Ukraine Shuffle

So, the latest thing that is definitely going to lead to impeachment according to Twitter is this story that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Biden’s son. I am pretty sure the real corruption is the way Biden used his position and US money to derail the investigation in the first place. Am I missing something? It’s wrong to try to undo a corrupt act of a prior administration if it might benefit you politically?

Stripping Words

The Oxford English Dictionary, compiled in part by Tolkien, is asked to strip out offensive words. Offensive to whom? Guess.

Probably Wasn't Going to Vote for Her Anyway

Elizabeth Warren doesn't like men?
Elizabeth Warren made the political calculation this week that she doesn’t need men to win the presidency.

“We’re not here today because of famous arches or famous men,” she told a rally in Washington Square Park Monday night.

“In fact, we’re not here because of men at all,” she said, emphasizing the “m” word like an expletive....

Immediately before saying “we’re not here because of men,” she dissed George Washington and the beautiful Tuckahoe marble arch that bears his name.

“I wanted to give this speech right here and not because of the arch behind me or the president that this square is named for — nope.”
I mean, I can half get why she thinks it's fine to run down Washington, him having been a slave-owner and all. It's dumb, running for the office he dignified and for which he set the terms. Still, in the current moment, it makes a kind of perverse sense.

Why expand the complaint from 'slave-owner' to 'man,' though? That's alienating to a lot of your potential voters.


Three faces of fracking

Per Glenn Reynolds:  Because of fracking, (1) the U.S. is suffering only a moderate fuel price shock from the Saudi oil-field strike, (2) China is losing $97 million a day from the same, and (3) while "the U.S. Navy used to have to keep the straits of Hormuz open. Now it only has to be able to close them."

A Few Small Matters Have My Attention

I’m a little behind this week. Tex is doing a great job running the place, with an assist from Tom. I’ll get back with you soon.

Jim Webb: Soldiers without a Country

Sen. Webb tells the story of the burial of 81 ARVN paratroopers in California:

On Friday, a U.S. Air Force aircraft will carry the commingled remains of 81 airborne soldiers of the former South Vietnamese Army from Hawaii, where they have been stored in a military facility for more than 33 years, to California. On Oct. 26, there will be a full military ceremony honoring their service in Westminster, often known as Little Saigon, where tens of thousands of Vietnamese Americans now live. 

This will be a unique occurrence because their names might never be known and because they were soldiers of an allied army. Following the ceremony, these forgotten soldiers will be laid to rest under a commemorative marker in the largest Vietnamese-American cemetery in our country. 

Hanoi declined to take them.

One of the best speeches I ever heard in person was from a former ARVN infantry colonel when the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall came to OKC. That city has a large Vietnamese American community established by refugees from the war.

By the end of that speech, I think half the men in the crowd were ready to go back over and try again.

I'm glad these paratroopers will finally be laid to rest on free soil, even if it isn't in their own country.

What's this "we" jazz, paleface?


Counter drone world

This isn't going to get any prettier.

Mate selection

No one knows how long DNA has been around, but a confident guess would be some billions of years.  In all that time, it's been trying, in the anthropomorphic sense that leads us to inject purpose into the process of natural selection, to perfect ways of projecting itself from one cell or organism to another, the definition of evolutionary "success."  In the case of sexually reproducing species that go to some trouble finding suitable mates, that has led to a bewildering variety of mating displays and strategies for selecting genetically suitable partners.  In humans, that sometimes includes what we call courtship and marriage.

So what could go wrong with a social trend toward pairs of infertile parents choosing to reproduce with sperm donated by strangers?  Maybe a gay couple, fertile individually but obviously not with each other--with apologies for my ableist bias.  Maybe a gay couple who prefer to buy anonymous sperm from a respectable laboratory with the latest in foolproof genetic screening protocols.  Who says you should get to know anything about the father of your child that can't be read off a medical chart that included the results of a scientific personal interview?

And if the resulting babies have financially crippling special needs, and your union isn't strong enough to hold up under the pressure, who says stuffy old principles about lifelong marital fidelity and loyalty to children are any more workable when couples have a reproductive sexual bond and a genetic relationship to their own children?  Just sue the sperm bank for not giving your reproductive choices the attention they deserved.


David Epstein is out with a book countering Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000," arguing that starting early and practicing endlessly in a narrow range is not the path to all excellence:
David Epstein examined the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields--especially those that are complex and unpredictable--generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They're also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can't see.
Robert Heinlein famously said that specialization was for insects, but we also know that dabbling is for dilettantes.  Epstein and Gladwell are lining up on either side of the long-running dispute over the purpose of education:  should our children be drilled in facts and techniques, or should be we planting 1,000 seeds in virgin soil and confidently awaiting decades of creative flowering?

"Complex and unpredictable fields" are just what most people aren't going to master. The students who will master them may need a completely different kind of education from what an aggressively leveling public school is equipped to provide, particularly if it's staffed by administrators and teachers who have never mastered a complex or unpredictable field themselves, relying instead on legislated job security and a monopolist's command of the public funding teat.

Schools need to provide a fair shot for all young comers, but the good they can do for some students won't be much like what they can do for others.  Epstein's generalists are probably soaking up basic facts and techniques so easily that teachers barely had a role in the process.  The teachers won't do their average students any favors by skipping the ABCs and hoping for a brilliant synthesist to emerge after years of impoverished job-hopping.

This means war for someone

Best tank up. Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels claim credit for taking out half of Saudi Arabia's oil production (5% of world production) in a drone strike this weekend. Good thing U.S. energy production has soared in the last couple of years.

Robert Burns

And now for a break from ranting:

Fleeting moments of clarity

The New Neo reports on George Packer's description of the moral dilemmas of parents trying to run their kids through public wokeschool.  Packer wants to stay in the fold, but now and then a bit of cognitive rigor intrudes:
Adults who draft young children into their cause might think they’re empowering them and shaping them into virtuous people (a friend calls the Instagram photos parents post of their woke kids “selflessies”). In reality the adults are making themselves feel more righteous, indulging another form of narcissistic pride, expiating their guilt, and shifting the load of their own anxious battles onto children who can’t carry the burden, because they lack the intellectual apparatus and political power. Our goal shouldn’t be to tell children what to think. The point is to teach them how to think so they can grow up to find their own answers.
I wished that our son’s school would teach him civics.
Then he goes back to Trump-bashing.
Packer is sad and he’s bewildered. He doesn’t really know how this all came up, doesn’t connect the dots, and he doesn’t know what to do. The idea that the right has some answers never really occurs to him. I sympathize with him in his struggle, and wonder where it may ultimately lead. At the moment, the cognitive dissonance is fierce.

Destroying humanity to save it

This kind of nonsense would be chilling even if it were not based on a transparent attempt to use ignorant pseudo-science as an excuse to flog one's cultural enemies into submission:
I’m talking, of course, about climate change ... every one of the world’s major polluting countries institute draconian conservation measures, shut down much of its energy and transportation infrastructure, and completely retool its economy ... overwhelming numbers of human beings, including millions of government-hating Americans, need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar life styles without revolting. They must accept the reality of climate change and have faith in the extreme measures taken to combat it ... Every day, instead of thinking about breakfast, they have to think about death.
I don't need to accept anything of the sort without revolting.