An Exception to AVI's Title Rule

AVI has stated a general principle that the titles of satirical articles generally are much funnier than the actual articles. Not so this time: the title is simply, "Opinion: We were winning when we left."

Pope To Tear Down Vatican City Wall

Well, no. Not really. Just everyone else's, if he can.
Pope Francis urged political leaders on Monday to defend migrants, saying their safety should take precedence over national security concerns and that they should not be subjected to collective deportations....

Calling for “broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally,” he said the human rights and dignity of all migrants had to be respected regardless of their legal status.

“The principle of the centrality of the human person ... obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security,” he said.
That's a principled argument against armies, too: nobody should put themselves in a position of being personally harmed to protect an unfeeling thing like 'a nation.' Right?

Well, no. It turns out that national security implies a greater degree of personal security than otherwise. The reason to have a nation is that it protects -- it protects citizens and their rights. If the nation fails, the rights are endangered and the citizens are in danger. They might be oppressed by anyone who comes over the horizon with a strong force and/or bigger guns.

The nation provides this security, and in it a kind of human flourishing becomes possible that is not possible without that security. That's why, Aristotle argues, the state has a kind of priority even over the family (let alone the individual). It is why nations were long thought, and in many places are still thought, to have a right to draft citizens to serve or even die in defense of the whole if necessary.

A more sophisticated solution is needed here. The principle of the centrality of the human person isn't a bad principle; it really is individuals who suffer, not collectives. But the other problems don't go away just because we recognize that fact; and a lot more individuals may end up suffering, for that matter, if their nations are allowed to fail.

Government Somewhat Less Unconstitutional Than Previously

Thanks, against everything you'd expect from the normal news sources, to the Trump administration.


As the year draws to a close, and with the new year looming before us, it's a time to try to gain a little perspective on ourselves and our place in the world.  I've always been interested in issues of scale and how to better understand (and communicate) these ideas.  Things like the classic Charles and Ray Eames movie "Powers of Ten" which portrayed the sense of scale from human to the universe and then back down to the microscopic in jumps of powers of ten (at 10 to the 24th meters- 100 million light years across- "this emptiness is normal, the richness of our own neighborhood is the exception"), and "The Paper Clips Project" which was a middle school project which sought to collect six million paper clips to give a sense of the scale of what it meant when one said the abstract words "six million Jews died in the Holocaust", have fascinated me.  Of course, I was one of those kids who believed that when you rode "Adventure Through Inner Space" in Tomorrowland at Disneyland, you really shrank! - well, at least until my brother reached out and touched the giant "snowflake" and said "It's not even cold!".

I found a couple of things more recently that give some interesting bases for scale that might offer some slightly different perspectives than we usually consider around this time.

"If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel" is a fascinating webpage that has the solar system to a "tediously accurate scale" with the Moon being = 1 pixel.  Worth remembering that our solar system is actually a fairly dense space relative to interstellar space (which is the majority of the universe).  Don't cheat and use the planet shortcut at the top of the page- scroll manually or you'll miss some amusing commentary and more importantly, the fuller experience of scrolling your way through the vast spaces between the brief encounters with something in our solar system.

"10,000 Year Clock" is the website for an interesting Earth art project that has set out to reframe time a bit to something outside the normal human scale.  I think this project is fascinating, and not least because I think if we had a better feel for the length of time it really takes for things to change, we'd learn to not worry so much about radical change in the short term, and focus on the smaller changes we can more effectively do ourselves in the time and space local to our lives.

So here's to a year past, hopefully one of growth- and to a year ahead- one of promise and opportunity.  May we see our place and make the most of it while we are there.

Songs for New Year's Eve

May God keep you for the next year to come. Not that there are any guarantees on this night, or any night.

But if you're a good drinking man, well, it's a fine night. Let's have some music from when I was... well, very young indeed.

It was 1973 when Waylon Jennings grew his beard; he'd been clean-shaven before that. Everyone was, who was of any account. 1973 was when it started to shift from the consensus. There still hasn't been a President with a beard, not since Benjamin Harrison.

From the same year, Johnny Cash sang a piece about the family coming together after death is transgressed:

AVI's recent post on a song of a similar age reminded me of how much better -- demonstrably, positively better -- the old music used to be. Even the stuff I don't especially like is head and shoulders above what is popular today. Not as a matter of opinion, but one of fact: for the people who did things I don't like in the 1970s nevertheless knew how to do them. They didn't just show up at a studio without talent or skill, trusting the computers and the engineers to clean up their ignorance.

Old Willie Nelson, for example:

The recently deceased Roy Clark:

But a completely different song, on the same thing, from the noble Clancy Brothers:

Drinc Hael. Waes Hael. Happy New Year, brothers and sisters.

BBC Pidgin

Did you know that the BBC has a pidgin-language website? It turns out that this year's Miss Africa pageant was quite exciting.
Miss Africa 2018: Miss Congo hair catch fire plus oda tins wey happun for dis year event

...Di event almost turn sometin else wen di new queen her hair catch fire as she bin dey do her celebration waka but some organizers behind di scene don come out say na wig she bin dey wear.

Di fire start afta fire works wey dem no do well fall for her hair.
I always love it when I realize I can read another language. They are of course close variants of languages I know: I can read English, so with some practice at sounding it out I realized I could read Middle English with very little work. I can read French, so it wasn't too hard to learn to get the sense of Spanish -- but I was really pleased to realize that I could kind of work out some Romanian, which is a Romance language in spite of the relatively large distance. (Portuguese was harder than Spanish, easier than Romanian. Of course idiomatic expressions will catch you in all of these cases.)

So add Pidgin to the list. It's fun.

Chess art

I was supposed to be looking for something else, but these chessmen caught my eye, along with dozens of other insanely beautiful sets featured in the lengthy article.

Shutdown day 3

Don't get in their way

These dogs seem into it.

From a site called "Design You Trust."  Lots of interesting things there.

Hogmanay Rising

The fire festival is close at hand. Someday I hope to go to Scotland for it, but thus far it has not worked out.
In Shetland, where the Viking influence remains strongest, New Year is still called Yules, deriving from the Scandinavian word for the midwinter festival of Yule.

It may surprise many people to note that Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. The reason for this dates back to the years of Protestant Reformation, when the straight-laced Kirk proclaimed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast, and as such needed banning.

And so it was, right up until the 1950s that many Scots worked over Christmas and celebrated their winter solstice holiday at New Year when family and friends would gather for a party and to exchange presents which came to be known as hogmanays.

There are several traditions and superstitions that should be taken care of before midnight on the 31st December: these include cleaning the house and taking out the ashes from the fire, there is also the requirement to clear all your debts before “the bells” sound midnight, the underlying message being to clear out the remains of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.
I wonder if the lack of Christmas is less compatible with America, or the idea of annually clearing all one's debts. The latter, I suppose.

Holiday Travels

I have just returned from the ancestral homeland in east Tennessee, where I visited with both my father's and mother's people. The Newfound Gap was open on the way over, and we stopped to have a snowball fight. However, the park service decided to close it before my return trip, which added a very substantial detour in the pouring rain. I was grateful to finally return home late last night.

