The solstice is upon us. May your winter be a good one, warm and full of pleasant company.

When worlds collide

An asteroid will make a nearish miss with Earth on Boxing Day this year.  It's not all that close, about 4.5 million miles, and it's not all that big, either, less than 2,000 feet in diameter.  For comparison, the Tunguska strike in Siberia in 1908 was less than a tenth that big, while the dinosaur-killing object 65 million years ago probably was in the 7- to 50-mile diameter range.  The one in "Armageddon," of course, was "the size of Texas, Mr. President."  The thing that knocked loose the Moon 4.5 billion years ago is estimated to have been the size of Mars.  Things in the solar system have really quieted down since then.

Darn Russians again

The magnetic North Pole has been drifting from Ellesmere Island towards Russia, and will soon be captured by that crafty Putin.  Magnetic forces may have been behind the mysterious disappearance and/or death of Joseph Mifsud almost two years ago.

Kidding aside, I've been reading about the possibility of another pole-reversal just about all my life.  They do happen every few hundred thousand years.  We don't know what it's like when they do.  It's interesting to read this "Mother Nature Network" account, though, and compare the relatively measured "let's not panic yet" tone to a story about which they've been given their marching orders by the climate authorities.  I'm waiting for the theory that links magnetic poles to CO2 concentrations.

Scandinavian Food in Minnesota

A review of old and new options. I have only gotten up there once and won’t likely again, but some of you might.

On Cornbread

A review of the work of a scholar of cookbooks.

Happy Holidays

At first I thought this comic was doing Denis Leary, but about 2/3rds in he suddenly takes on a serious tone Leary never quite attempted. Hey, you know, people are dying in China over this. It’s not a joke. Welcome to my stand up comedy act, which isn’t funny because this stuff isn’t funny.

Speech Does or Does Not Constitute Speech?

J. K. Rowling, whose work I've never read but who was apparently extremely popular with children and young adults, has transgressed. Rowling's offense was to defend someone else who had transgressed, a woman who holds views that the British courts this week declared to be "not worthy of respect in a democratic society."

Well. I don't know what she said, but I don't have to know to know that the courts are wrong here. Human dignity is not opposed to freedom of speech, but rather, freedom of speech is essential to human dignity.
Why are human beings due a basic dignity at all? ... [One answer according to] Immanuel Kant, is that human beings have dignity because they are free. Kant did not mean politically free. He meant that, unlike a stick or a stone, you can reason for yourself and decide how you will behave. Your ability to think for yourself and come to your own decisions thus sets you above sticks, or stones, or most other objects in the universe. It is why you have dignity.

What does it mean to have dignity? It means that you are due a certain respect that is not due to sticks or stones. For example, a person is due the respect of not being harmed without good reason. Not everything has that dignity. Anyone can pick a stick up off the ground and break it without it being thought to violate the stick’s dignity. No one may similarly grab another person and break their arm without having committed an affront.

If your dignity arises from your capability of thinking for yourself, respecting your dignity requires respecting your thoughts. “Respecting your thoughts” does not mean “agreeing with your thoughts,” for requiring agreement would itself be disrespectful of everyone else’s ability to have their own thoughts. It does, however, mean respecting your right to think things through for yourself. Your free thoughts cannot be prohibited without violating your dignity as a human being – indeed, if Kant is right, such a prohibition is a violation of the most basic source of your dignity as a human being.

If I may not prohibit your thoughts, though, might I prohibit your words? Speech is only thinking out loud.
Likewise, the right to defend your beliefs in public is an essential feature of democratic society.
To tell someone that they cannot speak in public about what they take their interests to be is to tell them that they cannot organize politically in defense of those interests. This is another basic affront to the dignity of an individual. It is incompatible with any form of government by the people.

