Phase I Pie

First restaurant food in just over two months, tailgate pizza from a local joint just re-opened. “Local” means it’s a 40-minute drive (or ride) from the house.

This one’s called “The Duke.”

John Wayne would appreciate it.

A Real ‘Lord of the Flies’

It’s a much better story.

A Summary of Recent History

Representative Jim Jordan has published a piece in the Federalist entitled "A Look Back On The Russia, Mueller, And Flynn Investigations." It is worth the time it will take you to read it.

Arbery Shooting

My virtue-signalling left-wing friends have been raising Cain over a shooting back down in Georgia, where two former police officers (who happen to be father and son) shot and killed a jogger. The shooters were white, the jogger was black, and the shooters appear to have taken him for a burglar and tried to make a citizens' arrest. That's legal in Georgia, provided that you bring the arrested before a magistrate in very short order.

The jogger grappled with one of them, who was holding a shotgun. The other one shot him, as he had taken up an elevated covering position by standing in the back of their pickup truck.

Generally this is being portrayed as a white-supremacist-hate-crime. Perhaps it was, although so far I haven't seen any evidence suggesting it besides the fact that they are white and the dead man was black. I am instantly struck, however, by the fact that they would probably not even be charged if they were still cops. 'Suspect grappled with the responding officer, and was going for his gun. Backup officer applied necessary force to ensure arresting officer was not killed in a struggle over the gun. Suspect died of wounds.'

In fact I suspect they will be cleared at trial for just that reason. A struggle over a gun with a suspected criminal poses an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm of just the sort that the Georgia self-defense laws permits. A third party may use lethal force to save the life of another so threatened. Since the dead man had a criminal record that did include burglary, and the shooters were former law-enforcement, my guess is the jury will break their way if they aren't convinced to take a plea bargain. At worst they'll likely get a mistrial; they may well be acquitted.

That said, what really happened here is probably what AVI was talking about: reversion to training. They did what the police are trained to do, and I can't imagine charges being brought against two police officers who did exactly the same thing. Here's a case in which training can actually work against you, because as your role in society changes over time, old training remains part of your state of character. A man is dead because of how they were trained as police officers.

Avoiding the Perjury Trap

Another big thing that happened yesterday was the opening of a lot more HPSCI documents from the Trump/Russia hearings. Ace has been doing yeoman work in pointing out that, over and over and over again, people who were publicly proclaiming Trump's guilt privately testified under oath that they had no evidence whatsoever.

Well, that's what oaths are for. Too bad this wasn't made public way back when. Might have saved time and money, but it would have also disabled a politically useful argument, so there was no way it could happen.

Phase 1

Governor Cooper's office has put together a Twitter thread that is reasonable, cautiously optimistic but straightforward about the risks. I'm trying to be patient with this process, which I think is overly cautious but which is clearly well-intentioned. Let us hope it goes smoothly.

Ted Cruz Gets a Haircut

In another stunning reversal of fortune, the Dallas hairdresser who was jailed for operating her salon has been freed; the governor has issued an executive order banning jailing of people for violating mere executive orders as opposed to laws; and a Senator dropped in for a trim.

Oh. O.

So the President is entitled to know pretty much whatever he wants to know, however, his personal attention is limited. To discover that he is personally aware of specifics from a FISA intercept is significant.

More Biden News

Tara Reade's ex-husband mentioned that she was sexually harassed by her boss in a court filing that has come to light.

Justice Department Drops All Charges on Flynn

A stunning reversal; they didn't even wait for Judge Sullivan to rule on whether he could withdraw his guilty plea. This is not the end, though. The DOJ prosecutor has withdrawn from all of his cases, not just this one, and there is doubtless more to come.

