Fighting Inequality

School bans kids from having best friends.
Thomas’s Battersea, the school George attends, bans kids from having best friends, Marie Claire reports. Instead, teachers encourage all students to form bonds with one another to avoid creating feelings of exclusions among those without best friends.

The trend of banning best friends has been growing for several years, and it’s spread beyond European borders to American schools as well. Some psychologists and parents argue kids become more well-adjusted when they have larger friend groups and can avoid negative feelings associated with feeling left out.
Equality sure turns out to be a problematic goal. Maybe we should consider the possibility that it isn't always the right goal. Hannah Arendt said that the only sense in which equality was desirable was 'equality before the law,' which we have definitely not attained and could still usefully be working on achieving. Maybe most of these other senses of the word are actually even undesirable. I don't want good doctors and bad doctors equally likely to be my doctor, and indeed, I don't know that I want bad doctors even equally likely to be doctors. I'm sure I don't want everyone equally likely to be doctors, whether or not they are otherwise qualified.

Equality may just not be the right goal, most of the time. That doesn't mean it isn't crucially important in those limited cases in which it really is the right goal. It just means that, often, it's not what we should be after. Pursuing it instead of the proper goal is unlikely to work out well.

A Brief History of Selling the Iran Deal by Bashing Jews

The Obama administration's signature policy accomplishment was sold to the American people with a pack of lies, and an inversion of the Constitution.

What you may not have noticed -- I didn't, until it was pointed out -- was how much it was also sold with openly anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish deal opponents. Fold that in with the piece from last week on whether or not observant Jews might be rethinking their politics. It's not as if they haven't got good reasons to do so.

As for the rest of us, as we watch the Iran deal recertification process that's coming up in the next few weeks, it's worth keeping all this in mind. We were never told the truth about this. The 'ratification' process was an unconstitutional sham. That it is also built on what is at best a reckless unconcern with the threat of nuclear genocide aimed at Israel is worth noticing, too.

What Killed Comedy?

I never especially liked Mel Brooks' style of comedy, but lots of people did. Everyone has therefore noticed his remarks on the baleful effect of political correctness on his art.

I didn't see as many people notice that John Cleese of Monty Python fame made very similar remarks quite recently.
The problem is that people are knee-jerk in thinking something is offensive. Sometimes in my show I say, “There were these two Mexicans” and immediately the whole audience goes, “Oooh.” People think something is going to be offensive before it’s even been said. The story I then tell involves an American patrol boat in the Gulf of Mexico. The guy on the boat is cruising along, and suddenly sees two Mexicans going for the border. The guy says, “Hey, what are you doing?” And the Mexicans say, “We’re invading America.” And the guy on the boat says, “What, just the two of you?” And the Mexicans say back, “Oh no, we’re the last ones. The others are already there.”

Oy, John.
But is that a nasty joke? Think about the content of it. The Mexicans are actually the heroes! They’ve won! There are millions of Mexicans in America. Are we trying to pretend that isn’t the case? So is that a nasty story to tell? I don’t think it is.
Cleese is both old and rich, which means he doesn't have to care what you think of his humor any more. That's good, because not caring if he offended people is how he got rich. I assume he got old in the usual way.

The Militia.

Well, I think they're all between 17 and 45. In 1595, the English in their musters began to count men with longbows as unarmed men. Don't know about shoes though.

To Autumn

We are come to the end of summer, the Autumnal Equinox, and the darkening of days.

In Georgia, this begins the best time of year.

In other places, the end of summer may be met with less joy. The thought of long winter months in snowclad rooms may be as oppressive as the long heat and humid air of the Deep South. But for us, here, today looks like the promise of crisp mornings and cool evenings, a season of bonfires and festivals crowned at last by the Yuletide.

I hope you find the joy in it.

A Female Marine Infantry Officer

The Corps finally found a woman who could pass its notoriously-tough Infantry Officer's Course (IOC). Over five years of attempts, the previous 36 women have failed (I have read in one source that this candidate failed once before, but that doesn't seem to be confirmed in every source). About one in four men who attempt the course fail it.

To her credit, she seems not to want to be named -- just to carry on with the work.

Good hunting.

Did He Actually Say "Deplorable"?

The Holy See has taken a remarkably unwise position in response to President Trump's recent UN address.
The rising tensions over North Korea’s growing nuclear program are of special urgency. The international community must respond by seeking to revive negotiations. The threat or use of military force have no place in countering proliferation, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear proliferation are deplorable. We must put behind us the nuclear threats, fear, military superiority, ideology, and unilateralism that drive proliferation and modernization efforts and are so reminiscent of the logic of the Cold War.
A few things.

