Counterpoint: Needed, More Americans

Bret Stephens thinks we are dangerously underpopulated:
…America is vast, largely empty and often lonely. Roughly 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas, covering just 3 percent of the overall landmass. We have a population density of 35 people per square kilometer — as opposed to 212 for Switzerland and 271 for the U.K.

We could use some more people. Make that a lot more.
He has some arguments about new immigrants being, on average, better people than Americans. They'll work harder for less money, go to church more often, and -- he claims -- get into less trouble with the law. It's hard to say if that's true or not, actually; drug traffickers who cross international borders make up almost half of Federal prisoners, but that's not representative of populations in state prisons or local jails, where 90% of prisoners are but which are not good about submitting statistics in a fashion that can be readily studied. Clearly 100% of illegal aliens have committed at least a misdemeanor Federal crime; but since the debate is about whether or not to eliminate those very laws, that's not of much interest to the discussion.

Myself, I hold these truths to be self-evident.

1) American cities are too crowded, and the bulk of new immigrants are going to go right to those cities -- just as they cluster in cities in the countries from which they come. (Besides, huge swathes of the unoccupied land in the USA -- especially out West -- is Federal land in national monuments, forests, parks, and wildernesses. The same folks who want to up our population density to UK levels would have a fit if you proposed opening that land to settlement and economic exploitation.)

2) New immigrants can in fact be better Americans than native-born Americans, but only if they come loving the American way of limited government and maximum freedom. Some do: likely you've known them, as I have. One of the best Americans I ever knew was a Korean-born Korean who fought the Communists in the 1950s, and then came here. He loved America with all his heart, and did his best to impress his love of the American ideal on all of his students once he became a professor of Political Science. I'll take all the guys like him you can find.

But that's my marker for whether or not America would benefit from any given immigrant. America is in a key sense a philosophy. If they share the philosophy, well and good: we can use all the Americans we can find. Otherwise, there are already plenty of folks on the highway.

In Lexington, Virginia?

I've been hearing people mockingly say, 'Get woke, go broke' fairly often lately. This guy, though, really might. It's one thing to refuse to serve a prominent member of the Trump administration at a restaurant in DC, or in New York City. Lexington, Virginia, is not the right town for that.

It's been purged from the English-language Wikipedia article, but if you check the German-language one it still refers to Lexington as "The Shrine of the South." This is the site of Robert E. Lee's grave in the chapel named after him, at the University named after him, where also is the grave of his horse, Traveller. Stonewall Jackson was born here, and Sam Houston nearby. Currently it is the site of the Virginia Military Institute, producer of the kind of hardcore second lieutenants that come out of these Southern military academies -- the Citadel in Charleston, SC, produces their like as well. It seems like every other highway in the surrounding countryside is called "Lee Highway." Confederate flags abound.

There's a reasonable argument for freedom of association allowing a business owner to refuse to serve guests of whom he morally disapproves. There's a countering argument, also reasonable, that public accommodations should not discriminate for moral reasons to include religious beliefs. Those discussions are worthy and interesting, but here I'm merely struck by the practicalities of this decision. It's not like you can up and move your cozy bed-and-breakfast to another town, the way you could close a franchise of a chain. There's an irreplaceable investment that's been made in a particular location, which has a particular environment around it. People don't come to Lexington, VA, on tour because they are interested in woke politics. They come to see their kids at VMI or Washington & Lee -- both on the list of "Most Conservative Colleges in Virginia" -- or to tour the shrines of the South.

I guess he deserves some respect for having the courage of his convictions. If you're willing to pay the freight, you can do what you want.

Randomness beats faulty prediction

I've signed up for an Aeon feed and so far am finding the occasional interesting article.  Here's one that examines how seemingly meaningless augury techniques might be a good way to break people of the habit of using affirmatively harmful predictors.  As I see it, though, the real trick is the double-blind study:  one group uses the proposed predictors while the other relies on a random draw, then you figure out which produced better results.  Randomness for the sake of randomness doesn't have the appeal for me that it seems to have for the author.  But as a way of deciding whether that herb supplement is worth the money and risk, sure.

