How the First Amendment works

Seth Barrett Tillman didn't think much of David Frum's recent OpEd arguing that the Russia Hoax wasn't really a hoax:
Frum’s position amounts to this. If you express the wrong political views in public—by which he means, political views he disagrees with—that is a reason for the government to investigate you. Frum is not embarrassed by his position. Millions of Americans agree with Frum. He and they are entirely wrong. And the continuing viability of American and Western democracy depends on changing the hearts and minds of those millions.


Judy Collins is best known for covering songs. Her voice isn't great, but her arrangements were spectacular, and I often forget that she could write a pretty good song herself. Her 1970 release "Whales and Nightingales" included this beautiful "Nightingale" song in two versions, one sung with the lyrics below and the other a very nice instrumental arrangement. (I can't get YouTubes to embed today, so I'm linking.)

Jacob’s heart bent with fear, like a bow with death for its arrow;
In vain he searched for the final truth, to set his soul free of doubt.

Over the mountains he walked, with his head bent searching for reasons;
Then he called out to God for help, and climbed to the top of a hill.
Wind swept the sunlight through the wheat fields,
In the orchard the nightingale sang,
While the plums that she broke with her brown beak,
Tomorrow would turn into songs.
Then she flew up through the rain, with the sun silver bright on her feathers,
Jacob put back his frowns and sighed and walked back down the hill:
"God doesn’t answer me, and He never will."

"Albatross" is a well-written and well-arranged song, too:

The week in pictures

Fear in Ethiopia

The government is collapsing in the face of rebels, and the State Department is worried... chiefly about themselves
The chaos that unfolded as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and the struggle the U.S. faced when attempting to withdraw Americans and allies from the country reportedly caused a wave of mental health issues in the State Department, Politico reported.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly offered its 24-7 support line to help officials work through the strain of the situation, but the State Department turned down the offer, Politico reported. One State Department employee described this decision as “really disturbing” and “a disgrace.”

“The mental health ramifications of the Afghanistan evacuation are not over — we expect employees to potentially have adverse mental health in the months and years to come,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said while commenting on the reporting, Politico reported.
The American citizens and allies abandoned in Afghanistan may have had some mental health issues as well, though we don't hear a lot about them for some reason. 

A Preposterous Story

Harper's is an old magazine, and I assume one must be a worthy writer to be included in its pages. I really wanted an answer to the question -- excerpted at the excellent Arts & Letters Daily -- that was supposed to be the topic of the essay.
How did a bowdlerized rendering of a marginal psychpathology — trauma theory — come to dominate our culture? 

More and more I hear people (especially women) talking about 'healing' their 'trauma' as a necessary part of everyday life. Most of them strike me as more bored than injured, looking for their 'healing' through activities like wine and yoga. Some of the trauma is supposed to have happened in past lives, even, so it must first be remembered somehow before it can be addressed and healed. Yet they talk very earnestly about the need for this healing for wounds of the psyche barely recalled from childhood or from some time during the Middle Ages. 

Unfortunately the answer to this question was not forthcoming in the essay, which is ridiculous. 

And so we commence our search for the cultural significance of trauma not on the Freudian chaise, but with the nineteenth-century concept of “railway spine.” For it is with the arrival of the train that the phenomenon eventually termed PTSD steams into view.

The essay goes on to theorize that the imposition of 'clock time' on the natural experience of time created a novel sort of alienation and discomfort, one that led to accidents that were traumatic in a new way.

Now clocks were not new in the 19th century. The first mechanical clock was built before the year 1000 by a man who would later become Pope Sylvester II. Church life in the Medieval period was divided into bells, which rang day and night to call people to the appropriate prayers. Wrist watches date to the 1500s, as do clocks accurate to the minute. By 1656, the pendulum clock made them accurate to the second, and gave them the classing grandfather 'tick, tock' sound. 

