No Joy in the Cumberland Gap

41-0 Bulldogs, first shutout of Tennessee since 1994. My many relatives in Tennessee are quiet tonight.

A Communist Insults Mattis

Article 88 only applies to commissioned officers, one of which a certain young buck became this May. His insult towards the Secretary of Defense is timestamped after that. It's a pretty open and shut case, especially for a guy who was kicked out of the Rangers for standards. The 10th Mountain Division, his current unit, will have every reason to see him as a threat to good order and discipline and punish him appropriately.

That's not what I wanted to talk about.

What I want to talk about is RedState's closing argument.
Officially, Rampone might be ruined anyway, as he also insulted Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter as well, calling him “a f**king medieval, cold-blooded killer."
Negative. "F**king medieval, cold-blooded killer" is a compliment. Mike Pence should be proud.

Religious Tests

Jeff Flake thinks that Republicans need to speak out against Roy Moore's idea of a religious test for public office. Republicans certainly can do what they want; I certainly oppose religious tests for public office. But why would anyone think that it was important to speak out against it? The prohibition of such tests is actually in the Constitution.

Thus, no amount of talk from a presumed Senator Moore is going to add a religious test for public office unless he can persuade enough people to amend the Constitution. If he can do that, then the test would presumably be legitimate. But he can't, of course; you probably couldn't get 75% support for the idea in Alabama, let alone 75% support from the several states.

Rather than raising the profile of the issue, I would simply dismiss it as silly if asked about it and not speak to it if not.

Symbols pro and con

This mildly amusing cartoon, posted at Maggie's Farm, made me wonder whether the distinguishing factor is whether someone objects more to spurning an ideological symbol or to venerating it.

I, too, would resist being required to venerate a symbol I objected to.  To the extent that someone feels he is being pressured to express a political or religious view not his own, I have considerable sympathy for a discreet refusal.  Opening ceremonies at my public grade school included both the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer; I cheerfully said the Pledge, without ever giving it much thought, but stood silently through the prayer.  I can't imagine what the school would have had to do to force me to join in the prayer.  Nevertheless, it didn't occur to me to raise a furious fist, spit on the floor, or go stand in the corner.  If I had tried any such thing, my parents wouldn't have backed me up, even though my father despised religion pretty openly.  Your religious views are your own, he'd have said, but that doesn't mean you get to insult your neighbors.  Don't make public theater out of your resentments unless you're serious about starting a fight, and then don't whine about the results of the fight.

By the same token, if I see someone making an obeisance to a Che banner, or a Communist flag, or a Satanic ritual, I'm not going to shoot them to make them quit, though I do reserve the right to separate myself from them socially, refuse to patronize their store, buy their books,  watch their TV shows, root for their sports victories, and so on.  They are free to do the same to me if they don't enjoy watching me put my hand over my heart when the Stars and Stripes are being honored.

My sense of the Progressive flashpoints lately is that they instinctively side with someone who breaks ranks and refuses to solemnize a traditional piety.  It's understood that such a stance signals a courageous refusal to go along with fascist orthodoxy.  They're also primed to feel threatened when someone venerates nearly any symbol; even if the symbol was innocuous yesterday, the whole fun is in being among the first to discover a lurking impurity.  Maybe the stitching on the flag was performed in an Asian sweatshop; maybe a past adherent of the creed once owned a slave or attended a church that wouldn't ordain women or gays.  It's so much fun to notice the clay feet of any idol that they've lost sight of what used to be an ordinary reaction to the desecration of a beloved symbol.  I'm trying now to think of Progressive protests over the desecration of one of their own sacred cows.  When such a thing happens, it tends not to take the form of an attitude to a physical icon.  The problem usually consists of symbolic action, like refusing to bake a cake.

Missing Tolkien's Point

It's nice to see that he's still read approvingly, all the same.
Consider the invaluable depiction of what we might call "small patriotism" in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: "Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people," Tolkien wrote in the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring. They are hospitable, nosy, and contentedly devoted to their home, the Shire.

This love of home is not born of naïveté but clear-eyed commitment to community. "I should like to save the Shire, if I could," the hobbit Frodo muses as he prepares to embark on his quest, "though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them." Yet at the thought of departing, Frodo adds, "I don't feel like that now. … I feel very small, and very uprooted, and well — desperate."

