Welcome to Februrary

I've been enjoying old Waylon tunes for a little while now. He was inventive. I haven't ever been to Spain either, although I'd like to go; a Spanish girl once bought me a bottle of Spanish wine, to share a little of what her country was like, and I've never forgotten that.

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings rented a place together, once. You can hear about it here, when he was young and clean-shaven.

Here he is a little bit later, in the late 1970s I'd guess. It was a different world.

Shel Silverstein gets mentioned here. He was a bigger force in Outlaw Country than you'd think, if you know him from books like "Where the Sidewalk Ends"; he wrote the lyrics to "A Boy Named Sue," and some other hits. He was one of my mother's favorite poets, he was. She used to read me his stuff when I was a boy. Not that one, though. That one had to wait until I became a man.


Some kind of tipping point has been reached, evidently.  Virginia Governor's bizarre chat about keeping newborn infants comfortable while we arrange to snuff them was a bridge too far, especially in the same week someone dug up yearbook photos in which he was either in blackface or wearing a KKK hood. As "the greatest chyron ever" points out, the Governor's heartfelt apology doesn't make it clear which.

Instapundit bounces the rubble with this:


Some more rubble gets bounced.


California here I go

From Maggie's Farm, a link to a thoughtful treatment of what extreme success in one area does to the population mix of a hot town like San Francisco, since the area of hot success is suitable for a completely different demographic from what used to succeed there.  Rents stay in the stratosphere, so obviously it's not that the town is literally emptying out.  Still, the whole county sees the phenomenon of the California boat people.   Some are emptying out just as others are pouring in. It's happening fast enough to be unusually disruptive.

A Man Speaking Plainly

A gay man -- and drag performer -- has some things he'd like to get off his chest about this whole transgender movement. His opening isn't that interesting to me, but his closing argument is pretty good.
The old paradigm presented effeminate men as homosexuals who could be cured of their sexual desires. The new paradigm presents effeminate boys as children who can be cured by declaring them girls. And since we have (falsely) decided that their sexuality is irrelevant because they are children and because gender has no relationship to sexuality, proponents can make their case without discussing the off-putting issue of sexual urges. Each child must be raised according to what the child perceives to be their “true gender.”

In some cases, the phenomenon described as gender dysphoria is real and permanent, of course. But giving children the power to decide their true gender—or allowing them to decide that they have no gender whatsoever—makes little sense to me. Children who haven’t gone through puberty lack perspective on the ultimate consequences—both psychological and physical—of their choices. ... [W]hat if, as a child, I had decided to take hormones in order to stave off puberty? What if my penis shrank into my body? Imagine how that would affect me as an adult, when my sexual pleasure—an unknown impulse at the time I was knitting those Barbie-doll clothes—became connected with that penis. It turned out my erotic stimulus came in the form of being a man with other men, something I could never have completely understood as a child. As with legions of other gay men and women, the whole arc of my life only makes sense if one acknowledges the connection between gender and sexual attraction.

If I had self-declared as trans, hormones would have stopped the development of my penis, and there would not be enough sensitive phallic flesh to create a sensitive vagina. This would have been problematic even if I turned out not to be gay, or trans, but simply a straight man whose body now was marked by surgeries and powerful drugs. What if, as an adult, I were only turned on by being a man when I was having sex with a woman—but I now had a female body? How would I feel then?...

When I was 12 years old, I was terrified of being gay. I knew the sexual implications of my gendered behaviour. I also knew—even at a time before I experienced real sexual desire—that it was “bad” to be gay, and that being gay meant ending up alone and lonely. My mother took me aside, and quietly reassured me: “You might be gay, you might not be, but I think you’ll have to wait until you are older to think about it, because you’re just too young to think about it now.” I’m wondering if, had all this happened in 2019, she would have instead been persuaded to raise me as a girl.

