This Guy

Czechs on Gun Rights in Europe

The EU is tightening restrictions. In return, the Czech Republic is considering adopting its own version of our Second Amendment.


I rely on the Catholic Church to hold the moral center. On this occasion they've lost their way. That's a big problem: if they don't mark the center, how do others who have wandered find their way back?

The British are different from us, for reasons we remember this week. They are subjects of the Queen, and I suppose there is some sense in which subjects might be ordered to yield up their child's life on the orders of the state. Sure, they had the money to pursue their child's last hopes without anyone else being inconvenienced. But the state said the child should die, so the parents are subject to obedience. Pit and gallows, that sort of thing. All subjects are subject to being disposed of at the state's decision.

Should an American court issue a similar order on me, to command me to stand by while they killed a child of mine mauger my head, I would take it to be my duty to wage war upon them until I or they were stricken from the earth.

The Sea Queen

They reference Grace O'Malley, who was an impressive Irish leader around the time of Elizabeth I.


What happens if you put an obviously African-American name like "Jamal" on an application instead of a white-sounding name? Fewer job offers for Jamal: that study's been done many times.

What happens if you put a man's name on an application instead of a woman's?
The trial, which was an effort to push more women in senior position jobs, revealed that removing the gender from a candidate’s application does not help boost gender equality in hiring. The trial also revealed that adding a male name to a candidate’s application made them 3.2 percent less likely to get the job while adding a female name made it 2.9 percent more likely that the candidate would be hired....

“We anticipated this would have a positive impact on diversity — making it more likely that female candidates and those from ethnic minorities are selected for the shortlist,” said Professor Michael Hiscox, a Harvard academic. “We found the opposite, that de-identifying candidates reduced the likelihood of women being selected for the shortlist.”
It's as if hiring boards were under intense pressure to find qualified female candidates, and really wanted to do so whenever possible.

Travel Ban: Not that Different

Following a unanimous SCOTUS rejection of all the lower courts that had ruled on Trump's travel ban, the thing finally went into effect. The result?


Things were pretty much like always.
It’s not because the Trump administration implemented this ban perfectly — it made one important change to who’s banned and who isn’t right before the ban went into effect, and further changes could be on the way. But it was smooth enough to avoid a political uproar or a midnight courtroom fight.

In one respect, that’s a victory for the ban’s critics. But it’s also a serious challenge. The ban, as it’s instituted right now, folds neatly into the things in existing immigration law that often seem maddening, unjust, or discriminatory[.]
The thing is, deciding who of the endless millions of people who would like to come to America actually gets to come to America is necessarily an act of discrimination. You can't ban discrimination from discriminating.

Big Moves on Outer Space

Flanked by legendary astronauts including Buzz Aldrin, President Trump announced the reformation of the National Space Council. It is tasked with the pursuit of "grand ambitions," a mission very much in the Trump mindset.

Meanwhile, in Congress, a motion to split the Air Force in order to establish a Space Corps survived its first hearing.

Early stages, but these moves represent an attempt to restore a part of what "Made America Great" in the eyes of the earlier generation. Buzz Aldrin's father's generation dreamed up Buck Rogers: Aldrin himself went to the moon. The greatness of that has never been equaled, and so far, it has never been surpassed.

I don't know if I believe that Federal bureaucracies still have the capacity to do things that are Great in that capital-letter sense. Maybe not. But at least they're aiming in the right direction.

Beer for the Beer God

A rather cheerful piece of history on some ancient Celtic mythology.

Making Health Care Cheaper

Vox says that one of the most important issues is why Americans pay so much for care that costs less elsewhere. One reason why: America's two basic systems for providing care both put the payment on organizations with huge pools of money. Insurance companies have big budgets, but they are dwarfed by the Feds who run Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs.

Inflation follows naturally when more dollars chase the same number of services.

"The Clenched Fist of Truth"?

This is not the NRA I thought I knew.

The old concept was always that an armed citizenry could hedge against government tyranny. That's not what is on offer here.

Why Do People Want to Kill Each Other Over Politics?

