Roll Down

Take Your Guns to Town

We usually call this "constitutional carry," but Rolling Stone is borrowing a line from Johnny Cash's old song about a young cowboy who gets himself killed on his first trip to town as a man. Now, a quick review of the song will show that the young cowboy's error wasn't carrying the guns, but trying to draw on another man over a matter of pride. The guns being at home could have stopped that, but so could good sense. 

RS aren't fans of the law.
The Republican state representative who authored the measure insisted that the existing permitting regulations were no deterrent to crime. “The simple truth is that those that intend evil, those who are criminals, don’t care what we do in this building,” he said, adding: “We are charged with defending the freedoms that are owed to Texans and guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Wish they'd named the guy; that's the first politician I've heard in a while who seems to understand what the job of the government happens to be. He's exactly right about what they are charged with doing.

He also is correct that no criminals avoid carrying guns because of permit laws. Permit laws are defensible as a means to get law-abiding citizens to take firearm safety training, which is a reasonable public purpose; I don't oppose such laws provided that they are shall-issue and not onerous. Courses really should be provided for free* to any citizen who wants one. I have no objection to the 'well-regulated militia' being taught how to shoot accurately and carry safely. Still, the 2nd says "shall not be infringed," too; free courses readily available might not constitute much of an infringement, but almost any additional layer of difficulty would. 

In any case crime rates in our "towns" (cities, really) are through the roof. You may not need your gun in the countryside, but there's a rising chance that you'll want one in town.

* Mr. Hines reminds me that 'nothing is free,' which is fair; I mean that they should be provided at public expense to the citizen, rather than a cost they have to pay in order to exercise their rights. The citizen may not find this totally 'free,' since obviously their local taxes may have to cover the cost; although, since mostly we already pay for police officers who have long periods of boredom on an average day, it may be that it wouldn't entail additional expenses for them to occasionally provide a public course on firearm safety and accurate operation. 

Memoralizing Language

In reference to AVI's post on the same subject, when I was young Southerners still spoke like this. 

At this point I think everyone in the country feels free to say "ya'll,"* but no one still sounds much like they're from anywhere. Only in the high mountains do I hear the tones of an older tongue; and they don't sound like Lewis, whose speech was lowland rather than Highland Southern.

I went by his home town on the recent ride to Mobile. I was gratified to see his name on the local highway. He was proud of his home; I'm glad they're proud of him, too.

* Faulkner spells it this way. Naysayers can go jump. 

BRCC on Memorial Day

I'd Rather Carry the One that Works

Apparently the VP also gave a speech today.
"Just ask any Marine today, would she rather carry 20 pounds of batteries or a rolled up solar panel, and I am positive she will tell you a solar panel, and so would he," she said, before laughing.

You know their lives may well depend on whether the stuff works when they get to the end of that march, right? They aren't carrying all that gear for fun. I'm fairly positive that they'll want the gear that will reliably do the job that might complete their mission and/or save their lives. 

These people are going to get our people killed, laughing all the time about how clever they are.

Kabul, Vietnam

Ralph Peters with an appropriate-to-the-holiday look at how we made the same mistakes again.
[I]n both the Republic of South Vietnam and Afghanistan, we supported—indeed, imposed—leaders we found convenient. In both cases, our enemies had homegrown leadership that had earned its way to high-echelon command through sacrifice, guile, and commitment. More Vietnamese were willing to give their lives for Ho Chi Minh’s vision than were willing to die for South Vietnamese generals—often corrupt, rarely competent, but cynically ingratiating. In Afghanistan, we supported anyone who spoke English and could tie a Windsor knot. The result was that, despite our tactical prowess, the Taliban never wanted for volunteers and the organization is stronger today than a decade ago, midway through our semi-occupation. Taliban chieftains inspire loyalty; “our” Afghan leaders provoke jokes in the bazaar. The proof of capacity is on the ground, not in cheery briefings by ambitious colonels.

The second great mistake is directly related to the first: With shortsighted good intentions, we poured wealth into South Vietnam, corrupting the government and society we hoped to save. We were “the land of the big PX,” and our largesse broke our clients’ will to fight. North Vietnam’s greatest strength was its poverty. We sought to defeat Spartans with sybarites....

Insurgencies are not fundamentally contests of wealth or weaponry but of strength of will. 

His analysis differs from mine, but not in ways that make one of us wrong and the other right. He's not wrong. 

The Edited Declaration

I mean, at least he didn't forget "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." I already knew we didn't agree on what the rights were.

UPDATE: Another important thing forgotten was not to say this stuff out loud.

Georgia Update

A Georgia judge approved the unsealing of ballots for an audit in Fulton County. In response, Fulton County has hired lawyers -- specifically, criminal defense attorneys. Rather than rely on the county's own attorneys, they hired two top experts in criminal law from Atlanta firms.