Steam trains were a new technology at one time yet they were hardly the first mode of transportation in which "[c]rucially, passengers felt powerless, confronted with a technology over which they had no obvious means of control." One has a great deal of control over a steam train compared to a ship, even as a passenger who might pull the emergency stop cord. A shipwreck in a storm is as traumatic as anything it is easy to imagine; it is, in art and literature, often the very image of life-altering trauma.

The author is much more interested in those literary treatments of trauma than in the actual victims of real PTSD, for whom he has little sympathy. Describing the American Marines who came down with it after Fallujah, he sniffs, "Performing 'very well'... is reducing a city to rubble using depleted uranium shells and then incinerating enemy combatants and civilians alike." Likewise of Vietnam war veterans he writes, "That the traumas experienced by Vietnam veterans were as much a function of acts they had perpetrated as they were of those inflicted upon them in part explains why contemporary trauma theorists’ conceptions of the malady, and their attendant therapies, collapse [a] fundamental ethical distinction."

Yet the question we began with still needs an answer. Veterans of Vietnam or Fallujah may well have real trauma -- although often it proves to be traumatic brain injury more than anything else -- but what of the way the culture has turned into a celebration and engagement with wine-and-yoga trauma? He does get there, but only for a moment:

This outbreak of mass hysteria shared with trauma theory the underlying conviction that the recall of trauma could be delayed, even by years and decades, and that its authenticity was guaranteed by its own belatedness. Uncorrupted by interlocution (which would necessarily entail confabulation), the victim retained an absolutely reliable memory of whatever satanism they’d been subjected to—such as the bloody pentagram being inscribed and the naked, chanting figures wearing animal masks forming a circle around them. To collapse the Marxian dialectic of premature revolution: this was history simultaneously as tragedy and farce.

Yet then it is back to real trauma -- the Holocaust, and its Remembrance Days. He returns to the anti-industrial critique again: Hiroshima and the Holocaust required technologies. Yes, and the Battle of Towton required different technologies. The crossbow was banned by the Pope at one time because it was thought so traumatic a weapon. 

The theory that technology and technological change produces trauma leads to a conclusion that the real reason our culture is so focused on trauma is things like Instagram. 

Into the crepuscular realm of social media, for example. If we understand trauma to be a function of technologies that engender in us a sense of profound security underscored by high anxiety, then platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok would seem purpose-built for its manufacture, offering as they do the coziness of Marshall McLuhan’s global village and its inevitable social problems: global gossip, global reviling, and global abuse. A recent article in Slate pointed out that on TikTok, any number of behaviors are now dubbed “trauma responses” by the self-styled “coaches” who post videos on the app telling their followers how to identify the trauma within themselves. Many thousands of people are becoming convinced that perfectly ordinary reactions to such commonplace problems as overbearing bosses or perfidious friends are, in fact, reflex responses seared into their psyches by the white heat of trauma, which suggests to me that this medium is indeed its own message. 

I'm open to the idea that Instagram can be a traumatizing experience -- or any social media that can leave one open to receiving the hate or anger or lust of all of humanity at once. That technology really might be inhumane in that it strips us of our ability to relate to others on a human scale; though again it is not fully novel. It might be why celebrities of an earlier era often fared badly, now available at least potentially to everyone with a cell phone.

Yet I don't think the issue is that people are really more traumatized, so much as they have come to think and talk as if trauma were a ubiquitous experience that is at the center of human life and meaning. They clearly like the idea; maybe because it justifies them focusing on themselves instead of others. That is certainly not novel in human history either. 

