COVID hospitalizations down

As always, discount the last week's data, but the couple of weeks before that should be solid. This wave barely affected anyone under 75, and is waning even in that particularly exposed demographic.


We got a wild hair and painted the living room a deep orange with green trim.

This is the view from our upstairs bedroom, across the stair landing and into the upper part of the living room:

An Interview with Robert Duvall

The whole time I was in Iraq, 2007-9, I wore a Stetson hat that looked like his. Not outside the wire, of course: I wore a helmet for that. Inside, though, that's what I wore.

"To the sunny slopes of Long Ago." 2007 is only fifteen years; but not everybody made it, and that makes it seem longer.

Seen on FB

Do they really think this kind of penny-ante censorship applied even to jokes on small FB accounts is going to make people trust them more?

On Assassination in General

Assassination is on everyone's mind thanks to the arrest of an armed felon apparently attempting murder at Kavanaugh's house. Assassinating a Supreme Court Justice is an obvious step in certain respects: they  have a lifetime term, impeachment requires an unattainable supermajority, and you get to appoint a replacement right away if you happen to control the White House and Congress. Partisan power games are such right now that there's no doubt the party in power would be willing to effectively endorse the assassination by using it to seize control of the Supreme Court. That this would also effectively endorse assassinating political figures in general, themselves included, might be worth the price to them. Such is the lust for power among our political elite.

Murder is one of those things that is always wrong, but murder is properly defined as "the intentional killing of the innocent." The intentional killing of the guilty is not always wrong, can be justifiable or even praiseworthy. The philosophical case for assassination begins with the idea that it can be a form of intentional killing of the guilty. Lots of people philosophically endorse the idea that assassinating Hitler would have been justified, for example.

Likewise, the philosophical case for assassination goes on to point out, the guilt of the political figure is often the actual and relevant guilt. If instead of assassination a dispute devolves into war, soldiers and policemen and outright innocents are likely to be killed who bear little or no guilt relevant to the dispute. Soldiers especially are likely to be honorable and to possess significant virtues of courage and self-discipline; the politicians we are protecting by fighting wars instead of assassination campaigns are usually neither honorable nor virtuous. It would arguably be much better to shoot the politicians one by one as they need it than to have the ordinary people slug it out on their behalf.

Governments and churches -- including the Church -- oppose assassination, but I often wonder if their unity here is more to do with the fact that they all represent a form of institutional power. Archbishops and Cardinals, and certainly Popes, might well worry that they too could fall prey to an assassin's bullet or blade. Keeping the structure of conflict pushed away from the powerful, with actual violence falling on the shoulders of the poorer and ordinary, is definitely in their self-interests as individuals, as members of their class, and as members of their institutions. Legislatures and churches may not be the most reliable source of philosophical insight to be had in this case.

I do not write to endorse the concept, but to raise the matter for consideration. Apparently a fair percentage of our youth, women as men, Republicans as Democrats, have come around to the idea. It's probably a good time to think it through.

A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action

Among young Democratic men and also young Republican women, a larger percentage approves of assassinating than of threatening "a politician who is harming the country or our democracy." 

Thirty-one percent of young Republican women and forty percent of young Democratic men approve of making threats. Forty percent of the women and forty-four percent of the men approve of assassination.

The other demographics work the way you might expect, with harsh words being more acceptable than actually killing people. The only older demographic that breaks single digits on assassination is older Republican women, and just barely at 10%. Opposition among older people is about 90% for all older men, surprisingly less -- 86% -- for older women regardless of party affiliation.

Young blood runs hot I guess, but the inverted response on actual murder surprises me. (Young Republican men underperform their Democratic peers by ten points on killing people, by the way, in case you were worried about the wave of right-wing fascism you have heard so much about lately.)

"The Only Thing Keeping Us Free is the 2nd Amendment"

A confession, of sorts, by Naomi Wolf.

(H/t: D29)

'We Regret to Inform You...

 '...that we are canceling your auto insurance policy because our underwriters have determined that your back seats are too large and comfortable.'

A Moment of Appreciation

This guy may be a coyote, but he’s got brass. 

Cracks in the California blue

Chesa Boudin, the "DA" from San Francisco, went down in flames in his recall election. Republican Caruso has a narrow early lead in the race for mayor of Los Angeles.

A Swedish Custom

This is not only weird, it violates what I would have thought a universal law of hospitality. 

"Folies Des Policières"

Today the nearby small town of Sylva had a lockdown. It was occasioned by the police chasing a car that had been stolen in Asheville.  It had an OnStar system, so it was very easy to find. 

The cops assumed -- without evidence -- that the thief was armed, and further assumed -- again without evidence -- that he might have driven the hour from Asheville to Jackson County to shoot up a school. So they locked down all the schools even though they knew exactly where he was at all times because of the OnStar system. 