What the President said was, "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."

As I understand it, Just War Theory endorses defensive war by legitimate governments. That is what is being described here.

Just War Theory does potentially have an issue with the totality claim: in theory one should wage war in the way most likely to allow noncombatants to survive. Yet this is not a threat to totally destroy North Korea by preference, it is a warning that there won't be any other option.

Military force may be the only way of countering proliferation, practically speaking. Is the claim that it would be better to allow nuclear proliferation to states like the DPRK than to stop it using military force?

Finally, I notice that the ideology in the DPRK's case actually calls for the elimination of religions like Catholicism -- indeed, of all religions except for their own weird cult around the Kim family. That seems like a point that the Church ought to be interested in.

Meet Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich

Were that it were a happier occasion to introduce him to you, but in the aftermath of the recent school shooting at Freeman High School in Spokane, Washington, Sheriff Knezovich held a press conference where he spoke candidly and thoughtfully.  I don't agree with everything he said, but he seemed refreshingly honest and considered in his speaking, and spoke the truth on many things.  Perhaps someday he might consider running for a higher office.

It's a twenty two minute video, but there seemed to be value in most all of it, so I did not opt for edited versions.  Some of the answers to the press questions were particularly excellent.

Independence Referenda

In Catalonia and Kurdistan, voters want an opportunity to determine their own futures. Existing governments are more or less universally opposed.

Seems to be the spirit of the age, though.

Harald Hardrada

This video history has a couple of 'stretchers,' as Fritz Leiber put it, but for the most part it is accurate.

I'm a bit familiar with the history. When I lived in China I wrote a book, just for fun, on the Varangian Guard in Byzantium. I felt a kind of kinship to them, being in a very different and very old civilization. You could hardly get books to read in English at that point, although I'm sure it's better now. The ones you could get were all classics to avoid them being current-service Western propaganda, so it was a great time for me in that I read Moby Dick, and Ivanhoe, and Waverly, and many other great books I'd never gotten around to before.

So I'd say the stretchers are the idea that the Hardrada went to Vinland, for example; some of his exploits against the Arabs may be overstated. But he did have exploits against the Arabs, and he did venture widely. His is an interesting story, well worth knowing.


A Vox correspondent:
I have spent the bulk of 2017 writing about the different Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Graham-Cassidy, in my view, is the most radical of them all.

While other Republican plans essentially create a poorly funded version of the Affordable Care Act, Graham-Cassidy blows it up.
That's just what I want done with it. Carry on smartly.

Riding the Tiger

We have gotten to the point at which it's necessary to start admitting to the things denied until this last week, perhaps because you can't proceed to indictments without admitting the wiretapping on which those indictments might be based.

Shane the Rebel?

Victor Davis Hanson is definitely right that Hollywood and others treated Confederates as 'cool' not that long ago, especially in the 1950s, and then again in the late 1960s and through the early 1980s. He's also right that this was done in two quite different ways: the 1950s Confederates were flawed men (especially in Stagecoach and The Searchers), whose code was ultimately destructive to themselves and the kind of civilization they represented. Nevertheless, they were possessed of at least some virtues that enabled them to do hard things on the frontier.

And in the Flower Power era, buttons and patches of the rebel flag were sold right along peace signs in various counterculture magazines. Just as bikers and hippies were two ways of representing rejection of 'the system,' the Outlaw Country thing was just one more mode of rebellion. I think Hanson is too harsh in his reading of this era, which was more youthfully foolish in its sense that it could just embrace the good things and walk away from the bad ones. Still, I wrote about all this recently myself, so I don't disagree that it was a feature of the era.

What really strikes me as wrong, though, is his reading of Shane.

In George Stevens’s mythic Shane (1953), the tragedy of the post–Civil War heroic gunslinger seems eerily tied to his past as an against-the-odds ex-Reb. In contrast, the movie’s odious villain, Unionist Jack Wilson, is a hired gun and company man (brilliantly portrayed by then newcomer Jack Palance). Wilson shows off his bought cred by gunning down a naïve southern sodbuster, “Stonewall” Torrey (played by Elisha Cook Jr.), accompanied by slurs about the Confederacy. (“I’m saying that Stonewall Jackson was trash himself. Him and Lee and all the rest of them Rebs. You too.”)

In the movie’s final shootout, replaying the Civil War provides the catalyst for more violence. This time Shane — and the heroic South — wins for good, with a payback Civil War exchange with Wilson:

Shane: I’ve heard about you, Jack Wilson.
Wilson: What have you heard, Shane?
Shane: I’ve heard that you’re a low-down Yankee liar.
Wilson: Prove it.

