The worker's lament

David Burge on the carnage among the clickbait factory workers.

A Bishop Apologizes

Covington Catholic's bishop has submitted a page-long written apology for his conduct in last weekend's scandal.

The Smell of Death

What follows is an essay I wrote many years ago now on Winds of Change, which is now defunct. I hadn't thought about it in years, but I went to find it again today and discovered the link was dead. I decided to dig it out of the Internet Archive. I don't know how much it is still of interest to anyone, but here it is, minus the internal links which are all now broken:
The Smell of Death

Armed Liberal has, I gather from his posts, been taking some time to reconsider his posts on killing your own meat. Since he seemed to feel like he and I were talking about the same things, let me venture a few words on the topic.

Today I took a long morning walk -- six miles or so over the Georgia hills, a good stretch of the legs. Much of this was along country backroads, but for two miles in the middle, it was along a two-lane highway. Logging trucks went roaring by, their wake turning the stagnant, humid air into a brief cyclone.

As one such truck tore past, the rush of air behind it whipped up a smell that some of you will know. I knew at once that some large animal was dead nearby, and sure enough, as the air settled the smell remained.

It grew stronger and stronger as I kept my pace, until off in the forest, just away from the road, I could see the corpse of a buck, bloated with the heat of late summer.

It had died of blunt force trauma, struck no doubt by one of those same trucks, limping off to die a few feet in the forest. I could tell this because it was not butchered, as a poacher would do. Anyone who has found where poachers keep court knows that deer who meet their end that way are found in a far worse condition. Heaps of gore are common, where unwanted hooves and organs, and sometimes the heads, are left to rot after venison is stripped from the bones.

The smell of death is a singular one. Anyone who has smelled it once strongly will know it again immediately. Like all smells, it is hard to put into words. It disgusts, and repels.

A scientific mind knows why. The smell is only the way that the human brain interprets certain chemicals, in certain quantities, touching certain nerves in the nose. The sense that comes with it is a chemical reaction in the brain. That we can smell it, and recognize it, is only a feat of engineering -- the work of evolution, no different for men as for any beast that smells.

What is interesting, to a philosopher, is that is smells bad. It is only a collection of chemicals, as is the breath of a rose: it might have smelled as sweet.

Evolution explains this too. For untold thousands of years, men -- aye, and beasts before we were men -- had no better protection than their senses against disease. However it arose, by mutation or design, those for whom rotting corpses smelled bad had an advantage. We shy from the bloated corpse, and it is well for us that we do: its flesh is putrid, harbors disease and deadly microbes, sickens and kills. No good comes from the association.

This is not the only thing about death that repels us. Return for a moment to the alternative scene, the one where a buck is killed by a poacher. It is clear why death smells bad, but why does the death of a butchered animal look worse than the death of one killed at a blow by a speeding truck?

There is a reason, but it is not as immediately obvious. We have been hunters since before the beginning, as far as Mankind is concerned. Why should it be true that the sight of a butchered animal should bother us? The sight of a steak does not: it makes us hungry. It is not the simple fact of blood, or flesh, or parts of an animal slashed and chopped to order. It is the encounter with an animal that was plainly slain by a predator.

To understand this factor of ourselves, we have to reach back to a time when we were not the top of the food chain. We have to remember that Man grew up with lions.

Nor was it only lions. Our brains carry memories more ancient than our species, and far more:

Marco Iacoboni and associates at the ucla Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center used fMRI machines to observe the neural impact of Super Bowl ads in five volunteers.... For example, during a Fed Ex ad a caveman ends up being crushed by a dinosaur. Although subjects described the ad as funny, it also elicited a strong response in the amygdala, which governs responses to threats or fear. They may not have consciously experienced fear, but their brains were assessing the threat of that dinosaur.

We see the pile of gore, and something deep within us lights up in alarm. We are on guard, to see if we might be next.
All those ancient lessons are whispering in our minds at the sight of a corpse. They work on deep and secret parts of us. Yet there is still one more, the greatest secret of death magic. It is the mystery of the severed head.

