it work other than forcing the executive branch to completely relinquish the relevant power for as long as Trump is president. It's not that, since Trump is a bad guy in certain ways, the courts will delegate the powers to someone else they do trust -- Mattis or whomever. It's that America, not just Trump, would lose the capacity to make national security decisions based on immigration for four years.

That's unworkable. Many people might argue that other bits of campaign rhetoric make Trump unacceptably dangerous as commander in chief. (Indeed, one person who made that argument repeatedly was Hillary Clinton.) So does that mean the courts should prevent him from taking any military actions -- meaning, that America should stop defending herself for four years? Maybe just against the Muslim world, plus China, if those are the areas where Trump's rhetoric was especially explosive?

Obviously that isn't acceptable. Neither is it workable for every executive policy to have to satisfy each of the several hundred Federal judges out there in order to go into effect. This is going to cause problems, though, because the judges appear to be committed to the idea that they should have that power.

"St. Patrick Was An Immigrant"

The Irish PM intends to slam Donald Trump, but ends up defending Ben Carson.

St. Patrick's 'immigration' to Ireland came at the hand of Irish pirates, who kidnapped him from his family's estate in Britain and sold him to work as a slave tending sheep. Is that 'immigration'? Well, in a way; in the way that Carson (and Obama) used the word.

A Sadly Predictable Outcome Awaits

Headline: "Venezuela has a bread shortage. The government has decided bakers are the problem."

UPDATE: "Speculators who hide the bread from the people."

Why doesn't that happen in America, I wonder?

Wearin' o' the Green

My great-nephew, not only Scots-Irish on our side but half genuine Irish via his immigrant Dad, who has the adorable accent and everything.

Cleaning Up History

Josh McKoon, whom longtime readers may recall from previous yearly sessions of the Georgia Legislature, has decided to spend some time cleaning up old segregationist language passed by earlier legislatures.
The resolutions themselves are purely symbolic, but the Columbus Republican said they have no place in Georgia’s code.

One would rescind a 1958 resolution that censured President Dwight Eisenhower for federalizing the National Guard to enforce integration at Central High School in Little Rock. The resolution said Eisenhower “sacrificed the honesty and integrity of our highest executive office on an altar of political expediency to appease the NAACP and other radical, communist-sympathizing organizations.”

A second would roll back a 1956 resolution that criticized the Justice Department and FBI for “flagrant invasion” into local affairs with an investigation of a black man convicted in a controversial trial of raping a white woman. He was later executed.

And a third targets a 1956 resolution adopted in the wake of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which Georgia lawmakers declared “null, void and of no effect.”

UGA Study on Hispanic Buying Power

The University of Georgia has just produced a study that claims to show Hispanics in America have a buying power that exceeds Mexico's entire GDP.

NYPD Calls for Federal Cash

The Trump budget, which is causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth, has a lot to like about it if you are one of us who really wants the Federal government to stop doing a lot of things. Some of those things are worth doing, of course: but it isn't the Federal government who ought to be doing them. Case in point.
“Under the president’s proposal, nearly all federal funding to the NYPD would be eradicated. This funding is absolutely critical. It is the backbone of our entire counter-terrorism apparatus,” NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said during a press briefing....

The White House budget proposal states that it reduces or eliminates $667 million for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs "that are either unauthorized by the Congress ... or that must provide more measurable results."

The blueprint lists the Homeland Security Grant Program as an example of a program requiring "more measurable results." The program had more than $1 billion in overall funding in 2016, according to FEMA's website.
For a billion dollars, I would certainly like to see measurable results. The larger point, though, is that it should very rarely be the case that a local police department -- even the NYPD -- should be Federally funded. There are two levels of government between the NYPD and the Feds. New York is a tremendously rich city, the home of Wall Street and many millionaires. It can't pay for its own police department? The state of New York can't make up whatever shortfalls remain?

If taxes need to go up, raise taxes. Once we've cut the Federal government down to size, especially if we ever manage to tackle entitlements, there should be plenty of room for taxes at the state or local level to go up a bit.

I understand that the NYPD's counterterrorism division provides an important service. However, they work for the city of New York. That's who should pay them. It makes no sense to push the cost off onto the American taxpayer more broadly, nor is 'providing funds for local police' anywhere to be found in Article I, Section 8.

A Word from The Spokesman of Marines United

We've considered various takes on this USMC photo-sharing scandal. It turns out the group has appointed a spokesman, who would like to address concerns about his organization.

The headline is unfair to his argument, I think: it suggests that he is opposed to women serving. That's not actually what he said at all.
Murder is illegal on the streets of America, but people still do it. So sexual crimes are still going to happen in the military regardless of how they [Pentagon and Congress] try to clamp down on it or revise [policies]. It’s still going to happen and at that point, I don’t really question the physicality of women. I question the logistics of the Marine Corps and if they will be able to keep up with it...

