Early Afternoon

The only problem with the mountains is how early the afternoon sun vanishes behind the ridge. The Nantahala gets its name from a Cherokee word for "land of the noon-day sun," or as it is more popularly translated, "the land where the sun sets at noon." 

This is from a roadside stand near the forks of the French Broad River, where there's a nice taproom and occasionally a good food truck called Mama Bear's (although she's going offline for the winter starting tomorrow to pursue motherhood rather than food-truckery). It may be technically in the Pisgah Ranger district rather than one of the Nantahala ones, as the border between those is right about here. The road that runs up to the Blue Ridge Parkway from this spot also serves as the border between the Middle Prong Wilderness and the Shining Rock Wilderness. 

SE Texas does have fall

Granted, fall down here may last a month, week, or happen intermittently between October and February.  Still it was a great day to take the DR out.  This is on the Brazos river.    

That's not FUNNY

These leftist kids today are a little slow on the uptake. Some are just now figuring out that "the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule." Well, ve haff vays to put a stop to that.
“Once literacy on the extremist underpinnings of strategic humour is established, the next step is to closely monitor dynamics around far-right meme cultures,” the [EU] report states. “Online cultures quickly develop into extremist movements, as seen in the conspiracy cult around QAnon and the anti-government militia in the United States known as the boogaloo movement.”
Wait--there's an anti-government militia movement called boogaloo? Should I have known about this already? I'm beginning to doubt my chaotic fascist bona fides, though I've been carrying a "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy" card in my wallet since the first Clinton administration.

OK, yes, I see I've been caught napping, but Wikipedia brings me up to date. I've been advised that, before I engage with a potentially harmful ideology, I should check in with Wiki to see whether the new source is trustworthy and approved.  I am all about compliance.
The term boogaloo alludes to the 1984 sequel film Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, which was derided by critics as a derivative rehash. Subsequently, appending "2: Electric Boogaloo" to a name became a jocular verbal template for any kind of sequel, especially one that strongly mimics the original. The boogaloo movement adopted its identity based on the anticipation of a second American Civil War or second American Revolution, which was referred to as "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo" and became popularly known among adherents as "the boogaloo".
Participants in the boogaloo movement also use other similar-sounding derivations of the word, including boog, boojahideen, big igloo, blue igloo, and big luau to avoid crackdowns and automated content flags imposed by social media sites to limit or ban boogaloo-related content. Intensified efforts by social media companies to restrict boogaloo content have caused adherents to use terms even further detached from the original word such as spicy fiesta to refer to the movement. The boogaloo movement has created logos and other imagery incorporating igloo snow huts and Hawaiian prints based on these derivations. Adherents of the boogaloo sometimes carry black-and-white versions of the American flag, with a middle stripe replaced with a stripe of red tropical print and the stars replaced with an igloo. The stripes sometimes list the names of people who have been killed by police, including Eric Garner, Vicki Weaver, Robert LaVoy Finicum, Breonna Taylor, and Duncan Lemp.
Adherents attend protests heavily armed and wearing tactical gear, and sometimes identify themselves by wearing Hawaiian shirts along with military fatigues. The boogaloo movement has also used imagery popular among the far-right such as the Pepe the Frog meme.
So, if I have this right, Hawaiian shirts now carry a sinister meaning, especially if mixed with fatigues and memes and anything with "loo" in it, such as "igloo." (The Wiki piece helpful clarifies that the reference is to a "snow hut," but I imagine that a properly labeled camping cooler might do.) Even a swatch of fabric with a tropical pattern may serve as the secret handshake. "Big luau" is a good one, mixing the sounds of "boogaloo" and "igloo." I think I now understand the appeal of an increase in articles about Boolean analysis. Bootleg? Bu Lu Lemon? I see a huge future in merch.

Stop laughing this instant.  This is a deliberate attempt to make official censors look ridiculous by cracking down on posts about spicy fiestas.  We will have no more unapproved jocular verbal templates.


I know it's a lot to hope for, that Youngkin could actually pull this election out, but it sure would make me feel better about the direction my society is taking.