Today, among Americans, only hunters have encountered this directly. It comes in the time when you are cleaning a kill. You cut the head from the body, and hold it in your hand. Though you slew the beast yourself, though your own knife did the cutting, seeing the head disjoined from the body is the most disquieting experience it is easy to know.

Indeed, the hunter finds, it is as if the whole power of the animal were in the head. The body, with the head set aside, no longer really resembles an animal at all. It is plainly dinner, and a hide to use as a blanket in winter.

We do not react to the severed leg as we do a severed head: a drumstick is a delight to the eye; the haunch of a deer or a pig both looks and smells fine as it roasts on the fire. Or think of a fish, if you have ever had one served as they serve it in China: with the head still attached. It is a very different experience to eat such a one, than to eat a fillet.

This is why some hunters take the heads of their beasts, and place them as trophies upon the wall. It is why the ancient Gael took the head of his famous and noble foe, and tied it by its own braids to his chariot as a warning to others. It is why the more ancient Celt built temples to the severed head, with alcoves and emplacements specially constructed for displaying honored skulls.

It is why we have legends of Mimir, and Celtic tales of other severed heads that spoke wisdom to the wise. They conversed with us from the realm of death; they kept the power of great men.

All these things move us at a level deeper than we know how to understand. It is easy to explain why the smell of death repels us. Though not so obvious for a hunting people, it is yet still possible to understand why the butchered corpse is more upsetting than the whole one. The power of the severed head, though, is not easy to explain. Yet it is just as universal among mankind.

Armed Liberal wrote about the problem of those who 'keep their hands clean,' never hunting, buying meat prepackaged and without an awareness of the moral cost. I disagree: there is no moral cost. We are monsters, who butcher though it creates mounds of gore: who sever heads, and find it moves us though we know not why.

But it isn't killing that makes us monsters. We are exactly that same kind of creature, whether we have ever killed or not.

The moral problem of 'the clean hands' is that it is an illusion. It makes people believe they are better than they are, and therefore that others can also be better than they can be. It creates a class of people who feel clean, because they have never felt blood on their hands.

Yet all these things arise from things buried deep in the genetic code. You cannot walk away from them. The failure to experience these things does not mean you would not react to them in just the same way as everyone else: it only means that you cannot understand how you would react, and how others do.

The man with clean hands is just the same as the hunter. It is only that he does not know it. He does not understand that part of his soul, as it lurks beyond his experience. He comes to believe that there is a kind of human that is and can be clean: perhaps that sweet, aged lady on the corner, who in her youth broke necks every night before dinner.

Failing to understand what Man really is, he opens himself more than is wise, and defends himself less. The man with the clean hands believes in diplomacy but not the force that makes diplomacy viable. He believes in staying clean, because he believes it makes him better than you. He does not understand that it only makes him blind.

This is not a call to amoralism, but precisely the opposite. It is a call for true morality, which can only begin with awareness of sin. It can only come from a recognition of how deep-set, how permanent, how personal sin is in each of us.

It is only in that way that we can begin to put real chains on sin: by recognizing the truth about it. We must learn to face the truth about ourselves, so that we can better ourselves: we must learn to face the truth about others, so we will recognize when murder is in their hearts.

In Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership, translated by Thomas Cleary, there is a lesson to which my mind often returns. It is a lesson taught by a great master of early Zen Buddhism, called Chan in the Chinese. He had made a life given to fasting and simplicity, relinquishment and moderation. One day he visited a hermit, preparing a simple meal of rice:

The master said, "Why do crows fly away when they see a man?" The hermit was at a loss; finally he put the same question back to the Chan master. The master said, "Because I still have a murderous heart."

So do you. And so do I, and know it. For which cause I set guards on myself, chains of chivalry and courtesy, forgiveness in spite of anger. Our ancestors knew it, for which cause they learned to fight duels instead of wars, and make laws that legitimized violence in defense but not aggression.
Armed Liberal is right. Modern society has given many, for the first time, the problem of clean hands. It has yet to teach them how to overcome that problem.

Iran may teach them, soon. Al Qaeda has already tried, and failed. I counsel them, as [Armed Liberal] tried to do, to take up hunting: for this is a lesson that can only be grasped by hunting or by war. If you do not grasp it soon, war is coming to teach you. Yet there is still time, now, to learn the better way.

