Something Interesting With Which We Can All Disagree

This essay begins and ends well; the middle is all about Covid, and should be skipped lest it rouse the passions we have so often discussed. Begin at the beginning, and when you reach "Our society’s response to Covid brought this anachronism,,," scroll to "It has been said that, in its formalism and insistence...."

You may certainly read the middle if you want, but I think it will provoke more than illuminate. The opening and closing are good and worth considering, however.

Reading Those With Whom You Disagree

In the comments to a post below AVI suggests "...the intellectual task of reading for six months people who disagree with you.... Grim, who is younger, probably has at least two [such exercises to perform], the poor bastard."

As I suggested in the comments, it might be more difficult for me to find people to read with whom I don't broadly disagree. My 'tribe' is attenuated and small, at this point, and though it exists it isn't much published. Even in the local papers you'll read few examples of the traditional Southern Democrat worldview of a Zell Miller or a Jim Webb. The local papers, like papers everywhere, trend left. 

Even outlets where I've personally published -- to include National Review, Human Events, The Federalist and American Greatness -- are very much not bubbles of like-minded sentiment. We have points of agreement, and broad disagreements. Still, it's better than the New York Times, where even points of agreement are hard to find; but I read their daily newsletter every morning.

I've also had two turns in grad school, which means 9 full years of reading nothing but things and people with whom I disagree to a greater or lesser degree. This is why I have friends I can talk with who are Marxists and socialists. I also have many feminist friends, especially but not only from philosophy circles, which is why I have the ability to reach out and talk with a SCOTUS protest organizer on terms of trust and friendship. (By contrast, I don't know anyone who attended the January 6th protest/riot as a participant, though you might think they were more aligned with my political views.)

Even here, some of you (especially Mr. Hines) frequently tell me that I'm wide of the mark on issues we commonly discuss. That's fine; you're welcome. 

More too, I find that my views are changing in recent years, and may have even fewer in alignment. The intense patriotism I felt as a younger man has been replaced by a horror at how corrupt and indecent our government has become. I once thought of America as a force for good in the world; I don't think I still believe it is a force for good even at home. I think it is past time to dissolve the bonds that unite our nation, and replace them -- as the Declaration of Independence says we have both the right and the duty to do under such circumstances -- with better bonds to guarantee our natural rights and liberties. Increasingly my idea about what 'better bonds' look like is perhaps Tolkien-style anarchist, certainly voluntaryist, in its rejection of concentration of power and its embrace of diffusion of power among the people. 

I'm still working on formalizing the latter into something workable, but it's a project I take to be my own and not one where I have a large following. Certainly I know of no journal devoted to it; the journals of the day are all about retaining or recapturing the Powers that Be, to use them to drive the tribal will and suppress the other tribes. I want no part of that, and raise the black flag -- see sidebar -- as an alternative to that entire project. 

But direct me, if you can.


So last year we heard a lot about the "surge" in violence against Asian Americans. Turns out that, statistically, Asians in America are not only at the bottom of the violence-victim hierarchy, they're the only group whose numbers are trending down.

Partly that may well be because there are so few acts of violence against them anyway; statistics get weird and unreliable whenever numbers are small. And it's good news, to be clear: no decent person wants them to suffer more violence. It's just another example of how our news is so fake and manipulated. We were all sold a narrative based on a few anecdotes and some polling that turns out not to be grounded in the broader reality.

You'd better run to the city of refuge

I love these Sunday-school-lesson folk gospel songs.

God called Moses on the mountain top
And he placed the law in Moses' heart.
And then he stuck this commandment in Moses' mind,
Then said, "Moses, don't you leave my children behind."

You'd better run, etc.

Well people believe and they think they done right;
You can pick up your bible and read it tonight.
You can read in Genesis you'll understand
That Methuselah, he was the oldest man.
Well he lived nine hundred and sixty nine
And then died and gone to heaven in good due time.

Well Paul's command for the Pharisees:
Well old Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews,
He came to Jesus, he came by night,
He said, "I want to be born into the heavenly sight."
Then Christ spoke to Nicodemus as a friend,
Said, "If you want to go to heaven you must be born again."
Well old Nicodemus didn't understand:
How could a man be born when he was so old.