I have issues with my mother. Don’t we all? I have called her names—to her face and in print. I will not repeat them here. But I want to publicly forgive her, now, for whatever I have accused her of, because she had the kindness and grace to respect my budding sexuality as I then perceived it. And she had enough respect for me to say, “You’re just too young” when I wondered what lay in store for my future. If only we all had the courage to say these same words to our own children.
I would say this focuses too much on the pleasure aspect of sexuality, and ignores the greater question of fertility: what if a child takes drugs that render him or her sterile, and then learns as an adult of a longing for children? What if the child were a girl, who destroys her body's ability to create life and then comes to regret it? The therapist who talked her into that will have murdered her children, all of them, and a part of her soul that she cannot get back.

Ultimately there is much to be said for patience in these matters.

In Capitalist America, Your Groceries Shop for You!

Walgreens is testing out cameras to watch shoppers, analyze them for demographic information, and refine their marketing systems. And they aren't the only ones.


One of many, many affectionate tributes to the late Richard Feynman, whose delight in a surprising phenomenon knew no bounds.  He was well guarded against the danger of refusing to acknowledge inconvenient truth, because his joy came from grappling with it.  His "Impossible!" really meant "What a wonderful toy you've given me to play with!"

This is a Penrose tile, I think, and below is a supposedly forbidden pentagonal natural array from a quasi-periodic crystal.

Eat the Rich, Eat Your Zoo Animals

Rep. Omar calls for considering a 90% top marginal tax (apparently 70% wasn't enough).

Also, cuts in Defense:
“I’m also one that really looks at the defense budget that we have, Rep. Omar said. “That has increased nearly 50% since 9/11. And so, most of the money that we have in there is much more than with we spend on education, on healthcare.”
That's not remotely true. Medicare alone consumes more money than the DOD. Medicare spending was north of $750B in 2017; the DOD's budget for this year is $686B.

People on the Left get confused about that because their professors put up charts on the wall with the "discretionary budget," which DOD dominates. That gives you the impression that we spend more on DOD than anything else. But most of the Federal budget isn't defined as discretionary, but as entitlements. Social Security and Medicare are each larger than DOD's budget. Military spending is only 16% of the total.

Now you might want to get that down to 2%, and spend the rest on Green New Deals or Free College or Universal Health Care.

By the way, even with a 70% marginal tax you'll still need a lot more money. Even should you zero out defense, you'd save around seven trillion dollars in a decade, and Medicare for All is expected to cost $32 trillion in that time. Add that to the $720 Billion you'd get from the 70% tax, over that decade, and you'd still be over twenty-four trillion short.

Elizabeth Warren, who is smarter than these two younger Congressfolk, has a "wealth tax" that gets you closer. Total wealth in the United States is estimated at $54 Trillion, so you'd only need to take about half of everything.

To cover the first decade of Medicare for All, I mean. The Green New Deal and Free College are another story. And presumably there will be a second decade -- will you have regenerated that $24 Trillion, while operating under such a punishing set of taxes?

There's just not enough money, no matter the tax scheme.

No problem: just print it. The author thinks it could be done without sparking Zimbabwe-style inflation, but really? You're going to dump $2.4 Trillion a year in new money into the market, and it's not going to cause runaway inflation?

This is how you kill an economy. Even the greatest economy in the world.

Whited Sepulchers

A moving condemnation of New York's new infanticide law.

I have been hearing defenders say that the only women who would seek an abortion at nine months are those whose child poses a mortal threat to them. The argument is that the child must be removed for the mother's health, and is probably dying itself anyway. If so, you could see an argument that some sort of abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, and the child cannot be saved; and in that case, at least utilitarians would think it unethical not to abort. (Catholics, of course, are taught that it is never right to do an evil action, even to prevent another evil.)

However, this study of later term abortions suggests that medical reasons aren't really the main reason.
Later abortion recipients experienced logistical delays (e.g., difficulty finding a provider and raising funds for the procedure and travel costs), which compounded other delays in receiving care. Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.
"Nulliparous," if you don't want to look it up, means that they've never delivered a baby before.

