A Child Beheaded by the Sinaloa Cartel — in Norcross, GA

Norcross. I’ve been to Norcross many times. It’s a nice little suburb. On Friday nights in the fall, they like to watch their kids play football. The local high school football stadium has an air raid siren it blows when they score a touchdown.

We need to send a message on this one that the cartels will understand.

No King but the Law

Adam of Bremen described the Vikings out of Iceland as having "no king but the law." So too we. The Trumps raise hackles among monarchists at the Washington Post. As the fellow says, we are not her subjects. There's a story about that some us were remembering long about, oh, ten days ago. Maybe you missed it.

Any American is the equal of the Queen of England, formally. She is a sovereign; we are, collectively, sovereign. We have no masters, and no laws but our own.

All the same, if you meet Queen Elizabeth you should be nice to her, not because she is the Queen of England but because, as the Queen of England, she had her Coldstream Guards play the Star Spangled Banner after 9/11 -- and sang along. Such an act of honor and friendship deserves to be remembered.

A Song of the Sea

Not one I've heard before, either.

Further Thoughts on a Proper Upbringing

Since I was just mentioning John Wayne, Cahill, US Marshal is on this weekend according to his fan club. They include a clip to help you decide if you might want to watch this movie, one in which he expresses a certain sentiment about the virtues that attain to a proper upbringing.

Two on Bayesian Probability

Bayesian probability holds, among other things, that probability is sticky: once the probability of an event rises to 1 or drops to 0, it stays there forever. Your weather forecaster defies this when they tell you that the probability of rain is 95% when it is already raining. But there is a lot more to Bayes, whose theories underlie much of our contemporary algorithms and science. Here's an introduction to his life:
For most of the two and a half centuries since the Reverend Thomas Bayes first made his pioneering contributions to probability theory, his ideas were side-lined. The high priests of statistical thinking condemned them as dangerously subjective and Bayesian theorists were regarded as little better than cranks. It is only over the past couple of decades that the tide has turned. What tradition long dismissed as unhealthy speculation is now generally regarded as sound judgement.
And here is a piece on application.
Bayesian statistics is two things: a useful technology and a bundle of mythology. A Bayesian data analyst almost never, and I mean almost never, inquires as to her degrees of belief: she makes mathematically convenient and not absurd assumptions and goes on. She tests the resilience of the outcomes she obtains by varying those assumptions—the prior probabilities, the penalties in a model score, etc.. Essentially, her “prior probabilities” are just a measure to guide through a search space of alternative possible values for parameters in a model or models. The measure is adaptive, in the sense that it alters (by Bayes Rule) as data are acquired. It is subjective, in the sense that there is no best adaptive measure for guiding search, but there are better and worse adaptive measures. Generally, the measures are nobody’s degrees of belief.

Rodents Eating Cars

Paul Ryan's Suburban was eaten by woodchucks. According to a Chevy mechanic I was talking with a while ago, this is an increasingly common occurrence. The reason (he said) is that the EPA has instituted regulations that require a certain number of car parts to be made out of organic materials rather than plastics. These smell like food to rodents because, in fact, they are food for rodents.

His recommendation to me was to make cheesecloth baggies full of mothballs, and attach them around your engine compartment with wire twist-ties where they won't cause problems with engine function. I don't know if this actually works, but it sounded plausible at the time he said it. You might give it a try.

Espionage is Illegal

At least, it breaks somebody's laws. The NSA and CIA do worse to the Russians every day than the stuff announced today by the Deputy Attorney General, in plain violation of Russian laws.

But OK, it's formally still a crime, and I suppose it's fine to charge people even though you can't actually arrest or try them. So, do these guys get to send lawyers and demand a day in court like the Russian firm that was indicted? Or do they have to appear in person to demand a day in court?

UPDATE: An interesting catch -- possibly a US citizen who might end up charged after all?

A Song for George Will

This apparently refers to a famous diatribe George Will wrote against blue jeans. It ends:
This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

Edmund Burke -- what he would have thought of the denimization of America can be inferred from his lament that the French Revolution assaulted "the decent drapery of life"; it is a straight line from the fall of the Bastille to the rise of denim -- said: "To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely." Ours would be much more so if supposed grown-ups would heed St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and St. Barack's inaugural sermon to the Americans, by putting away childish things, starting with denim.

(A confession: The author owns one pair of jeans. Wore them once. Had to. Such was the dress code for former Sen. Jack Danforth's 70th birthday party, where Jerry Jeff Walker sang his classic "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." Music for a jeans-wearing crowd.)
First of all, John Wayne wore a lot of things that Fred Astaire never did, including denim, and these are perfectly fit things for an American man to wear.

