A Strongman Moment

This guy may have more in the tank, but we can’t test it because no bigger Atlas stone actually exists.

The fellow is from Scotland, the heritage home of many (though not all) of the great stone-lifting strength sports. He is a Cimmerian, as you can see.

Chili recipes?

So as I've said before, I'm still reading through the old VC archives (working backwards in time) and I came across this comment in one thread:
Chili -- although what I find to be a "comfort food" might put some of our readers into the hospital. :)

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2008 04:50 PM
And I suddenly was very interested to know what Grim's chili contains as I am a committed "hot head" when it comes to spicy food (or I need to be committed, one of the two).

Today in History: The Boston Massacre

This day, 5th March, in the year 1770.

The Tenth Amendment Center writes more about it.

Living History

During the Cobra Gold exercise -- apparently going on in spite of the Coronavirus, unlike exercises with South Korea -- American pilots are donning historic headgear. In the photo of one of the examples they're replicating, Will Koenitzer is wearing not only the "Saigon Cowboy" hat but tiger stripe camo and sporting what looks to me like a Smith & Wesson N-Frame revolver on his hip.

The contemporary Special Forces dudes are also wearing a form of tiger stripe camo, which I have been seeing them do lately. That was another thing that dates to the Vietnam era. In movies as well; in addition to John Wayne in The Green Berets, in Apocalypse Now the Army officer sent on the special mission wears it.

But That's Just When You Need Guns the Most!

Reason Magazine: "She Said He Said He Saw Demons. Then He Had to Give Up His Guns."
[A judge issued orders]...which authorizes the suspension of a person's Second Amendment rights when he is deemed a threat to himself or others. All three were ex parte orders, meaning they were issued without giving Kevin Morgan a chance to rebut the allegations against him.

But when it was time for a judge to decide whether the initial gun confiscation order, which was limited to 14 days, should be extended for a year, Morgan got a hearing, and the lurid picture painted by his wife disintegrated. By the end of the hearing, in an extraordinary turn of events unlike anything you are likely to see in a courtroom drama, the lawyer representing the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, which was seeking the final order, conceded that he had not met the law's evidentiary standard, and the judge agreed.

This bizarre case vividly illustrates why legal representation and meaningful judicial review are necessary to protect gun owners from unsubstantiated complaints under red flag laws, which 17 states and the District of Columbia have enacted. But it also shows that police and prosecutors, who in Florida are the only parties authorized to file red flag petitions, are not necessarily diligent about investigating allegations by people who may have an ax to grind.
That's all very well, but what happens when the police roll up, armed and in numbers, to disarm someone they've been told is a madman seeing demons? He gets his day in court eventually, if he's still alive.

A Viking Village Flyby

Drone footage I assume. Lovely re-enactment.

100 Years of Scotty

I missed the birthday by a few days, but Lt. Doohan is 100 years old.

Goodbye, Mike

I spent a lot of 'ink' on Warren, but by far my least favorite of the candidates was Mike Bloomberg. I'm not sure how much of my attention he deserves, but I'm greatly pleased to see his departure from the pursuit of even more power than his endless billions give him.

The Failing New York Times

With the collapse of the Warren campaign, both of the candidates the NYT endorsed are now out of the Democratic primary.

If Times readers still want to vote for a woman to run against Trump, it's ok: Tulsi Gabbard is still standing tall. She also won a delegate in American Samoa, so she might make the debate stage next time!

UPDATE: The Atlantic publishes a piece by Elaine Godfrey with five theories for Warren's fall. Sexism is theory number five.
Sexism in politics is like Whack-a-Mole, right? Every cycle, it shows up in a new way. We dealt with the “likability” issue [with Warren] pretty quickly. Now it’s “electability.” Every data point that we have says women can win—in 2018, women won all over the country—and yet we keep asking this question. The conversation becomes really problematic for a candidate who’s trying to make [the] case about what kind of agenda she wants to set, what kind of policies she wants to have.