Not election law experts, I notice. But of course everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and they're entitled to a vigorous defense against the charges they are anticipating. 

AI and the Ethics of War

As is well known to readers of the Hall, the United States military attempts to follow the laws of war by including a heavy lawyering component in its operations. One of the jobs of this lawyer component is to approve strikes in questionable cases, checking to ensure that the laws of war are being followed closely. This takes time, which can be of no special moment if we are in a position to strike at leisure; but it can also be crucial if guys are waiting on called-for air support.

Collecting data using signal intelligence (SIGINT), visual intelligence (VISINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), geographical intelligence (GEOINT) and more, the IDF has mountains of raw data that must be combed through to find the key pieces necessary to carry out a strike.

“Gospel” used AI to generate recommendations for troops in the research division of Military Intelligence, which used them to produce quality targets and then passed them on to the IAF to strike.
Against a non-peer adversary like Hamas, this is just one more tool in the toolkit. It occurs to me, however, that this greatly imperils the laws of war should the tool be employed by a near-peer adversary (or a peer, or a better). 

If you're not very concerned about ethics, you can fully automate this process. "Gospel" can generate targets that are passed directly to automated drone strikes or artillery as soon as they are tagged by the first program. Just let it roll until "Gospel" stops telling you there's anything to hit, or you run out of ammo for the drones/guns.

As noted in our recent discussion about OODA-loops, the ability to make a decision and act on it faster than your opponent can be the fundamental determinant of victory in war. The AI shortens the decision chain; eliminating the human lawyers shortens it further. A peer-ish adversary using AI would quickly be inside our OODA loops as long as we continued to use our lawyers.

The only pragmatic way to avoid defeat would be to eliminate the lawyers and automate our own weapons' decision-making. You might be able to program the AI with the appropriate lawyerly criteria; but even then, you're adding extra processing cycles that the enemy AIs don't have to run. That too would allow the enemy to get inside your OODA loop.

As a consequence, the introduction of this AI-based targeting is likely to eliminate the laws of war as a practical feature of modern combat. Even if we avoid Skynet-style AIs, we will end up creating unethical ones because they'll be the only ones that can compete. The alternative is defeat by an even more vicious power; either way, we end up with worse wars and evil AIs in control of the weapons of war. 

Have You Considered That Your Eyes Lie To You?

"As Americans are hitting the road," the White House explains, "they are paying less for gasoline than they have on average for the last 15 years -- [and] about the same as May 2018 and May 2019." 

Meanwhile, as James Carville explains, Democrats are the law-and-order party.

So really, the problem is you. If you'd quit believing your lying eyes and listen to what you're told by the experts, everything would be fine. 

Grid woes

I took a long break from the nyah-nyahing over the Texas grid failure in February. Today's WSJ carries a fascinating piece about the vulnerability of the "black start" capacity of the grid, which not only sends chills down my spine about how bad things could have gotten if ERCOT had delayed even a few more minutes before cutting off a huge fraction of Texas customers in the middle of the night, but also explains more than I'd read before about what happens if a grid shuts completely down and has to start back up. The article is behind the usual paywall, but you can get there by Googling.

How is it that we keep reading about these disasters in which the back-up systems turn out to be vulnerable to the same conditions that cause us to need a back-up?  I call that anti-resilience.

When a grid has rolling blackouts or even partial long-term service interruptions, a crucial core of the grid stays active. "Crucial" means not only things we'd really rather not shut down, like hospitals, but the power plants themselves. Power plants shut down not only because they can't get fuel and electric power, but also because a grid with too low a frequency can damage their workings.  Lack of fuel is a temporary problem, but disconnection from the grid or staying on a low-frequency grid are long-term bad news:  a damaged plant will take time to repair, and restarting a plant and reconnecting it to a dead grid is tricky.

I guess I always assumed that a power plant generated its own internal power as a matter of course, but apparently that's not so. If the grid shuts down, or even the part of the grid that's attached to the power plant, the power plant doesn't hum along on its own power.  It can't:  the power has to go to a load.  So when the local grid area shuts down, the plant shuts down, too.  It needs a special "black start" local generating unit to get it going again.

Even if all the black-start units operate perfectly, it's a wildly delicate operation to start the whole grid up again from scratch. If 1/2 or 3/4 of the grid is down, it's easier to add new sections gradually, though no picnic, with delicate attention to balancing the new power and the new load it can serve. When the whole grid goes down, it can take anything from days to the unthinkable months to black-start it.

