A 22-year-old loses zheir innocence

I'm going to report on a point of view, but first, I denounce myself for not taking an approved point of view about it. It's like . . . it's like . . . who was that again?  Hitler, that's it.

I'd like to think that Ms. Shepherd is getting an early wake-up call.  You can drop a crucifix in a glass of urine because everyone knows we have to be neutral, but some kinds of neutrality are beyond the pale.  In fact, if adopted with 18-year-old college students, they're tantamount to child abuse.

Just listen to this young woman struggling to control her tears while she insists on an old-fashioned non-Kafkaesque argument from her betters.  I like her fully woke conclusion:
"Moral of the story: A university must be repeatedly publicly shamed, internationally, in order to apologize," Ms. Shepherd said in a tweet.
"Also, make sure to secretly record all meetings or they won't take you seriously."

Swamp tactics

From Thomas Farnan:
What do you call a system of government that cannot tolerate a transition of power without corrupt machinations by those unwilling to cede control? Banana Republic is a term that comes to mind.

Turtles all the way down

I'm working very hard right now to get to the bottom of a number of confusing local issues with a complicated history.  It was a pleasure, therefore, to read the clear-thinking columnist Holman Jenkins on some basic issues about reliable sources:
Splitting is . . . a method of columnists. Example: All true things about Donald Trump are bad, all bad things about Donald Trump are true.
* * *
Splitting columns write themselves, and tend toward lists, as if piling up claims is a substitute for examining them. So Christopher Steele was said to be a “credible” ex-spy, though unasked is what exactly he was in a position to be credible about: only that he faithfully relayed claims made by his source’s sources to his sources, and a little bit about how this game of telephone was set in motion—i.e., money was dished out.
Once upon a time, no reputable paper would print a sensational claim from a source who won’t vouch for its truth, who got it from a source he won’t identify, who got it from a source he can’t or won’t identify, and all were paid.
Citing Mr. Steele’s credibility was not even a competent appeal to authority, since his credibility derives from a profession that specializes partly in disinformation.

I Don't Know About the Contents, but the Label Sure Looks Good

Ravage wines- just randomly came across an advertisement for it- I have no idea about the contents of the bottle, though I like a good Cabernet Sauvignon, but the label sure has my interest...

Might even be good for an evening in due to snow.

Frozen Georgia

In line with Tex, we are also receiving wintry weather. What a beautiful day! The flakes are thick and soft, as lovely a snowfall as I've ever seen. Nor can I recall snow in December in my home state.

Outside from fireside.

Snow has bent down the bush by the stone circle.

I hope all of you who are fortunate enough to enjoy this weather are able to make the most of it.

Frozen wastelands

The view from our neighbor's yard toward our back porch.  A few months ago, you wouldn't have been able to see our house from there at all.

And from the opposite side of the house, close up.  What could be more beautiful than a warm, lit-up house in the snow?  You can see the pergola we're just starting to build, and some startled banana trees near the stairs.

Macrobrewery and Microbrewery Joust

This was followed by the microbrewery Modist Brewing releasing a beer called "Dilly Dilly."

This in turn was followed, just hours after the beer's release, by Bud Light sending a town crier to the Modist HQ to read a medieval-ish 'cease and desist' request that the beer be kept to a limited run. You can watch the video of the crier reading the cease and desist letter at the Modist headquarters at the GOMN website.

"Dilly Dilly" is, of course, selling out rapidly.

Modist Brewing's "Whoa Dilly" FAQ on the event

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Just recently Elise and I were discussing this doctrine.
I am reminded of the example of Mary, of whose consent to be the mother of God is made much by at least Catholic theology. The whole concept of the "Immaculate Conception" is not that Mary conceived while remaining 'immaculate' (i.e., viriginal), but rather that Mary herself was conceived in a way that kept her clean of original sin. This was done by God, according to the doctrine, just so that she could consider and consent to carrying Jesus. God didn't want to impose this on Mary, as my favorite nun explained it to me; he wanted someone he could ask, who had the right kind of conscience to consider.
The history of the feast day is a surprisingly interesting story.