Frodo does not love the Shire because it is the best country in Middle-earth. It does not boast the striking scenery and deep knowledge of the elven kingdoms, or the security and wealth of the dwarves, or the cosmopolitanism and architecture of the cities of men. The Shire does not have to be the best, for it is already home and already good in its own way.
The hobbits aren't simply symbolic of England, though: they're symbolic of a part of the English country. The "cities of men" were built by the Numenoreans, the Kings of Men, the Dunedain, Men of the West. These are, well, also "English" -- specifically, they are Norman. They are the grey-eyed men who are 'the race of kings,' and who were and (hopefully!) once again shall be the rightful rulers of the free people of the world. The hobbits love them, and are glad to be ruled by them; but, being hobbits, they also hope to retire back from their grand cities to the beloved countryside with its gardens and pubs.

And the Rohirrim, they're also symbolic of England -- this time, of the Anglo-Saxon heritage. They are the White Horse: the great Anglo-Saxon lord Horsa's name just means "Horse." They stand for another period of English history, without which the rarefied Dunedain lines would never regain their throne -- nor would their lesser heirs, the Stewards of Gondor, have maintained their last kingdom as long as they had.

Nor are even the elves entirely unconnected to England. The Edain became the Dunedain through friendship with the elves, and there is elvish blood in the line of the kings of men. Elrond Half-Elven is kin to Aragorn through Beren.

Insofar as any other nation is represented in Middle Earth, it falls away from the glory of England. There probably has never been a "bigger" patriot than Tolkien in the sense that this author means. Nearly every good thing in Middle Earth is essentially English. Tolkien was at the Somme. He knew what he loved, and what it cost, and it comes through very clearly in his work.

Murder by Neighborhood

In the discussion on statistics below, I wondered about trying to recreate the correlation chart by neighborhood instead of by city. I read an article not long ago that posited that the American murder rate is really quite low, outside of certain cities; but, further, that even within those cities the murder rate was quite low outside of particular neighborhoods. It wasn't this article, but this one is the one I can find and it has some good maps.

My hypothesis is that shifting to a neighborhood picture might restore the correlation between violent crime rates and police shootings. I don't know that this is true, but it's the hypothesis that I'd like to test because I think the answer is important. Is there a way to get the relevant data together to try to test that hypothesis?

It is a known issue, of course, that we are dealing with very small numbers and statistical rarity. Perhaps it's not even worth doing, given how little one can really infer from statistics about rare events.

A Familiar Song

That it remains relevant is, I suppose, why I keep hearing it decade after decade.
The vast majority of service members are male, the South is overrepresented, and perhaps most worrisome, military service has increasingly become a family affair....

Families also carry the costs of military service, and surveys indicate military spouses are as likely to have a parent who served as service members today, many of whom already have a child serving as well. This used to be far closer to the norm – with 77% of adults over 50 indicating they had an immediate family member who served, as compared to only 33% of those ages 18–29. These surveys echo the Department of Defense’s own findings that approximately 80% of enlisted recruits have a family member who served, with over 25% noting they had a parent who served. Though it varies from service to service, the trendline in American society is stark.
The most current figures are that the military is 65% white, 80% male, and 44% Southern. When we discussed it nine years ago, the only other region that was over-represented was the Mountain West, and I'll bet that remains true.

It Depends on What the Meaning of "Prevailing" Is

I kind of thought it was the other side that wanted this, but depending on how you define that one word, I guess Brokaw could be right.
NBC News’ Tom Brokaw claimed that President Donald Trump, and “some people on the right,” want “to destroy the prevailing culture in this country” during an interview....

"And I, you know — when I go out and talk to people in the West who are Trump voters, they said, 'We’re still with him. We think it’s your fault, talking about us,'" Brokaw said. "But then they’ll say, 'I wish he would just shut up for a while.' You know, that he ... has to talk about who he is and how great he is."
Well, good for you for listening, Tom. But maybe you should have asked them if they felt like they were trying to destroy the "prevailing" culture, or if in fact they thought that what you were doing was aimed at destroying the "prevailing" American culture.

I think the root of the dispute may be about which culture should prevail, and whether or not it will be necessary to destroy the other one in order to do it.

Medieval Walking

This video suggests that Medieval people did not generally walk around the way we do, but in a 'more natural' way that improves posture. This is taken to be helpful in explaining some illustrations from the I.33 fencing manual, and to be a function of the way footwear of the period seems to have been designed.