A Hate Incident

Excommunicabo Vos

The NY law is drawing calls for Cuomo's excommunication.

The Strength of Diversity

Let us count the ways in which this is a diverse group. Ideology?  Age? Socio-Economic class? Preference for Macs?

I'll bet it's 'views on abortion.'

UPDATE: A folksong.

What A Weird Coincidence

As the longest government shutdown ever continues, new applications for jobless benefits have dropped to a low not seen since 1969.

It's as if there were some connection between less intrusive Federal government and more employment. But you know, correlation doesn't equal causation and all that. It's probably nothing.

Gun Rights and the Supreme Court

Slate's Stern thinks this SCOTUS case involving NYC gun laws will be a big deal. I'm not as convinced.

Stern's argument that it might be:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found a right to concealed carry outside the home. So did the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, by contrast, found no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed handgun in public. And the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has split the baby, upholding limitations on concealed carry while invalidating restrictions on open carry.

Despite this circuit split, the Supreme Court has declined to take a public-carry case and resolve the matter once and for all. The main reason appeared to be Justice Anthony Kennedy, who compelled Justice Antonin Scalia to add limiting language to the Heller decision establishing an individual right to bear arms. Given Kennedy’s wobbly support of gun rights, the conservative justices avoided taking a case that might result in a 5–4 decision upholding public-carry bans. Now Kennedy is gone, replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a gun-rights enthusiast who takes a breathtakingly expansive view of the Second Amendment. With a firmly pro-gun majority in place, the conservative justices finally seem ready to supercharge Heller.
Well, I sure hope so. But I think there's plenty of room for a more limited solution.

The reason is that NYC's ban is extremely vigorous. It bars you from removing a lawfully-owned firearm from your home except to take it to a shooting range within city limits (and therefore subject to the city's restrictions). The lawsuit is by gun owners who would like to be able to take their guns to shoot in tournaments outside the city, which is currently illegal because they'd be removing their lawfully-owned guns from the city limits. One would think that NYC would be delighted to have you do this, even if only for a couple of days, since they apparently believe that having the guns physically present in their town poses some sort of danger all by itself. At least for the weekend, my gun won't kill anyone in NYC if the gun is moved to Ohio for a shooting tournament, right? But even this obvious concession to sport shooters is refused by the city, which makes no concessions to gun owners except under duress.

You could easily rule, thus, "Eh, a city can't justify a ban on removing the guns from homes on the grounds of the public safety of others in the city if the guns are also to be removed from the city. You could insist that they be removed only in an unloaded and locked condition, and shipped separately from their ammunition, in order to ensure that the transportation itself posed no danger to anyone." That wouldn't get you to any kind of robust 'public carry.' It would only permit you to transport an unloaded firearm, separated from any ammunition.

Maybe Kavanaugh will be bloodthirsty after his confirmation hearings, though. SCOTUS doesn't have to be nice.

NYC Celebrates Abortion

New York just passed a new law permitting elective abortion all the way up to birth. Although abortion is allegedly justified on the grounds that the woman should have control over her own body, this allows the mother to kill an infant who could survive perfectly well if simply removed from her body.

Naturally, New York decided to celebrate. They lit One World Trade Center up in pink to mark the occasion.

Fitting, when you think about it. It's mostly the girl babies who get aborted.

House Passes Package to Fund Govt -- Except DHS

So Trump's proposal is funding the government, plus a wall and extra border enforcement; the apparent counter proposal is funding the government, but leave DHS out. Maybe they'll get something in another bill.

Compromise sure sounds like it's right around the corner, eh?

Curious Kalashnikov

TS reports that in Texas this week, a man was attacked by 5 home-invaders with rifles. He returned fire with his own AK, killing 3.
“A neighbor who lives nearby said he was on his porch with his baby when two men showed up with large rifles,” KHOU writes. “That neighbor says he ran inside his home and took cover. He said he believes the men were at the home to rob his neighbor, however he says he does not know what they were after. He said he doesn’t know his neighbor’s name and only calls him ‘Flaco’.”
Good shooting, "Flaco," but I think maybe we all have some questions about why five guys with rifles came after you so close to the Mexican border. That suggests there might be a bigger problem that needs addressing.