How's that Warming Going?

A thirty-year report.
Thirty years of data have been collected since Mr. Hansen outlined his scenarios... Assessed by Mr. Hansen’s model, surface temperatures are behaving as if we had capped 18 years ago the carbon-dioxide emissions responsible for the enhanced greenhouse effect. But we didn’t. And it isn’t just Mr. Hansen who got it wrong. Models devised by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have, on average, predicted about twice as much warming as has been observed since global satellite temperature monitoring began 40 years ago....

These corrected climate predictions raise a crucial question: Why should people world-wide pay drastic costs to cut emissions when the global temperature is acting as if those cuts have already been made?
Well, because the payments aren't evenly assessed world-wide, thus allowing nations like China and Russia to 'catch up' with the West.

Support Group for the Woke

A parody from the BBC.

A Pictish Fort Destroyed by Vikings

AS the Vikings sailed away, they probably thought they'd done a good day's work.

The Pictish fort behind them was ruined and ablaze, its defenders put to the sword and anything worth looting had been thoroughly pillaged.

But now archaeologists examining the remains of the 10th-century settlement at Burghead on the Moray coast say the attack by the Northmen has actually helped preserve the site and ensure it could be studied by future generations.
Somewhat like a volcano, I suppose.

In other Viking science, a close examination of relics has produced a sense of what color paints were commonly used to decorate in the Viking Age.

I've got to remember this line

Useful filler next time you need to say nothing:
Even some Democrats, including warriors of press and tube, are beginning to take note that separating the children was first an Obama idea. A CNN interlocutor braced Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin with a loaded reminder that many critics of Donald Trump, who are now critical of bunking the children on mattresses within enclosures of wire and steel, made no criticism when Mr. Obama did it.
“You know,” Sen. Baldwin replied, in a voice as bland as a bowl of Cream of Wheat, “on this issue that we get into a moment where we’re making progress and then when it stalls we turn around. I think we all need to continue to be focused on it and press it through.”

Aren’t There Enough People In America?

Another Anton piece.

I don’t want to oversell Anton. I’ve met Anton a couple of times. We haven’t talked, because he’s the kind who talks so much that I don’t bother to try to talk with them. He’s a foppish dresser, proudly so. I don’t know how much we have in common. But look at this, where he gets the working man exactly right:

“After at least two decades of wage stagnation and even decline, now that we’ve finally reached the nirvana of full employment (and who knows how long it will last), why not take advantage of this tight labor market to raise wages across the board? Especially for the working and middle classes that got nowhere or even lost ground during the housing, finance and tech booms of recent years?”

Boy is right about that. He’s got a few other strong points too.

The other half of the motive

And if a hope of currying favor with the expected new president isn't enough, now there's the fear of suffering reprisals from the possible new Congress:
The Justice Department’s tepid OIG report, with its risible assertion that there was no political bias in the FBI’s Clinton email probe, suggests that it was written by people afraid to tell the unvarnished truth about the conduct of the federal government’s police apparatus, an agency that openly defies congressional oversight and has participated in a vendetta against a sitting president. The FBI’s leadership clearly hopes that the Democrats will win majorities in Congress and put a halt to the investigations into its multifarious abuses of power. The OIG is loath to face the ruthless reprisals that would inevitably follow such a disaster.
In other words, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General is filled with people who fear the FBI. Think about that for a minute. What is the usual term for a government whose members live in fear of its police arm? Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” The OIG report suggests that its demise may be only one election away.

"Future Pres HRC"

Speaking of grand unifying theories, I believe Victor Davis Hanson has cracked the code that explains a lot of head-scratching deep-state decisions in 2016.

Karen Veith: Closing the Door on the Madison Metropolitan School District

A teacher with 16 years in the system explains in detail why she quit, primarily because the administration's policies and lack of leadership led to chaos in the school. There are a lot of stories out there like this one.

It's worth reading the whole thing if you want to understand public schools today.