Answered Prayers

Via the Onion.


There's snow approaching the Texas Coast Bend tonight.  We locals are, shall we say, unprepared for this development.

We have a tiny aged dog who doesn't regulate her body temperature well these days.  She's been crashed in front of the cozy fire on a pillow since yesterday.  It really is raw, wet, and windy.

A Great Speech from a Law Professor

The 'cluck like a chicken' part is merely funny; the speech itself is truly worthy from an educator.

A Second Special Counsel?

In the comments to a post below, Douglas endorses this Hugh Hewitt piece: "A special counsel needs to investigate the FBI and Justice Department. Now."

State of Play

Wretchard, after noting yesterday's Obama speech in which the former president invoked McCarthy, Nixon, and Hitler, describes our current affairs.
After a period of sheer disbelief these liberal revolutionaries are now going head to head with the Deplorable rebels.... Which will win has yet to be determined by history. All one can do is compare their present strengths and strategies. In the matter of strength there should be no contest. A survey of federal government employees have the liberals over the Deplorables by almost 19 to 1. Over 99% of Department of Education employees backed Hillary. Trump's best showing was in the Department of Defense -- and even there Hillary had 84% of contributions. Add to this the liberal dominance in the media (93%) and academe (92%) and in Big Silicon and it should be a case of progressive Goliath walking over conservative David.

Yet for a variety of reasons the contest is much closer than the liberal project could have been imagined.... the inability of the Resistance to generate net thrust is indirect confirmation the toxic lying, wasteful spending, institutional incompetence and ideological madness of which they have been accused is at least partially true.
His conclusion is that the Resistance is conducting an internal purge to strengthen its unity by eliminating some of the contesting factions. The problem is that they have to go on to win an election next year with a narrowed appeal: purging the Clinton faction may drive some voters away.

There's a cost, too, in using Deep State assets like highly-placed elite-educated bureaucrats at the FBI. The cost is partially institutional, but it may also turn the field agents against their leadership. The issue is one of honor:
Flashback to Miami, April 11, 1986. Eight agents make a felony stop on a car with two suspected bank robbers, igniting a firefight that demonstrated the bravery and devotion that should be what first comes to mind when any American thinks of the FBI.

William Russell Matix and Michael Lee Platt were ex-military and had killed before – and they packed an arsenal that ensured they were not going quietly. The FBI agents, lightly armed with under-powered handguns and a couple 12 gauges – came under intense rifle fire that the light vests some wore could not stop. In the end, seven of the eight agents were hit – and Special Agent Benjamin Grogan and Special Agent Jerry Dove died fighting....

His forearm shattered by a .223 rifle slug, Special Agent Edmundo Mireles, Jr. (no surprise, a former Marine from Texas), pumped his Remington 870 shotgun with his one good arm again and again as he engaged the criminals. His buddies dead or wounded all around him, bleeding out, Mireles then drew his .357 and advanced on the pair, in the open and totally exposed, as they attempted to drive away in one of the FBI cars. He put six magnum slugs into the criminals and finally put them down.

Matix took six hits to kill, Platt a dozen. And Mireles? This hero went back on the job, and actually worked with my former battalion commander Colonel (Ret.) Bill Wenger in Afghanistan in the 2000s on assignment there for the FBI. Now that’s a patriot. Now that’s what the real FBI is all about....

That’s the courage that these desk-riding bums in Washington are dishonoring every time they sell their souls and their honor to kiss up to skeevy politicians.
There's just a chance that those imbalanced figures in political support could change. Honor matters, especially to the kind of guys who become FBI field agents or pursue a career in the military. But there are competing honor claims on the other side, too: claims that the Deplorables represent something inherently dishonorable.
What this means is that the universal adoption of “Trump Era” by intellectuals and journalists bodes ill for any kind of gathering of the clans. The term is entirely pejorative and implies a disease called Trumpism that must be stamped out or—since it’s an era and not a stage—stoically endured. No one who uses “Trump Era” is saying, “Now that the people of West Texas have spoken, let’s pay more attention to their needs and beliefs so that the great melting pot of America can be reunited.” They’re still deplorables. They’re still expendable.
So that's where we are, as 2017 draws closer to a close.