The biggest issue this year is the double standard, where we hold women candidates to different standards than we hold the men. It’s very clear from the Medicare for All conversation that we expected and demanded more of [Warren] than we did the male candidates, and it hurt her. That was happening right as she was rising. As late as [last] week, Bernie Sanders [was] saying, I still can’t tell you every nickel and dime [about how to pay for his Medicare for All plan], and everybody’s like, All right. Well, you know, it’s about priorities. I’m not saying we should treat Bernie Sanders differently. I’m saying we should treat Elizabeth Warren the same.

She either outright won all [the debates] or performed really well. But you didn’t see wall-to-wall coverage the next day of what that would mean for her campaign and whether the momentum was going to come in. Where she had victories, they were not celebrated as loudly as the men[’s] were, and where she had defeats, it was seen as an inevitable character flaw as opposed to a bump in the road.

There were three tickets out of Iowa until a woman got the third one. I am very interested to see a deep dive into [news-coverage] quantity and quality once this is all over, and it’s pretty obvious that the women just didn’t get the same.
I cannot imagine that a deep dive into the news coverage the Warren campaign got will show that it was less than glowing. I mean, she was endorsed by the NYT! She was treated as brilliant and intellectual and the one candidate who really could formulate solutions to the nation's great problems by journalists from the left to what passes for the middle. Unlike Joe Biden, she had many passionate supporters including among journalists who provided in-kind donations with positive coverage. Joltin' Joe seems to have mostly machine support -- but having a machine behind you, whether the Clinton machine or Obama's Chicago machine, is the real route to power in the national-level Democratic party, and they're united behind Joe.

That said, I do think sexism played the crucial role in her downfall. Specifically, I think it was her campaign's collusion with CNN to forward an unsupported accusation of sexism against Bernie Sanders. Her numbers began to crash as people on the Left experienced the kind of astonishment that so many of us on the right experienced during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. They didn't notice then because they were prepared to believe any kind of slander against a right-leaning SCOTUS nominee, but this time they saw through to the nastiness, the dishonesty, and the unfairness of trying to destroy the career of a man they admired via accusations of sexism fielded without any evidence whatsoever.

The very people she needed to vote for her didn't believe her -- perhaps in part because she has a long legacy of proven false statements about her own biography -- and they couldn't believe she'd try to destroy the reputation of a man who -- by their lights -- has lived with moral clarity and distinction for many decades. Bernie was arrested with the civil rights marchers; Bernie was always on the forefront of every issue they cared about. He's been a loyal husband to a loyal wife, advanced the causes of many women in politics, and she was prepared to destroy him anyway in pursuit of power.

If that was their judgment, they were right to drive her out of the path of power. If they were right about her, she's the kind of person who shouldn't have power.

UPDATE: Jeff Jacoby points out that 76% of women in Massachusetts voted against Warren. Democratic women voters, even, as Mike D points out in the comments.

An Advertisement for a Friend in Need

I don't do commercials here as a rule, but I'm making an exception for a friend whose small business had a misfortune not at all his fault.

As I've mentioned, one of the things I do for fun is Strongman competitions in a fully amateur, very minor way (and in the Masters Division, where 'Master' is a courteous euphemism for "too old" rather than meaning "great"). One of the places that hosts great competitions is Norse Fitness in Charlotte, NC. The host, Andy, is a great guy and has built a business around strength training and gear that supports his family (including a beautiful young daughter). Andy was going to go to the Arnold this year, one of the three biggest events in strength sports, but the trade show there was canceled due to the Coronavirus, and spectators forbidden.

Unfortunately, Andy bought a bunch of merchandise to take to sell; the Arnold organizers made the decision so late that he, and many others, are also too late to get refunds on their plane tickets, Air B&B reservations, and so on. So he's having a big 30% off sale on everything in his store.