Yet you might think that some ideas are so bad that anyone who adopts them is themselves a bad person. In that case, it might seem as if preventing them from political organizing is a desirable end. After all, if bad people can organize politically they are likely to gain political power. As political philosophers since Plato have argued, it is dangerous for political power to fall into the hands of people who lack the proper virtues. For people who have instead adopted a wicked character, it is surely even worse. Thus it might seem as if speech prohibitions were a good thing.

The most pragmatic counter-argument against this practice is that allowing those in power to impose speech controls during times when good people are in office will also allow bad people to impose speech controls should they gain office. Sometimes surprising situations can cause even disorganized campaigns to win a victory. Any power that one would not trust to one’s opponents is not wisely invested in a government that the opponents will sometimes control.

But it is also the case that self-government is itself a way of building virtue. To whatever degree people are excluded from self-government, they will not develop the qualities they need to do it well. This is because virtue is a matter of practice, as Aristotle argues. The way you gain the virtue of courage is to do things that are dangerous and frightening. Soldiers in training practice climbing across ropes stretched high over water. Then they may rappel from tall towers. Some may then go on to learn to jump from airplanes. Even if their military service never needs them to do any of these things in combat, the practice of learning to do things in spite of being scared makes them brave. In time, when they need to take actions in the face of fear, they are able to do so.

All virtues work this way. John Stuart Mill argued that the whole reason for representative government was that it encouraged people to become virtuous. Just as Aristotle spoke of the best life as the one that most completely develops the capacity to act virtuously,[1] and Kant derived a universal (if imperfect) duty to develop one’s capacities,[2] Mill also has an argument that attaining one’s capacities roots the human good. This is found in his Considerations on Representative Government, in which he offers an account of why he believes republican government is the best possible form. An early argument he fields is against what he calls a common opinion – it dates at least to Aristotle’s Politics – that a benign despot is the best possible form of government. “What sort of human beings can be formed under such a regimen?” he asks. “What developments can either their thinking or their active faculties attain under it?… Wherever the sphere of action of human beings is artificially circumscribed, their sentiments are narrowed and dwarfed in the same proportion.”[3]

The concern that people are not good enough for self-government is not then a reason to deny them the ability to speak their minds. If they are to become better people, they need to be allowed to speak their minds.
The court cannot be right, no matter what she said or what she believes. This holds for the worst ideas anyone has or could in principle have.

Burning Flags Does or Does Not Constitute Speech?

A man in Iowa is sentenced to 16 years for burning the LGBT "Rainbow" flag.

She Needs to Know the Parameters

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen to withhold her caucus' Articles of Impeachment, as some of you may have heard, until whenever.  I've suggested elsewhere that by doing so, she's exonerating Trump by confessing that her caucus has no case to present for trial.

However, Pelosi has provided a rationalization rationale:

The next thing for us will be when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate. Then, we’ll know the number of monitors that we may have to go forward.

Of course, she doesn't need that for this. She can appoint the entire Republican caucus as monitors: our Constitution doesn't specify the number, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, I suspect, doesn't care.

Eric Hines

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

An American Mass Grave

I don't generally watch television; haven't for years and years. On my last trip to DC, however, I stayed with some friends who do watch TV on a daily basis. They were watching a show called Watchmen, which I recognized from having encountered the comic book as a teenager. I couldn't remember the first thing about the plot of the story or the characters. As a consequence, the show was almost as fresh to me as if I'd never heard of it at all. (On balance I rather enjoyed the first few episodes, which was all I saw. I liked the habit of never explaining anything, but leaving it to the viewer to figure out what on earth is going on with a setting that is so similar to our own, yet so substantially different. It was intellectually engaging.)

The show begins with a dramatization of a race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Archæologists have just uncovered a mass grave associated with that riot.

The story is worth reading both because we have a duty to know and remember things like this from American history, and also as a warning about our own political moment. Racial tensions are not as high as in 1919, thank goodness, but other tensions are getting there.
“They had created the most successful Black-owned business district in the country,” Brown tells TIME. “Booker T. Washington, when he visited initially referred to it as the ‘Negro Wall Street of America,’ and it later took on the moniker ‘Black Wall Street.'”