All day long I've been hearing rumors going around that he was a felon, with body armor, and long rifles, who planned to shoot up the school system. Apparently a local news and weather service even pushed out the claim about the body armor. Naturally the major effect of the lockdown was to send a wave of terror through the public (with the minor effect of destroying lunch traffic).

None of it proved to be true. He was unarmed, apparently intended only grand theft auto, and was wearing a tank top. 

He is still at large, though, because once he abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot he easily eluded law enforcement.

Perhaps the new sheriff, whomever he ends up being, might get the force started on a jogging program.

From bronze to iron

In the last couple of years I keep picking up books attempting to explain the abrupt collapse of Bronze Age civilizations in the Near East in the first half of the 12th century B.C. This week I've been listening to a series of YouTube lectures on the subject while I do work that occupies my hands but not my ears. One used a phrase that caught my imagination. After most of the other prominent regional civilizations had crumpled under what appears to have been the onslaught of what we now call the "Sea Peoples," Egypt alone managed to put up a more robust defense. Not an entirely successful one, though; the lecturer noted drily that while official propaganda as recorded on engraved stones would never quite admit defeat, it did acknowledge that the glorious victories were occurring "closer and closer to home."

The picture I'm getting is of a very old, very stable Bronze Age system of leaders who might be called capable or despotic, depending on your perspective. Bronze-based military culture relied on large quantities of copper and small quantities of tin. Copper was available in many locations, though concentrated and therefore fairly easily controlled by local rulers. Because tin, in contrast, was terribly rare and exotic, with some of the best sources located in Britain and Afghanistan, the production of bronze required stable long-distance trade, which in turn depended on widespread law and order. Something wrecked this delicate network and precipitated an abrupt systemic collapse, perhaps some unknown social or climate catastrophe that set the half-dozen or so allied Sea Peoples on the move from the western reaches of the Mediterranean. From Mycenae to Assyria to Cyprus to Babylon, the archaelogical evidence records conflagrations and violent death, whether of entire cities (presumably by invaders) or at least of palace-temples (presumably by local revolts). Large areas were depopulated. The written history goes dark for centuries; the Greeks had to develop writing all over again, with an entirely new alphabet borrowed from the Phoenicians.

In the new world that followed, iron replaced bronze. Iron ore is much more common than copper or tin, its disadvantage being that refining it requires mastery of much hotter forges. Once the technology of sustaining enough heat was mastered and spread, however, the new ruling classes had nothing like the ability of Bronze Age rulers to monopolize the supply of raw materials for iron production. After the Bronze Age collapse, then, following an agonizing period of chaotic destruction and famine, the Near East saw a flowering of completly new cultures. This is the era of the post-Exodus Jews in Canaan, of the many rich, independent Phoenician trading centers along the coast of modern Israel and Lebanon, and of the birth of the Phoenician sea-faring trading culture that would colonize the coasts of Africa and Southern Europe and the island of the Mediterranean, including the largest and most successful city-state, Carthage. They had a good run before the next new batch of expanding empires devoured them: Babylonia, Persia, Alexander, and Rome.

She's onto something

“An Unusual Step”

The two lawyers handed out Molotov cocktails to the crowd, and Rahman tossed one into a police car before fleeing the scene in Mattis's van. They reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in October 2020 that wiped out six of the seven charges against them. Those prosecutors, nonetheless, sought a maximum 10-year sentence and argued that the incident qualified for a so-called terrorism enhancement that would turbocharge sentencing…
Then, Garland and the U.S. attorney for New York's Eastern District, Breon Peace, who's handling the prosecution, took office, and you won't believe what happened next! In mid-May, the same career DOJ prosecutors who argued for that 10-year sentence were back in court withdrawing their plea deal and entering a new one that allowed the defendants to cop to the lesser charge of conspiracy. It tosses out the terrorism enhancement entirely. The new charge carries a five-year maximum sentence, but the prosecutors are urging the judge to go below that, asking for just 18 to 24 months on account of the "history and personal characteristics of the defendants" and the "aberrational nature of the defendants' conduct." Because, you know, Mattis graduated from Princeton and…

They keep acting like they expect us to treat them like a legitimate government, one to which we’d show loyalty and pay taxes. 

Harsh but fair

How predictable it was that the United States fled Kabul, abandoning not just billions of dollars worth of sophisticated weapons to terrorists, but also with Pride flags flying, George Floyd murals on public walls, and gender studies initiatives being carried out in the military ranks. Ask yourself: if a general during the Afghanistan debacle had brilliantly organized a sustainable and defensible corridor around Bagram Airfield but was known to be skeptical of Pentagon efforts to address climate change and diversity would he be praised or reviled?