Post Traumatic Growth

A good piece from a soldier.
You see, despite what you hear, veterans don’t always end up disordered from their experiences. From what I have seen, more often than not, veterans grow stronger after their struggles. They experience post-traumatic growth. I did.

At home, my family grew stronger too. My wife struggled with her own job and a firstborn who was prone to ear infections and fevers. We spoke as often as we could on a scratchy USO line, but of course, it wasn’t nearly enough. She was alone for two birthdays and two Christmases, yet she persevered. I returned home after 15 months to a walking, talking boy and a marriage that had been strengthened by sacrifice on both sides.

The Feast of St. Ambrose

We get fewer of them the closer we get in Advent to Christmas. But tomorrow is a big one: be prepared for it.

Today is St. Ambrose.
St. Ambrose (340-397) was born at Treves in Gaul, a territory which embraced modern France, Britain, Spain, and part of Africa. He studied in Rome and later became governor of Liguria and Aemelia with residence at Milan. While supervising the election of a new bishop of Milan in 374, he himself was suddenly acclaimed the bishop. He was only a catechumen at the time. He was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop on Dec. 7. He wrote much on the Scriptures and Fathers, preached a homily every Sunday, resisted the interference of the secular powers with the rights of the Church, opposed the heretics, and was instrumental in bringing about the conversion of St. Augustine.

The Feast of St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of "sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students." Perhaps a few Congressmen, then, if they ever repent.

Of course he is of great importance to our understanding of Christmas.
In late medieval England, on Saint Nicholas' Day parishes held Yuletide "boy bishop" celebrations. As part of this celebration, youths performed the functions of priests and bishops, and exercised rule over their elders. Today, Saint Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European and Central European countries. According to one source, in medieval times nuns used the night of 6 December to deposit baskets of food and clothes anonymously at the doorsteps of the needy. According to another source, on 6 December every sailor or ex-sailor of the Low Countries (which at that time was virtually all of the male population) would descend to the harbour towns to participate in a church celebration for their patron saint. On the way back they would stop at one of the various Nicholas fairs to buy some hard-to-come-by goods, gifts for their loved ones and invariably some little presents for their children. While the real gifts would only be presented at Christmas, the little presents for the children were given right away, courtesy of Saint Nicholas. This and his miracle of him resurrecting the three butchered children made Saint Nicholas a patron saint of children and later students as well.[51]

Santa Claus evolved from Dutch traditions regarding Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas). When the Dutch established the colony of New Amsterdam, they brought the legend and traditions of Sinterklaas with them.[52] Howard G. Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York existed in the early settlements of the Hudson Valley, although by the early nineteenth century had fallen by the way.[53] St. Nicholas Park, located at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and 127th Street, in an area originally settled by Dutch farmers, is named for St. Nicholas of Myra.[54]
It is thus fitting to feast in celebration of him during the Advent.

The Center of the World

DB: New 'Counterinsurgency' Video Game

Sounds realistic.
“You could be in the middle of stability operations in a nearby province, and a disillusioned soldier will desert his post or leak classified documents,” Cevalos explained, referring to unscripted incidents that can happen during gameplay. “And don’t be surprised if your best troops with fleshed-out skill trees quit the military and get replaced with inept morons.”

Making things worse, the insurgents are often indistinguishable from neutral non-playable characters, making accidental civilian deaths practically unavoidable. This problem is compounded by vindictive locals falsely accusing their rivals of being guerrillas, while others have no interest in ratting out their insurgent friends and family....

At press time, a leaked memo has revealed that the only way to win the game is by carpet-bombing the entire country.

