Blow this case wide open

Andrew McCabe reportedly has threatened to take them all down with him.  Go for it, Andy.

Loss of accustomed impunity

It's a loss that leaves people sputtering.

Hot, smoking conscience

From "How the Great Truth Dawned":
Many, including Solzhenitsyn, took the next step and accepted God. Why not remain an atheist who believes in an absolute moral law? Here again we must understand the thought-shaping power of Russian literature, particularly Russia’s specialty, the great realist fiction of ideas. Great novels test ideas not by their logical coherence, as in academic philosophy, but by the consequences of believing them.
* * *
Thinking novelistically, Solzhenitsyn asks: how well does morality without God pass the test of Soviet experience? Every camp prisoner sooner or later faced a choice: whether or not to resolve to survive at any price. Do you take the food or shoes of a weaker prisoner? “This is the great fork of camp life. From this point the roads go to the right and to the left. . . . If you go to the right—you lose your life; and if you go to the left—you lose your conscience.” Memoirist after memoirist, including atheists like Evgeniya Ginzburg, report that those who denied anything beyond the material world were the first to choose survival. They may have insisted that high moral ideals do not require belief in God, but when it came down to it, morals grounded in nothing but one’s own conviction and reasoning, however cogent, proved woefully inadequate under experiential, rather than logical, pressure.

Don't Cuss the Fiddle

Ovid Remains Provocative

This is an interesting interview that makes some good points about the timidity (to the point of dishonesty) of 19th century translations. Along the way, though, it provokes an astonishing admission from one of the interviewees.
And also [Ovid's Metamorphoses is] about the only real subject—it’s about power, and it’s about how power transforms, and that is almost the only interesting thing in the world, you know?
Well. I wish the young lady the opportunity to discover some of the other interesting things in the world, but ultimately that will be up to her to decide to pursue or not. Still, how sad -- how shocking -- how impoverished! It is sorrowful to think that someone might say that and mean it.

Still and all, it is an interesting interview. There's a lot of ground it doesn't explore, but exposes for those who might be more interested in it. Ovid remains worth reading, in part because he challenges us to consider a sexual morality so very different from our own. These are, after all, gods engaged in all this sexual violence; and humans, especially women, are expected by the moral order of the universe to suffer it. Yet the people, even the women, are not at all innocents, also engaged in brutal and extractive power, and the Victorians hid that too.
...Let’s talk about Leucothoe. You wrote about that so beautifully; let’s get into the specifics, word by word. That’s another story that stuck with me and flared back to life again when all the Weinstein stuff happened. The sun god comes in while everyone’s weaving; she’s with her friends.

SM: She’s spinning with her slaves, in fact—

JT: Oh f***. God. [Laughs]
They don't discuss Medusa, one of the most famous of the metamorphoses, but it's just as strange to our eyes. Ovid has Perseus recount the story of how she became a Gorgon.
They say that Neptune, lord of the seas, violated [Medusa] in the temple of Minerva. Jupiter’s daughter [i.e., Minerva/Athena] turned away, and hid her chaste eyes behind her aegis. So that it might not go unpunished, she changed the Gorgon’s hair to foul snakes.
Athena is one of the virgin goddesses. Somehow Medusa being raped in her temple violates her, Athena's, sense of modesty or chastity. Medusa is punished for this violation of Athena's sensibilities, even though it was a god who was acting on her against her will. Neptune, of course, is not punished; he is immortal, as beyond human morality as he is beyond human mortality. Medusa is horribly transformed to punish her for offending the gods, but there was no way for her not to offend.

In a way this is worth exploring less in terms of raw power, or even in terms of male and female archetypes, than in terms of the relationship between the human and the divine that the Romans experienced. The divine are not human in a surprising way, given that we often think of the Greco-Roman gods as being anthropomorphic. The Judaeo-Christian God, though ultimately all-powerful to a degree that makes even ordinary language inapplicable except equivocally, turns out to have a more direct relationship to human morality. As we see in Sodom and Gormorrah, Abraham can argue with him and prevail. As Jesus, there is a capacity for perfectly human pity and engagement. The God Neptune, the Sea, is not human but only looks human. The Sea does with humans whatever it wishes, on whatever inscrutable whim, and they alone suffer for it.

But the sea is one of the beautiful things, and one of the interesting ones. It is not only its power that makes it so, though its power can be awesome to behold.


Someone asked me to name the two best Western movies ever made. That's an impossible task. There are so many outstanding Westerns, a list of a hundred would leave out some very worthy nominees. Among the very best ones, it is probably not possible to fairly rank them.

Nevertheless, I complied, naming one Western that is for my money the perfect true Western; and one that is of the revisionist mode that has been more popular since the later 1960s.

1) Hondo.

2) Once Upon a Time in the West.