The idea isn't that people really 'walked differently,' then, but that the structure of shoes affects how you walk. Our tendency to take big steps leading with the heel is made possible by well-structured shoes that will protect our feet from anything we might step on, and that have adequate structure to accept our weight all at once. Walk around barefoot, and you may walk the way he's talking about -- leading with the ball of the foot, testing the ground before settling your weight.

Well, maybe. It's interesting to think about, anyway.

What to Look For

DHS is supposedly going to be collecting information on social media use by those who would like to enter the country as non-citizens.

Just in case they're wondering what to look for, here are some examples of things they might pay more attention to than previously.

Two Views of White America

One view: white supremacy is everywhere!

Another view: rural whites aren't enjoying very much supremacy at all.

Maybe it's not really about "white" versus others; maybe it's got more to do with other things. But our discourse seems locked in on the idea that race is the most important thing we need to talk about.

"Have You Forgotten?"

AVI's been running a useful series by this title. Here's one I had forgotten: President Obama fired the head of G.M.
Last night, the CEO of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, was fired by the President of the United States. Perhaps not “fired” in the strict legal sense – if legalities matter anymore – but certainly fired for all effective purposes. In a statement by Wagoner released last night, the now-former CEO states specifically that Administration officials “requested that I “step aside”’ as CEO of GM.” “And so I have,” he said. No pretense of an agonized decision, no pretending that the board asked him to go, simply that the White House asked him to go and he left.

It’s hard to feel sorry for Mr. Wagoner. Not only did he lead GM into economic ruin, but he led the charge to Washington, D.C. for handouts.... The real concern is not that Wagoner was fired, but that he was fired by the White House and not a bankruptcy judge.
So apparently the President can sometimes call for firings without it being a big deal.

The American Legion takes Hollywood

Well, at least one bar in Hollywood.
The young guns who have seized control of American Legion Post 43 are trying to fuse them together in the minds of a new generation of combat veterans, rebranding their venerable Egyptian Revival building, with its underground Art Deco bar, as “the coolest private club in Hollywood.”

“We have the cheapest drinks, the nicest people, the best-looking bar,” says Post Commander Fernando Rivero, a 42-year-old TV producer who engineered a bloodless coup that overthrew Post 43’s old guard....

Down the road from the Hollywood Bowl, Post 43 has long ties to the entertainment industry. Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan and Rudy Vallee were members. Shirley Temple was an honorary colonel, and photos of her curls stand out in the Post museum amid the machine guns, a dog-tag stamping machine and an Adolf Hitler pin cushion. (Suffice it to say he’s bent over.)
Bugs Bunny's generation would be proud.

Studies and Data

The other day AVI posted a link, which I found very interesting, to a refutation of a prominent study allegedly showing that police were more disrespectful to minorities. In fact (and this perfectly mirrors my anecdotal experience), the police are almost perfectly formal with everyone in their professional encounters.

Of course, 'disrespect' isn't really what's at the back of the current dispute; what's at issue is people getting killed by police, not people being subject to rude language by police. Vanity Fair has compiled 18 sources of data that all seem to point in the same direction on that.

Some of these sources are better than others. All of them may be subject to the usual problems of confirmation bias, and the fact that people in the academy really want to prove racism (and may, indeed, fear for their careers if they seem to disprove it). I understand all that; but some of these findings are worth noticing.

This one jumps out at me above all:
3. An analysis of the use of lethal force by police in 2015 found no correlation between the level of violent crime in an area and that area’s police killing rates.
Numbers one and two establish that unarmed people are much more likely to be killed if they are black; that's of small concern to me, since I'm typically always armed, but it suggests that non-black Americans have more leeway to 'opt out' of violent encounters with the police.

Number three, though, that's astonishing. It's completely counter-intuitive. But here's the chart:

It seems like there ought to be at least some answers in all this data, at least that part of it that looks reliable on examination. I'm inclined to continue to favor the hypothesis that training is largely at fault, as I have argued in the past, because it could in theory account for this strange lack of correlation between violent crime rates and police killings. If they're being trained to resort to guns in the face of certain stimuli, then a number of considerations related to an in-context analysis of how dangerous an environment really is may drop out of the 'shoot/no-shoot' decision.