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a prime example, pushing for a co-ed boot camp and she questioned the commandant on why we’re not doing that,” he told the Daily Beast. “So I think it’s coming down from civilian leadership and I think the Marine Corps should stand up for itself and say, ‘Look, we have been winning wars for America since 1775. Why should we continue to change the wheels when they’re not broke? We need to look at American defense first before looking at integration.”
This would be a strong point if and only if the complications of integration are going to be long term problems and not (as with racial integration) short term problems; and if and only if those complications are going to make the Marine Corps less effective as a fighting force. Are either of those 'if and only if' criteria implausible?

Paglia in Tablet

This is a fairly compelling interview at times. This part sounds to me a lot like some of Tex's regular points:
The Industrial Revolution, a capitalist phenomenon, created low-level jobs for women that allowed them for the first time to be truly self-supporting, freed from economic dependence upon father or husband. Over the past century, women have gained access to higher-status jobs, many with real power and authority over men. But the main issue is that men and women are working side by side in the workplace in a way they have never done before, except in outdoor field work during the agrarian era. This is something new in human experience, and I believe it is destabilizing sexual relations in ways that we have scarcely observed, much less analyzed.

First of all, too much familiarity may undercut sexual passion. When mystery goes, so does the sizzle. Second, despite a brief fad in the 1970s for the asexual uniform of John Molloy’s “dress for success” look, affluent women professionals today (with their svelte skirts and pricey Louboutin stilettos) are clearly still using their own sexual appeal to gain power in the workplace—while at the same time oddly forbidding male co-workers to notice or, Venus forbid, comment (which would spark an instant kangaroo court). What I have been saying throughout my work is that sexual tension and conflict may be built into human life (by virtue of women’s monopoly over procreation) and that women, in order to be truly free, must stop relying on the bureaucratic regulatory state to manage their relations with men. Men too have an inherent right to be free—to think and express their own views and desires without women’s hectoring oversight and censorship. However, the workplace must remain a neutral zone, where the professional (and not the personal) should rule.
Keeping the workplace 'neutral' may be impossible, though, if she is right about her broader argument. Sexuality is at least partially irrational, arising without will from the subconscious. Control over expression can be rationally determined, at least sometimes and to some degree, but stripping it completely out of any area of life may be a bridge too far.

Especially this is true for the young, I think: past a certain age it is easier to set aside. The young need jobs too: indeed, they need them more, as they lack the stored or inherited wealth of the older. And we need them to have jobs more, too, if we expect them to pay for their elders through various entitlements or public pension programs.

You can tell people in their 20s and early 30s that they have to act completely asexually in the professional environment, but telling them that it is obligatory doesn't make it attainable. At minimum, you need to support them with standards that minimize the temptation to think sexually about those with whom they share a workplace. Yet even the military, considered as a workplace, has failed to do this. How will the civilian workplace manage what military discipline has failed to accomplish, or even in many cases to find the will to attempt?

Rights for Rivers

New Zealand has just granted legal personhood to a river.
In a world-first a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being....

On Wednesday, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law.

“The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi [tribe].

“We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as in indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management.”

The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same.
Unborn children in New Zealand do not enjoy legal personhood, but rivers do. Got it.

UPDATE: A piece from my cousin, who is a pro-life doctor, on why unborn children might plausibly be extended legal personhood.


Not bygone.

This is Inefficient

Want to shoot down an off-the-shelf drone that cost a few hundred bucks? Why not use a $3 Million Patriot missile?

If anybody wants a better answer, I know a falconer who can train eagles to take the things down. I don't know what the range of an eagle is compared to a Patriot, but I figure it's got to be good enough to kill a drone.

Trump to Honor Andrew Jackson, American Muscle Cars

Pony car lovers will celebrate the change in fuel efficiency standards.
After the speech, Trump will head to Nashville, Tennessee, to lay a wreath at President Andrew Jackson’s tomb to mark what would have been Jackson’s 250th birthday, before holding a campaign-style rally in the city.

Trump will tour Jackson’s home, according to Howard Kittell, president and CEO of the Hermitage mansion. Jackson has enjoyed something of a resurgence thanks to Trump. During the campaign, some of Trump’s aides took to comparing him to the former president — a fellow populist outsider who took on a member of the Washington establishment and ran a campaign railing against corrupt elites.

Trump mused during his first days in Washington that “there hasn’t been anything like this since Andrew Jackson” and hung a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office.
At least in terms of American muscle cars, maybe we are going to Make America(n) Great Again.

Speculative Fiction

Today's claim that Steve Bannon is a "white supremacist" turns on his praise of a work of speculative fiction, The Camp of the Saints. I have never read this book, so I can neither praise nor condemn it. However, the description and excepts make it sound like it falls squarely within a genre of books that includes some highly celebrated on the Left: The Handmaid's Tale, for example, or 1984, or Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451.