UPDATE: I want to say that I am really pleased and encouraged by this outcome. Last week's Brady material establishes that the FBI never thought he was guilty of anything, after a very thorough counterintelligence information produced "no derogatory information" in any of the several methodologies employed. They were going to close the case, until they were ordered to hold it open so that a perjury trap could be attempted. If the witnesses about the original 302s are accurate, even that shouldn't have worked because the original 302s said that the agents didn't think Flynn was lying to them, just wrong on a couple of points.

I always liked Flynn because he was willing to take on the intelligence higher-ups on the word of the guys on the ground. An officer that will both listen to and fight for his guys is as good an officer as you can ask. He has been shamefully abused by the government he served long and well. I generally never hope to see anyone sent to prison, as I hate to see a free man reduced to a slave. Those who abused him, though, have spent their whole careers sending other people to prison. They broke the laws they enforced on others. For them, I can only say that it would be a sort of poetic justice if they should have that hammer fall.

Can Virtue be Taught?

AVI responded to yesterday's short essay with a post of his own, questioning whether habituation is in fact how one develops virtues like courage.
Thinking about that, I think it is only partly true. It is not the mere experience of danger and risk that teaches, even to those who are alert and seeking to draw lessons. An example: early in my career at the hospital it was common to be working an understaffed unit. Just before I arrived, they had finally made it policy that no one was to work a unit alone. Not all psychiatric patients are dangerous, but enough of them are that they required physical intervention to restrain them. They can be assaultive, out-of-control, or so intensely self harming that they attempt to run into wall, cut themselves with whatever is handy. When you are alone in facing this and you know that you can get hurt badly, but your job is to keep everyone safe, it is frightening. Yes, you are still alone, because someone has to get to the phone, or is on break. Especially tough on night shift when there aren't even that many people in the building to help out. You were left with the intervention far more often if you were male, also. The adrenaline rises, clouding your judgement, and memories of past injuries, especially from this same patient, rise as well.

This was part of my job for seven years, and then an occasional part for ten years after that. I experienced that fear many times and worked to contain it. Yet even though I was paying attention and trying to draw lessons from the experience, or trying to emulate those who seemed to be doing better, I don't think I improved much. Not until about year five, when a new type of training come in, did I feel I was making progress. It was not mere habituation, but specific training that mattered. I imagine Aristotle might partly agree if I explained it to him.
This is one of the most consequential questions with which the Greeks wrestled. The issue makes up the core of several of Plato's dialogues. In fact it is the heart of Socrates' conflict with the Sophists, who claimed that they could and did teach virtue.

The first issue is whether virtue is a sort of knowledge, or something else. If virtue is knowledge, then it should be teachable. Plato enjoyed irony, so in the Protagoras he has Protagoras argue that he teaches a kind of virtue that is not knowledge; he has Socrates argue that virtue is a kind of knowledge, but can't be taught. Socrates makes clear the irony that they're arguing two impossible positions in the ending of the dialogue.

There are several good reasons to think that virtue is not a kind of knowledge, however. One of them is brought out in the Laches, which is specifically about trying to teach courage by practicing the martial arts, with teachers who went about Greece showing students techniques they had developed. The techniques can definitely be taught; in fact the word 'technique' is rooted in the Greek word techne, which is a species of knowledge-as-art that can definitely be taught. This word is also the root of our word "technology," and Socrates' favorite example of it is shoemakers. They definitely know something because they can not only make a shoe, they can also explain exactly how they do it, exactly why each step makes sense, and they can teach it to others. Teaching the martial arts is like that too.

Teaching courage, though: well, Socrates says, if it is like that we should be able to say exactly what it is we are wanting to teach. Can you define courage in an unassailable way? None of the participants in the discussion could, even though they were all men who had displayed courage on the battlefield (including Socrates, who was a war veteran famous for his conduct in a rear guard action during his youth). All possessed courage, but none could define it. That suggests that the virtue is not knowledge, at least not techne, and calls into question whether it is teachable.

