National Tartan Day

It was this day in the year of our Lord 1320 that the Declaration of Arbroath was signed.
[Robert the Bruce, and not Edward like the Pope thought], too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Long live that ideal of freedom.

Deep Calls to Deep

The title of this review, of a period of time after WWII when religious conversions were running high, is "Shallow Calls to Shallow." It's a reference to an old Latin phrase, which literally translated is as it appears in the title of this post.

But as often is true, you have to go to the original to grasp what is really being said. It isn't "deep," not in the sense that we use the word now if we should say that a man or a woman is "deep."

The original Latin is this: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat.

In the Proverbs, it refers to the depths of the oceans, unimaginable and impenetrable. In later Latin use, it refers as you would expect to Hell. The word "invocation" has come to us with powerful, magical connotations.

By contrast, maybe the shallow isn't so bad. It's weak, but weakness means that it lacks power. Power is not an unalloyed good.

Whistleblower reward

A Duke lab assistant (or perhaps his lawyers) stands to receive more than $30MM for taking on a powerful university researcher's federally financed research fraud.  He says he tried to get federal prosecutors to handle the matter, but when they refused, he filed a qui tam action in the name of taxpayers.  Under the applicable statute, that means he gets to keep a third of the settlement Duke just agreed to pay.

Makes you wonder how much other research fraud whistleblower money is lying around on the ground.  The hotcoldwetdry money alone, let alone the dietary research slush funds, must be mind-boggling.

A Vulgar Dignity

Looking back at Quillette again this morning to re-read the book review, I noticed also this woman's expression of a very different sort of experience with sexual banter.
What I learned that summer was that the adult world was often about sex. I learned that I didn’t need to be afraid of it. I learned that I had a lot more power over men than I originally thought—not simply because, as a cute young thing, I was awakening to my own feminine sexuality and realized how keenly the guys wanted me to like them, but because I had more power than I realized to reject their advances, to assert my sense of sexual agency not because it was a private and protected part of me, but precisely because it was so openly commented upon.

What I realized, too, is that these exchanges weren’t offensive, they were playful; that they weren’t demeaning, but led to mutual respect. It was the very indecency of the back of house culture that made working at that 24-hour restaurant a tolerable job, and it was all the vulgar insults of the workplace that gave a kind of gritty dignity to our work there. Working there one became part of family. Flouting the rules that govern social niceties, which had to be observed carefully in the restaurant dining room, was the initiation into the clan. What I’ve learned since that summer is that the culture of that greasy spoon kitchen has a rich anthropology; it’s the type of community that populates the taverns of Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, and it functions in direct opposition to officialdom.
There's a lot to what she says, and no reason to dismiss her experience from the fact that others may not share it.

Army to Name New Attack Helicopter after Elizabeth Warren

"The Warren conquered its two chief competitors, the AH-67 Redskin and V-23 Columbus, to win the Army contract."

Moral instincts all figured out

Duffle Blog makes easier going of the problem "The Goodness Paradox" wrestles with:
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — Gesturing the “peace” sign and telling fellow fighters that he was “totally done with this insurgent stuff, man,” hippie Taliban defector Ahmad Khan got incredibly stoned, sources confirmed today.
“Bro, did you ever just think, like, what are we doing it all for?” asked the totally lit former IED maker seconds before being stoned to death by his compatriots. “Like, did you ever think, what if we’re the bad guys and the Americans are the good guys? Or what if we’re actually both the good guys but we just don’t understand each other? Like, whoa. Damn, I’m so high.”
* * *
Khan’s parents attempted to convince the Taliban that he was going through a phase, and that within a few months they would make sure he finishes his classes at Berkeley and gets a job at his father’s law firm.

Murphy's Law

It's not every day you meet a Vietnamese Murphy, but the lady has a good point.
"I am offended by this whole conversation about socialism," Murphy said, according to the Washington Examiner. "The idea that in the greatest democracy, the greatest capitalist system in the world, we're having casual conversation about socialism, offends me."

