A Small Victory

It's only words, but at least they're retreating in rhetoric.

Seen Riding

I rode the Nantahala Gorge and down into Georgia, as far as cotton country. The cotton is looking good this year. I saw a lot of political flags, mostly Trump-related. But I saw one big billboard near Murphy, which read:
are pissed off!
Gun Store, 1 mile on right.

Beautiful weather, but a very late autumn for color. The trees have had a good year, my wife says: low stress, plenty of water, warmth late. 

Sose on Australia

I realize that only a few of you are motorcycle riders, and those of you in clubs or associations are not 1%ers but members of Veteran clubs and the like. Nevertheless I think this is one of those 'first they came for the...' situations, where we ought to stand up for the rights of free expression and free association for the outermost.

Likewise, I realize this is Australia, which is a sovereign nation and not a part of our business. However, these are natural rights violations in the Anglosphere -- a process already too far along in terms of the right to self defense, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to speak freely even when others call what you say 'hateful,' and now the right to wear clothes or tattoos the powers dislike, or to gather with those you choose as friends.

"We get closer and closer to Communism every day." 

Scroll to 9:30 for his set of solutions if you don't want to hear him discuss the problem at length.

Vikings in America by 1021

A new study radiocarbon-dates the tree rings cut by settlers at L’Anse aux Meadows.

Maoist Self-Criticism

Yalies are upset that people are using the term "Maoist" to describe their forays into self-criticism, declaring with four-letter emphasis that the terminology is "racist." 

These Ivy League places are apparently not very good schools. Mao was of course not a race, but an individual; Maoism was not limited to the practice of any race, but was an intense species of Marxism that became popular among more radical Communists worldwide. 

Meanwhile they are avoiding grappling with the merit of the analogy between their practices and Maoism. Like all analogies, this one only carries as far as it does; but there really is a similarity between Maoist self-criticism (a practice that belongs especially to Maoism as opposed to Communism generally) and their teachings on race. Particularly when they are doing 'white fragility' training, the idea is so close as to look like a straight borrowing from Maoist practice: to constantly examine yourself for ideological failings, to self-confess these publicly, and to seek to make further amends in the hope of becoming more perfectly ideologically aligned. 

All this is of course aimed at providing cover for their efforts to eliminate competing ideologies, in this case the Federalist Society. This too is characteristic of Maoism as well.

Lawyers are often told to bang the table when both the facts and the law are against them, but this is mere childish folderol. Yale should be ashamed to be producing such specimens. 


We got booster Pfizer shots this week.  Sore arms, otherwise no big deal.  I'm increasingly concerned by the trend of growing per capita breakthrough deaths among populations who are farther and farther from their initial vaccination dates.  As a general rule, us older types may have immune systems that need more frequent reminders.  If I'm wrong, well, I made the best guess I could.

I'm thinking of getting caught up on other vaccinations, too:  tetanus, shingles, maybe even flu.  Never having had the flu, as far as I know, I've never been in the habit of giving it much thought.

I continue to spend some time on social media every day spreading what I think is the most reliable information about the relative risks of COVID and COVID vaccine.  Most people haven't a clue about probability or risk, it seems.  Someone almost invariably responds with an anecdote about a single person's counter-experience, an approach that makes sense only when one is presented with a claim that a particular result is 100% uniform, and can be falsified by a single negative result.  The idea of comparing two relatively small risks is quite foreign.  A lot of people complain, too, that they can't find absolute answers to questions like "how long will my natural or vaccinated immunity last exactly?"  It's like asking, "How many days until I get a particular kind of cancer, and then how many days will I live?"  Not that it's an excuse for medical experts (or bureaucrats) who offer paternalizing absolutist pap in the form of ironclad edicts, but sometimes you see what tempts them to snap "Stop arguing about it and just do what I say."

Nevertheless, I'm not an idiot, and I have no plans to enjoy being dictated to by people who have blown their own credibility too many times to count.

Lower Your Expectations

There's a quip going around that yesterday's Washington Post editorial summarizes the current administration's policy as nicely as Trump's slogan summarizes his.

Trump:  "Make America Great Again."
Biden: "Try Lowering Your Expectations."

There's an important distinction to be made between policy and individual life. As an individual, in fact many of these disruptions are going to be quite beyond your power to affect. You may be wiser to accept that, and lower your expectations about what your society is able to achieve -- at least for a while. You'll be happier if you focus on the things you can in fact affect.

Indeed, this is the core insight of both Stoicism and Zen/Ch'an Buddhist ethics. For example:
40. Being in the World Without Misery
Huitang said:
What has been long neglected cannot be restored immediately.
Ills that have been accumulating a long time cannot be cleared away overnight.
One cannot enjoy oneself forever.
Human emotions cannot be just right.
Calamity cannot be avoided by trying to run away from it.
Anyone... who has realized these five things can be in the world without misery. 
[Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership, trans. Thomas Cleary (Boston & London: Shambala Pocket Classics), 1993]

The Stoic knows that he cannot change very much at all about the world, and so focuses on the few things that are in his power. These chiefly include whether he becomes upset about things he cannot control, or accepts the world as he finds it and focuses his effort on behaving virtuously. This begins with accepting that death is certain, and he must live courageously in spite of its certainty. (Cf. 'calamity cannot be avoided by trying to run away from it.') It eventually embraces all things that cannot be changed: the bus is late, the supply chains are disrupted, the autumn is short and the cold winter is coming, beloved dogs do not live as long as we do, and neither do our fathers. 

So, as an individual ethic, this is excellent advice that lies at the core of wise ethical systems. 