Visiting family more-or-less annually over decades, you begin to think you notice patterns in lives that begin in the same place but show marked divergence. I think religious observance must be quite important to holding one's life together, as even the more annoyingly evangelical of my relatives have flourished markedly over the less-religious ones. The most intellectually sophisticated have not flourished, not even relatively speaking; but the ones who go to church do, for whatever reason or set of reasons. Education correlates with success only somewhat. Hard work does not; laziness is often rewarded by luck, or simply by the virtue of being happy with less. Although I should add that those who have pursued higher education and self-disciplined hard work to the greatest degree of success are also religiously observant, so perhaps I don't have a large enough set to tease out the details.

Perhaps you have similar observations, or divergent ones.

White papers with teeth

Why do right-wing intellectuals hate Trump, and by extension capitalism?
In the case of the anti-Trump right-wing intellectual, however, the genealogy of their disgust is slightly different. Rather than being possessed of the silly notion that the world will be just like school, they are possessed of a different, but no less silly, notion: that politics is just their insular conferences played out in public and backed by law, or their white papers given teeth—but that, in the final analysis, there’s no substantive difference between statesmanship and academia.

On the Feast of Stephen

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

The Wren Song: With Liza Minnelli

Poor lass, she's hardly mentioned. But she's there, featured a moment among minor deities of the Celtic pantheon.

There's some bad songs woven in there, for those who know the history.

"As I was goin' to kill, and all..."

Happy St. Steven's Day.

UPDATE: If you're wanting a start on the bad songs, you can begin here.

Scenes of Christmas

Pastries, Croissant and Danish.

Closeup of the Danish pastries.

The hound of the hall sleeping near the fire.

The Feast of Christmas

Old comrade Joseph W. once said this was the carol he most associated with the Hall. It's a fine one.

But I like this song too, though it is perhaps more festive than observant.

And a couple more, one by Bach:

And another by the Baltimore Consort, this last done a few years ago at Trinity Church, London.

The peace of the Hall to all people of good will. Merry Christmas to you all.

Holiday mania tightens its steely grip

If I'd been getting some of this clickbait email a few weeks ago, I might be in even more crafty trouble than I already am.  This morning I am completely lost in ideas for dyeing plain paper in tea baths and producing cunning paper bows with sprigs of this and that from the back yard. (Also, fringe scissors.  But I already have some of those.)  Luckily, I have no more presents to wrap and only two days remain before Christmas.  But oh, my goodness, who could resist trying to make these woven stars?  Especially, who could resist who actually has vast great quantities of long paper strips in stock just at the moment?

Last night neighbors joined us for a holiday dinner of oysters Rockefeller, standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, pureed peas with mint and cilantro, and a salad with grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, and Stilton cheese.  Our guests arrived with a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, a grapefruit pie, and killer wines.  I was particularly taken with my husband's Yorkshire pudding, which is something like a croissant and dangerously easy to make, judging as a spectator:

I see this as a future breakfast food, a worthy competitor to biscuits.

We're bang on trend this year with "foraged" holiday decor.  (To be truly on-trend, we'd have to work "bespoke" in there.)  I found last week that greenbriar makes a good wreath or garland late in the season after its leaves have turned red, but its stems are still flexible:

The Extremist Knights of Columbus

Two of our least respectable Senators, Harris and Hirono, ask a Federal judicial candidate if his membership in the Knights of Columbus isn’t disqualifying.

Given that the Knights’ positions are mere Catholicism, that sounds suspiciously like a religious test for office. Such tests are forbidden by the Constitution that these Senators have taken an oath to defend and protect. I wonder if either of them know what it means to take an oath?

The Knights of Columbus do.

Merry Christmath


Tonight's solstice combines with a full moon and a meteor shower. I had planned to hike up to the top of the ridge and camp, in spite of the cold, in order to observe these wonders. Unfortunately, a snowstorm has blown in, and visibility is negligible.

So instead I shall sit by the fire indoors. I hope you have a good winter and a warm.

BB: 'Braveheart' to get All-Female Reboot

Lena Dunham will play the starring role of Willow Wallace, a "fierce Scottish she-warrior who don't need no man."

Co-stars include Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, and Beyonce. The band of female fighters will go on a brave quest to topple the patriarchy in 14th-century England... The majority of [their] army is, of course, slaughtered.


Paramount is hoping the film can make at least $10 at the box office, according to insiders.

The holly she bears a berry

Where I send thee

Every quartet needs a guy with a low growl.

When Joseph was an old man

When Joseph was an old man, an old man was he,
He married Virgin Mary, the Queen of Galilee.
And one day as they went walking, all in the garden green,
There were berries and cherries as thick as may be seen.
Then Mary said to Joseph, so meek and so mild:
"Joseph, gather me some cherries for I am with child."
The Joseph flew in anger, in anger flew he:
"Let the father of the baby gather cherries for thee."
Then up spoke baby Jesus, from out Mary's womb:
"Bow down ye tallest tree, that my mother might have some."
So bent down the tallest tree to touch Mary's hand.
Said she, "Oh look now Joseph, I have cherries at command."

Ezekiel 1:1-28

Or, Christmas dragons.

It's kind of a stretch, but I can see it.

The Syria Withdrawal

Without taking a position on the wisdom of the Syria withdrawal -- commentary is running strongly opposed, I notice -- I do think it poses an interesting challenge to the Republic. It's a common one with Donald Trump, the same one we've seen elsewhere. It is this: can an elected President defy the deep-set preference of the bureaucracy? If yes, however unwise a given decision, at least we still live in a Republic in which the people can alter the course of the government through elections. If no, well, the elected government may have become a kind of decoration (or, really, a decoy) for the real government.

So far the answer has been "no," but perhaps with repeated efforts this is changing. I hear the State Department has begun withdrawal efforts. The Pentagon seems to be dragging its feet so far.

Towards Feminine Strength

And against dependency. The author is a scholar of Shakespeare, so perhaps she has thereby learned something of human nature.

Speaking for the Nameless Dead

I'm not very pleased with the President's statement of today, in which he presumed to speak for the fallen. I think that speaking for the honored dead was once the place of the Dux Bellorum, the War-Leader, which was Arthur's original title before we deemed him a King. But this is no warrior, but a man who fled war with every stratagem he could devise. He has no right to speak for our dead, whatever office he may hold.

Well. At least he meant to honor them, for whatever that is worth. He did, after all, point up when referring to them. And I don't doubt his sorrow and dismay at having to call the families of those who have died in our service. It surely must be his hardest duty.

All the same, I am angry.

Fear of Evolution

Christians sorted it out by deciding that evolution and natural selection were mere mechanisms of God's will. What will the left do?
Evolutionary biology has always been controversial. Not controversial among biologists, but controversial among the general public.... The philosopher Daniel Dennett has described evolution as a sort of “universal acid” that “eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.” Fearing this corrosive idea, opposition in the US to evolution mainly came from Right-wing evangelical Christians who believed God created life in its present form, as described in Genesis....