Well beautiful Sampson from his birth,
He was the strongest man that ever lived on earth.
One day Sampson was walking along;
Well Sampson's strength was never found out.
But Delilah came and sat on his knee,
Said, "Please tell me where your strength might be."
He told her, "My strength lies in my hair.
You just shave a my head just as clean as my hand,
And my strength will become as a natural man."

"Sir, that's a window"

In fairness, Feynman really was a genius, but the fun of this story is how he lucked into looking like one on a particular occasion at Oak Ridge, by keeping a straight face. The man could tell a story.

Are COVID hospitalization rates rising?

Per the CDC, COVID hospitalizations are rising among those aged 75 and up, but not noticeably otherwise.

On these charts, it's usually best to ignore the dip in the last week, which persists and apparently relates to slow data processing.

The best kind of redistribution

"Mr. Bernard Shaw proposes to distribute wealth," Chesterton summarized. "We propose to distribute power."
A good Newsweek article by Lee Habeeb about decentralized power and the healthy competition sparked by federalism.

Mean tactics

This is as unfair as Libs of Tik-Tok's habit of publicizing videos that people take of themselves and post online with the expectation that others will watch them. When will the White House put a stop to the horror?

Not so easy this time

From Ed Morissey at HotAir:
Roberts could [hijack the Obamacare ruling] in 2012 because the court was split 4-4 with himself in the middle. All he had to do was persuade himself. This time, however, Roberts finds himself on the outside looking into a five-seat conservative majority. If anything, Thomas (and Alito) want to make sure that Roberts doesn’t keep playing politics by issuing judicially and constitutionally incoherent rulings just to keep favor with the press and the Beltway elite. Given what we know about Thomas, he probably sees that as the poison that led to this moment, and that the best antidote is to make sure you don’t get another dose of it.

Think of it as UBI rather than salary

"You can equalize salaries when the people getting paid aren't doing anything that matters."
This scales up brilliantly to a lot of public-sector work, as well as monopolies and industries heavily infiltrated by the state, which are public-sector-curious.

We Trusted You, Bush

Once upon a time we took your word. We wagered our lives on it. Some killed for it, and still carry the weight of that; some bear scars and great wounds; some died. 

On Sonnets

This is just a creative writing class, not a literature class; I gather the professor's point is that no one going forward will want to write in the classical styles, at least no one who wants to publish in a major creative writing or poetry journal being published today.

All the same, were I the professor I would not have dropped but rather emphasized the traditional forms. The stricter the form, the better the poetry: this is because the more imagination and thought has to be put into how to express one's intended meaning in the given form. Even a poor poet can produce a decent sonnet if they take the time to get the form right. The strictness drives the development of the processes of mind that allow for the construction of better poems then even in the looser forms. 

Tennyson did great things in blank verse, but he didn't start there. "He mercilessly subjected his productions to the most painstaking revision.[3] He attempted various styles, and experimented with all sorts of metres. Thus he served his laborious apprenticeship and acquired a mastery of his art."

(They don't study Tennyson anymore either.)

In any case I have written several sonnets in the 21st century. They are poor poetry, perhaps; they certainly would not obtain publication in a fashionable journal. That was not their purpose, however: nor their intended audience. Addressed to the right person, at the right hour, the form is of lasting value.

More on 18 USC 1507

There's been a lot of discussion about this Federal law preventing, inter alia, protests outside the homes of judges. 
Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

I recently spoke with one of the protest organizers about this to see what she thought -- no names, of course. She said that they were coordinating their protests carefully with the local police to ensure that they remained within the letter of the law. 

A lot of work is being done by the phrase "or near" here: how near do you have to be to trigger enforcement?  According to her they stay on the correct side of police barricades, where they are told it is ok to protest, and are outside the entrances to the neighborhoods rather than outside the actual homes of the Justices. 

It occurs to me on reflection that the Federal law being cited doesn't actually mention Justices anyway. It mentions judges, witnesses, jurors, and so forth. The legislative intent is to protect the integrity of the trial process by preventing intimidation of witnesses, jurors, lawyers and judges. This is because the trial is supposed to be dispassionate in nature; passion is proper to the political branches. The Supreme Court, though, has arguably become a political branch -- indeed, I think it would be hard to argue any other view. If and insofar as it has, it must be subject to the First Amendment's 'free speech / free assembly / right to petition for redress of grievance' guarantees as any other political branch.