Dr. Sheena Mason and Jim Hanson on "Racelessness"

I have never spoken to Dr. Mason, but Jim had a long talk with her on an alternative to Charles Mills' theories of embracing racial identity as the only way to pursue justice.

Working Towards Free Elections

Margot Cleveland on the Virginia race, and what it portends for 2022.
Earlier this month, Fairfax County, Virginia... previewed the attacks on election integrity likely planned for the midterm cycle of 2022 and beyond. There, election officials in the deep-blue county approved absentee and mail-in ballot applications lacking the statutorily mandated last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number, then promptly mailed these unauthenticated individuals ballots for next Tuesday’s election.
So, executive agencies violating the laws passed by the legislature -- and signed into law by an executive -- again. As she points out, courts are not stepping up here.
Judge Andrew Oldham dissented from the Fifth Circuit’s decision. In concluding the case was not moot, Oldham, a Donald Trump appointee, highlighted the supplemental letter brief submitted by the county. “Harris County not only refused to disclaim unlawful drive-through voting for future elections — it promised to continue that practice,” Judge Oldham wrote.

Oldman continued, “Harris County has taken the remarkable position that it (1) wholly ignored provisions of the Texas Election Code in 2020, and (2) can continue wholly ignoring those provisions in future elections — notwithstanding the Legislature’s express instructions to the contrary.”
What is to be done? She recommends making these practices crimes.
Make it a crime for an election official to mail a ballot to a resident if the application submitted fails to satisfy the requirements set by the legislative branch. Make it a crime for an election official to provide a ballot to a resident if he or she lacks the mandated identification. Make it a crime for an election official to count a ballot if it is returned beyond the legislatively established deadline.

Line-by-line review the election code and for every mandate make clear that ignoring it means a fine or imprisonment. Then authorize the state legislature to appoint a special counsel to prosecute the offense if a local prosecutor refuses.

There's more, but that last line is crucial: the executive branch will simply refuse to prosecute crimes it wants to encourage. We saw that yesterday in Wisconsin, and it has become standard practice in many cities and a few states. 

Resisting madness

Ann Bauer has not had good luck in her life, but she seems to have a tough core, a commitment to truthfulness and rationality that will see her through.

Good climate news, shut up

 Roger Pielke unwraps the brand-new IPCC report:

For my technical readers, the scenarios judged unlikely by the IPCC are high emission (“such as RCP8.5 or SSP5-8.5”) and the scenarios “in line” with current policies are intermediate scenarios (“RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and SSP2-4.5”).
This is huge news. Fantastic in fact. Why? The extreme scenario RCP8.5 was in the most recent IPCC report identified as our most likely future. Now IPCC has completely reversed that, and it is now considered low likelihood. There could not be a more profound change in the scenario foundation of climate science.
Instead of apocalyptic warnings about “immediate risk” a top line message of this report should be: Great News! The Extreme Scenario that IPCC Saw as Most Likely in 2013 is Now Judged Low Likelihood. I am actually floored that this incredible change in such a short time apparently hasn’t even been noticed, much less broadcast around the world.

Racist obsessions

Maybe it's a sign of creeping old age to have lived long enough to see the better part of a century lurch from one racist extreme to another.  Don't get me wrong:  it's always been obvious that you can identify human genetic groups with striking differences in their averages according to an impressive variety of measurements, from height to intelligence to resistance to different diseases.  Racism is something different:  an insistence that race, however defined, is a reliable basis for assessing human worth and a proper basis for rigid social and political ringwalls around individuals regardless of their actual traits and behavior.  As a shorthand, I think of it as dreaming up of reasons why Jews can't be admitted to good universities or hired by good law firms.  You have to be an incipient geezer like myself even to remember when excluding Jews didn't make most people scratch their heads in bewilderment--but the same people who've forgotten the treatment of the Jews in the not-all-that-distant past often have little difficulty swallowing an explanation for why universities and law firms must now employ similar practices to enforce quotas against whites or Asians.  (I leave aside for the moment the resurgence of bare-faced Jew-hatred.)