Now this study is for 'after 20 weeks,' rather than 'nine months,' but it's interesting that "experiencing a medical emergency" isn't even one of the five profiles.

As I think of Mike's point, I wonder how this law could be constitutional. The 14th Amendment says "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside" and that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Once the birth occurs, the argument that 'it's the woman's body, so it's her choice' clearly does not apply; and the child, having been born, is a citizen due the protection of the laws.

Unless, of course, the child is not a person. That's been the dodge all along.

The Backchannel

The core insight -- that people put on a public face different from who they are in confidence -- is so obvious as to be undeniable. Apparently, journalists really don't like to admit it.

And academia:
Since the beginning of my graduate education, I have been someone who other academics feel that they can come to in order to voice their shock and dismay at just how toxic the culture within academia has become. They tell stories about petty witch hunts and show trials within their departments. They share their fear about objecting to arguments they find unfair or unsupported. They say they feel compelled to follow current academic fads for fear of being labeled. They are convinced that stepping out of line with the constant search for offense will render them permanently unemployable, even though they are themselves progressive people. You’ve heard the litany before. They share it with me.

Because they know that they can trust that I won’t ever betray their confidence, and because of my (self-aggrandizing, I admit) indifference to my professional reputation, they email me. They find me at conferences. And they always say the same thing: I could never say this publicly, but…. The Tuvel situation is just one example of a pervasive culture of fear, a feeling that even when one has the strong sense that an injustice is being done, academia is not a place where such reservations can be freely voiced.

Some will insist that this is just the secretly conservative saying what they truly believe, that this is all white men decrying a changing academic world. I suppose on balance the backchannel to me is paler and maler than the academy writ large. But the truth is that all kinds of people discuss this stuff with me: white and black, male and female, trans and cis. And the people who approach me aren’t mostly those rare academic conservatives, who barely exist these days, but rather liberals and leftists who believe in the movement for equality but find that the way that movement operates in the contemporary university has become toxic and unjust.
I've had similar experiences. Not everyone in the academic world is completely sure of gun control; not everyone is committed to abortion rights. Some -- maybe most -- of the women doggedly pursuing academic careers would rather be home with their children.

They just can't admit it, not in public.

Up Helly Aa AAR

Sounds like the fire festival was a lot of fun.

However, it sounds like the festival may not be around much longer. It sounded like entirely too much fun for the current version of the UK, and the decision to form a "new squad called #MeToo" looks like an attempt to destroy it before any more fun is had.

I have no clever title for this

New York State passed the most permissive abortion law in US history.  Virginia says "hold my beer".

Now I've made few bones about the fact that I find the Federal government to be far too obtrusive in our lives.  I'm a (small 'l') libertarian who would rather let people figure out complex issues in their own lives and keep government out of it.  As such, while I find abortion morally hateful, I'd rather not have the government put it's greasy paws all over the issue (indeed, my solution is to leave abortion laws up to the States).

But let's be clear, this proposed law in Virginia legitimizes blatant infanticide.  No civilized nation on the planet has any qualms referring to a child born and breathing on its own, separated from the womb completely, as a human being.  Virginia's proposed law would then let the mother and two doctors declare "yeah, but it's inconvenient so put it to death".  Not withhold extraordinary care, not take it off life support, no... actual positive steps to kill the baby.

I literally cannot type coherently about this.  It's beyond insanity.

Everything is Racist? Mary Poppins and Coal Miners

The NYT runs a piece examining the underlying racism in Mary Poppins, the 1964 movie about a book from the early 20th century. The books were moreso, the movie eliding almost all of that content out. But it remains, sort of: there was an association with lower class men who got very dirty doing their work, and blacks whose condition was thought lower by nature. I recall reading about a similar thing from the Raj days, in which a British military officer was stunned to realize -- while his men were taking a communal bath on maneuvers -- that the lower-class infantrymen were white underneath their uniforms. All the marching in the sun made them darker, and he assumed they were somehow of a lower (i.e. darker, according to the fashion of the times) race.