Here follows a defense of these choices, as well as a laying out of what I take to be several plausible alternatives.

Classic Westerns:

Probably most people, asked to pick a single exemplar of the genre, would have named either Shane or High Noon. Both are excellent films, although if you are going to watch High Noon, you should really also watch Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, which was made as a direct response to it; Hawks thought High Noon was flatly unAmerican. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is another that could be named as a kind of summary of all that has gone before, introducing a criticism but still honoring the past. There are plenty of other plausible entries, such as The Oxbow Incident.

There has also been a small but worthy group of more contemporary Westerns in the classic mode, especially Tombstone and Open Range. They deserve to be mentioned, even though I would tend to select something from the classic era as the pinnacle of the form.

For me, though, Hondo is the perfect Western. It stars John Wayne, as the quintessential American Western ought to do. (So does Rio Bravo, and after a fashion Valance). It was based on a story by Louis L'amour, as the quintessential American Western ought to be. The character is perfect: virtuous and autonomous, he stands on his own two feet and respects the autonomy of others even when he strongly disagrees with them. He is quick to offer a hand, but never does for another to such a degree that they cease to be independent themselves. Though it is a 'cowboy and Indians' movie, Hondo makes enemies among both kinds of folks, and friends among both kinds of folks, and it shows the Apache fairly and indeed positively. Hondo is a perfect statement of what the Western, in its classic era, did best.

You can and should watch more than just one of these movies; watch as many as you can. If I had to name one classic era Western as the pinnacle, though, it would be Hondo.

Revisionist Westerns:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance might actually fit here as much as in the classic genre. It definitely begins the revision and re-examination of the genre that is more completely done elsewhere. Some other great names, which some might think of first, include Peckinpaw's The Wild Bunch, Leone's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and Eastwood's Unforgiven. All of these are worthy choices.

I picked Once Upon a Time in the West for two reasons. The first is that Sergio Leone took everything he learned from The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly and applied it more seriously here. The second but more important reason is that Once Upon a Time comes to a deep metaphysical insight into the human condition that plays out over the course of the film. It is made explicit by the dialogue right before the final gunfight. I think the conclusion is true; and if so, the golden age we have been living in was always going to end. Maybe it isn't true; but if it isn't, there won't be room for men in the golden world to follow.

Revisionist pictures are at their best when they learn the lessons of the old form, and draw deep conclusions that advance our understanding. Of the others I named, Eastwood's Unforgiven does this best; but the conclusion is not that different from Leone's. Indeed, if anything, Leone sets it out in starker terms.

SSGT David G. Belavia

A good speech by the Medal of Honor recipient after his induction into the Hall of Heroes.

Appropriate for 9/12, I think.

Enid & Geraint

By custom and tradition, Grim's Hall will have no posts on September 11th except a republication of this poem.
Enid & Geraint

Once strong, from solid
Camelot he came
Glory with him, Geraint,
Whose sword tamed the wild.
Fabled the fortune he won,
Fame, and a wife.
The beasts he battled
With horn and lance;
Stood farms where fens lay.
When bandits returned
To old beast-holds
Geraint gave them the same.

And then long peace,
Purchased by the manful blade.
Light delights filled it,
Tournaments softened, tempered
By ladies; in peace lingers
the dream of safety.

They dreamed together. Darkness
Gathered on the old wood,
Wild things troubled the edges,
Then crept closer.
The whispers of weakness
Are echoed with evil.

At last even Enid
Whose eyes are as dusk
Looked on her Lord
And weighed him wanting.
Her gaze gored him:
He dressed in red-rust mail.

And put her on palfrey
To ride before or beside
And they went to the wilds,
Which were no longer
So far. Ill-used,
His sword hung beside.

By the long wood, where
Once he laid pastures,
The knight halted, horsed,
Gazing on the grim trees.
He opened his helm
Beholding a bandit realm.

Enid cried at the charge
Of a criminal clad in mail!
The Lord turned his horse,
Set his untended shield:
There lacked time, there
Lacked thought for more.

Villanous lance licked the
Ancient shield. It split,
Broke, that badge of the knight!
The spearhead searched
Old, rust-red mail.
Geraint awoke.

Master and black mount
Rediscovered their rich love,
And armor, though old
Though red with thick rust,
Broke the felon blade.
The spear to-brast, shattered.

And now Enid sees
In Geraint's cold eyes
What shivers her to the spine.
And now his hand
Draws the ill-used sword:
Ill-used, but well-forged.

And the shock from the spear-break
Rang from bandit-towers
Rattled the wood, and the world!
Men dwelt there in wonder.
Who had heard that tone?
They did not remember that sound.

His best spear broken
On old, rusted mail,
The felon sought his forest.
Enid's dusk eyes sense
The strength of old steel:
Geraint grips his reins.