Decades ago I read and enjoyed "Guns, Germs and Steel."  That was near the beginning of the online discussion age, so I was unprepared for the bizarre debate that broke out in the Amazon review section.  Back then, as I recall, the fury was provoked by Jared Diamond's undervaluing the virtue of superior cultures, which led him to use environmental determinism to explain variances in success among ancient genetic/geographical groups.  Certainly his analysis was flawed in many ways, but not in its basic curiosity about the impact of the regional availability of suitable crops and animals for domestication, or suitable East-West migration routes for expansion without encountering radically different growing conditions.

It's amusing now to discover that a new crop of critics detests Diamond for his failure to acknowledge that the only acceptable alternative to the racial superiority explanation is racial oppression.  Diamond is no more a racial supremacist than he is blind to horrifying clashes between genetic groups, but he has sinned against his culture by opting to consider any other factors at all.  For the most part we appear nearly incapable of imagining that a lot of things can be going on in a clash between cultures, from bigotry to luck to disparities in cultural competence--and that none of these factors proves a moral superiority in either the culture or the individual hearts of the victors or the vanquished.

Sheriff: State Officials Ordered Voting Laws Ignored

Wisconsin's Racine County Sheriff is partially just restating what we already knew from the Time Magazine article: several states violated their own laws in the 2020 elections. It is news, however, that officials ordered citizens to go along with violating the laws. Nursing homes across the state, for example, were ordered to comply with the election law violations.

The US Constitution says that states or Congress shall set the laws governing the conduct of elections; instead, such laws were violated in favor of the edicts of bureaucrats and governors. The election was consequently illegitimate, root and branch, in all such states. There appears to be no remedy for this.

UPDATE: The Sheriff says that the state Attorney General has rejected calls for an investigation at the state level. No charges are being brought at this time by prosecutors. 

UPDATE: This is a slam-dunk case with hard evidence.

The investigation focused on abuse of voters confined to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Investigators discovered that Wisconsin Election Officials expressly discussed that their proposed conduct for the 2020 election would violate state law, and yet they decided to do it anyway.  They memorialized their decision in a letter they wrote and disseminated to every single county clerk’s office in Wisconsin.

Sheriff Schamling stated that officials indicated that they “needed the flexibility to violate the law,” and that they needed to “instruct county clerks to break the law.”  Despite the blatant absurdity of the statements, the express illegality of their activities, and the fact that they were all being recorded on their Zoom meeting, election officials went ahead and violated the law anyway.  The sheriff’s office played the video from the Zoom meeting of the commissioners discussing their need to break the law and instruct others to do the same. 

Emphasis added. They estimate somewhere between fifty and a hundred thousand fraudulent votes from this activity alone, in a state Biden allegedly won by only twenty thousand.

Republican Perfidy

This guy is one of my Senators. Both of their names always turn up every time there's an establishment compromise, because he's really there to represent the corporations -- woke or otherwise -- and to line his own pockets.
After Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina dumped more than $1.6 million in stocks in February 2020 a week before the coronavirus market crash, he called his brother-in-law, according to a new Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

They talked for 50 seconds.

Burr, according to the SEC, had material nonpublic information regarding the incoming economic impact of coronavirus.

The very next minute, Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, called his broker.
Fauth has been dodging the subpoenas inquiring about this from the SEC, but has managed to find time to be re-appointed to his government sinecure by Joe Biden. Trump originally appointed him, I would guess as an unrequited favor to Burr.

The Left is crazy, and many Democratic politicians are likewise corrupt (for example look at Pelosi's stunning success in the markets). The problem isn't as simple as swinging party control of Congress or the White House, though. Corruption is systemic: both parties and the bureaucracy have turned government into a wealth-extraction business for themselves. Bigger changes need to be made if this corruption is to be resolved.

"Why won't anyone listen to us?"

The scary thing about progressives wailing when people won't listen to their wisdom is how quickly they're willing to conclude that they'll just have to find ways to use more force than persuasion, for our own good.