Shutdown to Close Federal Courts

Most criminal offenses are state-level, and many Federal laws are nonsense regulations that would be better unenforced, repealed, or barred. Still, this will certainly delay the resolution of some important work.

Justice delayed is justice denied, they say. Of course, injustice delayed is injustice denied by an exactly similar argument.

Famous Old Norse Names in Runes

You may have wondered what they'd look like, and these are done in the correct runic script.

Many thanks as always to Dr. Crawford.


There has been some question about the stature of the alleged "Vietnam Veteran" from the weekend. This guy dug up his service record. Or so he says; but he runs an outfit that looks legit to me. My old friend "Tiny" Robinson used to do the same thing many years ago, under the name of "AuthentiSEAL," and the guy's basic claims about how SEAL status can be checked sound all correct to me. He was also positively reviewed by The Washingtonian.

So my guess is that this DD-214 will check out.

Sexual Assault at the Women's March

It was carried out in broad daylight, on video, in front of dozens of police officers -- but since the offender was a woman and the man was wearing a MAGA hat, no arrests or prosecutions are forthcoming. The woman even flatly agreed, on tape, that she was guilty of sexual assault.

Of interest to me, though, is the response the man gives. He points out that this is proof of tremendous privilege enjoyed by women -- that she can commit what she recognizes is a sexual crime, in front of the police, and know with smug confidence that she won't be arrested. When he points this fact out, however, she smiles and nods in a way that suggests not agreement, but mockery of the very idea whose truth she has just demonstrated.

Of course men are the ones with privilege. Everyone knows that. No one knows anything else.

Free Exchange of Ideas

So there's a story about a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia's philosophy department. I've drunk some beers with this guy. He's not going to kill anybody. He is forwarding some explosive ideas, but that's what a philosophy department is for.
“Some white people may have to die for black communities to be made whole in this struggle to advance to freedom,” the TA said. He further claimed that to suggest otherwise is “ahistorical and dangerously naive.”
The point he is making here is one that probably most people agree with, if it is framed instead: "Chattel slavery of blacks in North America probably would not have ended if the North had not defeated the South in the American Civil War." I used to think otherwise, but I realize that I had been persuaded by a teacher with a basically Marxist frame of social analysis. The argument I found persuasive, when I was younger, was that the changing from an agrarian to an industrial capital model would make chattel slavery undesirable as a social form, in favor of having a class of free labor that you could pay only as long as you needed them and then fire or lay off as soon as you didn't. In retrospect, I don't think that's necessary; chattel slavers could have rented out slaves to industry on a piecework basis and still made out OK. Besides, the Confederacy's long-term plan was definitely built around institutionalizing race-based slavery.

So, OK: at least at one moment in history, it was necessary to kill (a lot of) white people in order that black people should be freed. Is that still true? Well, that's the point at which the discussion would become interesting (and worth ordering another round of beers to discuss). It would be nice to think it wasn't true, especially since it was me or mine you'd probably be thinking should be killed. But if you do think it is true, I'd like to know it. I'd like to understand the idea, if only for the purpose of constructing a better defense against it.

We are in a dangerous time, and I think we can see that the racializing angle of the Left is having a perilous effect on our politics. Even so, philosophy departments exist precisely to talk through ideas that are for one reason or another dangerous. Which ideas these are -- Darwinism, evolution, philosophy of race, feminism, Marxism -- that changes from one generation to another. But this is the place for them, whatever they are.

"Abortion Rights Under Threat From SCOTUS"

Maybe if there were a stronger basis for the idea that abortion was (or could be) a "right" than SCOTUS rulings, you wouldn't be in this position. What only SCOTUS gives, SCOTUS can take away.

The March for Life this weekend appears to have produced some very significant fireworks. It's been interesting to see the mob turn on minors, and then -- when all the positive claims fell apart -- decide that it was sufficient that the kids were at the March for Life. Or wearing MAGA hats. Whatever: dox them! beat them! (Or chop them up.)