At first, left-wing pushback to evolution appeared largely in response to the field of human evolutionary psychology. Since Darwin, scientists have successfully applied evolutionary principles to understand the behavior of animals, often with regard to sex differences. However, when scientists began applying their knowledge of the evolutionary underpinnings of animal behavior to humans, the advancing universal acid began to threaten beliefs held sacrosanct by the Left. The group that most fervently opposed, and still opposes, evolutionary explanations for behavioral sex differences in humans were/are social justice activists. Evolutionary explanations for human behavior challenge their a priori commitment to “Blank Slate” psychology—the belief that male and female brains in humans start out identical and that all behavior, sex-linked or otherwise, is entirely the result of differences in socialization.
I'll leave the rest of it to those of you who are grabbed by the problem.

Voter ID in NC

North Carolina passed a voter ID law once before; Federal courts struck it down. So the legislature came up with a proposal designed to avoid the courts' problems with the idea, and passed it again for a voter referendum. Voters approved it by a 55% count. The governor, a Democrat, vetoed the bill anyway.

Now, both houses of the North Carolina legislature have overridden the veto. Voter ID is once again the law of the state.

Naturally, within minutes of the veto override, a new lawsuit was filed against the new law.

Why are people so dead-set against the idea of proving that you're really the citizen who is entitled to cast a particular vote? I'd have to prove that I was really the guy called up for jury duty, or to serve if I were drafted, or for any other citizenship duty. The most obvious answer is fraud; we keep being told that it's not about fraud, but access. Yet the people who supposedly can't access the ID-obtaining mechanisms of state bureaucracy are disproportionately likely to successfully access the welfare-obtaining mechanisms of state and Federal bureaucracy. I'd think they could manage the one additional process.

In which case, I'm inclined to think it really is chiefly about enabling fraud. Lots of fraud. Lots more than they'd like to admit, and indeed lots more than they'd like us to imagine.

The Flynn Hearing

I don't know if you followed the Flynn sentencing hearing yesterday, but it was weird. Some analysts think Flynn was being handled by a vindictive judge; I'm not all sure. Judge Sullivan pushed Flynn hard on whether or not he really wanted to stick by his guilty plea in the light of the misconduct by the FBI, Comey, and Mueller's team that had been uncovered. Flynn flatly insisted in spite of several chances, so Sullivan took him at his word that he was guilty.

Then, he said something very surprising.
"You were an unregistered agent of a foreign country will serving as the National Security Adviser to the president of the United States!"

"Arguably this undermines everything this flag over here stands for!"
The judge went on to ask if this wasn't, arguably, treason.

It was not, the Special Counsel's own lawyers rushed to say. First, Flynn wasn't suspected of working for any foreign entity while at the White House. He had worked for Turkey before the election, while he was not employed by the government in any capacity. The issue was not one of being an 'agent' in the spy business sense, but an agent in the way that a lawyer is one's agent: he was a lobbyist.

In other words, the judge got the Special Counsel's office to clarify that the real offense has nothing to do with betraying the republic. It's just a matter of some paperwork Flynn didn't file, as required by law if you're going to lobby the government for a foreign interest.

The judge then apologized profusely for the accusation, saying he 'felt terrible' about it, and urging everyone to discount the question.

Jake Tapper notes, "Special Counsel Prosecutor Van Grack says Mueller's team has "no concern" or no reason to think Flynn committed treason."

Even Vox got out there clarifying that it is "baseless" to suggest Flynn guilty of treason. "He's not."

Ultimately Sullivan has done Flynn a huge favor, and maybe the whole Trump team as well. The whole "Russia" narrative has frequently been punctuated by cries of "Treason!"

Now we know there was no treason. The central figure in this, the guy without whom there'd be no Russia investigation and no Special Counsel, has been cleared of any such concerns by the Special Counsel's own statements in court.

The Downfall of Venezuela

Here is a study in the collapse of Caracas, a once flourishing city in a once flourishing nation. It is amazing that you could provoke an economic collapse in a place like Venezuela, where fertile soil and abundant rain are matched with equatorial sun; and where, on top of that, there is also a strong supply of oil wealth.

All the same, it happened.
A generation ago, Venezuela’s capital was one of Latin America’s most thriving, glamorous cities; an oil-fuelled, tree-lined cauldron of culture that guidebooks hailed as a mecca for foodies, night owls and art fans. Its French-built metro – like its restaurants, galleries and museums – was the envy of the region. “Caracas was such a vibrant city … You truly felt, as we used to say around here, in the first world,” says Ana Teresa Torres, a Caraqueña author whose latest book is a diary of her home’s demise....

[Today a]n economic cataclysm experts blame on ill-conceived socialist policies, staggering corruption and the post-2014 slump in oil prices has given Caracas the air of a sinking ship....

“Every day food is more expensive. Prices change from week to week. The expected inflation for next year is a million per cent,” Newton added, in fact underestimating official projections. “Just imagine that. A lot of people are going to simply die of hunger.”
A crucial part of the shift from wealth to starving to death was the banning of guns by the government. Then, having banned the guns, the government set up criminal gangs to beat the unarmed population into submission.
“Guns would have served as a vital pillar to remaining a free people, or at least able to put up a fight,” Javier Vanegas, 28, a Venezuelan teacher of English now exiled in Ecuador, told Fox News. “The government security forces, at the beginning of this debacle, knew they had no real opposition to their force. Once things were this bad, it was a clear declaration of war against an unarmed population.”

The “Control of Arms, Munitions and Disarmament Law,” with the explicit aim to “disarm all citizens” was enacted by the Venezuelan National Assembly in 2012, under the direction of then-President Hugo Chavez. The law ended legal sale of firearms to all but government entities...

To keep the citizens in line, government-backed motorcycle gangs, known as s “collectivos,” were created. So while the citizens were unarmed, the Chavez-created “collectivos” were legally armed by the powers that be, sowing violence wherever a protest might break out. The gangs were able to “brutally subjugate opposition groups” according to the Fox News report, but they also allowed fro some plausible deniability, as they weren’t officially government forces.

“They were set up by the government to act as proxies and exert community control. They're the guys on the motorcycles in the poor neighborhoods, who killed any protesters,” said Vanessa Neumann, the Venezuelan-American president and founder of Asymmetrica, a Washington, D.C.-based political risk research and consulting firm told Fox News.

“The gun reform policy of the government was about social control. As the citizenry got more desperate and hungry and angry with the political situation, they did not want them to be able to defend themselves. It was not about security; it was about a monopoly on violence and social control.”
Never surrender your arms. At the worst you'll die free and fighting, and in doing so you might save freedom for others as well.

