Thanksgiving Retrospective

A graphic showing the passengers of the Mayflower, and those who survived to the first Thanksgiving.

Fighting Terror with a Unicorn's Horn

Today in London, a convicted terrorist who'd been let free (albeit with a tracker on his person) attacked people on London Bridge with a knife. He was battled by a guy with a five-foot Narwhal tusk, which the fellow took off the wall at Fishmonger's Hall. Police later showed up and shot the bad guy, although presumably our hero could have done that himself if he hadn't been disarmed by his own government.

Well, and he found himself a proper tool. The Narwhal tusk was long sold in Europe by the Vikings as unicorn horns that could dispel poison. The story is an amusing one, and touches both Eiríkr Thorvaldsson, better known as 'Erik the Red,' and his son the famous Lief Erikson.

And not a knee taken

Post-Thanksgiving cooking

It's leftovers week!  We're already at work on turkey soup, and I'll insist on our usual turkey tetrazzini tomorrow.  For lunch I'm chewing on turkey wings with dressing, gravy, and smoky greens.

The news yesterday and today about our dangerously ill next-door neighbor is so encouraging that I find myself coming out of a dejected fog and being inspired to cook.  I volunteered to bring a dessert to a public gathering tomorrow.  It seemed a good time to try something I've been tempted by on Facebook:  pecan pie brownies.

Mine didn't come out as self-contained or dignified as this stock photo, being more like a pecan-pie-brownie cobbler, but admirably gooey inside and crunchy outside, like the old joke about the polar bear and the igloo.  Because the Facebook recipe advocated a brownie mix, which is out of the question, I substituted a Julia Child fudge-style brownie base with a Craig Claiborne pecan pie filling for the top.  (You pour the brownie mix in the bottom and the pecan pie filling on the top, then bake at 350 degrees until it's Alton-Brown-style GBD, "golden brown and delicious.")

Presentation-wise, it might work better with a cake-style brownie and a shorter cooking time, so the pecan pie topping would be easier to cut while at the same time the brownie base would set up a little more.  Nevertheless, I'll let people spoon out their servings, and there's certainly nothing wrong with the flavor.  If I make it again, I may cut back on the sugar in the brownies, for contrast.  Barely-sweetened whipped cream wouldn't hurt a thing.

So now it's about the rule of law again?

These dizzying reversals:  when conservatives object that the impeachment farce is ignoring due process, we hear that impeachment is a political process that obeys political rules rather than all those tiresome and legalistic restraints.  That's actually close to my own view:  impeachments, like elections, are a vehicle for political opposition, not law enforcement.  Legal violations affect public opinion indirectly just as they do in elections and other disputes, but the people called upon to make a judgment aren't bound by the same intricate and straitlaced rules that are enforced in a criminal trial.

The prosecuting party in an impeachment, therefore, is technically allowed to throw due process in the trash.  The flip-side, however, is that the defense gets to use political tools of its own to ridicule the essentially free choices of the prosecution, and voters are free to decide what they think about it all.  So far, to the prosecution's horror, voters are bored or hostile about the results.

Predictably, the anti-Trump camp now begins to worry that their sacred ritual of impeachment is being infected by lowdown politics.  Well, if this dumpster fire clears the House and the Senate conducts a trial, they'll get a chance to see how they fare in a more traditional legal setting.  Nevertheless, the political problem won't go away.  If the charges are as spurious in that more formal trial setting as they are in the current kangaroo court, the political problem will only intensify.

A Considerable Irony

The World Socialist, that grand elder of anti-American Communist propaganda outlets, publishes an interview with noted historian Gordon Wood on how unfair the New York Times “1619 Project” is to the Founding.
Q. For our readership, perhaps you could discuss something of the world-historical significance of the Revolution. Of course, we are under no illusion that it represented a socialist transformation. Yet it was a powerful revolution in its time.
A. It was very important that the American colonial crisis, the imperial crisis, occurred right at the height of what we call the Enlightenment, where Western Europe was full of new ideas and was confident that culture—what people believed and thought—was man-made and thus could be changed. The Old World, the Ancién Regime, could be transformed and made anew. It was an age of revolution, and it’s not surprising that the French Revolution and other revolutions occur in in the wake of the American Revolution.
The notion of equality was really crucial. When the Declaration says that all men are created equal, that is no myth. It is the most powerful statement ever made in our history, and it lies behind almost everything we Americans believe in and attempt to do.
There’s a lot to like here. It’s worth reading to see how much the actual Communists object to the assumptions that the Times is making.

CIA disease

It's not just a disease of the CIA, of course; confirmation bias is always trying to undermine our ability to face facts.  But times of great political hysteria are fertile ground.