In a way this was the second running of the Kavanaugh fiasco, where felt empathy for the alleged victims completely overwhelmed any interest in the question of the actual guilt or innocence of the accused. Not shockingly, it's really over the very same issue at its foundation.

But there's also a general point to be made about the perils of empathy. Empathy is linked to unreasoning aggression against those who stand accused of harming the empathetic victims -- or even, as the study found, those who are just bystanders to the empathetic victim's alleged suffering.
There is a history of this sort of thing. Lynchings in the American South were often sparked by stories of white women who were assaulted by blacks, and anti-Semitic attacks prior to the Holocaust were often motivated by tales of Jews preying on innocent German children. Who isn’t enraged by someone who hurts a child?

Similar sentiments are used to start wars.
I keep hearing people say that America needs more empathy, but I think we really need a lot less of it. Stop feeling, start thinking.

SCOTUS Lifts Injuction on Trump, Transgenders in Military

This is a big deal because it means medical outs for a fair number of people that the Obama administration admitted, or allowed to remain in the military after they declared their status. Lower courts had held that these folks shouldn't be forced out until and unless the final court ruling was that it was right and proper for the Commander in Chief to discriminate in this way.

I've always held that 'the needs of the service' is the right standard in all of these cases, and that the application of discrimination law was an error. The rights one has as a citizen are properly pre-political in some cases, e.g., natural rights; others are civic rights that come about as a result of your having the status of being a member of this polity at this time and not that one at that time. Even for the pre-political rights, and definitely for the civic rights, the realization of those rights as enforceable realities depends upon the establishment and defense of a polity that will do the practical work of enforcing them. Thus, the work of the military has priority over the question. First, we have to keep a military that will defend the space in the world in which the polity exists; within that space, we can enforce rights both natural and civic.

If it turns out that the military needed to be all male again to be effective at that task, then we should make it all male again. If it happened that an all female force was required to make the space in the world and defend it from all comers, then we should do that. If it turned out it needed exactly 10% women for particular functions, that would be the right choice. If we need transgenders in the service for some particular cause, then we should permit them to serve in the role according to the needs of the force.

Should a demographic, or an excessive percentage of a demographic, actually prove harmful to the needs of the force then it should be culled. It's nothing personal. It's just that we have to defend the space within the world in order for any of the other rights to be practically realizable. We are not doing a great job of defending our space right now; I would guess that in my lifetime, or shortly after, large parts of what is now the United States will depart the union because of just this issue of letting the space go undefended. We need to stop messing around with this stuff.

And as for Europe, well...

No Friends on the Left

Sen. Harris is not well-loved by the Jacobin left.


OMB says there will be no reduction in force.


I’m writing on the train leaving Washington, D.C. following a normal weekend in the nation’s capital which hosted tens of thousands of activists who interrupted traffic flows and traipsed around town shouting slogans at no one in particular under the mistaken impression that their actions would somehow cause the narrative of history to turn in their favor.

They traveled here. They made signs. They walked and walked. They screamed and yelled. They gave speeches to each other. But so far as I could tell this morning, nothing changed because of their efforts.

Hawkins Misses a Shot

John Hawkins has a post that got an Insta-link about masculinity coming under attack. Most of what he has to say is right, more or less. However, there's one place where he misses something important.
The very traits that the APA says are so harmful -- “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression” -- are the same traits that built the entire world. If anything, saying that 98 percent of the great industrialists, scientists, generals, inventors, heroes, and leaders have been men with traditional masculine values is an UNDERSTATEMENT. Who created the Constitution? Who won every war America has ever fought? Who put men on the moon? Who built the internet you’re reading this article on? Men with traditional masculine values.
Read charitably, it's certainly true that 98% of the people 'who put men on the moon' were men. But it's not true that they all were. One of the most crucial roles was filled by Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated moonshot trajectories without a computer.

Honor is due to the honorable, and she is among them.

Houthi "Rebels" Kidnap, Torture Women

Iran's men in Yemen, if you're trying to remember who a "Houthi" might be.