A philosophically-trained writer at the Federalist says it's because we view the government's power as far more necessary to life and its goods than it really is.
If government power is the people’s best and only hope, then to deny the use of that power, or even to exercise it in the wrong way, is just like killing people. So you are naturally going to long to see the political malefactors behind such a policy struck down, for the same reasons we love the scene in the action movie when the bad guy finally falls off the skyscraper and gets what’s coming to him.

This attitude is not strictly limited to the provinces of the Left where we currently see it so flamboyantly displayed. As we have recently discovered, some on the Right also look to government for salvation, hoping that the right kind of limits on trade and immigration, the right deals made by the right dealmaker, will solve all of our problems—and anyone who doesn’t support that leader is a traitor.

But the basic idea of government as salvation is associated more with the Left, because expanding the power of government is their primary political cause.
Is he right about that? Vox argues that it's impossible to tell conservatives apart from their caricature of conservatives -- and for them, I don't doubt that this is true. Republicans want to kill the poor in order to provide tax cuts for the rich, and that's the only way to understand the policy they're proposing.

I don't care a bit about tax cuts for the rich, but I'd like to see the government get completely out of health care. My reasoning has two parts: most importantly, because government-run health care poses severe challenges to human liberty; less importantly, because the government's effectively-unlimited money distorts markets and produces runaway price inflation. If the government must be involved at all, it should be on the back end, quietly repaying expenses for qualifying veterans (and potentially certain very poor individuals) so that no one realizes that there's an unlimited pool of money they could chase. Then people's capacity to come up with the money up front would serve as a market brake on the inflation, and yet veterans would be able to pursue the health care they want from the doctors they choose -- not ones imposed on them by an uncaring, massive bureaucracy.

But I suppose that's tantamount to saying that I want people to die.

Georgia Alters the Deal

I mean, eight percent is better than nothing, but a promise is a promise.

Medieval Times

Russian propaganda is an interesting phenomenon. We see little of it here in the West, just a small subset that is shaped to fit in with our own news well enough to fool those who don't pay close attention. But there is a much wider set of claims being made by the propagandists. This newsletter tracks the major themes.

This week there's a fun claim about a secret plan to restore Moscow to it's medieval boundaries:
This week, pro-Kremlin disinformation time-travelled to medieval times, suggesting that the West and/or NATO planned to reduce Russia after the fall of the USSR to the size of the historical Grand Duchy of Moscow. For those who can't quite recall the borders of that Grand Duchy, you can find a map here. Like in any good spy novel, it all supposedly came from secret documents obtained by Russian intelligence services – soon handed over to Sputnik apparently. There was no further information concerning why the West and/or NATO had a plan to divide Russia according to medieval territorial borders, but the curious disinformation was repeated both in Russian and English outlets. Needless to say, the claims were not accompanied with any proof of the existence of such a 'Grand Duchy plan'.

Victor Charlie

A fine Celtic piece that will make some of you feel right at home.

Frederick Law Olmsted

AVI has a good piece on the famous designer's early travels. I have nothing of value to add to what he says, but I do have a relevant story of roguery and mis-spent youth.

Way back in mumble-mumble I graduated from High School. This was at a school in Atlanta, Georgia. Naturally, we gave some attention to the "senior prank" that might have been better spent on preparing for the SATs. In fact, we planned the thing months in advance. It was decided that we would steal a desk from the school, one of the proprietary ones that obviously belonged to a school, spray paint it with "Kilroy was Here!" graffiti, and then hang it in a big oak opposite the school's main building.

The operation was divided into three phases. Mine was the first phase, the stealing of the desk. Needless to say this had to be done in such a way that the hanging of the desk would later seem to be a tremendous surprise. Thus, it had to disappear long before the prank, and in such a way that no one would be sure where it had come from. For that reason, I arranged to defeat the school's security systems -- both lock and electronic -- so that we could spirit out a desk in the middle of the night, in the winter-time long before graduation. We also rearranged the desks in the room during the operation so that no one would notice a missing one.

That was effected before Christmas. We then had plenty of time to paint the desk appropriately, concealing it for months in a secret location.