Sea pirates

Matt Taibbi on enjoying Thanksgiving like a grownup:
How can I eat turkey and stuffing with a smile, when Columbus massacred the Arawaks?... How? Maybe because you’re more than three years old, and don’t need fairy tales to be real in order to enjoy dinner with family and a football game?
* * *
We’ve lost touch with our real story, which is about us, not the centuries-old adventures of toffs in wigs. The Founding Fathers may have been scum, but they didn’t just steal a continent from the indigenous residents, they stole one from a British King, which is, come on, hilarious....
Almost none of us are related to Pilgrims or Founders. Nearly all of us descended from those subsequent waves of weirdos and refugees who came from all over, some not by choice, and forged the real character of our stolen nation. Many of our ancestors had their hands forced elsewhere, from Jews in the Pale fleeing pogroms to Irish escaping famines to Armenians running from Ottoman genocides. Once they got here, they happily planted Sea Pirate flags on their front doors and set about inventing everything from cat litter to alternating current, while mostly refraining from murdering one another. It was an insane setup, but they made the whole thing work, which is a pretty amazing story even figuring in the horribleness, and really what we’re celebrating every November. You have to reduce the American experience to a few ridiculously grim variables, and remove everything from movies to rock n’ roll to monster dunks, to spend today sulking.
... On Thanksgiving one year, I told [a Swedish friend] I was going to the consulate for dinner. “Thanksgiving,” he said. “That’s the one where you killed all the Indians, right?”
“Not me personally, but yes.”
“Bring back leftovers,” he answered.

Don't worry about what color you're acting

We rarely go wrong when we remember not to be preoccupied by skin color.  Ammo Grrrll is in serious mode again today:

Let me spell out the Left’s advice to blacks: Every attitude and behavior that can possibly assure a healthy and productive future is “white” and, therefore, off limits. But that’s OK. Because everything you need to know about yourself is the color of your skin. That’s not only your “hole” card, but your entire hand, your All-Areas Backstage Pass.
* * *
Well, most of the Confederate statues are gone now. Did that convince the 70 percent of unwed fathers to marry one of the mothers of their offspring? Did it inspire some young black man to aspire to dental school or a plumber’s apprenticeship instead of joining a drug gang? The sad truth is that if a magic wand could be waved over the land to erase any and all negative or “racist” thoughts in the minds of white people, not one thing would change. We aren’t the problem; so we can’t be the solution.
I never wasted much time worrying about whether I was "acting masculine." I just wanted to be able to make a good living and retire in comfort. It's less the fashion today, but when I was young it was still quite the cultural thing to warn women that the path to success in dating and marriage, with all its benefits in terms of freebies, ran through a territory I can only describe as "acting feminine," including dumbing down and camouflaging any hint of assertiveness or self-sufficiency. If you want a guy who wants that kind of thing, and you're looking for an economic sinecure, it's probably reasonably good advice. In fact, it's about like the advice that would lead a black teenager today to wreck his life in service of finding a permanent spot in a system of government dependency. As an alternative, I recommend learning to act like a grownup. If your peers don't like it, find better peers.

Colonel Maggie

About the same time as Arlo was writing his song about Thanksgiving, a woman who didn’t have to face a draft was willingly in Vietnam. 
...just before Thanksgiving ’67 and we were ferrying dead and wounded from a large GRF west of Pleiku. We had run out of body bags by noon, so the Hook ( *CH-47 CHINOOK*) was pretty rough in the back. All of a sudden, we heard a ‘take-charge’ woman’s voice in the rear.

There was the singer and actress, Martha Raye, with a Special Forces beret and jungle fatigues, with subdued markings, helping the wounded into the Chinook, and carrying the dead aboard.

Good news

A nice thing happened this morning: I connected a found-dog post on my neighborhood's Nextdoor app with a lost-dog post on Facebook, and got finder and loser together for a Thanksgiving reunion. For all the awful things about social media, it's a great way to reunite families and pets.


Ton deuil se changera en une danse joyeuse.
Regard neuf, mains tendues, le cœur plein de refrains.
Vers la ville qui t'attend tu marcheras radieuse,
pour œuvrer au chantier du grand effort humain.

* * *
Your mourning will change into a jubilant dance,
Eyes refreshed, hands reaching, your heart full of song.
Toward the awaiting town, you'll walk bright and beaming
To join in the work on the great human endeavor.