Assessing Character in Politicians

Part of my problem with the arguments I've seen that character is important in political candidates like Roy Moore is that they focus on "our party's" candidate, which is a form of tribalism. Another part is that they seem to separate policy positions from character, as if support for a particular government policy tells us nothing about the character of the politician.

Focusing on the character of "our" candidate but ignoring the character of "their" candidate is tribalist. "Policing our own" is another way to put it, and that is one aspect of tribalism. It means that it's OK to have a wicked one of "them" in office because he or she wouldn't reflect on "us," whereas a wicked one of "us" is unacceptable because he or she would be associated with us and we don't want to be identified with wickedness. (Unless we're from Boston.)

The non-tribal way of treating character as important is to assess the character of all of the candidates by the same criteria. So, when we think about character in the current Alabama senate election, we need to assess the characters of both Roy Moore and Doug Jones and make the decision based on that direct comparison, forgetting the D and R tribes for the moment.

This presents us with another problem I have with recent articles arguing against Moore based on his character: Character cannot be separated from policy positions. Sure, there is a difference, but support for a particular policy is one expression of character. Supporting / opposing racist policies says something about character. Pro-life / pro-choice positions say something about character. Views on the role of government in society say something about character. These positions may be hypocritical, publicly endorsed but privately violated, but that also tells us about character. Policy positions are expressions of character.

The attacks on Moore's character are unproven. Jones's policy positions, which speak to his character, he himself has publicly announced. It's difficult for me to see why treating character as important leads to voting for Jones, who endorses what I consider to be infanticide and tyranny. That doesn't absolve Moore, but it does take character into serious consideration. Separating policy positions from considerations of character does not.

This kind of "policing our own" tribalism and the bizarre attempt to ignore the implications of policy positions for character weaken the arguments against Moore in my mind.

Both Things Could Be True

We are having an interesting discussion about the President, the Constitution, and obstruction of justice. I don't see anything wrong with Andy McCarthy's argument that the President can't commit obstruction by ordering Federal police to exercise discretion. As he says, the FBI/DOJ is not a separate branch of the Federal government. They exist as an arm of the executive branch, whose powers are all invested in whomever the President happens to be. The President may choose to let the Department of Justice operate independently, but it has no constitutional standing to insist on doing so.

In large part, that is because the Founders never intended the Federal government to have the general police power: that was to go to the states, or be reserved by the People. The Constitution does not imagine a Federal police agency with anything like the FBI's reach or jurisdiction: even the Secret Service only dates to the end of the Civil War. The idea that the Federal government should have a police agency that could go anywhere and arrest anyone -- let alone spy on them in the myriad ways that our Federal government does -- is nowhere imagined. Controls on those powers were never set by the Founders, because the powers were never granted by the Founders. Controls were never set by an amendment seeking new authority from the People, because no authority was asked. These powers were arrogated by the government to itself.

The spying powers in particular were done so behind walls of classification. The citizenry never voted to grant the Federal government those powers. The citizenry never even knew what powers were being assumed. Nor could they, of course, without greatly weakening the security the state hoped to gain for them by assuming these powers: a public debate on the propriety of this spying would mean informing the enemy, not just the citizenry, of the capacity for the spying.

By the same token, David Frum is not wrong to argue that this is dangerous and that it could lead to unacceptable results. He is only wrong to argue that, since there is a danger of unacceptable use of power, the power must not exist. Yes, the President is invested with a great deal of power; perhaps it is more than is wise. We can change that via the Article V amendment processes, or by throwing out the Constitution and writing another one.

All the same, consider the remedy more carefully. Do we really want this vast security state untethered from any elected official? Congress cannot run it in the place of the President; as today's Contempt of Congress resolution shows, they cannot even compel compliance with basic oversight requests even when the President would like the agencies to comply. Formalizing this independence, which is already too great to be safe, would mean taking the last chains off a demon.