And he winds his old horn,
And he spurs his proud horse,
And the wood to his wrath trembles.
And every bird
From the wild forest flies,
But the Ravens.

Obstruction of Injustice

If this is true, well, the "Obstruction!" thing was built around Trump's allegedly attempting to protect Michael Flynn on 'the Russia thing.'
A bombshell revelation was barely noticed at National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s hearing Tuesday, when his counsel revealed in court the existence of a Justice Department memo from Jan. 30, 2017 exonerating Flynn of any collusion with Russia.... the existence of such a memo calls into question Comey’s actions both when he met with Trump privately and when he wrote his personal memos recanting the meetings. If the Jan. 30, 2017 DOJ Flynn memo does exonerate Flynn, then it will call into question Comey’s actions when he had the private meetings with Trump. Why didn’t Comey reveal to Trump that DOJ found no evidence that Flynn was an ‘agent of Russia’ when he met Trump at the White House on Feb. 14 meeting? Why were the stories about Flynn, along with classified information regarding his phone conversations with the former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, leaked to the Washington Post in January, with a followup in early February? Remember, the information was leaked by senior government officials, according to the author and columnist David Ignatius. Ignatius said that senior officials accused Flynn of violating the Logan Act, even worse conspiring with Russia.

Further, new information that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe advised that there was no Logan Act violation, along with the DOJ internal memo of Jan. 30 that Flynn ‘was not an agent of Russia,’ was enough information for Comey to advise the President that Flynn had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Instead, Comey claimed obstruction of justice by the President.
Obstruction of injustice is surely not wrong, although I suppose it might be a crime even if it is morally correct. Flynn is looking to be owed a huge apology by this nation, and the FBI and DOJ need to be disbanded if this level of corruption proves true. We might have to replace the DOJ with something, but I think we can just learn to do without a secret police.

Fake News Today

MS: "List: More Honest Latin Mottoes for your Overrated University."

DB: "Islamic State Joins UN Human Rights Council."

BB: "Insane Guy Shouting He'll Buy Back Your Stuff With Your Own Money Becomes Popular Democratic Candidate."

Family History

Robert Mitchum sings a version of "Thunder Road," a movie he starred in as the outlaw driver.

It's a song that always makes me think of home. My family was not tightly involved in the moonshine trade, but my grandfather -- who was a welder -- did make moonshine stills during Prohibition, as it coincided with the Great Depression and still-welding work was the sort of thing people would pay for when there wasn't much other work to be had. He and my father also worked on the Tennessee muscle cars, and all other sorts of automobiles, that might have transported the stuff.

Mostly, though, it's the geography of the song: Asheville, the Cumberland Gap, Knoxville's Kingston Pike, and the mountains in between them. On the other side of the family, my mother is from Bearden. I get over there from time to time to see my favorite cousin. They're definitely not moonshiners, mom's folk: I think they're all teetotaling Baptists. But it's a connection in the song, all the same.

A Campaign Slogan

I'm not endorsing Trump, although the alternatives at this point are pretty ugly (excepting Major Gabbard, who is becoming more appealing by the day, although also not gaining in the polls as much as she deserves to do). If I were to advise him or his campaign, though, this is the slogan I would recommend he adopt:

"Trump 2020: Peace and Prosperity."

Then see if you can live up to it.

"The Capitalists Are Afraid"

Common Dreams is dreaming again. It may be a nightmare, actually.
The capitalists are determined to protect their wealth. They are determined, and probably able, to block left-leaning candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders from obtaining the Democratic nomination for president. But they are also aware that politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden who have spent their careers serving corporate power are harder and harder to sell to the electorate. The mendacity and hypocrisy of the Democratic Party are evident in the presidency of Barack Obama, who ran as an outsider and reformer in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Obama—whom Cornel West called “a black mascot for Wall Street”—callously betrayed the party’s base.
The piece ends with a prediction of 'monstrosities worse than Donald Trump,' which makes me think it must be the author who is afraid.

A Robert A. Heinlein Sort of Day

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly."
I didn't do all those things just today, but it was a day filled with a wide variety of actions. None of them were especially enjoyable, and some were strenuous, but all in all I do feel as if I have expressed a wide range of human action. I did butcher a top sirloin, and made a pretty tasty meal out of one part of it, paid quarterly taxes and dealt with bank accounts, hoisted felled trees, bucked them into logs with a chainsaw, and then split and stacked those logs under shelter against the winter. I finished a professional paper and brokered a deal, one in which I have none but a patriotic interest. I taught a young person a thing or two that will be of use as they move on through life, and comforted a friend whose family is putting itself through unnecessary stress.

I also drove a stick shift, and I made my wife smile, but I do those things most every day.