Scapegoating and projection

In a Quillette article, the pseudonymous writer Lester Berg describes his bewilderment with leftist friends who attribute every personal disappointment to systemic abuse in general and Bad Orange Man in particular. I think he's describing the usefulness that makes scapegoating so popular as a political and psychological tool:
Here, at last, was somebody we could freely hate more that we hate each other or ourselves.
Isn't the same for hating the anonymous Jews who poisoned your well? Before they go completely around the bend and start shoving real individuals into gas chambers, most people find it hard to sustain that kind of venom about anyone with whom they are in personal contact. It's necessary to fix on some distant enemy who can be characterized as irretrievably evil, beyond the pale, outside all human norms of charity or civility.

If your life is awful and enough and you are too dishonest or cowardly to face what's wrong, then even if you don't have a Donald Trump in your life, it is essential to find one.  Otherwise you might have to talk to your lover, or your mother, or your boss about why you object, what price you will or won't pay to sustain the relationship, and what you're willing to do to fix it.  Sometimes we'll do anything to avoid telling someone face-to-face that we're angry and disappointed.  "I'm not mad at you!  I'm mad at Trump!"


If I lived somewhere that wouldn't instantly melt them, I'd definitely try these.


Bear Arms and Bare Arms

A Time To Go Home

Denmark declares at least parts of Somalia fit for refugees to return.
Following a review of the situation in Somalia, which began in 2017, residence permits will therefore be withdrawn for no less than 1,000 Somalis. “It is time for them to go home now,” Denmark states.

“If you no longer need our protection and your life and your health are no longer at risk in your homeland, you must of course return home and build up your country of origin”, says Minister for Migration Inger Støjberg, according to DR.
For those of you who can read Dansk, the original is here.

Seven Medieval Christmas Traditions wants to help if you'd like to do something very traditional. Your feast doesn't have to be fit for a king to be quite elaborate:
Even at a slightly lower level of wealth the Christmas meal was still elaborate. Richard of Swinfield, Bishop of Hereford, invited 41 guests to his Christmas feast in 1289. Over the three meals that were held that day, the guests ate two carcasses and three-quarters of beef, two calves, four does, four pigs, sixty fowls, eight partridges, two geese, along with bread and cheese. No one kept track of how much beer was drank, but the guests managed to consume 40 gallons of red wine and another four gallons of white.
There's quite a lot more, including Yule Goats and Icelandic Christmas Trolls.

Edward Abbey Was Right

I always liked Edward Abbey, and his anarchist tendencies aren't the thing I liked least about his work. In this piece, public lands advocate Amy Irvine writes a letter to the late author.
I think that we both understand the “other side” of this public-lands debate — by which I mean the self-proclaimed old-timers, the rural folk. Which is, of course, not the other side at all — not even the likes of Cliven Bundy and the guys who took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Most of today’s environmental groups won’t agree, but you might, when I say that sometimes I vote libertarian to help break up the country’s two-party gridlock, but also because I love the idea of what those guys did; I love the active resistance, the sticking it to institutions too large and lethargic to be effective. After all, the folks who have defied federal authority believe as you believed, that we might need the wild woolliness of the West “as a refuge from authoritarian government,” and “as bases for guerilla warfare against tyranny.”

The anti-federalist, Mormon part of me agrees with your words, their actions. But, for Bundy’s kind, the land’s not the thing either.... For me, it’s a matter of degrees. My grandfather, the other ranchers I’ve moved cows for — none of them sits on the extreme and hostile end of the spectrum. Besides, there are so few independent ranch outfits remaining they are hardly the main problem. But I’ll tell you what is:
I'll bet you won't guess what she comes up with.

Marines Testify Against Antifa

I guess their haircuts made them look like 'fascists' to some.
According to the Marines’ testimony, they were touring historical landmarks near Front and Chestnut streets when suspect Thomas Keenan approached them. Godinez testified that Keenan asked them “Are you proud?,” to which Godinez remembers responding “We are Marines.” Torres said that he remembers Keenan asking “Are you Proud Boys?,” an allusion to one of the alt-right groups behind the rally, and one that Torres said he didn’t understand. “I didn’t know what Proud Boys meant,” he said.

Whatever Keenan said, both Marines testified that Keenan, Massey, and approximately ten other people — men and women, some masked and some unmasked — then began attacking them with mace, punches, and kicks, and calling them “nazis” and “white supremacists.”

On the stand, Godinez said that he was “bewildered” by being called a white supremacist and immediately cried out, “I’m Mexican!” After that, as the attack continued, both men said that members of the group, including Keenan, repeatedly used ethnic slurs, including “spic” and “wetback,” against the Marines. (There was no testimony that Massey used any such language).
Relevant to yesterday's post about tools and equality, these Marines were at a substantial disadvantage because Marines today are small. Marines today are small because they adopted the Body Mass Index (BMI) standard some years ago, requiring Marines to maintain an "ideal" body weight even though professional athletes who engage in substantial strength training are often rated "overweight" or "obese" according to BMI. The Pentagon has been revising that policy, but its effects have been lasting, with only 2% of Marines qualifiying as 'overweight' under BMI. (Current policy allows high performers to be exempt from the fat/weight standards.)
Torres testified that Massey punched him “full force” repeatedly while he held his hands up above his face to protect himself, and the prosecutor used the opportunity to make it clear that while both Torres and Godinez are Marines, the suspects are significantly larger in both height and weight than the two of them.
Some of the Marines I knew back in the 1990s, before they went to the BMI standard, a small gang of no more than 10 or 12 would have hesitated to mess with those guys. Maybe we can get back to that.

15 Principles Against Economics

These are briefly stated objections to classical economic theory, which can be a powerful mode of criticism. Somewhat like the '95 Theses,' they intend to point out some glaring flaws in the way we think about markets. You may find some of them more successful than others.

Tools of Equality

A meditation on weakness as a relative state, and what can be done about that. What can be done, the author argues, is to carry a weapon. For many, the only weapon that equalizes is a handgun.

The foil here is Henry Rollins, a man of some good and some bad ideas. His devotion to personal strength as a source of self-actualization is worth hearing out. He wrote it down once, as a motivational speech, and here it is performed by someone else:

It turns out the argument isn't as simple as 'strong is better than weak.' The two authors have the same concerns. They are both concerned about attaining independence, overcoming fear, and being your own person in spite of others' violence and intimidation.

These are both the tools of equality, guns and weights. They are both ways of attaining different kinds of equality. The gun can make the small person equally capable of violence as the big one, and thus autonomous because they can no longer be pushed around. The weights bring autonomy by helping you to maximize your internal potential, which brings with it the confidence that you can survive and overcome challenges. It also brings a lot of practical independence: growing stronger makes you capable of carrying your own problems in very many ways.

My recommendation is to pursue both things.

'Bear arms, but also bare arms.'


Does being an independent human being, or even nation, make it easier or harder to get along with neighbors?  Arguing in Harper's, French novelist Michel Houellebecq stirs up the chattering class by suggesting that Trump's nationalism is a good thing:
Nationalists can talk to one another; with internationalists, oddly enough, talking doesn’t work so well.

That's what I call a mentor

They have got to be kidding me.

I'll bet these guys could solve a little problem like an under-26 student who needs better health insurance.

Honestly, it sounds like the more fevered variety of spy thriller novel.

