I Too Can Write From My Interpretation of My Own Experience

In fairness, the most famous practitioner of this genre went on to be President twice.

Nina Navajas Pertegás, assistant professor and researcher at the UV Department of Social Work and Social Services, has carried out a study on the consequences of fatphobia and the cultural imposition of thinness through her own experience, with a body itinerary that ranges from her childhood to adulthood. This scientific methodology, called autoethnography...

That doubly doesn't make sense. An intrinsically subjective method is not in any sense 'science.' Nor, by definition, can one be one's own 'ethnic group.' The whole concept of ethnicity is collective, not personal nor individual. 

Apparently you can get a tenure track job for this nonsense, though. 

Friday Night Action

Excess Deaths

Some CDC figures on overdose deaths, which are up 25%. 

He's a dreamer

 From Marty Makary in the WSJ:

Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine. But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth.

A Proverb of William Wallace

Dico tibi verum, Libertas optima rerum; Nunquam servili, sub nexu vivito, fili.

His uncle, a priest, is supposed to have taught him this saying. It translates: 

'I tell you a truth: Liberty is the best of things, my son; never live under any slavish bond.'

Plato's Laws XII

The final book of the Laws has the feeling of a miscellany. To some degree that has been true of earlier books as well, but at this point the Athenian is bouncing around and returning to say more about topics already covered. There is more about crime here; also, more about military service and the general regimentation of the life of citizens. All citizens, we are told, are to have officers to whom they report. Male and female, young and old, they are to live all of their lives in a military discipline with superior officers ordering their lives.

It's a bit strange to me that the Athenian takes such care about military punishments, which are much less harsh than the ones suggested for other crimes. The military life is supposed to be the ordering principle of the citizenry, in order to defend the state; all of life and education is built around it. Yet while death is the regular punishment for almost any crime, military cowardice is to be punished with fines and dishonor. Even if you abandon your arms and your post, you are not executed.

Ath. If a person having arms is overtaken by the enemy and does not turn round and defend himself, but lets them go voluntarily or throws them away, choosing a base life and a swift escape rather than a courageous and noble and blessed death-in such a case of the throwing away of arms let justice be done, but the judge need take no note of the case just now mentioned; for the bad man ought always to be punished, in the hope that he may be improved, but not the unfortunate, for there is no advantage in that. And what shall be the punishment suited to him who has thrown away his weapons of defence? Tradition says that Caeneus, the Thessalian, was changed by a God from a woman into a man; but the converse miracle cannot now be wrought, or no punishment would be more proper than that the man who throws away his shield should be changed into a woman. This however is impossible, and therefore let us make a law as nearly like this as we can-that he who loves his life too well shall be in no danger for the remainder of his days, but shall live for ever under the stigma of cowardice. And let the law be in the following terms:-When a man is found guilty of disgracefully throwing away his arms in war, no general or military officer shall allow him to serve as a soldier, or give him any place at all in the ranks of soldiers; and the officer who gives the coward any place, shall suffer a penalty which the public examiner shall exact of him; and if he be of the highest dass, he shall pay a thousand drachmae; or if he be of the second class, five minae; or if he be of the third, three minae; or if he be of the fourth class, one mina. And he who is found guilty of cowardice, shall not only be dismissed from manly dangers, which is a disgrace appropriate to his nature, but he shall pay a thousand drachmae, if he be of the highest class, and five minae if he be of the second class, and three if he be of the third class, and a mina, like the preceding, if he be of the fourth class.

Now "death before dishonor" is something I've said myself, and Kant holds to it as well; but it's rare to see it put into practice in a legal code. When he suggested 'transforming a man into a woman' as a punishment, I thought he was going to propose castration or something like that; but no, it really is just stigma and fines. 

There is also a lot more care in the piece to making sure that no one suffers even this punishment unfairly. What if you fell off a cliff, and that's how you lost your arms? That's not the same thing! And what if you were overcome by a mass of enemies, and they stole away your shield and spear in spite of your best efforts? That's not the same thing either! And what if you fell into the sea? Etc. 

