A Song of the Beautiful Time

It's a little before '69, which AVI says is the end of the period rather than the beginning of it. I wasn't quite there, so I'll bend to the judgment of my elders on the point.

You can easily see what I like about it: the rejection of the city, the embrace of the canyon, the love of simple beauty and a renewed sort of human relation. It's interesting for those of you who follow my movie recommendation of last week, as it turns up in an interesting context.

The 2020 field

But before I laugh too much at this, I try to remember the SNL skit from the run-up to the 1992 election, when the Dem field was huge and all the contestants gave the distinct impression they'd rather not run.  SNL had them all in a room together, each explaining why he wasn't the right candidate this cycle.  Mario Cuomo kept saying "I've got mob ties."  Tipper Gore appeared for Al and objected that her husband wasn't there to defend himself.  I couldn't find the video clip, but here's a transcript.  Note the conspicuous absence of a particular candidate.
Campaign '92: The Race To Avoid Being The Guy Who Loses To Bush

Moderator: Good evening. I'm Fay Sullivan, of the League of Women Voters. Welcome to this, the first in a series of debates among the five leading Democrats who are trying to avoid being forced by their party into a hopeless race against President George Bush. Most of them have already announced that they're not interested in the nomination. But each, of course, is under enormous pressure to be the "chump" who will take on the futile task of running against this very, very popular incumbent. They are... Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

Sen. Bill Bradley: I am not a candidate for President in 1992.

Moderator: House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri..

Congressman Dick Gephardt: I do not seek my party's nomination.

Moderator: Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas.

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen: I do not wish to be my party's nominee in the next election.

Moderator: Here for her husband, Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee, Tipper Gore.

Tipper Gore: He's not interested.

Moderator: And Gov. Mario Cuomo, of New York.

Gov. Mario Cuomo: No way!

Moderator: Gov. Cuomo, let's begin with you. In a way, one might say there's no reason for any of you to be forced into this race. After all, there are already several announced candidates for the Democratic nomination - Sen. Kerrey, Sen. Harkin, former Gov. Brown, and so on. Why is your party begging you, or any of you, to enter the race?

Gov. Mario Cuomo: Fay, I don't know. But I'll tell you something - if the Democratic Party were to make me its candidate in 1992, it would go down as its worse defeat in history.

Sen. Bill Bradley: Oh, come on, Mario! You're probably the best candidate we've got!

Everyone: Cuomo! Cuomo! Cuomo! Cuomo!

Gov. Mario Cuomo: Please, please! Bill! Now, I resent the implication that I'm the strongest candidate here. Let's be frank - you're far better than any of us, or have you forgotten your brilliant play as you led the New York Knicks to victory in the 1973 NBA Finals?

Everyone: Bradley! Bradley! Bradley! Bradley!

Gov. Mario Cuomo: Now, Bill, you could show me polls that have me losing to Bush by 7 points, and I can show you polls that have me losing to Bush by 40 points - that's not the issue! The issue is my record. After eight years of my mismanagement as governor, the economy of New York State is in a shambles! Now, I don't think anyone here can point to a record like that.

Congressman Dick Gephardt: Now, wait a minute.

Moderator: Congressman Gephardt?

Everyone: Gephardt! Gephardt! Gephardt! Gephardt!

Congressman Dick Gephardt: Well, hold on! Now, if you wanna talk about shambles, let's talk about the U.S. House of Representatives, of which I am the Majority Leader. You know, the real enemy facing this country isn't the Soviets, it isn't the Japanese - it's people like me! And the American people know it. The fact is, I couldn't beat David Duke in Harlem! What this party needs is someone with the vision, the integrity, and the guts of an Al Gore.

Everyone: Gore! Gore! Gore! Gore!

Tipper Gore: That isn't fair! My husband isn't here tonight to answer to that kind of smear!

Congressman Dick Gephardt: Then, I have to ask you, if your husband doesn't think he should be this party's nominee, why didn't he bother to show up here tonight?

Tipper Gore: My husband is with our kids at a gay porno theater.

Everyone: Oh, come on! Come on!

Moderator: Gentlemen, please! Sen. Bentsen, we haven't heard from you yet.

Everyone: Bentsen! Bentsen! Bentsen! Bentsen!

Moderator: Please... please... Senator, tell us why Lloyd Bentsen should not be President.

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen: Oh, Fay, there are so many reasons. But, ultimately, it comes down to one - this election is about ideas. And the fact is, I have none. Nothing, covers empty, nada, not a one! You know, I remind myself of that commercial, "Where's The Beef?" And that's the problem with Lloyd Bentsen - where's the beef?