Daily dose of lunacy

You may not know that the problem with the Democratic Party is that it's too policy-based and rational. Poor things, they can't compete with the Right's ninja-masters of emotional manipulation. This Politico article explains that Democrats need to get angry to win. Maybe some riots? Some shrieking at the sky in online videos? No more Mr. Nice Guy Wonk. Spitballing here: there could be an issue with policy-based persuasion if the audience doesn't fully appreciate the fabulous results of the policies so far. If your opponent can generate rage and fear in the electorate by simply pointing to the effect of your recent initiatives in the core areas of our lives, the problem may not be the the unfair use of rage and fear in the politics of persuasion. I'll leave for the imagination of the reader the question whether the current batch of Ds could be said to favor gonads over gray matter more than any political movement in human history.

Good to Know

"The mere advocacy of political or social positions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics does not constitute domestic violent extremism or illegal activity and is constitutionally protected."
From a new DHS memo.

Hiking the Art Loeb Trail

Yesterday I went up on the Art Loeb Trail near the Shining Rock Wilderness, in the Pisgah Forest, just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The pile of rocks you can see behind me in this shot is Mt. Tennent.

I reached it shortly after snapping that shot. It has a plate in honor of its namesake. This view is looking south, over the Nantahala National Forest, this being approximately where the two national forests come together. (For Mike G., the exact border is NC 215, which separates the Pisgah's Shining Rock Wilderness from the Nantahala's Middle Prong Wilderness. There was a motorcycle wreck up there yesterday on my way back, also on a motorcycle. I stopped to help, but Balsam Grove Volunteer Fire Department had it in hand. We often partner on wildfires in the Nantahala.)

Goodbye, Madison Cawthorn

I may have mentioned my opinion that my current congressman is an idiot. A lot of people would describe him in worse terms: embarrassment, vicious, liar, and worse even than that. I don't bother with those matters. Of course a Congressman is a sexually-perverse liar who abuses those over whom he or she has authority. How can you expect any better than that, looking at Congress? They're the scum of the earth, with rare and blessed exceptions -- and fewer of those all the time.

No, what really bothers me is that every time he opens his mouth he says something dumb and/or useless. I don't expect a Congressman to be decent or moral or upright, but I do expect them to be useful. As far as I can tell Cawthorn isn't even useful to his funders or himself. 

Therefore it is with some small pleasure today that I notice his defeat in yesterday's primary. He will not be missed.

The general election will be between a Republican who is a member of the state legislature prayer club and shooting club, and an Asheville councilwoman who is a married lesbian mother of three and an ordained Christian minister. This perfectly summarizes the current condition of Western North Carolina. 

Food riots

There's not much people won't do in the face of starvation.

Crazy as a rat in a coffee can

I can add nothing to expose any more clearly the lunacy embedded in every sentence of this description of a political strategy.

Good wolf

Freddie DeBoer inadvertently makes the case that the last few decades of decline in U.S. colleges has been a clever Republican gambit to eliminate their taxpayer funding.

Dodd. v. Roe

Setting aside for a moment what the law of abortion should be, what the frantic controversy over the Supreme Court's impending ruling in Dodd suggests most strongly is that almost no one in the U.S. has the least notion how the three branches of government interact or what it means to have a system composed of federal and state governments, each with its own proper sphere. It's just too complicated, I think, and editors of moderately respectable newspapers suffer a brain freeze over the notion that there is a Single True Law enforced by a Single Dear Leader.

Jazz Shaw at HotAir often gets these things right:
[I]f they overturn Roe, they will not be criminalizing abortion. Nor will they be mandating it be legal. They will be allowing the states to decide for themselves. If a state chooses to restrict abortions through legislative action, it will not be “defying the Supreme Court” or undermining its authority. They will actually be following the court’s ruling by making their own choice. The same goes for states that elect to keep the procedure legal or even further safeguard it. If anything, the Supreme Court’s relevance and authority would be exemplified by such scenarios.
As the author notes, if you want an example of real confusion created between state and federal law, you have only to look at conflicts on gun law and drug law, and the problem isn't the Supreme Court, it's the other branches of government.