A Small Family Feast


Turkey, broccoli casserole, fresh bread with honey and butter, cheeses, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Dessert table not pictured. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Lucky pot

We're having seven neighbors over, so we will be nine for Thanksgiving dinner.  The guests are bringing a variety of dishes that are traditional within their own families.  Greg has made his usual wonderful brined spice-rubbed turkey, a recipe we stumbled on about 40 years ago and have never wanted to replace.  Also, by iron-bound tradition, spinach Madeleine.  He's trying a new stuffing this year based on oysters and bread crumbs.  We'll cube and roast some sweet potatoes and serve a salad with arugula, beets, goat cheese, and nuts.

Neighbors will bring veg,  including what I call Presbyterian green beans, which happen to be among my favorites, as well as a summer squash dish, cheesy peas, and an apple-cranberry salad.  They will also bring a loaf of wild sourdough bread and pies:  sweet potato and pecan.

My taste in cranberry relish runs to fiery, bitter mixes with whole grapefruits and candied ginger and peppers that I've reluctantly concluded no one enjoys but me, so I dialed it way back this year.  One relish will be finely chopped mixture of raw cranberries, a raw orange (peel and all), lots of sugar, and a bit of cinnamon.  Another, even more accessible, will be a simple compote of cranberries and  sugar cooked down for 30 minutes or so.  For myself, I'll also put out a bowl of a hot-sweet Indonesian condiment called Sambal Manis on the table, so I can mix it into either of the two cranberry relishes, because it's killer that way, with the added salt and heat.

Our neighbor's late-season eggplant harvest will furnish caponata, an eggplant soup, and baba ganooj.  We're almost certain to have enough to eat.

Happy Thanksgiving to the Hall!

Old Arlo

More popular around here is another track from that album. 

Colter Wall references this story in a song of his. 

Representative Government

“This case is about whether Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) regulations can abolish representative government in the creation of public health laws, and whether it can authorize closure of a school or assembly based on the unfettered opinion of an unelected official. This court finds it cannot.”

Good judges are hard to find, but it is a blessing when you find one.  

I Don't Have To Work

Jimmie Rodgers says you'll find his name on the tail of his shirt. Louis Armstrong is on the trumpet:

Waylon Jennings said that his name was painted on the shirt. Jimmie, who's dead and a long time gone, is the same Jimmie. In fact he'd been gone since 1933.

Rats Love Turkey, Too

Maybe you’ll leave Thanksgiving dinner as divided as you were when you sat down at the table five hours and 4,000 calories ago. Or maybe you’ll plant the seed, sow just a little doubt about whatever Tucker Carlson is saying now. Maybe you’ll even change a heart or a mind. Maybe you’ll bring the temperature down just a tiny bit. Or maybe you’ll need to report a relative to the FBI

It was bad enough when they were just encouraging people to be impossible bores about politics on Thanksgiving. 

"The Safety Fears of Lawmakers"

Just yesterday, the New York Times' morning newsletter was so titled. "Despite a congressman’s censure, Republicans have shown a growing tolerance for violent rhetoric."

Also yesterday, Illinois Democrat:  'SUV Rampage was 'Karma' for Rittenhouse Verdict.'

Today, Democrat/BLM activist: 'Sounds like the revolution has started!'

Friday: "The only solution / is Communist revolution!"

Has anybody actually seen this video that Rep. Gosar was censored censured [these phones are making me look illiterate] for putting up on social media? I haven't been able to find a copy of it to see just how awful this rhetoric actually is. I'm assured by all the right people that it's terrible, but nobody wants to show me so I can judge for myself.

Did… the Turkeys Write This?

Dad29 has a theory about NBC’s Thanksgiving reporting. 


 Is this a fair picture?

