Patriots over Riyadh

Video here. When Iran is giving its proxies ballistic missiles that can attack the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's capital city, and the Kingdom itself is purging royals and princes, we're getting close to some real excitement.

A Bit of Gallantry

Deep in this article about a desperate battle in 1940 between the British destroyer HMS Glowworm and the German cruiser Admiral Hipper, there is this:

Lieutenant Commander Roope [captain of HMS Glowworm] was recommended for a commendation by Kapitän zur See Hellmuth Heyes, the captain of the Admiral Hipper. He had witnessed a small, outmatched, outnumbered, and outgunned destroyer engage with one of the newest and most powerful cruisers afloat. A real act of bravery and defiance. He wrote to the Admiralty, through the Red Cross, informing them of the action.

'I Wanted to Believe Hillary, But...'

When the Politico story described this arrangement as “essentially … money laundering” for the Clinton campaign, Hillary’s people were outraged at being accused of doing something shady. Bernie’s people were angry for their own reasons, saying this was part of a calculated strategy to throw the nomination to Hillary.

I wanted to believe Hillary, who made campaign finance reform part of her platform, but....
But, of course, every word of the accusation turned out to be completely true. The outrage, as always, was merely over the temerity of reporters having pointed out the shady behavior in front of the public.

"He Doesn't Bring Anything New"

Typically this phrase is a criticism, as it is intended here.
[Justice Kagan] is about as tough as they come, and I am not sure [Justice Gorsuch is] as tough—or dare I say it, maybe not as smart. I always thought he was very smart, but he has a tin ear somehow, and he doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the conversation.
'The conversation,' in this case, is conferences on how to decide Supreme Court cases. What does Justice Gorsuch bring instead? NPR reinforces the point: nothing new.
NPR’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg took aim at Gorsuch. First in her crosshairs was his habit of frequently citing the Constitution. She objected to Gorsuch bringing things back to first principles at oral argument. He often prefaces his questions by saying, “Let’s look at what the Constitution says about this … It’s always a good place to start.”
Funny thing, that's exactly what many of us wanted a Justice to do. The last thing I want in a Supreme Court Justice is someone who 'brings something new to the conversation.' I want a Justice who will doggedly return to first principles rooted in the Constitution's original meaning.

That is the proper role of a Justice. If we want to 'bring something new to the conversation' about what the Constitution does or should mean, that's fine: that's the job of the legislature, the states, or an Article V convention. It is most emphatically not the job of a Supreme Court Justice.

Go, Mighty Bulldogs

Georgia is #1 in the College Playoff Rankings right now. I've never seen them play so well as they're doing this year.

Now for a rendition of the Georgia Bulldogs' fight song, "Glory, Glory to old Georgia."

Yes, I know that the tune has been used before.

You May Not Have a Lawyer Dog

A court in Louisiana is pretty hostile in its reading of slang as spoken by a suspect.

Happy "Open Enrollment"

It turns out that these giant rate hikes are considered desirable by the Obamacare folks. The more the second-highest-priced Silver Plan costs, the bigger the subsidies they are authorized to issue.
Obama's HHS also boasted that 286,000 people became newly eligible for subsidies in 2017 because of that year's 25% premium hike.

In ObamaCare-land, higher prices are good.

That does leave one nagging question. If enrollees aren't paying for those massive premium hikes, who is? Two groups ignored by ObamaCare aficionados:

1) Taxpayers. Even before the massive 2018 rate hikes were announced, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the taxpayer cost of ObamaCare's subsidies will climb 32% next year. From 2015 to 2018, the annual cost of these subsidies will have more than doubled.

2) Millions who aren't eligible for ObamaCare subsidies. According to industry analysts, about 44% of the individual market isn't eligible for any ObamaCare subsidies.... That means they face the full brunt of those double-digit rate hikes. This isn't Trump's fault, by the way. Huge annual premium hikes have been an ongoing problem since ObamaCare launched.
If you're in group 2, you're in both groups. Higher taxes and massive price increases, plus you get to be thrown off your plan every year because this-or-that regulation has changed.

The Feast of All Saints

(H/t: Catholic Memes)

Also, apparently yesterday was an anniversary or something.