Sen. Bill Bradley: Uh, may I?

Moderator: Sen. Bradley?

Sen. Bill Bradley: What about me? If Lloyd wants to talk about lack of substance, I say what about me? I'm an ex-jock. End of story. The fact is, Lloyd is one of the finest minds in the Senate! In fact, he reminds many of us of another great democrat - John F. Kennedy.

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen: Sen Bradley, I knew Jack Kennedy. I worked with Jack Kennedy. I am no Jack Kennedy.

Sen. Bill Bradley: Senator, that was uncalled for.

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen: The fact is, when most people hear the name Lloyd Bentsen, they don't think of Jack Kennedy; they think of two other fellows - Michael Dukakis and Willie Horton.

Tipper Gore: Lloyd, that is shameless!

Gov. Mario Cuomo: Sen. Bentsen, I resent the suggestion that you are somehow more the candidate of Willie Horton than anyone else here! The fact is, as governor of New York, I have pardoned criminals far worse than Willie Horton! Including key figures in organized crime, who happen top be close friends of mine! Yes! I'm talking about the mob!

Moderator: Well... gentlemen, Mrs. Gore...we've reached the end of our alotted time. Each of you is now allowed a brief closing statement. Let's begin with Tipper Gore.

Tipper Gore: Thank you, Fay. I'm a mother of three children, and, like any mother, I want the best possible future for my kids. When I think of a future with my husband as President, frankly, I'm scared. Thank you.

Moderator: Congressman Gephardt?

Congressman Dick Gephardt: There's a feeling abroad in this land. You can sense it from the textile workers in South Carolina, from machinists in Detroit, and ranchers in Wyoming. The feeling that Dick Gephardt represents everything that's wrong with this country. You don't want me as your president, and neither do I. I want to remain in Congress. After all, that's where the money is - your money. Thank you.

Moderator: Sen. Bradley?

Sen. Bill Bradley: Well, there are people that will tell you that I can beat George Bush. Why? Because I'm a sports celebrity. But I think you, the American people, are smarter than that. You want a leader you can defend against terrorism, not jump shots; who can make a foreign policy, not an inbound pass; a leader who can run an economy, not a three-man weave. If America ever needs a man in a low post... perhaps I'm the guy... but, when it comes to our nation's highest post, I just don't cut it. Thank you.

Moderator: And now, Sen. Bentsen.

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen: I'm old.. and I'm only gonna be getting older. Older and more confused. Hell, I can't tell you all the names of the people that are standing right here. One thing I can tell you, is that George Bush would beat the living bejebus out of me. He's done it before, just ask a couple friends of mine - Michael Dukakis and Willie Horton. 
Moderator: And, finally, Gov. Cuomo.

Gov. Mario Cuomo: Thank you, Fay. Tonight, we've heard a lot about images of perception, about what poll shows what candidate losing by the least to whom at any given time. Now, I could stand here and talk about the inaccuracy of polling, or the subjective nature of the process - but that's not the real issue here! The real issue is simple - I... have... mob ties!

Moderator: Well, that brings to a close, the first in a series of Democratic Presidential debates. Thank you, all of you, for your participation here tonight. And I'd also like to take this opportunity to remind our viewers at home that democracy works only when you vote. When you don't take the time to vote for the candidate you find the least offensive, you run the risk of electing the candidate you find the most offensive. Good night.
I did find a link, but it has an annoying ad first.

Kermit the Coffee-Obsessed Murderer

Jim Henson's early work is surprisingly horrifying.

The End of the "TrumpRussia" Probe

Open thread, if you have anything you'd like to say about it.

Knowing the Right Thing to Say

Swedes piously assert their willingness to take a refugee into their homes, until one is presented.

Assaults on Religious Ceremonies

We all heard about last week's, but did you hear about the priest who was slashed by a knife-man during Mass in Canada today? The attacker survived -- as thankfully did the priest, Father Claude Grou -- but so far he has not been identified or described at all to the public.

Dad29 points out that a dozen Christian churches were vandalized in the last week in France alone. "In 2018, the Ministry of the Interior recorded 541 anti-Semitic acts, 100 anti-Muslim acts, and 1063 anti-Christian acts." All we get by way of description here is "young men," which is at least what you'd expect.

Elite-Approved Democracy

We keep hearing about how the Electoral College is a 'threat to democracy,' since it can prevent the winner of a popular vote from becoming President (as the Founders intended, for the purpose of ensuring that a President had support across a broad set of states rather than support localized in populous regions). Democracy, we are told, is an unalloyed good.