What else might it be? It might be an inherited quality. The Greeks didn't know about genetics, but they knew that sons resemble their fathers in many ways. But (as is brought out in the Protagoras) the sons of good men often aren't as good as their fathers. Socrates points out that successful fathers who have displayed virtue not only often produce inferior sons, they do so even though they spend a lot of money and effort on trying to educate their sons. If virtue were inheritable, wouldn't it be the case that the sons of virtuous men were reliably better than others? If virtue were teachable, wouldn't these efforts bear fruit given that they are practiced on the most promising stock, i.e., the sons of the best men?

Aristotle's answer is that virtue is not a form of knowledge exactly, but a state of character. The way one develops that character is by practice, so that it become habituated. (This is not quite the same thing as a "habit" in the English sense, as this essay examines.) One changes one's character by practicing the right thing until one does it without having to think about what the right thing is. The argument that one reverts to one's training, then, isn't just an argument that Aristotle would accept; it is in fact his position.

This only partly solves the problem, of course, since we have to figure out what 'the right thing' is in order to train ourselves to do it. That still seems like needing a form of knowledge, not just practice and training: someone has to know. If there is someone who does know, then virtue is at least rooted in a sort of knowledge that can be taught. Even if that is true, knowing what virtue entails in this way does not satisfy the condition for having virtue; one still has to practice until doing the right thing is habituated. This is Aristotle's explanation for a problem that bothered Socrates: if virtue is a form of knowledge, then knowing what is right should entail always doing what is right. Yet people often know what is right but do something else.

The idea that virtue is any sort of teachable knowledge is a problem for the reasons given above, and for other reasons Plato explores. It's a very sticky question, and a highly consequential one. I will stop here to let you all consider this, and express your own thoughts.


An essay by a Harvard professor of constitutional law has prompted a lot of elite conservative thinkers to begin musing on new non-originalist ways to interpret the Constitution to 'help the common good.' At the same time, a new think tank called American Compass wants to re-examine the use of government to 'help': "HELPING POLICYMAKERS NAVIGATE the limitations that markets and government each face in promoting the general welfare and the nation’s security."

The reason to support originalism wasn't because it was useful, but because it is true. A law is passed to do something specific, and it shouldn't be re-interpreted later to do something else even if a judge can creatively read it that way. The legislature should pass a new law to do the new thing, if they think it's worth doing; the old law should be repealed, if they no longer think it worth doing. That's empty of content about ideology.

As for government's ability to promote the common good, I've never been more skeptical of it than I am today. Government should be treated as a necessary evil, but an evil for certain.

In Song and Story 7

Harry O’Donoghue opens this latest with a time capsule view.

Once Upon a Time on a Motorcycle

AVI's post of yesterday got me thinking about a trip I took with my son up the Blue Ridge Parkway on the back of a bike.  This blog has been around long enough that I can simply go back and link the post I wrote at the time.  It was a motorcycle camping trip in which more or less everything went wrong.  The weather was far worse than advertised, the campsites were not open as expected, the Forest Service roads to the campsites were made slippery and dangerous by the rain, and those roads ran by perilous gorges.

It's a good story, and in fact one of the most treasured memories of my son and me.  We still talk about it regularly.  Shared hardship often builds good memories, and one's character is often the result of having survived your bad decisions. I did listen to 'the experts,' too. I had followed the weather reports closely. It's just that the experts were wrong.

That said, I do remember that my wife tried to get me to reconsider taking that trip.  She said to me, "If you get your son killed doing this, you will never forgive yourself."  I knew that was true when she said it, but decided to do it anyway. 

What I said at AVI's place yesterday was this:
I suppose my own tolerance for risk is dangerously high; hopefully I’m better at recognition of risk. Perhaps not.

The other side, though, is Aristotle’s point that virtue is cultivated by habituation. In regularly encountering danger while engaging your rational mind, you develop the capacity to perform rationally under threats. This virtue, courage, wins wars and keeps us all free. It is the root of whatever goods liberty provides.