Red-pilled oddballs in LaLaLand

I have no idea if this guy Michael Shellenberger would make a good governor. I bought his book "San Fransicko" a while ago, but haven't yet read it. Still, the bar for sanity in California is low, and he does at least appear to have retained some capacity for rational thought, which makes him a unicorn in that state's politics. Per his interview with Bari Weiss:
It boggled his mind that the other candidates running for governor were 100-percent certain about what they couldn’t know, and weirdly unsure about how to fix things that could be fixed.
“Politics should be a means to an end of a good society,” Shellenberger said. “They’re making it the end.” He was referring to the homeless activists who were his nemesis, but he could have been talking about the environmentalists or the pro-lifers in the desert. “Their real goal is control and moralizing and power. Mine is freedom, care, civilization.”
Not that I agree that the goal of pro-lifers is control and moralizing and power, but the goal of some people in politics on any issue certainly can become that, and it behooves us to watch out for the trend.
[H]e knew there was a chasm between what progressive activists said they wanted and what they actually wanted. They claimed to want to end homelessness, just as the environmentalists had claimed to want to combat climate change. But that wasn’t true. Really, they wanted the fight, the feeling of moral superiority and, of course, the cash for their NGOs.
That sentiment alone makes him a valuable heretic.

Inflation, What Is It?

A bad first day.

The answer, which she never got near, was that government's raising taxes on the wealthiest (corporate or individual) could potentially decrease the money supply, such that fewer dollars were chasing the existing goods. However, since that answer depends on government controlling its own spending rather than just pumping those dollars out on something else, it's as fantastical as a chimera or a unicorn.

Red Moon at Night

My poor cellphone is inadequate for celestial photography, but last night was a clear night excepting a few low clouds. The lunar eclipse settled into the gap below the Corona Borealis, right of Serpens Caput and left of Bootes. 

At first I could only see the brightest five stars around the red moon, so it looked to be inside a pentagon. As the eclipse came on stronger, though, the constellations shone through more and more, until eventually you could see them all clearly. 

It was a fine sight.

One more reason to vote MAGA

Dr. Fauci says he couldn't bring himself to work for Trump again. I'm guessing not for De Santis either.

What Constitutes a Burger

A heated discussion with incorrect poll results. The patty melt is a burger. The patty melt is a variation of a burger, and therefore a member of a subset of the burger set. As a subset, all members of the subset are also members of the set. Therefore, all members of the patty melt subset are also members of the burger set. QED.

One can, however, defend a vagueness-theory answer in which some things are clearly burgers, and some things are clearly not burgers, but there are going to be median cases where -- while there may be a fact of the matter about whether or not they are -- we lose clarity on the question. "Is a hot dog a sandwich?" is a good example of another debate people have in which the answer seems vague rather than clear. 

This approach may finally be similar to AVI's in effect, where we ultimately lose any final answer on what is or isn't a burger or a sandwich; but there are facts of the matter about what different people take to be such things at different times and places.

However, the history of hamburgers is fun to read about. Sources are too unclear to be sure that we have the archetypal hamburger at any point before the 1920s, when early major chains like White Castle went into operation. However, there are viable claims all the way back to the 1740s. 

White Castle actually claims their sandwich originated at the hands of one Otto Krause in 1891, with a fried egg -- still very popular in Australia -- and was popularized by German sailors. I think that sounds entirely plausible: that period knew a great many German sailors, who could easily have spread the style to America and Australia as well. However, German instability had existed since the Thirty Years War, and there had been many earlier waves -- including in the 1700s, making the earlier claims quite possible too.

Of course we would run into that 'but was it really a hamburger qua ground beef mince, or some other kind of sausage that was known in Hamburg and just called a 'Hamburg sausage' in 1747? No one knows.

The late 19th century through all these Worlds Fairs and similar fairs that are mentioned in the article was also the great period for the American popularization of chili -- and also wide variants of exactly what chili might be, from the chili con carne of the Southwest, to Texas Red, to New Mexican Green and Red, to even the Midwest's Cincinnati chilli (not a typo). These days you get chili with and without beans, with and without meat, and with nontraditional meats. 

All quite fascinating stuff, and why I am up after midnight for no good reason.