Secondly, I love that song. It's one of those songs for those of us from the country who enjoy laughing at ourselves sometimes.

Such a sense of humor never hurt anybody.

A Brutal Attack in London

Two teenagers, a young man and woman, are under arrest after the brutal beating of Sir Christopher Meyer. Meyer is a former ambassador to the United States, and has been talking up the need to get along with President Trump during the run-up to the state visit there. Police say this does not look like a robbery.

Of Course It Does

The Democratic bill to #AbolishICE contains this provision:
Pocan’s bill explicitly requires the commission to “[i]dentify appropriate means of ensuring that total Federal employment is not reduced with the abolition of ICE.”

CNN Report: Millions of American Voters May Have Colluded to Elect Trump

Babylon Bee, of course

A Christian's Job Interview

Tracy Ullman does something I didn't expect.

Silly Twitchy, Who Wouldn't Swim with Nurse Sharks?

Some fellow going by Greg P. over on Twitchy is making fun of a woman who got bit while swimming with nurse sharks:
PHOTOS: Instagram model thought it would be fun to swim with nurse sharks in the Bahamas and YOU’LL TOTALLY BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Well, this is also a common tourist thing, and most do not get bit. I have fond memories of swimming with nurse sharks, as it happens. Their skin feels a bit like fine sandpaper.

Yeah, she'll have a scar on her arm, and how cool is that? "Oh, that? Shark bite," will begin a number of interesting conversations.

Beware That, When Punching Nazis ...

Chris Ray Gun, of "Ain't No Rest for the Triggered" fame, gives us "Punch a Nazi."

Travel News You Can Use

A list of the oldest bar in every state. I have eaten (and drunk) at the Pirate's House in Savannah. It's a first class restaurant, especially if you like the local sea food.

Masks and Street Violence

The South has anti-masking laws already because of its attempt to limit the power of the Ku Klux Klan. A Federal law that proposes to do the same thing is drawing fire from Antifa, which resents the comparison between themselves and the Klan. Well, anyone would resent such a comparison. However, the state's interest in prosecuting those who organize for the purpose of violence and political intimidation is the same, even allowing for all relevant differences in ideology.

All the same, they have a novel defense.
In the current political climate, antifascists who speak out against fascism, racism, xenophobia, etc. are routinely harassed, threatened, and attacked by the far right, often supported by the police, who are notably exempted here. Families and friends of antifascists also become targets of far right violence. The wearing of a mask is an act of self-defense often necessary to ensure one's right to free speech.
I accept the validity of the claim that the police should not be allowed to mask themselves either. Just as with badge numbers, police officers should be identifiable in order to hold them responsible for the manner in which they use the power entrusted to them by the public. We should always be allowed to film the police, to know their names and ranks and offices, and to hold them accountable for any misuse of the authority they bear.

Is it really the case, though, that America is such a place that one must wear a mask to be able to exercise free speech? That is surely not true. No one is stopping either these or the far right from organizing rallies or marching. They are free to make their points, in person or in writing as they prefer. If they elect to make their points by punching people, say, or setting fire to cars, say, then there might be some legal consequences. But the state is unlikely to recognize a legitimate self-defense right for speech acts of this kind.

Still, there is a sense in which anonymity or pseudonymity is indeed defensively useful and can encourage better and fuller speech. It can also encourage abuse, and that needs to be robustly handled in order for it to remain worthy. But it's the same sort of idea as is at work here, where most of us communicate through a pseudonym in order to speak our minds freely in the age of Google. It's not obviously a ridiculous argument for public speech acts like rallies either. I wonder if there is a way to address it without empowering groups like the Klan.

Adventures in Obstructing Oversight

Congressional Democrats appear determined to ensure that Peter Strzok does not have to answer questions. Why would that be?

UPDATE: Contempt of Congress for Strzok. Well, many of us hold Congress in contempt, at least informally. The question is whether or not there are any consequences for doing so formally. Eric Holder was held in contempt; so what?

If Congress does not wish to be held in contempt they will have to learn to uphold their honor. As long as they do not, contempt of them will flourish.

Ancient Egyptian Curse to Finally End Trump Administration

Via Red State.

What Happens if a Leftist Tries For Common Ground

Author Caitlin Johnstone:
One year ago today I wrote an article titled “Lefties Need To Stop Being Shy About Working With The Anti-Establishment Right”, and Left Twitter exploded. To this day there are still some social media echo chambers in which this article is the primary thing I am known for.