In the Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber conducts a long-winded analysis of the "Obama-Springsteen" echo chamber.  I had to get to the very bottom to find his point:  his crowd always has hoped and believed, with good reason, that they can conduct stealth politics by controlling popular culture, but now he finds with dismay that people sense the stink of propaganda and tune out the culture.  People outside the Obama-Springsteen echo chamber may actually recoil and find both their entertainment and their political messages elsewhere--from those bad, bad people with a different message that we haven't managed to squelch yet.

Indeed, many of the people Obama wants to reach are the ones who systematically avoid him for reasons of culture, politics, or both. . . . Obama demonstrates the toxic effects of Fox News by recalling an anecdote from late in his White House tenure. He had gone to visit a community college in a red state, and the locals tuning in to his speech from a nearby bar asked, “Is this how Obama usually sounds?” to a reporter who was there with them. Clearly they had been getting their news from sources that rarely broadcast the commander in chief speaking uninterrupted.
“Now, keep in mind, at that point I had probably been president for the last five or six years,” Obama says to Springsteen. “The filter was so thick that I, as president of the United States, could not reach those guys unless I actually went to their town.”

Why, yes, you can inspire a target audience to recoil in horror and, even if they can't escape your deeply unpopular laws, to exercise their right not to soak up your condescending lectures. They aren't required to continue to listen.  They may even start listening to other people whose messages you deplore. This is what happens to people who don't genuinely believe in the power of persuasion, only the power of propaganda and, if that fails, censorship and force.

Kornhaber concludes that the peril of the echo chamber "only emphasizes the limits of politics-as-culture":

The Biden era has already provided a clinic in the seriousness of those limits: Here is a president, like Obama before him, backed by Hollywood and enjoying a popular-vote majority—yet still unable to pass his agenda due to intractable political obstacles. Would any amount of conscientious conversation nix the filibuster or sway Joe Manchin? Money, demographics, institutions, and pure power still rule, and many of the stories we tell lately in hopes of shifting that reality just end up distracting from it.
So the problem is money, demographics, institutions, and pure power, not that Biden can't get his way because too many people despise the policies he's now pushing, after running a campaign in which many understood him to be promising something completely different.  Kornhaber seems to labor under the delusion that Biden conscientiously conversed with voters, who inexplicably failed to listen.  Frankly, Biden didn't try, and if he had, the voters' rejection wouldn't have signaled a problem with their ears, but with the content of the message.  Thus Biden follows up with the notion that he's "running out of patience."  And the terrible voters don't like that either.

Numbing guilt

The Washington Examiner looks at a recent John McWhorter analysis of wokeness as a religion.  Part of McWhorter's approach is almost getting to be old-hat:  the equation of woke frenzy with other anti-intellectual fundamentalisms.  One part that caught my eye was his observation that wokeness appeals to our deep need to silence a nagging conscience.

My own view is:  beware any creed that soothes your conscience without changing your own behavior.  There's a reason the communion prayer includes the request to guard us from the temptation to seek solace only, and not strength, or pardon only, and not renewal.  In my experience most of us are in an almost ceaseless quest to find the magic elixir that numbs pain, whether it's drunkenness, rage, power, security, or the many distractions of hedonism.  Without ever having been much attracted to Eastern mysticism, I do appreciate the directive of Buddhism to pay attention and respect to what is actually happening here and now, no matter how distressing, not papering it over with fluff.  What can't be cured must be endured, but what can be cured should be.  If it needs to change, change it, stop wishing it away or hoping someone else will pay the price to alter it.  In short, spend your own treasure on whatever you claim is bothering you.

The flip-side of trust

 The flip-side of trust is self-government.

Control yourself, or others will control you.  Many will try, anyway, but we don't have to tempt them any more than necessary, or make it easier for them.