It is less good as policy advice. There are more things that an organized community can do than that an individual can do, and merely accepting that things will get worse was not acceptable even to the Stoics or the Buddhists. Marcus Aurelius was both a Roman emperor and a Stoic philosopher. He did not neglect the affairs of the empire out of Stoic virtue, but rather used his Stoic virtue to focus on what he could change for the better at any moment in time. That Zen Lessons in Leadership book is chiefly intended to capture lessons about how monasteries and communities structured themselves and were led by wise men. The best course for anyone is always to do one's duty, and if one must have leaders their duties entail good leadership. 

While these problems cannot be cleared away overnight that does not mean they cannot be cleared away at all. Oil prices are high because of decisions about pipelines and drilling as much as because of other things. We could be building nuclear power plants near cities to pursue both power and clean energy. We could eliminate punitive government regulations that tie up truckers and ports -- indeed even the current administration waived the regulations on port operating hours as a part of its strategy for overcoming the problems. 

Part of the administration's problem is that it refuses another core Stoic lesson, which the Zen and Ch'an Buddhists also accept: living in accordance with nature. They keep wanting wind and solar power to be the answer, so they act as if the technology were as reliable as they want it to be rather than as reliable as it actually is. Germany is having power problems because they focused on wind, and the wind was light this year. China is having power problems because they relied on hydropower -- which works pretty well in some places -- and then this year there wasn't much rain. Solar power likewise has limits they don't want to accept.

It would be very nice for them if everyone would lower his expectations, or hers as the case may be. Then they might be better placed to act as if the world worked the way they wanted it to instead of the way it does. Somehow socialist economies always come around to "lower your expectations" because expectations at any level prove increasingly difficult to satisfy. Humans have a nature too, one that we have to accept rather than trying to change, and this is the core difficulty of their project.

So in a way the quip was right about the political matters, though quite wrong about the ethical ones. That would be an oddity if Plato had been right that the community should be ordered the same way as the soul; then politics would be an exact reflection of ethics, with the community ordered so as to be brave and moderate, wise and good but simply at a higher level of organization.

In fact Plato was wrong about that; that is the fallacy of composition. What is right at one level of organization is not always right at another. A good family operates on different principles than a good state, rather than the state simply being a higher order of the family. A good person is not merely a good member of his various communities, though the Stoics are correct that it is in communities that individuals flourish. The internal virtues remain important even when one is alone, and even when interacting with strangers with whom one shares no community -- as at war, when courage matters in facing an enemy, and magnanimity might lead one to victory or peace through the establishment of a new kind of community. 

Crusader Sword found off Israel

It hasn't been cleaned up yet, but it looks like a 900 year old sword probably lost at sea in battle.

How is this not Satire?

I had to double check because of course it must be; but no. 

"Dr. Rachel Levine becomes nation's first transgender four-star officer."

Headlines from 1984

"Iron Maiden-loving principal will keep her job, despite parents’ petition for dismissal."

Really, Iron Maiden? Did Tipper Gore come out of retirement? 

These days I guess they'd be controversial for a whole new set of reasons. 

RIP Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has died at age 84. The news reports all mention "COVID complications," as well as the fact that he was fully vaccinated. What's probably more telling is that he was also being treated for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells that collapses the immune system. The best vaccine in the world won't help someone whose immune system in kaput.

Who's under the thumb

My old hometown newspaper misses the point of objections to mandates.  In this OpEd, it argues that "a ban on mandates is still a mandate." I suppose so, if you want to put it that way, but what's wrong with mandates is not just that they're an exercise of power.  There's a big difference between a mandate that ties the hands of a government and one that ties the hands of a citizen.  The U.S. Constitution is full of mandates that tie the hands of governments, and thank goodness.

No matter how many COVID mandates Gov. Abbott bans, no individual in Texas is any less free to receive all the vaccines he can get his hands on, provided that the FDA doesn't outlaw them and medical staff don't refuse to administer them.  The push for COVID mandates can't be contorted into a blow for freedom or autonomy, unless by "freedom and autonomy" one means the freedom of governments to bully their citizens.  If someone is breaking no law, the government shouldn't be able to force him to do anything--and we should be careful what laws we pass.

Employers have more discretion, but even they are limited in some of the ways they're entitled to intrude on their employee's religious and medical decisions.  In that arena, though, I'm more inclined, first, to prevent the government from leaning on the employer and, second, to let the employees vote with their feet.

Astonishment on a Ride Through Georgia

I went down to the Stone Mountain Scottish Highland Games this weekend. Friday night was warm, and very little autumn color has occurred there though in other years it is often high color by the weekend of the Stone Games. We camped as always; on Saturday morning a squall blew through hard and fast, and by afternoon the weather was cool and clear.

One of the people around our fire Saturday night was a Canadian singer of Irish traditional music named Michael Kelly. He and I went through a whole host of songs, and to my astonishment he and I knew almost none of the same songs. Wild Rover we both knew, but he had never even heard of Dubliners or Clancy Brothers standards like The Old Orange Flute, or Kelly, the Boy from Killane

Instead, he knew a whole array of songs I've never heard before. It was akin to discovering that there's a second Bible, or a whole set of Tolkien novels you'd never read. 

Looking at his YouTube channel I see that we know a few more of the same songs than we happened to come up with by the fireside, but it's still got a number of songs that may be new to you as they are to me. And of course the echoing joy of will be when he discovers the Clancy Brothers, which a singer of Irish traditional songs will love like finding the first Bible. 

Bari Weiss on Madness

Brian Stetler is pushing back hard on her here, but she's right.