The Russia / Uranium Story

It didn't get a lot of attention, but the story about Russia buying up a lot of America's uranium is back in the news. Unexpectedly, it looks as if the Russians used clandestine bribery to advance their interests. Unexpectedly, the Clinton Foundation was a major recipient of such bribery. And shockingly, the same Robert Mueller who is running the investigation into Russia/Trump was assigned to handle the Russia/Clinton business. Mysteriously, in the earlier case, the fact that the Russians were bribing everyone neither resulted in charges nor stopped the sale.

FIRE Brings Us a World Without Hate Speech

Zach Greenberg over at FIRE tells us where we can see what nations without hate speech are like and why banning hate speech isn't a good thing, even for the people who think they want that. It's a good argument with lots of support linked.

Measures of Effectiveness

I don't understand how anybody listened to John Kelly yesterday without developing a sense that he was talking about deep, sacred things before which we should pause with reverence. Perhaps the sacred itself is terrifying: certainly, it looks as if what he said scared some.

That shows it was a powerful speech, I suppose.

Things We Do Not Understand

Men are at risk of death, especially from lung failure, if they receive a blood transfusion from a woman who has ever been pregnant. Women show no increased risk whether or not they have been pregnant. Nobody knows why.

Sacred Things

More from Joe Bob Briggs

After a career in movie-making, he's learned a few things -- things he finds himself alone in saying out loud.
Sometimes, I am prone to point out, we don’t need a strong female character for this.

We might, in fact, need a weak female character for this particular story. Or, more likely, we’ll need a complex person for whom the words “strong” and “weak” are relative or irrelevant because she’s, you know, a human being.... I could go scene by scene through the complete works of Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, and Marilyn Monroe and make notes in the margins of their scripts that would read something like this:

strong moment
weak moment
neither-strong-nor-weak moment
moderately strong
moderately weak

...on and on, ad infinitum, because all three of those women have played multiple roles with multiple points of view that can’t ever be summed up by the words “strong female character” or “weak female character.” You could do the same with male characters. Superman is not interesting unless Kryptonite exists.
As always, there's a lot more at Taki's place. Some of it relates to this new Arthurian adaptation of the story of Lancelot du Lac. (But see also here.)

UPDATE: Joe Bobb is bringing a cultural lesson north:
Growing up in Little Rock, Ark., John Bloom knew lots of people who figured they’d never leave. “At least once in your life, you need to go see New York, or Europe,” he’d tell them. “It’ll change your perspective.”...

Now he encourages friends living on the Upper West Side to visit Little Rock, or Mississippi: “Spend a weekend in Jackson. Go to a Baptist church. Your view is getting kind of narrow." ...

To that end, he’ll bring his midnight clip show, “A History of the Redneck in Film,” to the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 4. Though he’s presented the show periodically over the past 10 years or so, this is the first time he’s brought it north of the Mason-Dixon line. It’s a public service, he says, half-joking.
Rednecks are one of the last safe groups to portray as villains for Hollywood, he argues. Most every movie needs a villain.

Happy "World Turned Upside Down" Day!

According to the All-Knowing Wikipedia, on this day in 1781, "British forces led by Lord Cornwallis officially surrendered (pictured) to Franco-American forces under George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau, ending the Siege of Yorktown."

Painting by John Trumbull


This Seems Like A Big Deal

Samantha Power claims that all those unmasking requests made 'in her name' weren't made by her. Now these are NSA documents, highly classified, and in several cases the names of the individuals unmasked were leaked to the press (also illegal). So if she's telling the truth, somebody (or multiple somebodies) were filing fraudulent requests to violate high levels of classification at least sometimes for political purposes.

A cop I used to know down here in Georgia once told the story about how a bunch of teenagers camping down by the river had been target shooting beer cans for fun. When he arrived, they tried to explain that the gunshots he'd heard had really just been fireworks they were setting off for fun. Now, in those days, possession of fireworks was illegal -- shooting a .22 on your own property was just fine. So their excuse got them into a kind of trouble that the truth would have avoided, just because it sounded to them like fireworks should be less of an issue than guns.

Maybe Power screwed up in the same way today. Could be she lied about this, not realizing that this claim makes the situation very much worse than if she'd just admitted to unmasking people using her lawful authority to do so.

Or maybe we've just found a rathole. Either way, Power turned this into a story today.

A Bike for Henry

So, I don't do charity appeals very often at all; you can give or not as you like, and I won't ask. But a friend of mine who does a lot of mission work knows a guy in Nicaragua whose motorcycle wore out. He works for Ruby Ranch, itself a charity helping local kids. They'd like to buy him a new bike so he can get up and down the territory to help the kids. Nobody's made a better appeal to my very limited charitable nature in a long time. So I sent some money, and I figured I'd pass it on to you. Do what you like.

"How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America"

A warm review of a controversial new book.

Hafþór Blows the Gjallarhorn

The NFL is having a tough time right now -- College ball fans will note that UGA is #3 and undefeated, for those seeking an alternative.