Along the way there are regulations for ambassadors, both outgoing and incoming; how long the dead shall be lain out before burying (three days, just to make sure they're really dead and not just in a trance); selecting magistrates; more about lawsuits; competitions for best citizens; and so forth. 

I won't have much to say about this book, but I am going to write one more thing about the discussion of virtue and its various kinds that comes at the end of it. That will be, I think, my final post on the Laws.

Not a Communist


 ...is on the ground and transmitting imagery.

Eric Hines

Plato's Laws XI, 3: Family Law and More Crimes

This will be the final post on Book XI. There is a lot covered here, but I've decided that mostly we don't need to delve into it because much of it is a set of technical discussions and distinctions we would never consider adopting. A lot of it turns on family law particular to the colony, which even the Athenian admits looks like nothing else anyone in Greece would do because of the basic law that there remain precisely 5,040 households. Thus, being dismissed from a household means exile; you can't just move across town, rent a house, and start earning a living working for the shopkeeper. You're forbidden to move, forbidden to rent, and forbidden to work at the trades. You have to leave the colony and go somewhere with quite different laws in order to make a life. 

One point of interest comes in the discussion of divorce and widowry. Because of the importance of maintaining the precise number of households, we've already seen that married couples who prove unproductive of children will be forcibly separated if necessary. Divorces for irreconcilable differences are also permitted, although there is a negotiation process meant to produce accord that is unlikely to succeed because it involves 20 advocates (ten male and ten female). That's too many people in the room for an agreement to result.

Yet the interesting point comes after divorce is agreed to be in the best interests, and a new partner needs to be selected; or, in the case of widowry, when death has brought about the end of the marriage. The Athenian acknowledges a view of marriage that separates the functions of it by age.

Ath. Those who have no children, or only a few, at the time of their separation, should choose their new partners with a view to the procreation of children; but those who have a sufficient number of children should separate and marry again in order that they may have some one to grow old with and that the pair may take care of one another in age. 

Now you may remember from the discussion we had in our own society of 'gay marriage' that the position of the Church, and many religious people in general, is that marriage is a sacrament and as such has one particular end. A 'sacrament' is a kind of blessing by which God gives people a way of overcoming sinful nature. In the case of marriage, the sin is the sin of lust: marriage regulates lust in such a way as one can live virtuously with one's sinful nature. Lust is brought within a system that allows its expression in a non-sinful way: there are in fact three goods of marital sex according to Aquinas, and all of them are perfectly attained in marriage. The principal end and primary good, reproduction, is perfectly attained only in this way because in this way are children brought into the world in the right position to be supported and loved by their parents, sustained and educated into adulthood, and brought into the community as a fully-formed member. 

For the Athenian, there is no sin, but only vice. It is vicious for citizens to have sex with slaves, for example; he talks about how notorious that is, and how it should be punished by exile of the guilty citizen as well as the slave and their children. Marriage is not a sacrament, since there is no sin; the regulatory function is to be performed by the personal virtue of temperance, rather than by an institution like marriage. One does not give into lust even with one's spouse, in other words; it is the sort of thing that Chesterton celebrated as an advantage of the Church over the virtuous pagans of old.
Christian doctrine detected the oddities of life. It not only discovered the law, but it foresaw the exceptions. Those underrate Christianity who say that it discovered mercy; any one might discover mercy. In fact every one did. But to discover a plan for being merciful and also severe -- that was to anticipate a strange need of human nature. For no one wants to be forgiven for a big sin as if it were a little one. Any one might say that we should be neither quite miserable nor quite happy. But to find out how far one may be quite miserable without making it impossible to be quite happy -- that was a discovery in psychology. Any one might say, "Neither swagger nor grovel"; and it would have been a limit. But to say, "Here you can swagger and there you can grovel" -- that was an emancipation.