Murphy also called herself a "proud capitalist."

"It is the system that built us the greatest nation and the greatest economy in the world. Sure, we have to fix the inequities that exist in our system. We have to make sure everybody, no matter what zip code they're born in, has a fair shot," Murphy continued. "But it is not the moment to undo the whole system and embrace something that Americans have spent blood and treasure fighting to save other countries from."

Murphy, who is of Vietnamese heritage, cited her experience growing up in a socialist country as her reason for opposing socialism.

A Fair Wager

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has reportedly led a chant of "death to America" and recently called for a separate state for black Americans, has made more controversial comment.....

"God does not love this world. God never sent Jesus to die for this world. Jesus died because he was 2,000 years too soon to bring about the end of the civilization of the Jews. He never was on a cross, there was no Calvary for that Jesus," Farrakhan said.

Instead, he said, Jesus's name would live until the one that came that he was prefigured for.

"The real story is what I tried to tell you from the beginning. It didn’t happen back there. It’s happening right while you’re alive looking at it," Farrakhan told the audience. "I represent the Messiah. I represent the Jesus and I am that Jesus. If I am not, take my life."
I wouldn't call for violence against a man like "Calypso Gene," so don't misunderstand me. I just want to point out that that's the kind of wager that the House tends to win.

Quillette Reviews The Goodness Paradox

It's a dangerous publication reviewing a book with "a dangerous idea." Some of you will want to see what they think.

Two Warnings on Touching

Joe Biden's propensity for touching is in the news -- much of it completely at odds with contemporary standards. I don't want to run down the movement to protect women and girls from predatory behavior. I do want to repost two relevant older posts that call into question some of the assumptions we as a society seem to be operating under, and then raise two warnings about things we should try to avoid.

First post: Pulling Pigtails, which questions whether or not the assumption of male power is baked into the governing analysis. "Couldn't it be that there is a corresponding female power, one that gives them license to touch others without permission in ways that men are simply forbidden to do? Or are we obligated to cash this out as five-out-of-six expressions of male oppression of women, even though four-out-of-six appear to be choices made by a woman?"

Second post: Ah, the Patriarchy, which points out that extant law perfectly adheres to the self-described "feminist" statement of principles. That being true, how seriously should we take the assumption that our society isn't already feminist, at least in this regard?

Now, the two warnings.

First, as regards male to male touching, American society has long been entirely too restrictive of anything that might be misinterpreted as homoerotic. This was true to the extent that, when I was a boy, it was essentially inappropriate for any man to touch another except to shake hands in a firm fashion -- the mutual firmness displaying a strength that would to some degree serve as a warning-off, a display of power. Only extraordinary occasions allowed exceptions. You might slap another man's shoulders when he fathered a child or got married. I don't recall my father hugging me until I left home at 18, and he expected not to see me again for a very long time.

In fact, touch is human and healthy. I discovered that I enjoyed the experience when I started jujitsu, which by nature involves grappling. It's not a sexual experience, but it is the experience of touching others you like -- the mutual experience of pursuing the art builds a bond, and the touch is an affirmation of it. Grappling, fighting, learning to feel the other through the sword in the bind and play, those things require and reward physical contact. As an adult I've gravitated toward modes of manhood -- biker, horseman, strongman -- that are sufficiently confident to dispense with fears about touch.

So the first warning is: don't extend to heterosexuality the kind of fear of touch that arose out of American fears of homosexuality. There are fit and proper boundaries, I agree. If it becomes the case that we are afraid to touch each other, though, we lose something human and important.

Second, as much as I sometimes miss certain aspects of youth, it's already very hard to navigate that period of life without new impositions forbidding expressions of tenderness. Run a search on "Young people aren't having sex" and you'll see that the trendlines suggest it hasn't gotten easier since our day. Let's take some care not to set up standards of appropriateness (especially in law, but also in behavior codes at institutions like colleges where the young gather) that make it harder for them to navigate what are already anxious waters.