In this case, ERCOT didn't have to do a black-start, which is a good thing, because about half of our black-start resources evidently were iffy. If they're to be reliable at all, they need a large standby fuel source. Gas that's got to come through vulnerable pipelines won't cut it. Nuclear is nice, as is hydro; failing those, giant oil or gas tanks would be good, or huge mountains of coal. The just-in-time inventory style has made those less common, and we're not giving power generators the right financial incentives to keep large expensive emergency fuel inventories handy.

This issue came up when ERCOT had a near-miss emergency in 2011. Predictably, we addressed the issue by ordaining committees to study the issue and work together to improve yada yada, the usual word salad. We won't have an actual solution until we figure out what it costs to have reliable standby power and reach a consensus on how to pay for it with real money from real electric power customers who have decided it's worth the price.  What I'm reading is arguments about whether the free market or regulation is the panacea.  The Texas system, while somewhat less regulated than some others, is hardly a free market, though it has a strong emphasis on market signals in some areas, generally in an attempt to force efficiency and keep prices down.  Nevertheless, it's not all about efficiency, unless you include adequate backup resources for extreme emergencies in the concept of efficiency.  Extra security costs money.  We're going to have to get past the thinking that either a market or a regulation can change the cold equation telling us that something valuable has to be paid for by someone.  "Someone" is going to be be (1) users or (2) people donating to users.

Memorial Day Weekend

Two years ago, I attended the last Rolling Thunder motorcycle demonstration. It was an amazing event, drawing at least half a million and perhaps a million bikers, including veteran motorcycle clubs and organizations from around the country. 

There is a legacy event that is called Rolling to Remember. It appears to draw bikers on the order of one tenth the scale of the previous demonstration, but 40,000 bikers is still a fair crowd of bikers. The Biden administration yanked its permit in an attempt to finish off the tradition, but the Rolling to Remember ride is happening anyway

If you happen to be in the area, go out and see it. They're there to honor the fallen, and those who never came home, as is the real purpose of the holiday weekend. Of course they'll also have a good time, another way of honoring those whose lives were given to defend the freedom to live a good life. 

Baseball is Magic

We've been playing this game for more than a century, and this has never happened before. But there's no reason it's out of order with the rules; it's just a thing that never happens, until it does, one afternoon in May.

It's a pretty neat game, really. I don't watch it often, but every time I do I appreciate it anew.

Product Placement? Nah ...

Continuing with our JP theme, I thought I detected a familiar product placement in this one ... but, nah. It's probably a coincidence.

Red Lines

Michael Anton has a new essay that I think is very important because it lines up with a project of my own: the new state of Appalachia, which I someday hope to form out of elements of North Georgia, East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, West Virginia and parts of Western Virginia. No big cities -- even Knoxville and Asheville will be omitted. Just good Highlander country, ideally a near-anarchy governed on voluntary lines such as I've been describing lately.

Anton is a very smart and well-educated guy whom I've met several times and have mentioned more than once before. I don't think he and I have much in common except the occasional idea; and sometimes not even that. But he's definitely worth reading once he sits down and maps something out, whether you end up agreeing with him or not. 

This time, I do. 

Genius Stinks

Well, maybe not, but it can be overrated. This article begins with 'creative genius,' but it then considers even physical prowess that is out of the ordinary.
Researchers have analysed the make-up of basketball and football teams, for example, to find out how the addition of highly rated players improves overall team performance. When analysing the World Cup, for instance, they examined how many of each nation’s players came from the most prestigious clubs, such as Manchester United or FC Barcelona. Surprisingly, they found that the benefits of that exceptional individual talent were often underwhelming. Thanks, perhaps, to the star players’ rutting egos, the teams with the highest number of stars often failed to collaborate effectively.
I don't know if the issue is really ego, though it might be; but it could also simply be that the rest of the team has trouble synchronizing with a physicality that is far beyond its average. In any case, I have noticed this effect in teams that try to buy themselves into a great position by recruiting 'genius' players. A team that thinks and acts as a team is often more effective in a team sport than one that is made up of people who are trying to support a single genius. 

Of course, not all sports are team sports. Sometimes there's a case for the lone gunslinger.

Fake News Today

BB: New Amazon Bond Film
Amazon has purchased MGM Studios and the famous Bond franchise for $8.45 billion, according to reports. Current Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressed his excitement over the purchase.

"We are looking forward to bringing the story of British superspy James Bond into new and exciting directions!" said Bezos. "I can't give away too much, but I can say that the next Bond film will be a story about how a powerful organization taking over the world is actually a good thing!" 

DB:  AWOL numbers skyrocket after Air Force transitions to camouflage that actually works

HT: Optimus Prime Forced to Walk Everywhere After Truck Form Fails Highway Safety Inspection

Advice For The People Running Biden

 Since we're watching JP, he has some very good advice for the people running Biden.