This was the big fact about Christian ethics; the discovery of the new balance. Paganism had been like a pillar of marble, upright because proportioned with symmetry. Christianity was like a huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its pedestal at a touch, yet, because its exaggerated excrescences exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years.
Yet here it is the pagans who have the advantage, because they have admitted a truth about human nature that the Church continues not to do. The institution of marriage is an institution of human nature; and its basic function changes as we age because we change as we age. There are old men who are still driven by lust, but not so many; and the function of marriage transforms, with time, from the care and raising of the youth to the sustaining and comfort of the old. Admitting this second end for marriage is more humane than trying to restrict it to the single end (as the Medieval priests did, having no wives and few children, but observing society from a place of detachment in which support for the elderly was provided by their Orders). 

The Athenian punishes disrespectful or inattentive children with heavy fines, and then returns -- through a frightening leap of logic -- to criminal matters via the need to punish poisoners. He has a careful division of poisoners into kinds that is Kantian in that all of the carefully constructed branches lead to the same conclusion: the sentence of death. One might have taken the reasonable short-cut that poisoning is particularly wicked and thus worthy of death whenever proven, however it was done; but philosophers often love these sort of precise and careful but ultimately practically inapplicable categories. 

There are also rules for lunatics, who are a private matter that the family is bound to control; and a discussion of the various kinds of lunacy, if anyone is interested in ancient Greek opinions on psychology. 

Finally, there is a general admonition against greed and its distorting effects on law and justice. 

Ath. There are many noble things in human life, but to most of them attach evils which are fated to corrupt and spoil them. Is not justice noble, which has been the civilizer of humanity? How then can the advocate of justice be other than noble? And yet upon this profession which is presented to us under the fair name of art has come an evil reputation. In the first place; we are told that by ingenious pleas and the help of an advocate the law enables a man to win a particular cause, whether just or unjust; and the power of speech which is thereby imparted, are at the service of him sho is willing to pay for them. Now in our state this so-called art, whether really an art or only an experience and practice destitute of any art, ought if possible never to come into existence, or if existing among us should litten to the request of the legislator and go away into another land, and not speak contrary to justice. If the offenders obey we say no more; but those who disobey, the voice of the law is as follows:-If anyone thinks that he will pervert the power of justice in the minds of the judges, and unseasonably litigate or advocate, let any one who likes indict him for malpractices of law and dishonest advocacy, and let him be judged in the court of select judges; and if he be convicted, let the court determine whether he may be supposed to act from a love of money or from contentiousness. And if he is supposed to act from contentiousness, the court shall fix a time during which he shall not be allowed to institute or plead a cause; and if he is supposed to act as be does from love of money, in case he be a stranger, he shall leave the country, and never return under penalty of death; but if he be a citizen, he shall die, because he is a lover of money, in whatever manner gained; and equally, if he be judged to have acted more than once from contentiousness, he shall die.

A firm hand to restrain the litigious nature of society! Overall, though I agree that lawsuits can be pernicious if brought for the wrong reasons, I prefer the old Icelandic system from the sagas to Plato's ruthless state.

Power mixes

 I'm already reading inanities about hotcoldwetdry (is there anything it can't do?) to explain why global warming results in arctic freezes.  My favorite from today is the notion that the polar air heated up so much that it became unstable and drifted down into the southern U.S.  I think it's also possible it was depressed by seeing so much white supremacy.  But as my husband asks, if objective reason is racist, can the science ever really be settled any more?

Anyway, at the risk of reinforcing white supremacy, here are some helpful graphics showing not only the drastic impacts on different power sources in the Texas deep-freeze, but also the contemporaneous mix of power sources in other grids around the nation.  In Texas, wind power fell off a cliff, so natural gas took up a lot of the slack.  However, even gas took a hit from the freeze (pipelines malfunctioned), and demand took off like a rocket.  Presto:  blackouts.

I'm trying to figure out why rolling blackouts became fixed patches of power that stayed on for days next to power that stayed off for days.  At first I read vague statements about how it was too hard to roll the outages when certain areas had been off too long.  Today I found a new statement about how it was too hard to roll the outages when the percentage of outage was too great across the system.  No explanations so far, and neither of those statements is obvious.  Is there a technical explanation that's too difficult to wheel out for the public?