Each of these includes awful images of a highly undesirable future, for the purpose of criticizing present trends with dangerous conclusions. According to Wikipedia, for whatever that's worth, this piece was written in 1973, and was widely praised by intellectuals at the time of its publication. That it is of lasting interest more than forty years after its original publication suggests there might be something to the book; that it provokes such discomfort among its critics, likewise.

I haven't read it. Perhaps it's awful. Still, what an odd ground for criticism. The quite-Left American Library Association organizes a "Banned Books Week" every year, and maintains a part of its online store devoted to banned and challenged books.

Yet here is the alleged proof of Bannon's evil: "He likes a disapproved book."

A Problem with Chesterton's Fence

In general, I agree with G. K. Chesterton's principle here:

Chesterton's fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The quotation is from Chesterton’s 1929 book The Thing: Why I am a Catholic, in the chapter entitled "The Drift from Domesticity": "In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

There are a couple of problems here. The first is that, over time, the reason a very useful institution was created may get lost so that no one really knows why it was created or how exactly it is useful, or it may have developed empirically over centuries or millennia to be the best way of doing things but no one ever fully articulated the reasons why. When the modernizer challenges it, the conservative isn't ready with a good explanation, and the modernizer then assumes there isn't one.

Another issue is that Chesterton's statement of his maxim assumes the conservative (i.e., "more intelligent") reformer has the power to stop the modernizer, but that's often not the case. Often in society both put their arguments out there and a bunch of fence-sitters cast the deciding votes.

As a result, some important American institutions have been torn down in part because conservatives seemed unable to adequately explain their purpose. When they tried to preserve them, they seemed tied to dead traditions, stupid, or bigoted. Decades later the negative effects of the destruction become apparent; in hindsight we can see the purposes of those institutions fairly clearly, but we can't go back in time to deliver our now-learned retort.

Some human institutions, like government, are consciously created and we have something like the Federalist Papers that explains them. However, some are not consciously created. They developed empirically, by accumulated experience, over many generations. That's what living tradition is, the accumulated experience and wisdom of a culture.

Wisdom, though, can be ineffable. Sometimes you know something is right, but you cannot intellectualize why. That is the problem in miniature: How can we tell the difference between ineffable wisdom and baloney? It's a difficult problem.

Plato vs. Aristotle

Joel Gehrke gives an interesting review and discussion of Arthur Herman's The Cave and The Light: Plato versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization over at the Federalist.

Herman sets out to show that the debate between these two thinkers, who lived about 400 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, provides the distinctive, even governing, feature of Western civilization.

“One path – Plato’s path – sees the world through the eyes of the religious mystic as well as the artist,” he writes in The Cave and the Light. “The path of Aristotle, by contrast, observes reality through the sober eyes of science and reveals the power of logic and analysis as tools of human freedom.”

Western civilization depends on both for its vigor, according to Herman. “It’s the constant tension between these two ways of seeing the world – the material versus the spiritual, the practical versus the insightful-intuitive side – it’s the creative tension, like the drawing of a string of a bow, that creates the dynamism that’s been so characteristic of western culture throughout its history,” he said ...

I enjoyed the review and the book sounds pretty good, though Gehrke points out some problems with the argument.

You Might Pack A Separate Sock

I mean, I always carry one pair of extra socks when backpacking just to sleep in. One more additional single sock would not be the end of the world.

Maddow Gets Played

So Donald Trump's 2005 tax returns just 'show up' in one of her people's mailboxes, with no names attached. And she gets all excited, goes to press with it, and -- it just so happens -- team Trump is ready to release the documents themselves that afternoon in order to scoop her. And then she goes over the top, of course, trying to tie this to various conspiracy theories. Then the returns prove mainly that he paid a massive amount of taxes that year, hundreds of times more than the average taxpayer will pay in a lifetime of paying taxes.

I'll bet I know who mailed those tax forms to Maddow's assistant.

And now Trump is immunized against the whole "show us your taxes!" issue.

"Are We Raising Racists?"

Since this article appears in the New York Times, I guessed before reading it that the answer was "Yes." It turns out that the answer may be, 'No, but we should be.'
Parents of black and Latino children have long made thoughtful choices about when and how to engage in difficult and nuanced discussions about difference. Studies show that such parents are two to five times more likely than whites to teach their children explicitly about race from very young ages to counter negative social messages and build a strong sense of identity.
Is that really what you want me to do? Raise my children to think "explicitly about race" and to have a "strong sense of [racial] identity"? Have you thought this through?

I Certainly Hope This Is True

Attack on the administrative state allegedly planned by Trump's legal team. That might go a long way to restoring the Constitutional order.