Wilson is then blown back across the barroom under a hail of bullets. Even out on the Wyoming range, the Hollywood subtext is that sodbuster homesteaders can find a former Confederate loser to protect them, with courage and chivalry, against the northern corporatists trying to steamroll them. The noble savior Shane, we are assumed to believe, had no part in slavery or insurrection but was fighting for his southern soil in service to the Confederacy.
I've written about Shane too, and even that very sequence, but I never once had the idea that Shane was supposed to be a former Confederate. That doesn't strike me as a plausible reading of what happens in the movie.

The character who plays the Southern sodbuster is playfully but thoroughly mocked by the other sodbusters earlier in the movie. It's clear that they are prepared to accept him in spite of his Southern roots, but not to let him live down having been on the losing side of the war. There is therefore no sense that this conflict is a proxy between former Confederates and former Unionists (as was in fact the case at Tombstone in 1881, and thus legitimately colored several movie treatments of it: the Republican, Union-leaning Earp faction against the Confederate, Democratic cowboys).

Rather, what Shane does by repeating the sodbuster's chosen challenge is to take up the cause of a fallen friend, and make it good for him. It's not that the cause was otherwise Shane's; in fact, the power of the scene lies partly in the fact that it wasn't. He took up a cause that wasn't his, and made it good out of friendship.

Read that way, the sequence harmonizes with the larger sweep of the movie. Shane is really a medieval knight who, for love of a lady, enters into a feud between a virtuous landholder and an evil robber baron. Together, the virtuous landholder and the knight errant make good the better claim to the land; but the virtuous landlord is married to the lady, and the knight therefore has a hard choice. In Shane, he makes the best choice, riding off to suffer loss of love in return for knowing he did the right thing. It works out otherwise in other versions of the story.

As a knight errant, Shane doesn't have a cause of his own. That's why his entry into the feud is a sacrifice worthy of the lady; it's why his suffering in the feud is a sacrifice at all, rather than merely his feudal duty. During his defense of the lady's interests, he becomes a friend of the landlord, and his further sacrifices for the landlord are another set of noble sacrifices. His choice to avenge his friend the sodbuster is of this same kind. The sodbuster's cause is not Shane's, but Shane takes it up as a champion long enough to strike down the Black Knight in its name. Shane's nobility is in his willingness to do these things for no personal gain, nor out of any personal duty, but because of a virtuous love for good and decent people.

So no, Shane wasn't a Confederate taking up his old cause in a petty shootout in a tavern, having lost it in a war. That reading fails to grasp the kind of story that is being told, or the kind of man that Shane's character is supposed to be. It's a much older kind of story than that, a better kind.

True Enough

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.”
Some speechwriter deserves a pat on the head for that line.

A New Middle East

Egypt's President urges Palestinians to lay aside grievances, co-exist with Israel. In completely unrelated news, the United States just opened a permanent military base in Israel for the first time.

Israel's survival is not thereby assured; Iran keeps promising to wipe it out with its missile program. But I heard somebody say something encouraging on that front today, so maybe it'll work out.

UPDATE: Also good news, Turkey isn't going to get some US weapons. They're not really allies any more, not under this government. Many Turks are great people, but at the moment we can no longer regard them as an ally.

Carrying a Knife is Legal in Georgia

This story has all the tribal things going on, which is going to make it hard to discuss rationally. Nevertheless, I think the headline captures the most crucial factor. Let's go to the story.
When Lynne Schultz first heard that her oldest child, Scout, had been shot and killed by a Georgia Tech police officer late Saturday night, she assumed it occurred at a protest rally.

Scout, she says, was politically active in progressive causes.... According to Georgia Tech police, Scout was seen walking toward police and ignored numerous orders to drop what appeared to be a pocket knife. Photos of the knife taken at the scene reveal the blade was not extended.

Video of the incident showed Scout, 21, shouting “Shoot me!” to the four officers on the scene. A minute later, one of them did.
The GBI is investigating. I also have some questions I'd like answered.

Under current law, a pocket knife of the size in question doesn't even qualify as a regulated weapon -- only knives 12" or longer are regulated, and those are legal to carry if you have a Weapons Carry Permit. Thus, when you see someone carrying around even a big knife, you can't assume they're committing a crime.

On a college campus, well, the law has just recently changed there too: Georgia instituted Campus Carry this spring. So, "person carrying a knife" is not evidence of a crime; the right response by the police might include 'lets keep an eye on them' but not 'let's draw guns and order them to drop the weapon.' Legally, it's not even considered a weapon.