People are always trying to persuade me that we are more polarized and generally crazy these days than ever before.  I'm not really seeing it.  I was just reading a biography of William Bowditch, noting that around the turn of the 18th century many public-spirited men were shocked at the damage suffered by old and valued friendships from bitter disagreements over federalism.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was apolitical, though it's true that it was a small gathering of like-minded neighbors that presented no special challenges in that direction.  I wore my "It's beginning to look a lot like Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself" holly-and-berries sweatshirt without fear of giving offense.  It was a slightly somber gathering, though.  Our neighbor, whom we had expected to join us, is gravely ill in an ICU in Houston, the victim of completely unexpected complications from minor surgery.  Life is fleeting.  We are thankful for our health.

Our labrador lightened the atmosphere by eating half a trayful of the white turkey meat while we were distracted out on the porch.  Luckily there was still plenty, but she was a little restless and gaseous all night, the rotten creature.  She hasn't learned a thing and would do it again in a heartbeat.

The Rolled Turkey

It came out pretty well, given that it was my first attempt. Slow-roasted for 14 hours, then finished at a higher temperature for half an hour to crisp the skin.

As promised, three kinds of pie, so lighter on the traditional side dishes than usual. I hope your feast went well also.


Nothing is ever as good as it could be, and often I think of the ways in which it could be better; but for all the ways in which it is good, and for the very experience of goodness at all, I give thanks.

Brilliance by Discipline

Instapundit linked this study to explore different ideas among students about male vs. female professors. I want to point out, instead, the good things it says about philosophy professors! They are the most brilliant, above average on funny, and below average on both meanness and rudeness.

Watch Out For The Traumatized, Part II

Exactly as predicted, the government has chosen the easy and wicked route.
A small percentage of teens who are depressed or bullied will respond with violence. After reading a recent report on school violence from the U.S. Secret Service, however, you’d be led to believe that every one of them is a potential mass-murderer.

“Secret Service research findings [indicate that] targeted school violence is preventable,” the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) Director James Murray writes in a new NTAC report. All schools have to do is treat any student in any sort of distress as a potential danger to everybody else and respond accordingly....

"This approach is intended to identify students of concern, assess their risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and implement intervention strategies to manage that risk. The threshold for intervention should be low, so that schools can identify students in distress before their behavior escalates to the level of eliciting concerns about safety.... The fact that half of the attackers had received one or more mental health services prior to their attack indicates that mental health evaluations and treatments should be considered a component of a multidisciplinary threat assessment, but not a replacement. Mental health professionals should be included in a collaborative threat assessment process that also involves teachers, administrators, and law enforcement."
Seeking help, then, is a red flag. That should not have any negative unintended consequences whatsoever.

Also, suffering poverty means that you are dangerous:
The Secret Service lists the following household “difficulties” as contributing to the likelihood of a young person one day coming to school with the purpose of murdering his associates:

• Bankruptcy

• Eviction

• Homelessness

• Failure to Pay Child Support

• Foreclosure

• Fraudulent Check(s)

• Lien

• Low Income

• Poverty
Naturally, of course, the remedy for your weakness is that your whole family should be disarmed by government agents.
Most attackers used firearms, and firearms were most often acquired from the home: Many of the attackers were able to access firearms from the home of their parents or another close relative. While many of the firearms were unsecured, in several cases the attackers were able to gain access to firearms that were secured in a locked gun safe or case. It should be further noted, however, that some attackers used knives instead of firearms to perpetrate their attacks. Therefore, a threat assessment should explore if a student has access to any weapons, with a particular focus on weapons access at home. Schools, parents, and law enforcement must work together rapidly to restrict access to weapons in those cases when students pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.
Once again, exactly as predicted. "Since it is the only thing that is really likely to work, though, injustice is the most probable outcome of future government action on this issue. My sense is that we have much more to fear from any government attempts to address mass killings than we have to fear from the tiny number of killers, bad as they are."

Traditional Mongolian Music Vs. The Hu

After being introduced to The Hu here recently, I checked out the original folk style. I don't remember ever hearing Mongolian throat singing before, and I haven't decided what I think about it yet.

Here are two songs about Chinggis Khaan (apparently the Mongolian transliteration for the name), one traditional and one by The Hu.

The lyrics below the second video introduced me to Tengrism, a Central Asian religion which apparently is undergoing a revival since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Interesting stuff.

Great Moments in Journalism

H/t: Bob on the FOB.

The Family that Slays Together, Stays Together

Dateline Florida: "A home invasion was stopped by almost every member of the family. The family awoke to the noise of the burglar trying to break in and everyone grabbed their guns. One member of the family fired a warning shot through the glass to deter the burglar but was unsuccessful. The intruder broke through the door and which point every member fired at him."

Warning shots are never a good idea. Shoot to stop, or don't shoot at all.


The notoriously idiotic vegan activists demand that UGA permanently retire Uga, the beloved bulldog mascot.