Incrementalism vs. absolutism

I don't understand the particle physics, of course, but I'm interested in this discussion about the approach to research:
The bottom-up method is much less ambitious than the top-down kind, but it has two advantages: it makes fewer assumptions about theory, and it’s tightly tethered to data. This doesn’t mean we need to give up on the old unification paradigm, it just suggests that we shouldn’t be so arrogant as to think we can unify physics right now, in a single step. It means incrementalism is to be preferred to absolutism – and that we should use empirical data to check and steer us at each instance, rather than making grand claims that come crashing down when they’re finally confronted with experiment.
This gets me where I live. We can't make much sense of data unless we have theoretical structures, but it can be hard to improve our theories if we let them blind us to new data. I love the image of "bunging in" a new hypothesized particle.

On second thought . . . .

. . . Let's don't try it again after all.  Even Columbia's poorest citizens are seeing through the bright promises of socialism.  Nicaragua is not looking satisfied either.

Pope Francis Denounces Abortion

Nazi comparisons are everywhere these days.
...the SIR agency of the Italian bishops’ conference quoted him as denouncing the pre-natal tests that can result in parents choosing to terminate a pregnancy if the fetus is malformed or suffering other problems.

“Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves,” the agencies quoted Francis as saying.

The pope urged families to accept children “as God gives them to us.”
On this point, at least, he is solidly within the norm of Papal remarks. Unfortunately, I don't think our age is primed to listen to him. It's also worth remembering that eugenics weren't just a Nazi thing; they were beloved by the elite here in America, too.

Colonel Kurt on the IG Report

In his inimitable style, a beatdown from an unapologetic voice of the right.
The bombshells in the IG report could justly be classified as “thermonuclear,” but remember the Comey conference back in July 2016? Its bombshells were thermonuclear too. Integrity Boy laid out an utterly devastating case against Felonia Milhous Von Pansuit, highlighting in damning detail her litany of crimes that would have consigned you, me, or anyone else not in the elite to a long tour in the stony lonesome. And then that Looming Doofus concluded his lengthy summation with, “But never mind.”

The same with the IG report. Yeah, the report demonstrated intense and pervasive political bias. Yeah, at every turn the FBI/DOJ hacks gave unprecedented deference and breaks to Hillary. Yeah, from the get-go they talked about how no one was ever going to be prosecuted. Nah, nothing to see.

It’s like a prosecutor laying out a crushing case to a jury, then saying, “And in conclusion, I’d like you to find the defendant not guilty.”

“No evidence,” concludes the IG report. It’s 500+ pages of evidence.
There's more, if you're inclined.


Paul Sperry:
IG Horowitz revealed in Senate testimony FBI never named a target or even subject in Clinton probe. Not Mills, Abedin, Combetta or Clinton herself. "Nobody was listed as a subject of this investigation at any point in time," adding this was "surprising" for a crim probe
It would be surprising, had it been a criminal probe. For an exercise in one hand washing the other, it's just what you'd expect.

I wonder if the Mueller probe has named any subjects or targets? Wanna bet?


BREAKING: IG Horowitz says 2 of the 3 unnamed FBI agents caught sending anti-Trump text messages are currently on the Robert Mueller probe investigating President Trump
Of course they are.

Sad life

Hard to beat this Dan Pfeiffer piece for lack of self-awareness:
For most of my time working for Obama, whenever we encountered some Beltway political crisis that dominated cable news, we would ask focus groups of voters if they had heard anything about it. There were things that Washington got worked up about, and things the American people cared about, and rarely did those things overlap.
But something had changed. Suddenly, focus groups knew all about the trivial things that Washington would get worked up over, and they knew about them in great detail, often reading back to the moderator what sounded just like Republican talking points or a Fox News story—which are actually the same thing.
It must have seemed brutally unfair to Mr. Pfeiffer, after what amounted to a lifetime of succeeding in controlling the news. Can you imagine a world in which ordinary voters have become aware of the GOP spin on an issue?  Who let that happen?