Unless, of course, the democracy is a popular referendum that enacts Voter ID, as happened in North Carolina. There, you will recall, a single judge saw fit to set aside the will of a majority of the state's voters -- and the same people who condemn the Electoral College praised him for it.

Now, in New Mexico, a single state official has decreed that the voters may not even hold a referendum on a gun control law she favors.
Republicans cited from the state constitution that “the people reserve the power to disapprove, suspend and annul any law enacted by the Legislature.” But Toulouse Oliver said that exceptions were allowed on laws regarding “public peace, health, and safety,” according to the New Mexican....

Dozens of counties in the state have already declared themselves a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” in opposition to the Democratic-sponsored legislation. The New Mexico Sheriff’s Association previously called the laws unenforceable, saying they would punish law-abiding citizens.
(The next county over just did that "gun sanctuary" thing too. I expect it's going to become more and more common.)

A judge in Wisconsin has likewise blocked some lame-duck laws passed by the Republican legislature.

I'm beginning to get the sense that this commitment to the democratic will of the people is conditional on the people doing what the elites prefer they do.

Weirdos for President

Way back in 1969, Arlo Guthrie was among those who used the word "weirdos" to embrace himself and others like him. You can hear him do so here, in this intro to the infamous "Motorcycle Song."

That spirit of '69 has created a culture whom the weird is normal. Beto eating dirt after losing to Ted Cruz isn't even the weirdest thing about the current crop; as the author notes, even taking your mother to a porno film is not.

It's difficult to appreciate how weird it has gotten, because our culture suppresses the discussion of it. Thirty years ago it was 1988. The view of sexuality that had obtained for a thousand years or more was still broadly accepted. The military was staffed by straight men for the most part, as it had been since the introduction of formal militaries; some women performed non-combat roles, as they had since the second world war. Marriage was between a man and a woman, chiefly for the purpose of procreation and child rearing, according to a doctrine at least as old as Aquinas and arguably as old as Aristotle; people who divorced and remarried multiple times were still thought a bit scandalous. Cheating on your wife would end Presidential ambitions if it became widely known, because it was viewed as a betrayal of a sacred oath -- and the sacred oath is all that really restrains a President.

Perhaps some of those changes are for the better; I don't raise the issue to discuss that point. What I raise the issue to discuss is how rapidly everything has changed. Many of the things that are being treated as normal right now would have been unthinkable in 1988. As the cited piece suggests, Kamala Harris may eventually become the middle-of-the-road choice for nomination; if she does, both candidates for President will be acknowledged adulterers. It's not even really an issue anymore. Why should it be, when Harris et al are running on pledges to destroy the Constitutional systems their sacred oath would require them to protect? The hope isn't that her oath might restrain her; she, and the rest, are being sought out specifically to violate that oath.

Like many, I have a great deal of affection for the music of 1969 -- for the beauty which first flowered in the spirit of throwing off the old rules, and trying new things. Some of you have more affection for some of the changes that have followed, some less. But it is clear that tradition and normality have completely lost their force. Everything can be swept away in this wind; anything to be saved must be saved by main force.

It's a dangerous time. An interesting one.

Plastic Brains

A thesis that I, like most parents, devoutly hope is true.
Meanwhile, evidence points to your family environment having no bearing on personality. Twins who are reared in a family are not more similar than twins reared in different families. “Adopted siblings are basically no more similar in personality than any two strangers in the street,” he adds.

Parents might bristle at this idea, but it doesn’t downplay the importance of upbringing. Family environment contributes to our behaviour, our character and the way we adapt to the world, Mitchell notes, “so parenting has a major contribution”.

“Though our personality stays the same, our behaviour does change with our experience,” he says. Neuroscientists now view the brain as far more plastic than once assumed. It shifts with experience, much like a muscle changes with exercise.
I suspect that most parents believe otherwise, which is why we go to such lengths to try to raise our kids right. Every parent makes mistakes, though; everyone misses opportunities that are evident only in hindsight. Some of our strategies, even adopted with the best intentions for the child's socialization or success, end up looking worse in retrospect.

Still, it's a nice thought: your work might help them develop analogously to exercising helping their muscles develop, but the basic structure is going to stay the same no matter what you got wrong. It's not that what you do doesn't matter. It's just that you end up a lot less responsible for the end result than you may fear.

And to some degree, so do they. You can only exercise muscles you were born with, after all. If your son or daughter just isn't the person you'd hoped they'd become, well, to some degree it may not be your fault or theirs either. It may just be they were born to be someone else.

If the study is true, of course. I have to be suspicious of it just because I'd like for it to be.

A Beard Song

Same band as last night. There's a bit of language, but you're all spirited folk.