The right to choose

A super-liberal friend called in distress yesterday.  Her husband abruptly left the job that has supplied her family with employer-based health insurance for years--but no problem, right?  She can just sign herself and her post-college under 26 son up for Obamacare coverage. (Yeah, I know, unconstitutional, but we'll get to that later.)  Was I aware that the sign-up procedures are arcane, the choices are expensive and substantively awful, the subsidies are illusory, the deadline is tomorrow?  Her son is in post-grad school in another state; all the options for a single plan for the two of them are limited to a single state, there are few choices left in the "market."  How can this be?

Why, yes.  You may recall my anguish of several years ago, which frankly you showed little understanding of at the time.  And if I'm not mistaken, you still support the party that brought you this policy and hundreds of others cut from the same deranged cloth.  (But . . . Trump!  Also, did you know that Republicans commit voting infractions, and indulge in gerrymandering?)

We talked for a long time about the few, bad options she had for making the most of this crisis.  I found myself continually erupting in fury over how bad the individual market had become.  Yes, I know it's bad!  What have I been telling you!  My friend had remained fundamentally unaware of it in two ways:  by ignoring my experience--who wants to talk about ugly things?--and by enjoying employer-based coverage, which was supposed to be gutted by Obamacare, but Congress made the correct political calculation that it should infinitely delay the effective date of the benign new system for employer-based insurance, which is to say most voters.  Congratulations:  you have joined the ranks of the 3-5 million Americans who are self-employed or who retired before Medicare age.  Congress didn't delay the effective date for you suckers.  You are such a small voting bloc that you don't matter, and you will find that your friends, especially the progressive ones, have no idea what's happening to you in this dilemma and care less.

There is a terrible temptation to schadenfreude, which I fight off for one minute and fall into the next.  This is a real human being I care about, and I don't want to enjoy her distress.  At the same time I am incandescently angry that she is still retreating into banalities about the need for "society" to solve its problem of "cruelty," like that terrible man who's separating babies from their mothers at the border, or people who oppose a woman's right to choose--actually arrogating to themselves the right to make moral choices for others!  And everything would be fine if we just had free health care, as the sensible humane countries do.

I'm afraid I unloaded on her.  Well, at least after all these years I found the courage to tell her I was very, very angry with her for continuing to support the social policies that ripped such a scary hole in our lives and which, as far as I'm concerned, lead inevitably to eating zoo animals in the name of compassion.  (Oh, yes, that's awful, isn't it?  If only we could solve the problems of cruelty with better education.)  At the same time, I know she supports horrible policies without malice.  She is not someone who can think through the practical impact of a government solution.  She wants one that feels compassionate, not one that demonstrably improves the evils she worries about.  She is an artist, a good one, and she simply does not approach the world that way.

I found myself telling my friend to write a check to a real human being in need, with her own money.  I'll give her credit:  she was more grieved than huffy.  She found a sudden need to get off the phone and deal with a car repairman, but I know she'll call back and try to mend fences.  At least the air of stifling unreality that had crept over our recent conversations lifted a bit.  Being angry with your oldest friend is not a good thing, but hiding it doesn't help.  It only makes your heart go dead, and makes you want to start ducking your friend's calls.


"Oh, What a Day! What a Lovely Day!"

UPDATE: Bwhahahaha

Nothing has been more destructive to my family's finances than this stupid law. I lost the plan they promised I could keep, and then lost the plans I got instead four or five times. It's increased our health care expenses by fivefold, while largely eliminating non-emergency use of services because we spend so much on the premiums that we can't afford the sky-high deductibles. Last year I spent more money on health insurance than on any other thing: more than my mortgage, more even than taxes. We can't use it, because we've already spent so much on the premiums; and if we do end up in an emergency room, that's all going to be out of pocket anyway.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

The Old Swedish Spirit

A professor of chemistry at Lund University got a message from one of her students, who was visiting his home in the Middle East, that he might not make it back to class because ISIS had taken his village.

Upset that one of her students was threatened in this way, she dispatched a team of mercenaries to rescue him and his family.

Now we're talking.

Mark Steyn on Progress

It's too long to excerpt, but it won't take you long to read. It does sound like significant progress has been made in New Jersey, assuming that "progress" is simply a synonym for "change."

BB: Oscars Committee Names New Host: Jordan Peterson

“None of us here at the Academy have ever heard of Dr. Peterson, but judging by sheer number of books he sells, coupled with his popularity as a professor and speaker, we felt that he would be the perfect candidate,” AMPAS revealed in a press release Wednesday. “Plus, we have been informed that Dr. Peterson is a thought leader on the cutting edge of social issues such as intersectionality, patriarchy, transgenderism, white privilege, and socialism, making him an outstanding choice.”

The End of the Boy Scouts of America

They've largely succeeded in destroying one of the formative institutions of my youth.
The Boy Scouts of America is considering declaring bankruptcy, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The Wednesday report comes in the wake of sinking membership and multiple controversies surrounding the 108-year-old organization, including sex abuse allegations and its controversial decision to change its program name from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA and allow girls into that program....

As the organization has made decisions deemed to be more inclusive, such as allowing openly gay scouts in 2013 and scoutmasters in 2015 as well as the 2018 decision to allow girls, membership has continued to decline sharply, from over 4 million members at its peak to a claimed 2.3 million members at present.... Those numbers will likely continue to decline....

Additionally, the Boy Scouts have come under criticism of late for keeping records of sex abuse perpetrated by scoutmasters — called the “perversion files” — under wraps for decades instead of revealing them to the public.
I remember going to a state-level jamboree when I was ten or eleven, and being struck by all the Americana of the thing. There were hundreds of other boys in uniforms with American flags on the shoulders, and all sorts of knots and woodcraft, and the smell of pine wood fires by day and night. There was an astronaut who came not just to speak but to spend the day wandering around and meeting the boys, giving us a sense of what we as Americans might aspire to do if we worked hard. There were fireworks one night, and patriotic music.

It was one of two moments in my life when I felt the most patriotic, the other one coming many years later under fire in Iraq. I was there, I don't doubt in part, because of the impact made on me by the Boy Scout Handbook of my era. "Be always ready with your armor on," it said without irony, and, "Maintain the honor of your country with your life."

Somewhere between then and now, a lot of people decided to change the Boy Scouts from what it was to what it is. It looks likely to die of what has been done to it. With it will pass away one of the glories of my youth, one of the last institutions that shaped young men to seek high things like honor, duty, love of America, and the strength and skill to walk the Wild.

Speaking of Foreign Agents....

The problem with suddenly enforcing a long-unenforced law is that lots of people have been ignoring it. You may end up catching the very people you had hoped to help out.

A Few Pieces on General Flynn

I admired now-retired Lieutenant General Mike Flynn during his time running intelligence in Afghanistan. I was thus really saddened to see both his failure to reform DIA, and the harm to his career it caused; but I was really sad to see him arrested and charged with being a foreign agent. The idea was that he was somehow involved in a quasi-treasonous conspiracy with the Russians.