It is true that courage is a virtue even though (as Aristotle himself points out right at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics) courage is sometimes just what gets you killed. The world contains many uncertainties, but on balance courage provides benefits. You can only develop it by running risks to practice the habits.

There’s an acceptable synthesis: the hazards are meant to be encountered in a manner that engages the rational part of the soul. So wear your seatbelt; become skillful at the dangerous things; do the things, but be smart about it.
That's not wrong, but it's also not complete. Even virtues turn to vices if you push them to excess; courage is meant to be the middle position between cowardice and either rashness or what Aristotle calls a nameless vice:
Of the characters that run to excess, he that exceeds in fearlessness has no name (and this is often the case, as we have said before); but a man would be either a maniac or quite insensible to pain who should fear nothing, not even earthquakes and breakers, as they say is the case with the Celts.
The Celts, as you all know well, are R. E. Howard's Cimmerians and the largest part of my ancestry; I have long looked at that passage and wondered to what degree it was descriptive of me. Yesterday I found myself driving my Jeep down a steep and twisty mountain pass in what turned out to be a tremendous thunderstorm, which turned into a hailstorm at the steepest and twistiest part. I saw other drivers had pulled off the flooding road in places, but that Jeep is designed to get through hard roads and I figured that if I just went a little slower and took care I'd make it fine. I did in fact make it fine, but it was objectively perilous. I remember noting the danger and making adjustments for it, but I don't remember feeling afraid. Is that courage, the virtue of skill and preparation and rational adjustment producing success? Or is it the nameless vice of the Celts?

AVI's anger at his friend's recklessness with his (AVI's) life is justified and understandable. My wife's concern was justified and understandable. What I did I thought justified at the time, but now I wonder. Different people probably would come to different conclusions about it; lots of motorcycle riders take their kids on the back, and few come to harm. Other people won't ride a motorcycle even themselves, thinking them too dangerous. Habituating courage can be done in other ways, but if it isn't done in some way it won't be the case that we have courageous people when we need them. Habituating the excess -- either rashness or the nameless vice -- causes harm in just the way that habituating courage brings about good.

In the end we have to judge, as Aristotle says, by the probable outcomes.
There is a similar uncertainty also about what is good, because good things often do people harm: men have before now been ruined by wealth, and have lost their lives through courage.

Our subject, then, and our data being of this nature, we must be content if we can indicate the truth roughly and in outline, and if, in dealing with matters that are not amenable to immutable laws, and reasoning from premises that are but probable, we can arrive at probable conclusions.
The difficulty is that bad results in a particular case do not prove that a vice was in play; acts of true courage still sometimes lead to death. But the fact that a thing worked out well -- that a motorcycle camping trip led to lifelong good memories and a strengthened paternal bond -- also then does not prove that it wasn't a vice of excess, rather than a virtue, that was at work.

I suppose I say all of this by way of confession, uncertain as I am as to whether or not I have sinned; or if I have, to what degree. But for this, and all my sins, I ask forgiveness of the one whose judgment is not uncertain.

Defenestration epidemic

Russian doctors tragically die after accidentally falling out of windows, during coronavirus discussions.  In Texas we used to call this "stealing more chain than you can swim with."

Sheriffs revolt

This Oregon sheriff revolted, anyway, and I'm pretty sure my own Sheriff never had the least intention of arresting anyone for a social-distancing violation.

At last, a union I can agree with

The NY police union is fed up:
New York police have a lot of problems, and people standing too close together in the park is the least of them.

A man with a conscience and a bullhorn

I'm not sure if this video shows quite what it purports to show, because the sound doesn't line up with the picture, but it sure looks like a guy talked police into standing down from confronting Sacramento protestors.  He advised them to call in sick and get jobs with the Sheriff's department instead of the state police so they could sleep at night and look their kids in the eye.

The Hidden Fort of William Wallace

New drone footage helps archaeologists building a model.