I still think it was a decent article, and I stand by it. It was about how anti-establishment leftists can collaborate across ideological lines on specific points of mutual interest without compromising their principles, which to me is just an obvious no-brainer, and that people can trust themselves to know how and to what extent that collaboration can take place. Over the following few weeks, the actual contents of my article were falsely spun by Progressive Army, Counterpunch and a few other lefty thought leaders as “Caitlin Johnstone wants us to align with Nazis.”

None of the journalists or activists fanning the flames of this conspiracy theory ever reached out to me for comment, or even to try to convince me of the error of my ways. Not one private message, email or Twitter DM was ever sent to me (apart from one particularly virulent hater after I pointed this out publicly). This is because these people weren’t interested in my actual ideas or what I was actually saying, they were interested in advancing and controlling a narrative: Caitlin Johnstone wants leftists to become Nazis/facilitate Nazis, and anyone who ever suggests venturing outside their impotently small political faction to get things done is pulling a Caitlin Johnstone. My reputation in those circles now serves as a head on a spike warning off anyone from ever suggesting that leftists ever collaborate on any agenda with anyone besides (A) other leftists and (B) the centrists who are intrinsically opposed to ideas which run counter to the interests of America’s unelected power establishment.
She has had some successes, though, with outlets that are on the fringe right but certainly not "Nazis," such as Ron Paul's people.

Another Take on Civility

From an author who called Trump a "fascist" two years ago, a surprisingly sane take.
The presence of armed thugs in service of a political agenda is a key indicator of rising fascism, one that is completely absent today. There are no Brownshirts in America in 2018. Trump has no paramilitary organization. There are no militias that guard his events or beat his opponents. The 2016 election was contentious and hinged on unlikely electoral math and was possibly tainted by foreign meddling, but it was not marred by street violence.

The militias and the gun-rights advocates of 21st-century America are far too libertarian to ever fall into lockstep behind an emerging American tyrant. The neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville last year was troubling but, so far, was a one-off. Left-wing street violence from groups like AntiFa has been more common than from right-wing counterparts.
Also, no Reichstag event:
Emergency decrees, legal changes to the constitutional order, and the abolition of checks and balances among branches of government are key indicators that authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and fascism are taking root.

There has been no large-scale terrorist attack in the United States since Trump took office. The closest would be the truck attack in New York on Halloween last year that killed eight. Trump did not propose and the Republican Congress did not pass any amendment to the U.S. Constitution and made no changes to the balance of power between branches of government before or after that attack. There is no provision for an emergency suspension of the Bill of Rights, which remains in full force.
Conclusion as regards civility:
On balance, the times still call for civility. The trends, while troubling, are developing within a still-functional democracy.... It is important to discern the moment rightly. The left is in danger of creating the very situation they oppose by overreacting. If they jettison all semblance of democratic norms, if they give up on the process and insist on its fundamental illegitimacy, they will only add fuel to the fire. They will give Trump and his successors every pretext they need to go further down the road towards authoritarianism and worse.

This is true even if Trump, or the next nationalist president, really is a fascist.
He isn't, really. The closest things to fascism that Trump attains to are moves like his recent attack on Harley Davidson, which is responding to European tariffs by shifting production overseas. Trump would like the corporation to show a kind of loyalty to the American nation, which is similar to but distinct from the fascist idea that all corporations should be aligned with the goals of the state. Trump wants Harleys built here because he wants jobs for Americans, not because he wants to use American corporations to extend American power. In fact, a far clearer example of an attempt to align corporations with the state occurred under Obama with the NSA's program to enlist social media giants in its international spying agenda.

Most of the things people object to are problems with the Federal government, in other words, not the President. If you think ICE should be abolished, understand that ICE isn't 100% made up of Trump supporters. The same DOJ that is celebrated for investigating Trump is defending ICE's moves in court. The same Health and Human Services that runs all those beloved social programs is running the Office of Refugee Resettlement that's doing things that cause people on the Left anger and fury. These people aren't Trumpists, they're government bureaucrats. Careerists. Your real enemy, those of you who oppose Trump as a fascist, is the Federal bureaucracy. It's a government with too much power, too many overstretched claims to authority, too many police exercising too much control. It isn't the right that put those structures in place.