Well, that turned out to be only sort-of true. The foreign government he was working for turned out to be not Russia but NATO ally Turkey; and the charge isn't so much that he was a spy as that he didn't file the right paperwork to lobby for a foreign government. Also, until that day the law had not been prosecuted as a rule; you just were required to go back and fill out the forms. The law was really on the books, even if it was unenforced, but it was a little unfair to make a special exception for this one guy -- especially in light of his history of genuinely excellent service in Afghanistan.

And then it turned out that the original frame was based on the Logan Act, that unconstitutional piece of nonsense that went unenforced for two centuries -- in spite of far grander and more obvious violations, by people who went on to become Senators and Secretaries of State.

So, at some point my sadness at Flynn's tragic downfall began to alter to a suspicion that he wasn't being fairly treated.

There is some new evidence coming to light now that makes clear that he really, really was not fairly treated. Even the scoundrels in the Mueller investigation have finally asked that he receive no jail time, perhaps in part out of a sense of guilt about what they've done to the man. Perhaps he should have known not to trust the FBI when they told him to meet with them without a lawyer; perhaps he should have known that he was subject to legal penalties for lying to them even if they characterized the meeting as a 'visit' rather than an 'interview,' and even if they didn't warn him about his liability. But he can't be held responsible for the fact that the FBI agents' conclusion that he was being open and forthcoming would be painted as 'lying,' or that he'd be forced by debt and massive overcharges to plead guilty to a crime that he plainly did not commit.

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial calling it entrapment. Sarah Carter has a story that says that the FBI mishandled evidence and rewrote the material statements about the interview months later. James Comey admitted that he took steps in the 'investigation' that were not standard.

The judge in the case has, a year after the guilty plea and at the sentencing hearing, suddenly had to demand that all exculpatory information be revealed to him by the prosecution.

I'm starting to think that the wrong man is in danger of prison time.

UPDATE: I'm going to forward one more just because I love the title: "James and the Giant Impeachment."


Sorry I have not been posting as much lately, but I have greatly appreciated all the posts from my co-bloggers. It's nice to feel the sense of community, and even if I haven't got something to say on a given day, I look forward to hearing from each of you. The comments, also, are a daily source of pleasure and a sense of camaraderie for me.

Thank you all for being a part of what we do here.

Aircraft thrillers

Every day lately Maggie's Farm has been posting YouTube clips on aircraft emergencies, usually just audio, with some kind of filler or computer-generated graphics for the video.  This morning's is really worth listening to, an 80-year-old newly bereaved widow who manages to put the family plane down after her husband suffers a heart attack at the controls.

She flew all the time with her husband and had had some rudimentary pilot training decades earlier.  She sounds remarkably calm.  Although there's a little more chaos on the radio than is ideal, and she often doesn't acknowledge and repeat the instructions she gets, everyone (including herself) does a great job getting her down.  How I love these rescue stories, with total strangers dropping everything to engage in an act of brotherly love.

Hoping to find an online account told from her point of view, I discovered only her obituary from three years later.

On the Gilets Jaunes

Two interesting articles on the current French revolt by the Yellow Vests, apparently another front in the rural-urban cold war. In some ways, their descriptions remind me of the Tea Party movement here, but in others, not. These are longish articles and I'm just quoting some interesting bits from them below the fold.

Peter Berkowitz: What the New Congress Can Learn from Aristotle

Dr. Berkowitz of the Hoover Institution at Stanford has a good article on the relevance of Aristotle's political philosophy to American government today. It's a good read, I thought. Here's a snippet:

Many on both sides take pride in assuming the worst about the opposition. The left bewails the onset of fascism in America. Yet Republicans have reduced the scope of government by cutting taxes and deregulating the economy. And rather than imposing American rule beyond the nation’s borders, the president and his party have sought to bring immigration under the rule of law.

The right adopts a siege mentality and girds itself for total war against the left even though in 2019 the GOP will still control the presidency, the Senate, 26 governorships, and 62 of 97 state legislative chambers ...

The routine exaggeration, the reflexive resorting to sloganeering and invective, and the determined refusal to countenance alternative opinions leave partisans imprisoned within their cherished clichés and mesmerized by their pet panaceas. What is needed is a larger perspective, a suppler outlook, a more capacious sensibility.

What is needed is a generous dose of Aristotelian political science.

But doesn’t Aristotle, writing in the twilight of classical Athenian greatness, proceed from a discredited conception of nature and human nature? Doesn’t he subscribe to the illiberal and antidemocratic view that the purpose of politics is to cultivate virtue, a task to which only the one best regime is suited? Doesn’t his defense of natural slavery and his subordination of women render his thinking offensive to contemporary sensibilities and irrelevant to contemporary politics?

Such questions provide an excellent introduction to Aristotle’s political science ...

Rendezvous with destiny

We watched "The 15:17 to Paris" this week, Clint Eastwood's movie about three American servicemen who foiled a 2015 terrorist attack on a French train.  I'm enjoying remembering watching it more than I did actually experiencing it.

Eastwood made a controversial decision to cast the three servicemen as themselves.  The acting, therefore, is a bit amateurish and flat, matched by the screenplay and directorial style.  "Lawrence of Arabia" or "A Man for All Seasons," it's not, but the effect is charming nevertheless.  The three young men are completely ordinary in an old-fashioned way, fellows of average ability and unremarkable upbringing.  The main focus is on the formative experiences of Spencer Stone, the guy who physically tackled the gun- and knife-wielding terrorist, from his mildly disappointing interactions with an unsympathetic education system, to his mother's disgust at the suggestion that he take drugs to keep him from looking out the window during boring classes, his impulsive decision to get into shape in order to qualify for a pararescue career in the military, and his sharp disappointment at failing to qualify for his first choice of service.

In another movie, all these experiences would show how society failed a young man and led him down a path of anomie and drug use, or spurred him to cure cancer in defiance of his small-minded critics.  Instead, Spencer fumes over his disappointments, but continues along the military paths that remain open to him, picking up tools and experiences here and there, showing mild sparks of courage and independence, and finally making the fateful decision to board the 15:17 train to Paris with his two childhood friends, now also in the service and also on leave.

The attack itself is not terribly dramatic, considering the potential for horrible injury and death.  It's over fairly quickly.  The heroes have a bit of luck.  The former would-be pararescuer calls on his physical strength, his jiu jitsu training, and a bit of first-aid education to stop the bad guy and help the injured train passenger.  All three take care of business briskly; the main character is awarded the Legion of Honor.

Mediocre critical reviews correctly noted the flat tone of the film.  What I enjoyed was the non-drama.  This was not the "They Jacked with the Wrong Guy" genre, one I particularly enjoy, in which the crisis happens to someone who is fatally underestimated by the villains, like Bruce Willis in "Die Hard." The Everyman hero in "The 15:17 to Paris" made something modest of his modest circumstances, which fitted him to step up and do the right thing in a moment of unexpected crisis.  He made few demands on life, concentrating instead on choosing something appropriate from the opportunities that randomly presented themselves to him and putting a reasonable effort into forming himself to meet them, without either whining or self-aggrandizing.  He apparently assumed that many of the things he tried to learn in the service had been dead ends or wasted effort, but they all came in handy when he disarmed the bad guy on the train and helped the injured guy until EMTs could arrive.