That dog has a happier life than most people.

Cultural Revolution

Most of the way through an article on how crazy Progressives are boosting Trump's re-election chances, a Maoist note:
These stories in which doctors lop the breasts off of teenage girls, or peeling the skin off a boy’s penis and inverting it to make a fake vagina, are a long, long way from Yale Stadium or the faculty lounge. But there is a continuum here. Left-wing extremists are controlling institutions, mostly because liberals within those institutions and fields are afraid to say no to whatever the extremists want. And conservative lawmakers are afraid to touch this stuff too.

Many, many people feel powerless to stop these cultural revolutionaries. (By the way, I’ve reached out to the reader who commented here the other day about his wife, a Chinese immigrant who saw people killed during the madness of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, bursting into tears when she saw the raging mob at Berkeley on the TV news the other night; she wept because she fears for her adopted country, and doesn’t understand why Americans can’t see the mounting danger. I am going to have an interview with her in this space soon.)
We do need to figure out how to put the brakes on some of this stuff. Perhaps educating the young about Mao is one way to do it; the "Red Guards" these young activists are emulating didn't end up in a happy place. The reason was the same: even for someone as committed to cultural revolution as Mao, cultural stability turned out to be important enough that his own nurtured movement could not be allowed to continue to exist.

Aristotle Ascends

Via Arts & Letters Daily, scientists are echoing Aristotle -- and have much to learn yet. One example:
Edward Feser, in his contribution to Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives, draws a parallel between this teaching and the idea of the “block universe,” which is based on the theories of Einstein and his teacher Hermann Minkowski. The block-universe concept holds that we must understand time as a fourth dimension tied up with the three dimensions of space, so that the universe is like a four-dimensional block that contains all of space and time — past, present, and future. Minkowski would refer to this four-dimensional block as “world,” because the mathematical formulation suggested that all of time is already established, just like space. Our common-sense notion that space is static, allowing us to move around within it, whereas time “flows,” taking us along with it, is illusory. Just as the universe doesn’t have an “up” or “down,” so likewise there is no past or future, except in the sense that it seems that way to us. Much like for Parmenides there is only the Whole, for Minkowski and Einstein there is only the “world.”

Feser’s critique of the “block universe” borrows key moves from Aristotle’s responses to Parmenides, though because he does not explicitly engage with them, it is unclear to what extent he is aware of the borrowing. In the beginning of the Physics, Aristotle explicitly distinguishes Parmenides and his disciple Melissus from other thinkers whom he calls “students of nature” (physiologoi). Parmenides and Melissus were not students of nature, according to Aristotle, because they denied motion, relegating it to mere appearance: “To investigate whether Being is one and motionless is not a contribution to the science of Nature.” The teaching that change is an illusion is not a teaching on nature, according to Aristotle, because it does not explore the origins or birth of things. Aristotle says he sees no requirement to engage seriously with this teaching in the Physics (remember, physis means both “nature” and “birth”), just as the geometer is not required to engage with those who reject his premises. (As we shall see, Aristotle nonetheless does briefly engage with Parmenides later in the Physics.)

Feser’s essay is constructed as a series of ducks and dodges that allow the Aristotelian idea of change or motion to survive the various challenges of the block universe’s severe determinism, in which the future is already fixed. It isn’t until the end of the essay that Feser hits on the most forceful point, the one that most closely resembles Aristotle: Even if the universe is really a four-dimensional block, “there would be nothing about its nature that requires that a block universe of precisely that sort, or any block universe at all for that matter, exists.” Just as Parmenides’ denial of motion is not an explanation of the origins of things, so the block universe is not an explanation of why we have this universe rather than some other one. The theory that explains the universe as a whole cannot explain the particulars. But note how Aristotle’s original critique is more forceful than Feser’s: Those who do not examine coming-into-being, and thereby fail to explain the world as it is, do not examine nature.

This should be a sobering call to today’s scientists, for Parmenides’ reasoning was sound in many respects, and our thinking today strongly resembles his.
Well worth reading in full, though I dissent from his understanding of Aristotle as offering 'privation' and 'actuality vs. potentiality' as two different ways of overcoming the Parmenides problem. To say that a doctor comes from a non-doctor and to say that a non-doctor realizes their potential to become an actual doctor is just two ways of saying the same thing. As Aristotle also says, in his description of potentiality, 'one cannot make a saw out of wool.' That is to say that wool is even more deprived of the actuality of the saw than is raw iron. The "two" models are just different ways of describing one.

Augustine's interpretation of evil as privation of the good shows how this can work. Can an all-good God make evil, and if not, how can evil come to be? Augustine's answer is that evil is a failure to achieve the fullness of the good inherent in God's creation. Evil is a privation. Notice that this is just another way of saying that evil is a failure to actualize the potential good in something.