Near graduation day we had one of our comrades who was an expert tree-climber sneak into the park opposite the high school headquarters at night, and toss lines over the high tree limbs. Assuming his success -- this was before everyone had a cell-phone -- we arrived about 2 AM with the desk, so that it could be hoisted and secured in position. After that, it was a simple matter of removing the lines and exfiltrating the park before police noticed our activity. It was thus secured well above where anyone would be able to simply remove it.

Here is the tie-in: unbeknownst to any of us, the next day was the 100th anniversary of that park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The mayor of Atlanta came down to give a speech at the very spot where we'd secured the "Kilroy was here!" desk.

Our comrade the tree-climber was immediately captured, as his hobby was too well-known for him to avoid detection. He was a stand-up guy, however, and the rest of the team escaped unpunished. I'm sure we're well past the statue of limitations now.

Viking Dragons

Naturally we have to hear this lecture from our new favorite professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.


Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a church on the holy island that may well have been standing during the famous first Viking raid of 793.

Confidence in Institutions Poll

We look at this poll every year, more or less. This year's results are unexpected: American confidence in institutions is up, at a level not seen since Obama first took office.

More, this poll defies the trendline I've been worried about over previous years. The decline in faith in institutions has chiefly affected the non-coercive institutions: the consistently highly placed winners were the police, the military, and the criminal justice system. Congress, newspapers, churches -- all the non-coercive branches fared worse and worse. This year, that reversed to some degree.

There's a big partisan split in a couple of places, especially faith in the Presidency (swings near fifty points for both parties) and newspapers (way up among Democrats, down somewhat among Republicans). SCOTUS shows a zero shift among Democrats, but a big gain among Republicans -- no doubt the outcome of the Gorsuch fight.

But that doesn't hold everywhere. Many institutions show compatible shifts, including things like organized labor (Republicans up by two, Democrats by a little more), church (1/3), and public schools (9/5). At least some of the ways in which we deal with each other nonviolently are tracking up a bit, and that's kind of surprising given the political climate.

Civil Affairs

Apparently a survey of morale did not come up aces.

Civil Affairs differs from Civil-Military Operations in roughly the same way that Psychological Operations differs from Information Operations: the latter is the regular-Army, staff-section integrated attempt to command a job originally thought of as a kind of special operations. The lion's share of the older form has been pushed to the Reserves, where they serve as enabler units assigned to work under the authority of regulars. The older units still have the pride that comes from having been originally thought of as a special operations unit, and the pride that comes from having a degree of independence from the regular command. This gets expressed in ways that are sometimes fairly petty: for example, the PSYOP units I observed in Iraq would make it a point to wear the patrol cap if the regulars were under orders to wear boonie hats on base, or vice-versa.

It's a tough life. The other side of that independence is that the regulars don't really think of you as part of their organization, and have a fuzzy degree of sense of how much you're on the same team. They don't deploy at the same time that you do, so you were either there when they arrived (and thus are short-timers who shouldn't complain since they're on the way out the door) or are newcomers who aren't going to get to leave with you (and thus haven't suffered as much as you, and shouldn't complain until they have paid their dues).

Nevertheless both CA and PSYOP carry an important load in the kinds of wars we've been waging for so long. It would be good to get their morale issues taken seriously, just as the more commonly considered special operations units also have serious morale issues that come from the way we've been fighting.

More on Jewish Gay Flags

An expression of gratitude from someone who found all this to be clarifying.

This is CNN

I wonder if they knew about the Project Vertias report when they fired -- er, 'allowed to resign' -- those reporters yesterday?

You definitely want your leadership telling people that your stories are "bulls***" and a "witch hunt."

Putting the Brakes on at CNN

Apparently the executives are worried that their own news team has fallen off into the land of wishful thinking.

Big Day at the Supreme Court

Good news for religious liberty, which is of course described as bad news for secularism. Call me when people are being forced to attend these religious schools.

Also, the President won an initial ruling on his travel ban. The court will consider the case more completely in the fall.

What I Learned on the Internet Today

Amazon sells edible dehydrated spiders. Be sure to see the Q&A section.