Could the courts control these agencies where they decide they need to be independent from their elected officials? Of course not: the enforcement of the courts' orders already depends on the police.

Cassandra was just reminding us that sometimes there aren't good answers or easy solutions. Perhaps this is one of those cases. But as dangerous as a corrupt President might be, should we find ourselves (again) with one, at least there is a formal control on him in the form of the Article I impeachment power. The police need to be tightly chained to the President because a President can be removed and replaced. Loosing a mighty demon to protect us from Donald Trump is, as the metaphor intends to suggest, a devil's bargain.

A Great Day in History

Today the 18th Amendment was repealed, ending Prohibition. Now if we could just get rid of the 16th and 17th Amendments too, that'd be a good start.

Contempt of Congress

It's curious that a Republican administration isn't complying with a Republican Congress' orders on an investigation friendly to that administration. I'm guessing that the Department of Justice and the FBI have a lot to hide here -- and as much from the President as from Congress.

An independent law enforcement branch that is neither responsive nor responsible to the elected branches is an alarming thing to behold.


The press has a penchant for reporting "Trump administration rolls back policy instituted by Barack Obama in his last days in office" as if restoring the order Obama himself maintained through seven-and-a-half years of his presidency is an unprecedented act of barbarity. The news at NPR today: "Trump Orders Largest National Monument Reduction In U.S. History"!

Well, only two monuments are being reduced -- and reduced, not eliminated. Of those two, one was created in whole cloth by Barack Obama in the final days of his office. (The other dates to a similarly late project by Bill Clinton.) There's no reason that a policy instituted by one administration shouldn't be reconsidered by another. As the NPR article eventually gets around to noticing, rural Utah has been fuming about the Clinton-era designation ever since it happened. The Federal designation means they can't do the things they have traditionally done on the land anymore.

Nevertheless: "This arbitrary review and illegal action will not go unchallenged," said Nicole Croft, executive director of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners.

Illegal, is it? The same way restoring the military recruitment policy of the last 43 & 7/8ths Presidents was unconstitutional? Right.

Turning over rocks

I came to the decision to run for local office with much reluctance.  (And you should hear my husband on the subject.  I think we can be sure he won't be standing around on podiums gazing at me with admiring support, or pressing the flesh at community gatherings.  I get the impression he doesn't enjoy crowds.)

Nevertheless, having concluded I had to step up and that was that, I have found that there are some compensations.  There's an endless fascination in finding out how things work.  Whether it's getting a chance to look inside a water treatment plant or learning where local government gets its powers and funding and seeing how the roads get paved and the trash gets picked up, the hidden mechanisms all around us are a constant source of joy and learning.  God made me a curious person and a quick study.  It's good to put it to use.

What I'm seeing is that the ramshackle machine that makes the trains run is staffed with equal amounts of people who have no clue and people of amazing competence and good character.  You have to find the latter and minimize the damage from the former.  The trick of politics seems to be to encourage a system that makes both of those tasks easier.

Texas has a funny wrinkle in its criminal prosecution system.  Normally a State District Attorney handles criminal cases for several rural counties, while a County Attorney in each county handles civil matters, including advising the County Commissioners on their contracts and their statutory duties and powers.  The Texas State legislature can, however, grant a county's (inexplicable) request to opt out of the local State DA system and give criminal prosecution powers over to the County Attorney.  From then on, the local DA will stay out of your county and perhaps lose interest in your problems.  If your County Attorney's background is, say, real estate, that may not seem like such a great idea.  If in addition she is given to obscure, intractable quarrels with the local police force and suddenly announces that she will prosecute no further cases referred by that body, things come unwound pretty quickly.  Suddenly we all have to turn to the thorny question, "How does one remove a sitting County Attorney, especially without any cooperation from a Commissioners Court that apparently doesn't see the problem?"  It's become a lively Facebook discussion, which I call a healthy thing.