The Chieftains

Tonight, at the University of Georgia, the greatest remaining Irish band came to play. They are celebrating their 55th year of playing as a group, which might lead you -- as it did me -- to expect the concert to be a sort of sober greatest-hits affair, suitably slowed down to respect the needs of aging performers.

I was wrong. They were off the chain. In a lifetime of going to concerts, symphonies, and shows, I have never seen their equals.

For the encore, following a standing ovation, they did a Medieval piece from Brittany called "Andro." Dancers who had come to join the concert, just kids from a local school, came out and formed a "snake dance" line with the Chieftains' own dancers. It wound through the audience, pulling in anyone who wanted to join. All these old hippies with beards who had come to see the show joined in, holding hands, dancing up and down. The Chieftains ensemble's performance was joined by the Atlanta Pipe Band, with a sextet of Great Highland Bagpipes paired to military drums, perfectly blended into their work -- apparently without rehersal, as the Chieftains just rolled into town and had a wedding to go to last night.

The whole was a performance of high energy and spirit from first to last. I wish I could recreate any part of it here, but no recorded performance of theirs even implied to me how powerful their live performances really are. What a treat to see them after all these years, and to find them so strong.

Tenth Amendment Lawsuit

The state of Tennessee is suing over the refugee resettlement program, arguing that it violates the Tenth Amendment.

Given all the areas where the Federal government is manifestly violating the Tenth Amendment, they had to pick this one to test the principle? I suppose one could argue that the Federal government has the power to admit anyone to the United States that it wants to do, but that states can't be required to participate in resettlement programs. Still, this has to be the least clear case for reasserting the Tenth that I can think of given that the Federal government does have a legitimate, outward-looking role to play here.

Are You Kidding Me?

This is the sort of news story that should never get published. Freedom of the press is a cherished value. All the same, publishing the details of a secret unit's training exercises can do no good whatsoever, and might get some fine Americans killed into the bargain.

We Apologize for Providing Your Refuge

A small town in Iowa has forced its high school students to apologize for wearing red, white, and blue attire to a sporting event. "The Valley High School students' USA-themed attire was seen as offensive because some of the rival school's players were from refugee families."

Oh, well, instead let's wear colors to celebrate whatever place was so hellish that you fled halfway around the world to get here.

Longing for the Klan

The Washington Post would just love it if Southerners would play along with their script by demonstrating a resurgence of racism. This story from Dahlonega -- home of Georgia's military college, North Georgia University, and a place where I have spent many of my days -- shows how much they want this.

They actually did figure out the real story, if you read far enough -- they just put it in paragraph twenty-five.
By evening, though, people had found out who was really responsible: It was one of their own, an 84-year-old white woman named Roberta Green-Garrett, the owner of the building in question who lives in a brick mansion with four white columns on a hill overlooking the town.

Offering no explanation and declining to speak with reporters, she had told town officials that she had allowed the banner to go up and might try to put it up again. She had been seeking permission to build a hotel on the square, and people speculated that it was all an audacious ploy to embarrass the town into approving her plans.
That's basically the whole story. There's forever been this one a guy who runs a booth in one of the antique/thrift stores who is a Klan fan -- in addition to ordinary antiques and Confederate flags it used to be you could buy old copies of Song of the South from him, because Disney wouldn't sell them to you any more.

Then there's this one 84 year old woman, who would like to be even richer than she is, but the town won't go along with her hotel plans. So, here's a way she can pressure the town government. 'Don't like the Klan signs? Well, I can think of a way to convince me to stop approving them.'

I guess that "Town in Georgia Has Two Bad People" wasn't enough of a headline to justify flying somebody down here, though, so they put in 24 paragraphs of 'atmosphere' in front of it, and what looks like another hundred paragraphs of '...and people were really upset' behind it.

But it's not a story, not really. It's just these two very old people, only one of whom actually cares about the Klan in the slightest degree. The other one only cares about herself.


In World War One, a group of Crusaders in chain mail appeared to ask how to join the war. It happened in Georgia, of course.

Say it Ain't So

Another federal judge has scalded the unprofessional conduct of Justice Department lawyers inside the Civil Rights Division.... Now it's unprofessional behavior and bigotry toward the South[.]


"[T]hey entered these proceedings with arrogance and condescension. One of the Department’s lawyers even exhibited her contempt for Texas and its representatives and her disdain for these proceedings by regularly rolling her eyes at State witnesses’ answers that she did not like, and she amused herself by chewing gum while court was in session.

It was obvious, from the start, that the DoJ attorneys viewed state officials and the legislative majority and their staffs as a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots who bemoan the abolition of the poll tax and pine for the days of literacy tests and lynchings.
Why, I can't imagine. Well, frankly, what I can't imagine is them doing anything else.

The Riddle of Steel