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.