Spencer remained cheerful and open to both fun and duty while he cast about for a direction to his life.  If your neighborhood and your town were stocked with guys like him, maybe no one would be winning a Nobel Prize, but it would be a really good place to live.

Vive La France

Notes from the brink

Craftiness obsesses me at most times, but never more than at this season. It's amazing what you can find if you dig into a craft box you haven't opened for 30 years. And the instructions for folding these pretty strips of paper into Moravian stars were still available on the internet! Now I'm in search of a source of much wider and longer strips so I can make stars about 10 inches wide instead of these tiny things. The tiny ones will go on my tree, the big one on my Church's very tall (regrettably artificial) one.

Proof of concept:  you can, in fact, tape strips of ordinary typing paper together and make a bigger star.  Now I'll have to experiment with a nicer-quality paper with tape joints in different locations.  This 1-1/2-inch strip makes a star about six inches wide, almost as big as what I'm aiming at.

And here are the final products.  I can get a strip of 2-1/8 inches in width and 11 inches long by cutting an 8.5x11 sheet in quarters and taping four strips end to end to make a strip 2-1/8 by 44 inches long, about the right proportions.  Four of those make a star.  That's the size of the largest star, on the right.  The two tiny stars are made of strips 1/2 inch wide.

Yule Tree

The Hall’s tree. It’s not decorated to compete with Tex, but it is twelve feet tall. Second highest tree I’ve ever mounted, but of better quality I think. The other one was 18 feet, but a short needle pine. This one is a spruce.

Hypothesis Affirmed

Shooting the cops in this case is dangerous—they may send a SWAT team to kill you—and in many places it's illegal. But it is nevertheless morally permissible, indeed heroic and admirable.

This Time

An album from Waylon that found its way online.

One... MILLION Dollars!

The state of New York has an idea to reduce gun ownership: make every gun owner carry a million-dollar insurance policy.

Well, it's not a new idea. We've talked about this before, both here and at the now-defunct Winds of Change. Then as now, gun-haters were sure that the expense of such a policy would cripple interest in guns. The truth is, if such policies were widely offered, they'd be pretty cheap.

I have a million dollar liability policy as part of my homeowner's insurance. The cost of this policy is a few tens of dollars a year -- on the order of thirty bucks. I spend more on coffee, monthly, than I do annually on this policy. And that is in spite of the fact that this covers a wide degree of risks, everything from 'slipped on the ice on your walk in the winter' to 'chose to climb a tree on the back 40 and broke my leg.' It covers you if you get burned on my fireplace, or if a roofbeam should fall on your head. Lots of stuff is covered.

The gun policy they're proposing only covers one thing: if I should shoot someone and get sued for it.

Let's run through that in very round numbers to make the math easy. Now there are 300,000,000+ guns in America, owned by around 100,000,000 households. There are just around 100,000 gun injuries or deaths a year. Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides. Those that are intentional homicides wouldn't be covered by insurance policies because they are crimes, and you can't insure yourself against the consequences of intentionally committing a crime. Only the rare accidental shooting (489, or about half of one thousand in 2015), or a lawful self-defense that resulted in a successful lawsuit, would be covered.

So we've got around 500 annual accidents in a nation of three hundred million guns; assuming all guns were equally likely to cause that injury, and a 100% probability of the insurance company having to pay a claim over it, then the probability that your insurance company has to pay a claim is about .000016. Add in estimated defensive gun use, and there's another group of guns you'd have to insure, but again it's divided over 300,000,000 guns owned by 100,000,000 households. Estimates for how often guns are used defensively vary widely, but the low side numbers are all from the gun-control side; if they believe their own numbers, it's going to be a vanishingly small number of incidents that need to be paid out.

It's a million-dollar policy, but the average cost of a gunshot wound is only $150,000. Assuming that adding in the defensive uses to the accidental shootings fully doubles the number of payoffs, then we've got $150,000 x 1,000 incidents, or $150,000,000 in annual payouts. Divide that by 300,000,000 guns, and we'll need about fifty cents a gun to cover that.

So, if you own six guns, that's three dollars a year. Of course it'll be a bit higher, because the insurance company would have operating costs. But it's not going to break the backs of the firearms injury, even if it survives constitutional review.

'The Virgin Mary Couldn't Consent'

An argument from a Satan-loving professor in Minnesota.
“The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen. There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario. Happy Holidays"

Another Twitter user called the professor’s claim into question, noting that the Bible states that the Virgin Mary did, indeed, agree to God’s plan for her.

“The biblical god regularly punished disobedience,” Sprankle rebutted. “The power difference (deity vs mortal) and the potential for violence for saying ‘no’ negates her ‘yes.’ To put someone in this position is an unethical abuse of power at best and grossly predatory at worst.”...

Sprankle also decorated his Christmas tree with Satanic decor, as shown in another tweet he sent this past weekend.
The Bible makes a surprisingly large amount of God's desire for human consent, when you consider the power differential. God doesn't need human consent for anything. Like Eru Ilúvatar in the opening act of the Silmarillion, an all-powerful God could readily rework even the most rebellious dissent into a new harmony. So he could respect your free will without cost to himself or his designs. In point of fact, on this model, it's only because of his choice that any of us have free will at all. A god like Ilúvatar could have built mindless machines to execute his designs.

One of the interesting things about the Bible, then, is just how interested God seems to be in humanity's willful compliance. It's true that God punishes bad behavior sometimes. It's also true that God forgoes punishment where there is reform, sometimes. But the central fact of Jesus' mission in the Bible is the search for individual choice -- consent -- on behalf of each and every soul. Jesus does not compel, he argues in favor and leaves it to his listeners to decide what to do with what he says; ultimately, what to do with him.

It's an unreflective pose, this professor's. One ought to think more deeply when one is supposedly wed to the life of the mind.

Language Like a Free Market

Several of us seem to be interested in language, so I thought I'd post a link to editor and language columnist for The Economist Lane Greene's thoughts on the descriptivist / prescriptivist divide and the ways in which language operates like a free market.

Some quick excerpts:

Decades before the rise of social media, polarisation plagued discussions about language. By and large, it still does. Everyone who cares about the topic is officially required to take one of two stances. Either you smugly preen about the mistakes you find abhorrent – this makes you a so-called prescriptivist – or you show off your knowledge of language change, and poke holes in the prescriptivists’ facts – this makes you a descriptivist. Group membership is mandatory, and the two are mutually exclusive.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. I have two roles at my workplace: I am an editor and a language columnist. These two jobs more or less require me to be both a prescriptivist and a descriptivist. When people file me copy that has mistakes of grammar or mechanics, I fix them (as well as applying The Economist’s house style). But when it comes time to write my column, I study the weird mess of real language; rather than being a scold about this or that mistake, I try to teach myself (and so the reader) something new. Is this a split personality, or can the two be reconciled into a coherent philosophy? I believe they can.