A photo of coal miners relaxing after work receives similar treatment.

I might have thought this was all evidence of progress; even in 1964, people realized the old mode was a problem and began to elide it into non-racist forms. They were still classist, but those classes in Britain were rapidly fading even in the 1960s. That class consciousness was a major source of humor in Monty Python just because it was on the way out. The racism of the earlier period was already embarrassing in the 1960s, and was being written out.

Progress on classism, too, in the fact that working men no longer show up at the bar covered in filth from head to foot. Working conditions have improved dramatically, even for coal miners. If that weren't true, people wouldn't look at this photo and think, "Blackface!" They'd look at it and think, "Oh, coal miners."

But apparently actual progress is forbidden by progressives. We need to make sure to hold on to the grievances that actual progress might weaken, since the real goal isn't progress but power.

Authoritarians and "Patriotism"

Listen, it wouldn’t be fair to accuse presidential hopeful Kamala Harris of supporting state control over the means of all production. To this point she’s only focused on the energy, health care, auto-manufacturing and education sectors. Good candidates prioritize....

Human Dragons on Piles of Rubies

Hot Air was pretty close to agreement on that point last week.
Ocasio-Cortez is basically stating a premise that most Christians would hear in church — that the gross hoarding of wealth violates the self-sacrificing love that should exist among God’s children in terms of overall distribution of Creation’s bounty intended for all. Calling the system “immoral” might be a bit hyperbolic, but many people would at least agree that recent outcomes of our economic system have become imbalanced, if not warped. The problem isn’t capitalism itself but in our lack of effort to enforce anti-trust laws to keep wealth — and therefore political power — accruing into fewer and fewer hands. That trend has accelerated the rise of populism on both sides of the ideological divide and corroded confidence in our public institutions....

Shotgun Weddings in the UK

More knives and hammers than shotguns these days, I guess. But still.

Well, the practice is a little different too in that the forced marriage happens before sex, rather than as a consequence of it. And it might not lead to sex, either.

That's Just Orthodoxy

Headline: 'Co-founder of Satanic Temple: Pence "really scares me"'

“I uncanonical!” answered the hermit; “I scorn the charge—I scorn it with my heels!—I serve the duty of my chapel duly and truly—Two masses daily, morning and evening, primes, noons, and vespers, 'aves, credos, paters'—-”

“Excepting moonlight nights, when the venison is in season,” said his guest.

“'Exceptis excipiendis'” replied the hermit, “as our old abbot taught me to say, when impertinent laymen should ask me if I kept every punctilio of mine order.”

“True, holy father,” said the knight; “but the devil is apt to keep an eye on such exceptions; he goes about, thou knowest, like a roaring lion.”

“Let him roar here if he dares,” said the friar; “a touch of my cord will make him roar as loud as the tongs of St Dunstan himself did. I never feared man, and I as little fear the devil and his imps. Saint Dunstan, Saint Dubric, Saint Winibald, Saint Winifred, Saint Swibert, Saint Willick, not forgetting Saint Thomas a Kent, and my own poor merits to speed, I defy every devil of them, come cut and long tail.—But to let you into a secret, I never speak upon such subjects, my friend, until after morning vespers.”

Ain't No God in Thailand


A Belarusian model, who said she had proof that President Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, has now backtracked and says she made up the claims....[T]he model now claims her story was just an effort to attract media attention and save her life while she was detained in Thailand.

“I think it saved my life, how can I regret it? If journalists had not come at that time and that story had not come to the newspapers, maybe I would die [be dead by] now,” she told CNN.
Can't blame her much for that. It's an old story.

A Reasonable Plan

Headline: "Abolish the Federal Government and Realign the Nation Based on Football."

It actually works out pretty well!

Reason: The Shutdown Proves We Can Shrink the Government

I'm willing to believe.