It should be possible to avoid those problems without derailing the good that is to be had from the current moment. I raise them only as considerations, not as roadblocks.

Fear of measurement

There are few themes in the endless educational debate more insistent than hostility to standardized tests.  This Atlantic story showcases the upscale version: your bright, high-achieving child may have traded her innate love of learning for a joyless scramble after grades.  The flip-side version is the underperforming student's family's ceaseless search for a kinder, gentler school environment that either measures an unmeasurable cognitive quality that's untethered from all those heartless plebeian facts, or fantasizes about a worthwhile degree free of all objective measurement.

I'm grateful that my father, a teacher himself, never bogged down in any of this.  He admired academic success and took occasional pleasure in mine, when he noticed it.  He never obsessed over it.  He had a casual working assumption that grades had something to do with achievement. On the other hand, if he'd gotten the least whiff of suspicion that the two had diverged, he wouldn't have wasted two seconds deciding which one had value.  Nor was he in any doubt about how to make the judgment after conversing with a student, including his own child.  A third person's measurement might be more or less reliable, but the education was the real thing.

I would come home sometimes to ask about something I'd heard in a chemistry class about electrons orbiting a nucleus like planets around a sun, which didn't sound like what I'd heard from him.  He'd say, well, they're probably required to teach it that way, and you don't have to argue about it, but that's not really our best knowledge of the peculiar truth these days--which he'd then do his best to explain.  The message was that someone's ability to judge your grasp of a subject is limited by his own, and it's always going to be up to you to find out best how to learn by your independent efforts and judgment. Tests were an unavoidable part of the process, not wrong often enough to worry about, but also never the point.

It goes without saying that it never would have occurred to him to bribe or cheat my way into a posh school.

We have to exclude your sort to keep this place inclusive

The Faculty of Divinity of Cambridge University invited Jordan Peterson to apply for an unpaid Visiting Scholar position, and granted his application.  The University itself then abruptly withdrew the offer, citing Peterson as a "divisive" figure:
Peterson’s fellowship had been revoked because “[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot.”
That's inclusiveness for you.

Waco Update

Four years ago, two motorcycle clubs got into a brawl at "Twin Peaks" restaurant in Waco that was surrounded by the local police. Nine people were killed by gunfire, and 20 injured. Security cameras caught the whole thing. 200 bikers were arrested and held on million-dollar bonds. Now, the Waco DA is dropping all remaining charges. No one has ever been convicted of anything related to the event.

That's Amazing

Right-Wing Extremism: Rising, or Falling?

The New Zealand shooting attack on a mosque prompted another round of stories about right-wing extremism (although the shooter actually claims to be an "eco-fascist" who feels affinity for the People's Republic of China; but OK, 'right wing').

But what if, in fact, right wing violence is falling? What if it's because people are finding success democratically instead of needing to resort to violence?
The decline in deadly right-wing violence, which reached a historic low in Western Europe in 2014, is puzzling because it occurred under conditions commonly assumed to stimulate right-wing terrorism and violence, such as increased immigration, growing support for anti-immigrant parties, persistent Islamist terrorism and booming youth unemployment rates.

Previously, I’ve proposed six hypotheses that may help explain this conundrum, including a change in subcultural trends and more favorable political opportunities for anti-immigrant parties. Many of the attacks during the 1990s and early 2000s were carried out by neo-Nazi skinheads, an inherently violent subculture that considered violence an end in and of itself. Today, violent skinheads have been replaced by bookish Identitarians using so-called metapolitical activism to generate societal change. While keeping a safe distance from openly racist language, identitarians do believe that some people should have precedence over others in certain territories, only because of their ethnic descent. To promote this view, their metapolitical strategy is aimed at influencing cultural, intellectual and public domains to change how people think about such contested issues. This is done through a variety of mostly nonviolent means, such as writing books, hosting seminars or arranging shocking public stunts aimed at generating massive media attention, sometimes referred to as guerrilla media tactics.