Also, this morning there are renewed calls to force Texas to stop evading FERC jurisdiction by maintaining its own power grid, ERCOT.  I popped over to the FERC site to see what fresh ideas they had to offer, and found this.

Liberalism: the "alien machine" to prevent civil war

This Cathy Young contribution to the Slate Star Codex drama makes more sense to me than most, and one heck of a lot more than the incoherent, spiteful mess published by the execrable New York Times.

From Alexander himself:
People talk about “liberalism” as if it’s just another word for capitalism, or libertarianism, or vague center-left-Democratic Clintonism. Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell — the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable — until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.

A funny new idea: don't lie

Glenn Greenwald continues to buck the trend:
One can — and should — condemn the January 6 riot without inflating the threat it posed. And one can — and should — insist on both factual accuracy and sober restraint without standing accused of sympathy for the rioters.

Requiescat in Pace, Rush Limbaugh

I first heard of Rush Limbaugh from a left-wing teacher, who was animated about him even in the early 1990s. I started listening to his show just to see what had the guy so upset. What I found, as some of you may have as well, was the first real education I ever received in conservative political principles. I'd grown up around conservative Democrats in the Bible Belt of rural Georgia, but none of them expressed principles clearly. To some degree I think they'd just inherited their ideas, and knew what 'right looked like,' but not how to express just why it was right. I didn't always agree with those principles as he expressed them, but I found real value in understanding.

My father began listening to him after hearing me talk about him, and Dad developed a great affection for his show. Dad was politically very conservative as he got older; less so in his youth. He appreciated the way that Rush would lay things out in a way that was definitely not what you'd hear on the traditional news: a legitimate, alternative perspective from which to consider things. Over time I think Dad became convinced of much of it. 

Rush was widely hated all that time, and not only because people on the left often think people on the right are secret racists and monsters of one sort or another. They also hated him, I think, because he mocked them. He was an entertainer, and sometimes he switched from serious talk to humor of the sort of which it could be unpleasant to be on the receiving end. I understand that they didn't appreciate that, but conservatives of any sort are subject to much more regular and much more vicious humor from the society at large; late night television has turned into a festival of mockery for that part of America.

President Trump awarded Rush Limbaugh a medal at the State of the Union, an honor that he probably merited for his work in education alone. I wish his family peace, and his soul forgiveness and rest. 

Different Cultural Norms

Joe Biden gave an interview last night in which he was directly asked about the genocide against the Uighur being conducted by the People's Republic of China. He said there were "different cultural norms," which is true -- the PRC's culture is apparently perfectly OK with genocide -- but a shocking and awful thing to have said. 

Jack Posobiec points out that some of these cultural norms embrace kidnapping the children from their mothers, putting them in camps, and making them proclaim their love for Mother China.  A German study suggests forced sterilization is ongoing; the State Department has reported on systematic rape. Presumably this is the same idea as in Braveheart: "The problem with Scotland is that it's full of Scots... we'll breed them out." Except, of course, in the movie it was only for one night; on China's "New Frontier," it's every night, while you're held in a camp rather than allowed to go home. 

The Thirty Tyrants (sadly far more than thirty of them this time) are hard at work to praise their true friends and allies, the leadership of the People's Republic of China. For our own sake as well as that of the suffering Uighur, we must not let them get away with this. At least the truth about what is happening must be spoken. 

"Why No One Believes Anything"

An article at National Review today addresses the general collapse of trust in news reports.
Andrew Cuomo, the Emmy Award–winning governor that a swooning press held up as the enlightened standard for an effective pandemic response... may have covered up nursing-home fatalities....

The Lincoln Project, the great conquering super PAC of the 2020 election, hailed as the work of geniuses and lavished with attention on cable news, has imploded upon revelations that it is a sleazy scam.