I do wonder, though, if Americans' emotional reactions to having government workers unemployed doesn't make it impractical. Nobody likes suffering, but the suffering associated with losing a job is inherent to private capitalism. Government jobs provide security, and who doesn't like security? Seeing all those people upset at losing their security was clearly upsetting to lots of ordinary Americans who sympathize.

To make the government much smaller is the wise move. Is it still within the realm of the possible, without waiting for the whole thing to first collapse under its own weight?

The Worst Candidate of All

We've seen a bunch of people throwing their hats in for 2020, but one of them is head and shoulders worse than all the rest: Sen. Kamala Harris.

How awful is she? Let us count the ways. Of course we know about her recent argument that membership in the Knights of Columbus should be thought disqualifying for judges, meaning that she violates her oath to uphold the Constitution and its prohibition of religious tests for office.

She is a politician who is confirmed in the Jackboot Thug approach to authority. She strongly supported granting search warrants against you based on no evidence beyond the fact that DNA found at the scene of a crime was similar to that of your relatives.
Harris was also a big booster of familial DNA searches, a controversial technique whereby investigators compare a DNA sample to other samples in a DNA database to find possible relatives, then use additional genetic testing and analysis to confirm the match, all in order to solve crimes. Due to privacy concerns, the technique hasn’t been adopted in Canada, and was outlawed in both Maryland and DC. Among the concerns are the not-infrequent cases of human error in DNA evidence, the fact that familial testing would disproportionately impact communities of color, the potential revelation of family secrets, and the already existing instances of mistakes being made with the technique....

In fact, California’s use of familial DNA testing is particularly invasive, as the state allows the collection and preservation of DNA samples from anyone who is arrested, even if they’re not charged with a crime. The ACLU originally sued to block California’s DNA collection when an Oakland woman had been arrested during a San Francisco protest against the Iraq War and forced to give a DNA sample despite not being charged with any crime.
She also supports civil asset forfeiture, in which the state can take your property without proving you guilty of anything, and you have to prove your innocence to get it back. She made it a practice to withhold exculpatory evidence from defense lawyers in criminal cases.

She also celebrated "using the stick" to make American families "behave," including sending poor parents, even single parents to jail if their kids were truant at school.

She has expansive ideas about how she'd like to use the new power she hopes to win.
But the queen of the ban was just getting starting. Along with banning private health insurance, Harris also wants to ban for-profit colleges, assault weapons, fossil fuels, personal cars, and presumably members of the Knights of Columbus serving as federal judges. It’s quite a list, and a sign of the times in the party of Jefferson and Jackson.
Speaking of health insurance, did you ever get any you only kind of hate after Obama's promise that you could keep the stuff you liked? Too bad, it's gone again.

And, of course, she's a committed opponent of the 2nd Amendment. She'd have to be. You couldn't leave Americans in possession of firearms before you made them give up their cars.

There may be no good candidates next year, but so far this is by far the worst one.

Up Helly Aa

Tuesday, 29th January is the annual Up Helly Aa festival in the Shetland Islands.

One of these years I just need to set aside January to spend in Scotland, with a slight trip into England for the Jorvik festival in York.

BB: Calvinist "Choose Your Own Adventure"

You'll never guess how it ends.

What we click on

From Jim Geraghty: North Dakotan columnist Rob Port with a difficult but accurate observation: “Free markets and democracy are very good at delivering people what they want, even when they claim they don’t want it.”

51st Highlanders

A part of the Dunkirk story you may not have heard.

A Documentary Debut

You're meant to be clever enough to understand that this is clever.

I always think, 'Abyssus abussum invocat,' and display a Tolkien-like wariness about even using the name. Perhaps that means I'm not clever enough. I do appreciate the attempts to defend a Constitutional principle; I don't, especially, appreciate the way in which actual religious belief is viewed as dispensable. There are many things I would do to tolerate and make room for sincere religious feeling that I wouldn't do at all for someone who's just trying to make a political point. The toleration of sincere religious belief is humane, in the strictest sense of the word; the other applies a kind of acid to the humane principle.