Indeed, civility might be helpful in identifying some points of commonality. If you do get around to wanting to dismantle much of the Federal government and its power, we could get together on that. I'd be up for a minarchist version of the Federal government, one that did what Jefferson described envisioning as the Federal government's role in his letters: looking out, to relations between nations or in cases of issues that really were between two or more American states. You still have to have borders, and an army and navy to defend them, but we could do without Health and Human Services. Or the IRS. Or the FBI's law enforcement functions, as opposed to its counterintelligence mission. In fact, we could do with a whole lot less government all the way around.

Probably those who oppose Trump don't want that much less government. In fact, I suspect they really want more -- they just want to run it, so they can be the ones using these 'fascist' levers to force compliance with their vision of right and justice and goodness. If so, we aren't going to find common ground. The conclusion that the government is too powerful to be entrusted to your enemies ought to lead you to defang it, rather than simply to trying to ensure that your side always wins. The former conclusion is one we could all live with. The latter is going to force conflict.

Pliny the Elder was Right!

About orcas, anyway.

Some Appropriate Music

Merle Haggard apparently changed his mind about this song when he grew older. There was a long period of peace and prosperity brought on by the victory, which made this seem churlish and combative in retrospect. I suppose. I wonder what he'd think about the people 'preaching about some other way of living' these days. The same way, of course. The old beast, hiding behind new bright and smiling faces.

Roger Scruton on Trump and Conservatism

Scruton is always worth considering, although I have a few thoughts that run counter to some of his points here.
When describing the history of an idea, one naturally looks for its best expression. A history of liberalism will have a lot to say about John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, somewhat less to say about Hillary Clinton. A survey of the conservative idea will dwell at length on Edmund Burke and Thomas Jefferson and devote only a paragraph or two to Margaret Thatcher.
On the other hand, Mrs. Thatcher, and to some extent Mrs. Clinton, are known for invoking the great figures of political philosophy and for showing an educated awareness that “ideas have consequences,” as the American conservative Richard Weaver expressed the point. In Mr. Trump we encounter a politician who uses social media to bypass the realm of ideas entirely, addressing the sentiments of his followers without a filter of educated argument and with only a marginal interest in what anyone with a mind might have said.
"Anyone with a mind" is insulting, which is a minor point, and too strong to be accurate, which is a major one. The fact is that all of the Trump voters have minds, and have thoughts. Their thoughts aren't necessarily shaped by a great deal of education, but they are shaped by experience. I obviously value education highly, but experience is often the better teacher. Education frequently teaches things that aren't true, but that captivate the mind -- Marxism, for example, has been enrapturing to many highly educated people. Experience may beat one down, or it may help one learn how to transcend certain kinds of adversity. It is possible to draw the wrong lessons from experience. But at least the experience itself is real, and thus the lessons are grounded directly on reality.
Americans are conscious of their constitutional rights and freedoms. These assets are not guaranteed by human nature and exist only because Americans have fought for them. And they have fought for them as a nation, facing the future together. National identity is the origin of the trust on which political order depends.
This is a fundamental truth that I wish more people grasped. It is also an illustration of my previous counter-point. This is the heart that drives not only Mr. Trump's political fortunes, but many others across the world. It is a truth that apparently has to be learned by experience, since the intellectual world is largely dead-set on denying it because that world wishes this thing was not true.

So too this:
Those first words of the United States Constitution do not refer to all people everywhere. They refer to the people who reside here, in this place and under this rule of law, and who are the guardians and beneficiaries of a shared political inheritance. Grasping that point is the first principle of conservatism.
So there is much to agree with, but also things to dispute. In addition to his hostility to Trump voters, one might point out to Dr. Scruton that he is quite wrong about this part:
But as Edmund Burke pointed out in one of the founding documents of modern conservatism, his “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” we must “reform in order to conserve.” Institutions, traditions and allegiances survive by adapting, not by remaining forever in the condition in which a political leader might inherit them.
Here he is guilty of underestimating just how much of a reformer Trump has proven to be. Look first at the scale of his regulatory reform program, which has repealed vast swathes of Federal interference with ordinary economic activity, while pursuing the appointment of justices who are suspicious of the legitimacy of the regulatory state's claims to authority over these matters. That alone is a vast change, and while another President can re-institute repealed regulations, the judges are lifetime appointments.

The Times doubtless would not have published a piece that wasn't insulting and dismissive of Trump and his voters. There is much to criticize in the President -- especially in terms of the chaotic leadership he provides, which has made it difficult to draw many talented people, and difficult to retain the talented people he did draw. There are many things he could be doing better, and some things he does that are insulting and wrong.