In any case, a look at the data is more hopeful than another round of 'hey, let's hate each other' shouting. Take a look. Maybe you'll see something that helps.

Wooden Viking "Sword" Found in Ireland

This one is said to be "perfectly preserved," which is always surprising in a thousand year old find.

A View from the Left

The state is the biggest threat to freedom of speech, argues a writer at the Atlantic. Well, of course it is; the state is always the biggest threat. The state is the only organization with an army and a secret police allowed to run around. But it's fair to hear out the other side, especially when they are arguing against interest -- normally concerns about the power of the state are right-leaning, and the left likes to think that only milk and kindness flow from the government.
At Texas A&M, Tommy Curry, a black professor, was driven from his home with his family after his controversial remarks on violence and race drew the attention of American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher; singling out left-wing college professors is a frequent source of content at Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick cannot find employment in the the National Football League after his protests against police brutality. A police union in St. Louis urged members to bombard a local store owner with calls, after he accused some officers of misconduct, one of several recent examples of police unions attempting to intimidate critics. Black Lives Matter activists protesting the lack of accountability in lethal shootings of black men by police are routinely attacked as terrorists....

Neither have some conservatives disdained to use of the power or authority of the state to censor free speech. Republican legislators have proposed “Blue Lives Matter” bills that essentially criminalize peaceful protest; bills that all but outlaw protest itself; and bills that offer some protections to drivers who strike protestors with automobiles. GOP lawmakers have used the state to restrict speech, such as barring doctors from raising abortion or guns with patients, opposition to the construction of Muslim religious buildings, and attempts to stifle anti-Israel activism.
Some of the complaints are silly (the French were in no way harmed by the "Freedom Fries" thing), and some are unfair (even though we have frequently observed failures to hold police officers accountable for improper shootings, it is too strong to paint them as having "the authority to kill").

Still, there is a core to the complaint that is valid, and deserves attention.

Too Bad They Could Only Dream of Food

The NYT: "For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big."

Firing People for Self-Expression

Like last month, writing a memo that said things people found uncomfortable was a good enough reason for Google to fire somebody and for the rest of the tech world to refuse to ever hire him again. Refusal to bake a cake was a good reason to destroy someone's business. Now the ability to express yourself without reprisals is the "literal" basis of America?

I mean, I'm fine with the idea that the expression of political ideas should be protected. It's true that sometimes it can advance the work of justice, and that protests can be important. Even apart from that, working people will ordinarily have interests that are different from their employers. They should be free to organize, to advance those interests, and their employers shouldn't -- morally, I mean -- fire them for advancing their interest. Democrats used to understand that; how are you going to advance a view like "Join the Union" if employers can just fire everyone who joins the union, or talks about joining the union, or seems interested in unions? You'd think Democrats would argue that way, even though normally they haven't done so lately.

But I'm getting whiplash from all the people who are joining pitchfork-bearing mobs to get people fired one day, and then talking about how sacred free expression is the next day. Can we pick a principle and stick to it? People should be free to express themselves without losing their jobs -- true or false?

Puerto Rico

The American island looks to be in pretty bad shape.

Consciousness Inheres

An interesting argument, although I am in general inclined to accept arguments that point towards Neoplatonic readings.

Raw material

What happens to us doesn't have to make sense or be fair. What we do should make sense and be fair.
“You’re going to recover from this,” he remembered telling the doctor. “You’re going to be a doctor for the rest of your life, and you will use this experience to be a better doctor.”
We can substitute anything else for "doctor" in that advice.

Rangers Lead The Way

Alejandro Villanueva is a man who keeps his oaths. That is all. That is enough.

Potentiality is First Actuality

This has the potential to be the greatest movie ever made.

It won't be, of course. It's hard to live up to that kind of potential.

On the other hand, most movies don't even have that much potential. They're just another superhero flick, or another romantic comedy, or whatever. This one has real potential, and real potential is already something.

What About Confession?

Not that long ago I mentioned a film sequence from Roman Polanski's Pirates!, in which one pirate proposes to eat the other rather than starve at sea on a the equivalent of a life boat.

"Cannibalism is a mortal sin," the other says. "You will burn in hellfire."

"What about confession?" asks Captain Red. "What do you think confession is for?"

These questions come up from time to time.

How'd that work out last time?

Some concerned people want to correct the Pope.

Autumn Fire

Hats Matter

I had a man in Virginia apologize to my hat once.