There were several hundred businesses in Greenwood — hotels, restaurants, beauty parlors, “everything you can think of,” Brown adds. “There was a sense of self-sufficiency.”

But Greenwood wasn’t immune to the racial violence that plagued much of the era. More than two dozen race riots had broken out throughout the country In 1919 — which meant mobs of white people attacking black neighborhoods, according to Ellsworth. Oklahoma was starting to see a rise in membership to the KKK.

Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old black shoe shiner, used an elevator to go up to a segregated bathroom on May 30, 1921. In the elevator was Sarah Page, a 17-year-old white woman and elevator operator. Whether or not the two knew each other is uncertain, but it is believed that Rowland tripped entering the elevator and caught himself on Page’s arm, and she let out a scream. An onlooker who heard the scream summoned the police, believing Page had been the victim of an attempted sexual assault. No record exists that Page said anything about a sexual assault to the police, according to Ellsworth’s report, but Rowland was arrested the next day.

An angry crowd of white people began to gather in front of the court house holding Rowland, calling for him to be turned over to them. The sheriff set up a row of armed guards to protect the building. Then a group of about 25 armed black veterans of World War I showed up, ready to protect Rowland. The mob of white people had grown to an estimated thousand by that evening. Some attempted to break into a local armory for weapons.

Tensions increased through the night and the white mob continued to grow. At about 10 p.m. a group of armed black men made their way to the court house, offering help to authorities. Then one white man approached a black World War I veteran and tried to take away his gun. When the gun went off, the race riot began.

Equality and Consent

Ashe Schow is right about this proposal.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) proposed legislation on Tuesday that would close what he called a “loophole” in rape law.

Cuomo claimed that prosecutors cannot bring rape charges against an accused person if an accuser voluntarily consumes alcohol. Cuomo’s proposal would change the state’s definition of those who cannot legally consent to sexual activity to include someone who is conscious but allegedly too drunk to consent. Keen observers will notice how vague the idea of being “too drunk to consent” may be.
Formally this retains equality under the law, because it says “someone” rather than “a woman.” Pragmatically it establishes an unequal standard both because it intends to affect women differently from men, but also because alcohol itself affects women differently from men. Women get drunk on less, faster, and suffer more physically (including long term effects like liver damage).

Ultimately NY is proposing a standard that will hold that women cannot consent after a few drinks, while a man could after the same number. It’s none of the state’s business whether a woman chooses to consent after a couple of beers, as long as she did in fact consent. To say otherwise is, as Ms. Schow says, infantalizing to women. It treats their sexuality as once again a matter for a paternalistic state’s oversight.

If She Could Only Be Like This All The Time

I could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.

Anti-labor laws

Strange how often "labor laws" kills jobs, but hey, it's California.  We'd rather you had no job than a job we don't like!

Obamacare unconstitutional?

The Fifth Circuit has just ruled that the ACA individual mandate is unconstitutional, now that there's no longer a tax we can pretend to justify it with.  They remanded the case back down to the district court to take a stab at deciding whether the whole act must fall with the individual mandate, or can be severed.

Do-Onething Congress

Do you think that, now that this ridiculous political theater is finally nearly over, the House might actually get something besides impeachment done?

Oh, no, of course not. They’re going on holiday.

Yeah, Let’s Stop With This Horsesh*t

Dozens of Australian men are not giving birth.

UPDATE: This also.


Gig workers “protect” themselves by legislation, get fired in droves. 
Vox Media is laying off hundreds of freelance writers and editors due to a new California law that was sold as a way to protect the state's contingent workforce. That law, AB5, was adopted in September. To comply, New York-based Vox Media would have had to reclassify many of the freelancers it uses for sports platform SB Nation as full-time staff.

Instead, the company decided to cancel the contracts of some 200 or so freelancers....