I sometimes find that I watch nearly all dramas through the filter of the "Prisoner's Dilemma": how will people behave so that they can trust each other? What rotten and avoidable things will happen when they don't? An article this morning about draconian enforcement of Title IX rules to punish college students who have casual sex with drunk partners reminded me how crazy human interactions can get if we persist in pretending we are invulnerable, autonomous, and amoral particles when engage with each other. That works reasonably well for routine, repetitive, predictable economic transactions with distant strangers. It's a ridiculous approach to neighbors, friends, and certainly sexual partners.

The linked article described two panicked college students who woke up after a one-night stand in which both were too drunk to have given effective consent. Knowing that either could ruin the life of the other by being the first to lodge a Title IX complaint, the young man decided to be the first to rat. Title IX prosecutions being the Kafkaesque joke they are, the slower-to-complain young woman found that defending against such accusations is futile. Both would have been fine if they'd each demonstrated a spine, but neither could be sure the other would. Or maybe the whole story is nothing but a dystopian fable, who knows. If so, it's not an implausible one.

The Prisoner's Dilemma poses a limited threat to people who have an unshakeable moral core and go to some trouble to become intimate only with others who clearly have the same. With casual neighbors, you can generally limit your exposure to self-defeating treachery by trusting each other provisionally on smaller, lower-stakes interactions. The worst that can happen is probably no more devastating than not getting your borrowed tool back, so you'll know better next time. With friends, well, if he habitually walks the check or spills your secrets or expects to be bailed out of jail without reciprocating, you'll learn. With lovers, you may have to forgo sex with someone you just met and about whom you know absolutely nothing--especially if you attend a university run by crazed ideologues.

How a young woman, or even a young man, could maintain any self-respect while whining about "non-consensual" sex in any other context than violence, I cannot imagine. It's as if people were begging to be subjected to a rigid system of chaperonage. They're practically shouting "I can't be trusted to exercise any judgment about how out-of-control and helpless I render myself among people whose trustiworthiness I haven't troubled to learn anything about." In other words, you can't trust me, I can't trust him, and we all need to live in tyranny in order to be even remotely safe.

When we've exhausted the protective strategies against betrayal and still get caught short, we still have a choice: not to be a jerk. Yes, we may be unfairly punished, but we don't have to be a jerk in a more comfortable cell.


That is the name of the mountain to the right, which is more obvious when the sun is on the rock face. The basin below is the headwaters of the Chatooga river, a tributary of the mighty Savannah. 

Maybe just a tad of projection?

 As Glenn Youngkin ties up Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor of Virginia, the forces of blue are getting a little wild-eyed.  First former Pres. Obama showed up to accuse the dreadful GOP of manufacturing fake outrage over petty incidents like girls being raped in public school bathrooms by boys in skirts.  Now McAuliffe has blurted out a classic line:

“Folks, we will not allow Glenn Youngkin to bring his hate and his chaos in our Virginia schools. And we will never let our children be used as political pawns.”
I imagine I'm not the only voter who sees more hate and chaos in nutty school policies that leave 15-year-old girls the pawns of woke-trans orthodoxy. The upcoming Virginia election returns may display some outrage that's not at all fake.

Riding through Panthertown

The Panthertown Wilderness borders Lake Toxaway, and US 64. 

A Tax on Unrealized Gains

For the last decade or so, I've been hearing about Modern Monetary Theory and how the government can just print money to buy whatever it wants. Now apparently it has decided it can also tax money that hasn't actually been made.

This idea could work -- badly, and with many negative economic effects, but it could work -- if you forced everyone to sell off all their investments every year, realize their gains, pay taxes on them, and then re-purchase whatever they could afford of their investments with the money they had left after you taxed them. 

The idea as presented is madness, confidently asserted by the very experts and elites who are supposed to know what they are doing.

Oh, a Fed

Suddenly the chief mystery of Jan 6 — to whit, why the more-than-ample security forces available to the Capitol were close to unemployed, the Capitol being instead defended by a smaller cohort than typical for a weekday— looks as if it might have a good answer

Dune (Part I) Review

It was far too beautiful an afternoon to spend in a movie theater, but I did spend it anyway because my wife has been longing to see this new movie for months. The novel at least is something that has meant a great deal to me; I read it each time before deploying to Iraq, because its intense politics of assassination was a great way to get into the mindset of the business at hand.