Compromise and the Civil War

Speaking of Aristotelian causes, the 'four causes' approach makes better sense of John Kelly's remarks on the Civil War than the less-sophisticated approach that is mostly in evidence. One is supposed to affirm that the Civil War was caused, and only caused, by slavery. And of course that is true, in a way: formally and finally, and to a large degree materially, slavery shaped the tensions of the society in such a way that the war came to be because of it.

In terms of efficient causality (which, for moderns, is usually the only kind they talk about) one might still ask why the Civil War broke out in 1860 as opposed to 1850 or 1870. War had threatened before, and not arisen; it was prevented by a series of compromises. Thus, it is reasonable to assert that the war might not have occurred in 1860 if a compromise had been found. To put it another way, it is sensible to say that the failure to compromise caused (efficiently) the outbreak of war in 1860. That doesn't change the fact that the tensions over which the war was fought were themselves caused by slavery, or that slavery was the issue that had to be resolved.

Having said that, it is arguable that compromise was not desirable, even given the massive toll of the war. Avi Selk makes the argument:
...the truth is, the panicky months before the Civil War were full of attempts to compromise with the rebellious South.

The most popular proposal, by far, was a constitutional amendment that would have irreversibly immortalized slavery as a feature of the United States.

And although supporters of this compromise — up to and including Abraham Lincoln and most of Congress — did fail to pull it off, it wasn’t for lack of trying....

“No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of people held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

But slaves were exactly what was meant. The amendment would have assuaged slave owners’ fears by forever forbidding the federal government from freeing them.

“It would be a formula for reuniting the country politically,” Crofts said, aimed not so much at hard-core secessionists in the Deep South but to convince people in “border” states such as Virginia that Lincoln had no designs on their slaves.

“Lincoln’s fingerprints are on this thing,” Crofts told The Post. Not only did he probably suggest its creation but he also spent the days leading up to his inauguration trying to rally Congress behind it.
This fails to give Lincoln adequate credit, I think. I do not see how such an amendment could have actually prevented a future amendment from abolishing slavery; one might have repealed the one amendment in the first article of a new amendment, whose second article abolished slavery. That being the case, the compromise was effectively free from Lincoln's perspective: he got the stability he wanted right then in return for nothing, as the bonds against abolishing slavery were illusory. Why not trade an immediate practical benefit (including the avoidance of a destructive and ruinous war) in exchange for nothing more than an illusion of restraint?

One might reply: because ending slavery as soon as possible was worth fighting the war. But that, too, fails to do justice to Lincoln. He knew a war might have to be fought; he could not have known that he would win it. It was just as likely, in 1860, that the Confederacy would have enshrined slavery as a permanent feature by effecting its independence than that it would ultimately fail to do so. The amendment could be repealed later; independence is much harder to repeal. Having lost a war to prevent it, they would have to fight and win another such war to eliminate it.

Lincoln might well have favored the amendment, given those odds. It was functionally free, eliminated none of his long-term options, and prevented a high immediate cost that had to be paid with no promise of success. It was the choice a statesman would probably make, given the options and what he could legitimately be said to know in the moment. We may be grateful that it did not work, but I don't think he can be damned for having favored the try.

Jihad in Manhattan

Apparently the "truck rampage" is going to be a continuing thing. It used to be truck bombs, but those can be deterred in various ways; and it turns out you can kill quite a few people with just the truck. Trucks can't be banned from cities, as cities can't survive without them. Just as the airplane turned out to be a weapon in itself, so too this basic tool of modern urban life.

You might attempt to control who gets access to a truck, but this one was just rented from Home Depot. We probably can't make truck rentals substantially more difficult either without causing serious problems for urban life.

So... might we consider addressing the jihad that is the formal and final cause of these attacks, rather than the tools that are merely the efficient or material causes? We have no problem addressing the white supremacist ideology that sometimes lies behind other sorts of terrorist attacks; why not this form of supremacism?

UPDATE: Former Federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy gives an interview on this subject. The last minute or so is particularly important, as he clearly demonstrates that concern with radical mosques is not akin to a generalized anti-Muslim bias: 'The first Muslims I met as a prosecutor were the ones who were helping us infiltrate radical mosques. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.'

Of course that is true. No one is under greater threat from radicalized Islamic terrorists than the non-radicalized members of their own community. They have the same issue with those radicals that I have with the KKK. The radicals in my community are a problem for me, because they're out there trying to pull my neighbors and younger relatives into their swamp.