Several people in the Democratic Party have told me they believe the party’s voters — especially its Black voters — saved them from a debacle by selecting Biden as the nominee, rather than any of the candidates vying for progressive-activist approval. The dynamic is an inversion of the structure of the Republican Party, in which the donors try to promote slick, broadly acceptable candidates while voters routinely flock to the angriest and craziest candidate they can find. “The Koch brothers are strategic; their voters are bananas,” one leading Democrat confided. “Our voters are moderate, but our funders are crazy.”
The scheme works best if a pundit of the Blue persuasion identifies with centrist voters while imagining the Red team almost exclusively in terms of its rightest wing. Otherwise, we could as easily say that the core of Dem elected officials are strategic, while their loudest proselytizers are bananas, and that centrist Republicans are moderate, but the QAnon Shaman and his crew are crazy. The way I see it, the middle mass of voters, who increasingly call themselves Independent, are repelled by both the Squad and QAnon, while the moderate Blue and Red wings would be happy to call themselves the natural homes of the Independents, and even think of the Independents as the "centrist wings" of their respective parties:  "our voters."

American Kulaks

Some Soviet history, and some predictions about America's future. 

Good fun

An Ace post recounts a finance guy's experience with a trendy progressive workplace he was trying (unsuccessfully) to save from bankruptcy. The firm had no dress code, which meant that everyone but our correspondent dressed identically in jeans and sneakers, while he chose to wear a collared shirt, slacks, and loafers.

Don't you want to be comfortable?--I am comfortable.--Everyone else is comfortable wearing jeans and sneakers.--Good for them.

My favorite: the boss finally almost admits he wants to impose a jeans-and-sneakers dress code when he begs, won't you please at least wear jeans and sneakers for the company photo shoot? "Of course. I’ll wear whatever you tell me to wear, any time you request that I do so."

The boss was tying himself into a pretzel trying not to admit that he wanted to order the finance guy what to wear. Naturally what he wanted was for the finance guy to want to do what the boss wanted without being told to do so, not because the finance guy was averse to following orders, but because the boss couldn't admit to himself that he wanted obedience and had a right to expect it of an employee.

Anti-Masking Laws

New Black Panthers march with loaded rifles and masked faces outside the courthouse considering the Arbery case in Georgia.

Georgia law bans this use of masks. The law was passed to target exactly this kind of terroristic behavior, specifically by the Ku Klux Klan. In yet another unconstitutional action by an executive during the pandemic, Georgia governor Brian Kemp issued an executive order 'suspending the law' -- which he has no authority to do -- in order to encourage mask wearing.

Now you have terrorist actions designed to intimidate jurors and courts, hoping to compel a desired verdict out of the frightened populace. 

This is another reason why we must never allow these unconstitutional executive actions, not even in a pandemic, no matter how compelling their argument is about how they're acting for the public good. The laws, the constitutions, these things exist for reasons that have survived pandemics and epidemics, wars and famines. They are the inherited wisdom of the ages, and even this most-well-intentioned unconstitutional exception has returned armed terrorist mobs to our streets. 

Something a little less erudite

Kurt Schlicter:
Stand strong and militant. We do not recognize any duty to not be anywhere because it inconveniences the military wing of the Democrat Party, and we do not recognize any duty to not legally pack heat in doing so. We do not recognize a duty to suck up to petty administrators and flunkies. And we’ll swear about that desiccated old freak if we feel like it. The GOP better get on board or we’ll toss it off the train.

"Fell Doctors and Fell Doctrines"

 Another very good post from the Orthosphere.

A man did not become a Frenchman simply by taking up residence in France, or because a bureaucrat issued a passport bearing his name.  Nor did a Frenchman remain a Frenchman if French doctors lost the war of opinion and that Frenchman came under the tutelage of fell doctors and fell doctrine.  That Frenchman might murmur, he might even squeal, but his grandchildren, at least, will spit on his grave.

Yes, that is where we are today with many of our children or grandchildren.  

Memetic Fantasy

AVI remarks on something modern fantasy does:
Modern girls look on the lives of women in the past and think "I would never put up with that."  Sure you would.  It was normal life. You would have the same focus and concerns as the women around you.* We put up with a lot because we don't really think of it s putting up with anything....