Still, discussions of this sort are exactly the kind of 'learning from Aristotle' that we could all stand to do. "Aretê, boys: You've either got it or you don't."

The CIA vs. Donald Trump

A review of Andy McCarthy's new book, by Spengler, that veers into some strange territory toward the end.

DB: PSYOP Authorized to Wear Tin-Foil Berets

The metallic new beret comes as a compromise between the Special Forces community and the Psychological Operations community. While PSYOP argues that it was technically the first SOF organization, tracing its lineage to PSYWAR, Special Forces argues that PSYOP is dumb.

Also in satire, the BB has a photo that's worth the price of admission.

Taking the fifth back

In our ordinary lives, we often draw unfavorable inferences from information someone chooses to withhold from us.  The impeachment fiasco, however, reminds us why the Constitution forbids using the accused's silence as a presumption of guilt.

Adam Schiff is reduced from impeachment by hearsay all the way down to impeachment by inference: The fallback position is that President Trump did something "incompatible" with his office: impeachment by irreconcilable differences.

REH was Right, Again

The concept of the world of Conan, by Robert E. Howard, is that civilization rises and falls many more times than history tells us. This, worlds of advanced culture and adventures untold of exist to be explored.

Evidence for that proposition continues to appear.

REH was not alone, of course; not even the first.
The modern man looking at the most ancient origins has been like a man watching for daybreak in a strange land; and expecting to see that dawn breaking behind bare uplands or solitary peaks. But that dawn is breaking behind the black bulk of great cities long builded and lost for us in the original night; colossal cities like the houses of giants, in which even the carved ornamental animals are taller than the palm-trees; in which the painted portrait can be twelve times the size of the man; with tombs like mountains of man set four-square and pointing to the stars; with winged and bearded bulls standing and staring enormous at the gates of temples; standing still eternally as if a stamp would shake the world. The dawn of history reveals a humanity already civilized. Perhaps it reveals a civilisation already old.

Missing the point

CNN mysteriously got a sneak peak at IG Horowitz's upcoming Dec. 9 report on the scandal that led to a FISA warrant ostensibly aimed at investigating Carter Page as a clandestine Russian agent. CNN is spinning the story this way:  yes, it's true that a lower-level FBI lawyer falsified a document that supported the FISA warrant, but the FBI has fired him, and anyway any "mistakes" (I love it) fail to "undermine the premise for the FBI’s investigation."  CNN characterizes the premise as the notion “that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.”

What was that premise again?  As Andrew McCarthy explains, CNN evidently is not (yet) trying to deny that the criminally faked supporting document could undermine any credible allegation that Carter Page was complicit in any Russian interference.  The important fudge here is CNN's startling assertion that "the premise for the FBI's investigation" is Russian election interference.  That might be a premise for some kinds of inquiry, but not a FISA warrant.

If an adequate premise for a FISA warrant were a mere suspicion of Russian skullduggery in an election, the Crossfire Hurricane gambit would be golden. That the Russians in fact attempted to interfere is not in controversy.  The problem for Clapper, Brennan, McCabe, et al. (and the Obama White House may be included in that "al."), is that a FISA warrant to eavesdrop on a U.S. citizen requires a lot more than a suspicion that Russia is up to no good. It requires a showing that the citizen targeted for eavesdropping, Carter Page, is knowingly engaged in clandestine activities, potentially in violation of federal criminal law, on Russia's behalf.

Page has never been charged with a crime. Nor did the architects of Crossfire Hurricane inform the FISA court that Page had cooperated with the FBI in the past in successful prosecutions against Russian provocateurs.  What does the basis for fingering Page as a Russian agent look like if you subtract whatever the fake document said, and add in the FBI's long track record of successful reliance on Page's voluntary assistance reporting on illicit Russian overtures?  What's more, might these changes in the FISA presentation have undercut the FBI's and DOJ's showing that intrusive eavesdropping was necessary because other investigative tools were unavailable?

As McCarthy says,
If the narrative taking shape is that there may have been some abuses but it doesn’t change the fact that Russia meddled in the election, that misses the point. The questions are: What was the FBI’s evidence — which it represented as verified information in the warrant application — that the Trump campaign was in a cyberespionage conspiracy with the Kremlin? What evidence led the Bureau and the Justice Department to allege that Carter Page — who as late as spring 2016 was apparently cooperating in a federal prosecution of Russian spies — was a willful agent of the Putin regime engaged in clandestine activities against his own country?
When we find out what the fudged evidence was, we'll be better able to issue comforting assurances that it was extraneous to pinning suspicion on Carter Page.  It won't be enough for the FBI and CNN to conclude airily that the faked document was extraneous to the general idea that the Kremlin was trying to stir up trouble in a U.S. election.