Expédition du Mexique

The actual thing celebrated on "Sinko de Mayo" (see Gringo's comment under Tom's post) is the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla, which was part of a war that lasted longer than the American Civil War but that most Americans have never heard of. This war is referred to by the French as their Expédition du Mexique, in fact the second time they invaded Mexico but the bloodier.

Normally the United States kept the European powers from meddling in Latin America under the Monroe Doctrine, but the French expedition happened to coincide for the most part with the Civil War. It began in 1861 with Mexico telling the French, British, and Spanish governments that they weren't going to pay interest on their debt for a couple of years. The US Navy was busy blockading the ports of the American South, so it wasn't available to keep the French from sending a large-scale expedition to our most immediate southern neighbor.

The war drug on until 1867. The United States began to threaten to get involved as early as 1865, once the Confederacy was clearly broken and victory was only a matter of time. Probably it was American diplomacy that ended the war and secured a French withdrawal. The Mexicans fought a spirited fight, though.

The Battle of Puebla was rare a Mexican victory, which explains why the Mexicans celebrate it. But another Mexican victory actually produced a major holiday for the French military, specifically the famed Foreign Legion. Their most sacred relic and highest holiday came from a 'last stand' battle they fought against the Mexican army until only five Legionnaires were left, who promptly conducted a bayonet charge against the superior enemy forces. A few survived it; the Mexican commander, seeing how few in number the survivors were, declared that the Legionnaires were 'not men, but demons.' The survivors were permitted to keep their weapons and equipment as a sign of respect for their valor, and were given medical treatment -- a sight better than the Mexicans treated our boys at the Alamo.

That’s Governor Justice to You

West Virginia is reopening, and the governor would like to emphasize that you follow the rules.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Or, the Pogues go to Spain ...

Asheville to Begin to Re-open

The last word so far from Gov. Cooper is that he is optimistic that his loosening (but not repeal) of the stay-at-home order will happen as scheduled on May 9. Buncome county, where Asheville is located, says it's ready.
The primary change under Cooper's first phase will be an allowance for limited retail operations. The stay-at-home order will remain in place, but people can leave home for more commercial activities.

Under the governor's plan, Phase 1 would continue for a minimum of two to three weeks. If data trends look promising, the state would move into Phase 2, which includes the lifting of the stay-at-home order and a limited reopening of other businesses and churches with reduced capacity....

“We know that as we increase testing and loosen restrictions we will undoubtedly see an increase in cases," he said. "The goal is to slowly reopen in a deliberate, methodical manner so that the increases in cases is manageable and never overwhelms our local health care systems. We will be monitoring our case count and other important data trends and metrics very closely to anticipate any surge.”

If the reopening begins and there is a spike in cases, health officials will take steps to reimplement restrictions.
So by the end of the month, we still won't be where Georgia was two weeks ago -- at least not on paper. We may at least be liberated from an order that we remain home (with a laundry list of exceptions making such an order nearly pointless).

Cooper's in a difficult position, to be fair. Northam in Virginia has leeway because it is two years before he's up for re-election.
Cooper has to face the voters in November. His core constituency is much more in favor of restrictions than others. If anything goes wrong he will be blamed for re-opening too soon by urban middle-to-upper class Democrats and government/public-union workers; if he doesn't re-open, rural voters will swing heavily against him even if they are normally Democrats. His Republican opponent can run heavily against him in favor of re-opening without consequence, since he won't be blamed if things go wrong. He can simply say that Cooper's team botched something.

On the other hand, Cooper is the master of his fate. He will get credit for things if they go smoothly, and his opponent won't be able to do more than criticize from the sidelines. For all the talk about how this is health and data driven, political calculations play a huge role; perhaps the decisive role.