* The world where you go back there and refuse to put up with it and set a good example is more fantastical than the time travel itself. Yes, modern fantasy novelists like to set up stories like that, of girls trying to break out(!) of old ways and become a wizard, or a warrior, or a bard or some other previously forbidden role. (Tolkien and Lewis were early examples and did it well.) But that is largely a modern value.
Only somewhat. I have commented before on how many medieval history thesis papers I have read that begin like this: 'As a feminist, I am interested in how women of an intensely patriarchal period could live lives of their own construction. I find that my subject today was hugely successful at doing this, and that in fact her strongest allies were often male relatives and friends.' 

It really was a lot more common than you might think; what is surprising to the authors of these papers is that it is often groups of women who were most invested in enforcing limits on women, and men who loved a particular women who were their chief allies in defying societal limits on females. That's actually in keeping with my understanding of human nature, though, in which men are much more likely to try to win a particular woman's heart  by giving her things she desires than they are to bond up for the purpose of suppressing women as a class; or wherein fathers of particularly beloved daughters are likely to give them their way if seems really important to making them happy.

That said, I was amused by this send-up of Red Sonja-type portrayals of women in medieval-themed video games. I saw it on FB, but I believe this may be the original artist.

That's a pretty fair critique, all the way around. I note that the admin of the FB group where I saw it nearly immediately deleted it and followed it up with a strongly-worded criticism about how offensive all forms of sexism are. 

Australia Moving Citizens to Concentration Camps

It has begun: in the wake of a COVID outbreak, Australia has banned people from leaving their homes for any reason except medical treatment, and is using military forces to arrest the sick and their close contacts and deport them to concentration camps. 

Self Defense in Soviet Russia

The Soviets imposed hard limits on the right of self defense. 

Sanitized panegyrics to whiteness

Tom Wolfe said, "The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe." James Lileks runs with it:

Soon the streets will fill with angry men who want to break store windows and set cars on fire.
No no not those guys, they’re good! We mean the bad ones.
There will be mobs who attack Jews. No no not those guys, they’re angry about colonialism or acting out whiteness doctrines of otherizing, please keep up.
There will be throngs of white men in positions of authority demanding that Asians be suppressed in academic admissions –
What? No, no, that’s different. Please, you’re not conversant in the prismatic subtleties of the intersectional matrix, so maybe sit this one out? Once you’ve done the work, then perhaps you will be alert to the neo-Fascist elements who will restructure society to otherize those who do not have pure blood –
What? No, no, that’s different. That’s a matter of public health. Of course, you should have to show your papers. Point is, America is a lost cause. Soon, very soon, a group of people will try to burn down a city because they saw some tweets about a thing, and there will be a horrifying moment when the authorities prevent it. The nascent subterranean Fascist instinct ignites in the citizens, and they will join the police to prevent the people from smashing the store windows and burning down the legislature building.
When the morning rises and the streets are not twinkling with broken glass – Kristall-not! – and the legislature is not a smoldering heap – well, then you’ll know. The Second Wave of Fascism has crashed on the shores of America, and engulfed us all.
It sounds crazy, but The System could wake up tomorrow and convince half this country that the sky is green.
* * *
And the shaming would begin. Oh the shaming. Anyone talking about a blue sky would be treated like some deranged conspiracy theorist. Families would divide over it. Facebook would ban you for discussing “blue skies”.
Both h/t Glen Reynolds.

Don't forget the "victims"

They enjoyed long walks on the beach, relaxed barbecues with friends, raping children, beating grandmothers, strangling brothers, and all the other things that show us we humans are in this together.

The soft-focus NPR piece, to give it credit, does cite the bald evidence of the three men's convictions for violent crimes, but somehow the information doesn't seem to penetrate into the author's tone.  Not that it's OK to shoot them on the street on the strength of their criminal records or otherwise shattered and chaotic lives of mental illness, drug abuse, brutality, and complete failure of self-control, but one would think that their background might have some slight bearing on how easy it is to believe that they were enraged, rash, and stupid enough to chase down and endanger an armed teen.

One more example of youths who were about to turn their lives around.  If only their mothers had kept them home that night.