Welcome to the Trans Community


A Handsome Precedent

The current administration is abolishing ICE by administrative action.
Yesterday [a Washington Post reporter] published a follow up that makes clear the Biden administration is abolishing many of ICE’s duties even if the agency itself still exists. Last month the agencies 6,000 officers carried out just 3,000 deportations. This is all thanks to the new rules put in place by the administration.

I look forward to using the same treatment on the ATF, FBI, IRS and so many others. They may still exist as ceremonial units similar to the Military Knights of Windsor or the Royal Company of Archers. Eventually a sensible Congress can dispose of them, but in the meantime, they can all be rendered harmless along just the way that our current President is paving for us now.

Great Success

It's been a year since the death of George Floyd, a man whose death greatly enlarged his life. Let's check in on the progress being made by our progressive heroes.

60 Minutes Speaks Some Truth

I wonder how this idea ever got past their editors?
On Sunday, CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired an important news segment on the phenomenon of detransitioning — when a person who identified as transgender and undertook various interventions to confirm a cross-sex identity later rejects a transgender identity and embraces his or her biological sex. Many transgender activists have objected to news outlets covering these important stories....

Garrett told 60 Minutes that he went from taking hormones to getting his testicles removed in just three months, far short of the WPATH guidelines, which suggest a year’s worth of continuous use before such drastic “bottom surgery.” He later got a breast augmentation.

“But, instead of feeling more himself, he says he felt worse,” 60 Minutes reported.

“So, more depressed after you transitioned than before?” Stahl asked.

“I had never really been suicidal before until I had my breast augmentation,” Garrett replied. “And about a week afterwards I wanted to, like, actually kill myself. Like, I had a plan and I was gonna do it but I just kept thinking about, like, my family, to stop myself.”

“It kind of felt like, how am I ever going to feel normal again, like other guys now?” he remarked.

An aside: surprising that it wasn't after his castration that he had this experience, but after the cosmetic surgery to add fake breasts. I would have thought that the castration would be the traumatic event after which you could 'never feel normal' -- at least, not like a normal guy. The change in hormone balances already being effected by drugs would have become greater with the removal of one's natural source of testosterone. Yet apparently it was the visual difference of appearing to have breasts that was the real psychological shock.

Good to see some breakthrough discussion of this, though. These really are permanent, life-altering changes. No one should go through with this without a complete understanding of what it is going to entail, including the understanding that some people who do go through with it really regret it afterwards. Instead, it sounds like even the limited protections in the guidelines are being ignored by everyone involved.

Blue Militia

Lee Smith makes a striking observation.
This week, pro-Palestinian demonstrators auditioned for the chance to join already established Democratic Party militias antifa and Black Lives Matter by attacking Jews in New York and Los Angeles.... Since the late spring, many have noted that these blue militias have typically avoided laying waste to red regions. And it is strange, if you think the Democrats have mobilized criminals and psychopaths and other semitragic misfits to target those they claim are the true enemies of democracy, tolerance, and brotherly love—the more than 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump. Presumably, blue militias know that if they campaigned in rural or even suburban America they would be met by a well-armed citizenry. 
Still, why burn down their own neighborhoods? Again, here the Middle East is the key to understanding. And if you know anything about that region, you know that the answer is because that’s their job—not to confront their alleged red state enemies, but to remind their neighbors and fellow Joe Biden voters that their security, indeed even their lives, depend on them keeping the faith, no matter how much the party’s pet projects might hurt or offend them personally.
If Smith is right, something very different from ordinary politics is happening in our country now. Republicans seem to think they’ll just win it at the next election; but these kind of mobilizations in nations like Venezuela have generally heralded the end of legitimate elections. 

Dry Run

Officially there’s not yet a drought in Western North Carolina. However, Glassmine Falls is dry. You can see what it looks like usually at the link. Here’s what it looks like today:

This dry weather makes for great riding, though. As the Robert Duvall character says of cowboying in Broken Trail, “It’s a great life when it’s not raining or snowing.” Riding in the rain isn’t so bad, but it’s best when it’s sunny and warm. 

Back tonight with any luck. 

On the stove

Tonight is lamb meatballs in tomato sauce with poached eggs, using our neighbors' tomato bounty. About 10 lbs of tomatoes have been blanched, peeled, and seeded, and are bubbling on the stove, leaving another equal amount to be processed in a day or two. Leftover bread has been crumbled for the meatballs. This dish (or something like it) is called a lot of things around the Mediterranean, including Kefta Mkaouara and Shakshouka, but I think those names refer only to the eggs in spicy tomato sauce, while the meatballs are optional. My philosophy is to add meatballs to anything whenever possible.