Vox Media's flagship publication, Vox, previously called the California legislation "a victory for workers everywhere."

The OSS And Modernist Design

Oh, dear.
Propaganda played a crucial role during World War II, with the O.S.S. leading efforts to demoralize the enemy and encourage resistance in Axis-controlled countries. They created a stamp bearing the face of Hitler rendered as a skull, produced radio broadcasts in German, spread pamphlets announcing a German general’s resignation and made films for new military recruits, such as the Hollywood producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s circa 1943 “Organization of the Army,” which was commissioned by General George C. Marshall. Through its manipulation of the art of information, the agency helped shape the look and philosophy of American imperialism. In doing so, the O.S.S. assembled a concentration of acumen and talent that rivaled those of the iconic schools and institutes that propagated design in the 20th century. It was the Bauhaus, but for war....

...the utopian ideas swirling around the Bauhaus in 1920s Germany positing that design should reflect a society at its most efficient and egalitarian — modern industrial design had a revolutionary mission. Design was art in everyday life. It could have universal applications.
Utopian it may have been, but the Bauhaus school fostered the ugliest sort of design anyone ever invented. I'd hope the OSS merited a better comparison than that.

Beer and Such

A glorious history.

The Hell You Say

Overwhelming evidence that Obamacare is behind skyrocketing costs, report finds.

Respect Your Elders

It’s rare for a generation gap to work like this, in which only one’s own generation and older is suspicious of you. Voter over 50 remember the Cold War, though. They remember the USSR.

It's a bad idea to infuriate a federal judge

They'll take you at your word on a lot of things if you keep your nose clean.  But you really don't want to make one think you've been lying to her.

Sad News From Savannah

The venerable and excellent Kevin Barry's Irish Pub is closing forever. I do not know if I will ever return to Savannah if Kevin Barry's isn't there to draw me. Back before we were married, and when we were newly so, my wife and I spent many wonderful evenings there listening to Harry O'Donoghue play in the music room. Upstairs, the "Hall of Heroes" is a regular hangout for 75th Rangers and 160th SOAR folks from nearby Hunter Army Airfield, and has the most moving tributes to fallen soldiers. The loss of this establishment is one of those incalculable ones; Savannah has plenty of bars, and even plenty of pubs, but there isn't another Kevin Barry's in the world.

Kevin Barry's has featured occasionally here at Grim's Hall, as here. The song named after the boy that the pub is also named after inspired my effort at writing a poem for the late Lance Corporal Ian Malone.

Grim Will Want to See This!

According to America's Paper of Record:

LOS ANGELES, CA—Classic historical drama film Braveheart is receiving a reboot by Paramount Pictures next year, this time with an all-female cast.

Lena Dunham will play the starring role of Willow Wallace, a "fierce Scottish she-warrior who don't need no man."

Co-stars include Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, and Beyonce ...
The accompanying photo ... um, won't scar you too much.

A Rhetorical Thrashing

Sen. McConnell is underlining his opposition.

Green acres


My unreasonably crafty friend, the one with the piano-playing son, is making this quilt out of scraps left over from her sister's childhood almost half a century ago.  The figured panels are t-shirts, while the background fabrics are from dresses she made her when the sister was a toddler about 10 years her junior.

My friend suggests she may have hoarding tendencies.  The devil you say, I responded.  You should see her country compound, which looks as though elves had taken over an American Picker site, stained glass windows in all the barns, handmade stepping stones everywhere.