Asylum Claim Rejected After Conversion to Christianity

Britain’s immigration department has been condemned for citing violent Bible passages as the basis to reject an asylum claim by an Iranian national who said he had converted to Christianity because it was a “peaceful” religion.

The Home Office — which is responsible for handling immigration, security and law and order — used verses from the books of Leviticus, Exodus and Revelation in an attempt to argue that Christianity was hardly “peaceful.” The asylum seeker’s application was denied on Tuesday....

[T]he Home Office used extensive quotes from the Bible, such as “You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you,” from Leviticus, as evidence against the asylum seeker’s claim about Christianity.

“These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge,” read a rejection letter Mr. Stevens shared excerpts from online.
The thing is, this guy was an asylum seeker from Iran, which forbids conversion to Christianity. He will certainly be subject to violence from the state on his return, in the name of Iran's state interpretation of Islam. His experience of Christianity and Islam are surely relevant to his interpretation, which it is his right as a human being to come to on his own.

As for whether Christianity is peaceful or violent finally, well, Chesterton pointed out that its detractors make either case as fits their agenda. "It was the fault of poor old Christianity (somehow or other) both that Edward the Confessor did not fight and that Richard Coeur de Leon did."


We were talking about this a while ago, as I recall.


Eric Hines

Independence, Live and On Time

Theresa May has reportedly made peace with a no-deal Brexit next week.

Satire, or No?

Headline #1: ""The 'Burn It Down' Democrats."

Headline #2: "Candidates Propose Changes To Fix Flaw In Constitution That Allows Republicans To Be Elected."

Black Flag Cut Down

The last ISIS stronghold has fallen.
Troops here are now bringing down the black flags of ISIS. The flags no longer fly over the town, instilling fear.

The last five days, Fox News has witnessed the last major offensive up close -– with U.S.-backed SDF forces attacking ISIS from three sides, pushing the fighters back, house to house, then tent to tent, against the Euphrates River.

Egyptian Iconoclasm

Why do so many statues from ancient Egypt have broken noses?

Gaslighting Success

I've heard this so many times that I actually had come around to believing this story about 'very fine people.'


Facebook might turn on you, warns Joe Bob Briggs.


An article in Forbes argues that the multiverse is inevitably real, given cosmic inflation and quantum physics.

Some Good Kipling, Thanks to James

James mentioned this poem in the "More toxic masculinity" comments. I had never read it before, and it seems fitting for the Hall. It's almost a hundred lines, so I'll put it below the fold.

All American Polka

Shades of Helen, Georgia.

Happy Spring, killers.

UPDATE: If you'd like a live version, here it is.

Genocide Poetry

Headline: "The word 'cowboy' is now equivalent to genocide."

I don't have decent words to reject the foolishness anymore; maybe none of us do. Harder words might follow, or harder acts. In general I prefer violence to discourtesy: one might have adequate reason to kill a man without wishing to insult him.

I guess they don't get that. It's a hard road they're mapping out for themselves.


Red flags

I've been following with interest the controversy over Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft, without being able to make out whether the aircraft or pilot training is the biggest problem.  HotAir's Jazz Shaw published a startling piece this morning reporting that the Lion Air flight that went down last year had narrowly escaped almost exactly the same fate the day before.  They were saved by the coincidental presence in the cockpit of an off-duty co-pilot who correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disconnect the malfunctioning flight control system.

There must be strong pressures to put the cone of silence over near-misses like this. Still, how would you like to be the guy who didn't speak up, or the guy who squelched his report?

Bad Times at the El Royale

I saw this movie on the recent trip. I found it highly engaging. It is the kind of movie in which a set of secrets are buried at the beginning, and their revelation creates interference patterns with each other. It is also beautifully shot, with an ear for music.

Some of you might enjoy it.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that some might be concerned that the priest character heralds the usual abuse of Catholicism and/or Christianity in the mouth of Hollywood. Without wanting to give away any secrets, I think you may be pleasantly surprised by the handling of that matter.


A quantum experiment is said to "call into question whether or not there is objective reality."

It doesn't really do that. What it does do is suggest that objective reality may somehow contain two sets of apparently contradictory facts. If so, that is itself an objective fact about reality. It's a confusing one, to be sure; it may well reframe some of our thinking and discussions. However, it still would happen to be an objective description of reality.

"Do you really want to jump? Do you?"

