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.