The sale code is CORONA30. I've bought plenty of his gear in the past, and it's all of excellent quality. In addition, he has lots of Norse- and Viking-themed t-shirts and such, of the sort appropriate for Strongman competitors to wear while lifting giant objects Conan-style.

Vagueness and Knowledge: Christianity Edition

AVI poses a question: When did Europe become Christian? Arguably never, he says.

If you want to debate that topic, please do it at his place because he deserves to enjoy the discussion there. What I want to do here is discuss a model that explains just why we can't really answer that question in a fully satisfactory way. I think it's a good model to have in your mind for a lot of purposes, one that many of you will find helpful.

The model belongs to Timothy Williamson. He came up with the basic approach in his work on vagueness, but later realized that it could serve as a revolutionary model for epistemology (which, I assume everyone knows, is defined as 'the study of knowledge,' but really is mostly a 2,000+ year debate about what exactly knowledge might be).* He wrote a book called Knowledge and its Limits that explains the epistemic model. It's become a big hit in the philosophy world because everyone hates the idea, but it's hard to show exactly where he goes wrong (if indeed he does).

The basic idea works like this: you can know things, and you can sometimes also know that you know them. Other times, however, you are close enough to a border such that you can't really be sure that you know what you know (so that you know, but don't know that you know). Accepting this explains both vagueness and why we sometimes can't be sure about question's like AVI's.

The example on vagueness is also an example about knowledge, so I'll just borrow it. Say that on a given day, day n, you are a child and you know that you are a child. Childhood lasts a long time, so presumably tomorrow (day n+1) you will also be a child. Since there is no obvious limit on that, you should remain a child forever: but somehow a day comes, say by day n+10,950, are not a child and you know that you are not a child anymore. Clarity exists on both ends of the spectrum.

So which day was the exact day on which you stopped being a child? There wasn't one, of course; somehow it happened, during a period of time in which you weren't really sure anymore. Sometimes you felt like a child, sometimes you could see yourself taking adult steps and becoming more adult as a consequence. Exactly when it happens is not clear.

Williamson's answer, in other words, is to dispose of certainty and embrace vagueness. I'm cold at 32 degrees F, and I know it; I'm warm at 75 degrees, and I know I'm not cold anymore. But as the temperature rises, there might come a point that even with careful reflection I couldn't say whether I was still cold. We could probably narrow that down with experiment, but it might vary a lot depending on weather conditions. A bright sunny windless day might no longer feel cold at 34, whereas a windy, wet, rainy day might feel quite cold even at 60 (hypothermia, in fact, is possible). But there will be a moment at which I'm plausibly not really sure.

That doesn't mean that we lose knowledge. We can not only know but know that we know at the ends of the spectrum. We lose that second-order certainty as we get closer to the border conditions; we might know but not know that we know. Very close to the border, we might not know.

So when did Europe become Christian? If the answer really is 'arguably never,' then we still are close enough to the border condition that we can't say we know it ever did. But I think we could say that we know that we know that European civilization was Christian in the 19th century. That seems like a flower of clarity. It may well be, as Eric Blair has often argued, that this civilization received its death blow in WWI and has been dying ever since. At some point we can't still say that we know that Europe is Christian at all, even if once we knew that it was and knew that we knew it.

* I'm leaving out a discussion of Williamson's argument that knowledge isn't analyzable, and focusing here on the vagueness aspect of knowledge, which I think is the more useful concept.

So How Deadly is this Coronavirus?

The WHO is now claiming 3.4% fatality rates, but a Harvard doctor disputes that and says it's under 1%. (The President also disputes it, although I'm not convinced that he is the best expert to heed on this subject.)

Fake News Today

BB: 'My Healthcare Is None Of Your Business,' Says Woman Who Demands That You Pay For Her Healthcare
Local woman Sarah Harper declared Friday that her healthcare is none of your business or the government's business, though she wants the government to take more of your money to pay for it.

Harper posted a series of tweets Friday proclaiming how “men don’t have a say” when it comes to women's healthcare, and also that you should just “shut up and pay for it....