"Mueller is Running Amok"

The headline offers a proposition that I think is too strong for what is so far in evidence; it may be true, but it isn't necessarily so from what we've seen. I take it as at least potentially hopeful that the Podestas are facing apparent scrutiny in addition to Trump campaign figures, none of whom so far are particularly glorious Americans that we should feel bad to see facing prosecution.

However, the piece closes on an argument that I think is definitely true and worth stating.
The real lesson of the Russia non-story is that globalization, the great theme of the 2016 election, is more pervasive than any of us wants to acknowledge. No one who works in consulting or lobbying or finance is lacking in ties with Russia. Our press corps is largely made up of enthusiastic children. These 20- and 30-somethings who have never read a book were raised to excel in "critical thinking," but they are amusingly bad at it. Anyone can write a decontextualized story about a person or a group having "ties" to any malicious foreign power because having "ties" is what it means to exist somewhere in the sinuous continuum of depersonalized financial accretion that is late capitalism.

Freedom of Speech in Peril

Some of these results are more disturbing than others, but the worst of them are quite disturbing.

Some of the shock value comes from the difference between the headline and the actual question asked. "Is supporting racists' free speech the same as holding racist views yourself?" is, strictly speaking, a logical question: you can determine the answer by building a truth table. Obviously they are not the same thing, and it would be deeply alarming to have a majority or near-majority come back saying that the clearly false proposition was true. What the survey actually asked was whether supporting racists' free speech was "as bad as" holding racist views. That's a different proposition. It's sad, in America, to see that so many people view defending freedom of speech to be actively immoral if the speech is bad. All the same, it's not a logical problem; it's a disagreement about whether freedom of speech is a good.

I think there's a similar issue with the question of whether "disrespectful" people do or don't deserve free speech rights. The actual question asks not about "disrespectful people," but about "people who don't respect others." That's not quite the same thing; you can be disrespectful in some senses without failing to respect the humanity of the person you're addressing disrespectfully. For example, you might be correcting them. Your disrespectful speech is then pointed at their actions, which are not necessarily respectable, and not their humanity. Someone who "does not respect others" is guilty of not respecting their humanity, which is a stronger offense. (For a Kantian, it is the basic moral offense.)

All that said, this points up a very deep division on a very basic and classically American right. That's a problem however you cut it.

Scary, Scary Halloween

What's the most terrifying thing you can be this Halloween? A white guy with a pickup truck that has a Gadsden flag license plate on the front.

The very stuff of nightmares!

In Health Insurance News...

This August I was forced off my existing plan again, so I bought another plan from Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Georgia. Yesterday, I was informed by mail that this plan will be canceled at the end of December, due to changing regulations. I will need to find a new plan by January 1.

Some on the left sometimes claim that the economy functions because of the reliability of the regulatory regime created by good government. This idea is demonstrably false: even though economies are improved by having a few good government measures like enforceable contracts, economic activity originates before governments and survives their collapse. Go out on some frontier, and you'll find people trading what they have for what others have that they need; go to a failed state like Somalia, and you'll find the same thing.

Still, the capacity of government regulation to provide stability and reliability is supposed to be one of its selling points. "HA!" SAYS I. I've never seen instability in a market like this. In addition to plans being ruled legal and illegal willy-nilly, there is the even greater issue of price instability. My costs have already quadrupled with the plan I started on in August. I can't wait to see how much more I'll be expected to pay for roughly the same health insurance next year!

Son of Ugly

That's what "MacLeod" means, you might not have known.

Mabinogion- Mapping Welsh Myth and Legend

Somehow or other, my wanderings about the internet brought me across this map- a beautifully rendered watercolor of Wales in the myth and legend of the Mabinogion. 

Now, I must confess, my knowledge of Welsh myth and legend is sparse to say the least, mainly echoes through Tolkien and what little knowledge I have of Arthurian legend.  I was completely unaware of the Mabinogion, but will say that this artwork has piqued my interest.

The artist is Margaret Jones, and she has done a fantastic job with this map, and is apparently also the illustrator of an edition of the Mabinogion.  The poster itself doesn't seem to be widely available but it is out there (I found a couple of places) if you want it.  I just might have to get one myself.