Politico likes to talk about what a great idea it would be for progressives to pack the Supreme Court.  HotAir responds:
Eh, why not? All the cool kids are talking about it for 2021, according to Politico, without any apparent worry about what might happen in 2019 and 2020.
* * *
So why wait on this terrible idea? Let’s do it now. Donald Trump should announce that he has nominated six justices to the Supreme Court to expand it to 15 seats. With a 53-seat majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell could get them all confirmed by the end of the summer at the latest.
* * *
This is not a Swiftian Modest Proposal-esque satirical suggestion. I’d like to see Trump do it — but not to get those seats added to the Supreme Court. If Trump tries it, Congress would move heaven and earth to block him from succeeding at his court-packing plan, and that would be a bipartisan effort. We’ll have more later on the bipartisan project to curtail the National Emergencies Act after Trump’s border-wall declaration, but this would generation an outrage of an order of multitude higher. Legislation to limit the Supreme Court to nine seats might even pass on unanimous votes, or at least far more than would be needed for a veto override.

Executive emergency

Congress is finally starting to think about whether the problem is that it doesn't like this president or that president, or maybe instead that it should quit handing over its functions to the executive branch with a big red bow tied on them:
The existence of the NEA is inexplicable anyway. Winston Churchill’s observation that “bad kings make for good law” was utterly confounded in 1976 when a Democrat-controlled Congress passed this power usurpation to a Republican president. Gerald Ford had assumed the office two years earlier after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace for having abused the power of his office in numerous ways. One would have assumed under those circumstances that the Congress elected after that fiasco would have special care in preventing further executive abuse, but perhaps only if one was entirely unfamiliar with the impulse of Congress to avoid doing any of its own work.

The Return of Grim

This time, I sought different mountains.

Wyoming is interesting country. I'll be out there more often, I think.

More toxic masculinity

HotAir observes that with this guy, the drinks are on us for the rest of his life.

Smart kids/dumb kids

A Popular Mechanics series sorts through cliches and social prejudices distorting choices in education.  Are liberal arts programs fancy-pantsy hotbeds of sophomoric socialist posturing?  Are votech programs mind-numbing economic dead ends?  Do both sorts of programs bilk unsuspecting parents, students, and taxpayers out of increasingly mountainous piles of tuition that will never be reflected in paychecks?

To judge purely from the lifetime impact on earnings, many of our preconceptions don't pan out.  None of this answers the question whether we should be focusing on more than lifetime earnings, but before families and taxpayers incur big IOUs on higher education strategies, it's at least worth looking at.  I'm no fan of federal regulations in education, but I wouldn't mind seeing schools have to show wage outcome data before they get federal funding.  Pay for your own operations, and you can experiment with whatever academic philosophy suits and your customers.

I really enjoy Popular Mechanics articles.

Communicable violence

A Quillette article about the Christchurch shootings draws a parallel between the printing press and the internet as innovations that ushered in sectarian clashes:
The disruptive nature of the internet has been compared many times to the disruption caused by the printing press. And the frightening realisation one has when making this analogy is that the printing press precipitated hundreds of years of religious warring. We do not yet know what will be the long-term impact of the internet—obviously, it will be both good and bad, and most likely the upside will vastly outweigh the downside—but we must also be prepared for a fragmenting of our societies, and continual fracturing along ideological and tribal lines.
Here at home, I continue my experiment in local politics, relying heavily on the internet for communication. At this week's public meeting the county attorney was inspired to suggest that the County Judge ask the bailiff to restrain me from speaking further. The Judge wisely ignored her and contented himself with bringing debate to a close by the usual procedures and calling a vote.

The controversy was over the "agenda packets" that are distributed to department heads and commissioners in preparation for each meeting. I had proposed that the county should resume the traditional practice of distributing the agenda packets to the press and the public as well, instead of making them file an open-records request and wait until at least two weeks after the meeting.  Even the local paper is taking an interest, which is surprising, given that the editor normally is rather a cheerleader and averse to controversy--but of course, he resents suddenly being denied access to the packets before each meeting. The voters, for the most part, would like to see more transparency, which is of course why they elected me.

I spend a lot of time answering forum comments about how all this procedure is supposed to work.  I explain why, even when I'm disappointed by not winning support for a proposal, the really important thing for me is the freedom to post an item on the agenda and debate it in open session. After that, we decide what we decide, and then the voters evaluate our performance. There's an odd perception that, when an elected official has discretion to control a policy, that means his decision is not subject to scrutiny or comment. Obviously I take a different view.

The presence of the internet makes the scrutiny and comment more immediate and widely accessible. The discussion can get heated and, like all impromptu unmediated public discussion, can veer off-course and demonstrate how disconnected and ill-informed some voters are. Still, they're what we've got. I just plug away at presenting the facts and try not to let even the most outrageous comments lead me into snippiness or sarcasm--no easy feat for me.  Flawed as internet arguments are, I prefer them to an information lockdown.