My campaign is largely summed up in what is supposed to be George Washington's warning about fire being a dangerous tool and a terrible master.  We get a lot of droughts here; people who let their "controlled burns" get out of control come in for a lot of squinty-eyed ill humor.  I tell my prospective voters that, when you're thinking of handing over a new power to your elected officials, it's like setting a fire.  You don't do it until you've cleared a little area around the fire pit and gotten a water hose charged and ready.  Before we elect someone, not only should we find out a lot about his character and abilities, we should get conversant with the procedures for booting him back out of office.  Do we have recall elections?  What about impeachment?  Who has standing to get one of these procedures started?  How hard is it?  Do we have to go to court?  When will he be up for re-election?  How long does it take to get ready to run someone to challenge him?

From Facebook I judge that most people look at a situation like this and think "I'll write to the Governor," or may "to the Attorney General."  No great harm in that, but it discharges a sense of urgency without being very likely to produce results.  I keep coming back to the old lesson that there is not, and never will be, any substitute for people to organize and rule themselves, starting locally.  We can govern ourselves, or we will be governed.  As Benjamin Franklin said,  "A republic, if you can keep it."

It's also occurred to me lately that there's a swath of the Republican party that divides the world into "golf cronies" and "pool boys."  For me that's the GOPe in a nutshell.  What I want to know about a neighbor is:  Does he take responsibility for himself?  Can his neighbors count on him?  I have many neighbors I can count on, and it's not their incomes or their wardrobes that make the difference.

Scott Lynch's "Locke Lamora" Novels

One of my regular laments is that the genre of Sword & Sorcery has withered in recent years. This genre, which predates Tolkien's High Fantasy, grew out of some turn-of-the-last-century stories "set in exotic locations" and therefore mixing physical adventure with dark powers. By the time of the Great Depression, it has blossomed into its most famous flowering: the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, which were only a small part of a whole world and deep history of his imagination. About the same time, the other great master of the genre began crafting the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories. The genre was related to another offshoot of the earlier tales, the Horror genre characterized by Cthulhu; but in Sword & Sorcery stories, the heroes could overcome eldritch beasts through steel, wit, and courage.

Sword & Sorcery lacks most of the moral force of the Tolkien's High Fantasy, but it is in a sense more joyous and primal. It is that quality that, sadly, is lacking in the works of Scott Lynch, the first writer I've run into in a while to attempt it. His stories are almost entirely lacking in the joy that gave Fafhrd 'the laugh of the Elder Gods,' or the primal confidence that gave Conan the ferocity to contest demons with cold steel. I read Lynch's three books, hoping he might discover the power of the thing as he played with it; I am sorry to say that he did not.

Lynch's cities are well-drawn, and he has a place for eldritch magic that somehow comes to play little role beyond providing interesting architecture. His heroes are riddled with guilt and loathing, of themselves if they are male. Lynch is of the current fashion that has wholeheartedly adopted feminism as moral truth; female characters are invariably confident and accomplished in a way that his men never are, and yet retain adequate bitter loathing to lecture at length -- whole pages at a time in the third book -- on how unfair the world is to their sex. The books are blurbed by George R. R. Martin, and for good reason: they share his penchant for killing off sympathetic characters in horrible ways, but to no real point.

As a consequence the books are a slog to read rather than a pleasure, and I am sure I will not return to them the way I have to the classics of the genre. I am planning to give the whole set away in the hope that someone else may like them better.


The new fascists

Sebastian Gorka on the bizarre treatment he gets from the press:
My father, as a young boy at the age of 13, escorted his fellow schoolmates to school in Budapest during the German occupation because his fellow schoolmates were forced to wear the yellow Star of David as Jews. And my father, as a Catholic young 14-year-old, protected them from getting beaten up or spat on by the German forces occupying Budapest.
And for them to then accuse me of having some kind of extreme right-wing tendency … you don’t get to call yourself a journalist and lie that badly, but it tells you the state of journalism in America today. But I think that’s going to change.

First Sunday of Advent

Irish Medieval History has an account of the use of "X" as a Christian symbol.