"Just hand over the money and no one gets hurt," she said.
DB: Army’s new coal-powered tiltrotor gaining traction in Congress
“Admittedly, we had to trim down the passenger compartment to make room for the stoker crew and coal storage,” Bell-Textron CEO Mitch Snyder said.... Snyder told reporters that, if awarded program status, the Super Emu would be able to transport troops, conceal their deployment with billowing coal ash, and render enemy water sources non-potable—and in some places, caustic.


I ran across this word today and was struck by the fact that I couldn't think of a single related word in the English language (aside from the adverb and noun versions of the same word). I went to check the etymology, which is Latin: truculentus, apparently passed through the Middle French.

The first attestation of the word in English is from 1540, which may explain why it has no English cognates. Perhaps it didn't come over from the Anglo French in or just after 1066, but was brought over as a loan word during or just after the Hundred Years War. It could easily have been a common word among the Middle French-speaking knights who were regularly interacting with the English-speaking knights until the 1450s, and thus first written down in a source that survives to us around a hundred years after that.

A hundred years sounds like a big gap, but it's just for what happened to survive that we're aware of to put in our reference sources. A lot of records were lost in the Henry VIII period due to the destruction of Catholic monastic libraries. The word sounds like one Shakespeare would have liked, but I can't find that he used it.

Roman Dagger Find

A beautiful piece, newly restored.

By Jove, I don't care for the cut of this fellow's jib

The New Yorker is shocked, shocked to learn that persuasiveness in human society sometimes depends on base emotional impact rather than elevated rationality. In a long essay devoted to the degradation of previously pristine political discourse since the days of declaiming in the agora, I mean, speaking from the back on trains on whistlestop tours, I mean, orating over the radio, I mean, winning the beauty contest on this newfangled teevee, I mean, getting down in the mud in what the kids are calling this social media thing, Andrew Marantz details the horror of the 2016 Trump campaign in the sniffiest possible New Yorker tones. He particularly deplores the skill of Trump's digital guru, Brad Parscale:
In 2016, three weeks after Election Day, Harvard’s Institute of Politics hosted a panel discussion featuring leaders of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Trump’s campaign—the first public reunion of the now dunces and the now geniuses. It got heated.
“I would rather lose than win the way you guys did,” Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s director of communications, said.
“No, you wouldn’t, respectfully,” Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s campaign managers, said.
I laughed out loud almost all the way through, but never more than when reading references to things like "social media, where lies and fractious memes are disproportionately likely to be amplified." Could these people be any less self-aware? Did you know, for instance, that bad Republicans tried to spread rumors that Clinton had undisclosed ties to Vladimir Putin? Who would stoop to something like that?  To make matters worse, "This past fall, the Trump campaign ran a Facebook ad premised on the incendiary but false notion that the villain of the Ukraine corruption scandal was not Trump but Joe Biden."

It would be difficult to top this offhand reference to the Alamo by a Brahmin who may go to his grave never comprehending how the wrong sort of people end up holding influential public positions: "Parscale’s operation was unofficially called Project Alamo, a reference to the grisly encounter in a nineteenth-century border war between Texas separatists and the government of Mexico." But the author saves the best for last, simultaneously exposing his hilariously obvious double-standard and his desperate willingness to undermine an admission of truth with empty qualifiers:
“No one ever complained about Facebook for a single day until Donald Trump was President,” Brad Parscale has said. When the Obama campaign used Facebook in new and innovative ways, the media “called them geniuses.” When Parscale did the same, he continued, he was treated as “the evil of earth.” Despite the bombast and the false equivalence, this is basically true.
See? It's true, but it's full of bombast, and debunked by a false equivalence so obvious to right-thinking people that we don't even have to identify the equivalence, let alone the falsehood. Because we operate on a higher level of honesty and principle than that dreadful upstart.