Descriptivists – that is, virtually all academic linguists – will point out that semantic creep is how languages work. It’s just something words do: look up virtually any nontechnical word in the great historical Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which lists a word’s senses in historical order. You’ll see things such as the extension of decimate happening again and again and again. Words won’t sit still. The prescriptivist position, offered one linguist, is like taking a snapshot of the surface of the ocean and insisting that’s how ocean surfaces must look.

Be that as it may, retort prescriptivists, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. ...

Read on for a discussion of changes in English in the Great Vowel Shift, the evolution of the word buxom, the loss of Old English case endings, and the ways spontaneous order does its work in a language, much like it does its work in an economy.

But Is It Conscious?

And how would you know?

There are some standing answers, such as the Turing test, and Sebastian Rödl's test for self-consciousness. These are 'just to be sure' tests, though; they're arguments that we have reason to treat these as thinking beings, as conscious beings, and no reason not to do so. To be sure we aren't exploiting them, then, we should do so.

But consider the arguments from the Aristotelian discussion below, and think about the problem. Are these things somehow programmed to mimic consciousness, or are they becoming conscious? How could you tell?

Solstice tree

Different Definitions of Racism

Over at The Federalist, David Marcus writes about the problems America has because of the starkly different definitions of "racism" progressives and conservatives have. He suggests ways we could compromise on action without compromising on principles. I generally agree with his points, but I don't think the left wants to compromise on actions. I could be wrong, of course.

Here are the definitions and some key points about them:

There are two basic definitions of racism in the United States, one roughly associated with progressives and one roughly associated with conservatives. The former describes racism as the failure to acknowledge and seek to redress systemic discrimination against select disadvantaged minority groups. It is very broad and captures everything from unconscious bias to white supremacy. The latter views racism as making assumptions about, or taking action towards, an individual or group on the sole basis of their race. It is narrow and generally requires belief, intent, and animosity.

These definitions don’t simply differ; to a great extent they actually contradict each other. Much of the contradiction stems from the fact that the progressive definition of racism requires that an advantaged individual or group must be attacking the less privileged. The more conservative and narrow definition of racism requires no appeal to power structures, only to bias, and can be committed by anyone towards anyone.

There is a double standard here that progressives don’t actually deny. It is, in fact, baked into their definition of racism. Under their rubric, the definition of racist has a double standard precisely because society has double standards that they argue overwhelmingly disadvantage the less privileged. It is internally logical and consistent in a way a lot of conservatives don’t quite understand.

On the other hand, those on the left are often shocked when polls show that majorities of white people believe that they are discriminated against in the United States. They will point to economic data, political power, and cultural representation and say, “You people are crazy.” But under the narrower definition of racism, it makes perfect sense. These white people are reacting to the fact that they can be attacked on the basis of their race in ways others can’t. In addition, whites — and increasingly Asians — look at programs like affirmative action as inherently racist.

I think he's done a good job in teasing out the definitions and why conservatives and progressives misunderstand each other on this point.

What to do about it is another thing altogether.

Sign Me Up for Not Signing Up for That

The UN has an idea: give voting rights to migrants. Immediately.
Hidden amongst the 38 jargon-laced pages, the compact affirms the “entitlements” of migrants and refugees; including but not limited to additional job training, diaspora “trade fairs,” assistance sending money to their countries of origin, and a commitment to “educating” native communities on the benefits of multiculturalism and increased immigration.

The document insists it is based on “human rights law” and “upholds the principles of non-regression and non-discrimination.”

This means a nation-state is agreeing to not alter its own internal immigration policies after signing up to the compact. What supranational governmental organizations call “pooling sovereignty,” and what the rest of us call “giving up sovereignty.”

The document demands migrants get the same rights as natives, immediately, including but not limited to voting rights and access to welfare.
Even if I were in favor of higher levels of immigration, which currently I am not -- I think we need at least a generation to culturally absorb the ones we have already -- I would not be in favor of assigning the franchise to people immediately. You need to be here long enough to learn how we do things, and just why, before you should be voting.

We had a long series many years ago now on the franchise. The universal franchise makes some sense, and ultimately we didn't come up with anything better. But you shouldn't assign votes to children too young to have been educated in the proper way that the system works; nor too young to make dispassionate decisions in the light of reason; nor to people too recently arrived to understand fully what is going on.

These days I'm thinking that means that the 'proper education' requirement might disbar very many US citizens, even natural born ones, and that 'too young to make dispassionate decisions' might require raising the voting age to 35. I'm certainly not inclined to believe, from my observations, that we should be even more eager to enlist first-time voters who don't really understand America, how it works, or what its value might be.

Things Aren't What They Used To Be

A meditation at The Federalist.
As I write in my new book, “I Used To Be Conservative: Confessions Of A Conservative Who Used To Be A Conservative Who Used To Be A Liberal,” “I could no longer be a conservative, because being a conservative could no longer be an option.” How true that is.

Sometimes you reach a point—usually when you have something to promote—when what you once thought no longer is what you think now. That point has arrived for me. It’s quite painful, as I’ve said on several CNN programs and YouTube interviews.

The conservatism of today is not the conservatism it was when I was younger, nor is it the liberalism it was when I was middle-aged. I can no longer sit idly by and pretend that what I once believed is what I believe now, or that anyone else should believe it. Or not.

Was Mueller Worth It?

Vanity Fair just published a 'Trump-Hater's guide to Mueller skepticism.' Objectively, the fines extracted from Paul Manafort have more than paid for the investigation, so it's certainly been worth it for the government financially.

And, too, it has been enlightening to watch Mueller make a lifelong public servant plead guilty to a charge of which he wasn't even suspected -- Flynn plead to lying to the FBI, in spite of the testimony from the agents who interviewed him that he was truthful and forthcoming. If he's willing to do that, well, we know that nothing he produces can be trusted without substantial supporting evidence. It's good to realize just how corrupt the government is, and Mueller himself in spite of his sterling reputation.

Mueller caught Flynn on a violation of working for Turkey without registering, which required altering the enforcement of the law governing those practices. Until recently, you could register after the fact; now it's a thing that you have to follow the law and register if you're lobbying the government on behalf of a foreign country. I suppose that's good, but it's interesting that the conviction required changing common practice.

Flynn eventually lost his house and his job and his security clearance, but even with the guilty pleas he extorted Mueller didn't have enough to ask for even a day in jail. So far the sentences faced by those he's haunted have ranged from two weeks to a month. Manafort will probably get hit harder, but not for anything he did with Donald Trump; and even there, I notice that Mueller mostly made him plead guilty to the charges that he couldn't convict on in court. Mueller's record of actually proving things is pretty weak.

I think we have learned from this that the Department of Justice is entirely corrupt at the top, and should be disbanded and replaced. That's an important insight, well worth the price of an investigation that -- as mentioned -- paid for itself.

So sure, it was worth it. Or will have been, if we follow through on punishing the corruption that it has revealed.