I particularly enjoyed his explanation of how the American people lost their faith in the MSM, the proximate cause of the Democrats' otherwise inexplicable loss of the Senate in 2014: it happened when the MSM uncritically accepted George W. Bush's lies about the WMD in Iraq. Oh, and about that same time, Fox News cynically persuaded customers that they would enjoy a news outlet that covered stories the MSM was ignoring, but only because Fox wanted to make money, which is a bad motive for news organizations unless they're the ones Pfeiffer likes, in which case we should all want them to remain profitable so they can retain all those seasoned, reliable reporters. Also so that political operatives can avoid an unpleasant hectic life keeping up with a voracious and uncivilized news cycle, because it turns out that Pfeiffer's stint in the White House was really kind of a pitiful drag.

I'll bet it seems even more like pointless drudgery in retrospect.

Crimsoning the Eagle's Claws: Review

In 2014, a scholar named Ian Crockatt translated a series of poems by a Viking Crusader named Rognvaldr Kali Kolsson. The poems are well known, coming from the Orkneyinga saga. Nevertheless they reward new translations, for reasons the author ably explains in his translator's introduction.

Likening the extremely strict poetic form to the shell of a crab, Crockatt points out that what it is 'to be a crab' is to have that precise form. (This is a highly Aristotelian point, form as structure that defines being). It is not possible to directly translate the poems into English without losing the form. One will get a sense of the poem's subject matter, but nothing of the sense of the poem; Crockatt likens this to knowing crabs only from encountering plates of cooked and mashed crab, but never knowing a thing with shell or claws.

Of course, in order to capture the form, you'll have to swap some things around. The version of Norse spoken by Rognvaldr is effectively a dead language, and while numerous loan words and other influences exist in English, the basic vocabulary of the language is different. You can craft an English version by preferring Old English words to ones derived from Latin or French, and then precisely applying the form of stressed-and-unstressed syllables, alliterative near-rhymes versus full-rhymes (alternating by line, so that 1/3/5... are near-rhymes and 2/4/6... full ones). But now you have an English poem in the Old Norse form, and it's going to be meaningfully different from the original. Content may be shifted from one line to another, so that the images get disrupted; or the word that fits the form may have a different connotation in English than was intended in the Norse.

As a very ordinary example to clarify, he gives:

"tið mér bók ok smíðir."


"well-read, a red-hot smith -"

You can see that the full-rhyme alliteration and stress patterns are right, but the content is changed subtly. There's nothing about being 'red hot' in the original. The line does not end but is continued into the next thought with a dash. You lose the sense that he is proclaiming mastery of books and smithing in exactly parallel terms, which is an interesting juxtaposition that a modern English speaker would never arrive at because reading is so ordinary for us, and smithing so arcane. To be 'well-read' means something quite different than the Viking intended. All the same, you get a much more lyrically proper sense of the poetics by reading it this way. A straight translation would deny encountering a poem with rhythm and flow.

Scholars who want to understand the poems thus wisely grapple with them first by direct translation, then by seeing if they can translate them poetically as Crockatt does. It is a useful exercise for him for another reason. The poetic form shapes the word, but learning to use the form shapes the mind. Habituating the mind to the creation of poems in just this form is going to alter the way one thinks, slightly but definitely. In learning the compose poems in this strict form, you are learning to think just a bit more like the Viking who is your historical subject.

Some of the translations are beautiful and evocative even though alliterative poetry is rarely used in Modern English. Here is his rendering of a love poem, which I find especially striking.

Who else hoards such yellow
hair, bright lady -- fair as
your milk-mild shoulders,
where milled barley-gold falls?
Chuck the cowled hawk, harry
him with sweets. Crimsoner
of eagle's claws, I covet
cool downpours of silk; yours.

George Mackay Brown gave this same poem without the erotic final thrust:

Golden one, Tall one
Moving in perfume and onyx
Witty one, You with the shoulders
Lapped in long silken hair/Listen: because of me
The eagle has a red claw.

The "silk" mentioned in the original is her hair, not her clothes, the downpouring of which might also be coveted; it is a love poem, after all. The erotic is lost in the strict translations; admiration of beauty is there, but not the tension. Yet I suspect Crockatt is right to find a way to include it.

The book is recommended. You may wish to pick up a copy of the saga to go with it, as the book is devoted to only the poems themselves.