But there are some things left to like in the pro game.

It is Blasphemy to Vote for My Opponent

Indonesia does democracy a little differently.
Mr. Basuki, 51, who is ethnic Chinese and popularly known as Ahok, was the incumbent governor and was handily leading in opinion polls over Mr. Anies and other candidates when he was accused of violating a blasphemy law by citing a verse from the Quran in a speech in September 2016 to argue that it was acceptable for Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim candidate.

Hard-line Islamic groups held large street protests — one of which turned violent — demanding that he be jailed or summarily executed.... He was convicted by the North Jakarta District Court on May 9, three weeks after being defeated in a runoff by Mr. Anies, who is Muslim.

While Mr. Anies was not publicly accused of orchestrating the street protests against Mr. Basuki by Islamic radicals, he did openly court their support and flaunted his own Muslim credentials in campaign advertising.
So it's blasphemy for a non-Muslim to cite the Koran as an authority? Imagine if he'd cited the Bible.

A Surprising Lack of Sympathy

You are probably aware of the "Me Too" campaign currently trending on social media, in which women are supposed to post those words as a hashtag to show that they've been subject to sexual harassment. I'm surprised at how little sympathy it is eliciting in my heart. People who have long read Grim's Hall know that I am the sort of man who sometimes is sympathetic to women's suffering. This time, though, I'm not feeling very moved at all.

It is because, I realize, these same people who are "Me Too"ing all over the place are the ones who have been chiding me and my culture for my entire life for our relationship to women. I come from a culture of ritual courtesies between the sexes. Women are "ma'am" from the time they are toddlers until they die. Strange men are "sir." Doors get held open. Chairs get pulled out. And all I ever hear, these last decades, is how this kind of formal courtesy is demeaning. It puts women on a pedestal, it doesn't take them seriously as human beings, it sets up 'power relationships' that get analyzed to death. These expressions of respect that my culture engages in are supposed to be canonical expressions of Patriarchy and the oppression of women. It's the whole thing that had to be destroyed, and they've been at the work of destroying it hammer and tongs for decades.

So now they want me to feel their pain about the rude and aggressive behaviors they find themselves subject to? Well, I don't harass anyone. I don't endure it in my presence. I was trained that way as much by my mother as by my father, who had been taught by their parents, as their parents before them. This latest round only hardens my convictions that they were right all along. Those who went about breaking the world my ancestors made are reaping what they sewed and, if they want to reap otherwise, they'd better think about changing what they're planting.

The Vikings Stopped on Watling Street

A long-recognized gap turns out to have a less-than mysterious explanation. First the mystery:
The north-south divide has been the butt of jokes in Britain for years, but research has shown the Watford Gap, which separates the country, was in fact established centuries ago when the Vikings invaded Britain....

Adams was struck by the absence of Scandinavian placenames south-west of Watling Street, the Roman road that became the A5. “There might be one or two names, but I don’t think there are any, and there are certainly hundreds and hundreds north-east. Clearly the Scandinavian settlers stopped at Watling Street,” Adams said.
And then the explanation:
“I began to notice that all the rivers’ sources stop pretty much on the line of Watling Street. North-east of that line, all the rivers flow into the Irish Sea or the North Sea. South and west of it, they all flow into the Severn or the Thames.”...

“These days, we’re unaware of which way rivers face and where they flow out to. It doesn’t make any odds to us. We just put bridges over them. But, for most of history, such things have mattered. Your natural trading routes are along rivers and all the medieval monastic estates used the rivers as their arteries of power. So clearly the geography of power has always mattered … Geographically, it slaps you in the face as soon as you figure it out.”
I have always thought that people who really love a place show it when they understand the way the rivers flow. But that is dependent on the modern sensibility, in which it really doesn't matter to you which way the rivers flow for the most part. You'd only need to know if you cared about the place. For much of history, and never more than for the Vikings, where those rivers go was a big deal.

I don't often recommend video games, but if you want to get a sense of this, try this historical semi-simulation. It's not super cheap -- you have to buy the base game plus this add on, or else one of the extended editions that includes it. Still, it's got a pretty good map of the western part of the Viking world.

Pavlovian Discourse

Since I've made similar arguments regarding terms like liberal, conservative, right, and left in American political discourse, I thought I'd link this article by Theodore Dalrymple on discourse in European politics. It begins:

Some words in the press are used not only for purposes of shorthand but also as Pavlovian bells to get the ideological saliva running. They have only to be printed or uttered for thought to cease, and since thought is often painful and poses the danger of arriving at unwanted conclusions, such words offer protection against such pain and discomfort. Among them, for certain people, especially in Europe, are poverty, liberalism and austerity (the list is far from exhaustive). 

He discusses each term in turn as used in Europe. The paragraph on poverty applies equally well on this side of the pond, I think.

Dancing shoes

Make you wanna dance:

Sometimes a songwriter comes up with a killer riff.  You know you're in good hands with those first four beats.