Many people have long desired a new Dune movie. The 1984 adaptation is a better movie than it often gets credited for being, and comparisons with this movie make that clear. This new movie, like the deplorable recent Hobbit adaptation, has decided to spin out into multiple movies what was done in just one in 1984. Perhaps because they thought all that extra time would give them time to spare, they edited with much less care. Every minute of the 1984 movie is spent telling the story; this one spends a lot of time playing out visual spectacles (even repetitive ones, like multiple landings of spacecraft when one would have done, or when it might have been omitted). 

Yet the 2021 movie ends up leaving out a lot of the story that the 1984 film conveyed in a shorter time frame. One now never sees the Emperor or hears of his court, nor meets his daughter -- the ultimate political object of the action of the film being her marriage to the protagonist and its subsequent conveyance of the throne onto him. One does not meet several other major characters. Exactly what the order of Bene Gesserit women is up to is spelled out in sketch rather than detail. It's quite surprising how deficient the storytelling is given that they had a lot more time. 

The characters, mostly, are not as well portrayed. The exception is the Harkonnens, who are definite improvements over the clownish 1984 villains. These are much more believably malicious, though again important details are left out, as are major characters.

In especial the film completely misunderstands the Lady Jessica, who is portrayed here as emotional, weak, and brittle. I cannot understand how anyone read the novel and came to the conclusion that this was the right way to portray her. Perhaps they meant to give her a longer character arc, but that was an error if so. Her character arc was long enough even starting as a master of politics and her arts, of extreme personal discipline that gave way only occasionally out of her capacity for deep love. This version of her is vastly less admirable, which diminishes the whole. 

Paul's arc always started weak, but this Paul is especially weak. Weak men seems to be the style of the era. The Duncan Idaho character (very well played by Jason Momoa, as was Duke Leto by his actor) even mocks his lack of muscle in lines the film added to enhance his pathetic stature. This is a model well-familiar to audiences of contemporary movies; it was the one used for Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon. It is not quite right for a story set in a world as harsh as Dune's. 

Thurfir Hawat is depicted as a fat clown in a swollen uniform who fails at everything. This is entirely a betrayal of the logician and mathematician who is also a deadly Master of Assassins. Hawat was one of the strongest characters in the novel, and is almost a nonentity here. 

There are the usual irritating submissions to the idol of diversity, including turning the planetary ecologist and Judge of the Change into a black female for no other reason. The Fremen, being the good guys, are depicted as a relatively diverse coalition of Africans and Arabs. This is an attempt to portray them as if they were contemporary Muslims -- who really are diverse -- rather than as the novel's intended aboriginal population of a desert planet, whose faith is not Islam but a future creation inspired in some ways by Islam and in some ways by Bene Gesserit manipulations (again, only hinted at in this film). 

So, for the most part, this was an inferior production even compared to the 1984 rendition that is often panned for its cartoonishness. Where it excelled, very much, was in its visuals and audibles. The Voice is conveyed well using improved audio technology; the visuals are often quite stunning. The shields used in the sword and knife fighting are much improved over the silly CGI of the 1984 edition, and the depiction of weapons technology also very much better. It definitely does not come off as cartoonish; it's just not good in many important ways.

The sandworms are, I think, a kind of draw. The new ones move more like living beings, and have their own plausibility; but the 1984 sandworms remain very strong characterizations. 

Worth watching to see the visuals; quite disappointing on substance. 

UPDATE: This guy liked it more than I did, but I think his article underlines the critique. If you just saw the movie, you wouldn't know any of the stuff he points out. What are the weird space nuns doing? Who are these guys with tattooed lips whose eyes roll back in their heads while they perform advanced calculations? (They should be stained lips, but whatever.) Why are there no computers anywhere? 

It only takes him a few hundred words to lay out the basics in his article, which means that you could have told the viewer all of the important parts in a two and a half hour movie -- let alone several of them. 

Viral Liberty

This is a good essay.