A new militia is established in Virginia... by an official county government.
Just this past Tuesday, on December 10th, the Board of Supervisors from Tazewell County passed two different resolutions in light of controversy circling those who are pro-gun. The first resolution declared the county to be a second amendment sanctuary. This is not at all surprising to see, as 76 out of 95 counties, 9 out of 38 independent cities, and 13 towns have adopted second amendment sanctuary resolutions. 
The second item on the agenda was the proposition of establishing a militia in the county. When both of the resolutions passed, the crowd cheered loudly in support of the decisions. Also, the resolutions didn’t exactly pass by a small margin; the votes were unanimous, with more than 200 citizens standing by in support.
The militia will serve as a law enforcement and public safety body if the state legislature figures out a way to defund the sheriff’s department. Ironically the destruction of effective systems of governance in Virginia may improve civic health. What could be better than an engaged community stepping up to provide volunteers to look out for the common good, in defiance of tyranny and defense of their rights? I would much prefer that to an effective state.

To give a little context

Below is the map of counties and independent cities that have elected to declare that they will enforce no law that is in contradiction with the 2nd Amendment of the United States of America.  That's a lot of blue (not blue for Democrats in this case).  To add even more context, that's 93 of the 133 counties and independent cities that make up the Commonwealth of Virginia.  That's 70% of the State, so far.  And of the remaining 40, only five have said "we fear guns more than we love our rights".

Ditto, Mr. Comey

Chris Wallace is on a roll, hosting James ("I preserved deniability") Comey as well as Adam Schiff on their FBI FISA scandal apology tours.  Like Schiff, Comey claims he was simply unaware of the FISA abuse at the time.  Really, how was he to know?  Schiff's excuse, in comparison, is almost straightforward:  at least Schiff doesn't labor under the difficulty of having been the duped supervisor of the abusive agents.  Comey is left having to argue, basically, "Hey, I've done worse" and "we still haven't entirely ruled out the possibility that there's a shred of truth hiding somewhere in the Steele dossier."

It's almost as if Comey had come to understand why he should have been fired:
"He's right, I was wrong," Comey said about how the FBI used the FISA process, adding, "I was overconfident as director in our procedures," and that what happened "was not acceptable."
The Ace commenters are having a field day with the "I was overconfident in our procedures" defense, applying it to General Custer, the captain of the Titanic, the director of the Metropolitan Correction Center, General Pickett.  I'm left wondering whether there's a witness out there who can demonstrate that Comey might just possibly have insisted on a little investigation into the most momentous warrant of his career before signing it (even if, as the Ace guys say, he didn't "sign"-sign it), and who might be considering singing like a bird sometime soon.

Sure you would have, Mr. Schiff

At least Adam Schiff no longer is (as so many still are) arguing that the Horowitz report isn't a scathing rebuke of the FBI's FISA abuses.  He is, however, asserting to fellow-traveler Chris Wallace that he's shocked, shocked to discover the abuses at this late date:
“I’m certainly willing to admit the inspector general found serious abuses of FISA that I was unaware of,” he said to host Chris Wallace. “Had I known of them, Chris, yes I would have called out the FBI at the same time.“
Not that I take this protestation of retroactive good faith at face value, but it does lay the ground for serious difficulty as soon as someone can establish that obviously he was on notice of the FISA abuses two years ago.  Schiff's reputation for honesty being roughly on a par with his reputation for painstaking avoidance of leaving an incriminating paper trail ("I never met with the whistleblower and don't even know who he is!"), this shouldn't even pose a minor hurdle for the sleuths.

Cocaine Mitch Says “No Chance”

I remember during the Kavanaugh hearings, despite all the drama, Mitch McConnell declared early on that approval was certain. It looked like it came down to the wire, but I had heard from a friend who works for another Senator that McConnell had the votes early. The rest was just drama.

Today he says there is “no chance the President will be removed.”


The name means “Yule Cat,” more or less, but it is not at all nice — perhaps Trollish.

Title IX

A major ruling from the 6th Circuit has made some unhappy.
“What judges should keep in mind is that it’s a choice,” Dunn said. “There’s an ability to interpret the law and you have to decide what perspective you’re coming from. A lot of conservative ones think, ‘We’re going to be close to the law.’ I really suggest you think about the effect on social issues.”

La Tène Grave Find

A Celtic warrior, buried with chariot, horses, and shield.