And the widely circulated story of the death of Officer Brian Sicknick, a key element of Trump’s second impeachment, is at the very least murky and more complicated than first reported.
You could extend the list a lot longer than that, and I'm sure each of you has your own favorite example. 

When speaking of the wilder conspiracy theories like Qanon, I've lately been proposing that they're successful because they actually are more plausible than the official story. The official story is that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. 

The author says there are no ready solutions, but there are: there just aren't ready actors. The solutions are to speak the truth, to stop treating journalism as a front for cultural warfare, and to stop believing that 'your team' are the good guys. Not 'playing for the team' is apparently not an option, however; 'winning' or 'advancing the ball' seems to be what journalism has become. 

Costs exist, however. Credibility and attention are the currency, and if you become incredible people stop paying attention, too. Then what have you got? You've got people looking for alternative sources, and some of those sources believe in lizard people.


My little coastal county doesn't fare well in extreme cold. We do have Yankee transplants here, but there's no accounting for citizens who appear to think that "rare freezes" are the same as "impossible freezes." This was an unusual cold spell in that many people have lost power not just for a few hours but for days on end, so the simplest coldproofing steps suddenly proved inadequate. Pipes will freeze now that would have been OK if house heat had stayed on. Not many thought to empty the pipes when the heat went off, and a day or two later--when it became clear that the outages weren't "rolling"--it was too late.

To make matters worse, when everyone drips pipes, or when pipes burst, water pressure goes to nothing. When the municipal water system loses power it can't make the treatment plant work and can't maintain water pressure. Many are outraged to be told that they should boil water, which they can't do because they are helpless without electrical power to boil water with. Or a few have power to boil with, but now no water pressure and so no water to boil. Seems like they would join forces with the contingent on the next block and get some water boiled.

You wouldn't believe how many people haven't got the means even to light a cooking fire in a grill. This cold snap didn't exactly sneak up on us, but many lost water pressure last night without having filled a single container. The stores lack power and haven't been restocked this week--no bottled water! There is no gasoline for sale; too many pumps are still without power. And this is in a county that's not even five years past its last hurricane-related weeks-long power outage.

Communications are strangely stable. I assume people are using smartphones and charging in their cars.

As uncomfortable as this all is, our temperatures have not been what you would call dangerous: upper teens, at the worst. There's no reason for anyone to risk exposure as long as they have dry shelter out of the wind. I doubt there's anyone reading this post who hasn't camped outside in worse. A few large buildings, like churches, have generators, but most are simply larger versions of the cold, uncomfortable boxes that the homes have become, and so are useless as shelters. Better to pile on the blankets at home and wait it out, assuming you keep some food and water in the house.

The weirdest thing I've heard all week: it's barely risen above freezing for several days now, but people are letting food go bad in their unpowered refrigerators. I just read about someone in another town worried about the safety of her insulin supply. What do they think refrigerators do?

One thing I'm pleased about: we had very few wrecks on icy roads. I dreaded hearing that people would skid off the causeway into the bay.

A few look at this situation and think: I should plan right now for improved backup systems in case something like this happens again. The rest want to know the name and phone number of someone they can call and complain to about the lousy service at this hotel.

Six Days on the Road

All right, so after Aggie mentioned it in the comments on Friday night, I decided to extend this series long enough that we could do this song on the sixth day after "Six Decks to Darwin." 

So here you go: the great trucker classic.

Although in fairness you shouldn't wind up a trucker song series without "Convoy," so here it is too.

And, really, something from the late, great Jerry Reed. 

Chill Map

In case you want it for comparison, or just to see how cold it really is out there.

"The Models Work"

Some of you may have followed a long discussion at AVI's place on the validity of weather models. I learned quite a bit about what weather predictors think they are doing, and why their models are so bad. I'm not sure it's worth your time to read through it, but essentially they're confident enough in computer modeling in which they are only estimating the initial conditions that they think they can run computer models of weather that are as accurate as computer models of gambling games. The probability model they're using is simplistic and non-Bayesian. 