I end on this hopeful note:
Since 2016, one of Parscale’s shrewdest innovations has been to turn the continuing rallies into data-mining opportunities. Tickets are free, but they can only be claimed by a person with a valid cell-phone number. The campaign now has a huge database of mobile numbers belonging to people who are motivated enough to attend a Trump rally, many of whom might not have shown up on a voter-registration roll or any other official data file.
“We have almost two hundred and fifteen million hard-I.D. voter records in our database now,” Parscale claimed last year, although his definition of “hard I.D.” is not clear. Even if Trump were banned from every social network, his campaign would be able to reach supporters by text.

"The world soul could use more brains."

The aptly named Freeman Dyson--we might almost have called him Freemind Dyson--died this week just short of the age of 100. Dyson once wrote an essay titled “Birds and Frogs,”
in which he described complementary species of mathematicians: “Some mathematicians are birds, others are frogs,” he wrote. “Birds fly high in the air and survey broad vistas of mathematics out to the far horizon. They delight in concepts that unify our thinking and bring together diverse problems from different parts of the landscape. Frogs live in the mud below and see only the flowers that grow nearby. They delight in the details of particular objects, and they solve problems one at a time. I happen to be a frog, but many of my best friends are birds.”
Some might disagree with Dyson’s assessment of himself. “Characteristically clever and self-deprecating,” the author James Gleick replied, when I posted that excerpt on Twitter. “I think he was a bird.”
He elaborated in an email. For a moment, Mr. Gleick said, in the case of quantum electrodynamics, Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger were the frogs and only Dr. Dyson could see them both: “Schwinger had solved quantum electrodynamics with a difficult formalism that almost no one understood, and Feynman had solved quantum electrodynamics with his powerful diagrams — easy for physicists to use and compute with but still hard to understand — and it was Dyson who saw the thing whole, proving that Feynman’s and Schwinger’s solutions were mathematically equivalent.” He added that Dr. Dyson should have shared their Nobel Prize.

Andre Norton

I read a number of her works when I was younger, and still have a few of them around -- I think there's a copy of Quag Keep in the library. It took me a long time to work out that "Andre" was a woman, which was her intention.
Born as Alice Mary Norton in 1912, Norton started writing while she was still in high school.... in 1934 she had her name legally changed to Andre Alice Norton, and adopted several male-sounding pen names so as to prevent her gender from becoming an obstacle to sales in the first market she wrote for: young boys literature.


In 1976, Gary Gygax even persuaded Andre Norton to try out his new Dungeons & Dragons game, and he ran her through a session in his storied world of Greyhawk. Shortly thereafter, Norton was inspired to write the very first D&D novel, Quag Keep (1979). Along with Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton was one of a handful of early authors to experience the very games that their works had inspired.
D&D with Fritz Leiber! That would have been a good time. Norton was no slouch either.

Local politics

I'm feeling good about the political health of my county this evening.  We have four local races, and while the early and mail-in tallies are not great in three of them, I didn't feel strongly about any of those races, more a matter of personal preference.  The important race was to replace our County Attorney, who also is our only felony prosecutor.  This has been a dreadful scandal in my community, and in recent weeks I was beginning to worry whether my neighbors were going to rise up properly and vote her out.  We went to a great deal of trouble to run a good opponent and to get the word out.  We don't have full results yet, but the tally of early and mail-in ballots shows the challenging taking 76% of the vote, which is very, very good news.  Early voting doesn't always split the same way as election-day voting, but a lead like 76% doesn't get overturned.

Good, simple, French Onion Soup

A couple of weeks ago, Hello Fresh sent me and the missus a French Onion Soup meal.  It was okay.  My biggest problem was that they tried to satisfy as many customers as possible and ended up with a less satisfying meal by substituting mushroom stock for the more traditional beef stock.  And I said as much to the Lovely Bride.  She was skeptical and didn't think it was bad at all.