Canada and the Dukes of Hazzard

Apparently somehow this was an issue this weekend.
Anderson — who reportedly brought her three-year-old son to the event featuring rides, a beer tent and a classic car show — said she was aghast when she set her eyes on the jump-prone muscle car driven by Bo and Luke, the good old boys.

“I was in shock at first,” she said, according to Inside Toronto. “My heart started beating.”

In her mobile phone video, Anderson expresses great outrage at the car and demands that festival organizers get rid of it immediately.

“I want the car gone!” Anderson demands in the video. “I want it out of sight!”

“Everyone knows, anyone who went to high school, you [expletive] numb nuts!” Anderson said, apparently with her young child in tow. “This is racist.”
I mean, I went to high school. I also saw the Dukes of Hazzard as a kid. I'm pretty sure the show wasn't racist even though other uses of the flag have been.

But let's review. Here's a couple of Outlaw Country legends performing on the show at the "Boar's Nest" roadhouse. They don't make a big deal about it, but notice that -- nearly forty years ago -- the crowd at this imaginary Southern drinking establishment was portrayed as cheerfully integrated.

I don't know that they did this intentionally, or if they just pulled extras at random, but clearly it wasn't being imagined as a place where anyone of good faith wasn't welcome.


Apparently not the only uproar about an unexpected flag this weekend.
The Chicago-based LGBTQ newspaper Windy City Times quoted a Dyke March collective member as saying the rainbow flag with the Star of David in the middle "made people feel unsafe," and that the march was "pro-Palestinian" and "anti-Zionist." The Chicago Dyke March is billed as an "anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience," according to its Twitter account.
UPDATE: Ironically, gay activists in Turkey have their struggles covered sympathetically today by the Times of Israel.

The tribal identifiers aren't working well. We should really look for common principles instead.

Rediscovering Jefferson

It seems like just the other day that they were changing the name of the "Jefferson-Jackson Dinner" because they'd decided that those two Presidents represented everything bad about America.

Now it turns out that Jefferson is a model of what a good President looks like after all.
In the early days of December 1805, a handful of prominent politicians received formal invitations to join President Thomas Jefferson for a White House dinner.... "dinner will be on the table precisely at sun-set - " the invitations read. "The favour of an answer is asked."

The occasion was the presence of a Tunisian envoy to the United States, Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who had arrived in the country just the week before, in the midst of America's ongoing conflict with what were then known as the Barbary States. And the reason for the dinner's later-than-usual start was Mellimelli's observance of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims in which observers fast between dawn and dusk. Only after sunset do Muslims break their fast with a meal, referred to as an iftar.

Jefferson's decision to change the time of the meal to accommodate Mellimelli's observance of Ramadan has been seized on by both sides in the 21st-century debate over Islam more than 200 years later. Historians have cited the meal as the first time an iftar took place in the White House - and it has been referenced in recent White House celebrations of Ramadan as an embodiment of the Founding Father's respect for religious freedom. Meanwhile, critics on the far right have taken issue with the characterization of Jefferson's Dec. 9, 1805, dinner as an iftar.

Whatever Jefferson could have foreseen for the young country's future, it appears the modern-day White House tradition of marking Ramadan with an iftar dinner or Eid celebration has come to an end.
There's no reason why a President of the United States should celebrate any religious holidays other than his own, and that in a private manner that doesn't imply any endorsement by the United States of America. The alternative is trying to treat every religion equally, which is a hard pull in a nation as diverse as the United States. It's inevitable that you'll end up with a top-tier of religions who get honored (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) and a second-tier that is maybe memorialized in some way sometimes (Hinduism, Buddhism), and a bottom-tier who aren't remembered at all (including some very worthy faiths like Sikhism).

It makes sense for a non-religious man like Donald Trump to adopt the first course of action rather than the second. A deeply religious man, like George W. Bush, is more likely to take the second tack and try to do it as fairly as he can. But the second tack is much harder to make work fairly, and much more likely to yield legitimate grievances among those whose faiths don't make the cut for official celebration for whatever reasons.