The video makes it clear that the police bracketed this student from at least two and probably three positions (the last judging from an officer appearing from that direction right after the shooting). The closest one was behind a physical barricade.

The student was definitely being challenging and aggressive towards the police, which is usually a bad idea. The student chose to advance on the female officer, who was not the one behind a physical barricade. Though this student "identifies as non-gender-binary," the student was born male and was larger than the female officer. A reasonable female officer of her size, opposed by a larger person whom the officers clearly took for a male, might have felt that her options for effective self defense were limited. Though the knife was closed, it can be opened quickly; though she had numerous friends, and they had their target bracketed, she could not be sure anyone else would kill the student before a clash became actualized. Shooting to stop the aggressive advance may well have made sense, once she found herself in that position.

But why did they get in this position at all? I'm not concerned for myself, as there's an obvious road to avoiding getting killed in this circumstance -- put down the knife and discuss the issue with the police once you've made them comfortable. But this was clearly legal behavior, which they responded to by initiating an interaction built around the immediate threat of lethal force. They did this in spite of superior numbers on the scene, and in spite of the fact that the perfectly legal knife wasn't even open.

Lethal force in Georgia is supposed to be used only to stop an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm. In theory, that standard applies to police and other citizens equally. While they may have gotten to a place where the officer could reasonably claim that she felt she met that standard, they put themselves one step away from shooting in the absence of evidence of any crime at all.

View from the eye

This is a compilation I was looking for earlier, taken in mid-Rockport, with good time markers so you can see what part of the storm you're in and how long each part lasted--hours of intense wind from the east, then a long calm, then hours of intense wind from the west. This is the new Fairmont Hotel on Hwy. 35, looking north to the La Quinta across the street. I think we lost our internet feed around 7:30 or 8:00 pm Friday night; my last post reported that the house wasn't shuddering yet. We're about 10 miles northeast of where this footage was shot, so the eye went over us maybe half an hour later than it did in town, at about the same intensity. The peak winds from the first wall hit us around 10:45pm, the second wall a couple of hours later, and we were calm again before dawn. Notice that this hotel came apart but our house did not!

Sorry about the ad at the beginning, you can skip after a few seconds.

The cleanup effort is having an odd effect on me.  People I was trying to help before who were making me miserable because I couldn't find anything to do that they wouldn't obstruct or bat away in some fashion have now fallen completely off my radar.  It's a variety of triage:  if you're part of the problem instead of the solution, if your attitude is making things worse instead of better, I suddenly have other priorities to turn to, almost completely guilt-free.  Want to tell me how your daughter-in-law presumed to arrange for repairs without something or other first, poor you, FEMA is too stingy, I'm not insured, etc.?  Nope.  Moving on.  A neighbor called me yesterday somewhat miffed that she was just now hearing that there was some kind of list she was supposed to get on for help getting the roving volunteer teams to come to her.  She didn't know she had to get on a list.  I didn't even get mad at her; I just observed mildly that it was important to ask clearly for help (a lesson I've always had trouble learning).

Survivor guilt is making lots of us medium crazy.  Yesterday I found myself eating a piece of cake and mentioned to a companion that I was eating things I normally wouldn't, but I keep weighing every day and am not gaining, so I guess it's OK.  She sniffed at me, "Well.  I guess if you have time to weigh yourself, you're not very busy."  Again, not even tempted to snap at her.  She just moves off of my radar screen for the time being.  If you know you're helping enough, you don't have to pay attention to the self-appointed monitors' opinion of whether your effort is up to snuff, or where your level of suffering fits in her scale of just deserts.

This morning on our dog walk my husband got a cell-phone call, a rare event for him, as he hates to conduct business by phone.  Some chick was on the line was yelling at him that she just wanted to get hold of the person who called her a butthead.  I could hear him saying, "Whom did you think you were calling?  I really have no idea what you're talking about."  She finally instructed him never to call again.  He readily undertook not to do so, and blocked her number.  Ironically, of course, now we do think she is a butthead, whoever she is, the creature.

My husband keeps explaining to me that survivor guilt is irrational.  Why should he feel guilty because he built a sturdy house?  Well, that's like explaining that a fear of heights is irrational.  Sure it is; so what?  Do people really think feelings don't happen because we know they're different from rational analysis?  (OK, I know the answer to that question.  ;-))

One day more

Three things I can't resist:  flash-mob re-enactments, the Les Miz song "One Day More," and the Texas flag.

The Ridge