So I decided to "fix" the recipe on my own.  And this is one of the reasons I really like Hello Fresh.  It may cost between a (inexpensive) restaurant meal and what you'd pay if you shopped for the groceries yourself, but you can keep the recipe card and shop for the groceries yourself in the future if you really like it.  Or... in this case, want to make it better.

Horns of the dilemma

From Frank Miele via RealClearPolitics:
While any or all of the bottom four candidates might drop out [after Super Tuesday], it is unlikely that enough support will go to Sanders in subsequent primaries to give him the 50%-plus-one majority he would need to ensure a first-ballot victory at the convention July 13-16 in Milwaukee. If he does win outright, then the party will have nominated a cranky 79-year-old socialist with a man crush on authoritarian communists like Fidel Castro. That would normally be a nightmare scenario, but this year it is the best-case scenario.
If he doesn’t win outright, then pandemonium is sure to ensue. The Democratic establishment would have to decide whether to endorse a socialist as its standard-bearer, in which case they would be responsible for the subsequent George McGovern-style bloodbath, or to stop Sanders by throwing their support to another candidate, possibly even one who has not campaigned but is willing to be drafted as the nominee. (The possibilities: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Michelle Obama or even Adam “You Won’t Have to Ask Me Twice” Schiff.)

The War on Deplorables

Steve Hayward reminds us that the war on traditional citizens leads to strange intra-party politics that make it hard for a party to nominate a candidate with broad appeal, and have been doing so periodically for half a century at least:
A concession Jesse Jackson won at the [1988] Democratic National Convention was a substantial reduction in the number of “superdelegates”—the governors, state legislators, and congressmen recently introduced into the convention process. Another concession reduced the proportion of votes a candidate required to qualify for delegates and did away with “winner-take-all” primaries. This rule change will encourage factionalism by making it worthwhile for candidates to stay in the race longer so as to amass a larger force of delegates. More factions and fewer coalitions, I am afraid, are in store. Thus the desire of party activists to adopt more egalitarian policies, or their inability to reject egalitarian mechanisms—take your pick—will give egalitarians a greater voice in conventions to come. Not every future Democratic presidential nominee need be strongly egalitarian, but no one obnoxious to egalitarians will get far.

CDC competence vel non

I'm always up for a good "incompetent government bureaucracy" hook, but this thoughtful comment from Maggie's Farm is a more balanced approach:
I heard a few days ago that the reason we don't have a good test for the Corona virus was because we needed to have patients with the virus so that we could use their body fluids in a process that would make a test for it. I understand also that the CDC tried to roll out a test for the corona virus anyway because of course they need the test. But because they didn't have a good sample of the virus available the test was not accurate and gave false positives and false negatives. To speed up the process they bypassed an administrative rule to allow other agencies (states and others) to develop the test because by then there were a few confirmed patients to get samples from and since the patients were closer to outside laboratories this process would be faster than if the CDC insisted that only they could create the test.
One other factor in this is some have commented that smaller and less capable countries had developed the test so why couldn't we. There are two answers: 1. They had confirmed patients before we did which gave them the necessary samples. 2. They may have (probably did) develop tests like our first ones which give false results BUT since their standards are not as high as the CDC they decided "who cares" and went ahead and used them. (Or they are still clueless that their tests are giving them false results.)
Count me as one of those who doubts that our doctors are bumbling fools and that our CDC is incompetent. I am sure their bureaucracy sometimes interferes with best practices but generally I would say our CDC is as good as any similar organization anywhere. I think the problem is that they failed to adequately explain the holdup and thus to us it looks like a screw-up.
I still think, of course, that human systems are inevitably prone to error, and improvement will always depend on a relentless willingness to try different approaches, compare predictions to reality, and assess honestly which approaches are the most effective. Flexibility and honesty not being the easiest goals in human institutions, and government bureaucracies not being their natural home, it's a tough challenge.  Nevertheless, I don't want to pile on the CDC just because they fail a theoretical test of perfection.  They're certainly doing a better job than I would know how to do.