More Action from Barr

It's encouraging to see the Justice Department actually attempting to restrain unconstitutional acts by the governors.
‘There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.” That, yet again, was the Justice Department’s message as it intervened on Sunday on the side of a Virginia church, which is suing Governor Ralph Northam’s lockdown against communal worship.
That's right, and it's crucial to fight for that principle. Far more Americans have died in wars to defend our freedoms than are at risk today even under the plausible worst-case scenarios. We cannot simply lay down what they won and preserved at so costly a sacrifice.

I'm not opposed to constitutional, sensible acts to limit the damage. Even where religion is concerned, it's reasonable for the government to issue warnings, advice, even attempt persuasion that people ought to voluntarily choose to forgo communal worship. It's not acceptable to simply ban it.

Smoking Guns at the FBI

Had the Department of Justice (DOJ) released the newly disclosed documents related to Gen. Michael Flynn three years ago, instead of fired FBI Director James Comey improperly leaking his “memos” on President Trump, there definitely would have been a special counsel — only it would have been investigating the FBI for gross abuse of power, not the Trump administration.

The new documents are in effect the “smoking gun” proving that a cabal at the FBI acted above the law and with extreme political bias, targeting people for prosecution rather than investigating crimes.

Sovereignty Resurgent

The Spectator USA published a collection of reflections arguing, inter alia, that borders work.
A Georgetown University public health expert confidently tweeted that ‘germs don’t respect borders’. If this is true, it is true only in the sense that respecting borders is a human trait. Viruses don’t write novels or read Playboy or develop gambling addictions or say ‘for all intents and purposes’ until it gets on your nerves, either.

This viruses-don’t-respect-borders business is a perfect globalist slogan. It conveys absolutely nothing but aggressively enough so as to cow others into swallowing any inclination to stand up and disagree with you. It is what is called in zoology ‘display’.

But in fact, the scientist is wrong. This virus happens to travel on people. If people can be made to respect borders, viruses will ‘respect’ them too, in the sense that they will not cross them. If this is true of households, then it is true of nations.
I think his point about the patience of working people like delivery drivers with more privileged classes being limited is valid, as well.

Transformative hermaneutics

Hey, where'd y'all go?
Where are the usual attacks on white male-dominated science? Where’s the “standpoint epistemology” to tell us how different is the knowledge intersectionally-appropriate feminist scientists would bring to this crucial problem? How many of those labs fiercely trying to find a treatment, a vaccine, a path forward, have a demographically appropriate number of women researchers? Not to mention racially and sexually “diverse” ones? What can possibly explain the lack of attention to this terrible problem of marginalization of the already oppressed?

Security theater

From Jim Geraghty's interview with a hospital honcho:
“Go out to the supermarket or the hardware store or wherever else people are being instructed to wear a mask or other facial covering, and you’ll see about half of them have pulled the mask down off their nose because it’s uncomfortable to breathe,” he said. “That totally defeats the purpose. There are people spending stupid amounts of money to buy N95s, and then wear them with big gaps around their mouth because they don’t take the time to learn how to use them properly — and they keep using them, even after they’re physically broken down and can’t seal properly. If I wanted to be one of those Karen scolds, I could get my [thrills] all day lecturing those folks, but since this is the epidemiologic equivalent of TSA Security Theater, and the typical American puts personal comfort and convenience first, it’s not worth doing. Then again, I’m not one of those persons who gets their [thrills] bossing others around.”

The man could turn a phrase

I don't when I've ever read such a brief, deadly letter, especially the devastating use of the "Yours" convention in the closing:

Philadelphia, July 5, 1775.
Mr. Strahan:--You are a member of parliament, and one of that majority which has doomed my country to destruction. You have begun to burn our towns, and murder our people. Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations. You and I were long friends:--you are now my enemy, and I am
Yours, B. Franklin.

Good if True

ROK scientists believe that you develop a firm immunity from recovering from the virus.  Of course it’s too early to know if it lasts from year to year, and of course there are frequent mutations; but good if true all the same.