At the same time, anti-immigrant parties have increasingly gained electoral support in many Western democracies, thereby offering political opportunities to people who otherwise could have ended up in more extreme forms of activism. The relative success of these parties also negates the claim made by most violent extremists that promoting anti-immigrant views via democratic channels is futile. My research shows that in Western Europe between 1990 and 2015, there is a negative relationship between electoral support to anti-immigrant parties and right-wing terrorism and violence.
The author goes on to say that "such parties do in some cases represent a threat to liberal democratic values and minority rights, which affects more people and may have more dire consequences in the long run than their violent counterparts." So maybe it'd be better if there were more right-wing terrorists, because it would mean conservatives were safely kept away from the real levers of power?

Who Does He Think He Is?

From Twitter:
New: Tricia Newbold, a current WH employee, has come forward to the House Oversight Committee to allege 25 instances in which her concerns about security clearances were overruled.
Really? The President of the United States overruled a White House employee? Thank God she came forward!

Patriarchy Abounds

A meditation on the olive branch.

Wrong Again, Commie

As good Marxists, let’s state up front that the primary function of rural areas within the larger national economy is as a supply source of raw materials: food, oil, natural gas, coal, timber, and other resources. To keep these goods flowing out of rural areas —and profit flowing into capitalists’ pockets—freethinking dissent within the extractive regions must be squashed at all costs. Compare this with urban areas, where a greater productive capacity and larger middle classes can absorb and dilute a great deal of dissent. In rural areas, those impulses have to be stamped out before they can really take off; nothing less than the unchallenged flow of profit and resources is at stake. Conservatives understand this, and it’s why one of their foremost political strategies in rural areas is that of social control.

If you live in a rural community, extractive or not, you are likely confronted every day with an onslaught of images, dogmas, and various cultural reinforcements regarding your role within the national social structure.
(Skipping the obvious joke about what constitutes "a good Marxist.")

I am not confronted, on a daily basis or even regularly, with "images" or "dogmas" or "various cultural reinforcements." Most days I don't see anyone who isn't blood kin, except my wife. I don't watch television, I almost never see a cop, and I can't remember the last time somebody tried to push a dogma off on me. They wouldn't enjoy it much if they did.

He goes on to criticize school systems in a way that makes some sense, but I don't see that as a rural problem. Public schools are awful in many ways, but one of them is that the basically fail at their mission of training free Americans to be free Americans. As Aristotle says, education should help shape the citizen for the polis. Somehow we've evolved a public school system that trains people to shut up, do what they're told, be subject to constant authority and discipline, be disarmed and controlled... and then somehow, when they graduate, they're supposed to know how to be an American.

What happens differently in rural America isn't that the schools do this more than they do in the cities, though. It's that there aren't overlapping systems of control everywhere you go. There aren't closed circuit cameras everywhere, or police, or often even other people. You can go for a hike and not see another human being, and that's great. You can do whatever you want when you're alone; you're really free.

When you get to be free, you like it. The reason progressive social programs aren't attractive to us is that they're all systems of control. The author passionately argues against control as exercised by school boards and principals, and if you listen to their podcast they've got several "All Cops are B*stards" shows, but he wants to impose Marxist degrees of control on the whole nation.

Yeah, you can keep all that.


Another lecture on Norse mythology by our favorite U. Colorado professor.

Requiescat in Pace Carrie Constantini

Those of you who have been around long enough to remember Villainous Company will have known Carrie well; Marines of 3/5 will have known her well also. I am sorry to report that I have learned of her unexpected passing. She was a lady of great energy and joy, and my world will be lessened without her.

UPDATE: Looking back through the archives, I see that she was also a major force at BLACKFIVE during its heyday. She kept us awash with positive stories about the Marines during the hard days of the Iraq war, and the better days too.