Because it's non-Bayesian, it's impossible to distinguish between 'the model worked, but the unlikely event occurred' and 'the model was full of crap.' If the event you predicted happened, the model was accurate. If the event you predicted wasn't likely to occur happened, the model was still right -- it predicted a chance of something else happening, after all. The models are never wrong.

A Dark Time in America

The calls for gun control were always expected, because disarming the American people has been at or near the top of the to-do list for the left forever. Yet there is no crisis to reference; gun violence is in fact way up, but not gun violence of the type they'd like to ban. Almost all of the spike in gun murders is committed with handguns that are already illegally possessed, and usually stolen. The left wants to ban civilian possession of semiautomatic rifles, among other things, but rifles of all kinds put together are used only in a tiny fraction of gun violence (about two-thirds of which 'violence' is suicide, causing gun control advocates to suddenly become anti-suicide advocates when the left normally embraces euthanasia as it does abortion).

So they're reaching back three years to a school shooting that happened -- the one where the police cowered outside instead of attacking the gunman. 

Yet what a strange thing to do: propose a law to address a problem that has completely ended. There are no school shootings in America anymore, because in-person instruction has largely ended. We've found a 100% effective solution to the problem, and it doesn't involve gun control. All we need to do is shift public education permanently to a virtual model, which the teacher's unions seem to want to do anyway.

So you can solve the problem, please the unions, and not create a massive affront among the citizenry who believes (accurately) that you're violating their most basic Constitutional rights. Win-win-win! Why not do that? 

You know why not. Solving the problem isn't the real issue; the real issue for them is disarming their victims, or at least turning them into criminals against whom state violence can be lawfully used.

Of course you can call your Congressfolk to ask them to oppose all this, but none of them can actually stop any of it. You're already effectively disenfranchised in America at the Federal level. Real resistance will have to be at the state and local level, there are already attempts to organize efforts to block enforcement of unconstitutional Federal laws, refuse to cooperate with the Federal law enforcement agencies (as the left was already refusing to cooperate with ICE), elect sheriffs who refuse to enforce such laws, or even arrest them for violating our constitutional rights. 

These mechanisms explain the push to purge "extremists" from both police agencies and the military. Note that this "there is no room in society for people to hold extremist views" rhetoric extends to all Americans:

“There is zero room, not only in society, but more so in professions of public trust and service, for people to have extremist views, regardless of ideology,” said Art Acevedo, the Houston police chief and president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association[,]

We are staging up for an ugly time, it appears: having 'fortified' the election, the new government has literally fortified the capital, and is now moving on to the part where they pass unconstitutional laws meant to disarm the populace. The suppression of speech is ongoing as well. This is no longer the America that I was born in; it's very rapidly turning into something else. 

More from Georgia's Fulton County

Fulton County just fired its election manager

Former President Donald Trump falsely alleged irregularities in Fulton County voting including the counting of ballots after a water line break at State Farm Arena and other unproven claims.

Falsely, you say? So why was the guy fired?

"Issues cited were his handling of the 2020 elections & firing of whistleblowers Bridget Thorne & Suzi Voyles, who testified in Georgia fraud hearings," http://VOTERGA.ORG's Garland Favorito said.

Georgia has competing investigations into election fraud, including one that alleges wrongdoing by newly-minted Senator Warnick (from an earlier election, however). The State Election Board just filed 35 cases for prosecution by local DAs or state officials; Fulton County's Democratically-elected DA is trying to prosecute, you guessed it, Donald Trump.

Monday Night Truckin'

 This one's originally by Claude Gray, but I default to the Outlaw Coe whenever he's got a version. 

Happy Barack Obama Day

It used to be "Presidents' Day," but at this point he's the only one you're really allowed to celebrate. You may be allowed to wink past Clinton's actions, but that's getting thinner and thinner each year. You are allowed to pretend that Joe Biden really won the election, though that will get thinner each year too.

Sunday Night Truckin'

 Gotta get the truck's perspective, to be fair to all parties involved.