All that said, there is more to the man -- and his voters -- than even the great Roger Scruton apparently can see from his intellectual height. These may be small men and women, but they are not thereby despicable. They have reasons for what they do, even if they are not polished at understanding them or articulating them clearly. Democracy is finally about respect, and especially the respect owed by the great to the small. Dr. Scruton should remember that this, too, is a conservative principle. It is what grounds a nation in not departing on some grand intellectual scheme, as Marxism does, without checking to see if those whose lives are going to be turned upside down by that scheme really approve of the undertaking.

A Pardon for the Hammonds

Trump ends the saga, for now. The tyrannical acts of the Bureau of Land Management will likely go unpunished, but at least the punishment visited on the family -- one of whom is 76 years old -- will halt for a while.

UPDATE: The AP says this move "rais[es] concerns that it will encourage others to actively oppose federal control of public land, which is a sensitive issue in the U.S. West where the federal government owns almost 50 percent of the land."

Concerns, or hopes, as the case may be.

Mob Rules

There are limits to what can be endured civilly, as we were discussing below. This is definitely beyond what ought to be endured.
One protester yelled "turtle head!" at the Senate Majority Leader a few times (a weirdly accurate comparison), along with jeers of "we know where you live, Mitch." According to the DSA, whoever was behind that "turtle head" burn wasn't affiliated with the organization.
"We know where you live" is a threat, not merely an uncivil word. "Turtle Head" is not civil, but it could be ignored. Direct threats cannot be. Yet for some reason, it was the 'turtle head' thing that DSA chose to deny being affiliated with rather than the threat.

Shouldn't They Be Happy About This?

This is not a confirmation; it's not even a denial. But it's being read as a confirmation.
Asked repeatedly if some sort of deal between Trump and Kennedy was struck before Kennedy announced his retirement, Shah dodged, saying things like “I’m not going to read out private conversations that Justice Kennedy had with either members of the White House or the president,” and, “Justice Kennedy can speak for himself.” But what Shah didn’t do is deny that the NBC report is accurate.
If it were true, this would mean that those worried that the new Justice will radically depart from Kennedy's own line of thinking could reassure themselves. Rather than Donald Trump, bomb-thrower, having appointed Kennedy's replacement, Kennedy himself would have chosen someone in whom he had confidence to preserve his legacy.

I'd think this would be pleasing news.

Civility and Its Limits

I came across an interesting piece on the currently hot issue of civility that points out, properly, that civility is not a virtue in itself, but a social contract to make it easier to get along in groups.  It also points out that we have certain obligations in maintaining the social contract:
"When someone targets one of your people over something that turns out to be innocuous, it’s the accuser that needs to be disciplined. Anything less is a betrayal of the good people for whom we are responsible. You cannot conserve civility by constantly acquiescing to the uncivil."
Civility is a tool, not a end in itself, therefore proposing that we are beholden to it is inappropriate.  We are obligated to stand up for one another, though.

It's quite good. Give it a read.

At Least We're All Taking This Seriously

I don't have a fully formed opinion on the Supreme Court nominee to share. But apparently that's not an issue that should slow me down!

How does that work again?

Am I missing something?  If vulnerable Democrat Senators in Red States want to be re-elected in November, they have to consider voters' reaction to their voting to block a Supreme Court candidate.  I can understand that they might hope that voters will agree with them on the litmus-test issue of abortion, so that they might be re-elected if they reject an open proponent of overruling Roe v. Wade.  It's risky but carries an important up-side.

But Dick Durbin appears to be making an argument based on principle, that Red-State Democrat Senators should shoot down a Supreme Court candidate because protecting Roe v. Wade is more important than being re-elected.  Sure, it might be, by their standards, but where does that leave them?  The strategy is based on the assumption that the lost seats are a foregone cost they will willingly pay.  If Durbin is right, they will have delayed confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee only to make the nominee's confirmation more of a cake-walk after the November elections.  It's not as though stopping a particular confirmation strikes a blow for all time.  The same candidate can be proposed again, or another who is basically indistinguishable.

I suppose Durbin might be trying to say that he hopes voters will react in his party's favor, and that it's worth the risk to find out if they will--because if voters will tolerate the destruction of Roe v. Wade, the Democrats might as well give up all hope of controlling the Senate anyway.  If so, abortion truly has become One Issue to Rule Them All.  And yet only something like 1/4 to 1/5 of Americans favor completely unrestricted abortion, while a similar small fraction oppose all abortions.  Everyone else can probably get comfortable with eliminating Roe v. Wade and punting the issue to the state legislatures, most of which will end up allowing at least some abortions.